Designing the Postnatural: Incarcerated Time Piece

For this assignment I decided to create a time piece around the framework of the United States prison industrial complex and the relationship that inmates have with both the routine that is forced on them and the authoritative structure that imposes that time.

After discovering Josh Begley’s work and his use of Google Earth, I started to think about the digital space that those satellite images exist in and the disconnect between them and the actual locations they represent. From this I decided to make a list of the largest prison, and one jail, in every continental state. From this list I decided to mark all of the locations in Google Earth and then automate the path to fly between all of the marked prisons.

I knew that I wanted to represent the time that it took to fly to every prison as the duration of a few different incarcerated individual’s sentences. My first plan for this was to extend the length of the flyover video to be the same as the prison sentence length. Using FFMPEG I tried a few different versions of this and each of which ran into multiple issues. The first being the file size was extreme

Below are screenshots from all prisons compiled and an example map of the path that would be taken.

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Here is a sample video of the fly over.

Midterm Presentation Recap and Final Project Proposal

Midterm Presentation:

My midterm presentation on Synthetic Biology can be found here. In the presentation I covered synthetic biology, its similarities to electrical engineering, and the more speculative nature of the topic and how much of the progress in the field is yet to come. I found synthetic biology so interesting and compelling that I decided to take the topic and work on a project related to it for my Citizen Science Final.

Final Proposal:


For the synthetic biology final I want to work around the more speculative side of the subject but keep the foundational science accurate.

the project itself will be a piece based around the idea of “Hereditary Capitalism.” This meaning, the correlation between a person’s genetic material and their belief in that specific economic system and whether it is possible to influence that belief through synthetic biology.

I will be collecting samples of DNA from a number of individuals based on a variety of factors and personal beliefs. from there I will measure, analyze, and compare a specific element of that DNA between each of the samples. I’m not sure what the element of the DNA will be yet though.

From the experiment I will work the results into a speculative piece focused on influencing that aspect of a person's biological makeup to change their views of capitalism, either pro or against.

Thoughts on Readings and Project 3 Ideation

Reading Responses:

Phenological Mismatch: James Bridle

The juxtaposition between the phenological mismatches taking place in nature and then corollary mismatches taking place in digital/technological society was more than a bit unnerving. It made me think of the ways that technology is becoming constantly more difficult to escape and even when we know the negative repercussions happening on a large scale there is still the personal disconnect.

“The novelty of technology can mask its persuasive intent”

If the entire tech industry is constantly becoming more of a self destructive feedback system then where will the phenological mismatch become apparent enough to companies to start taking early action? Looking at phenological mismatches in nature and that in some instances the case benefits a species it seems that the same also happens with technology. The main difference being that the capitalist system and heads of the industry are benefited.

John Durham Peters: Seasons

I thought that the concept of Kairos v. Kronos was interesting, especially how it translated across various mediums.

the way that media becomes antiquated but then still holds association in new context made me wonder, in what situations, if any, modern technology would follow this this trend.

Time Project:

For this project I will be working around the prison industrial complex and its complex relationship with “time.”

Currently I’m looking at the power dynamic between police and inmate and the concept of the inmate serving time while the police officer is one of the main factors in igniting the “serving” of time. I’m thinking this system involves two clocks innately linked but also diverging in some way.

Another idea is to work around the idea of average prison sentence length, daily routines, or the cost of being a prisoner v. the time they serve.

Some inspirational projects for this piece include:

Drug Clock:

Mass incarceration data viz:

Group Experience Assets


After discussing the project with Andrew and thinking about what I wanted to try and achieve with the group experience I decided that I wanted to curate a wedding based on a memory I had during my childhood. The memory happened when I was around 3 or 4 and my family went to a wedding. I did not really understand the concept of a wedding so the whole event was extremely confusing to me. Pinpointing this confusion, and trying to project it onto one person in the class was the goal of the experience.

The first thing I needed to do was to figure out who was going to play what role. I randomly drew names out of a hat and then assigned them roles. The roles were as follows: couple getting married, best people, “flower girl,” “ring bearer,” other guests, and person who does not know whats going on. From there I emailed each of the groups with information regarding the wedding and to not talk about the event.

Here are a few example emails.

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The plan was for everyone to know exactly where to go when it was time for the experience. The only person who would be unsure of what to do would follow everyone and maintain their state of confusion throughout the ceremony, which took place in the 4th floor elevator bank. I wrote up a script for myself to read as the wedding officiant and then brought all of the supplies necessary for people to use. Like the pot and pan banging and the apple/carrot exchange.


The person who was randomly chosen to be unaware of the wedding was Nun. A bit later on I spoke to her to see if the experience I was trying to get across was perceived. She told me that she was confused but it was more of a type of confusion in thinking that she must have missed an email or something like that. She was still able to understand that it was a wedding even though it was odd, and we then discussed how using a type of ceremony from a different culture could have added to the confusion as well but that there are tricky lines to be careful with in that sense.

Harmful Algae Bloom Gene Drive

Linked here is the slideshow for the presentation I gave for the gene drive assignment. The topic I chose to do the Gene Drive on was Harmful Algae Blooms and their speculative monetization in the future. I became interested in thinking about future scenarios in which an event such as algae blooms could be monetized by private companies. This presentation blends real causes and effects of the algae blooms and blends them with speculation about the possibility of these blooms being contained and eradicated via gene drive. I gave the presentation from the perspective of a founder of the speculative company called betabloom, that was looking for investment for the company’s expansion.


Human to Poison Ivy Acknowledgement of Being Device


For this project students were required to create a measuring device with a few stipulations. The device is supposed to look at and environment, species, or ecosystem in a unique or poetic way and measure something from them in an interesting way.

When I was thinking about what I wanted to measure I ended up taking a very end around way. After more than a bit of time thinking about ecosystems and species I didn’t know much about, I started thinking about algae blooms and how red tides are formed. Expanding from there I began to think about invasive species, mainly flora, and how different plants have come to be known as invasive. The more research I started to do the deeper into the rabbit hole I went with invasive biology and the impacts humans have had on the flora.

I eventually decided that I wanted to expand from invasive species for this project and focus on the rhetoric and relationship that humans have with plants; in this instance I decided to use Poison Ivy. Most people’s first impression when they think of the plant is that it is dangerous and they need to avoid. Some people have even written entire articles about how much they hate poison ivy. Yes, it is true that the plant can cause an allergic reaction when it is touched, no it’s not actually releasing a poison/toxin, that does not mean that the plant is innately bad or purposely malignant.

If we flip the perspective towards that of the plant then it is possible to see a different side of things and ask questions that could help change the dynamic between the human and plant. There is a lot that can go into the changing of this dynamic, ranging from creating shared spaces, cohabitation, and the fact that it is a person-centric issue. Anthropomorphization to an extent was necessary to get the point across for this device.

After a lot of ideating on the best method to go about creating this dialogue between the human and plant I decided that having a sort of Ivy Assistant to help promote the acknowledgement of being.

Design and Implementation

The first process of creating the AOB Device was deciding what I wanted to the device to do. After some thought I ended up on the idea of scraping websites that contained blogs and quotes regarding relationship advice, once I scraped enough information I processed the information and manually went through the created word doc and replaced key words with the words Poison Ivy. From there I went to the website fromSpeechToText and ran all of the created advice through their speech to text generator.

Here are the results:

From there I loaded the sounds onto a raspberry pi and set up an ultrasonic distance sensor to trigger the audio files at different distances. The idea behind this is that when a person walks up to the device, which at first looks almost like a security camera or sensor, they are greeted with the odd phrases containing the words poison ivy scattered throughout.


Finally I took the piece out to an area of Prospect Park where I knew there was a patch of Poison Ivy and set it up nearby at the edge of a trail.


I found myself becoming deeply invested in the topic as I researched and learned more about it. As this device is a prototype I am happy with the outcome but I would like to continue expanding on the concept, design, and implementation that I decide on for the future.

Were my original questions about perception and rhetoric between plants and humans answered or at least brought up?

code for the project can be found here: CODE

Temporary Expert: Synthetic Biology Update

Week three’s in class exercise helped me to lay out all of my thoughts around synthetic biology and what area I want to explore more deeply for the temporary expert project. The element of synthetic biology that I want to explore in my temporary expert project is the role that biosensors have in current synthetic biology and to explore a speculative design approach to what future these sensors could have for people and the environment.

Biosensor to detect internal bleeding inside of a pig’s colon

Biosensor to detect internal bleeding inside of a pig’s colon

Temporary Expert/Gene Drive update

Temporary Expert

This week after doing more research on my temporary expert topic I came across some interesting and more often than not extremely confusing discoveries. I spent a good amount of time watching videos about the intricacies of synthetic biology from an engineering level and after a few hours I realized that it is very unlikely that I will be able to understand the complex biological processes happening which equate to even the most simple digital inverter.

Looking at applications of synthetic biology though I have come across projects that have been quite inspiring in both practical and obscure applications. One of the more interesting articles that I found was about a cellular probiotic that used bioluminescent bacteria to track the gut health of pigs by triggering a wifi chip to report heme in the pigs gut if it was bleeding internally.

Going along these lines of combining digital circuitry and a bio

Gene Drive

In my research for the Gene Drive project I have become interested in the different types of algal blooms, specifically harmful blooms(HAB), and their effects on different aquatic life and ecosystems. Although HABs only account for around 2% of total algal blooms they can cause serious damage. For example 107 bottlenose dolphins were found dead near the Florida panhandle in 2004. The cause of death was found to be related to a HAB.

HABs produce natural toxins that have a variety of negative impacts on aquatic life. The toxin that comes up most often is brevetoxin. My initial thinking into this gene drive is to choose a bloom that occurs regularly, such as the season bloom off the coast of Maine, and speculate how implementing a gene drive on that specific organism could help that specific ecosystem instead of harm it.

Synthetic Biology: Temporary Expert assignment

Synthetic Biology Basics:

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This temporary expert assignment has students researching a topic related to some aspect of biological sciences and then reporting back on various aspects of it. The topic that I was assigned is Synthetic Biology.

What is synthetic biology?

From a very high level, synthetic biology is two things. The first being the understanding of biological processes through their reconstruction instead of dissection/destruction. It is also the process of facilitating biological processes with new functionalities.

Use DNA to write “functional components” that run in cells instead of computers

  • Basically genetic engineering

  • DNA synthesized

  • Sugar syhthesizes the DNA

Example of this

new proteins introduced to a cell to create bioluminescence functionality.

Things I have found exciting

  • The comparison between synthetic biology and electrical engineering is very evident.

  • Digital Logic is heavily used in the creation of the “biological circuits”

  • “programming” cells

  • Ski jacket created from synthetic spider silk


Arts of Noticing

The first assigned project for Designing the Postnatural is a semester long observational task. We are tasked with observing and recording our observations about either a species or ecosystem in NYC that we are unfamiliar with. I decided to observe a stretch of Newtown Creek as I have not really spent any time checking out most of it.

Newtown Creek has had a history of pollution and toxic waste dumping from companies that have industrialized the area since the 1800s. In recent years there have been cleanup efforts for the creek with various levels of success. Most notable after the Greenpoint oil spill when EPA designated the area a superfund site.

At the time of writing this I have visited one new area of the creek. That is the Newtown Creek Nature Walk. This walk is quite odd in that it is full of vegetation of all kinds and includes industrial views of the surroundings. As far as an ecosystem goes it is probably on the stranger side but also fits well with NYC and its history. Meaning that the creek and its current state is all a byproduct of NYCs old school ideal of uninhibited growth and expansion before looking at the negative repercussions that could have.

I will also be checking out a different area of the creek to see if that is a better fit as it is supposedly less tampered with. Depending on which I feel will be a better fit for the project I will focus on one or the other.

Body Politics: Financial Pressure Monitor

For our Body Politics assignment, Brent and I agreed from the beginning that we were interested in embodied capitalism: how the structures of capital shape and influence the physical body. We did a fair amount of research on this, and found that one of the clearest correlations between the two is found in blood pressure. There’s a litany of studies showing that socioeconomic status is linked intimately to blood pressure — those born into lower socioeconomic strata, with less economic, social, and educational advantages, are statistically significantly more likely to have higher blood pressure. Capital doesn’t just influence the phenotype of our lives: it literally goes as deep as our blood.

We wanted to draw attention to this relationship, and to the ways in which our culture seems to encourage it rather than work on any systemic level to improve it, so how we went about this was creating a machine that measures blood pressure and then, taking data from this study, recommends the increase in household income that would bring their blood pressure down to the mean (roughly $50,000 in household income per 0.61 decrease in systolic blood pressure). It invites the viewer to envision a world in which medicine treats the cause rather than the symptom, and to ask what that world ought to look like. Are we all to bootstrap ourselves to success, to find our own way to the income bracket that will make us healthy? Can we make a world where income is distributed more evenly, and, more importantly, can we make a world where income no longer has a causal relationship to health?


Topic: Embodied Capitalism

Device: Inversion

Mood: Clinical

Attribute: Interactive

The tech:

We used a Withings blood pressure monitor with the Withings HealthMate app. We then built a node server with express which gets the data from the Withings API and sends it to a mounted Arduino MKR1010, which parses the data, recommends a household income change, and displays it on an LCD screen. The code is here.

Ideation Process:

We went through a long ideation process before getting to this stage. Our first idea was an invasive health monitor: something like a FitBit that monitored, say, your bowel movements, or your sexual activity, to draw attention to the ways in which we give up our personal data — ownership of our own bodies — for capitalistic purposes: as documented, for example, in this TechCrunch article. After discussing this for a while, however, we came to the conclusion that this was a) too gimmicky and b) too broad. Were we critiquing self-tracking culture? Capitalism? Health insurance?

We went back to the drawing board, and decided that what we wanted to communicate, above all, was the influence of capital specifically on the physical body. From our research, one of the clearest ways the two are connected is through blood pressure: it’s a widely documented and studied phenomenon that SES has influence on hypertension. Our initial idea, as shown in the sketch above, was to use a blood pressure monitor to guess people’s socioeconomic status. However, this again was too vague a critique. The causal nature of the two wasn’t shown as clearly — in this model, you could prescribe almost anything that may correlate to blood pressure and it would have roughly the same effect. This is how we settled on prescribing an income change: it’s our hope that this makes clear the relationship we want to communicate, and the model we want to raise awareness of. Ultimately, the way to build a healthy body under capitalism is to earn more capital: the same incentive structures that motivate everything have infected the very blood that runs through our veins. A doctor could prescribe an income increase, and it might be as or more effective than taking actual medication. And on a systemic level, redistribution of income could resolve a documented public health crisis.

The viewer is invited to draw their own conclusions: what model should we be using to address public health? Capitalism certainly offers a solution, but is it the best one?

Building Process:

We wanted to create an object that wouldn’t seem out of place in a doctor’s office, to create an alternate form of a normal clinical interaction, so for our design we went for clear form and simple colors: white and metal. We repurposed a number of objects from Home Depot (socket covers, a pencil holder, and a scientific object stand), spray painted them, and assembled them.

Our biggest struggle here was with the tech. The Withings API, we discovered, has gone through many restructurings over the course of the company being acquired multiple times — the monitor we used is actually from 2011, so it’s also barely supported by the current version of their app. After much trial and error, we were able to authenticate our server with their API and get some simple data, but we were still hamstrung by issues: their API is extremely buggy and doesn’t update very often, so getting live data from the app on our server was functionally impossible. In addition to this, the app is so buggy that getting it to measure blood pressure is basically a matter of being lucky enough for it to detect the blood pressure monitor and not throw an error. While all of our tech works, getting through the whole process successfully without having to restart the app has about a 1 in 5 chance of happening. If we were to revisit the project, we’d either have to hack directly into the data coming from the monitor or try a different device. Ultimately, it was a fun and difficult experience worth having, but I think we plan on recommending to the program that they get a new and better monitor.

Critical Objects: Final Project


This final piece for Critical Objects is a piece that deals with the concept of environmental impact caused by rapidly expanding travel and leisure industries as well as the short sighted nature of people in the way that they view aesthetically beautiful things and the harmful impact they have on them. More specifically the persistent attempts of these companies to develop in Northern Lake Tahoe and the people who help to perpetuate this attitude.

Local organizations such as Sierra Watch and Keep Tahoe Blue have made it their mission to protect the Sierra Nevadas and Lake Tahoe from the various threats to the area. One such threat, that I am focusing on, is KSL Capital Partners. KSL purchased Squaw Valley in 2010 thanks to many mishaps in Placer County board approval of real estate development in the area. KSL then began to plan a massive development that would drastically change the region in terms of congestion, environmental pollution, and degredation of the natural landscape for leisure development.

Along with large companies causing damage, individuals can cause these environmental issues as well. One such example is the recent poppy super bloom in California in which many people are visiting to take photos of. In doing so many of these people are destroying the poppies by stepping on them.

The piece that I have created is focused on the the immediate aesthetic appeal that is caused by many of these situations. For example the people who take photos of themselves in the poppies do so, much of the time, while knowing they are harming the flowers. To them the immediate aesthetic enjoyability is more important than the long term preservation of this environment. I believe that this concept translates to what is going on in Lake Tahoe with KSL partners. Many of the people that will benefit from this expansion are those who are not local to Tahoe and only go for skiing vacations and other leisure activities.


Topic: Expansion of Lake Tahoe/disrupting nature and the short sightedness of humans.

Attribute: disruptive

Device: Metaphor

Mood: confusion


PDLC Film x

No Acrylic


This piece takes the form of a body of water, in this case meant to be representative of Lake Tahoe. When a person goes to view the tank they are recognized and a dark liquid is then poured into the tank. The longer the person looks at the tank the longer the liquid will pour into it. The person is made aware that the liquid is not good for the water but it creates an interesting dispersion effect that is enjoyable to watch. The criticality conveyed is that people have the choice to enjoy immediately interesting and positive aspects of things but need to accept that in some instances that process is more destructive than letting these processes or environments be left alone.


Big LEDs: Final Installation Design

            My proposal for the LED Installation for an event stairwell is as follows.

1.     Have LED tape run along the lengths of each cut in hand rail (33.9175’ x 2)

a.     These lights will have linear movement in the direction the people walk when they go down the stairs.

b.     Color would be a variation of this palette:

2.     There will also be lights along the base of each stair, directed towards the bottom of the staircase (7’-9’’ x 24 strips).

a.     These lights will have various color gradient patterns running and the gradient will change react depending on the whether there is a person in their proximity or not.

3.     Along the middle landing I propose two additional strips, on the floor, running parallel to the direction the person will be walking.

a.     These strips will match the color patterns of the lights on the bottom of the stairs but they will have a different reactiveness when a person steps on the landing.

Plain View:


Section View:


Riser Diagram:

Final Project Proposal: Lake Tahoe Expansion and Environmental Impact Critique


For my Critical Objects Final I am proposing a piece that deals with the concept of environmental impact caused by rapidly expanding travel and leisure industries. More specifically the persistent attempts of these companies to develop in Northern Lake Tahoe.


Local organizations such as Sierra Watch and Keep Tahoe Blue have made it their mission to protect the Sierra Nevadas and Lake Tahoe from the various threats to the area. One such threat, that I will be focusing on, is KSL Capital Partners. KSL purchased Squaw Valley in 2010 thanks to many mishaps in Placer County board approval of real estate development in the area. KSL then began to plan a massive development that would drastically change the region in terms of congestion, environmental pollution, and degredation of the natural landscape for leisure development.

With this information in mind the critical object that I want to create will be focused on the negative implications that the potential development will bring in terms of accessibility/exclusivity to the region and clarity of the water. When I say accessibility I mean it in regards to the way that the development will cause the area to become even more difficult to access for people due to traffic congestion and tourism. By exclusive I mean that these developments only add to the rising prices in Tahoe which has been causing local residents to be priced out of the area and add to the rising prices of access to the various ski resorts. Clarity refers to the clarity of the lake. Over the past 30 years Tahoe has been losing its water clarity due to pollution. Much of the pollution is from inorganic sediments being put into the lake through various means but the added car traffic and habitation to the area from KSL’s planned development would be a major factor as well.



Inspiration for this piece comes from a few different sources. Phillipp Schmitt’s Camera Restricta for one made me think of possibilities in working with the exclusivity concept.


Other devices that are inspiring to this piece are the ones built for on the ground protesting in either the sense of lock on devices or pieces being built for group protests.

I am still not completely sure what I want the physicality of the piece to entails but I know that I want to push it towards the disobedient object end of the critical spectrum. It is important for me to take a step back from the type of objects I have been making this semester and make something that is less about a system and is more of a purposeful device or object.


I will be working alone on this project.

Topic: Over-expansion of North Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley

Attribute: disruptive

Device: Metaphor

Mood: annoyance


Must use PDLC film & not use any acrylic or environmentally unfriendly materials. Reasons behind these constraints are that using PDLC film works along with the idea of clarity and forces me to go down that route. Since the piece is about environmental damage and expansion I don’t want to use any materials that cause harm to the environment to a reasonable extent so I wont be using any acrylic for this piece.

DMX Driven LEDs

For this Big LEDs assignment we were put in groups of three and given instructions to use the leDMX4 pro, Meanwell power supply, and madmapper to drive a roll of LED tape in whatever configuration we wanted. Kemi, Adrian, and I worked together to complete this.

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We decided to arrange the LED strip into a bowl and diffuse it with an interesting material to see what type of effect we would get.

We ran into a few different issues when doing the initial setup of the dmx controller and connecting it to madmapper. The overall issue was getting it to connect to the computer’s network. After trying a few different dongles and converters we were able to get it to work using an ethernet to thunderbolt adapter. The rest of the process was fairly easy and straightforward.

Overall I felt like this assignment gave me a good intro to DMX and its’ versatility in controlling lighting elements.


Live Image Processing Final Proposal

For the final LIPP show Anna and I will be working together to create a performance that takes on the idea of digitization of humanity and how this could look in an alternative and or futuristic universe. Techniques covered for the performance will range from GL, face meshes, pre recorded and live microscope feeds, and audio manipulation.

The concept is a combination of concepts ranging from organic matter taking on and metamorphosing it into a digital presence to artificial intelligence and how these systems are becoming increasingly humanlike.

Below are a few examples of visual styles we are going to try to incorporate into the piece.

The Performance is broken up into four acts:

Act I:

1. Morgan and Anna both at table in middle.

2. Computer Voice: “Baseline test has now begun” (something similar signifying test on organic life has taken place).

3. Morgan taking samples from both himself and Anna. Anna helping hand him petri dishes, etc.

4. Max visuals of organic life in petri dishes on projector.

Act II:

1. Start of distortion in cells (shown through visuals on screen).

2. Computer Voice: “Anomaly Detected”.

3. Cell distortion continues & increases.

4. Narrative Baseline test of repeating words, answering questions between Morgan and Anna with both of them saying different answers. Audience is unsure of which one is the anomaly (or which answer is the right one to the test).

Act III:

1. Computer says one of them did not pass test (reword later).

2. Computer Voice: “Warning, infected subject is highly contagious”.

3. Fade out of microscope (cell) visuals.

4. Anna and Morgan’s face side by side on each screen. No distortions yet.

5. Anna and Morgan’s face both start to distort (openGL face mesh, and other manipulation techniques).

Act IV:

1. Anna and Morgan's Face start to merge together and distort into one abstract entity.

2. Abstract form/shapes show up on the screen (shaders).

3. Computer Voice: saying something about test being resolved. (the abnormal/non human won).

4. END.

Deep Web: Reflections on the functions and quality of light

For this assignment I decided to analyze the functions and qualities of light of the kinetic audio visual installation and performance: Deep Web, by the design studio, WhiteVoid.


The composition of the installation can be broken down to a few different structures. The main two being the large led bulb system hanging above the viewers. This system moves in various synchronous patterns while being pointed to by the second structure. The second being laser arrays on the side of the room which direct their beams at the led bulbs and change color and direction reactively to the score.


As the installation is hanging above the crowd it allows for unique perspectives of viewing from different locations throughout the large venue. I imagine being underneath the piece while it is moving and focusing on the bulbs to be hypnotizing in its’ own way and if you move the the edge of the piece there is an entirely different perspective achieved from the piece.


Deep Web is modeled in a way that seems as thought it would make sense to be immediately below it but then really moving around and seeing other perspectives of the piece allow the viewer to have a fuller view and appreciation of it.


The audiences attention is focused above them the entire time. With it constantly being redirected from the moving led array to the lasers flashing and moving. I can imagine this having the added effect of allowing people to fully immerse themselves in the piece easier than if they were looking horizontally in front of them.


For me the mood of the piece from the light’s perspective has to do with the narrative of the piece. It begins in a very minimalistic way and then progresses into more extravagant displays over the course of the performance. From this the mood is able to change in intensity and lightness. Adding the audio element into the piece adds to the overall mood and atmosphere of the piece.

Critical Objects Midterm: Instagram Accountability System


For the Critical Objects Midterm assignment students were given the option to choose any topic to make a project from. I decided to do the following:

Topic: Voluntourism(Unsustainable volunteering)

Device: Juxtaposition

Attribute: Interactive

Mood: Surprising


The piece that I decided to make was based around the statistics that show how unsustainable volunteering or voluntourism has long term negative impacts on communities affected. Some of these impacts include economic losses and high turnover at orphanages.

I wanted to highlight how many people who practice this type of tourism post their activity on social media, in doing so they help to perpetuate this kind of behavior and thoughtlessness. When people like posts that show this activity they encourage the person posting to continue down that path.

Taking the idea that social media has an impact on this behavior I created the Instagram Accountability System. I created an instagram page that aggregated a few photos of unsustainable volunteer activity and when any of the photos in the account were liked enough times a brick would fall and break a clay plate. In this case, the brick, traditionally thought of as an object to help build, is used destroy an object.


Technical Elements:

The first part of the project began with me writing the server client to connect to the instagram API. Initially I planned to do the entirety of the project in Arduino to minimize any unnecessary coding or data sending. After a week of attempting to use the Arduino for the project I made the decision to write my client to stream the instagram data to. There I would send the data to a node server I had written and finally that data would be sent to Arduino where it would be parsed and used to control a pulley system.

Some of the biggest challenges in the programming portion of the project were the initial attempts at trying to do everything using an Arduino. It was very difficult to do and frustrating at times. Other challenges were sending the instagram data back to the Arduino. The number of likes had to be sent as a string but couldn’t be uploaded to my server that way and that caused a good amount of time being devoted to figuring out a solution. The final challenge was dealing with the string once it was sent to Arduino. converting a string that is an array of numbers was massivly annoying and in the end I wasn’t able to completely do it. I had to take the hex values of each and compare them to control the motor pulley system I had built.

The initial Pulley System I had built used a servo with a blade attached to it to cut a rope but the system took too long to cut the rope and was unreliable. So I switched to a single throw pin pull system which worked much better.


The fabrication portion took the least amount of time. Most of it involved ensuring that the brick would be able to hang safely and not break the system. A good amount of laser cutting, metal cutting, and wood glueing took place for the final product.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I am happy with how the piece turned out. I think the level of abstractness works for it and the concept is solid. If I were to iterate on it I would definitely redesign the look of the enclosure and possibly what was being crushed. I learned a lot from this project and I think I hit a spot pretty close to the middle of the Critical Triangle.

Heres a video of the piece in action:

Arduino Code:

 ITP Critical Objects Midterm Spring 2019
 Morgan Mueller
 Get request from Node Server and parse the string sent over, then control motor.
#include <ArduinoHttpClient.h>
#include <WiFiNINA.h>
#include "arduino_secrets.h"
#include <Servo.h>

///////please enter your sensitive data in the Secret tab/arduino_secrets.h
/////// Wifi Settings ///////
char ssid[] = SECRET_SSID;
char pass[] = SECRET_PASS;

char serverAddress[] = "";  // server address
int port = 8000;

WiFiClient wifi;
HttpClient client = HttpClient(wifi, serverAddress, port);
int status = WL_IDLE_STATUS;
boolean forward = true;

Servo myServo;
int angle;
int increment;

int ControlPin = 3;   //give your arduino pin a name

unsigned long ts = millis () ;   // time accounting.
#define DELAY 20

void setup() {
  while ( status != WL_CONNECTED) {
    Serial.print("Attempting to connect to Network named: ");
    Serial.println(ssid);                   // print the network name (SSID);

    // Connect to WPA/WPA2 network:
    status = WiFi.begin(ssid, pass);

    ///////// Servo code /////////////

    pinMode(ControlPin, OUTPUT); // initialize the digital pin as an output.


  // print the SSID of the network you're attached to:
  Serial.print("SSID: ");

  // print your WiFi shield's IP address:
  IPAddress ip = WiFi.localIP();
  Serial.print("IP Address: ");

void loop() {

  Serial.println("making GET request");

  // read the status code and body of the response
  int statusCode = client.responseStatusCode();
  String response = client.responseBody();

  // Serial.print("response 1: ");
  int opening = response.indexOf('[');
  int closing = response.indexOf(']');
  response.remove(opening, 1);

  for (int i = 0; i < response.length(); i++) {
    int commas = response.indexOf(',');
    int otherCommas = commas + i;
    response.remove(commas, 1);


  // response.toInt();
  Serial.print("this is the first position of response: ");
  //Serial.print("this is the second position of response: ");

  //   char buf [] = response.length() + 1;
  int len = response.length() + 1;
  //response.toCharArray(buf, sizeof(buf));

  //int testRes1 = atoi(&response[0]);
  int testRes2 = response[1];
  //int testResTotal = testRes1 + testRes2;

 //for (int k = 0; k < response.length() - 1; k++  ) {
  if (response[0] == 51 ) {
    Serial.println("SPIN TO WIN");

    digitalWrite(ControlPin, HIGH); // turn the motor on by making the voltage HIGH

    //    for ( angle = 0; angle < 180; angle++) {
    //      myServo.write(angle);
    //      //increment = angle;
    //      delay(15);
    //      if (angle == 0) {
    //        for (increment = 180; increment > 0; increment--) {
    //          myServo.write(increment);
    //          increment = angle;
    //          delay(15);
    //        }
    //      }
    //    }
    //    // now scan back from 180 to 0 degrees


  Serial.print("Status code: ");
  Serial.print("Response: ");
  Serial.println("Wait five seconds");

Javascript Code:

var express = require('express');       // include express.js
var server = express();           // a local instance of it

var likes = [];
// [{ id: STRING, likesCount: INTEGER }, ...]

var newBody;

var url = '';

const request = require("request");

//----------------------------------------------------------- Handles Instagram

// this checks the API and populate the # of likes
function checkLikes(){

  request.get(url, (error, response, body) => {

    try {
      let json = JSON.parse(body);
      if (json && {
        likes = []; {
    } catch (error) {
      console.log("OMG ERROR", error)


  // Add the code to check the API (Instagram)

  // Populate the array of likes
  //likes = [];
// Check the API every **** ms

//----------------------------------------------------------- Handles Arduino

// this runs after the server successfully starts:
function serverStart() {
  var port = this.address().port;
  setInterval(checkLikes, 30000);
  console.log('Server listening on port '+ port);

// this is the handler for the root of the site:
function getRoot(request, response) {
    response.json(likes);                   // send # of likes back to the client
    // response.end();                  // close the connection

// start the server:
server.listen(8000, serverStart);
server.get('/', getRoot);                           // GET the root of the site

Digital Meiosis, First Performance

Last week was our first performance for Live Image Processing. When I was thinking about the piece I wanted to perform I wasn’t really sure what direction I wanted to go in. For previous assignments I had made things that were visually interesting to me but not really meaningful.

After talking with Matt about my concerns with the performance he gave me some good advice about experimenting and that it didn’t necessarily have to be meaningful. I began to experiment with a few different concepts. The first using stock political footage and voiceover from various politicians. This idea didn’t really take me anywhere interesting so i decided to switch to using old home video footage. This idea eventually led me to finding footage of cells splitting under a microscope.

From here I started working on a piece that began as a very organic process happening and then over time begin to take the form of something extremely inorganic and geometric. Overall I was pretty happy with how the piece turned out given the short performance window. I enjoyed the element of performing the piece and it made me more excited for the next two performances. Below is a test run through of the piece. It varies from the final performance but it follows most of the same timing and structure.

And some screenshots of the patch and presentation. The patch was broken into four different sections and then I crossfaded between each section except for one.

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 3.38.38 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 3.38.50 PM.png