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)
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.
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.
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: