Research Critique 4 – Uncle Roy All Around You

The reading, ’Uncomfortable Interactions’ (Benford, Greenhalgh, Walker, Giannachi, Marshall, Rodden, Proceedings of CHI 2012), analyses and explores the psychology behind our need for stimulation through uncomfortable interactions as well as its benefits, forms and tactics.

Commonly employed by the entertainment industry, the deliberate use of discomfort can be manipulated to create impactful interactions that are significantly more entertaining, enlightening and foster greater social bonding. With a degree of suffering inflicted upon the user such as anxiety, fear or pain, these ‘sufferings’ can be experienced either directly or empathetically on the behalf of others.

When designed into cultural experiences, uncomfortable interactions can be a useful mean to an end, to stimulate and enhance entertainment. With a heightened sensory caused by an intentional discomfort, participants can be manipulated to gain an increased awareness of their own feelings, generating greater memorability of an experience due to the enhanced subjective intensity. Uncomfortable interactions can also enlighten through experiences of relief after an initial discomfort, allowing for a greater derivation of pleasure from pain. Social bonding amongst participants can also be strengthened through uncomfortable interactions, where challenging people to work together as a team during difficult situations can create intensified shared experiences. In such situations, social bonding can be fostered not only through a direct experience, but also through the mere act of witnessing another’s experience.

Take this for example, we cringe as we view this gif although we do not directly experience the pain.

Uncomfortable interactions can take on several forms in terms of visceral, control, intimate, and cultural discomfort. Using a rollercoaster ride as an example, the visceral discomfort of intense acceleration and uncomfortable height provokes and challenges our physical senses, while the loss of control to a machine cultivates control discomfort. Interestingly, people who had the initial control over their personal experience (whether to subject themselves to the thrill or nauseating effects of the ride), choose to give up that control in exchange for a temporary experience of submission. In a roller coaster ride, there is also a sense of forced intimacy with strangers as the multiple rows of seats forces its user to share an intimate moment of vulnerability with several other strangers.

Cultural discomfort is embodied through the theme of the rollercoaster, which often carries associations with risk and danger. As part of a story plot, some theme parks may come up with ‘touch points’ that requires participants to make difficult decisions before partaking in a ride experience. This is mainly to intensify and set expectations for the rest of the experience, as seen in Singapore’s Battlestar Galactica: Human vs. Cyclon rollercoaster, where participants are prompted before a ride to pick a side from either the good or evil choices. For those who chose the Cyclon, the thrill of knowing that they have selected an extreme ride may add on to the anticipation experienced while waiting for the ride to begin.


In application, the Freytag’s pyramid can be applied to create a successful uncomfortable interaction. Similar to the dramatic structure used in story-telling, the Freytag pyramid consists of an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.

In “Uncle Roy all around you”, this was best illustrated in the game’s storyline where the initial surrendering of possessions by the street players was the exposition, framing the initial game experience. The suspense and idea of collaborating with online strangers created a rising action, provoking a loss of control and intimate discomfort as online players could communicate with and keep track of the real-time location of street players. A sense of voyeurism and surveillance enhances the feeling of vulnerability within street players as they work under pressure (visceral discomfort) to figure the clues to Uncle Roy’s office. Eventually, as the street player reaches the office, they are given the unexpected choice of deciding to meet and help an online stranger for a year. Without full comprehension of the commitment level and context, this was a cultural discomfort employed through a difficult decision with the ingrained ‘stranger danger’ mentality putting the players in a tough spot. The falling action happens as the street player decides upon the next action, regaining control over the following consequences. There is no definite end to the game for online players, as they can choose to continue chatting with street players or enter the office several times. However, the denouement here happens as participants begin to reflect upon the question posed to them through the overall game experience: “When will you be able to trust a stranger?

In conclusion, uncomfortable interactions are results of a shift in our natural state of control over the visceral, control, cultural and intimate aspects, where our ‘fight or flight’ senses can be manipulated to intensify and and memorable experiences in our future works.

Microproject 3


To create a 1 minute video using Instagram’s unique feature of video chat to create a performance via four split screens. The objective was to create a Third Space, a virtual world shaped by ourselves.


Being in separate locations, we knew that we needed something to help ‘sync’ us together. Hence, our idea was to create a mini music video which we could all choreograph a routine and perform together according to the beat of a song. After brainstorming, we decided on the very catchy and high recognisable song ‘Take on Me’ by A-ha.


After spending the first few minutes selecting a suitable song, we started creating a choreography that we could all easily learn and perform within the time limits. Basic movements such as simple shoulder shrugs, head turns and the snapping of fingers slowly transitioned into the idea of creating shapes using our arms within our individual frame positions. This created an illusion which was a combination of movements within two frames. When we were ready, we began to screen record our mini performance from four remote locations. As we could not converse in real life, we decided to take our conversation online where we gave cues via the Instagram group chat.


Within the time limit, we were able to complete our performance recording after several practices and discussions of the dance moves. However, in spite of multiple attempts of screen recording, our choreography was still not perfect and entirely well-coordinated. Interestingly, we realised that with every attempt of screen recording, we seem to encounter a small new different challenge. For instance, when we first started off, we had to pay attention to the order of the phone screens as it had an impact on how we will coordinate our dance performance. From here, we realised that the user’s perspective should always be the crux of an interaction, and when coming up with an idea, we should focus on how it will be received from the audience’s pov. To counter this challenge, we decided to focus only on one person’s phone screen to direct and coordinate the performance. This gave only one person a clear view on the outcome of the video, where she is able to give instructions for the rest of us to follow. This meant that the rest of us have to learn to communicate and trust the person in order to execute the performance. With full control over the entire performance, there was only one person who could shape the outcome of video although there was a total of four participants.


What we learnt during this process was that although some performances may be planned and practised, there will always be bouts of unexpectedness that requires an impromptu reaction. Similar to a third space, where some interactions have been created with a certain goal or process plan, a creator should always be aware of the infinite possibilities where something may not go according to plan.

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

Micro-Project 1. As the main creators behind the images, we get to decide on the locations as well as the elements of it that we choose to feature. What was mainly shared during this project had personal significance of varying levels to us, and we had the choice to create and curate the images. Hence, as a creator of the images, I had ultimate control over what I choose to share in the virtual space. However, being a part of the hashtag #1010adm did tilt the balance of control. By putting the images up on this alternative virtual space, there was an open role for the public, regardless of whether we knew each other in person or not, to interact with the image. They can freely choose how they wish to interact with my pictures, be it to like, comment or ignore the images. Since I chose not to caption my images, the pictures were mainly up to the audience’s own interpretation, which I had no control over. Comparing this project to the other projects, I feel that I had the most creative control over this project because I could make the ultimate decision on how the images outcome. Looking at the entire interaction however, I realised that as a creator, no matter the amount of control one might have during the process, you can never fully control the engagement which the audience choose to have with your work.

2. Which project had the most unpredictable outcome? Why?

Micro-Project 2. By involving the public viewers in the generation of questions, we never really know what to expect. Although we tried to narrow down the options by giving them only two choices to choose from, which gave us some control over the process, there were moments where we had to think of the next planned action on an impromptu basis, in accordance to the audience’s choices. Hence, this project was quite unpredictable because every action was a form of reaction, based on the audience’s engagement with the work.

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

Micro-Project 3. The DIWO concept is best illustrated in the team of four members having to work together to produce an outcome. Having only one person being aware of how the final video might look (as we based the video frame positioning only on the person who was recording) puts the person in the position of greater control of the project. Without means to see or communicate verbally, we had to rely on that one person for instructions while we try our best to coordinate with each other. With the frame consisting of two or more frames, we had to work together to create the final outcome. Furthermore,  when we first started discussing, we google searched for inspiration and ideas, which was in itself a benefit of the open source Google system.

Micro-Project 2: Crowd Sourced Art



Deepest Darkest Fears is a mini ‘dare or dare’ show broadcasted on a series of stories on our social media platform. Inspired by Bandersnatch, we decided to create content that would allow our crowdsourced community to participate in deciding the next course of action. We used Instagram as it is one of the more popular platforms that our friends are using, and the insta-story feature allows platform users to have the perceived option of choice.

By having a poll that gives our viewers 2 options to choose from, viewers can choose the next course of action for our player Tong Tong. In the options, we chose 2 dares for every stage that were contrasting in its extremity. Our crowdsourced community for this project were mainly Instagram followers who were fellow friends or classmates.

When all fears are taken away through a virtual space, to what extent would our viewers challenge our player to a dare?

Here are the results:


A voting poll is open for 3 mins. The path for each option is designed spontaneously as our viewer responds to the following options. Initially, we wanted to post an insta picture for viewers to share with us their deepest personal fears as we felt like involving the audience would generate more authentic interest as the content are solely created and decided by them. However, given the time limit and complexity involved, we decided to work on a general brainstorm of common fears & decide on the 2 that were most practical in our immediate environment.

Hence, we started by giving our viewers with 2 options to dictate our next move. The first set of question starts off with a choice between 2 of the most common fears.

Later, participants are able to choose the next path of action for our player. They can choose to be ‘nice’ OR ‘nasty’. Between these 2 fears, one of it is more extreme compared to the other, and we wanted to see which option our audience would pick without having to physically go through it.


During the process, we realised that although we were the initiators of this project, with intentions of having control over the experiment through careful planning of routes, the whole process of creation in this content was in fact a DIWO situation. Though each set of questions were initially created with a control over the options, our crowdsourced community were partaking in a co-creating process with us simply by participating through a click.

By responding to their clicking decision, we as initiators are responding to their choices, and hence participating in a co-creating process as well.


In terms of topic wise, we decided to choose something that was relevant to everyone. As humans, regardless of race, gender, class and social status, we are all certain to hold at least one fear. By opening the question of fears to our viewers, we give them the illusion of choice through a careful curation of questions.

By involving our audience to partake in this project through making a choice between 2 options, we managed to conjure a heightened interest in this project. With a role to play in this project, the audience were more active in their participation. However, at the same time, knowing that they are not the ones physically partaking in the challenge did help some of them to push boundaries as well, as we realised that majority of our responses were skewed towards the more daring actions. This was interesting to observe as majority of Tongtong’s followers were her friends which we thought would be ‘nicer’ to her.

Some of them were also curious to know what would happen next, and stayed throughout the story to view the process.


The whole process of the audience responding to questions, which eventually led to the initiators creating pathways according to the responses, had also made the work more engaging and fun in general. There was an interdependency, where the flow of the story would depend on both the responders and the initiators. Compared to a single creator project where the overall experience from the audience would be to simply observe the process unfolding, there was a more human approach in a crowdsourced project where the audience were a part of the process.

This definitely engaged the community on a higher level, and encouraged more interactions, as seen in some of the feedback we had where f our viewers also gave suggestions and idea, contributing to our project.

As explained by Lei later on during our class discussion, we learnt that most people were willing to choose the bolder choice because of the inbalanced conversion of efforts, where minimal effort was needed on the crowdsource community’s part to participate. The fact that all it took was simply a click for the player to take action (which requires more effort on the player’s side), did encourage them to be bolder in their choices. Had the roles been reversed, some of them may not have chosen the more daring choice knowing that they will be experiencing it themselves.

Overall, taking away the physical experience from the interaction had changed the overall experience of the game. 🙂

Micro-Project 1: Creating the Third Space

  1. Chosen space/ object

I chose this space, due to the significance of this physical area to me as a freshman. I remember during one of our first few classes in sem1, this was the exact place where my classmates and I mingled and got to know each other better during our break. This place, though ordinary, was the area where we first broke ice as friends. Beyond just the physical idea of space, I wanted to capture the people within it in this exact location as a visual representation of ‘safe space’. The idea of friends taking on the form of ‘space’ expressed in its comfort & familiarity. A safe place. Especially during the hectic process of adaptation in ADM year 1 sem 1.

Image wise, I intentionally butchered a whole image into 3 individual posts. Each post was created to position full emphasis on specific subjects (explained below), yet not make any meaning when viewed individually.  However, it is precisely this lack of ‘meaning making’ in the individual posts that allows interpretation to be up to the individual viewers.

(individual 3 images) – Physical Table, Friends, Self.

Overall, the key idea in this was to divert focus from the usual idea of ‘place’ (architecture/location etc) to focus on the core of what makes this place a space.

2. Characteristics of alternative virtual space created collectively

In this alternative virtual space, the nature of the post constantly changes as people interact with it. Initially, I did realise that the likes were really slow, and overall did not gather as many likes as my other posts. However, as people started commenting, the influx of interaction (read: likes) increased. This could be due to Instagram’s algorithm of content display based on no. of interactions, OR could simply be a real life example of a reaction building upon another reaction. 

Content wise, by keeping a little mystery in the individual pictures through intentional cropping, it prompted some of my friends who are truly curious to click onto the #1010ADM hashtag.

However, I feel that as the content was not the typical ‘Insta-worthy’ shots, it did not garner as many virtual attention. This made me realise that in order to succeed in generating signification interactions, the created content has to adapt according to the ever-changing nature of the virtual space itself.

3. Circumstance(s) where alternative virtual space will change?

Previously, my account was private.

For this project, I opened it up to public and gathered some comments from peeps who do not follow me. Through tracking pictures under the #1010ADM hashtag, some of them left comments under my images despite us not knowing each other. Likewise, I also left some likes & comments on some pictures under the #1010ADM hashtag. Simply having images categorised under the same hashtag had helped built a community, where people were comfortable sharing comments and likes with one another despite not knowing/communicating with each other in real life.

Apart from that, I chose not to respond to the comments under the image, as an experimental comparison with my other classmates who have always been actively responding to people in their images. It made me realise that the ‘vibe’ of the virtual space also changes when the creator responds, encouraging more interaction from the viewers.

Also, I feel that the limited knowledge about the #10101ADM also created an exclusive space, which worked as a catalyst of interest within some of the interactions I had with my non-adm peers.

4. Concept of DIY & DIWO

In this simple exercise, the concept of DIY was in the ideation & selection of space to capture and post the image. Initially, I actually took some images of some places on its own, but realise that it was ‘bland’ compared to having people in it. The DIWO aspect came when my friends and I worked together to help each other with our images, be it capturing each other or having each other in the images. This helped us to enrich our images to create more visually interesting content. In terms of the interaction, by having our friends comment on our posts did encourage other people to partake as well, and it is through DIWO that we are able to have a greater outreach.

For those who viewed but choose not to participate in any interaction with the post, that in itself was also a form of response, which could be a measure of the content’s success. Through a simple collection of three images, I was able to direct some of my participating followers onto one single platform, which was pretty cooOoOol.