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5 experiments in expanding the dimensionality of connections through mapping and play.


The thesis considers how we might take a measure of our place as communicators in this world against complex data streams and speed-driven communication systems. Using ideas of mapping and tangible play, Apartogether plots and animates new paths of connectivity between digital code and the concrete to foster new possibilities of coexistent interpretations. Working with various forms of quantitative data, the data points are then reset in sense-based, human-scale activities that reframe this information into qualitative systems that promote kinesthetic exchange. Binary codes are played out in physical form as messages embedded in a ball of yarn; song samples are reconstituted as a playable kit of parts; food stains are ingredient constellations for informative site specific home decor. By exploring permutations of an information system by hand and over time, our senses can collect and experience this data recalling it in our memory.



[Play] is a structuring activity, the activity out of which understanding comes. Play is at one the same time the location where we question our structures of understanding and the location where we develop them.

James S. Hans, The Play of the World

The random element is called entropy, the agent of chaos, which tends to mix up the unmixed, to destroy meaning. The nonrandom element is information, which exploits the uncertainty inherent in the entropy principle to generate new structures, to inform the world in a novel ways.

Jeremy Campbell, Grammatical Man

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Play is the first means of development of the human mind, its first effort to make acquaintance with the outward world, to collect original experiences from things and facts, and to exercise the powers of body and mind.

Friedrich Froebel, from Reminiscences of Froebel, p. 673

“the brain is essentially predictive and that we remember things either because we have experienced them repeatedly or because something surprising or unusual pushes the memory out of the ordinary and makes it stick.”

“the brain is essentially predictive and that we remember things either because we have experienced them repeatedly or because something surprising or unusual pushes the memory out of the ordinary and makes it stick.”

Jeff Hawkins

“Designers will have less control over the ‘look’ but more of a role in shaping the feel. This is a big change—and a big opportunity. The task of designing will be more layered, more multidimensional, more theatrical. We will direct more than design. We will have to think more—about cause and effect, about here and there, about now and later. We will have to understand more—about space and time, about sound and motion, and about languages and cultures other than our own.”

Jessica Helfand

“If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life)

“Where the sea meets the land, life has blossomed into a myriad of unique forms in the turbulence of water, sand, and wind. At another seashore between the land of atoms and the sea of bits, we are now facing the challenge of reconciling our dual citizenships in the physical and digital worlds. Windows to the digital world are confined to flat square screens and pixels, or ‘painted bits.’ Unfortunately, one can not feel and confirm the virtual existence of this digital information through one’s body. Tangible Bits, our vision of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), seeks to realize seamless interfaces between humans, digital information, and the physical environment by giving physical form to digital information and computation, making bits directly manipulable and perceptible. The goal is to blur the boundary between our bodies and cyberspace and to turn the architectural space into an interface.”

Hiroshi ISHII

“In wayfinding people do not traverse the surface of a world whose layout is fixed in advance (…) Rather they ‘feel their way’ through a world that is itself in motion, continually coming into being through the combined action of human and non-human agencies. I develop a notion of mapping as the narrative re-enactment of journeys made, and of maps as the inscriptions to which such reenactments may give rise.”

Ingold, T. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill (London: Routledge, 2000)

Asparagus “…transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.”

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
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How can we design websites to be more playful, intuitive and informative? What if there was a website where it’s online presence was a mirror image of its real-time, physical one?

The digital desk plays with the tension between the always open internet and the time based reality of real life. Recently I have been a bit bored with the experience of endlessly web surfing the ever present templated pages. This website is a project that looks to expand upon the web experience, making it more intimate and curious. This project is subtly influenced by Daniel Spoerri’s book An anecdoted topography of chance, a book that maps out and explores the multiple narratives present in objects at any given time on one surface. This lead me to question how could I make the web resemble the human condition, one that evolves and fluctuates depending on the time of day. To respond to my curiosity a began to photograph my desk twelve times a day, with hopes of capturing the gradual shifts that naturally occur as the day progresses. I then found a way to upload and correlate these moments to the actual time, so the experience of the site is always changing, never offering the same experience. To bring even more life to this project, I found ways of eliminating interface in the standard form of words and replaced it with objects: an external hardrive links to archived work, a camera to my flickr site, headphones to music, and project fragments to the project themselves, sunglasses make the scene dark. These simple gesture opened up a whole new way to experience the internet one that seems more real, intuitive and grounded in the human condition.

Anticipation is a powerful feeling that bridges and blurs firmly establish expectations with the unknown. It is a place of flux and unknown potential, capable of freezing time and reordering the perception of the world around us. It is a sensation only felt when there is an element set in motion. As graphic designers it is our job to keep people curious about the physical world around them. We must find ways to elicit play and reinforce relationships be them digital or physical. This activity brings to the surface the truths and stories we wish to unearth, altering our current perspective and understanding of the everyday.

Elise Porter