Welcome to my research trail for my assigned topic: historical re-enactment. Research is currently presented in html format - one day I may make this more presentable and engaging.

I will admit that when first given this topic, I was not very enthused to research it further. I thought historical re-enactment only dealt with battles, colonial livelihoods, and global civil wars. Thankfully, due to the helpful library research guide, I quickly learned that historical re-enactment encompassed much more than a living history of wars. My research progression follows something like this:

historical re-enactment > historical representation > technology’s effect on realistic representation > simulacrum (when is simulation more real than reality) > experiencing the past emotionally and somatically > opportunities for addressing trauma > body-based testimony > open-ended history in relation to a passionate present

I’ve broken down my research by identifying key terms, questions, cautions during research, and potential sub-topics. I’ve also included a section of notes from the simulation reading (Simulacra and simulation) that have guided parts of my research. Finally, I’ve added a few of the readings I’ve done, as well as any notes I had for them.

Key terms


How do we know what the past smelled, tasted, sounded, felt like?
What is the relationship between realism and authenticity?
When can reenactment be used as redemption? When should it be used as methodology?
Can a re-enactment operate like a simulation (which presumes virtual reality)?
How do simulations change the sequence of past, present, and future?
If the real is no longer what it is supposed to be, are re-enactments the closest we get to maintaining or producing a live / equitable simulacrum?


The As-If World or alternative past futures: (Hannah Arendt) “I could always have turned out differently. If we approached the study of history as a virtual/ video game simulation: at any point, there can be multiple outcomes. Implications for healing trauma and learning history

Present re-enactments - including past (present) re-enactments that help participants/historians develop a lived understanding of the studied group, is there a way to extend this acquired sympathy to current populations? A somatic learning of difference?

Reconstructing landscapes/soundscapes that no longer have (or maybe never had) a reality to mimic. In the interests of pre-COVID nightlife, how might I reconstruct my experiences, my community’s collective memory to imagine and construct a new type of nightlife?

Simulations and its effects on identity / simulations and semiotics (is there is no reality)


Psycho-intellectual projection: Dangerous to assume that because we experience certain phenomena (through re-enactment) in certain ways, this is the experience of our predecessors.
VR simulation is by nature intrusive

Notes on Jean Baudrillard

"Why couldn't the "work" of the unconscious be "produced" in the same way as any other symptom in classical medicine? Dreams already are."
"Can one live with knowing everything is the distorted truth?"
“But their metaphysical despair came from the idea that the images concealed nothing at all, and that in fact they were not images, such as the original model would have made them, but actually perfect simulacra forever radiant with their own fascination.”
“The whole system becomes weightless; it is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum: not unreal, but a simulacrum, never again exchanging for what is real, but exchanging in itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference”
"Ideology only corresponds to a betrayal of reality by signs; simulation corresponds to a short-circuit of reality and to its reduplication by signs. It is always the aim of ideological analysis to restore the objective process; it is always a false problem to want to restore the truth beneath the simulacrum.”

Is Disneyland a stand-in to confirm our perception of reality? A suspension of belief or disbelief? Acts of desperation that confirm our fragile hold of reality (theme parks, scandals, icons)
Evil things are upheld by moral superstructures! Power is a simulation
Revolving causality // Mobius strip - operational negativity // Order only understands reality (simulation is limited by order)
Is our confirmation of the real only bolstered by its opposite?
Real > reference (referential) > images/icons/signs > simulation
Real > neo real > hyperreal


Interview with Sarah Hakani (curriculum development) on VR simulations for teaching Syrian refugee caretakers and physicians

*edited and condensed for clarity

C: To start off, can you tell me more about the masters program you were doing and your area of focus?

S: Yeah! In my masters program, I was in the Harvard school of education and my program was in technology and innovation. During that time I worked with this professor named Chris Dede. Chris’s area of focus is on VR and immersive learning experiences and the potential they have for things like language-learning and anything that would support marginalization,like constructing study-abroad experiences in VR rather than having people travel. Chris introduced me to Richard Mollica, who worked at the Harvard program in refugee trauma. He was working on the generative power of VR and immersive mobile apps that train people in ways that take their trauma background into account, and helps them re-generate empathy. Richard’s research was on how Syrian caregivers also have empathy burnout similar to Syrian refugees. He looked into how trauma often mirrors from recipient to caregiver and all the ways in which vicarious trauma makes the experience look the same in both of their brains. He and I talked about what it would look and feel like to construct experiences and immersive mobile apps that would help mitigate that, reverse that, and regenerate hope and empathy.

C: Did you have an interest in VR simulation before this project?

S: I think in a very hypothetical way, yes, but it was something I thought was just a cool thing, but couldn’t really be “my cool thing.” It started with the Dede asking me to see this exhibit at MIT museum, so I went to the exhibit called The Enemy, and it was essentially a VR exhibit, where you walk through and meet soldiers from different sides of the same battle. For example, an Israeli IDF soldier and a Palestinan child throwing rocks at tanks. The VR simulation tracks your eye movements, monitors your body language, and they take a survey pre-VR experience and post to see how your perceptions have changed, or how your perceptions evolved based on the amount you were able to empathize. What mine showed was that my bias beforehand was extremely pro-Palestine and the simulation itself was created for me to reflect hearing from the Israeli soldier about their experience of loss. Throughout the hour and a half that me and this person were talking, I was able to look at him more, I was able to ask questions back, and see that person as more of a human. It made me think about what it meant to be able to challenge core beliefs. And it’s a negative and scary effect of being able to learn that, but it’s also a very expansive and helpful one to be able to in this immersive conversion that isn’t real but is real. After that, my interest in (VR) became real rather than theoretical.

C: With that experience in mind, were you already researching Syrian refugees and caretakers, and somehow that came together in this new project?

S: At the time, I wasn’t really researching anything about caretakers. It had been left out of the equation for me until Richard put that into the equation. Previously I had been thinking about the impacts of trauma on language-learning. In undergrad, I did a lot of research on what it meant for people more from a neuroscience perspective, where the parts of your brain that are occupied by trauma make it a lot harder to multitask, harder to switch between languages, harder to inherit new languages and when you’re being taught in English and your mother-tongue is Arabic, it’s much harder for someone who has trauma to learn than it is for someone who doesn’t and is just coming from a different linguistic background. I was very curious about the extension of that into VR and language-learning for refugees and with the caregiver element added, the more that I researched I realized the power of vicarious trauma is also so strong and heavy. What happens when the people who are supposed to give care to these very traumatized populations also lose their ability to do so? It felt like a very different layering of issues that drew my attention to thinking about how trauma gets mirrored and what types of ways that community trauma-bonding are small subsets of this kind of caregiver and victim dynamic.

C: That’s a whole different element added to it. I’m curious about the project itself, what were the tools that were used? How did you find participants? How did you measure the mirrored reactions or similarity in trauma?

S: What I did was mostly the research to fund and ground the project. After this one year masters, Richard was going to go to Syria again and begin to implement these training tools and build out the training in a virtual environment, like seeing someone’s hand blown off. What do you do in that situation when you know it’s not real, but you have that proximity to it feeling very real. We developed several scenarios that could potentially be of use in this virtual environment and we’re working with a designer, marking how each of those experiences could be statistically significant and different from other experiences in terms of how it would feel to watch someone weep about losing a loved one versus watching someone come in and have lost a part of their body versus someone who has come in and lost a sense of self and fear. What I created was mostly literature review, the basis, everything we needed for funding, and mockups for what those scenarios would look like to then work with a designer to create a responsive app that would help them modulate throughout the training and reflect along the way.

C: Does the app envision that caretakers and those directly affected by trauma work together?

S: The app we illustrated was strictly for caregivers and that was partially because of the way funding models came through, but the ways that we decided to do that were all through Robert’s theory that if the caregivers do have this regenerated empathy and understand the tools that you might need for that, then it might lead to a responsive classroom style, like “I understand this, therefore I’m able to practice it with you better.” In phase one (which is what we were creating), it was just supposed to be for caregivers, and phase two, three, four would look like a more collaborative and responsive approach.

C: How did you stumble upon the idea that caregivers are maybe subconsciously affected by trauma?

S: That was a question that Robert asked, like “I have this theory, do you think it’s true?” We read a lot about physicians in general and what empathy burnout looks like and how it's embedded in so much of this work: lose a sense of self, lose a connection with this patient, and then you’ll be able to serve them. I found research on the ways that medical school is a breeding ground for empathy burnout and the ways they talk about empathy can be very in-theory only. There was this piece that said by the third year of medical school, physicians would have an 80% decline in their empathic potential. I was measuring the many different ways they were being told what they’re doing, why they’re doing, and that they need to have tough skin. I looked up different training models for caregivers and found a similarity in many caregivers, especially those that are in these environments who either couldn’t handle it or didn’t feel it anymore. We got closer to the essence of what it means for someone to lose empathy for the person they’re serving.

C: It makes me think that these fields prioritize using methodology of written research at the risk of being super theoretical. Considering the study of emotion and body-based testimony, how does having actual physiological responses to these types of simulation have the potential to sustain empathy rather than something that’s experienced “in-the-moment”?

S: I think that part of it is the safety of being removed - the safety of knowing you’re in a simulation can help the extension of this, the part two of this. Say you were to put a Syrian refugee whose house was completely taken from them, crushed, and their daughters were killed in front of them and recreate it in a virtual simulation. They’re allowed to have a little more control in that situation and process in a way that’s not completely unwritten from their mind. I could see the safety of that recreation in many senses act as a trigger but I think those triggers, by allowing a physiological response without those things happening to you again have a lot of potential. I think the issue is with people like physicians, it’s not so much that they can’t experience this in a real environment - I think the issue is we’ve done so much damage to our emotional capacities that in some ways VR feels like an opportunity to redo it that feels real-ish, but can potentially reverse the damage of traditional schooling, burnout, and ways of saying, “You’re becoming a doctor because it’s good for family,” rather than “You’re becoming a doctor because it’s good for people.” VR gives you a chance to backpedal a bit and imagine futures but also recreate pasts of all of these blunders and when I was thinking about these third-year med students having lost their empathy, I thought “well it would be great if they could regenerate it somehow.”

C: We associate virtual reality and hyperreality as being so removed from real emotions to the point that we ask ourselves, “what is real?” How is it that we’re able to reintroduce lost emotions? With regard to agency and giving these participants agency, how do you also work in enough structure to help guide these people to re-experience these emotions they may have lost? For those who have experienced trauma, how do you ensure that they have enough agency and safety throughout? Do you have a guide for that?

S: I think it’s a very work-in-progress guide and I’d be happy to reach out to the lab about where this is currently but because we were thinking about it from the perspective of physicians, we weren’t thinking so much about how to protect these people from the traumas they have experienced, more so how to open them up to the traumas they often neglect. The reason they wanted to have a responsive mobile app was in order to help with that modulation in real-time where it's kind of like those talk-based therapies where you talk to yourself almost and helps you regulate yourself. That was kind of the idea when it's like you're in this environment, you’re in this experiment but there's consistent feedback because there is this talking to self AI responding that helps the researchers collect data on how safe it is and what is the impact it's having so I think the environment for success and environment for safety looks very different when it's physicians versus like refugees and so in this one case this responsive of mobile app was the solution that they had proposed.

C: Does something like this require conditioning or multiple, repeat immersions of the simulation?

S: I think the goal is to find one simulation that does it and I continue to think about The Enemy as an option for that. The Enemy was an opportunity for me to be in this environment and reflect on it now, three years later. I'm thinking a lot about that immersive experience - of course it didn’t change my mind but it stuck with me for many years in terms of how I think about war or how I even think about gang violence or how I think about issues that I feel very stern on and get to think about how the interpersonal differs from the state level.

C: Do you feel like the exhibit led you into that position? How much choice did you feel like you had throughout it and were there things that surprised you about yourself and was that separate from thinking that the simulation had a clear agenda?

S: Yes! That reminded me that I had a lot of choices throughout the experiment. There were three pairs that you can talk to that are on different sides of different wars and battles and I still stuck with the Israeli soldier for a really long time. I was asked by that person in the VR if I wanted to go talk to someone else and I just wanted to continue talking to the soldier. The choices that were made felt a little bit primed going into it because the survey beforehand asked, “How do you feel about Israel and Palestine?” I kept tricking my brain, thinking “Oh, this person is being really nice to you because you said you were pro-Palestine.” I do feel like I was primed but at the same time they did give you a lot of choice: some people walked through the exhibit in 20 minutes and I was in there for 2 and 1/2 hours, talking to that Israeli soldier for 1 and 1/2 hours and everyone else for 30 minutes. And that all felt like a lot of choice. They're not rushing you through this experience: you take what you need and that experience makes me think that this doesn’t always need repeat exposures and I don’t think that many things do. If we strip it down to the most human sense, there have been conversations that have changed lives and I think that the past shouldn’t be unwritten through a VR world just because it’s technical and an experiment that might need multiple doses. There have been such singular experiences that are so transformative that I think the goal would be to create a singular experience rather than to force someone through an experiment. The closest you can get to humanity the better. When someone’s a lab rat and they're just pushed into this and are going to come out of it feeling more “blank,” more kind, more equipped - I think it takes you away from the initial goal, which is to re-embed humanity into you, rather than, ”let me show you the ways you can perform humanity.”

C: I think this experiment paired with you was a great match because you’re someone who has taught yourself through all your experiences of getting to know other people and through your research to have this approach of “I am going to try to understand perspectives that I don’t already.” That’s not something everyone already has built-in as a habit. I'm just wondering how that can be incorporated into schools. From an early age, something like this could be really helpful for people who don’t interact on a daily basis with marginalized populations or anyone of difference.

S: That's when I get really excited about the K-12 implications of it and the ways that VR has the potential to introduce communities to new communities without doing harm to other communities. Shared Studios was almost doing this except that it was invoking harm because it was real experience with another community. But if the Shared Studios model existed as simulations of people rather than people that you can voluntourism around, that could be really interesting too. The ways that we are taught to generate empathy through serving the marginalized rather than learning about the marginalized and understanding the marginalized could be subverted in a really cool way in VR. It’s learning about rather than entering the community and pick up the trash. There are a lot of implications in terms of what it could mean, even putting people in conversations that their friends wouldn’t bring them into - different social groups to be met where you are, to really understand that it’s not “oh my sister is just a hippie.” A lot of people resonate with wanting to have a conversation with someone like them that’s not them. Creating this simulation that shows the different types of people you could get to know that represent different types of people on Earth could be really helpful in even mending familial dynamics. It’s the same with the physicians. You don’t need to learn the skills to pretend you’re listening, you could just learn how to listen.

C: Do you think it’s important to have that environment knowing that you’re entering something that is supposedly not real? All these opportunities to repair certain relationships or to learn about other people - that seems like it requires a lot of time and energy into using the equipment that already makes you feel displaced. If we really want to introduce this to someone and the benefits are substantial, at what point does that become intrusive?

S: The whole element about at what point does it become intrusive is a very 2020 thought, but a past of immersion and a future of immersion aren’t intrusive. I feel like it's not intrusive to actively mend through a technology that’s an extension of sitting at a table and saying “Mom, I want to talk to you.” There's a world in which this can be such an embedded way of coping, of healing, and of really learning about difference in a way that makes a lot of things pains superfluous. Currently, it's really hard to think about how this wouldn’t be very intrusive or require a lot of priming and or wouldn't require a lot of after care. That is part of the issue with VR being reactive rather than reinstating humanity. If we decided today that the purpose of VR was to reinstate humanity, it wouldn’t have to be reactive. It could just be to teach humanity, understand one another, to learn empathy from a young age and learn the ways to modulate it yourself so you’re not burnt out and reaching for something to learn how to feel again. There’s a future world where it’s not an extension of you but just a part of how you learn.

C: It’s exciting that a lot of historians and some teachers are talking about the potential for lived or experimental history where there’s always a continuous connection between the past and the present. How can we reference the past in a way that honors our current bodies, and doesn’t just displace us in a previous body or another body somewhere else on this planet?

S: Sometimes that’s the coolest thing: your past evolves every day and thinking about history as a fixed thing is also something that this VR world would like to disrupt. A history could be completely rewritten through one conversation, similar to how history could be rewritten through one immersion, one interaction in that world. I think a future world acknowledges that every day, every hour, you are a new body and that new body has learned these things. You can learn something and it could just fit into your system of other things you’ve learned and it doesn’t have to disrupt everything because you are a new body. What does it mean for current selves and past selves to coexist without them hurting one another?

C: I’ve been thinking a lot about alternate past futures, which comes from a video game standpoint, where the game acknowledges that the player has a multitude of paths they can follow even if the game is a re-enactment of something from history. Keeping this multitude of alternate realities in mind, from our class reading, Baudrillard argues that our reality has become transformed into references, images, and icons that have assumed a reality behind them when in fact there’s nothing left to reference. In this view, everything is a simulation. Does this theory change your perspective?

S: My initial quick thought is that I don’t agree with it. Everything isn’t a simulation, but there can be many pasts and many futures. They can all be real. What you shared about alternate past futures is very resonant because there are so many branches of where things could have gone and while I’m on one of them, all of the other ones are still real and are ways I could have processed my histories. That in itself gives room to say one immersive experience or conversation can shift you on another branch of your past path. We have an arbitrary number of paths that any path can branch onto and some people might say that it makes none of them real, but you could be on any of those paths and our potential to grow, change, evolve, understand, re-evaluate, re-name, re-consolidate information in our brains differently. The more we can remember those pasts, the more we’re able to say “this is the new offshoot of it.” I don’t think alternate past futures means you’re on a different path you could’ve been on, but more so that you could’ve easily jumped. We’re so malleable that we can remember a past that we thought we had forgotten or that wasn’t real. We can heal in a different way. I feel really connected to reality and that’s also part of my fear of “it’s all fake.” I do think there are possibilities of that but there are much stronger possibilities of us having lived so many more lives than we’re able to name and that those lives can lead to so many more lives than we’re able to process.

C: Maybe it’s semantics, but if reality assumes the ultimate truth, one ideal life, and if we actually have all these iterations of life we could experience, then those iterations uphold the idea that everything is a simulation.

S: Yes! Both can be true - I will just panic about it. But, I think that the ways people often think about “everything is a simulation” is so watered down. It’s easier to say “everything is a simulation” to mean “I’m completely disconnected from my reality” rather than saying “I am so deeply interwoven with my reality.” Rather than saying “I contain 10,000 pasts,” it’s easier to say “everything is fake.”

Miniature (project)

With all this new information, I had to mull over what I wanted to create over a long(ish) run. I wanted everything I had learned to connect to my current preoccupations with nightlife and community. After answering the question about which imagination I felt trapped in, I thought about how the pre-COVID nightlife has quickly become an experience of the past. How might I communicate or re-animate that club essence (a thing I've been trying ever since Shanghai)?
My thought process from topic to project idea went something like this:
Historical re-enactment > lived history > living history > living re-enactment > DJing is keeping past music alive, re-animating past creations > remix = infinite alterations > past flowing into present > clubs are living re-enactments
  • How can I describe to someone my connection to nightlife?
  • What would this re-construction of my elation in Shanghai and Shanghai adjacent (not referring to physical location, but the type of experience felt) look like?
  • I started out by taking a live mix from a night that captured that essence: playing b2b with someone I hope to play with and collaborate with indefinitely. Then, I chopped it up according to the most memorable (sometimes very messy) transitions and fed it to an Octatrack, a live sequencer. While I could have easily done this in a DAW, I really wanted to mimic the feel of DJing with equipment and the Octatrack makes sampling so tangible. After re-creating a mix from those samples, I then went ahead and chopped it up within Ableton. I fed those resulting samples to the Octatrack. I repeated the process about three times and I have those recordings below. It was an experiment to see what iterations and re-enactments could look like with soundscapes. While I had hoped that I would be able to reverse the process, I doubt it would ever come close to the original (re: Jean Baudrillard). It's not perfect, and I doubt anyone would want to listen to iteration 1, 2, or 3, but the process itself is something I want to continue exploring.

    Original Live Mix (the first 12 min of a 2 hour set)

    First Iteration

    Second Iteration

    Third Iteration


    I started out by identifying stakeholders and other sub-topics and then re-drew to expand the boundaries in order to reflect the stakeholders or stakes that I was missing in my first diagram.
    Map 1
    Map 2
    In order to visualize and understand my connection between historical re-enactment and club simulations, I began making causal diagrams. These causal diagrams illustrate the idea of "club culture as re-enactment" more than re-enactment of club culture. The ideas outlined in this show how different parties become environments for active experimentation in not just the most visible parts of raving (people, style, lighting), but also the ways in which people connect with strangers, learn new ways of becoming (as well as overcoming past traumas or anxieties), and allow for difference to supersede the mainstream. In thinking about Morgan's essay on re-performance and Small's proposal for Musicking, I wanted to demonstrate how DJs (I'd argue are also performers) guide re-enactment, either through experimentation or preservation of ongoing club genres. What conditions are needed for the DJ to re-work the way we feel incentivized to move our bodies? And for dancers (also performers), how does irregular movement or freedom of movement allows us to re-shape (even if temporarily) the ways societal norms are hardcoded into our bodies?
    Map 3
    This helped me create a concept map for the club system or "lifeworld," which is a term lovingly adapted from Fiona Buckland's Impossible Dance. It's pretty straightforward, and includes the various stakeholders in this system, but it wasn't a map that led to many 'aha's' that would help me gain new insights on this chosen path.
    Map 4
    For deeper clarification, I created two diagrams that better connected my research and thoughts on club culture as historical re-enactment as simulation. While I'm still thinking through the connections between the various nodes, I am seeing new possibilities for creating a guide.
    Map 1
    Map 2

    Topic Development

    I spent much of the past week researching simulation, performance, and re-enactment in the form of club-specific contexts. I found really good resources that connected bodies on the dancefloor (club lifeworlds) to memory reconstruction and socio-political transformations that carried on from past to present, club to outside the club. In particular, historical re-enactment's emphasis on body-based discourse to uncover and formulate new meanings (either missed or impossible to determine through other methods) is evident in musical performance. Coined "Musicking," Small defines any instance of musical performance to include all ways of taking part, whether that's performing, listening, practicing, providing material, or dancing. Fiona Buckland took this idea of dancefloor participation to introduce club environments as pathways for worldbuilding, especially among queer individuals. Another idea I was especially intrigued by was connecting underground nightlife to experimental theater and playgrounds (play-reality). These ephemeral and liminal zones become laboratories of the present, allowing participants to embody action and historiography in order to construct new experiences and new meaning. In other words, "a pathway towards a way of 'being in the world' that resists fixity, embraces possibilities and offers the promise of mutuality."

    New Key Words

    More Resources

    Potential Forms


    Guide Checklist


    From both the feedback of the practice presentation last week and the real presentation this week, I’ve realized that it’s difficult to communicate my associations, experience, and perceptions of a topic in a few minutes. However, I learned how necessary that is to provide others context, especially those without similar backgrounds. I guess I wanted the context to be more ambiguous, as to not influence any type of understanding people had of underground club before going through my guide. For me, the ultimate goal would be to convey the impact and embodied experience I’ve had and to somehow allow others to come to similar (or dissimilar) conclusions. I’m still wondering, what are the conditions necessary to re-create the possibilities for transformation, previously made possible in past underground club events? I know I was focusing a little too heavily on the technical side, since from the practice round, it seemed evident that others needed more visual guidance in the form. In becoming too concerned with minute aspects of re-enactment, I wasn’t able to recognize that from my exploration of intertwined re-enactment and simulation, my guide would inevitably diverge from concrete or actual experiences. Moving forward, I want to flesh out the affordances of both in order to expand on the interactions or reflections made possible in my guide.

    For this topic. I spent a substantial amount of time researching and creating the guide. I came upon the analogy to underground club culture while researching performative aspects of historical re-enactment, and from there, read many texts on simulation and club lifeworlds in order to strengthen the connection. Once I solidified the systems and metaphors, I composed three soundscapes (which was my original form) and built a website for the guide. I attached the landing page as instructions for the project rather last-minute, and from the feedback, I realized I should have spent more time focusing on writing out the intent for the experience. After the presentation, most people were surprised by this analogy and wanted more evidence in the guide, particularly in relation to collective memory and bodily co-presence. I liked Adam’s suggestion that it could be done asynchronously and from Sarah’s feedback on re-thinking the motivations behind historical re-enactment, I realized that providing instructions or tools for self-reflection during the experience would have made it stronger. Post-presentation, I revised the landing page in order to give more background on underground club culture as historical re-enactment, and to provide participants a preface for what they might experience. I want the project to not only reflect immediate perceptions of underground clubs, because I believe that a virtual simulation and re-enactment can be transformative without its traditional physical containment. And this epiphany of sorts has been an inspiring drive behind my research and experimentation with form. I definitely focus on both, but research before experimentation. Maybe if I did them simultaneously, or figured out a way to actively put them in dialogue, then I wouldn’t have felt stuck in terms of how to take the guide further. However, feedback was very helpful, and I think I have new channels to explore as well as a new direction for the project.

    Since I'm interested in continuing with this topic, I went ahead and created another map that detailed the affordances of historical re-enactment and simulation. I think it's clearer and it's already sparked new ideas for renovating the guide I have currently.
    new map

    Daily Practice

    For the daily exercise, I decided to use a memory palace. Since historical re-enactment is rooted in individual and collective memory, I wanted to direct my focus to a kind of memory-meditation. While memory palaces are used mostly to store new information, I just revisited the same journey I took multiple times while I was living in Shanghai. It wasn't until Shanghai that I fell deep into the allures of underground club culture. For me, the underground spaces in Shanghai were emblematic of liminal and reflexive possibility. I experienced a rewakening that showed me an alternate reality, and it gave me direction in building and supporting a similar culture within the states.

    Every day, I would revisit the journey I took from the apartment I was staying in to the club I frequented the most. Each embodied memory resulted in remembering a different night, and I tried as much as possible to not pre-determine which night I wanted to revisit. By the end of the memory palace, I would write down whatever word(s) came to mind, and from there, I created a little sound snippet that felt representative of the meanings or images associated with the word(s). I chose to create sounds again because my form was originally a layered soundscape. While some of the daily sounds are closer to the words (if we assume a universal sonic dictionary), I am limited by my growing production skills, so some sounds don't quite capture what I intended, but I tried not to spend too much time perfecting them.

    Day 1: Searching, excavating

    Day 2: Exuding (warmth), reverie

    Day 3: Subterranean, cool

    Day 4: Pillar

    Day 5: Awaiting, precipice

    Day 6: Amalgamation, starlings

    Janky Prototypes

    For the in-class exercise, I chose a lighter as the object. It's so small and usually does one of two things (light a candle or light a cigarette), but here were my full list of affordances:
    -button and wheel to create a flame
    -a small light -warm some fingers
    -light a candle
    -burn small things
    -attach 2 pieces of plastic together
    -balance an uneven chair or table
    -illuminate ideas
    -conversation starter w/ a stranger
    -irl random dating?
    -sanitize something
    -version of fidget spinner
    -spooky story telling lighting

    I chose to act out an example of using the lighter to pass notes to someone IRL. Maybe passing a lighter could be another small way of reminding people to vote. What if lighters had QR codes on them? You could stick a QR code on anything, but because of the nature of how lighters get passed around (in non-pandemic settings), messages could very well get passed on to strangers or people outside of your usual social circles. I have a few lighters that came into my hands more randomly than other items I own. Of course, lighters that get passed around are usually tied to smoking, so this isn't necessarily the context in which I'd want to pass them out. But if it's currently a tool to get messages to people outside your normal spheres, then that that means there's room for intervention. Jenny Holzer displays messages on giant structures, what about doing this on a seemingly trivial everyday object?

    Project Prototypes

    1) Sonic Inbox
    Because I chose the number 7, I left class with "email" as the starting technology. I was most intrigued with Gmail's autosend feature, which related to the idea of creating a future memory, or storing a memory with the intention of being opened in the future. While I did in fact send myself a memory (recounting feelings I had over breakfast), I wasn't sure how I would turn that into a prototype. Instead, I was interested in establishing a connection between memory and sound.
    What if emails (future memories) could be translated into sound?
    I liked the idea of an inbox being a physical storage box. It reminded me of a performance done by a friend, where he performed a piece using a hand-cranked music box. What if this music box, rather than reading musical notes, could somehow read letters? It would require some mapping of notes to characters, but the idea is to either honor or let go of a memory through its conversion to sound. Perhaps the sound get stored into a playlist for later.

    Example of a music box that would read letters

    2) Non-linguistic language translator
    Incorporating real-time data, what if there was a chat box that pulled images crowd-sourced from various apps like Google Maps and Instagram as well as sounds crowd-sourced from various locations around the globe and the converted the text to a feed of audio-visual content? Aporee is a site that displays high-quality ser-uploaded sounds based on location. They all have fairly robust descriptions, which could pair well with the web app's chat box. Similarly, Free Sound could be used to search for sounds related to the written memory. The idea is to convert messages/memories into something that involves a multitude of emotions. These sonic and visual artifacts can be then be used to create connections between various memories. While there is often a visible disconnect in forming connections across a screen, using real-time data (or crowd-sourced data) to start a more expansive, immersive dialogue with the user may help remind them of environments with "natural" stimuli. I'm interested in seeing how juxtaposition, or the pairing of different datasets might engage the user more actively, but also offer them a novel format that remains connected to the non-digital world around them.

    From a friend's participation in my daily practice of re-enactment, they came to the words "adrenaline rush", "joy", "shaking", and "full." An example of the translation might involve these images, interwoven with these sounds. The sounds were pulled by querying these words, and it's quite interesting to see how sounds are fitted to certain words, or how the users who upload these sounds describe them.

    Currently, I pulled photos from Google Earth using its "I"m feeling lucky" function, but I would need to find a better way to pair the word with the photo. There's not an easy way to search for specific descriptors because the photos aren't tagged or categorized that way. For this to work, I'd either need to find another source or find some medium that can map words to images.

    3) Hearing memory
    This is a simple idea, but it involves strapping a contact microphone to a user's throat, recording any changes in breathing, swallowing, noises from the chest, etc. while the person recalls a specific memory. I'm not sure if memories have been categorized as physiological sounds, but this could be interesting when comparing memories associated with contrasting feelings. Depending on the level or analysis of the audio, memories could be categorized differently. Those with higher frequency or amplitude (general increase in activity) would be stored into a folder of "vivid memories," something for the user to revisit more deeply. As the reverse, instead of recording sounds generated by a user's memory, an experiment would be to use certain sounds from varying environments as the trigger for new audio movement.

    If these were somehow amplified and collectively listened to, like a sonic dinner party, this could put the participant in a different, new conversation with memory, whether the memory they listened to was a point of joy, pain, sadness, etc. I think another interesting way to use the recordings would be to incorporate a feedback loop, where the recordings are funneled into another room, and the participants in that room are connected to contact mics that then record their reactions to the first collection of sonic memories. I imagine the experience would be cathartic, a soft-to-noisy open grieving scene, much like what occurred in Midsommar.

    IAE & Publics

    At this point, I would say I am still unsure about how to continue. From the start, this project was less about self-expression and more about the impact of club culture, which has always in my opinion, and then deepened through research, been a space for real, progressive change. Research on more overt examples of progressive change has been done in the past, where others (Buckland) have looked at certain club spaces and parties that have elevated minorities or alternative expression. However, while researching historical re-enactment and simulation, I became fascinated by this discovery of the characteristics of underground clubs that lent themselves to becoming liminal and temporal spaces, charged with the potential for involved communities to experiment and transform (where many of these transformations would continue to take place outside of clubs). My original intent and instinct for many years was to illuminate this theory of club to those who aren't part of the community or to those who haven't the slightest clue what club culture entails. I suppose I thought it would be helpful (transformative) for those who don't necessarily have access to physical clubs to still experience the same stage of possibility, but served in a digital, more accessible format. Now, I've been sitting with this idea for too long, and the world has an onslaught of much more pressing issues that fulfilling this original objective seems frivolous. Pivoting away from this club-specific framework, I thought this project could still address the fatigue, the mental burnout of our increasingly hyper-digital personas. That's why I was looking into memory, because I thought it would reveal something revelatory with regard to our lack of / desire for connection. Maybe I'm questioning myself whether things can truly be good or the same through complete digital fabrication (how we talk, learn, remember). My foray into creating this form was to test whether or not I could create an experience or tool that would unlock feelings of community, identity-play, possibility, or any of the effects of underground club by mimicking certain underground characteristics. I still think there's a lot left to explore with how we might translate our bodies (and our histories with how we use our bodies) to different affordances of the technologies we use daily. I also think sound is an untapped resource for unlocking key emotions or memories, which is why I chose to use that as a form. Maybe it's truly laughable to want to re-imagine how we might see, hear, or feel new sensations through a recalibration of how we use our devices.

    I'll document what other thoughts I have regarding IAE and publics below:
    Idea: People need space to experiment or play - a need for release (others would say disembodiment). People need places that inhabit a culture, creative practice, or an artform that challenges, inspires, and accepts.
    Arrangement: an underground club: usually abandoned/ repurposed industrial spaces (hard). Spaces where there aren’t many residents around or spaces that are embedded in neighborhoods.
    Type of music played and alcohol/drug usage (soft)
    Type of party determines type of crowd, which altogether determines the type of effect
    Effect: (small) These arrangements made me realize that there was a crew that I belonged to -- I started listening exclusively to this type of music -- I felt re-invigorated, re-inspired to live.
    Aren’t these spaces always in danger of closing? Isn’t that an effect of this idea that clubs aren’t taken seriously? The long-lasting effects of involvement in underground club - does it really have the potential to produce say the dissolution of identities, give alt identities and minorities autonomy that can exist outside of these parties?

    Potential audiences for this project:
    1: An audience that doesn’t understand the the idea that club culture is radical, or is a space for social change
    2 An audience that is well-versed with this type of culture. What would my project do for them? How would it change their relationship with club culture?

    Maybe my idea is that it feels like we need specific contexts to enjoy club culture, that being a large oftentimes industrial space, disembodied conditions, whether that’s environmental or drug/alcohol-enhanced. And through practices of re-enactment or more thoughtful/ slowed-down simulation, we can access those internal wonders, drives to reinvent and transform.

    Sound Experiments & Interface Research

    Encouraged by Sarah to break away from technology, I tried to carry out a version of janky prototype #3 (sonic dinner party). It was simple, but I was warmed and surprised by the outcome. I sent a voice message to nine random friends asking them to record their surroundings at the time of hearing the message. A few sent outdoor recordings, which included ambient playground, construction, and wind sounds. Others sent recordings that were especially cute, including one of someone singing along to the radio. After receiving them, I randomly sent them back to the group, and asked them to describe or think about a memory they associated with the recording. These answers really surprised me, mainly by the fact that people often attributed the sound to a vacant, typical 'liminal' space. Based on the responses, I knew it was important to somehow incorporate these recordings or the possibility of incorporating crowdsourced audio to the website. I also worked on designing the visual arc of the website to reflect the liminal association, from a bare room that gradually zooms out and vibrates to complete white.

    Audio Recordings & descriptions

    “I hear something faint.. at first i thought it was birds chirping, and then a tea kettle starting to boil, but it sounds like some machine moving back and forth to cut something but squeaky? but maybe squeaky on purpose instead of rusty squeaky ?”

    “I feel like, hearing people work in the wood shop at high school from outside the building, also swinging on the swings at my elementary school while in high school bc the sound of creaking but also a pushing sound like someone pumping their legs or pushing off from the ground to go higher”

    “It sounds like a playground in an industrial wasteland”

    “Reminds me of being in a coffee shop in the winter time for some reason. hanging with a friend”

    "Da bobst library lol”

    “It reminds me of a merry go round on myrtle beach”

    Further Research & Inspiration

    Answers to guide questions
    What is my starting question?
    How can we experience tones of liminal possibility through the constraints of a screen/touchpad? Why we use computers
    What am I researching?
    Hacking the computer, thinking through the ways we’re supposed to use it and how we might be able to use it differently (affordances). Can we mimic dance through a computer?
    Why am I interested in it?
    Maybe boredom from how its been used throughout quarantine, would like to bridge this virtual/irl analog/digital gap
    What effect would I like to produce in participants (users, publics, audience)?
    Still be able to experience the feelings seemingly possible only within (club) spaces or (physical) proximity.
    In as plain language as possible: describe the format you have in mind for your project. (ie "it is a shoe that allows its wearers to pollinate flowers; it is a mobile app that asks users to notice noise pollution.")
    It is a web experience that creates opportunities for users to discover new emotions, new expressions by re-enacting core components of underground clubs.

    Class Workshop: "I plan to..."
    -I plan to create a web experience that uses live recording/looping of real-time sounds in order to facilitate alternative forms of digital connection through collective sonic memories.
    -I plan to disrupt how we may passively sit with or experience sounds that we hear in solitude or with others.
    -I plan to explore how certain web interactions paired with lived or corporeal re-enactments push our boundaries of perception
    -I plan to create this web experience that pulls from underground spaces in order to re-think how we use these digital interfaces. What is my point of intervention? That it is watching from both sides? One-way watching? What type of feedback am I hoping to generate?
    -What if sound was coming at you through a screen? What does that look like/how does that feel? ...ack ack this is not a visualizer
    -What does it mean to hear sound (w/o context) from a stranger
    -is digital interaction w/ computers receptive? Reciprocated? Do I have a problem with the fact that it is not?
    -Am I addressing a problem that I’m trying to create or am I simply filling a void? Easy problem: “zoom fatigue” // digital overload // computer overstimulation (simulation?)
    -Do I take issue with how we perceive others (and other things happening) through digital interfaces/interactions? How is this harmful? Am I just trying to facilitate a friendly empathetic web channel?
    -In clubs, it’s hard to pin down each person’s established identities, does that make people kinder? More empathetic? What inspires empathy? LOL
    -If 2 people (strangers) interact on this web page, what am I hoping to accomplish? A WEB EXPERIENCE TO FACILITATE INTENTIONAL DIGITAL CONSUMPTION

    Possibilities Matrix

    What is the arc?
    You are asked to record a snippet of what’s happening around you (environment or something you’re doing) and it gets uploaded to the web You are an adult/teen? And when you enter, you are brought to a queue (a waiting room of sorts). While in the queue, the website helps you configure the type of experience you’re envisioning. As you’re brought into the room, it is dark, nighttime, and you continue peeling back the layers of a simulated (club-esque) environment, but one where through exploration w/ mouse movement, different visual phenomena occur - the sonic party happens as the number of sounds encountered correlate with the number of people in the web room. They can be heard separately from the soundscape or together, eventually if there are 2 many people in the “room”, it becomes noise. As it approaches this threshold (maybe noise, maybe a specific length of time), the colors appear to reflect daytime. AT this moment, you can chat with others in the room, either by sending a hello or sending a general message to the screen. The emotional arc is one of unfamiliarity to familiarity, disembodiment to embodied connection

    Turning the affordances of digital interaction inside out => like a restorative experience, leaves you with a warm feeling, that digital interactions don’t need to be draining or a one-way reception

    Additional Interface Research
  • Urgency Reader, 2019
    "Interface is “feeling aura”. Aura is shaped through frequency, and only through invested and varied interaction does it take on a more developed form "

  • Timescapes of Waiting : Spaces of Stasis, Delay and Deferral, BRILL, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central
    Antechambers (waiting rooms)
    "What the antechamber therefore represented was a tightening of opportunities to interact with a person of station as well as a delay in bringing about an interaction (Schlögl 2004: 190–​1). Thus viewed, the antechamber constituted a key space in a complex social arena."
    “As a rule, we do not wish to wait. If we follow Gracián, for instance, the ability to wait is a means for realising one’s goals. In other words, waiting is only worth its temporal cost when the desired goal is finally reached. By contrast, waiting for its own sake was and is thought to be undesirable.”
    Hoping for an encounter // on the lookout for others
    Waiting rooms == chance to synchronize and attune the passengers
    Systemic waiting == standardised mass experience and a constitutive temporal region of modernity.
    Delay is essential to fulfillment: If time is round and space is curved, waiting is the designation for a detective story in which we wait to disinter ourselves.

  • Interface Realisms: The Interface as Aesthetic Form
    "The real problem with the interface is that it is an interface. Interfaces get in the way. I don't want to focus my energies on an interface. I want to focus on the job. . . . An interface is an obstacle: it stands between a person and the system being used" "The purpose of the interface is to represent the data, the dataflow, and data structures of the computer to the human senses, while simultaneously setting up a frame for human input and interaction and translating this input back into the machine. "

  • Storyboard (sorry it's so messy)



    Final order/ arc:

    Feedback & User Testing

    After the 2nd time we met, Sarah gave me incredibly good feedback, which was to focus on establishing context for the user. Up until that point, I wasn't working on the onboarding as much but realized that the user wouldn't get as much out of it if they were unclear about the setup and design. From our discussion, it became evident that users would be unclear whether I was trying to create something like an online club experience because of the communal direction or something more in line with Carl Craig's Dia Beacon exhibition. I loved the Carl Craig piece, and even before I saw it, had intended to create a piece that evoked similar sensations, but through a digital interface. It was also apparent that the sonic avatar could be a point of confusion, and needed thorough explanation, especially since I was proposing two versions, solo, non-live, and group, live. Another important idea we discussed was giving instructions to emulate an embodied experience throughout. It seemed cheesy incorporating it at first but I really think it helped with fully prepping the user and getting them to move through what I was hoping for them to experience.

    After finishing most of the experience, I sent it to 3 people. From that, it seemed like I still needed to flesh out the about/instructions page. Originally, I had it all in one mini window, and from users' feedback, I broke it into two: an about window to give context and an instructions window to situate the user. I also clarified a few of the instruction in the actual experience to help guide the user to the end (some didn't know if it would). In the next round of user feedback, I sent it to my cohort. Jay gave really good feedback, saying he "really liked the concept of shared space that emphasizes experience rather than chat over video or text" and loved the idea of abstract co-presence. A few things he brought up were his concern about the time spent with the visuals, where he found it difficult to spend an extended amount of time, and the possibility of a group accomplishment. It was really interesting hearing from some that it emulated a good drug experience and for others, a bad trip. Because there was no live or real-time-interaction, I didn't intend for the user to stay longer than 3-5 minutes. Maybe this is in a way, a web drug, something that is meant to be brief. Knowing that others might be visiting at the same time, or that you're the 33rd visitor might also bring about a group accomplishment. However, I do wish to explore the possibilities of an emergent soundscape, and somehow track the changes in perception with instantaneous sound. Li Shu and Fisher also had questions about group behavior or emotion, wondering if other people would share similar experiences. That helped me begin my presentation with a question on collective experience. I'm definitely very grateful for the many users who spent time going through different versions of the project. I attribute the good (hopefully) UX to the user-testing!

    Presentation & Final Form


    Final Project

    Final Reflection

    Since I was continuing from project one, I think one of my greater accomplishments over the second half of the semester was pushing through and looking at my original intentions from a new angle. For project one, I was laser-focused on peeling back elements that constituted underground clubs. From forming connections between historical re-enactment and simulation to the underground’s embodied or performative nature, I became engrossed in dissecting the aspects that gave these spaces their experimental, sometimes transformative quality. Of course, I was drawing from personal experience, where much of my current work has been driven by my aspiration for underground club. However, this desire to unpack my deep attraction for it by breaking it down in an abstract, instructional way prevented me from seeing how the project could incite change in a system. I went back to designing a few experiments that would better inform my connection between sound and collective memory. Based on the prototype idea of a sonic dinner party, where sounds recorded in one area are funneled into another space, I did a low-fi version, where I simply asked a random group of friends to send me their recordings of their surroundings at that moment. After, I shuffled the sounds and sent a random recording to a different individual in the same group and asked them to describe an emotion or a memory they associated with the recording. The answers surprised me, since most answered with a depiction of a space usually typified as liminal. This gave me more of a direction for the arc, or a goal of the project, which was to facilitate human connection through an unfamiliar, yet reminiscent sonic experience. In addition, as I was trying to remove myself from replicating the experience of underground clubs, I researched and experimented with the form I was choosing, a website.

    Originally, it was more overtly chosen as a website because of the pandemic’s closure of physical clubs. I realized through research and experimentation that I was not interested in creating a replacement or something similar to online club parties. I wanted a form that could act as the relief or release from digital confinement that underground clubs often provide. From this point, I put a lot of work into the arc and the experience of the form. What changes from beginning to end? How can an individual be sonically led through a bodily activity? I wanted to create something that was brief but fully immersive, where users could experience a build of sonic totality. The class exercises on matrices helped a lot with determining the stages or flow of the experience. And after meeting with Sarah the second time, I realized how important it was to set it up right and provide enough context and instructions for the user. Too often, I’m wary of giving away too much information, which would potentially detract from someone’s inclination to explore. However, I needed to bring users up to my level of the project’s understanding, in order for them to experience it the way it was intended. I did a few different versions of the enter page’s About/Instructions windows based on user feedback, and looking back I may have packed in a bit too much information, but I chose to be more detailed about the solo/live group versions in order to avoid confusing people (could have made things worse if people chose to skim). I think moving forward, I might not need to create the live version, although I still think it would add a lot to the experience for users to incorporate their own recordings. That would cut down the information by a lot, and users will have an easier time preparing themselves.

    Based on the feedback from users during user-testing and classmates during the presentation, the project felt impactful. I was really happy to hear from people how they experienced it, the emotions and thoughts that went through their head, and the overall effect. I definitely owe it to Sarah for suggesting instructions to go along with the experience, which significantly affected the way I designed it. Some of the choices I made were presumptive of people’s conditioned associations, which involved thorough storyboarding of the appearance of various sounds in conjunction with mouse/touchpad movements. For example, asking users to close their eyes may seem silly, but I predicted people would open them upon hearing the buzzing ringtone. I might explore having the option for people to use an additional audio guide that narrates the instructions, as Yiru pointed out that not having vocals made it feel lonely. The instructions resonated well, and they seemed clear enough to everyone, which definitely made me happy. It was also good to hear from people that they didn’t need to feel the presence of others. There, I think I can suggest a collective experience through something like a status bar that shows website visitors. Overall, I’m really pleased that the experience evoked something beautiful and uncanny for people, and that it may have been a nice reset from screen (zoom) fatigue. I would like to expand on it throughout the year, but I do feel like this piece, aside from a few adjustments and add-ons is complete.

    Thank you for Sarah and Marina for this class!!!
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