Final Project: Pat-Pat

By Ayesha and Man Wei



Our product, the Pat-Pat, is a dark object that explores feelings of loss, loneliness and nostalgia.

On the surface, we are creating a product that mimics and potentially replaces a mother’s patting her child to sleep. The Pat-Pat is catered to adults who long for this comforting ritual that they experienced during childhood, or perhaps to those who never experienced it because they lacked a maternal figure. With the Pat-Pat, one could easily relive these feelings of comfort and childhood nostalgia by purchasing a bedside appliance.

However, our aim is to subvert this idea by proving that it is impossible to replace or recreate the warmth and comfort of your actual mother’s patting, and to evoke a sense of discomfort at the idea of trying to replace your mother with a mechanical appliance.



TEST 1: Bodystorming Exercise

(Refer to Bodystorming OSS post)

Details on stage of development:
  • Environment – blanket laid on floor, pillow with sensor
  • Pat-Pat Mom – made of cardboard, hand-drawn details, chopstick arm
  • Interaction – motor hand activated upon resting on pillow, adjustable speed, no sound

- Make arm longer
- Suggestion to change position to face Mom, instead of back-facing
- Nice to customise speed
- Clear instructions
- Unsure if slider on phone worked
- Ashley didn’t lie down completely so it didn’t work properly
- Customise the speed, some people lie it fast
- Make the hand bigger
- Eugene shifted his body to adjust to the Mom after seeing Wen De fail
- If the presentation/user experience setting is framed like a sales pitch product test, classmates will be apprehensive about approaching set-up: awkward
- Users prefer experiencing product on their own (instead of guided): more personal being left with just instructions 
- “Greet Mom” instruction a bit awkward 
FInal critique user test
Details on final deliverables:
  • Environment – room simulation with dark room and bedlight, mattress, pillow and blanket
  • Pat-Pat Mom – made of white mounting board, vector-printed designs, extended arm
  • Interaction – motor hand activated upon resting on pillow, adjustable speed, no sound
  • Secondary elements/presentation – online website and shop, user guide video, Blynk app with designed interface, physical user manual, packaging with customisable clothes

Online website & store:

Final deliverables
Hardcopy zine user manual

1 Hamimah 
- Really liked the soft and hard force changes, responsive 
- Think it’s funny 
- Harder patting quite shocking but fun
2 Emma
- Like customizable elements: face and clothes
- Tried to adjust to harder force but unable to 
- Got scared by it tapping on her butt
- Feels embarrassed in front of everyone
3 Wende
- Very comfortable didn't even remember to test out the strength
- Thought of grandmother who passed away and used to pat him
- Cloth that they used reminds him of grandparents
4 Lei
- Mechanical sound reminds her of 'sarong spring' cradles used for babies
- Lighting is effective in setting up mood
- Likes choice of fabric coinciding with mother's clothes  

How do testers feel with and without music (silence)?
- Wende: reminds him of the baby and swing
- Hamimah: too engrossed doesn’t really matter to her 
- Music can give a sense of what to feel but also be taken differently



{ Product Design
1 Initial idea
  • Product = Cardboard standy Mom + baby mattress + sheet covers/blanket (with fabric button)
2 After playtest
  • Product = Cardboard standy Mom + pillow
3 Final
  • Product = Cardboard standy Mom only

We refined the decision to have the pillow framed as part of the bedroom environment, instead of being part of the marketed Pat-Pat product. The idea was to have a portable Mom that could be brought anywhere, set-up by any bed, (contrast with physical distance between mother and grown-up children) so a pillow would be bulky. We didn’t need to include the fabric button in the marketed product– we needed only to suggest that the product worked so and so (VS the functioning actual product supporting this narrative).

{ Aesthetic Considerations: Unpolished VS Refined

This was an important design consideration we had to constantly return to and mediate between creating an unpolished and refined product. The finish and aesthetics of Pat-Pat directly translates how genuine/insincere we are in trying to create a product that is able to fulfil its postulated functions (replacing the actual patting experience and serving as a substitute mother). A balance of both approaches was crucial to communicate our work’s intent.

{ User-friendliness/ Functionality

We had to conduct a few tests to figure out a suitable:

  • Height for Pat-Pat Mom (corresponding with mattress set-up), such that she could pat people of different heights
  • Length of arm, such that user could be a comfortable distance away from the Mom and not risk knocking her over by shifting their bodies
  • Position for Pat-Pat marker sticker
{ Input/Sensor: Fabric Button
1 Initial idea
  • Small circular pressure button hidden under mattress sheet at butt position
2 Final idea
  • Pillow-size pressure button hidden in pillow

Before running the playtest, we tried the patting ourselves and discovered that having the pressure button positioned at the butt started the patting motion before the user could properly lie down and position his/her body. This was problematic because the patting hand would get stuck/obstructed by the body that was still shifting and not yet in the optimal position. To resolve this, we shifted the button to the pillow, since it is the last part of the body to come into contact with the bed set-up while the user tries to position him/herself. For this new set-up, we had to design a larger pressure button to cover a greater area of the pillow. This also worked better in making the product more sensitive compared to having a small spherical circle that users were more likely to miss.

{ Music
1 Initial idea
  • Have polyphonic mechanic instrumental soundtrack of lullaby (via Processing/buzzer speaker)
//BODYSTORMING: used unedited soothing instrumental lullaby for simulation//
2 After bodystorming
  • Have robotic/mechanical voice singing lyrics to lullaby

The music made a big difference in inducing the mood of a comforting experience. This wasn’t quite our intention. At least in terms of music, we wanted to emphasise the machine nature of the Mom and cause unease or discomfort.

We decided also that instead of an instrumental soundtrack, we wanted to play an actual voice singing lyrics to a lullaby instead to evoke the idea of a Mom singing. The bodystorming music sounded a lot like just music playing in the backdrop.

//PLAYTEST: experienced without sound (did not manage to record a polyphonic singing voice and program it with the rest of the arduino circuit)//
3 After playtest
  • Remove music completely

Running the product without music, we became aware of the mechanic sound of the motor itself, previously concealed by the lullaby. It made a rhythmic sort of white noise that was comforting almost, which we felt was appropriate as a lullaby from a machine. More importantly, the sound allowed users to be aware of the presence and functioning state of Pat-Pat. Where they could not feel the patting on their butt because they were not in an optimum position, the sound of the motor rotating hinted to them that the machine was working rather than malfunctioning. The sounds also helped signal changes to speed/force of the patting by adding an auditory dimension where you could hear the rhythmic differences. For the onlooking non-testers, this helped them better appreciate how the speed/force changed since they were not feeling the patting themselves. Without the sound to signal the changes, they could only rely on seeing the hand change its angle of patting.

Additionally, after watching how the motor started and stopped almost like it was glitching when testers shifted their bodies, pressing and missing the fabric button repeatedly, we imagined how the abrupt starting and stopping of a soundtrack the same way might be distracting. A broken soundtrack disrupted by the input state would make the product sound like its glitching and probably scary even, distracting from the patting action itself too.

4 After tech consult
  • Remove music completely

We had planned to nonetheless continue the coding with processing that we started in order to play the lullaby, and test ourselves how that affected the experience of the product. After consulting Lei however, we found out that we could not connect all 3 programs (arduino, Blynk and Processing) at the same time because of serial port issues. So that cemented our decision to remove music entirely and work with the “music” of the motor.

{ The Hand

We tried different ways of attaching the arm to the motor, considering the durability and aesthetics each material allowed. Materials tried:

  • Rubber band
  • Cloth/duct tape
  • Masking tape

Initially we used only a wooden chopstick for the arm but after the user tests we got feedback that the arm was too short. Although we conceptualised our design to be user “unfriendly” (requiring the user to adjust and fit him/herself to the product instead of the reverse), we still wanted the design to have a “minimum” threshold of functionality or user-friendliness. So we decided to extend the length with a dowel instead.

However the dowel was too heavy, together with the momentum created by weight of the hand attached at the end. We tried using two lighter chopsticks joined together as well but the same problem persisted with the resultant momentum. We ended up overworking our servo motor as it slowly became unable to support the weight and made sounds like its gears were going to break.

We resolved that we had 2 solutions:

  1. Change the rubber hand to a lighter material like a cut-out cardboard hand
  2. Buy a stronger servomotor able to withstand the weight and momentum of the rubber hand

We ended up going with 2: we bought servo motor MG995(180) with a higher stall torque in order to support the hand on the dowel. After changing the motor, we had to make adjustments to our code for a new suitable angle. Even with this new motor however, we faced problems. This motor was somehow more affected by obstructions to its motion, i.e. when its arm contacted with the butt and could not complete the full angle of rotation. The obstruction (needed to create the effect of a hand being held longer for the pat), together with the weight and torque produced, caused the screw to loosen over time, making the motor unable to lift the arm when this happened. We had no full-proof solution to this and could only make sure to screw and rescrew the motor arms to ensure the patting could last at least 3 user tests. We also adjusted the slider angle limit for Blynk to a smaller angle (from 120 to 90 to 80 to 60) in order to reduce the duration of each time the motor was obstructed/stopped by the butt, so that there was a lower risk of the motor spoiling/screw coming loose. We resolved that to prevent the scenario of the hand stopping too early and not coming into contact with the butt of someone who was shorter, we would change the limit of the Blynk slider accordingly to better fit the user. (Higher range for shorter people capped at 90, and lower range for taller people around 60).

{ Installation Environment & Context
1 Initial idea
  • Mattress – baby mattress reduced scale, kiddy prints for bedsheet

For the audience, the visual composition of the user curled in foetal position on a tiny baby mattress that they have clearly outgrown would help communicate our concept (how the mother-child bond has changed since they used to be small enough to fit the mattress, how the machine and set-up cannot measure up and replicate the actual pat-pat experience).

However this approach did not fit with our product narrative of it being for set-up in buyers’ own bedrooms. Since we could communicate our concept through other means, we ditched the kiddy aesthetics to simulate the bedroom of a grown-up person instead.

2 After playtest
  • Mattress – smaller-than-single size, plain prints for bedsheet (grown-up)
  • Table lamp and dark lighting to simulate room environment at night

From the playtest, we received feedback that framing the product in the context of a sales product test walkthrough/demonstration would feel awkward or intimidating for users, and also rushed. They preferred going through the instructions on their own and felt that this allowed their experience of the product to be more personal.

Hence for final critique, we decided to create an environment that embodied both contexts. On one hand, we tried to simulate a setting that allowed users to imagine their own bedroom environment, to allow them to experience the product on their own without our guidance/sales directives. But we also maintained and made explicit the idea that the Pat-Pat is a product that they have bought, through the display of a shopping bag, laid out user manual, and instructions that start off with “after setting up, to get started”. The instructions were meant to imply to users that they had already set up the Pat-Pat themselves in their own room (that we created for them).

{ Instructions Design

We considered a few alternatives for delivering instructions in the context established above:

  • Written instructions only VS
  • Pre-recorded narration step-by-step + written instructions

a. Broadcasted over speaker: single audio with instructions strung together (own coordination, without any coding)

b. Broadcasted over bluetooth speaker connected to processing, activated sequentially by user who sends sensor/switch input after performing each step (e.g. arduino button/button pin on Blynk that users press each time to display/hear the next instruction)

c. Narrated by Blynk app itself as an audio user guide


We thought how narrations made it less awkward for users to do the unnatural reading aloud of instructions themselves for the class to hear, and could also help with pacing the experience. In the playtest, testers rushed through all the instructions at one-shot from the start before executing the steps, instead of following through step-by-step. This meant that they paid less attention to registering each step, especially the instruction disclaimer for them to adjust their body accordingly to fit the Pat-Pat– which was important in conveying the idea of our product as user unfriendly to a certain extent, and helping users get the most of the experience.


User might find the narrated instructions scary/awkward. They might prefer to have instructions to hold and figure out themselves, at their own pace (VS narration pacing). Possibly more intimate experience. Narration could also be distracting

We decided to stick to written instructions only after gathering feedback from classmates. To make the product narrative more cohesive, we hosted the instructions on the Blynk app itself together with the slider and offered a hardcopy user guide as well.

{ Business Model Ecosystem

We constructed a comprehensive business model ecosystem with an online website and store, and physical product deliverables (paper bag with logo, zine user manual) to “complete the product narrative”. We came up with a colour scheme and typeface for our brand identity and researched on existing online shops and user manuals (Apple Store and Fitbit manual) on how they framed their products and wrote their documents.

We paid particular attention to the aesthetics of the Blynk interface as well since the motor adjustment was the highlight of our product. We added tabs as well as images to make the Blynk app seem like an app we created ourselves called the Pat-Pat Assistant.


At the start of the project, after brainstorming and narrowing down our choice to building a product that mimicked a mother’s patting, we consulted Lei.

Our original idea included:


  • Photocell OR pressure sensor OR fabric button
  • Blynk virtual slider


  • Servomotor
  • Buzzer OR speaker for sound playback

Lei steered us to the Arduino Blynk IFTTT tutorial in Week 9’s Design Noir post, as well as the Servo > Sweep example found in Arduino. The IFTTT code allows the servomotor in our set-up to be controlled wirelessly by a virtual slider on Blynk, changing the direction that the blades are facing according to the value on the slider, while the Servo Sweep code turns the servomotor blades back and forth on a loop and the speed can be changed within the code.

ServoSlider code
1. Code for Arduino Blynk IFTTT

2. Code for Servo > Sweep

Both codes worked successfully on their own, but we needed to combine them so that we could change the direction via Blynk slider while also adjusting speed. We also needed to add in an analog sensor as the trigger. In this case we used a photocell. However, when we tried to mix them together, our code was incorrect so it did not work.

3. FAILED CODE: Mash-up of IFTTT + Sweep + Photocell

We also tried a code we found online (  that used a button + slider on Blynk to control a servomotor. The original code used a wifi connection, so we changed those parts to serial port language.

4. CODE for blynk + timer + Servo

This code worked, however, the button used here was a virtual one in Blynk. This was a problem as our Pat-Pat machine was supposed to be triggered by an analog sensor that responded when the user laid down on the mattress.

Another problem was the speed of the servomotor. The blade turned very slowly in steps and we tried to adjust it but couldn’t figure out how to tweak the code to change the speed.

We abandoned this code as we felt that the previous ones served our needs better if we managed to figure them out. However, in trying out this code, we learned something crucial: how to write the variables for Blynk and incorporate them into our original code.

5. CODE for MASH-up of ifttt + sweep + photocell reworked

Observing the code in #4, we applied what we saw to change code #3 so that the while the servo was moving at a constant set speed, the slider on Blynk would change the angle that the servo blade would return to. This meant it wouldn’t change the speed directly, but rather indirectly by either lessening or extending the range of motion of the motor.

What we learned and applied from code #4:

1. We need to declare:
int servoPos;
 servoPos = param.asInt();
3. WRONG: 
pos +/- = servoPos

pos + = number

Pos - = number
<Reason: return angle and position different>

pos + = number

Pos - = number
5 - 10 - 7/8

After the excitement of managing to complete the first part of our code, which was to use an analog light sensor to turn on a servomotor and remotely control the speed of the servomotor via Blynk, we moved on to the hard part. Our original idea included a lullaby that would play at the same time as the servomotor turned. Lei advised us to use Processing, which can be connected to Arduino via the Serial Port USB.

6. failed code for #5 + processing code
import processing.serial.*;
import ddf.minim.*;

Minim minim;
AudioPlayer player;

Serial myPort; // The serial port
int val = 0;

void setup() {
 myPort = new Serial(this, Serial.list()[0], 9600);
 minim = new Minim(this);
 player = minim.loadFile("rock_a_bye_baby.mp3"); 

void draw() {
if (1<myPort.available()){
  val =;
if (val==1);

We tried many different codes that we found online and tried to adapt to our project.

However, none of them were able to play the music and this was the error we encountered over and over again:

Error message on Processing

However, when we tried the code without connecting to Blynk, we found that the music player worked after all (although we still had a problem with getting the music to pause when the sensor wasn’t triggered). This meant that Blynk and Processing could not work together at the same time. We tried to confirm this online but found nothing, and only when we consulted Lei again did we learn that it was not possible to connect two applications to Arduino via the same Serial Port, so we still kept trying until we neared the end of the project.

For our circuit, we also created a fabric button that we could easily conceal within a blanket or pillow case. We DIY-ed it with aluminium foil and some foam, and then we had to change the code. Since the fabric button basically had two states, we changed our code to reflect that.

7. code for new fabric button

Then, we tried Processing again (this was before Lei told us), hoping that since the fabric button would only be sending HIGH or LOW to Processing, it would be easier to figure out our problem, but it didn’t work, unless we disconnected Blynk by commenting out all the parts of the code for it.

8. processing + fabric button
import processing.serial.*;

import ddf.minim.*;

Minim minim;
AudioPlayer player;

Serial myPort; // The serial port
int val = 0;

void setup() {
 myPort = new Serial(this, Serial.list()[0], 9600);
 minim = new Minim(this);
 player = minim.loadFile("rock_a_bye_baby.mp3"); 

void draw() {
if (0<myPort.available()){
  val =;

if (val==1){;

void stop()

We still couldn’t find a way to make it pause, even though we tried adding player.close(); commands.

We were hoping to get Lei’s help to fix our whole Processing problem during consultation in Week 13. But it turns out it wasn’t possible to incorporate Processing at all as we already used Blynk, and both apps were trying to communicate with Arduino via the same serial port. We did, however, get her help to make the music pause when the button was not pressed.

9. final code

In the end, this was the code that we needed:

#define BLYNK_PRINT SwSerial//

#include <SoftwareSerial.h>
SoftwareSerial SwSerial(10, 11); // RX, TX
#include <BlynkSimpleStream.h>
#include <Servo.h>
char auth[] = "a9e72ed499b144d5a97cd7d2fb1db43f";
int servoPin = 9;
Servo servo;
int pos = 0;
int servoPos; 
const int buttonPin = 2;
int buttonState = 0;

void setup() {
  pinMode(buttonPin, INPUT);
  Blynk.begin(Serial, auth);

void loop()
  buttonState = digitalRead(buttonPin);

  if (buttonState == HIGH) {
    for (pos = 0; pos <= 180; pos += 6) { // goes from 0 degrees to 180 degrees
      // in steps of 1 degree
    servo.write(pos);              // tell servo to go to position in variable 'pos'
    delay(15);  // waits 15ms for the servo to reach the position
  for (pos = 180; pos >= 0; pos -= 6) { // goes from 180 degrees to 0 degrees
    servo.write(servoPos);              // tell servo to go to position in variable 'pos'
    delay(15);                       // waits 15ms for the servo to reach the position
  } else {
    servo.write (0);

  servoPos = param.asInt();





I wonder if I got carried away with the whole polishing of set-up and business ecosystem thing. The module was about interaction so the highlight/star of the show should have been the product with its interactive mechanisms. I felt slightly like I placed more emphasis on the website and fictional business narratives I had built, than the product itself. That is not to say that I did not pay great attention and consideration to the design of the product, together with Ayesha. Admittedly our code is relatively simple and we had more elaborate ideas we explored, but after user tests and discussions among ourselves, the final code and interaction we produced was what we felt best suited our intentions and concept.

Going forward however, I hope to create works that can be more effective and powerful in communicating their intent on their own. Definitely I recognise the importance of having a polished work “holistically”: interaction, design, presentation, concept etc. It was clear from works like Kaitlyn and Alvin’s HIDEBEAST hat how the “secondary elements” like packaging and (very engaging) promo video could really make a difference to the user experience. After viewing everyone’s works however, I thought it was also possible to make highly powerful products on their own. I felt this about June and Jia Xi’s teddy bear. They didn’t have elaborate “secondary elements” to compliment their product, nor a very polished box for the bear, but the bear itself was sewn together beautifully and the interaction it provided was so carefully curated with the strings of text and light sequences. I wonder what viewers might take away differently from just experiencing our Pat-Pat alone, if it hadn’t been set-up in the elaborate business model we constructed (most perhaps felt it was completely unnecessary/excessive).

Final critique session aside, the whole development process has been a trying one that I’ve gained and learnt a lot from. Compared to our Disobedient Objects project, this final project was met with a lot more challenges. There was a lot more trial and error and trying of different codes from forums to figure out how to play sound on processing, connect processing to arduino successfully the way we want it, and figuring out how to vary the speed/force of the patting. There was also the headache of trying to connect all 3 programs (arduino, processing and blynk) that we tried for days before finding out there was no solution for it after consult with Lei.

In terms of hardware we also had a lot of setbacks with the motor. Attaching the rubber hand to the end of a stick, to the motor created a lot of weight and torque that caused our servo motor to malfunction. The screw with the motor arms came loose, the gears got forcefully turned by the weight, the angle of rotation changed several times… Eventually our micro servo motor not only made cracking noises but also became unable to lift the hand at all completely. We bought a stronger motor after but even that faced some of the same problems and we had to try our best to reduce the weight and torque, and adjust our codes accordingly for the angles. Overall, I’m quite proud of myself and Ayesha for accomplishing what we have done 🙂 (yay hi-5 gurl)

I think the final project really allowed me to combine all the things I learnt over the whole Interactive module. In my own design of Pat-Pat, I applied lessons from the Design Noir artists on unpopular and critical design. Meywa Denki that I researched on for Researcher of the Week was a big influence in the fictional business narrative and unpopular design direction. As a tester for Gwen and Deb’s Silent Pillow, I felt firsthand the thrill of waiting for my turn (and how onlookers were participants of an art installation this way too) that Wen De explained in his Uncomfortable Interactions presentation on “Breathless”. In the creation process itself, I thoroughly appreciated the open-source culture of arduino, processing and blynk. This final project didn’t have our micro-project brief of being an open-source/crowd-sourced work, but its very creation is based entirely on help Ayesha and I found on online forums. Our final code is a mix mash of suggestions and codes plucked from different people and places. Together with the feedback gathered from our classmates, we consolidated and refined these with our own artistic direction.


Project Development Body Storming: The Pat-Pat Machine

instructions for tester
1. lie down on your side with your butt on the indicated position.
2. enjoy the comfort of Mom's pat-pat.
3. customise speed/force of pat-pat using the slider on Blynk.
4. fall into deep sleep
5. Mom will be by your side all through the night.
6. Greet Mom when you get out of bed.

Feedback from Jia Xi (tester):

  • Instructions were clear and straightforward
  • Cute concept
  • Patting action makes her think of her mom
  • Speed of patting and music (“soothing”) sets the mood
  • Was not sure about the deep sleep part and what to do after waking up (she closed her eyes only briefly and then sat up confused, not knowing what to do. Creator had to tell her she could get up from the “bed”)
  • Feels the presence of intended “mom”

There were suggestions to make the mom larger or life-size to give her a greater presence and enhance the creepy factor, likewise with the patting hand to make it more realistic and make it the focus of the design.


What did you learn from the process?

Man Wei: The bodystorming exercise made me understand how important instructions and the framing of the set-up within an environment are in shaping the user’s experience. Instructions had to be written down and as creators we were not allowed to interfere or make clarifications. When I cut in  to point out that Jia Xi had read the instruction to get out of bed but was not doing so (only rising from her position lying down), my interference confused her into thinking my words were part of the experience, as words the surrogate mother said. Testing our written instructions on the tester, and observing the test-runs of other groups made me understand how important clarity as well as tonality of the instructions were in facilitating the objects’ use. While our product is meant to be used within the setting of one’s room at night when he or she wants to turn in, the environment of the classroom did not allow such a setting to be created and for the viewer to be in the position of “getting ready to sleep”. Watching how the tester was restless in bed and had not used the Pat-pat machine with the mood/desire to sleep, helped us confirm that we’d present our product in a pseudo businessmen product promotion setting for our final presentation. The influence of the environment in which the product is placed was even more significantly observed in the works of other groups. As a tester for Sze Kay and Qiu Wen’s non-comforting tissue box, I was not able to get into the mood for “think(ing) about someone you (I) love” and “imagine(ing) that the person left you (me)”. I’m confident that if the product had been set-up in a setting where I am isolated and confronted with just time and space to think by myself, I would have produced the desired responses of the creators and most certainly cried (and used the box the way they wanted). With the entire class’ eyes on me, however, I gave little thought or time to take the instructions of the creators seriously and merely rushed my test experience with the product.

Ayesha: Through the bodystorming exercise, I learned that a product needs to be tested by an unbiased participant for creators to truly understand if the product delivers its intended message. As creators, we already understood our own concept as we had been working on it from the start, but the bodystorming exercise showed us that although the gist of the idea was conveyed to the tester, some of the nuances, such as the tone we were going for, were misinterpreted.  

I also learned that it is difficult to create a product or experience that can be used as intuitively as possible by a first time user. In this exercise we were allowed to write down a set of instructions to the participants, but could not give any verbal cues. Choosing the correct wording, as well as trying to think from the point of a first time user of our product, was challenging. It had to be very precise, instructive and have a logical flow so as not to confuse our participant, which we did when we asked her to go to sleep, and then wake up.

What surprised you while going through the process?

Man Wei: I was surprised that our machine had the possibility of evoking comfort in the experience, and further, that the tester and audience actually had expectations of our machine fulfilling its (false) promises of serving as a substitute for the real mom and replicating the pat-pat experience. I had forgotten that to remind users of their own pat-pat experiences and allow them to draw connections between them and our object, there had to be some similarity in the experience created. I expected only feelings of unease and eeriness to arise from the interaction with our machine and did not think that comfort was possible at all.

Ayesha: I was surprised when our participant said that she felt comforted by the patting of our replacement mom. As creators, Man Wei and I had in mind a darker experience as we thought that the idea of buying a robotic replacement mom to pat you to sleep when you were a fully grown adult had a creepiness to it. Perhaps because in this exercise the patting was still done by Man Wei, the participant was also reacting to the human element. Maybe, when the patting is done by a rubber hand on a servo motor, the experience will be more uncomfortable. I think that the reading of the work is also dependent on the participant’s own memories of being patted to sleep as a child, so someone who has fond memories might not feel creeped out by the product.

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

Man Wei: After discovering that our machine was actually capable of bringing some comfort and enough similarity to remind users of the actual pat-pat experience , I reflected more deeply on our design intention:

Are we trying to create similarity at all/emulate the pat-pat experience as it is? Or create something that completely, intentionally falls short of/denies the experience? To what extent do we want/need to be similar/contrasting in the experience we offer?

Answering these questions helped me decide on the size issue for the mom and hand, as well as navigate other design decisions. (Covered in greater detail in our collective, consolidated reflection response)

The Size Issue: big or small?

Classmates who were in favour of big said doing so would enhance the mom’s presence and the creepy factor. However I think it is less our intention to make the experience eerie, but more towards evoking a sense of emptiness and discomfort at the machine not being able to adequately, if at all, fill the void/satisfy the longing for a mother’s pat-pat; the pat-pat machine being an inadequate replacement is primary, while the darkness and creepiness behind its design and experience offered are secondary.

My personal preference is for the mom and hand to be miniature.

  • Small figure contrasts and emphasizes the user’s larger frame: all grown-up, having outgrown the baby mattress and need for/qualification to receive patting from mothers to sleep.
  • Smallness emphasizes how the device falls short as a replacement, unable to measure up/sufficiently replicate the experience created by actual mom herself and fill the user’s sense of nostalgia/longing/void.
  • Smallness also works well with the portable characteristic of our machine. Our machine is designed and presented as a product targeted at grown-up children who have become distanced (emotionally and physically) from their parents—living away from home, leading busy lifestyles involving the continuous shifting between places for work/relationships/travel. There is hence a “handy mom to bring you comfort and help you fall asleep wherever you are” narrative to our design.

On the other hand, I would think that a large figure creates a scary and overbearing presence that goes beyond the sense of darkness/creepiness we wish to evoke—suggesting an incorrect replacement as opposed to an inadequate replacement.

The Lullaby

For our original design, we wanted an electronic/mechanical sort of distorted instrumental lullaby soundtrack to play from a speaker at the mom’s mouth. For the brainstorming prototype however, we used a normal instrumental soundtrack of Rockabye Baby which was soothing and contributed to bringing the tester comfort in the experience. It was good that we did this though, because otherwise I might not have reflected on the comfort intention problem so much. Using the instrumental soundtrack (without voice singing lyrics) in the demonstration also made me aware of how the music just sounded like it was playing in the backdrop or on a radio, instead of coming from the mom’s mouth. However, in our design, we wanted the music to be associated with a mom’s singing of lullabies, to further extend the motherly love element to our pat-pat experience. Hence going forward, I think we should revise our design and make the soundtrack play lullabies with actual singing of lyrics, without backdrop instrumental music, to make the desired connection with a mom’s singing. The comfort problem presents two possible options for the kind of soundtrack we use: the lullaby could be narrated in a robotic, monotonous Siri sort of artificial voice, or have an actual human voice capable of bringing some sense of comfort.

Clarity of instructions

Lei advised that we have minimal instructions to our design, while maintaining clarity and straightforwardness of the procedures to take for the experience. The brainstorming exercise allowed us to uncover potential areas of confusion to our interaction that clarification of instructions could be improved—perhaps by weaving them into the design itself.

To let users know how to exit the experience/when it ends, perhaps there could be narration along the lines of “mom will be by your side all through the night/until you wake up” that plays once the motor and patting starts, before the lullaby singing plays. Currently, we have this description/instruction only in the product description of our design (presented as a product being advertised). Signalling the end of the experience, perhaps the mom could also greet “good morning dear”/”did you sleep well” when the user leaves the bed and the light/pressure sensor deactivates the pat-pat motor.

Ayesha: Our product is meant to accompany users throughout the night as they sleep. Since it is impossible to ask our tester to fall asleep within a short time, we decided to present our experience as a satirical sales demonstration for our product. Our testers would be placed in the role of would-be customers who watch the demonstration and get to test it out to see if they want to buy the product. Thus, their experience would be guided and act as a “preview” of what the product can do if they buy it for their own home. I think that this would solve the issue of our testers having to fall asleep.


<Collective response/changes to product after discussion>


As businessmen, in trying to recreate the pat-pat experience with our product, we could approach our design 2 ways:

  1. Genuine attempt: having users discover themselves how one’s own mother and the real pat-pat is irreplaceable VS
  2. Insincere/half-baked attempt: making use of satire in design; knowing from the start that mom’s pat-pat is irreplaceable and purposely creating a product that doesn’t manage to serve its intended/proposed function
expectations vs reality

We decided that our intention is not for people to experience the product the way it is marketed/proposed to, but to expect to do so, with reservations

Our design approach will therefore be a balance of both 1 and 2, between a sincere and insincere attempt at trying to make our machine a substitute that can measure up to a real mother herself, however while marketing it as a wholly genuine attempt.


Product is a DIY kit that users can set-up on their own bed (lay cloth and displays) instead of an entire mattress with lining as the package. For the final presentation however, we will bring an inflatable/baby mattress for the demonstration.

  1. Sound: robotic/AI voice (without instrumental backdrop music) of lullaby voice
  2. Standy mom:
    • (insincere) Unpolished look: low-grade cardboard, paper clothes to change into, small size, small hand detached from mom
    • (genuine) More polished look: have drawings in digital vector on cardboard instead of hand-drawn (mass-production feel), realistic-looking rubber hand

Project Development Drawings: The Pat-Pat

IDEATION: Initial stages
Lighthouse Dishcover: distanced relationship with parents, longing (of parents for children to come home/of children for home-cooked meals), possibly trigger guilt/regret for children who do not spend as much time with parents anymore after growing up
Ang Bao For Every Occasion: distanced relationship with parents, provoke reflection/trigger guilt for grown-up children who hardly call home and simply send money back as the only form of interaction/”act of love” shown to parents (why send an ang bao when you could just call home; perhaps that is all they want?)
Pat-pat Machine: sense of nostalgia/loss/longing for mom’s pat-pat as a child, symbolic of close relationship shared
final selection: the pat-pat

How does your audience experience your project?

The Pat-Pat is a kit that a user can assemble in their own home and attach to their bed. It would include a blanket connected to a standy figure of a surrogate mother that pats you to sleep. Placing the blanket on their bed and lying on top of it will trigger the fabric sensor embedded inside to activate the surrogate mother to start patting the user on the bum. This is an attempt at recreating the scenario many may remember from childhood: that of their mothers patting them softly as they fall asleep. A lullaby will also start playing at the same time.

Once The Pat-Pat is on, users have the option to customize the speed of the patting via the Blynk app on their phones. A slider allows them to control how fast or slow they want their patting. Once the settings are to their liking, the surrogate mom will pat the user for as long as they are in bed.

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

The Pat-Pat, as an imagined product, is meant to be engaged with by a single user in the privacy of their own bedroom. It should be used as a self-soothing tool to fulfill their private longings for the comfort of their mothers patting them to sleep despite having grown up. The Pat-Pat is also meant to operate through the night as the users sleep, only stopping when they wake up and get out of bed. However, as our audience cannot go through this whole process in the span of a few minutes, our presentation will be engaged with in a slightly different way: we, as creators and salesmen, will be pitching and attempting to sell our product and participants will be invited to test drive The Pat-Pat in a guided demonstration. In this experience, one person may engage with it at a time, but in an environment with many others looking on.

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

We are recreating the pat-pat experience of being patted to sleep by mothers, that many of us share as something we experienced as a child. The machine is designed to offer users the (false) hope of reliving those lost nostalgic experiences of comfort—in the present—even as they have aged and outgrown the need (or qualification as a young enough child) for pat-pat, and the dynamics of the relationship between mother and child have changed (often, for the city dweller immersed in the hectic modern lifestyle, it is increased distance—both emotional and physical). Should users not share this memory of having pat-pat in their childhood, the machine offers to meet their desires/ideals of  a loving relationship with one’s mother as a child, by letting them experience what it is like.

What is the intention of this interaction?

Our intent is for users to, firstly, be reminded of the pat-pat act of motherly love they used to experience as children, and the emotional and physical proximity involved in the relationships with their mothers then. And secondly, discover upon interacting with our machine, that the pat-pat experience offered cannot adequately, if at all, substitute that of one’s own actual mother herself; that the product delivers neither the comfort nor motherly love promised to customers who are children that have all grown up.

Hence, instead of being a fully genuine attempt to recreate the pat-pat experience, the machine is purposely designed to fall short in some areas as a replacement. Though as creators, we are skeptical that any genuine attempt at all can possibly create a replacement for the experience of pat-pat from one’s actual mother.

Beyond being just insufficient in recreating the same comfort, the experience offered is meant to also feel a little eerie and dark. The interaction puts users in a slightly dark/twisted position where they have assumed that of a grown-up child, who still longs for a mother’s pat-pat, and seeks out a machine product, sincerely hoping it can be a substitute for the real person and act themselves. Should users also find some comfort and similarity in the pat-pat experience offered by our machine and the actual act itself, a further layer of creepiness is added to the experience.

At the bottom line, motivating our project in the first place, it is hoped that users reflect on the present state of their relationships with their mothers, and act accordingly—especially if it is distance they discover.


Research Critique 5 – Design Noir (Maywa Denki)

Popular design is design that is accessible, contemporary and part of popular culture. Typically, it emphasises appearance, user-friendliness and corporate identity. Since its social value is inextricably bound to the marketplace and commercial restrictions, popular design is mostly affirmative design; it reinforces the present state of things and conforms to cultural, social, technical and economic expectations.

This is problematic, especially when at its worst, popular design simply reinforces capitalist values—helping to create and maintain the constant consumerist dissatisfaction and desire for new products, as well as ensuring product obsolescence. An intellectual stance and credibility is often lost in such design.

In contrast, unpopular critical design asks questions, provokes and makes us think. It challenges conventions and preconceptions about technology, consumerism and cultural values—and how they shape our lives. Approaching design with a critical perspective is hence taking on a more responsible and pro-active role within society, and this is important considering the perfect position design occupies for stimulating discussion and debate among designers, industry and the public.

Summarising the differences between popular and unpopular art:

Following, using the concepts introduced by Dunne and  Raby in Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects, I will explore how Maywa Denki’s Pachi-Moku might be evaluated as an unpopular design that adopts a critical perspective.



“Parallel-world electricians”: brothers Masamichi and Novmichi. 

Maywa Denki is an art unit set up by two Japanese brothers, Masamichi and Nobumichi Tosa. Fusing art, commercialism and corporate culture, they present and actively promote themselves as an “electric company in a parallel world”, with a whole ecosystem constructed to support this corporate identity:

Maywa Denki website tabs

Besides having the turquoise costume as their uniform, they have a comprehensive company website with a company profile, business model documentation, product promotion (performance) details, as well as an online shop for merchandise including CDs, uniforms and stationery. They even have a fan page that facilitates membership application (which is paid).

Fan club page with admission and membership details
Online shop

They produce mainly 2 kinds of designs: art resources (A) and mass-produced objects (the BCDEF merchandise), and Pachi-Moku falls under A.

Pachi-Moku is a mechanical backpack-type “winged” device operated by electronic finger snappers that control double mallets to hit wooden temple blocks. The device produces two tones: high and low. Its mechanical components consist of analogue leather belts, motors, solenoids, and switches


How is Pachi-Moku unpopular design?

Very clearly, Pachi-Moku is not your typical popular design that prioritises appearance and user-friendliness or conforms to expectations.

It has an eccentric appearance with a seemingly amateurish sheen to the gadgetry and it challenges conventions on multiple levels.

“When creating instruments as art, I only think about the visuals; the sound doesn’t really matter

Designed as an instrument, instead of sound, it prioritises visuals.

A typical electronics manufacturer is making ‘electricity machines’ that are useful for people. However, Maywa Electric is not so

As an electronic device, it is also not useful and functional in the expected sense.

“Pachi-Moku has been continuously upgraded, mainly for improving the visual appearance. The only problem is that it’s getting heavier and heavier.

“Excuse me, but this instrument weighs 13kg, I can’t breathe anymore. Let me take it off. The problem is I can’t take it off myself. It’s design flaw.

It is also not in the least user-friendly and easy to carry or play because of its heavy weight. The artist Tosa acknowledges this as a design flaw in his TED talk introducing Pachi-Moku, but one should note that this design “flaw” is intentional on his part.

People don’t want something that can’t help people

Pachi-Mochu is not produced for actual use in the first place and hence not sold. Quoting the artists, Pachi-Moku is “something that can’t help people”, an “almost useless” electricity machine that “cannot be used as a human being”, hence it is called a “nonsense machine”.

How then, is Pachi-Moku critical design?

What critical perspectives do the unpopular qualities above support and how are they effective in stimulating reflection?

Tsukuba Series

Pachi-Moku is one of the instruments of the Tsukuba Series consisting of musical devices that operate at 100V through motors and electromagnets. This series is inspired by the changes to the nature of music with modern technological advancements. With the spread of IT apparatus like the sampler, synthesizer and internet, music has been dematerialised and become disembodied from the musical instruments that originally produced them, or in Maywa Denki’s words, become “separated from ‘a substance’” and “now considered as information”. Through speakers, what people encounter is not music but digital information and data on music. With the Tsukuba Series, the artists try to revive music from “Information Music” to “Substantial Music” once again with machines that physically create sounds. In their product write-up, they describe the music produced by these musical devices as “music of the 21st century”.


The relatively conservative and analogue technologies used for Pachi-Moku however, contrast this futuristic narrative presented. It is humorous and somewhat absurd that the instrument uses elaborate mechanisms to produce sounds that are otherwise primitive or effortlessly created; machinery and electricity are used to power physical beating or knocking movements that can be created with hands alone, without technology. Through this, the artists emphasise the challenge of reviving live music through the Tsukuba series—requiring the power of machines for the agenda. Engaging through humour and surprise this way, I think the artists successfully challenge technological values and stimulate reflection among users on how the nature of music has been shaped by technology.

Live performances (product demonstrations)

Besides the unpredictable and eccentric design of Pachi-Moku, the performances that Maywa Denki organizes to demonstrate how it is used add to its humour and appeal. In TED talks and Tsukuba performances, the artist cracks jokes about the product and plays the instrument while executing comical dance moves. Design is used as a form of entertainment, engaging viewers in performances that at once recall acts of TV personalities and comedians in popular culture, while being framed also as avant-garde performance art pieces. The importance of this entertainment value attached to Pachi-Moku is clear from how Maywa Denki signs itself under the amusement and entertainment division of a Japanese TV agency (Yoshimoto Kogyo Co. Ltd agency for managing TV personalities and comedians).

Performance description detailed as “courses offered” Source:

Although the futuristic vision of reimagining and resurrecting music has a fictive value, we see that Pachi-Moku also remains grounded in reality and accessible to the everyday and larger public through its promotional performances. As a critical design, Pachi-Moku skillfully fuses fiction with reality to engage people. According to the reading, effective critical designs communicate value fictions by “letting people see them in use, placed in everyday life, but in a way that leaves room for viewer’s imagination”. This is precisely what Maywa Denki does. Without actually using the product themselves, users, or rather viewers, are engaged in the music of Pachi-Moku instead through the experience of performances. Their promotion performances emphasise the experiences offered by Pachi-Moku instead of the object’s formal, technical and structural properties—communicating narratives of consumption, as opposed to narratives of production.

“Matsu (pine) Course”
Full live performance in which large-size musical instruments, robots, President, four workers and sometimes Mr. Wono at the accounting department appear. (Performance time: 90 to 120 minutes)
” Take(bamboo) Course”
Performance in which President and two workers appear. You can enjoy a stage show unique to Maywa Denki. (Performance time: 30 to 60 minutes)
“Ume (plum) course ”
Performance in which only President plays a live show, using the minimum equipment. (Performance time: 15 to 30 minutes)


In evaluating Pachi-Moku as a critical design, it is important to also consider the product as part of a larger ecosystem of a corporate identity that Maywa Denki has constructed. This identity occupies both the grounds of fiction and reality; while their rhetoric of being an electronics company is fictive, they are not a wholly “imaginary” corporation because they do actually produce and sell merchandise and services, albeit unconventional ones, and earn revenue from them. The have a fan base spanning across generations that buys their mass-produced merchandise and attends their concerts wearing the turquoise uniforms. Maywa Denki’s success at making profit as a pseudo electronics company contributes to allowing Pachi-Moku to extend reflection among users, to consider the culture of consumerism and materialism as well, beyond our relationship with technology and music. By appropriating the organizational structures of businesses, Maywa Denki both embraces and challenges the market and its values.

Nonsense machines | Meiwa Denki | TEDxUTokyo

To conclude, I think this statement of theirs sums up how Pachi-Moku and their nonsense machines embody alternative values that present critical perspectives. Pachi-Moku does not conform to popular values or present a realistic design, but neither is it wholly futuristic nor abstract. Instead, it occupies both ends of the spectrum—achieving what I think is a good balance—making it a critical design that is neither absorbed into everyday reality nor dismissed as too elitist.

In the reading, Dunne and Raby distinguish unpopular design as “products for the mind”—engaging users in reflection and imagination as opposed to popular design that is activated by actual usage. I think Pachi-Moku is indeed a product for the mind, and an engaging one at that, but also foremost an eccentric feast for the eyes and ears.




Link to slides:

Micro-Project 4 – Disobedient Objects


Pick up the trash.


1. How does your hacked object behave in a way you least expect it to?

Man Wei: We made a dollar note on the floor that doesn’t allow people to pick it up (and pocket it). The note moves in a way that the inanimate object acquires a sort of naughty character playing tag with/ teasing people like a mouse-and-cat /torchlight-and-cat scenario. It is purposely placed alongside trash and positioned on the ground. The disobedient note is meant to discipline/remind people to pick up trash they see on the floor; it contrasts the apathy and lack of initiative taken to pick up common litter, with the attention given to money when it is the object on the floor instead.

Ayesha: Our hacked object is a 2 dollar note placed among trash, next to a sign that that asks to bin your litter. When you reach to pick the money up, a light sensor in front of it is triggered and the note, attached to a wire and connected to a servo-motor, moves the note out of the way. The movement is very fast and the note returns back to its original position when the participant retracts their hand. It acts a bit like bait to bring attention to the litter around it that we would normally overlook and wouldn’t think to pick up, unlike money on the ground.

2. What are some reactions you observed from your participants when they interacted with the object?

Man Wei: Intuitively they bent down to reach for the note. Movements were hesitant at first when they did not know what to expect but as the note swept across the floor from side to side, it looked like some of them got taunted/challenged to grab the note (completely possible to do). They found it fun to interact with; some said it was almost like a toy and some approached to play with it after our presentation was over. It made me happy that the game-like set-up of our installation was able to attract and sustain our participants’ interest—necessary for any reflection on their actions and our underlying commentary to take place, whether on hindsight or during the interactions.

As expected, all of them kept at trying to catch the note, without regard for the other trash strewn around it (eye on the prize). Their persistence might have been prompted by the taunting movements of the note but their interactions with our installation are nonetheless reflective of the precise behaviour we were critiquing; it could have been entirely possible for the trash to have been programmed to react to users as well and move away from them like the note, but no one attempted to engage with the trash (it is unlikely that the thought to do so crossed their minds either).

Ayesha: Many participants took it as a challenge to catch the money. Some words that they used to describe the project were “naughty” and “cheeky”. I think that object behaved kind of like a game or like a practical joke. Since the photocell was placed in front of the note, the participant’s hand had to reach from that direction. However, some participants naturally reached from the side, which did not trigger the light sensor.

3. What are the challenges involved and how did you overcome them? What problems still exist? How might you overcome them eventually?

Man Wei: We faced problems making the motor produce movements that we wanted for the note. We wanted it to move away from the participant when approached and then move back to its original position after. However our original design which used thread/fishing line to attach the note to the motor only produced the first movement, with the note remaining at its new displaced position when the motor turned back. To resolve this we considered other designs that involved multiple threads instead of one and explored materials that were more hardy and taut. Our final solution involves using wire instead, bent also to prevent over forceful movements that flipped the note around. (Refer to design process documentation below)

In terms of coding, we drew from concepts learnt in class and adapted those in the presentation slides. We did not encounter many problems with it besides having to adjust the servomotor angle to create movements we wanted. We had to do some trial and error as well to adjust the angle in relation to the length of the strip attaching the note to the motor, as well as the flexibility/hardiness of the strip material. With different angles, strip lengths and materials, our note could daintily sweep from side to side or violently swerve from one side to another (overturning sometimes even). Eventually we managed to decide on a suitable angle that produced movements of a suitable force and speed while being confined to the width of our constructed platform. Besides motor issues, the only other thing that required more calibration and constant adjustment was the threshold value of the LDR which affected the light sensitivity of our object in different lighting conditions we placed it in.

A room for improvement might be making the attachment between the object and motor less conspicuous/hidden to improve the engagement and element of surprise. Participants might also then receive less prompt to interact with the note (versus the trash) if the presence of the wire had given them this. We could have tried attaching the wire to the bottom of the note and have it concealed below the platform.

Ayesha: We faced challenges in trying to arrange our set up so that the object would be used in a natural and intuitive way. 

We tried to conceal the electrical components so as not to distract or confuse participants, and to make the object’s disobedience more surprising for them. We did this by building a cardboard box that covered up the breadbox and Arduino, with holes cut into the cardboard for the photocell and the servo-motor. Since the servo-motor was sticking out, we concealed it with trash.

We also had to orientate the set up in a way that participants would naturally reach for the note from the front, but it seems that we didn’t test this out on enough people as some of our participants reached from different directions and missed the light sensor. If we were to rework this object, perhaps we could add more photocells to read interaction from other directions too.



“Keep the change”

Our initial idea was to have the object move along a vertical axis, retracting backwards. But after trying things out with the servomotor we decided a swaying action (due to the way the motor turns) was better. The side-to-side motion also made the movement seem like the object’s own, and gave it more “life”—recalls scenario of a mouse/torchlight avoiding a cat. Whereas the retracting motion along a vertical axis had a greater suggestion of another agent pulling the note back and forth (like at a ticketing counter). Giving the object a sense of a “life of its own” was more suitable for our concept of the money lying on the floor and avoiding pickers by itself (“pick up the trash” narrative). The retracting motion suited the original “keep the change” narrative more.

“Pick up the trash”

1st design: thread/fishing line

The original plan was to use a coin (for change) but we changed it to a dollar note instead because the coin was too heavy.

2nd design: two threads each to different arm of motor

Return motion still not achieved because threads not taut enough

Considered changing up set-up, retaining use of threads:

Wasn’t quite the kind of motion we were going for

3rd design: harder material (cardboard, wire, transparency strips)

Using hard card

The intention for using fishing line/thread at first was with the inconspicuousness of the attachment in consideration. Using wire/harder materials meant that we might have to compromise the visuals/surprise element for performance.


The Arduino code
Final design sketch
Servomotor fixed in place under cave of trash

Micro-Project 3 – To get her Split

“Wen De, out to get her”

Video link:

For this micro-project, we initially planned to do a sound piece where we each performed a series of spontaneous actions on different metal surfaces around ADM to make a “heavy metal soundtrack” collectively. After multiple takes however, we realised that the screen capture function could not record audio so our sound work was instead a silent piece. We could have given up with the limited time remaining and presented what we had as a sound piece of visual noise, but then I thought of making use of the fact that our screen was only split into 3 parts instead of 4 like other groups (because I didn’t have the video group chat function on Instagram), to recreate a game control kind of display recording.

The product we came up with involves Ayesha and I each displaying a left/right button control in the split bottom screens, which we pressed to move our avatar, Wen De, on the larger top screen. June watched the controls we pressed on screen while delivering instructions accordingly to Wen De and recording him. The inability to record audio was used to our advantage: June’s directions to Wen De could not be heard on video so Wen De could know what directions to take even though he was not looking at the group chat screen himself. Under our (spontaneous) control, we made the avatar navigate aimlessly with a sort of malfunctioning effect within ADM. The slight comical tone to the work was intentional, supported with the video game soundtrack we added in the edit.

I quite enjoyed making this piece with the others. There were multiple setbacks which we encountered: my phone not having the group video function, the discovery that audio could not be recorded, time constraints etc. All of which culminated in the final outcome we produced—and I loved that. This project which we supposedly had most creative control over, involved such a dynamic and unpredictable process of collaboration with others that its outcome feels more uncontrolled (in a good sense) than controlled.

Out of all the 3 Micro-Projects,
  • which project did you feel you had the most creative control? Why?

We had the most creative control in “Together Split” since the outcome of the product was very much just the realization of a preconceived final vision and artistic decision I had decided collectively with my team. We came up with the idea and its execution was wholly dependent on ourselves, made up of our  actions only and hence within our own hands.

Whereas for micro-project 1, the creation of the alternative space was an artistic direction constraint placed on us from the offset (instructions given), and we each contributed to the tapestry of images on Instagram as individuals of separate perspectives and occupants of different spaces. The creative control I had in this project was only insofar of my own contributions; I had no control (no individual had) over what others decided to contribute, nor the form of the space that evolved out of the individual contributions pooled together.

In micro-project 2, there was the least creative control. Although we were given free reins over the conceptualization and artistic direction of this project, unlike #1010adm, the outcome of the product was based on the crowd-sourcing of contributions from a targeted, but however open, group of people, participating in our artwork without even knowing it was one/awareness of themselves as participants/viewers. We had no control over how our participant viewers decided to respond and shape the work with their responses. In micro-project 1 at least, we were participants ourselves and could comment and respond to the contributions of others.

  • which project had the most unpredictable outcome? Why

Curiously, despite micro-project 2 (“Survey With One Question”) being the project I had the least creative control over, for me it wasn’t the one with the most unpredictable outcome. Perhaps it was because I had certain expectations of the way participants would act; I had presupposed that people have little incentive to participate in surveys for inconvenience and the like—the work was conceived precisely to address this issue (/problem?). Hence the crowd-sourced responses, despite their variability amongst individuals (granted and predicted), fell somewhat within my expectations, with but some surprises.

The project I felt had the most unpredictable outcome was instead ironically micro-project 3 (“Together Split”) that as a group we were given the most creative control over.  I think for me, the concept of “unpredictable outcome” rests a lot on the expectations I have over the extent of creative control over the work. In “Together Split”, we had literal control over the path Wen De took (the work’s outcome)—Ayesha and I controlled his left and right movements respectively, while June gave him the exact directions. However in retrospect, this “control” felt more like a guise/illusion for what was actually a much more spontaneous navigation of Wen De within ADM, that charted a path with an unpredictability I did not expect. Since Ayesha and I recorded the lift buttons of different floors, we had no communication/coordination also regarding the directions we’d make Wen De take. Arriving at the conceptualization and execution of this piece also, was an unpredictable outcome in itself, conceived only within the last 10 minutes. Our initial plans to create a “collective heavy metal musical jam piece” failed when we realised audio could not be screen-recorded. (So much for the illusion of predictable outcomes with greater creative control)

  • which project best illustrates the concepts of DIWO & OpenSource? Why?

I think micro-project 1 #1010adm illustrates both concepts best. Both this and micro-project 2 relied on crowd-sourcing the participation of others. Both were tapestries of each individual’s contributions; the “tapestry” of “Survey With One Question” was the visualisation of data collected from individuals, while #1010adm was the alternative space/Instagram pages formed out of the individual posts. However in “Survey With One Question”, while individuals were allowed to view others’ responses, they were not allowed to react to them in a tangible sense (they couldn’t change their responses on comment on others’). Whereas in #1010adm, the freedom to respond to the posts of others—to like, comment and share—allowed the nature of space created collectively to take on another dimension and go a step further. In this way, I consider #1010adm to better illustrate DIWO than “Survey With One Question”. The extent of interaction between individuals, and the overlapping of each person’s spheres of influence, is much greater and powerful in the creation of the outcome in #1010adm.

Micro-Project 2 – Crowd-Sourced Art

“Survey with one question”  

A crowd-sourced work about crowd-sourcing (with Ayesha and June)

We sent out a message on all the relevant group chats on Whatsapp and Telegram with our friends and classmates, asking them to help us complete an anonymous Google Forms survey that required of them to answer only one question. The survey was postulated to be accepting responses for only 5 minutes since it was set up (7:03PM-7:08PM), while we continued to collect responses past that window. Respondents are allowed to view the responses of other participants after completion of the survey, allowing them to compare their own guesses/expectations with the actual numbers of participation in real-time, as well as the responses of other participants who might share similar or vastly different expectations of the survey’s participation rate. A catch of the survey was that participants were not allowed to edit their responses after viewing others’. In this sense, the nature of social interaction allowed within the work is given a layer of complexity; participants are able to view the reactions of others, but not allowed to react (or express their reactions) to them.

Responses to the message were mixed. Some expressed confusion, others expressed interest, while there were also those eager to convey that they had participated in the survey (and the 77 other participants who did not).

Data collected:

Responses at the end of the 5min window, 24/1/2019, 7:08PM. These results can be viewed by respondents after completion of the survey.
Responses climbed from 23 to 65, almost 3 hours after the 5min window, 24/1/2019, 9:54PM.
Responses as of 30/1/2019, 8:22AM.

We didn’t specify or limit the range of numbers that respondents could give nor give them context to the number or profile of people that the survey was sent out to. Giving our participants this freedom in answering the survey allowed us to collect responses that reflected the individual’s attitudes in participation; some responses were clearly thought out and reflected the respondent’s desire and attempt to get the best estimate, while others reflected a lack of seriousness and jokester attitude with purposely exaggerated responses. I thought this to be an important part of the work: capturing not just participation (and non-participation), but also the nature of participation captured.

Summary of data collected. People continued to respond to the survey even after the postulated 5min window [yellow highlight] was over and some even responded the next day [blue highlight]. A range of responses were given, showing how people had great/little faith in others’ receptiveness to participation. There were also null responses [orange highlights]- possibly by people who were confused or thought the question to be meaningless. The exaggerated jokester response [in red] contrasts with numbers like “357” and 41″ that show greater attempts at estimation.

The content of the work is the participation of the survey respondents themselves, with the data collected—both their question responses and participation timestamp—serving as tangible records of this.

In this work, we intended to explore the concept of participation. Frequently, we send out surveys to our friends and classmates on group chats asking them to help us out for school assignments. Receptiveness to such requests for participation vary: the messages are either ignored, postponed (and eventually forgotten) or given the attention desired (participation in the survey). A variety of factors affect the individual’s receptiveness/participation, including convenience, required time for completion, social/relational obligations (favour exchange) etc. We wanted to explore these factors and what drives participation; where there is no (appealing) incentive for participation, what makes people participate? From the data collected, people’s expectations of others’ receptiveness to participation (arguably conflated with kindness/helpfulness) are also revealed. The work is a discovery of our crowd-sourced community’s reception to participation for us, as much as it is for the participants themselves.

As opposed to a work created by a single artist/creator, this crowd-sourced work is much more dynamic and spontaneous in its creation process and outcome. We all had our own expectations of the number of responses (I wasn’t the most optimistic) that the survey would collect. Arguably, these expectations were a form of “control” over the work, and were relinquished with the unexpected data and participation rates that emerged from crowd-sourcing. It was rather refreshing to approach the concept of expectations (about participation) with the method of crowd-sourcing that rides on uncertainty and unexpected outcome.

Micro-Project 1- Creating the Third .

The (physical) space I chose to photograph is the corner with the hot water dispenser and cooler outside the drawing studio.  It’s always cold in ADM and it is the one place I find myself ever wanting to go within the school (at every chance of break between classes we get). I edited the image of the hot water dispenser a bit to reduce the tonal intensity of its red, to allude to the idea of it dispensing warmth to me upon my interaction with it. The picture is however also meant to refer to “spaces” in general that bring me warmth within the school: these include the spaces created by and offered to me from my friends, as well as physical ones I ascribe pleasant memories to.

Collage/tapestry of different spaces and times inhabited by others

The alternative virtual space created through the exercise was notably dynamic and expansive as opposed to static and confined, transforming in real-time by admitting cumulative spaces/times posted by my peers (most apparent from the ‘Recent’ page filter and its updates). While my photograph of the hot water dispenser captured only my perspective and connections with the space, the space “on/within/bound to” Instagram revealed those of others in relation to the same space.

Another person’s post on the same subject matter of the hot water dispenser, but with a different caption and personal connection with the space.
moontripping and zl.debyu both expressed personal connections they have with the hot water dispenser in ADM (moontripping through her photo post and zl.debyu in her comments and responses to our pictures)

The virtual space created was not only a tapestry of different spaces and times, but also of different spatial connections different people made with a single space. These spaces/spatial connections were expressed not only in the photographs posted but also in the comments and responses to one another’s posts. Individuated experiences and expressions of space piece together this space collectively created and shared. The project curiously embodies both the “DIY” and “DIWO” culture—its “DIWO” nature is based upon a “DIY” activity.  Perhaps this is my biggest takeaway from the exercise: that “DIWO” does not require individuals to occupy the same physical and psychological space, nor participate in the same activity/action; “Y” and “O” do not need to share an (explicit) interest in co-creation. A collective artwork/entity can be conceived in such an unintentional and spontaneous state.

Maybe any subject and its origin/creation process really, can be said to be a (continuously evolving) product of a “DIWO” culture and set of collective actions—so long as one chooses to view it from such a perspective. Alternatively we could re-evaluate the concept of “DIWO” and more strictly define what it means to do something with others. A stricter definition however, might deny/undermine the presence of others alongside individuals and the possible connections and relations between them, where they are not explicitly designed or observed to be so, and prevent us from discovering subjects as (beautiful) spontaneous and chance co-creations.