Experimental Interaction – Final Project: Are you complicit?

Project Description

Are you complicit? is an interactive experience designed as a response to Singaporean society’s discrimination of skin colour. It was inspired by the various bouts of casual racism we have seen taking place in our own country and the desire to raise awareness about this issue. The participant is first asked to choose from one of two masks – either white or black. After which, they can enter an enclosed booth, where there is a mirror. As they hold up the mask to their faces, a recording of insults will play according to the colour of the mask. As the recording plays, the participant is left to stare at their own reflection with the mask on, perhaps contemplating the greater meaning of this interaction.

Observational documentation for user tests

This user test brought up a point we had not thought of – if the participant was already wearing a fully white or black top, the recording might play even when they have not put the shirt on and disrupt the interaction. In the video, our classmate Charm is wearing a black top. She alternates this by holding up the white shirt at times. However, only the “black/dark” recording keeps playing. We also noticed that our test participants tended to hold up the shirts to the photoresistor instead of wearing the shirts.

The next user test had a similar effect, but only the “white” recording kept playing even when our classmate Sze Wee did not hold the white shirt up and stood there in his grey shirt. It kept playing when he held the black shirt up as well.

At some point in the whole user testing session, our professors suggested that the crowd of our classmates outside the cupboard could be affecting the lighting value that we had already coded in. After everyone moved away from the cupboard other than the note-taker, videographer and tester, the code worked. Our classmate Munch held up the different shirts and the different recordings finally played. However, the recordings also appeared to be swapped, with the “white” recording playing when the black shirt was held up and vice versa. After this, we promptly adjusted the code by swapping the light values.

After the user tests, we decided to swap from shirts to masks to keep the action of putting oneself in someone else’s shoes. Masks are easier to put on or even holding it up to one’s face is enough to have the effect as opposed to putting on a shirt, which participants were less likely to do.

We also decided to completely close off the interior of the cupboard so that it would not be affected by external light. This would also help to isolate the participant, thus enhancing the interaction we intended for.

Design process documentation (intermediate designs, sketches, ideas)

Idea 1
Idea 2

Initial ideas revolved around the topic of youth suicide (expanded upon in a previous post: Project Development Drawings), which we decided not to go with in the end as they required way more time and effort than we had to spare.

Initial sketch

We decided to go with this idea which belonged to the Provocative Object stream. We went ahead with the idea of an uncomfortable interaction in the form of a booth in which the participant would go and depending on their skin colour, a recording of micro-aggressions directed at their skin colour would play out loud. Options we were considering included either headphones or speakers to relay the recording to the participant. As a way of detecting the participant’s skin colour, we wanted to utilise the photocell and mirror.

Later sketch

After the body-storming session, it was recommended that we use a black and white shirt instead as the skin colour idea was somewhat derivative and sensitive. We also changed our topic from racism to discrimination based on labels given to different skin colours so that participants would have an easier time making the conceptual leap.

Later on, we switched to black and white masks as the action of putting on the shirt was somewhat a hassle and might deter participants from going into the booth or getting the full effect of the interaction as seen in the user tests above.

A stand alone video describing our project and showing in the actual place or context of use

The context of use for this project would be an installation at an art exhibit, hence the writeup on the side of the cupboard. Not shown in the video is that the participant is facing a mirror when they hold up the masks, looking at their own reflections as they try the masks on and hear the comments.

Step-by-Step making of project

What you’ll need:

  • An enclosed space (We used an empty cupboard)
  • 1x Mirror (Big enough to show one’s face)
  • 1x Speaker
  • 1x Roll of Duct tape
  • 1x Black Mask (If you do not have one, use black matte spray paint like we did!)
  • 1x White Mask
  • 1x Large black cloth (To cover one doorway of the cupboard)
  • 1x LED Light
  • 1x Paper
  • 3x Hooks
  • 1x Breadboard
  • 1x Arduino USB Board
  • 1x Photoresistor
  • 2x Red Wires
  • 1x Black Wire
  • 1x Yellow Wire
  • 1x 10k-ohms resistor

Step 1: 

Close one of the cupboard doors. Use the duct tape to tape the top of the large black cloth to the opening of the cupboard to form the curtain. Remember to use pins/more duct tape to alter the length of the cloth if it is too long for the cupboard.

Set-up of curtain

Step 2: 

On the remaining closed door, stick a label stating ‘Please choose one’. Below that, place two hooks side by side and hang each mask on the hooks. We only had one hook for the outside, so we made do by hanging both on one hook but separating them so they were still side by side.

Set-up of masks
Set-up of exterior is complete!

Step 3:

Inside the cupboard, tape a small LED light to the ceiling. This is an important factor as it is the sole light source for the interior of the cupboard.

LED light set-up

Step 4:

Set up the circuit using the Arduino USB Board, Breadboard, wires, resistor and photoresistor following the diagram above. Our photoresistor was soldered to two much longer wires. Ideally, yours should be as well.

Circuit set-up

Step 5:

Attach the last hook to the back of the mirror. This is what will hold your mirror up on the wall of the cupboard later on. Use duct tape to tape the long photoresistor wires down so they stay organised. We also used duct tape to tape down the mirror stand as it was protruding too much.

Circuit to mirror set-up

Step 6:

Make sure that the photoresistor is at the edge of the mirror, like the image below. This will help to catch the changes in light as the light from the LED fixture on the ceiling above gets reflected off the mirror.

Photoresistor on mirror

Step 7:

Inside the cupboard, place the entire circuit set-up, the speaker, and the power source for the circuit (we suggest using a portable battery charger) into a black box. Stick the hook behind the mirror onto the wall furthest from the black curtain. Use duct tape to further reinforce the mirror to stick on the wall, as well as to stick the black box to the wall.

Interior set-up all done!

As for the codes used in Arduino and Processing, refer to the segment below. Remember to set up the codes first using a computer before putting the circuit into the black box!

Codes and circuit design required to make the prototype

We followed the circuit from the “Let there be light” slides during our second Arduino workshop. It had the photocell, which was what we needed circuit-wise for our project.

Arduino Code Pt 1
Arduino Code Pt 2

This is the Arduino code we used with Lei’s help – we set the sensor values according to the minimum and maximum values of the lighting in the cupboard. The lower value would trigger the “dark” insults and the higher value would trigger the “pale” insults.

Processing Code Pt 1
Processing Code Pt 2
Processing Code Pt 3
Processing Code Pt 4

This is the Processing code we used – also with Lei’s ample guidance. I inserted the 2 separate recordings (“White_Recording.mp3” and “Black_Recording.mp3”) into the code so that either would play according to the light levels. The code in Pt 4 shows how either recording should play at the different light levels (i.e. when either the black or white mask is held up to the mirror), but have nothing playing when neither mask is held up or when nobody is standing in front of the mirror.



Final Project: Project Development Drawings

Idea 1 – The Suicidal Map

We categorised our ideas by the topic we wanted to touch upon. Most of our ideas go down the provocative object track.

Our first idea revolves around the topic of media censorship regarding youth suicides, or just on youth suicides in general. It consists of a humongous board set up in a public space with tiny LED lights set up all over a map of Singapore to represent the different locations in Singapore. The input for these lights would be certain keywords that Singaporeans tweet, such as “die” or “kill myself” – warning signs of suicidal tendencies. The output would be the LED lights lighting up. We also thought of incorporating buzzers alongside the lights to draw even more attention from the public as this installation will be in a place that is easily viewed.

However, we decided not to go with this idea as Serena and Wen Lei advised us that it was too large a scale for our 4-5 weeks project.

Idea 2 – Boxed In

Our second idea with a similar theme focuses on the message of how society does not take suicide seriously enough. This interaction would take place in a small, cramped box with barely enough space for the participant to move around in, with a set of instructions on the wall for them to use the items that they see. Ideas for some of these items include a penknife that turns out to be a party horn, a noose that turns out to be a tie, and a bottle of pills that turn out to just be mints. The intention of this is to subvert the participant’s expectations of self harm, into harmless objects.

Idea 3 – Black or White?

Our third idea revolves around the topic of racism. The interactive space would be an enclosed booth, with speakers that would be triggered to play a recording of micro-aggressions when the participant steps in and faces a mirror that has a photocell attached to it. Depending on the participant’s race, different comments will be played through the speakers. After consultation with Serena and Wen Lei, they suggested giving the participants different coloured shirts to choose from so as to contextualise the interaction, rather than linking it directly to race.

Idea 4 – The Blaring Mask

The last topic we wanted to touch upon was ignorance in speech – more specifically, Singaporeans using racial slurs in everyday speech without realising the gravity of their usage. We came up with a mask that used a motion sensor, which would cause the buzzer to ring and attached LED light to light up when the participant used it. However, the mechanics of this idea is underdeveloped as we focused more on the 3 ideas above.

In the end, we decided to go with Idea 3 as it was feasible and resonated with our intentions.

1. How does your audience experience your project?

Natalie: The audience will first be greeted by a door and two different coloured shirts – black and white. They are to choose either shirt to wear, after which they will step past the door and the door will be closed behind them, entrapping them in a space that is enclosed from all sides, including the top. After which, they will see a mirror and while standing in front of it, a recording will start to play. This recording consists of mean remarks and micro-aggressive comments about their shirt colour. The recording will play for a minute or two while the participant listens to it and stares at themselves at the mirror. After the recording ends, they can step out of the space. Whether they choose the black or white shirt, the remarks in the recording will be equally nasty accordingly.

Sherneese: Our project aims to get in touch with an array of senses – tactile, visual and auditory. By first inviting the audience into a space that limits movement, we create confinement, a strong emotion that is present in our concept that this provocative object is meant to represent. The audience also assumes a label (of their choice?), which is symbolised through different coloured shirts. There is now the added weight of a new tactile aspect weighing on the audience’s physical body. The audience is then confronted with their reflection coupled with the additional aspect of largely politically incorrect ideas being played in audio to create discomfort deep within the audience.

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

Natalie: It is for a single person to engage with at a time. This is to emphasise the loneliness and “othering” that victims of racism tend to experience. Being enclosed in the space alone prevents others from being able to engage with the participant and vice versa, eliminating chances of distraction or being able to reach out for help.


Sherneese: Physically, our project is meant for a single-person experience. Ideally, our audience is to experience it alone to fully absorb the extent of our social message regarding racism.

However, the big picture focuses on the entire concept in relation to society. Through this individually shared experience, I hope to raise awareness at the very least, and to possibly start conversations on such topics that we have shun away from for so long.

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

Natalie: The isolation created by the cupboard leaves the participants with no choice but to stare at themselves in the mirror while listening to the recording, unable to escape. This interaction is meant to create discomfort within the participant as they associate the recording with the colour of the shirt they are wearing, listening to remarks that they have commonly heard before in popular media or may have even uttered themselves. Upon leaving the space, they may think more upon what the experience signifies.

Sherneese: A wave of initial confusion, confinement, isolation and hopefully followed by understanding. The audience first enters a confined space, perhaps feeling a little confused and suspicious. As they are forced to confront themselves, the limitations we impose on them (facing themselves in the mirror with nowhere else to turn to, the audio we will be playing either through speakers or headphones that is once again another aspect that confines their senses) lead to the subsequent emotions we hope they will feel. As they exit the space, the entire experience shall leave some sense of lingering in them.

4. What is the intention of this interaction?

Natalie: The participant steps into the cupboard, touches no other item, and does nothing else to trigger the recording that starts playing (other than the white/black shirt which will trigger the photocell, but this is unknown to them). This interaction is meant to be reflective of the unsolicited racist comments and micro-aggressions that victims of racism face.

Having the participant face the mirror while listening to the recording is meant to lead them to taking the comments personally, instead of something that can be easily brushed off as it is not their concern. Being enclosed with the recording is intended to overwhelm them with the audio. While listening to the remarks that may seem familiar but have never been projected to them directly unlike now, they get a somewhat simulated experience of how damaging these seemingly harmless words can be.

At the end of it all, the experience is intended to build sympathy within majority races towards minority races and raise awareness on how internalised racism is a concern in Singapore.


Sherneese: Right off the bat, the interaction occurs between the one audience in the space and their reflection. It is through coming to terms with how they feel and understand the world that can potentially lead to awareness and empathy.

As stated the above, the basis of our project aims at raising awareness. However, I do wish to push it further by igniting open-minded conversations about such topics that are still seen as taboo topics many fear to bring up at a dinner table. It is through open discussions that can alter mindsets and the way humans treat one another.

The intention was simple. But the results are endless. Ultimately, I believe that the extent of what can be achieved is largely dependent on how the audience chooses to react to this project.

Final Project: Project Development Body Storming

The interaction space from the outside

As the temporary space for our intended “booth” set-up, we sectioned off a small corner of the class using a large cardboard piece as a makeshift door. We left the white shirt and the set of instructions on the door surface itself.

A close-up of the door, complete with the instruction sheet and white t-shirt

There was meant to be another black shirt for the participant to choose between, but we did not manage to find one in time for this Bodystorming session, hence there was only one white shirt.

A close-up of the instructions
Inside the interaction space, where a mirror and makeshift “photocell” is placed against the wall

We taped a mirror where the participant would face, as well as a makeshift photocell which would be the trigger for the recordings.

A speaker from which the recording plays, hidden from the participant

We hid the speaker from the participant’s view – and as what the recordings were actually going to say was not confirmed yet, we simulated it through saying the words out loud through the door, as seen in the video.

1. What did you learn from the process?

Natalie: I learnt that for the sake of the interaction, it was important not to have remarks directly related to race in the recording as it was a little bit on the nose and not directly applicable to everyone who wears the shirt. I also learnt that we would have to figure out a way for the participants to make the associations to race on their own while we focus on making the interaction about the shirt colours. Furthermore, we realised that having a completely enclosed space would be helpful to the intention of our interaction. In this lo-fi version and for the sake of being able to record, the participant was not enclosed at all.

Sherneese: Through this body storming session, I got to see my project from a third person’s perspective. Void of bias and preconceptions, and purely based on the instructions and set-up we have put together using cardboard and paper. I also managed to see potential confusion that the audience may experience with our project that we otherwise would never see from the creator’s standpoint. This process opened my mind to other possibilities and suggestions from both users and bystanders that we can incorporate into our final project. It also made me realise that what I may want my audience to experience may not necessarily pan out the way I want in reality. It is through such testing that we can visualise the variables and work them to our benefit.

Additionally, I’ve realised the importance of the deliberate layout set-up, pre-interaction and post-interaction. They are all equally as important as what happens during the main interaction experience. Every minute detail makes a difference. As our project was meant to be take place in an enclosed space, it had to be verbalised to our audience during body storming as the video taking meant that the door had to be open, causing our audience not being able to experience what we wanted them to go through. 

Another aspect of body storming is that we were not using final materials to create our objects/space and thus it was difficult to achieve certain qualities that are reliant on quality/type of material/context created through objects.

2. What surprised you while going through the process?

Natalie: Some members of the audience noted that making the conceptual leap from the colours of the shirts to the colours of people’s skin may be a somewhat of a mental reach. I did not foresee this problem as while conceptualising, we started out with making directly race-related comments corresponding to either the white or black shirts.

How the public viewed my project differently from what I thought. What may seem clear to me – since I contributed to the creation of this project – may be obscure to others. Realising this point was really important to me because this hitch in connection with the audience can cause the entire project to fail/not achieve the desired outcome. It was also made apparent that different people have different thoughts and suggestions with which we can use them to our advantage.

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

Natalie: We need to ensure that the space is completely enclosed, such as sectioning off a part of the classroom and making sure the top is covered as well, or using a cupboard as the interaction space. We also need to think of a solution to the shirt situation to make it easier for the audience to make the association to race without directly mentioning race it self, such as putting mirrored “labels” on the shirts that the participant will then be able to read when they face the mirror.

Able to understand from feedback given on how to make concept/what I want the audience to get out of this experience more obvious. Have an open mind and use suggestions given to suit concept better.

The interactivity between creators and audiences allows the project to be pushed further, to piece the finer details more complexly and intricately.

Disobedient Objects


Upon receiving the project brief, we started brainstorming and came up with a few potential household objects and ideas.

Sketches of some of our ideas 

#1 – (picnic) basket JUST for men

This concept stems from spinning a satire on fragile masculinity where a basket is weaved for men (think wicker picnic basket)! This basket, that only men can carry, can be used by them to carry their things when they go out (stereotypically, guys only bring their wallet, phone and keys out) but when it reaches a certain weight, perhaps a ridiculously light weight like 1 kg, one out of two things can happen:
a loud blaring noise, akin to sirens, or using LED lights to make flickering lights shine frantically from all around the basket.

#2 – lipstick tube

For the longest time, lipsticks have been seen as “feminine objects”.

Hence in an attempt to neutralise/normalise the age old gender associated to make up, the tube will be emptied to make space for a blade or another object that is stereotypically masculine which women can whip out in times of need. To make it disobedient, this lipstick-cum-army swiss knife contraption will play a “feminine” voice (if possible)/something like Powerpuff Girls theme song

Another idea for this object would be using a fully functional lipstick (with the lip colour still intact) and making the lipstick part spin upon contact, making it difficult to apply lipstick. Lipstick will then be applied haphazardly if the user insists on using it, resulting in a messy lip, defeating the purpose of applying make up to beautify oneself.

#3 – flower pot

Sketches & Ideation for Plant Pot

Many people utilise flora and fauna in an attempt to neutralise the inanimateness of our concrete apartments. However, humans these days continue to rely on technology so such great extents that we often forget to bask in the warmth and comfort of family. Many of us turn to our mobile phones during meals despite sitting with the family, wasting a good chance to have quality conversations.

Hence we wanted to create a flower pot that is able to say greetings such as “Welcome home”, “Have a good day”, or to even ask questions that we forget to ask one another. “How are you feeling today?”. This is to shed light on the over-reliance humans today have on technology that we forgo human connections that we will live to regret.


After the presentation on ideas and discussing with one another, we decided to go with the flower pot idea to bring about the importance of family – something we hardly bring up during table conversations.

As we continue to approach our idea in greater detail, we realised it would be difficult for us to make our potted plant talk and thus changed it to singing happy melodies. The idea of a potted plant being able to “sing” was our way of creating an obedient disobedient object (because it is a “nice” plant). 

However, Serena and Lei gave us feedback to take the idea of disobedience one step further and have our plant scream/make blaring, obnoxious sounds. We then started researching ways to carry out this idea.

First, we wanted to use a photocell based on what we learned in class. We tested our interactive piece using a photocell, but realise that it is a highly light sensitive, variable resistor. As we wanted our plant to be able to detect motion regardless of day or night (if it were to be placed outdoors), a photocell would then not work well enough to achieve the fullest extent of our project.

Detailed Plan of what the Potted Plant would look like

With more research, we chanced upon a PIR motion sensor. With little knowledge, we researched more and found many tutorials on it. When we concluded that the PIR motion sensor seemed to be able to achieve the results we wanted, we went back to Sim Lim Square and bought one that would work for 5-7 metres.

We then assembled the parts according to the tutorial we found on this website: . After plugging the Arduino to the code, we were still unable to get the sensor to work. We checked again and again the wires and codes and they were all working fine which marked our first huge obstacle!

During the technical consult with Lei, she helped us with the code and switched up a few things. After a long while, everything came together and finally worked! (Yay, thanks Lei!!)

Top View of Plant Pot

It was also during the consult that we learned that different PIR motion sensors of different distances were meant for different objectives. This was something we now know to look out for when working with PIR motion sensors.

The code we found linked to the tutorial worked. Since we wanted our plant to produce obnoxious sounds, the sounds we were able to achieve with the code was still pleasant-sounding. With our lack of coding skills, we sought the help of our good friend Google once again – which led us to this link: https://circuitdigest.com/microcontroller-projects/playing-melodies-on-piezo-buzzer-using-arduino-tone-function.

Original Code:

This original code played a pleasant melody which was far from what we wanted.

Revised Code Version 1:Changing all the tones to the same code expectedly resulted in a singular bleep that went on for ages and while that was truly annoying, it was not the sound sequence we wanted.

Revised Code Version 2:We tried adjusting the byte melody to be shorter, but as it did not synchronise with the count length, the code did not work and no sound played at all.

Final Code:After trying out different combinations of tones of different frequencies/pitches, we decided that a higher pitch was better and we were able to achieve a borderline obnoxious tune out of our plant.

Though we wanted it to be even more obnoxious, some comments from our presentation in class stated that the sounds were obnoxious enough.

Various Iterations of the Potted Plant

Additionally, we had an existing pot which was too small as we decided on placing the breadboard and Arduino inside the pot. We then got a larger pot and a single stalk of a bright yellow flower. To create soil, we initially wanted to use real soil but then decided to contrast the yellow of the flower with blue foam to represent the soil.


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

Above are examples of the potted plant’s usage in situ


Naturally, potted plants do not have any tendency to make sounds. One of the unexpected behaviours it exhibits is that it makes noise when someone walks close enough/past it. The type of sound it makes is also unprecedented – instead of a pleasant tone that one may expect to come with the pleasing visual the flower supplies, an alarm-like sound is blared instead.


Firstly, the idea of our potted plant being able to produce sounds, which deviates from the average plant that sits in its warm soil. When the PIR motion detects any movement, the piezo buzzer produces the sounds. It is then supposed to shock the person who walks by, as it is uncommon for plants to make any sound, especially people are usually alone when walking along corridors back home or going out. There is also an added layer of hacking our object in the sense that the sounds produced are not friendly. The sounds are meant to annoy and create confusion.

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


Most of them were alarmed and bewildered, not knowing what it was they were doing that was causing the sound. This bewilderment then transitioned into curiosity and an attempt to figure out the trigger for the alarm, going as far as to lift the flower from the pot or remove the blue foam surrounding it.


During our presentation in class, we simply left the potted plant on the table. When the participants approached it, the plant started blaring sounds (which was the intended purpose). However, our plant’s interaction was only limited to the surrounding space between the plant and the participant. The participants then tried to take out pieces of the “soil”, even pulling the flower (which we placed so strategically /tragic/) out of the pot.

During the entirety of the interaction, we did not interfere with it and the result ended in a pot with detached soil and flower.

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

Comparison of Pot Size Pt. 1
Comparison of Pot Size Pt. 2


Some challenges involved hiding the components of the setup. Buying a bigger pot enabled us to hide the breadboard and Arduino entirely, and even the buzzer as well.

However, the motion sensor is still located on the exterior of the pot as it cannot detect people walking past if we put it on the inside of the pot (obviously), or if we put it on a side of the pot that does not face possible passers-by. It was left on the outside of the pot in plain sight and kind of gives away that it is not a usual plant pot (blue foam notwithstanding). Methods to combat this could include painting the sensor (though that may affect the sensor’s radius) or angling the sensor in a way that it is not visible but still able to detect people (such as under the pot’s rim).

More challenges involved achieving a sound that was as obnoxious and alarming as we intended using code, as well as getting the motion sensor to work properly in that it only triggers the alarm when someone walks past it, not all the time that people who are standing a relative distance away would still trigger it.

The latter is what happened during our actual presentation, and the alarm rang perpetually. To combat this, we could set up the presentation area like a corridor, limiting the audience to only be able to walk past it instead of clustering around it, as our tutors suggested. We could also use a motion sensor with a smaller detection radius.

We searched online for various melodies and codes that could guide us to the sound we had in mind, and experimented with pitches and tones as well. However, changing the melodies and codes sometimes led to the melodies constantly playing whether or not someone was near the motion sensor, or that the sound was simply not annoying or alarming enough. We also had problems getting the motion sensor to trigger to alarm at first, but with Wen Lei’s help in troubleshooting, we managed to find another code that worked. To combat the sound issue, we would have to do more research to get the sound to be the degree of alarming and annoying we intended.


From the presentation, we realised the importance of setting. How we chose to set up our interactive space was important, making the pre-interaction as important as the actual interaction. If we had instead placed the potted plant in a corner and strategically created a pathway for people to walk towards the plant, they would not think to disassemble the pot. This was an important lesson I now know to look out for. The main interaction should be the focus, but not the entirety of the performance.

From the viewpoint of setting up the physical pot and linking the code together, we had small obstacles such as pot size and different placement of the breadboard, Arduino and wires (we decided placing all the electronic components within the pot looked better than hiding it behind the pot). We had the most difficulty with coding as we were both inexperienced. As mentioned above, we overcame the issue of the code not even being able to work by consulting Lei which she helped us solve. A problem that still exists to me is the type of sound. The idea I had in mind regarding the “blaring, loud, obnoxious sound” was supposed to be more alarming and screeching than the final one we were able to achieve. What we had was good enough, but it would be good to achieve something even crazier. I think it is possible to overcome them when we learn how to code in a way that we can create such specific sounds, or using different components that can produce different types of sounds. This issue can be overcome with more research and perhaps asking the shop owners as Sim Lim Square how we can achieve sounds that can scare people to death.

Research Critique 4 – Uncomfortable Interactions

Breathless (2010) is an interactive ride experiment created by Thrill Laboratory. It was intentionally designed to inject a new element of fear and discomfort into amusement rides. (Benford, et al., 2012)

Breakdown of motor and pulley system of swing

WiFi gas mask respirators were specially designed for this project, collecting breathing data from the participants and transmitting it to a computer which would then translate this data into powering the swing – when the user inhaled, the swing moved backwards, and when they exhaled, the swing moved forward. The more in sync their breathing was with the swing’s system, the higher the swing would go.

Rider on swing being controlled by Controller in the background

Participants would join a queue for this ride and the first person would be fitted with a gas mask, then led to a specific viewpoint to take on the role of the Spectator. They would watch another participant with the gas mask riding the swing. After a period of time, the Spectator would have to go forward and take on the role of the Rider. This Rider would get off the swing and take on the role of the Controller, who would be sitting at the side facing the swing. The Controller would control the swing with their breathing for a certain period of time before control is passed over to the Rider, while they are still on the swing.

Breathless is an example of an uncomfortable interaction design experience. Uncomfortable interactions are invented to cause various degrees of suffering to its participants, but this can be useful and result in many benefits if done carefully. Such benefits can be grouped into 3 different types: entertainment, enlightenment, and sociality.

Breathless centres on entertainment and sociality due to its amusement ride setting. Entertainment can be enhanced using uncomfortable interactions, as we “crave stimulation, arousal and excitement” (Benford, et al., 2012). The fearful anticipation created from queueing for and viewing the ride is heightened. The physical and mental discomfort caused by the gas masks will lead to a sense of relief after the ride is over, revealing an intricate relationship between pain & pleasure.

Sociality is another benefit through which shared uncomfortable experiences make for better social bonds, best exemplified through various types of rites of passage. This extends to Breathless letting its audience observe the discomfort of the participants taking on the 3 roles.

There are four forms of tactics to create discomfort: “visceral discomfort, cultural discomfort, discomfort through control, and discomfort through intimacy” (Benford, et al., 2012).

Gas Masks

Breathless utilises visceral discomfort in the design of the gas masks, which are physically unpleasant to wear due to the tight fit and bad smell. It also heats up easily from the inside, causing the visor to fog up and obscure the participant’s vision, as well as fill with sweat that will drip down the face. The aforementioned claustrophobic disposition of the mask can also generate a fear in the participants of having their breathing cut off.

This ride also invokes cultural discomfort in that the usage of the gas masks – material that is “adult, difficult or vulgar”(Benford, et al., 2012) – evokes certain associations with war or even erotic practices like BDSM, raising the levels of discomfort for the participants.

Discomfort through control refers to tipping the balance between how much control the participants usually have and the control of the interface. Participants of Breathless have to relinquish control to the machine as they are strapped in and cannot get off until the time is up. They also have to give up their control to other people as is evident in the role of the Controller. On this note, they are also required to take greater control of the swing and another participant which may cause feelings of responsibility, power or even mischief (Benford, et al., 2012).

In conclusion, uncomfortable interactions can be useful for various benefits, but they need to be meticulously designed to be effective.





Benford, S., Greenhalgh, C., Giannachi, G., Walker, B., Marshall, J., & Rodden, T. (2012). Uncomfortable Interactions. Uncomfortable Interactions, 2005-2014.

Aerial07. (2017, October 19). Breathless. Retrieved from http://thrilllaboratory.com/breathless/


Micro-Project 3: Together Split

Materials involved

This work was performed within ADM’s premises, mainly at the sunken plaza and vending machines in the basement. It features a travelling found object, which in this case is a coin – moving from screen to screen in various ways:


First screen: The coin is dropped into water

Second screen (below the first screen): The coin drops from the screen above into a bottle filled with water. The water in is then tossed out along with the coin to the next screen.

Third screen (diagonally above the second screen): The coin flies upwards and onto the floor. It is picked up and put into a vending machine.

Fourth screen (below the third screen): The coin comes out from another vending machine, and a hand picks it up to toss it back to the second screen (which is beside the fourth screen).

The last movement involves the coin in the second screen being tossed upwards and another hand in the first screen catching the coin.


The objective was to showcase the coin moving from screen to screen but the outcome was not quite what we desired due to lack of practice and time, despite ample planning.

We also encountered many difficulties in communicating as we were all in separate spaces and could not communicate through the chat as the screen was being recorded and we needed to focus on the video call to know when our turn was coming. Slight delays caused by lagging and connection problems also hindered our progress.

It is also notable that we did not consider that message notifications from other apps were recorded as well, which could break the flow of the sequence.

Aforementioned notifications

Nevertheless, we learnt how important it was to constantly communicate to effectively carry out our plans. We went through the frustrations of many failed tries, but ultimately the experience was a fun one.

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

I felt like I had the most creative control in Micro-project  1 as I was making my contributions to the virtual space as an individual. I did not have to actively or physically work with others to produce content and it was completely up to me as to what I wanted to post. While I could not control the entire project as to what other individuals were uploading to the space, I was in control of my own content.

Which project had the most unpredictable outcome? Why?

Micro-project 2 had the most unpredictable outcome. While we did set some limitations as to what the participants could write (only positive things, only for ADM students to read etc.), we had no control over their actual written words. As a result, some of these could contain positivity at the expense of others, as shown in the previous post.

While Micro-project 3 also had very unpredictable outcomes, we were still in control of what we were going to do, what with all the planning and practicing. Given enough time and attempts, we would eventually achieve what we set out to do. Furthermore, knowing that we had a time limit, the outcome would be predictable – we expected to fail the first few times, and we did.

Which project best illustrates the concepts of DIWO & Open–Source? Why?

Micro-project 1 best illustrates both concepts of DIWO and Open-Source. As it was held on a public platform (i.e. Instagram), users could contribute using the hashtag #1010adm, thus resulting in the collaborative movement that defines DIWO. The ability to interact with these posts through the comments function adds to this as well. The concept of open-source is illustrated from the public nature of the project, as users are able to see and discuss the posts on Instagram just from accessing the hashtag.