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Written reflection #1

On Thursday, we did a short presentation of our current research questions and prototypes to two groups. It went pretty well and I got a lot of great feedback.


After seeing my prototype 1(the one with the slogan) , Zhizhen brought up the question of the definition of nonverbal communication, because a foreign language could seem to be nonverbal if you don't understand it at all. Amber had been very supportive and said it could really make a change if I find a way to improve the way people communicate. She also thought I could probably narrow it down to one particular feeling or communication. Rosa referred some related concepts to me like active empathy and non-violate communication. If she were to do the topic, she would think more of the problems people have when talking to each other and ways to solve it. An example is products like Apple Watch are trying to send you signals via nonverbal media.


When I talked to Anezka afterwards, I expressed my concern of how to conduct a project of physical installation in the time of Covid. She suggested that I should find a physical space as soon as possible and start exploring, like playing with the scale and such. She also suggested I could think of my interactors as actors, and consider questions like do they need to jump? That reminded me of how Cai Guo-Qiang, the artist I researched about for assignment 0, got the initial inspiration of many of his site-specific projects. The layout, setup and interactions are heavily depended on how he understands the space. "It’s really your physicality there, how you’re involved in that moment."


Reflected on all the feedback and thinking about my intentions again, I feel like I would lean more towards the misunderstanding side than finding empathy in nonverbal communication. I could see the exploration would be more interesting when I saw people nodding and smiling when I talked about "making the art of misunderstanding" as an alternative. And personally I find misunderstanding more intriguing because it's just like the conflict in drama. My intention of making this project is that I've seen too much craziness lately and was shocked by how people are turning against each other due to the lack of understanding, including the most intelligent, sane people. Therefore I decided to revise my thesis pitch as following:

  1. Topic: I am studying misunderstanding and nonverbal communication.

  2. Question: because I want to find out how is human misunderstanding the world and each other.

  3. Significance: in order to help my participant experience the power of misunderstanding with non-verbal communication.

I deleted empathy because I don't want it to be like finding a solution essentially. Instead, I emphasize on misunderstanding to narrow the topic down and enables me to think more critically. It also gives myself a clearer vision of what this project will be like.


Two things I'm unsure about:

  1. Is it necessary to keep "nonverbal communication"? Now I feel that it's more like an approach I'll be taking rather than part of the question. And it makes the topic looks like it's about two different subjects.

  2. I'm not sure about the word "power". The final output could be delivered with humor(or dark humor), or it could be alarming, sad, reflective, etc. I don't know if I should set the mood for my audience now or explore it in more future research and prototypes.

Currently my project is at a stage of post-brainstorm, and I'm researching on what to research on. With the revised pitch, the first things I want to investigate are:

  1. How do people communicate throughout history?

  2. Comparison of verbal and nonverbal communication.

  3. Case study of misunderstanding (negative and positive).

While writing the above, another question popped out which is quite important to my research: what kind of misunderstanding do I want to talk about? The type caused by bad communication and could be solved if explained well? Or the type due to cultural difference and family background which is almost unsolvable? This is also related to the second question I was unsure about. Do I want my audience to feel alarmed by the misunderstanding that has caused huge trouble, or do I want them to laugh about a comedic situation where something is misread or misplaced. Or should I just metaphorically depict a symbol of misunderstanding in general and let the audience decide how to feel about it?


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1 Comment


Jiangnan Hou
Jiangnan Hou
Sep 17, 2020

Copy Anna's comment:

This whole post is really well considered, and it shows that, despite concerns over communication and misunderstanding, you are spending a lot of time thinking deeply in order ot understand your own ideas. Working with misunderstanding is a really profound topic, especially in light of today's rise of fake news, alternate truths, and invented realities. Corporations, governments, and political leaders all manipulate and fabricate misunderstanding in order to create fear or chaos and rule over people more easily. But what if we were actually comfortable with misunderstanding, what if confusion or ambiguity were not intimidating to us? These are really thoughtful provocations and I think you can continue down this road as you develop prototypes. I also…

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