Painful Objects Proposal

Data Art


A few weeks ago I walked around my apartment and recorded all the objects that at one or multiple points had caused me physical harm. I was interested at seeing how many hazardous objects there were, where these things were located, and ranking the the amount of pain they caused. Most of all, I wanted to write about the experience of getting betrayed by stuff that was supposed to be on my side (though I should probably resist the urge to anthropomorphize, I never seem to be able to).

For me, there was something cathartic about recording these painful experiences. So my proposal is to create an online space where anyone can contribute their objects, and view all the objects that have been submitted.

Visual Representation: 

The basic concept is to depict red droplets within a frame. The frame represents the home, and the droplets represent the objects/experience of pain. Here are the variables I want to use:

Size of droplet = # of painful incidences
Saturation of droplet = amount of pain from 1 to 10
Bluish hue = if there was emotional pain and how much (from 1 to 10)
Droplet position = clustered based on location of object in home
Mouse position = Hover over droplet to reveal information about the object

I’m most conflicted about how to represent the “home” and where to place the droplets within the home. This is because everyone’s home looks different! Should I draw lines to demarcate rooms, or is that too literal? Should I make it look like a blueprint, or is that way too literal? For the time being, I’m modeling the home based off of my own apartment (since that’s the only data set I have so far).


I created a few drawings in Illustrator to brainstorm what the web page might look like:

I also made a quick p5 sketch of a potential droplet:

I decided to make a physical representation as well. I used a mug of water and a plastic chopstick to collect water droplets.  I put droplets of water on a piece of paper (1 droplet = 1 incident, 2 droplets = 2 incidents, and so on) and then I dipped a red pen into those droplets (1 dip = 1 on pain scale, 2 dips = 2 on pain scale, etc.) Unfortunately the first couple of droplets sapped nearly all the ink out of the pen, so the saturation is too weak overall. I thought I was very clever with my chopstick method but I should’ve just picked up some cheap watercolors and brushes from a drug store. Here’s the result:


If you’d like to add to my dataset, here’s the form!

Zora’s Astonishing Circus Acts: A Storybook Game

Designing Games for Kids

Assignment: Make a game for little kids (ages 4-6)

Concept: Write a children’s book that has a game embedded into the story.

Research: The first thing that I did was look up other children’s books that had a similar concept. I found a lot of books that had clever lift-the-flap mechanisms:

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Paper ZOO by Marya Dzianová’s

I found other books that had different kinds of animation, like Emily Cedar’s “What Makes the World go ‘Round”:

I also found out about the incredible Hervé Tullet, who is known in France as “The Prince of Pre-school books”. Two examples seen below are The Finger Circus Game and The Game of Shadows:

Because I’m not a visual artist, I didn’t want the game to be based on a clever visual or tactile effect. Instead, I wanted to think of a way to get the children playacting and have some agency over the story.

Refined Concept: I realized that kids love pretending to be animals. So I decided that the main game mechanic would be having kids act out animals doing silly things. I made a long list of animals that I thought young children would recognize and also enjoy mimicking–like jellyfish, shark, grizzly bear, dog and chicken. Then I made a list of actions that included surfing, playing guitar and practicing karate. I used a variety of verbs (instead of just “doing”) in order to make it more educational.

The next step was figuring out what kind of story would facilitate that kind of playacting. Perhaps with Herve Tullet’s Finger Circus fresh in my mind, I realized that a circus would be the perfect place for these animals to perform.

Fabrication: The story has gone through three drafts and two physical prototypes. I created two decks of cards for the animals and the actions that the children would draw at random on their turn. Because I used 20 animals and 20 actions, that means there are 400 possible combinations!

The first prototype used velcro, which made it really easy for the kids to stick their cards directly onto the page of the book. Unfortunately, it made it impossible to stack the cards in decks, and also made the book bulkier. For my second prototype I decided to use plastic sleeves that the kids could slide the cards into, but that made it much harder for the kids to place the cards. I think the plastic sleeve is more elegant than velcro but the design needs some refinement.

Playtesting: So far I have playtested the book twice. Once with my professors kids (who are ages 4 and 8) and with a whole classroom of preschoolers. My professor’s kids really enjoyed it (and they loved goading their dad into acting out animals as well), and it was a huge hit in the classroom! The kids were rapt the entire time, even though my book doesn’t really have illustrations yet (the only illustrations I have are of the different animals). A few of the kids who didn’t get a turn wouldn’t let me leave the classroom until I promised that they would have a turn next time! I have a few other appointments to visit classrooms so hopefully I will be able to get permission to snag a picture and post it here.

Demo: Finally, here is a short video demo. Fortunately the kids are much better at being animals than I am.

Mushroom Death Remediation

Fungus Among Us

A few weeks ago I watched this TedTalk given by Jae Rhim Lee:

Her message really resonated with me. I understand the temptation of family members to try to preserve the bodies of loved ones after death, but for my part, I don’t want anyone looking at me after I’m dead, making comments how good I look (considering the circumstances), and admiring what a good job the mortician did. I don’t want my body tossed into the Earth like a leaky formaldehyde bag wearing lipstick. My grandmother’s wake was horrible for me. She didn’t look like herself at all. It was like we were burying a stranger.

Jae Rhim Lee created a mushroom burial suit. It costs much less than the average casket, and it’s far better for the environment. Lee has trained fungus to get good at eating what will be her remains by feeding it her skin cells, hair, nails, sweat, and blood. Even though it might seem morbid to teach an organism to eat your body, I thought there was something poetic about it, and it inspired me to write this short science fiction piece:

A way in which I might extend this project is to have a podcast that features a science fiction story and a non fiction piece that discusses some of the real science referenced in the story.

In the meantime, I’ll continue thinking about how we can use fungus to normalize death and decomposition.

Gramma Bot: Twitter Bot Final

Featured Posts, Twitter Bot Workshop

An anti-harassment twitter bot that questions the offender about their decision to use inflammatory language.

I was inspired by a teacher friend of mine who uses a socratic technique when his students call each other names. “Why did you call her that? What does that mean?” I wanted to use a bot to initiate conversation (with the bot saying something like, “Why did you feel like using this word?”) in order to make people reflect on the language they use and how it affects others.

One of the bots that inspired this project was Kevin Munger’s anti-harassment bot geared towards racists. The constraints placed on the bot were smart. It was only looking for the n-word, only when combined with an @ reply, and it checked the user’s timeline for prior offenses. Other important measures were taken that wouldn’t be feasible for my project–manually inspecting the profiles, and manually checking to make sure the two users in the interaction aren’t friends. Furthermore, in order for Munger to run his experiment, he had to hide that fact that he was using bots. I had decided that I was going to be transparent about my bot’s bot status.

I also read studies that had already done textual analysis of slurs used on twitter, like this one. Reading studies like this were important, because I realized that there was no magical Markov chain that was going to help me identify harassment on twitter without false negatives/positives. Even human experts can’t agree on what constitutes harassment. Here’s a quote from the study I linked to: “In manually coding, analysts had considerable difficulty achieving inter-annotator agreement (the extent to which both annotators agreed on the meaning of the same tweet).”

Finally, I wanted to see what other sorts of anti-harassment bots are out there. Even though there are quite a few, I had to restrict myself to bots whose code is written in javascript. This source code really jump-started my project. This is a simple bot created for a hackathon. It takes a whole slew of offensive terms and gives them different weights (for example, both “cunt” and the n-word are given weights of 3, while “fat” and “shit” are given weights of 1). If a user tweets something with a weight greater than 3, then the bot tweets out the user name and says “this comment has been marked as offensive and has been recorded.”

There are some glaring problems with this bot. If I tweet out, “I’m so fucking mad, someone just called me a cunt,” then I would get flagged for using a combination of the words “fucking” and “cunt”. That’s what you get with contextless word counters. They can’t tell the difference between a complaint about getting harassed and actual harassment (like, “You’re a fucking cunt.”) Further more, I didn’t want to call out users on a tweet-by-tweet basis. I wanted to track their behavior over time. A person could have a hundred reasons for using the word “bitch” in a tweet. But it’s definitely fair to call them out if they’ve tweeted the word “bitch” a hundred different times, no matter the reason.

The Ideal Bot:
I’m calling my bot “GrammaBot” because I want it to be satirical, rather than preachy. GrammaBot will track the words “bitch” and “cunt” only, because I want it to be relatively limited in scope. It will also only look at users in the United States because people in the UK seem to have a very different relationship with the word “cunt”. If a single user says either of these words more than 4 times, the bot will mention them in a tweet and say some variation of, “You’ve said the word ‘cunt’ 5 times since [date]. GrammaBot is wondering why you keep saying that word!”

Here is the source code for my bot:

So far I’ve only tested my bot in the console log (so I don’t get immediately blocked by Twitter). This is a video of what it looks like when I run my code. Because I’m using a personal account I’m tweeting the term “blahblahblahblah” instead of “cunt” to test that everything works:

Right now I’m only tracking “cunt” instead of “bitch” and “cunt”, which I actually think is good because it’s limiting the amount of data that’s coming in. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to figure out how to simultaneously filter by keyword and location (the twitter api doesn’t allow you to use both parameters at once). The good news is that by not limiting by location, I’m not missing the offenders who don’t have locations associated with their accounts. I’m also limiting the search to non-retweets. I only want the bot to identify OC (Original Content (or, for the more puerile among us, Original “Cuntent”)). You can follow @Gramma_Bot to see the offenders’ messages and Gramma’s reponses!

UPDATE: On the same day Gramma Bot launched (March 25, 2017), the application’s writing privileges were revoked. 

Before Gramma got shut down, a few funny things happened:

  1. The bot flagged itself as an offender so kept calling itself out for using the word cunt. This was a silly thing for me to forget to account for in the code, but it does play into the narrative of “LOOK AT WHAT GRAMMA BOT HAS BECOME”

2. An offender was amused/baited by the bot, responding with, “I work on those numbers, you cunt”

3. A crazy lady (whose account has just been suspended) who has devoted her twitter career to harassing the doctors and nurses who supposedly botched her breast augmentation surgery assumed that it was the nurses who created Gramma Bot to “bully” her.

4. Gramma Bot retweeted quite a few butt photos from “” so I manually got rid of those.

I’m now deciding whether to appeal twitter’s restriction and then neuter my bot so it follows twitter’s automation rules, create Gramma_Bot2 and inevitably get that account suspended, or simply let things be.

RIP Gramma Bot.

Hanging Desk: Week 1

Piecing It Together

For my midterm assignment, I’ve decided to build a hanging desk I saw in a CB2 catalog. Here are images of what their desk looks like:

I really like their design so for the moment I’m going to try and replicate it. Here are my own sketches:

At the bottom of my sketch page I’ve included a “challenge section”–I’m thinking about including gears on the sides of the structure that turn as the desk drawer is opened.

I also made a cardboard prototype:

Forever Giphy Chat Bot

Twitter Bot Workshop

Assignment: Make a bot that responds to @-replies or direct messages. Use Digital Ocean to run this bot “forever” on a remote server.

My chat bot concept was to use the giphy api and tweet out a random gif using the content of the tweet as a tag. Here’s what I mean:

random_user: @GiphyChatBot chill
GiphyChatBot: @random_user [random gif that is tagged “chill”]

I think this qualifies as a chatbot because it simulates/automates a human interaction that might go like this:

Person 1: Hey bro, send me a Little Shop of Horrors gif
Person 2: Okay bro, here is your Little Shop of Horrors gif

The thing that I don’t love about the bot is that it only produces single-exchange interactions. It doesn’t create an extended conversation between user and bot. At any rate, here is an example tweet:

Painful Objects

Collective Narrative

Assignment: Create a narrative experience centered around a single or several objects.

Something happens to me when I hurt myself in my own home. I temporarily become blind with rage. I’m angry at myself. I’m furious at the object. If I can pin the incident on someone else, I’m furious at them, too.

I can’t control this lizard brain. And it scares me that I can instantly become so unlike myself. I decided to catalog the objects in my home that have ever caused me physical pain. Mostly it’s an exercise in data collection. But maybe reliving some of these painful moments will better prepare me for the next one.

It should come as no surprise that the inspiration for this list was a stubbed toe.

The Kitchen

Cabinet Door:
3+ offenses

Whenever I’m stooped over the garbage can or the kitchen sink and a cabinet door is left open, I’m destined to hit my head on it when I straighten up. Because Max is more likely to leave the cabinet doors open, he is also more likely to be the object of my fury. The last time this happened I screamed FUCK and Max thought that I had really seriously hurt myself, but when he called out to see if I was okay I was too angry to speak. Even when he ran in to check on me I still couldn’t say anything. It was only as the pain subsided that I could ungrit my teeth and apologize.

Pain Scale: 9/10
Expletives? FUCK.
Worth it to remove the object? No. Cabinets need doors.

Stove top/Oven:
3+ offenses

Even though it’s not unusual to burn myself cooking, my lizard brain doesn’t kick in when this happens. Is it because the pain isn’t instantaneous? Burning pain always takes a second to register. When I burn myself I don’t usually feel anger at all. It’s either self-pity or just a stoic acceptance. Oven burns are badges of honor in the quest to adulthood.

Pain Scale: 5/10
Expletives? Muttered
Worth it to remove the object? No. The stove giveth way more than the stove taketh away.

~1 offense

When I was making myself pour over coffee I accidentally splashed boiling water. Fortunately the water hit the countertop before hitting me so the injury was mild.

Pain Scale: 2/10
Expletives? None
Worth it to remove the object? Not the teapot’s fault. I’m all squared with the teapot.

The Living Room

Binder clip:
~1 offense

My boyfriend Max is a teacher so there are binder clips all over the fucking apartment. I’ve done a good job of avoiding them but I stepped squarely on one the other day. Fortunately its irregular shape seemed to disperse the pain, and no expletives were uttered. I think a good indicator of pain intensity is presence/absence of expletives. I think I’m going to go back and add that as a category.

Pain Scale: 1/10
Expletives? None
Worth it to remove the object? Even though I’m petty enough to trash the binder clip just to get back at it, the pain just didn’t warrant its removal.

Coffee Table:
3+ offenses

I’ve had multiple run-ins with this coffee table, and the last one was the worst. I actually broke my pinky toe on this thing while I was pacing around the apartment taking a phone call. The pain was so intense that I was unable to experience anger, or any other lizard brain emotion. My pinky toe is still a little crooked from the incident.

Pain Scale: 10/10
Expletives? Hard to recall. Mostly sobs.
Worth it to remove the object? While I didn’t get rid of the coffee table, I did repurpose it as a TV stand so now it’s in an area of the apartment that’s virtually un-stubbable.

Rocking Chair:
~1 offense

Stubbed my toe while vacuuming. The pain was short-lived.

Pain Scale: 2/10
Expletives? None
Worth it to remove the object? Definitely not. The chair was my abuela’s and has huge sentimental value. I think the chair would need to tackle me in my sleep in order for me to get rid of it.

~2 offenses

Stub my toe on this thing occasionally. The nice thing about it is that I can immediately collapse on the couch to recover.

Pain Scale: 3/10
Expletives? Not that I recall.
Worth it to remove the object? No. I need a couch, and I have the feeling that any other couch would offer similar opportunities for stubbing.


Medicine Cabinet Door
~1 offense

Very similar the kitchen cabinet scenario, but the pain isn’t as bad because there’s less distance between the sink and the cabinet door (so there’s less time to gather up speed before impact). In some ways more frustrating because then I’m forced to look at my pissed off reflection immediately after the incident.

Pain Scale: 6/10
Expletives? Fuck
Worth it to remove the object? No.

Sink and Bathroom faucets
~1 offense each

When I dye my hair I’ll rinse it out directly under the faucet, and I’ve hit my head on the faucet trying to extricate myself. Again, not much distance between me and the faucets so the pain isn’t so bad, but hair-dyeing can be such an ordeal that it’s hard not the take the injury personally.

Pain Scale: 2/10
Expletives? Yes
Worth it to remove the object? Neither possible, nor worth it.

Toilet Bowl
~1 offense

This one’s a little foggy, but in the middle of the night I ended up sitting on the toilet when its seat got left up. I think I was a little drunk at the time. This didn’t hurt too badly, just the hard impact of mis-judging the distance between my ass and the surface below. I think my buzz smoothed most of my anger/frustration/shame. No anger towards Max because he never ever ever leaves the toilet seat up. I probably left it up while I was cleaning the toilet or something. I have strong feelings about the seat getting left up. I wish I didn’t because I’m pretty sure every other article on Breitbart reads something like “Women March on Washington because Poor Dude Left the Seat Up”. See this fucking article. Or don’t see it because your day was probably bad enough already.

Pain Scale: 1/10
Expletives. No. But fuck Breitbart.
Worth it to remove the object? Obviously not.

The Bedroom

3+ offenses

The thing was potted poorly and leaned to one side. Whenever I watered it, it would fall off the sill and land on my bare feet.

Pain Scale: 4/10
Expletives? Probably
Worth it to remove the object? Eventually I stopped watering the thing out of spite. When it looked to be about 75% dead I threw it out.

Seashell Necklace:
3+ offenses

This ended up on the floor when I was moving a bunch of stuff around and I keep stepping on it. Every time I do, another delicate seashell breaks beneath my feet. This makes me sad because the necklace definitely belonged to mom/abuela/tia. Also they probably bought it on the Island aka Puerto Rico aka the Homeland. This wasn’t some mass-produced thing, someone painstakingly collected and threaded these little baby seashells onto the necklace. It’s still lying on the floor along with little seashell shards because I can’t bring myself to examine it and see exactly what condition it’s in.

Pain Scale: 1/10
Emotional Pain Scale: 7/10
Expletives: Sad expletives.
Worth it to remove the object? Even if it’s broken, I’m not going to be able to throw it away right now. I’ll put it in a dark place and falsely promise myself I’m going to fix it, until the next time I find it again.

3+ offenses

Always sucks to stub your toe right as you’re about to go to bed. As with the couch, at least I have a soft place to writhe on. Also maybe worth it to mention that when I was hauling the frame around on a giant cart in the IKEA parking lot, I hit a curb and slammed my shin into one of the boxes. The bruise lasted about 2 weeks.

Pain Scale: 3/10-7/10
Expletives: Here and there.
Worth it to remove the object? No. This MALM ikea bed frame with two storage boxes cost me blood, sweat, tears and 250 dollars. The bed frame stays.

Non-Rectangular Box: Week 2

Piecing It Together

Last week we had decided to make a box out of three masks. We cut up a bunch of cardboard prototypes to figure out how we wanted the masks to fit (like using slits or interlocking teeth on the sides). We ultimately decided that the most fool-proof method was to create a base with slots that the masks could slide in and out of. As long as the slots were correctly spaced apart, the masks’ sides would match up and create the appearance of a closed box. Here is a small prototype we made using scrap acrylic. There’s no base yet so the masks are being held together with tape:

We designed the masks in Adobe Illustrator. We decided to use the dimensions of the average male face–7 inches in width and 9 inches long. We also used guidelines to make sure the eyes would end up in the right place. David didn’t choose any particular theme for his mask designs. My design was inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead masks. Here are a few images I used for inspiration:

Here is what the masks ended up looking like when they came out of the laser cutter!

 Because we couldn’t find wood that was both thick enough and wide enough to fit all the masks into, we ended up adapting our method of fitting them together. We laser cut little joints that connected each side of the mask. Once the joints were in place, we traced the position of the masks on our remaining piece of wood (our base), uploaded a photo of the traced wood to Illustrator and traced again within the program. This way we were able to laser cut the small slots for our masks. Here’s the final product! It’s not really a “box” so much as a ceremonial candle holder, but we’re still pleased with the result.

“The Thought of You”

Collective Narrative

Assignment: Create a short sound piece in 2-4 parts.  In your approach, you may offer different perspectives on a single subject, or use multiple voices or different components to complete a single narrative.

For this assignment, I decided to write an absurd song with my boyfriend. I wrote the lyrics out beforehand but the melody was mostly improvised (apologies for the vocal mis-steps, as soon as I know I’m being recorded I get the yips and lose the ability to hit notes). Many thanks to Max Chomet for his contributions on guitar, as well as being an obliging performer in this audio drama.

Non-Rectangular Box: Week 1

Piecing It Together

Assignment: Build a non-rectangular box. The box must have an opening and be able to stand up by itself.

Our group began by proposing ideas. Below is my “idea page” with the first ideas that came to mind. I thought it might be interesting to make a spherical UFO that would balance perfectly without tilting over. I was also interested in making an “illusion box”–using mirrors to make it look like the box was empty even if it wasn’t. There is also an obligatory sketch of a pussy box.

At the bottom of the image above, there’s a sketch of three masks that come together to make a box. I was riffing on JunChao’s idea of building an angular mask. We were most interested in this idea so we made a few more sketches and some cardboard prototypes:

In the image above, you can see a few sketches of how I thought we might accomplish the task of getting the masks to piece together and come apart. In the first sketch I was trying to imagine interlocking “teeth”. In the second sketch, I drew slits in the front of the masks to allow them to slide into one another. The slit idea is how I designed two of the cardboard prototypes below.