The Petri Dish – Instructables

Making  “The Petri Dish …”


Table of Contents

Flower making

Making the installation


General materials list:

  • Servo motor, at least MG955 or equivalent
  • 0.96″ OLED display, I2C interface (you can use a bigger one too)
  • Two sets of 5v power supply adapter and 5v breadboard power module
  • Assortment of jumper wires or 28AWG wires
  • Thin gauge wire, ~10m
  • Thick gauge wire, ~2m
  • Tools; pliers, snips, wire strippers, power drill, 2 spanners
  • Wood glue
  • Scraps of plywood
  • 2×1″ wood planks, single 10ft piece will suffice
  • some clamps of various sizes
  • multimeter
  • M3 screws, M8 bolts

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1. Making petals

1. Making a petal

  1. Create drawing plan for how many petals to be included in flower
  2. Get tools in order; snips, wire cutters, pliers, ruler
  3. Cut wires to length, about 60cm in our case. I am twisting a pair to create an interesting pattern as well as to make the wire thicker
  4. Use rounded pliers to twist
  5. Shape a petal using the drawing as a guide
  6. End off with a loop in the middle to allow for connecting a linkage later
  7. Flatten the tip of the petal
  8. Apply curvature to the shape
  9. A petal is done! Repeat till you are done (5 times in our case)

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2. Attaching petals

2. Attaching the petals

  1. Use a thicker gauge wire to create a 6-sided polygon.
  2. Strip off a small section of the thin wire (~8cm)
  3. Coil on both ends to connect a petal to the polygon
  4. Repeat till all petals are connected! Make sure all petals can swivel back and forth freely

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3. Petals’ Base

3. Making base for petals

  1. Cut out a section of thicker gauge wire (~9.5cm)
  2. Twist on both ends, facing in different directions
  3. Connect one to each corner of the 6-sided polygon
  4. Twist an additional strand into one of a lollipop shape; this will act as the connector to the stationary plastic tube that supports the moving main metal linkage.
  5. Connect 2 linkages first, check if they are holding the petals equally. For my first try, it wasn’t(see picture with red circle). Adjust by making one of the linkages shorter.
  6. When fixed, continue with the rest of the linkages.
  7. With all the linkages connected to the stem base, you can twist the bottom of the wire around the plastic tube.
  8. Let’s begin making the final part of the flower!

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4. Flower mechanics

4. Linkages for petal mechanism

  1. Twist another strand in the similar lollipop shape. This piece goes all the way through the plastic tube to the bottom. (~35cm, depending how long you make the stem..)
  2. Create a linkage that is slightly different. One of the ends is at a 45 degree to the other. You will need 6 of these as well.
  3. Connect one end to the loop in the middle of the petal. The other goes to the ‘lollipop’ wire made in step 1 of this section.
  4. Again, some of the linkages might be longer than others. Adjust accordingly till all six are connected equally to the middle .
  5. When you are done, you can test it out by pushing and pulling gently at the other end of the rod made in step 1. (See video below)

The Flower is done!

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Making the Installation

1. Prepping the materials

1. Materials Prep

Plywood(1.2cm or thicker)

  • 4pc: 20x11cm (housing sides, A)
  • 2pc: 15x15cm (housing lids, B)
  • 1pc: 20x25cm (console surface, C)

2 x 1 inch planks(pictured darker colored here)

  • 1pc: 20cm (center connector, right notch on both sides: 2.5cm depth, half width, D)
  • 1pc: 30cm (middle connector, left-right notch, E)
  • 1pc: 7cm (console surface connector, left notch, angled cut at other end, 60-degrees, F)
  1. Cut to dimensions the above.
  2. Use a compass to draw a circle to act as a guide to cut out rounded ends.
  3. Drill 8mm holes or whatever size bolts that you are using to link the connectors together.

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2. Electronics box

2. Making the electronics box

  1. Attach the center connector(D) to one of the housing lids(B). You can use M3, 25mm screws.
  2. Drill a hole that is big enough for the plastic tube through the middle of the center connector(D) and the housing lid(B). An additional hole is drilled for some wires for  electronics.
  3. Connect two pieces of housing sides(A) with a small hinge. You can use M3, 10mm screws. Do the same for the remaining two pieces(A).
  4. Place the two sets of the connected housings at right angles to each other to form a 4-sided box.
  5. Align the top housing lid to this housing and drill a screw through to connect them.
  6. Take note to only connect one of each of the two sets of housing sides(A), so that we are still able to open the box on two sides. (see picture for a view from the underside)
  7. Attach the bottom housing lid(B) as well, with screws.
  8. Short sticky foams are placed to limit how much the housing sides can be pushed in.
  9. A hole is drilled on the attached side of the housing for wires.

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3. The console

3. Making the console

Plywood(~1.8cm thickness)

  • 2pc: 7 x 8cm (cuboid sides, G)
  • 1pc: 5 x 8cm (cuboid side, H)
  • 1pc: 13 x 8cm (cuboid base, I)
  • 3pc: 5 x 8cm (jar sides, J)
  • 1pc: 8 x 8cm (jar base, K)
  1. Cut to dimensions using the above specifications; these are for making slots for holding a cuboid and a small glass jar.
  2. Draw a 4x3cm rectangle and a circle of 4.6cm diameter on the console surface(C), then cut them out.
  3. Drill four equally spaced holes in the middle connector(E); these are for LEDs
  4. For the cuboid container, use 2 pieces of (G) and 1 piece of (H) as sides, and 1 piece of (I) as base, and glue them together, you can use wood glue like Titebond.
  5. For the glass jar, use 4 pieces of (J) and 1 piece of (K) and glue them up as well. See picture for reference.
  6. Glue console surface connector(F) to the top, middle part of console surface(C).

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4. Arduino + servo + linkages + breadboard

4. Install Arduino, servo and linkage and breadboard

Scrap Plywood

  • 5pc: 1.3 x 2.5 x1.6(thickness) cm (servo supports, L)
  • 1pc: 7 x 4 x 0.5(thickness) cm (servo base plate, M)
  1. Cut to dimensions using the above specifications; these are for making a housing to hold the servo in place.
  2. Drill 2 holes or more on the base plate(M) for screwing it to the enclosure. Make sure that you can still access these after the servo is installed.
  3. Glue two sets of two pieces of (L) together to form (L2)
  4. Align the servo and glue up a piece of (L2) to the base plate on one end, to allow for the servo to be attached via m3 screws.
  5. Then glue a piece of (L) at an angle, and glue a piece of (L2) lying flat on top of it. See picture for reference. Make sure that you glue these two pieces in a way that allows you to remove the servo later. Then screw the servo onto this support with M3 screws as well.
  6. Install plate with servo onto enclosure. You can temporarily remove one of the screws from the top and bottom of one side of the enclosure, and swing open the side to have more access to the inside of the enclosure.
  7. Create a linkage as shown to connect it from the servo to the bottom of the metal linkage of the flower.
  8. Install Arduino onto one of the swinging side panels with M3, 10mm screws. Attach breadboards with double sided tape as desired on the inside. Here you can see I have attached a short one inside, and another extra breadboard on the other swinging side panel.

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5. OLED + magnifier

5. OLED + Magnifier

Plywood(5mm thickness)

  • 2pc: 11.6 x 2cm (glue up these 2 pieces together, the OLED will be attached to this, N)
  • 4pc: 5 x 3.2cm (side supports to hold m8 bolts, O)

Plywood strip(width: 1.1cm , height: 1cm)

  • 4pc: 8.4cm (housing’s top and bottom frames, P)
  • 1pc: 2cm (housing’s bottom spacer, Q)
  • 2pc: 7.2cm (housing’s side spacers, R)
  1. Cut to dimensions using the above specifications; these are for making a magnifier to increase the viewing size of the tiny 0.96″ OLED we are using.
  2. Glue up the pieces using the supplied CAD pictures as reference.
  3. Drill a M8-sized hole on each side of panel (O)
  4. Align with the glued up panels (N) and drill m8-sized holes.
  5. Attach the magnifier housing and OLED pieces with M8 bolts and nuts as shown.
  6. Attach hinge(0.5 x 1.5inch) at back, bottom of housing.
  7. Then attach this assembly to the center connector as shown.
  8. The OLED display is held in place with blu-tack, and wires can be tucked from behind as shown.

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6. Neopixels installation

6. Let’s install some Neopixels!

  1. Solder wires onto Neopixel(SK6812)
  2. For center connector(E), feed wires through holes and attach them together in series. Remember to follow the indicated direction on the underside of each Neopixel.
  3. Place a Neopixel a little above the center area of the petal as shown.
  4. Feed a Neopixel through hole in console area.
  5. Add another breadboard power supply module for powering the center connector and console’s Neopixels.
  6. The flower petal’s Neopixel will be powered together with the servo motor.

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7. Finishing touches

7. Finishing touches

1.5cm wide single-sided sponge tape

  • 2pc: 6.8cm (horizontal outer linings)
  • 2pc: 10.5cm (vertical outer linings)
  • 2pc: 3.2cm (horizontal inner linings)
  • 2pc: 3.8cm (vertical inner linings)
  • 1pc: 3.5cm (bottom lining for pipette)
  • 2pc: 11.5cm (side linings for pipette)
  • 2pc: 5cm (side linings for magnifier)
  • 1pc: 8cm (left vertical line for manual area)
  • 1pc: 14.5cm (horizontal line for manual area)
  • 1pc: 6cm (right vertical line for manual area)
  • 2pc: 20.7cm (side linings for central connector)
  • 3pc: 6cm (for wrapping flower stem)
  • 1pc: 16cm, cut to half of width (lining electrolyte area)

1pc: 10 x 60cm cloth

  1. Cut single-sided foam tape according to dimensions and stick them onto the console area.
  2. Use bubble wrap to insulate stem area. Then use aluminium foil to wrap it up. As we are going for an all-metal look for the flower, its a good choice.
  3. Then use wide masking tape to cover the neopixels as shown.
  4. We will next use bubble wrap to cover these areas, partly to act as a sort of diffuser for the LED lights. Do this for both the dripping area and the center connector as shown.
  5. The finished product with lights is shown above.
  6. Fix the black cloth around the console area, you can use your own methods. Here I used double-sided tape and some straps.
  7. Print the artwork(below) for an instruction manual and paste it at the manual area.

“Instruction manual”

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8. We are done !

Wiring Schematic

  1. Use M8 bolts to connect the 3 connectors(D, E, F)
  2. Wire up all the electronics using provided schematic(above).
  3. Load up the code to Arduino.
  4. Connect 5v power supplies to the two breadboard power supply modules.
  5. Cross your fingers and fire up the installation!

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9. Demo video

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The Petri Dish

Concept premise

At the dawn of the 21st century, the Internet’s birth enabled social media, unlimited 24/7 news on a global scale and free information about any topic imaginable. There’s also Youtube and a million other media sharing outlets in the digital sea of bits.

Information has become commonplace and democratised. But as we head further into the next few decades, how will information continue shaping our daily lives and influence how we carry out our daily tasks?

My project, affectionately named “The Petri Dish”, is a social commentary on how we have come to embrace information that is fed to us in an unquestioning manner. Will we use our intuition to understand and make wise choices, or will we lose our ability to perceive, succumb to our ‘technological overlords’ and follow their instructions blindly?

On a side note, it is named as such because we are used to thinking of performing experiments in a lab using a petri dish. Here I am presenting the notion of the participant at the installation as “The Petri Dish” instead.

Development of Idea

It all started out with the idea of highlighting social issues that are deeply relevant to the current century. My initial attempt was to bring to attention the problem of waste products, and how our insatiable consumerism habits will ultimately come round and bite us. It was a simple idea; there was to be a trash can that will project whatever goes in towards two artificial ‘local environments’, a terrarium and an aquarium. The terrarium represents our living environment, and the aquarium represents our water bodies, e.g. a lake. On further development, there were a few issues that prompted a pivot. Firstly, the scale and scope was too big and wide respectively, and I didn’t feel a certain intimacy was achieved as the object was not focused and directed.

“The Petri Dish” was thus born.

The participant will get to nurture a flower, guided by instructions from a screen. Initially, I was hoping to utilise the whole lineup of gardening stuff: soil, fertilisers and water. In the initial body-storm exercise, I was given feedback that it probably is a little too much, and doesn’t add to the fact that the flower is kinda ‘unreal’ in the first place, so mimicking ‘real gardening’ with all bells and whistles might not be the best approach. Thus, the setup was dramatically reduced to only one element, an ‘electrolyte’, and the participant will decide accordingly how he/she will approach the task on hand and achieve a ‘satisfactory’ result.

The screen will always give false instructions, so after a few rounds, the patient but eager participant will realise that he/she must use her own intuition to nurture the plant sufficiently and stop when its just right and ignore any contradicting instructions from the screen.

Ultimately, the installation is designed to frustrate participants and stimulate distrust of the screen.

Design Process

Inspiration for flower mechanics: Ever Blooming Mechanical Tulip by jiripraus

Initial Ideas

Overview of how it works

Dimensions, dimensions…

Interaction console details

See here for details on initial conceptualisation.

Further development after class feedback

Design refinement

As mentioned above, after two rounds of user feedback, I have refined the interaction to become much simpler. Now the user only controls the amount of electrolyte(water) he/she wants to apply. And information will be presented through the flower’s mechanics and the OLED screen.

Prototypes (Rough & Polished)  &  User Feedback

Rough Prototype

Rough Prototype

Feedback for rough prototype:

  • Replace soil with something representational(try not to use real soil..)
  • Participants feel obligated to not kill the flower
  • Signage with instructions is sometimes not considered to be important to look at
  • Indicators for current state of flower is crucial for participants to make ongoing decisions
  • Usage of perhaps colors to guide participants with indicators and ingredients to use

See here for more details on body-storming session..

Polished Prototype

Feedback for polished prototype:

  • What does the 53% represent? Seem like it doesn’t matter.
  • Is there supposed to be something else after the growth part? Lack of further instructions from screen.
  • Currently, participant is unclear if he/she is following the instruction closely (this is partly due to the fact that the code is not working properly).
  • Consider change 53% to 53ml, could work better as the dropper is measured in ml.
  • Servo motor creates alien-ish sound; visual and audio links to the character of being a alien
  • Use Optic fibre to create lights for flower
  • If flower is dying, the movement can be glitchy to signify ‘dying’ in the ‘alien’ sense
  • The fact that following instructions doesn’t work could perhaps somehow be more emphasised

The interaction of liquid versus flower bloom is somewhat effective. I feel that overall the code needs to work much better(it was only working 20% ..), and the OLED screen’s instructions has to work in tandem with the participant’s interaction.

Grand Finale !

Final improvements:

I added some lights on the console and center connector to suggest movement of the electrolyte. There is also a light on the flower to hint at its state. Overall the lights add to the installation’s visual mood when deployed in a dim area.

The code is working pretty much this time, and I have figured out the quirks associated with the OLED, that is perhaps for another post.

An instruction manual has been added to the console , but it is not merely aesthetic. There is some information regarding the flower that can help the player make informed choices.

Buzzer sounds have been added as well to help with providing feedback throughout the interaction process.

Lastly, part superficial part practical, the OLED has gained a magnifier in front of it to help players make out stuff on its tiny screen. It kind of adds a little character to the whole piece as well.

Make your own !

Instructables w/ code and schematics

In-class final presentation

Parting thoughts:

I could sense the urge in participants to “win” the game, I guess that’s the power of ‘gamification’. It is also interesting to see everyone’s different approaches, even though they were all pretty aware of the underlying premise of the installation. I think the refinements worked quite well too as I think theres less confusion about what is to be done, and the screen is much easier to be read this time.

The information on the manual is pretty crucial, and it was a pity it could be read easily with the lights off. Engaging the installation in a dark environment is definitely more desirable, and sets up the mood appropriately as well.

Speaking of moods, I think that’s an aspect that I can work on more. The establishing of surroundings can be better utilised, great examples include the ah gong photo frame and the space dome pieces.

Though thoroughly challenging, I had a great 13 weeks for this module and look forward to more in my upcoming years! cheers!

Research Critique 6 – Destructive Games: DRM Chair

What is the main purpose of the concept of destruction in the arts?

The concept of destruction in the arts is to create value. As with many of the endeavours humans embark on, we, as sentient beings, strive to derive meaning out of our decisions and actions.

“Through the careful design of game mechanics, destruction can create value: It converts material value into social value by generating a conversational artifact that helps the owner to engage with an audience. Destruction is thus not inherently negative, but the generated social value is what gives the destruction a purpose.” 1

This excerpt from the paper “Destructive Games: Creating Value by Destroying Valuable Physical Objects” by David Eickhoff, Stefanie Mueller, and Patrick Baudisch explains the key mechanics behind the value of such an endeavour.

On first glance, I could not comprehend how actual destruction of any physical object can be desirable, much less a valued item for that matter.

On reflection, I realised that a quintessential, socially-accepted equivalent would be the act of cremation. Perhaps slightly far-fetched and not relevant to the arts, I can still draw parallels to the topic on hand. The practice of cremation creates a sense of closure, an ending of sorts, to the lifecycle of a human. Loved ones can either feel relieved, or heartbroken. Either way, there is undoubtedly substantial emotional value being generated here.

What effect does irreversible consequences have on the participants of the artwork?

The researchers initially hypothesised that the fascination of destruction in itself was sufficient to create an interest in participants to… participate.

However, participants remarked that they were deeply affected by their material loss as well. Genuine frustration was also experienced by losers. The researchers had hoped to achieve a ‘positive’ net gain at the end of the experiments.

Interestingly, when these losses inadvertently became conversation starters, the frustration was replaced by fascination and excitement. The sharing of ‘damaged’ memorabilia turned the previously undesirable experience into something noteworthy and memorable. From here, the researchers have found a way to transform the net gain to ‘positive’!

In a sense, this is similar to how we can trivialise embarrassing situations by joking about them, rather than avoiding them like the plague.

What value does destruction bring to the artwork?

In the research paper, most of the value that was derived from the experiments were of the ‘social’ type.

“Since destructed artifacts cause a special fascination, they can cause viral effects when evidence of the destruction is shared online.” 2

The social value is created from the recollection of the destruction process, as such can be labeled as a ‘form of achievement’; a rite of passage per se.

Things Come Apart, 50 Disassembled Objects in 21,959 Individual Parts by Todd McLellan

In the alternative form of ‘destruction’ shown above, we can see that Todd McLellan has managed, through skilful hands, to open a window to the internal workings of modern objects such as laptops, phones and chainsaws. I would even casually surmise that these images could inspire our next generation of inventors.

Returning to the paper’s findings, the conclusion drawn was that the generated social value would not have been possible without the destruction in the first place. Direct causality may be considered cliche here, but a key belief in Hinduism states that with creation comes destruction, highlighting the cyclical nature of the world we live in.

The games that were employed in the research may seem non-consequential and trivial at best, but when these principles are applied to serious issues, its potency cannot be underestimated.

Introducing … the DRM Chair 1

In short, DRM Chair will ‘self-destruct’ after being sat on for eight times.

What?!?? Tell me how does it work?

  • A small sensor detects when someone sits.
  • When he/she stands up, the chair knocks a number of times to signal how many uses are left.
  • Upon reaching zero, the self-destruct system is activated and the chair’s structural joints are melted.
  • The cast-wax block(colored part) is embedded with nichrome wire; which heats up and melts the wax.



Great, so we have a useless chair that destroys itself after eight sittings. What’s the point here?

Let’s take a few steps back and talk about something else. It’s goes by the same acronym: Digital Rights Management(DRM, duh…)

Wikipedia has a pretty drab explanation for nerds and technical people, so I will spare you the torture 😉 .

In a nutshell, it is similar to the following existing implementations:

  • Serial keys for Windows OS or another other applications
  • Region-locked DVDs

So imagine a technology(DRM) that would digitally ‘lock’ the following items:

  • Ebooks
  • Music CDs
  • Purchased online music that has been downloaded to your devices
  • Even games !!!

DRM-Chair is presumably mimicking the region-locked DVDs that can only be ‘unlocked’ in a set number of devices. Imagine you payed for a $50 DVD set(perhaps Lord of the Rings trilogy), that can only be played on 4 of the 20 devices that you own(I think I have about 10, excluding my family members, so 20 is probable). Using DRM, corporations will be able to set additional arbitrary limits on how consumers use the products that they have rightfully purchased and own.

Thankfully, DRM has suffered numerous setbacks, mainly due to significant unpopularity (Wikipedia article, ‘opposition’ section). Prominent setbacks include iTunes’ eventual decision to make their songs DRM-free; games have been pretty much untouched.

So how does this relate to the idea of destruction creates value?

Here, the chair has been aptly chosen to represent the object of choice for eventual destruction. At the start, the chair’s intrinsic value lies solely in its material value. However, because it gets destroyed after eight sittings, I propose that the chair has suddenly taken on more significance.

The now destructed chair symbolises a form of peaceful protest; a reflective meditation, on the idea of appropriating DRM technology for subverting digital duplication. This idea is deemed fundamentally flawed by many, as digital technology is all-encompassing; it is readily available and easily accessible. Duplication should be honored as one of its key strengths, and not as a threat that must be subverted at all costs.

The resultant broken chair did generate significant coverage from the Internet:

The simple, plain chair has now been transformed into an object of debate, stimulating discussions on the once pertinent issue of DRM.


Looking now at the broken chair, we are reminded of the ridiculous nature of our attempts(some of us, not all) to go against the natural order of things.

Additional materials(DRM-free):


  1. Destructive Games: Creating Value by Destroying Valuable Physical Objects, pg 3973
  2. Destructive Games: Creating Value by Destroying Valuable Physical Objects, pg 3973
  3. Les Sugus (Gianfranco Baechtold, Laurent Beirnaert, Pierre Bouvier, Thibault Brevet, Raphaël Constantin, Lionel Dalmazzini, Edina Desboeufs, Arthur Desmet, Thomas Grogan)







Final Project Development: Drawings

Installation overview


  • Load cells
  • Servo(s) / Steppers
  • OLED displays
  • LEDs
  • Hygro sensor (moisture sensor)
  • Capacitative sensors (DIY with aluminium foil), pending usage..


All measurements are most probably highly tentative, subject to materials availability and also subject to change after testing..

Flower and pot details

The mechanics of the flower is TBC as of now. References here:

Botanical Engineering from IDEO labs

Ever Blooming Mechanical Tulip by jiripraus

Participants’ console


How does your audience experience your project?

They will be allowed to do the following, in any order and times they please.

  • Add water
  • Add soil
  • Add fertilisers
  • Remove any of the above
  • Observe flower behaviour and react accordingly.
  • Retry if flower ‘died’

Is it for a single person to engage with your project or for multiple participants concurrently?

It is designed for two participants concurrently.

What is the interaction or situation you are creating for your audience?

The situation I am attempting to create is one of questioning ‘authority’. It is essentially an abstraction of what we are faced with on a daily basis.

Every day, whether at work or in school, we are constantly fed with instructions of all kinds; from people who know better or otherwise. It has come to a point where there is a serious lack of critical questioning.

Schools are increasingly promoting a more inquisitive approach to learning, especially at the tertiary levels.

In this interaction, I aim to re-create the dynamics of the aforementioned problem; participants are given a set of detailed instructions, to nurture a flower into full bloom. However, after repeated attempts, they will realise that even if they follow the instructions to the letter, they will inevitably fail.

The odd individual who chooses to take charge of his/her own destiny and tap into his/her skills of acute observation and reasoning, thereby acting accordingly will be duly rewarded.

What is the intention of this interaction?

The decision to have two participants is critical to the concept. The installation aims to critique prevailing societal norms to not question ‘authority’, especially when it concerns processes that one is not familiar with.


  • How to effectively carry out recycling at a grassroots level
  • How to verify water from the taps are safe for consumption
  • What is the logical stipulated number of hours we should spend at work and if all safety issues are adequately addressed

These examples might seem far-fetched, but in a mature, modern, first-rate society, these are serious issues that everyone needs to consider, not only for their own good but also for people they care about.

In an ideal situation, all these ‘issues’ are ‘well taken care of ‘. But the fallacy of this assumption arises whenever accidents happen and get reported in the news. That is almost always the case when major scandals get unveiled and millions of tax dollars squandered.

The modern society we live in comfortably abstracts many of these processes away for our ‘benefit’, so that we can focus on what we do best, to specialise and contribute economically; and to be in a constant chase for material consumerism and the quest for bigger and better things. I digress..

Final Project Development: Body Storming

Instruction sets


What did you learn from the process?

The extremely fast-paced process of making a paper prototype forces me to condense the essence of my concept to the bare minimum; the absolute essentials that is required for others to understand and interact with. This may feel overly limiting at first glance, but it allows the designer to test out his/her idea with only fifteen previous minutes of his/her life wasted!

Another critical lesson learnt was that having 2-3 variables for participants are more than enough for meaningful interaction. Initially I had the idea of including more variables; like a slowly-spinning platform that forces the participants to either move or use different items as time passed, and more kinds of soil and fertilisers to complicate matters.

Having two players introduces an interesting, albeit unpredictable element to the implementation of the concept, and it is something that I might need to test further with other players.

Rough transcript of received class feedback:

  • Replace soil with something representational(try not to use real soil..)
  • Participants feel obligated to not kill the flower
  • Signage with instructions is sometimes not considered to be important to look at
  • Indicators for current state of flower is crucial for participants to make ongoing decisions
  • Usage of perhaps colors to guide participants with indicators and ingredients to use

What surprised you while going through the process?

It is really surprising how much gaps the human mind can fill when it comes to looking at ‘representational’ motifs and immediately understanding what they each stand for.. For example, participants could tell that the crudely assembled object represents a flower by a satay stick with 5-6 pieces of square papers pierced at the top..

Also, from the direction the pieces of paper are facing; upwards or downwards, participants can imply whether they are improving or worsening the situation.

How can your apply what you have discovered to the designing of your installation?

I will first decide on how many elements participants can interact with; soil, water and fertiliser etc, as well as the form they will be taking on. The visual cues are going to be crucial to allow clear understanding of what is to be done, and how to go about doing it. This can be achieved with colors, and maybe letters and lights.

The concept definitely needs more refinement and simplification. Currently the interaction does not feel fundamentally sound; a clearer final goal and streamlined steps need to be devised.

Originally I have intended to split the process of interaction to different ‘stages’. But seeing the demo test convinced me that it would be more viable to just have a singular stage where users can do any number of things before the conclusion. Simple is better.

Micro-Project 3: Together Split

Write a description of the work, where it was performed, its objectives and outcome, and your overall experience of the work.

For this piece, we wanted to explore the mechanics of using technology to exert control remotely.

Inspired by the project Telegarden, as well as due to time constraints, we devised a scenario that allows two people to control what is happening on a third screen via the familiar mechanism of a game controller. Enqi and Amanda each took separate control of my movements and actions, by observing my point of view via a group chat on Instagram. It was perfect as I can easily see their instructions as well as they mine. In a way, there is a sense of transposing of the digital to analog here. By that I meant the input was analog at the start, then ‘converted’ into digital signals as a live chat stream,  transferred to my end, where my brain interpreted the visuals and ‘instructed’ my limbs and hands to react accordingly. In a surreal sense, this experiment can be deemed slightly more advanced in mechanical terms than Telegarden as software’s visual interpretation capabilities have not caught up with its creator’s for the time being. That could also be the probable reason that such applications are still limited in scope.

Another fascinating aspect was even though the interactions between us were near real-time, there was still inevitably a slight delay, so my response trailed behind their instructions occasionally. This shortcoming is partially compensated by anticipation and prediction by all parties. Such is the case when dealing with remote real-time systems.

Lastly, during the brief journey around the ADM campus, I encountered a strange sight of several students being wheeled around on several push carts. This amusing encounter was directly observed by my comrades as well. Similar in nature to Telegarden, participants are transported, via the Internet, to another location while experiencing its sights and sounds. Technology has enabled us to widen our experiential possibilities even to places that are outside our reach. This seemingly simplistic and limited form of setup does not seem to decrease the immediacy as compared to an in-person experience. Projects like this and Telegarden allow its participants to observe, act or experiment from a safe and familiar place.


Of all the 3 Micro-Projects,

Which project did you feel you had the most creative control? Why?

I felt that it was the second project that allowed for the most creative control. In essence, the work had predefined parameters that are set by the artist, which closely shapes how the process unfolds and in which direction the end result is steered towards. The main objective was to collect opinions of a given question, and the expected end result isn’t exacting. Although one could also argue that the first piece is similar in nature, I think the key difference is the first piece had comparatively loosely defined parameters that allowed for more spontaneity and individual expression. Even though the second piece called for participants to express their opinions in a multitude of ways, this flexibility is being expressive in visual terms and not so much of expression of ideas or creative thought. Essentially, my group was in control of the key idea, and the participants are merely acting as highly chaotic inputs in generating variation.


Which project had the most unpredictable outcome? Why?

The first project called for each artist to make individual contributions, with the end result aggregated and thereby unpredictable. As the input is highly individualistic and involves a sizeable number of participants, I feel that its safe to say that the unpredictability factor increases in tandem. There is also no fixed objective per se for the piece. It is designed to be conversational and reflective, and by perusing the participants’ observations, we can get a sense of how every individual’s takeaway differed.


Which project best illustrates the concepts of DIWO & OpenSource? Why?

I feel the second piece best illustrates DIWO and open source as it utilises participation and the contribution of ideas(abstract, literal, visual and many other forms). In the open source movement, a key aspect is the collective contributions of many individuals that make up a piece of work, be it software, hardware, art, music etc. There are also opportunities for remixing, which is also an open source ingredient, should the participants choose to do so, in the second piece. Technically, participants can cut and paste each other’s content and modify as they see fit. The second project closely resembles  any one of the millions of projects found on Github, where any user can contribute improvements. The spirit is also largely community-driven and self-less in nature; for the greater good. Interestingly, the end result is an assemblage of probable definitions of ‘what a designer is’, presenting a bewildering range of attitudes and aesthetic sensibilities all at once. Open source projects like these are great because they are backed by passionate contributors from all corners of the world.

Micro-Project 2: What Is A Designer

What is the content of the work and who is creating it?

“What Is A Designer” is a crowd-sourced piece that utilises Google Slides to allow non-predetermined participants to freely express their opinion of what a designer does.

Here we see a wide variety of definitions, in terms of content and visual style


Where does this work take place?

This work technically resides online, but theoretically it takes place within campus and possibly extends off-campus, within Singapore.


How does this work involve social interaction?

social interaction is defined as an exchange between two or more individuals, essentially a building block of society. The medium of Google Slides allow participants to freely view others’ contributions, thereby allowing for a certain aspect of influencing their preconceived opinion before the fact. Participants are encouraged to freely express their opinion on their own terms, choosing their font, pictures etc. Interestingly, there is quite a wide gamut of tastes as seen from the contributions; classy, goofy, artistic, simplistic, retro etc.


How is your crowd-sourced project different from one that is created by a single artist/creator?

The content of the piece is a highly-opinionated piece that requires input from others, therefore crowd-sourced participation is an essential element. A collaborative piece as such highlights the nature of the Internet as a highly flexible medium. Traditionally, the Internet was conceived as a means of exchanging information. With the advent of social platforms, e-commerce, blogs, web apps etc, the Internet has gained the ability to support collaboration and interaction across the world in unprecedented ways.

Here, through the simplistic use of a highly sophisticated tool like Google Slides, collaborators are empowered to co-create a piece of work in near real-time(something considered ‘futuristic’ just a decade ago) in an almost uninhibited manner(fonts, pictures, video or audio).

‘Art’ or, for that matter, any piece of work, no longer has to be a solo endeavour. Through platforms like DeviantArt, Behance, ArtStation and many others, art has turned ‘collaborative’. These platforms facilitate ‘exchange’ of ideas, through inspiration and derivation. The pastiche nature of art has been elevated like never before since the birth of the Internet. Arguably, a crowd-sourced project like this is definitely achievable pre-Internet. However, there is a lack of immediacy, directness and freedom of expression when conducted face-to-face. In the digital age, there is increasing value in numbers, speed and breadth. Crowd-sourcing via the Internet allows an artist to invite the world, all at once, to participate.

Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece

“Cut Piece” (’65) by Yoko Ono for “INSTRUCTIVE AUTO-DESTRUCTION” by Anthony Cox in “Art and Artists”, August, 1966

How does it change the viewer’s relationship to the work?

In “Cut Piece”, viewers were invited to participate and profoundly shape the final outcome of an ‘artwork’ in a very direct manner. The complexity and implications of the piece were radical and groundbreaking as the artist has dedicated her body as the subject. Traditionally, when a viewer interacts with a piece of work, the nature of the interaction reflects the viewer’s state of mind in terms of aesthetic, mood etc. However, in “Cut Piece”, the viewer’s interactions signified much more. It was a manifestation of his/her desires; the uninhibited nature of one’s self. In the collective form, the total effect of viewers’ actions portrayed a certain sense of the anarchy and primal, chaotic nature of the human psyche. Such an effect would be hard to achieve with an inanimate subject in the same rein. The fact that there are real tangible stakes(the well-being of another person) involved in the process and outcome of the piece, brings out other aspects like societal inhibitions and collective psychological behaviours of its participants. In essence, it’s a social, science and art experiment all at the same time; ‘speaking your mind’ in the utmost sense.


How does it alter the way an artist or designer create the work, when there is an interactive component?

The work becomes much more experiential for the viewer, and the outcomes are indefinitely varied with each iteration. The process takes center stage, and the result may or may not become inconsequential. There is a shared sense of deeper meaning being derived; shared because each participant’s actions influences the one that comes after, and deeper meaning as there are layered meanings accumulated as the work progresses. The artist cedes much control to chaos, and the typical process is turned on its head. Here, the artist decides the starting variables and allows the process to occur organically. There is no inkling of what might happen and what the end result resembles. Interestingly, a simple parable of such a mechanism in the real world would be a presidential election(subject). The candidates(variables) are shortlisted, and the people(participants) vote accordingly to their judgement(emotion/logic). The results(final outcome) can be pretty arbitrary and unexpected, yet it reflects the collective wisdom and perceptions of the society in question.


A derivative of this seminal piece was Marina Abramović’s Rhythm 0(1974). Here, Marina altered the variables, by placing 72 objects on a table for her participants to use. There were ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ objects, allowing her viewers to perform good or detrimental acts. The narrative here is further intensified, as the objects reminded the participants that they could either do good or evil. The emphasis on moral choices is central to the eventual outcome. It became potently clear that the reminder was inconsequential. Most people were inherently ‘savage’ by nature.


On a lighter note, interaction can be employed as a way of facilitating dialogue(verbal and otherwise) between artist, viewers and society. As such, the artist ‘designs’ the central idea and interactions as perimeters, and presents it as a live petri dish, after which, may decide to perform an interpretation on the outcome(s). The exploration happens on a participatory level, as opposed to the traditional singular point of view.

Micro-Project 1 – Creating the Third Space.

Why did you choose this space or object to photograph?

This series of 3 pictures are meant to depict feelings as a city dweller. On my way to ADM, I will pass by this area of NTU that features an impressive collection of trees that makes it seem as if one was walking through a great forest. Then as we enter ADM premises, we are confronted with cold, hard concrete and metal. It seems as if technological progress has ushered us metaphorically into the ‘stone age’, as opposed to a reality where humans blend technology seamlessly into the complexities of the natural world.


What are some of the characteristics of this alternative virtual space you had created collectively?

Even though we students hang out in groups, the day-to-day ADM experience is still a deeply personal one. We see and respond to our environment according to our personalities and perceptions. This alternative virtual space has indirectly distilled our individual experiences into a collective consciousness of sorts. Even though the images are disparate in content, seen as a whole, it somewhat delivers the quintessence of an ADM student’s daily life. The medium of instagram also makes participants less conscious and more willing to share highly personal insights, making the virtual space more successful than the real world in terms of facilitating openness amongst participants.


Under what circumstance will this alternative virtual space change?

There are several ways in which this space could change. A physical, literal change in the environment is the most straightforward example. Objects could wear and tear, be replaced, added or modified. A change in the participants’ worldview could also change the imagery they choose to capture to fit new perceptions. A different set of participants will surely influence the ‘collective consciousness’ depicted as well.


How does this project relate to what we discussed in the lecture regarding co-creation, the concept of Do-It-Youself (DIY), Do-It-With-Others (DIWO)?

This project shows how DIWO shapes the end result at a very fundamental level. DIWO promotes spontaneity and endless variation due to the chaotic nature of different combinations of participants, coupled with their state of mind at that moment in time. There is also the element of a cascading effect, where what one participant does indirectly affects another’s actions, further increasing possible permutations. The beauty of such an approach is that participants enjoy a tremendously rich, highly personalised and one-of-a-kind collective experience. A project that utilises DIWO will invariably never achieve the same result twice.