lou suSi @ MassArt

2011 MFA Design graduate from DMI

November 12, 2013
by lou suSi

The most important part about tomorrow …

The most important part about tomorrow is not the technology or the automation, but that man is going to come into entirely new relationships with his fellow men. He will retain much more in his everyday life of what we term the naïveté and idealism of the child. I think the way to see what tomorrow is going to look like is just to look at our children.

— R. Buckminster Fuller

September 10, 2013
by lou suSi

the option to ‘make it’

Ninety-nine percent of humanity does not know that we have the option to ‘make it’ economically on this planet and in the Universe. We do. It can only be accomplished, however, through a design science initiative and technological revolution.

R. Buckminster Fuller
from Critical Path, 1981

May 6, 2013
by lou suSi

..:: teaching IxD ::..

this Spring semester at Massachusetts College of Art and Design — which is, like, almost over, sadly enough — i got the distinct pleasure of taking the materials, sequencing and my approach to teaching Interaction Design { by night for MassArt’s Continuing Education Department } and filtering the entire course down into an independent study with Aliyah Domash

i didn’t realize it until we met up to work on the fine details of how Interaction Design might work at this independent study scale — but, that whole ‘small world’ kind of aspect of the design community in Boston was working its crazy magic from the onset, and strangely enough, i already met Aliyah and got to see her work from a semester or 2 back by sitting as a guest critic in one of the final presentations of Alison Kotin’s Foundations of Graphic Design course — anyhow, flashback to that class and i got to see a lot of hand-drawn, amazing depictions of an artichoke, all in black and white, cropped and composed and mounted very professionally and pinned to the wall — it was a fantastic and dynamic final critique that i’m sure involved a smörgåsbord of hummus and cookies and water and other potluck snackage as a part of this wonderful celebratory discussion of all the fine work and progress each student made over the course of the semester

so, as you can probably tell, i have a certain obsession with foodly comestibles AND a little bit of an issue with portion control, right? ;]

but, back to our regularly scheduled topic — meeting Aliyah in Alison’s design class

anyhow, that night and these sorts of conversations with students and faculty and different nuance of design potentialities always makes me happy and excited about the kind of design community we have at MassArt and in the Greater Boston Area in general — and what? with AIGA Boston, BostonCHI, Boston Cyberarts, Dorkbots, IxDA, Pecha Kucha Night Boston, Refresh Boston, Upgrade Boston, UXPA and the myriad university-driven lectures, hackathons and networking opportunities steeped in designery, you almost can find it difficult to keep up with just the community, forget about the most current trends, buzz and general discourse that accompanies the fine world of design in the general locality

who would’ve known that a year out i’d be working to teach and mentor Aliyah at MassArt in this wonderful independent study setup, right? small world, crazy small, in fact — and then, its just utterly phenomenal to see how quickly a student like Aliyah comes in on day one, starts up with the first 3 more analytic exercises in experience design deconstruction and all — and then through reading, dissection, personal and professional reflection and our near-weekly conversational sessions at MassArt and the project work that puts the focus on active exploration of interaction and user-centered design as a theory and a practice and an empathic journey to guiding this bizarre, almost otherwoldly force we call Design in a way that keeps real, live people at the center of our approach and goals as design professionals — well, its just amazing to see Aliyah’s progress over the semester and to see the full spectral journey of her final project work for final critique and completion of the course

its been a really wonderful semester — really interesting to see how i’ve had to flex and bend the materials and approach, only slightly in all actuality, to keep the design of the course itself ultimately very interactive, human and fun

i’m really looking forward to the final critique, although i know we’ll miss meeting up on a semi-regular basis with the good excuse of putting some credits on the roster while hopefully also digging into what design can really mean for all of us as both professionals and people exploring the world through the filter of human-centered experience design

March 14, 2013
by lou suSi

don’t forget


the wheel
is an extension of the foot
the book
is an extension of the eye
clothing, an extension of the skin,
electric circuitry,
an extension of

The Medium is The Massage, Marshall McLuhan

i think we can all interpret these effects, as McLuhan calls them, in various extremes, dimensions, and ways

one way i interpret some of our extensions as influenced by books like The Body has a Mind of Its Own and The Moving Body: Teaching Creative Theatre is that in some way, the tools we use become a part of us, and likewise the other way, too — we become part of the tools we use

i specifically think of the performance art and new media works of the Australian artist Stelarc — in his piece called Muscle Memory { seen in the image included in this post, below }, the artist installs himself into a robotic, spider-like structure that augments and extends his physical abilities as a human being through this strange, science fiction-like machine contraption


a question i think about a LOT recently is — well, what’s so controversial and different about this performance and the gadgetry involved and, let’s say, the average commuter driving to work at 6:34 AM?

in the case of Stelarc’s Muscle Memory, the artist demonstrates the sheer power and new capabilities afforded the machine operator to an audience in a gallerySpace — its a performance and a demonstration, and its very future-forward and cyberSurreal and interesting in a way that might inform the audience in both a positive and negative way — we might be able to very obviously see how Stelarc, now living and breathing within the confines of this ginormous metal robot, might start to behave, well, like a ginormous metal robot — he, in many ways, becomes the machine, and he learns and adapts and adjusts to both the new things he can do with it while simultaneously sacrificing his own human experience along the way — or, maybe i’m thinking far too much like a transitional, if that’s even a term — i’m not sure that he evolves in any literal way by using the robotic equipment as part of his Muscle Memory performance piece, but his discussions on the topic of this Singularity between man and machine, the combination of the biological and the technological extensions of the previously nearly-pure physical human form, put us in the typical uncanny valley of confrontational wonderment — what does this all mean for us as human beings — will we all need to put on a robotic suit in the near future to perform our on-the-job tasks and assignments? or are our human capabilities ‘man’ enough to get the job done? perhaps it depends upon the line of work you’re in, not sure though, but i’m sure we’ll find out in 10 to 15 years

now let’s take the case of driving to work in the morning — i embed myself into my maroon Honda Accord every morning and drive from Boxford to Waltham every day and i would like to argue that while i am in the car i actually become the car — i adopt the personality, the feelings and the mentality of driving to work, at least for 40 minutes to an hour, twice a day — and, depending on traffic and the flow of traffic and other automobiles on the highway as i drive down Route 95 South, and depending on my mood as a human being now living and breathing as a wetware organ beating inside the machine like a nearly obsolete heart of meat, i act quite differently than i normally do when we talk face-to-face in the office or when i’m at home playing with my son or my grandchildren on the floor — i really think i can become the car in a very literal way, at least if you let yourself follow the subconscious flow of desire that stands in front of you like the temptress you know she is

let’s say you’re in a hurry and you know that if you stay in your conscious state as a person sitting at the wheel that you’ll get to work in about an hour and 15 minutes — not bad, not bad

but why not trust you’re own muscle memory as a driver, as a commuter that’s gotta get shit done, as a worker bee that’s gotta shake the tree and make the magic happen today, ya know? that care now becomes far more than a mere vehicle for rapid movement across a peripherally streaked landscape of trees and jersey barriers and guardrails flying by at 80 miles an hour

that’s right, think about it

from a human-centered perspective, you’re not really moving at all — in fact, you may move here and there, adjust the ball of your foot to move from brake to gas, click the direction into the left position to send a signal to the 20 people behind you as you course like blood through the body that is the highway, but for the most part you’re parked solid and still on your ass, sunk into a quite comfortable chair that let’s you command your magic journey some 30 to 50 miles away from where you live

if you let go a bit and begin to think and behave like the car, you start to decipher new rules of the road that can be leveraged to your advantage — little openings in the flow of traffic beckon you to quickly shift lanes and push ahead of the losers driving slowly in the passing lane to the left — sure, they’re supposed to pass you, but for whatever reason the first and second lanes are wide open and you can make better progress by ignoring the implicit rules of the road — let’s get moving, right? and so on, and so forth

your a little less human when you drive, and more like the pilot of a zombie robot that’s bolting to the office, zipping in and out of the lanes that help you make it all happen

the wheel is an extension of the foot is what McLuhan said in the original quote from The Media is the Massage, but i beg to differ

with our newly adapted and evolved modern lives and our commonplace daily use of machines and devices like cars and trains and other vehicles, the person becomes and extension of the automobile — we become the force that operates a vehicle such as a car, a forklift or an airplane — we become a reverse-extension of it, or them, and we do all the adjusting and discover the new terrains now opened up by our technological progress

i’m not sure where that leaves us as human beings

but i think we should all exercise, at times, a little more conscious awareness and control over our newly-extended selves

cyberSurrealism is about looking at the self by psychoanalyzing the human element through our cybernetic machine influence back on the wetware components of our society — how do our machines change our behavior? how do they then influence: our culture; our interactions with each other as people; and our capabilities on a more holistic scale? as certain capabilities improve, is it inevitable for us to lose other very valuable skills and qualities as human beings? and, in all of this, these thoughts and experiments and explorations through progress and innovation, do we still have any control whatsoever over the evolution and invention of the tools we create and use? or do these things almost subconsciously invent themselves now? how do we keep focusing on the valuable potentials of these human ingenuities and foster more humanly helpful technologies and progress? and most importantly, what the fuck does 4G mean? 

February 3, 2013
by lou suSi

mechanical turking in service to the internet

i just bumped across this interesting Big Think post under the theme Collective Intelligence that interestingly discusses a new crowdsourcing paradigm called mechanical turking:

Is Your Mind for Sale? Inside the Allure of Digital Sweatshops

so, although the post / article is not directly about robotics, per se, it does seem to point out a certain interesting human exploitation paradigm rising within the realm of artificial artificial intelligence — as a means to make all the magic behind the scenes of Amazon’s search, recommendation engines and other similar web experiences more human-centered and natural for its customers, corporations are offering up a rather lame gamified pseudo-occupation up to people that

aims to use human intelligence to do the work that one day a computer might do

Human Intelligence Tasks or HITs are assigned to web surfers aka micro-laborers — their behavior is recorded for future use by Amazon or some other similar behemoth corporation — micro-laborers might perform these assigned tasks for free or for points or sometimes they are actually compensated pennies per task

Motivated by simple rewards, collective intelligence can be harnessed to create huge stores of accurate, useful data (as opposed to computer-generated nonsense)

the entire human-behavior-technology socioeconomic dynamics behind this new digital workforce paradigm is described in further detail in the Big Think post, but what i would like to focus on here are the very flip-metaphor implications of this new micro-laborer workforce — this flip in the purpose of our technological advancement as we originally dreamt it up and the actual realities behind where we’re really heading worries me and its been on my mind for decades now as i try to heighten my own personal awareness of how i interact with the digital and mechanical aspects ubiquitously embedded in our world — these matters, in fact, may be the most important reason why i focus on user-centered design, a field i would rather refer to as human experience designmy love / hate relationship with the technologies i use on a daily basis can sometimes lead to controversial discourse with those that are so financially tied to the blind progress of these technologies as to never dare express a negative bone of contention toward the pure and happy exponential growth of our techno-advancements to an ultimately better integrated, man-machine, post-humanic after-culture — many don’t wanna hear that at all, if you know what i mean — after all, i’m supposed to be a computer person, someone that knows and understands technology at the bleeding edge at all times — not only am i supposed to know it, i’m supposed to love it


now that society has advanced to the point of paying micro-laborers pennies per Human Intelligence Taskshouldn’t we be concerned?

the machines, the systems, the robots, the technologies we invent according to the retrodelicious vision of our State of the Art in the future { as established at events like the World’s Fairs and so on } always emphasized the benefits to our human quality of life improving due to technological advancement — machines were created to reduce the amount of toil put upon people thence freeing up our valuable human time to live more fulfilling and leisurely lives, maybe taking on more than mere tasks as our avocational activities — NOT the other way ’round, right? and now we’re finding out about this micro-labor economy whereby people are kept in their isolated home office caves clicking and tapping to help huge corporations optimize machine intelligence to just sell more shit through behavioral psychosemantic algorithmic manipulation? aren’t their any bigger problems to solve in the world? wouldn’t some other application of our technologies at least begin to fulfill the promises made back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s? why do we always think so small? who will create the case study showing the more profound profitability behind really helping people in the world, not just selling, selling, selling — this is getting a little off-topic { not unusual for me, for my personal subconscious style of following little threads of thought this way and that }

we constantly dehumanize the human aspects of our life to compensate for the inhuman accoutrements we live with in our self-made technohumanic ecosystem

we expect more from people when it comes to work performance or task-level activity and far less from our technologies

Sherry Turkle points out in Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other the same notion but from the completely opposite, kitty-corner perspective — she starts to ask questions about how we relate to each other as mediated and propelled through our highly evolved new systems of sociable technologies — Turkle looks at the oft ignored dark side behind all our advancements — Ray Kurzweil often refers to Moore’s Law in his futuristic projections regarding technology, reinforcing the notion that our technologies do not progress in a predictable, linear fashion, but instead our technologies improve exponentially when it comes to speed, memory storage, etcetera { see the attached and stolen line graph depicting Moore’s Law }

What neither Kurzweil nor Turkle seem to point out { yet }, however, is that for every step of exponential progress in technology, there must be some similar charting mechanism for human experience as it dynamically relates to our relationship with the invisible other { our technologies } now sitting at the table with us — i hope its not related in some natural physics of the universe kind of way to Newton’s Universal Laws of Motion, equal but opposite would certainly NOT be good news for humankind — but we should examine some at least minimilistic notion of the question but how do these exponential advancements effect:

  • our overall human quality of life
  • general real economic dynamics around the world
  • the way we communicate with real people in the world
  • and the quality of that communication, not just the speediness or anywhere / anytime aspects of communication now afforded us via technology
  • our overall improvement as a global civilization

now, these are pretty heavy topics for someone who’s previous thesis research and reporting centered on humor, laughter and everything in between { but mostly that in between area } — but i think this is all related in some cosmological way

between these recent delvings into puppets, robots and intelligence and my design thesis confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy, i did have the glorious and exciting opportunity to present at Club OBERON for Pecha Kucha Night Boston — i called my 20×20 talk The 2012 Human eXperience Report, and it was a mostly humorous report on some of the modern, found systems i find annoying, strange or just plain ‘off’ — for instance, automated bathroom experiences create more of a confusing haunted house of animated insanity than a safer, cleaner and more efficient visit to the corporate Men’s Room — i am guessing this is not what the engineering efforts behind these micro-robotic interactions intended during the development processes — but nobody seems to really be optimizing these uncanny experiences, either, right? my handicap stall toilet almost always superflushes midmovement for me, blasting not only a cool breeze up from an articcool water swirl but also some of the cool water { and other } contents of said toilet bowl making for a far less sanitary experience than one would ever want — the autosoaping dispenser presents the strangest game of delayed ejaculation i’ve ever encountered, the anticipation and my need to properly position my hand in the most mechanical way to compensate for the autoridiculously unintelligence built into such a simple gesture are minimal, but significantly bizarre — i can never guess the exact height to hold my hand under the shiny chrome faucet to help trigger and maintain a stream of water to wash my semi-soaped hands with — not to mention, now it seems, the bathroom stalls are the only safe and private space for some people to send emails, SMS texts and other micro-messages from — there’s even the occasional business call conducted from the urinal

civilization { yes, i just used the ‘C’ word } progresses technologically but seems to psychologically and sociopoetically regress in rather comical yet totally saddening ways

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