October 3, 2023No Comments

Week Three: Transgression

This week, we're reading Chapter 1 of *Unruly Speech* by Saskia Witteborn. Witteborn frames transgression as a way of defining the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Beyond that, she argues (through those she references) that it is necessary for maintaining social order.

“[To] transgress is to go beyond the bounds or limits set by a commandment or law or convention, it is to violate or even infringe. But to transgress is also more than this, it is to announce and even laudate the commandment, the law or the convention”

Here, Witteborn is quoting Chris Jenks’ 2003 book, Transgression. The idea is that transgression affirms the rule as much as opposes it.

How Does this Impact My Project?

I started thinking a lot about Tarnschriften (literal translation “camouflage writing”), **specifically the anti-Nazi writings that were illicitly published and hidden in plain sight disguised as chess pamphlets or make-up adverts. They were often quite small so as to be hidden inside of other books. I love the idea of a guide being passed around inside a sort of literary Trojan Horse, so I think that’s what I’ll try to do.

Ironically, the more I read about these beautiful pieces of morally upright literature (mostly written by the communist party), the more tempted I am to make a guide to installing a puppet regime.

Conversations with Margaret

I had a great conversation with Margaret, the Tisch librarian, about puppet research. On a technical level, she showed me how to do advanced search with multiple variables and constraints. This would be helpful for clamping down on the number of results coming back for something like “sock puppet”.

I was struggling to connect transgression and puppets and Margaret was able to introduce a few new concepts (Bread and Puppet Theatre), as well as jog my memory about some old ones (Spitting ImagePunch and Judy). It seems the UK has a particularly interesting history of political puppetry, with the word “poppet” (a term of endearment to me) previously referring to a kind of voodoo doll.

Possibly the key takeaway from our conversation was when we discussed what I thought to be a completely esoteric family history. My paternal grandfather had trained as a medicine man in his remote Nigerian village and came from a family of people responsible for the local masquerade. The pre-Christianity local deity of the village was someone my dad had once described as being the equivalent of Hades in the Greek pantheon. I assumed this was something that may not have happened elsewhere but Margaret was convinced there would be ethographic studies on similar practices across the country. Sure enough, we were able to identify the Yoruba masquerade as (almost definitely) Egungun and the deity as Eshu (it turned out I actually wrote this down somewhere a few years ago). Coincidentally, my classmate Eric whose theme is “Trickster” came across Eshu in one of the books he was looking through.

By the end of this conversation, I had two clear directions (literal puppeteering as a metaphor for political puppeteering) and the Yoruba masquerade. Now I just need to pick one and run with it.

Guide References

Jay Foreman on London’s Boroughs

  • Tone (wacky, nerdy, sarcastic)
  • Visuals
  • Pacing


This one fits my notion of a “guide” the least, but “combat training disguised as dance” is the vibe I’m going for.

David Drake’s Pottery

The Enslaved Artist Whose Pottery Was an Act of Resistance (Published 2021)

He made pots and wrote (”catination”) on them (or at least one) at a time when slaves were being forced to be illiterate. A “guide” to reading—literally—and maybe to liberation.


Tarnschriften: Covert Resistance in the Third Reich - The Wiener Holocaust Library

OK, all of my examples are about resisting oppression and I want to make a guide to installing a puppet government?

That said, I think this is my form. Risograph?

It seems they were often palm-sized and not too long (one example is cited at 22 pages) so they could be hidden in another book or easily pocketed. This one’s in the form of a pack of tomato seeds.

Here’s a French example.


  • I imagine this guide as being a sort of capoeira—a Trojan horse designed to escape the prying eyes of some evil overlord.
  • Are there other examples of covert guides, cultural objects or materials? Subliminal messagingGreen Book? That was openly a guide to staying safe on the road, and probably well known by Black folk but not outside.

OK, so how could I disguise a puppety thing?

  • Maybe a guide to social media marketing that’s actually about sock puppet accounts?
  • Or a guide to maintaining and using your puppet (I need to finish actual puppetry research)

Naming Exercise

  • Puppetmaster: A Guide to Controlling
  • Become a Puppetmaster!
  • Puppets: A Practical Guide
  • Social Media Marketing for Milennials (really stop people from touching it)

September 13, 2023No Comments

Week One: Emergent Strategy & Research

Our summer intensive is over and a new semester begins. Whereas this summer we had five weeks in-person to do and make everything, we’ll be spending 15 weeks on Zoom, going deep. Here in Critical Experiences land, we’ll be sharpening our tools for research, systems thinking and experience design.

On Emergence, and Things as Events

To begin the class, we’re reading (bits of) Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown. Emergent Strategy is a new concept to me and discusses emergence in a slightly different way to what I’m used to, although on reflection, not that different. To quote Brown (quoting Nick Obolensky):

Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions.

She describes the way cells interact to create complex organisms, saying they may not necessarily “know” what is happening at the macro level, despite causing it.

This connects—in my mind, at least—to something I read by Carlo Rovelli:

The world is not a collection of things, it is a collection of events. A stone is prototypical 'thing': we can ask ourselves where it will be tomorrow. Conversely, a kiss is an 'event'. It makes no sense to ask where the kiss will be tomorrow. The world is made up of networks of kisses, not of stones. On closer inspection, in fact, even the things that are most 'thing-like' are nothing more than long events.

Rovelli goes on to explain that, viewed across a long enough time horizon, a stone is just a bunch of atoms that came together for a while and will eventually disassemble. In this way, a stone is a “happening”, a verb as much as a noun.

This is how I think about emergence. A way by which the thingness of a thing is defined in the activities of that thing. Does that make sense?

One more example—drawing. When I was younger, I was told not to start with details, to rough out general shapes instead. But I could never see general shapes. I saw blobs of light and dark, lines and planes. And only when I stepped back from the drawing would I see a still life or a portrait. I guess that’s an emergent approach to drawing.

Principles of Emergent Strategy

  1. Small is good, small is all. (The large is a reflection of the small.)
  2. Change is constant. (Be like water.)
  3. There is always enough time for the right work.
  4. There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.
  5. Never a failure, always a lesson.
  6. Trust the People. (If you trust the people, they become trustworthy.)
  7. Move at the speed of trust. Focus on critical connections more than critical mass — build the resilience by building the relationships.
  8. Less prep, more presence.
  9. What you pay attention to grows.

I struggle with 3, 5, 6 and 8. I don’t understand 7.

I rarely feel like my self-regulated schedule leaves enough time for anything, which is to say nothing of external expectations and pressures. That said I do want to learn how to protect valuable things from those pressures.

With regards to failure, I increasingly disagree with any push to rebrand or remove it from the palette of life experiences. Yes, it is often instructive. But surely sometimes, you just have to take the proverbial L. Is this not a valid perspective?

On trust, ha. Far too nihilistic for that, soz. Maybe one day.

On prep vs presence, why are these things being versused in the first place? As a card-carrying member of the Extremely Awkward, Nervous and Uncomfortable club, preparation is how I calm the three-headed dragon. Don’t get me wrong, learning to roll with the punches/surf the wave/insert metaphor here has also been a gift, and I thrive on chaos when I’m the only person involved. But the moment others are involved, bust out the calendar invites, sticky notes etc.


For our first major project of the class, we’ve been “randomly” (right, Sarah?) assigned topics. We’ve then been placed in small groups with their own overarching topic. My group looks like this:


The word “transgression” has particularly religious connotations to me—maybe that’s the catholic school peeking through. In other spheres of life, you’re more likely to hear words like “offense”, “crime”, “wrongdoing”…my friend said it almost felt like “treason” to him, which gives me connotations of either a monarchy or pirates. Transgression feels in line with sin and sacrilege.

Puppets, on the other hand…my first instinct was to reject a literal interpretation. To think about manipulation, representation and proxies. Puppet politicians and the like. Then I thought about shadow puppets and how it might be fun to combine a Leap Motion with some sort of gesture recognition/GAN and create images based on hand signs. The more people I told about this assignment, the more puppet-related things appeare—sorry, emerged. So now, I’m thinking I’ll look into puppetry at large and go from there.

August 3, 2023No Comments

Pulse Clock Prototype, Bill of Materials

  • Blog your idea for next week and come up with a prototype for playtesting. Prototype can be anything that communicates the overall concept of the project as well as key interactions. Be as realistic and detailed as you can. Prototype can be one or any combination of:
    • Breadboard mockup (Proof of concept prototype)
    • Wireframes
    • Drawings / sketches
    • p5 sketch
    • System diagram
    • Detailed written description
  • In addition to the above please make a BOM (Bill of Materials). List out all necessary components (include things you already have), with links, and pricing. Order anything you already know will be essential. If you are unsure of materials, consult with one of your instructors or residents

Bill of Materials (link to live table)

July 31, 2023No Comments

Pulse Clock, Part One.


(Spent two days trying to get the LED ring to work without any discernible progress)

Moving on to pulse sensor - this ended up being fairly straightforward. Using Pimoroni Max30101 checked out from the shop (explain what it is and how it works). Installed library, wired up the sensor, ran the example code (there's one provided that includes an algo for getting an averaged heart rate, which is exactly what I need). OK, now that I know that works, I'll put it to one side for now and reintegrate once I can get my lights going.

Decided to try an Arduino Uno—it's 5v by default vs the 3.3v Nanos I've tried so far. At first, no difference. As I was about to give up, Nun (one of the residents) walked by and asked how I was doing. After talking for a few minutes, she inspected my circuit and decided I probably didn't need the resistor (which was recommended in the Neopixel library to not burn out the lights). That got some sign of life for the very first time since I bought the LEDs in 2022(!!!!!). However, only one quadrant of the 4 was working.

Nun suspected it might be because I'd joined the whole ring all the way round and asked for permission to resolder my sloppy work. Watching her work levelled up my soldering game in 15 minutes more than I probably could have in a year on my own. Some major tips I learned:

  • Tape things down if you don't want them to move as you work. Gaff tape works perfectly for this
  • Use flux paste to protect the electronics and plastic parts from the heat. This also works really well as a "holding goo" for the little strips of wire (I'm going to have to explain the wire bridging part of this somewhere)
  • Keep your soldering iron properly tinned as you work. This involves applying a small amount of solder to the tip of the iron. A well-tinned iron is a lot easier to work with
  • Apply some solder to the wire, then place the wire, then apply a tiny bit of heat to reactivate the solder. use pliers (or something similar) to hold down the wire with your non-iron hand.
  • Honestly, the plier thing is such a game changer I'm ordering a set of my own.

I can't explain how much better equipped I feel for soldering/electronics work than I did on Wednesday.

Hashtag PComp

Sometimes, you've done everything right. Your circuit is perfect, your soldering flawless, your code exactly matches the reference. And yet things don't work. The number of times you can solve this by a) wiggling something b) pinching something or c) reattaching something is frankly terrifying.

July 27, 2023No Comments

I/O Device – Potentiometer-Dial-Light-Ringy-Thingy

For this session, our mission is to come up with a simple application using digital and/or analog input and output to a microcontroller and make a device that allows a person to control light, sound, or movement using the components you’ve learned about (e.g. LEDs, speakers, servomotors).

A Bit About Timefeel

If you've known me for a while, you may recognise what's to come as part of my yet-to-be-completed Timefeel project. I managed to blow up an Arduino at ITP Camp 2022 working on this. For that reason, I'll be switching to my Arduino Nano Every (I have more of those) instead of the 33 IOT.

(If you really want to see the journey this project has been on since late 2021, most of my notes are on Coda.)

Turning a dial to adjust LED

I still don't know how to draw circuit schematics but it's a fairly simple idea. Use the potentiometer's position to control the "flow" of light around an LED ring.

The issue I'm having is I can't solder the ring quadrants together cleanly enough to avoid the ground, 5v power and digital in/out pins touching each other and shorting the circuit. After 2 hours of soldering and unsoldering, I decided to give up for now.

LED Ring #1, not working

New plan: attach alligator clips to a single quadrant and use that to test the Neopixel library. Surely that'll work!

Except it didn't.

I can't get either the hardware or the software to work at the moment. The lights don't seem to be recognising the presence of any charge. I thought it might be because the alligator clips are too loose, so I found a way to plug the light straight into the breadboard. The results are the same.

Using Adafruit's Neopixel library has so far proved unfruitful—I'm unable to get any change out of it.

It's now 03:10 AM so I'll call it a night. I'll be back here in 6 hours to sort it all out.

July 26, 2023No Comments

Exploration 03: Process Research

or “digging through archives of other people's work to find work that makes you want to do work.”

Curiosity Syllabus

In our last EM class, we spent some time working on a curiosity syllabus. I can't really explain what that means, so here's the activity prompt, verbatim.

Make a map of everything that you want to ensure you want to explore or work with in the next 3 years. 

Try to include types of making (solo, collaborative, experimental, etc.); forms or media (3D printing, game design, python, etc.); content/subject matter you want to address or investigate. Brainstorm vigorously, write as much as you can. Every word does not need to be equally substantive!

Mine looks like this:

At some point, I'll turn this into a parseable graphic—right now I'm about 8,300 assignments behind schedule, so that'll have to wait. For now, I'll say this "map" represents all the things I've been making, attempting to make, or interested in learning for the past 5 or so years. Some interesting observations:

  • The commerce + culture framework has been on my mind since around 2012—looking at the syllabus, it's interesting how many things could work in either or both contexts.
  • The numbers are years from now, seems like in the immediate future, I want to develop skills for interactive installations, gain a deeper understanding of design in the carbon offset space, write more and maybe pick up some branding work.
  • Eventually, it would be cool to build or be part of a studio that could house client work, art projects and releasing out own products.

Making this Manageable

Our next step is to take this map and turn it into something we can...drive. Until recently, I've mostly done this with Coda (e.g. fragrance) but they've made some changes I'm not loving. Notion seems the obvious replacement but I'm going to give this a proper think. My main criteria:

  • Something I'll actually use (sorry, graveyard of bookmarked tabs)
  • Something I can navigate and/or search
  • Ideally, cloudy (privacy be damned, apparently)
  • Bonus points for fun

It may even be that I take this opportunity to become a fully-fledged Arena Person™.

After listing everything out on Notion, it feels like I need something a bit less linear to let these different points of interest overlap and connect.

The Part Where I Can't Find an Artist to Reference on Rhizome.

Our next mission involves trawling through the Rhizome artist profiles, finding one that “really resonates with you” and writing a bit about their work, why it speaks to us and what questions we might ask them if we could.

Paul Slocum: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2011/sep/27/artist-profile-paul-slocum/

OR Tabor Robak: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2011/aug/08/artist-profile-tabor-robak/

(Interestingly, both choices are from 2011. I’m not sure anything particularly resonated with me, or that these profiles present a particularly accessible way to fall in love with an artist’s work.)

July 26, 2023No Comments

Arduino + P5.js—Serial Communication

Part 1: Lab (what we did on our own)


Part 2: Class (what we did in Tuesday session)

July 24, 2023No Comments

Analog(ue) and Digital Inputs and Outputs

Dimming a Light with a Potentiometer

For our lab, Digital and Analog In with an Arduino, we connected our Arduino through a potentiometer to an LED.

Side note: I still don't know what a potentiometer is. I should review that.

Ahhhhhhhhh. It's a manually adjustable variable resistor. The two outer terminals have lower and higher resistance and the middle one ("wiper") adjusts the ratio between the two. OK.

Side side note: I still can't read or write circuit schematics. Review this.

I realise I haven't talked about code at all so far. That's mostly because I don't understand it even a little bit.

Basically, the potentiometer has 256 levels of...dial. The LED has 1024. So we read the potentiometer's level and map it to the LED (by multiplying by 4).

void loop() {
    analogValue = analogRead(A0);    // read the pot value
    brightness = analogValue /4;       //divide by 4 to fit in a byte
    analogWrite(ledPin, brightness);   // PWM the LED with the brightness value
    Serial.println(brightness);        // print the brightness value back to the serial monitor

Speaker Test

I wasn't able to finish the Analog Input with Tone lab but I did at least get the speaker to generate a tone. The general idea is to be able to control the tone with pressure on the force-sensing resistor (can I start saying FSR yet?).

I need to come back to this lab and finish it—I'm not likely to do tone generation in Arduino but it seems like understanding the fundamentals here might help when it comes to working with something like Ableton Live, P5.js or Touchdesigner to trigger audio.

July 19, 20231 Comment

Project 01 – Adventures in 3D Printing

Before we Begin

My brain is fried.

I know it'll get better as the course goes on, but right now it's hard to think coherently. Apologies in advance to anybody who has the misfortune of reading this. Apologies to my future self for the cringe.


Exploratory Making began with us bringing in a “gift”—something that sparked creativity, represented a current area of exploration or a skill we were developing. I had no idea what was going on (when do I ever?), so I brought in scent strips. They represent my nascent interest in working with scent and fragrance.

The Response

Working in pairs, the class exchanged gifts and created responses to each other's gifts using whatever medium we felt comfortable with (more on that here). My classmate Mishka made a cardboard perfume bottle, complete with label and bottle cap.

This reminded me that while I'm getting into actually making the stuff, there's still lots of joy to be found in the bit I actually know how to do—designing the packaging. Sometimes the musician gets into design because they need to make their own album covers, sometimes the designer picks up an instrument because they need an album cover to design. All roads lead to making.

The next part of the project involves us trying something new—a tool or medium we don't know very well. Lucky for me, that's basically everything.

I decided to try 3D printing for the first time, which meant modelling the bottle in Fusion 360.

The hardest part of this was reproducing that hexagonal cap. There's probably an easier way but I ended up manually drawing it line-by-line in 2D, extruding up and subtracting the two cylinders that form the “atomiser“.

So Close, But So Far

I really wanted a satisfying snap to the cap, so I decided to make the hole the exact same size as the cylinders, thinking it would expand with a little pressure. That was wrong. I also tried to emboss/deboss the label right into the bottle, which didn't really work with the Ultimaker S2's resolution. I think raised text was slightly better than inset but neither are legible, let alone beautiful.

Were I really manufacturing a fragrance, I would definitely experiment with literally branding the bottle (I'm assuming that's how you emboss glass?) rather than using a label. There's something nice about being able to feel the type. Which makes me think Braille. If I had a bit more time, I'd look into that too.

Stretch Goal: Make the Juice

Ii thought it might be fun to actually give folks a whiff of the fragrance. I'm still in the "learn your materials" stage of my olfactory education, so this was never going to be perfect. Looking online to see if there were any accessible formulae for a Hindi scent, I found a few that mentioned materials I had and freestyled the rest. Here's my very first fragrance formula (the plus signs indicate additions in the second iteration), while the notes at the bottom indicate additions in the third).

### Background Elements
Velvione - 3
Oakmoss 1% - 2
Labdanum - 2

### Woods
Palo Santo - 3+3
Black Agar Givco - 5+5
Cedarwood Atlas-10+10
ISO E Super 5.94% - 7
Sandalwood 4.39% - 3+10

### Freshness
Stemone - 4
Petitgrain - 4
Auralva - 2
Lemon - 4
Cardamom -2
Lavender (France) -1

- Needs BASS, needs WOOD.
- Add Palo (5), Oud (6), Cedar (10), Sandal?

I added a few drops to the inside of the cap to simulate the feeling of “testing” a fragrance. Perhaps one day I'll actually make this thing.

July 18, 2023No Comments

Interface Lab Week One: Back to the Breadboard.

Last year, I came to ITP Camp with the goal of learning enough physical computing to finally complete my Timefeel project. A month later, all I had was an exploded Arduino and shattered dreams.

Well, I'm back. And this time, it's personal.

Starting from Scratch: LED + Button

Our first lab involved connecting our Arduino (Nano 33 IOT) to LEDs via a button

Switching LEDs with a push button

Each LED is connected to the Arduino via a 220 ohm resistor, and to ground on the other side. A push button is also connected to power and ground as well as the Arduino.

Jedi Button

One of my classmates had a ghost in her machine:

Force Sensing Resistors

For our next lab, State Change, we looked at detecting levels from a force sensing resistor.