Not.So.Real is a project that investigates the way we perceive both boundaries and connections between the digital and real world; between our digital and real identity. These two realities interact with each other through the sensors we wear and the devices we own. Imagine a world in which the sensors we put on our body no longer augmented our experience with the surroundings. Imagine instead, that they gave a body to a digital identity. Following this dystopian scenario, I designed a set of five sensors, related to the five basic human senses. The sensors are to be worn by one person, so that their digital identity counterpart can hear, see, taste, smell and touch. Humans are no longer central to their own experiences, but props and facilitators towards something else. These sensors, though, have to scream that they are different from any other wearable technology that is emerging these days. I therefore decided to make them pixelated. They are standardized rather than custom, they are recognizable rather than hidden.
Instead of showing the objects themselves, I will exhibit a set of 5 pictures.
Madeline Schwartzman, See Yourself Sensing
My design process has been quite restless and has involved several iterations, which led me to change my mind from seeing digital and real as antithetic to more and more intertwined. During the first half, I focused on the concept of identity and the perception of self. During the second part, instead, I focused on how experience happens through our sensorial apparatus. In specific, I pinpointed four stages.
Scenario 1: What if we used the digital world, the way we do experience online in order to learn something new about ourselves? My focus was on the way we perceive differences in behaviors and ethical values. It resulted in the first idea “Digital Picture of Dorian Gray”.
Scenario 2: What if we could chose in between the digital and the real world? My interest was in understanding whether switching in between the two realities was an option to speculate on, especially I was thinking of using the digital world to eternalize real identities.
Scenario 3: What if the way we experience in the digital world has become so compelling that it becomes our preferred way of living? Feelings can now be coded and sent directly to the brain area which processes them, making so that digital experiences can finally trigger us in a physical way. It resulted in the idea “Documentary of the Life of Brian”
Scenario 4: What if digital identities become interested in particular physical experiences? This led me to the final concept definition.
In the end, I made the, must say, rather arbitrary decision of showing pictures instead of the artifact. I never took pictures before, and I thought I could take advantage of the expertise around me here at CMU to just do it. Arbitrary decisions should not be allowed in a proper design process, apologies for that.
I should have focused on a more specific topic, as the amount of time available proved not to be enough for the massive topic of identity perception first and experience through senses later. I stumbled a lot during this project, I especially got lost within the huge amount of freedom that I was given in finding a proper context for my concept. What I got proven, again, is that building off existing knowledge and the work of others is less disappointing then when you think you made something new but it turns out not to be.