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Note: This post includes content about sexual trauma.

This is the first in a series of posts about Narrative Objects: physical artifacts — from the speculative to the functional — that tell new stories about the world we live in.

Sexual Healing is a collection of sensory objects for people who experience sexual problems after a traumatic experience, focusing on individual agency and the reclamation of pleasure, rather than clinical treatment. These objects are meant to be functional at the individual level, and also serve a broader purpose of changing the way we collectively talk about sexual trauma and healing. …

In our lab at the MIT Center for Civic Media, much of our work centers around broadening participation in technology design (for example, the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck project). Lately, in collaboration with the MIT Open Ocean Initiative, we have also been thinking about how to broaden participation in scientific discovery. Traditionally, ocean exploration is done by those with formal degrees and access to costly equipment, but in order to fully explore and understand our vast oceans, we need to make it possible for new communities to join this effort.

There is inequity at play when we consider how scientific knowledge is distributed. 70% of nations have deep-sea environments within their maritime zones, yet only 15% of nations have the resources necessary to actually explore what is down in the deep. This can lead to exploitation by numerous industries (e.g. oil and gas, offshore energy, deep sea mining, fishing, etc.), poor resource management decisions, and missed opportunities to make use of undiscovered resources that will support life on land. …

This August, I taught an Industrial Design course in Shanghai with Sands Fish as part of the TechX summit. TechX is a 10-day gathering for high school students across China, starting with an 8-day class and culminating in a 2-day hackathon. Other tracks at the Summit included machine learning, game design, app development, robotics, and more. Our fabulous TAs were Catherine Yang (an architecture student at MIT), Zion Wu (a studio art and computer science student at UNC), and Eugene Pan (a mechanical engineering student at Columbia).

Putting together a syllabus for an 8-day crash course in Industrial Design was a big challenge! We wanted to introduce students to: 1) the process and culture of industrial design (creating a studio environment, sketching and iteration, critique, putting together a process book and portfolio), 2) how design functions as a communication tool (how design shapes society and vice versa, how form conveys emotion, best practices for usability), and 3) hands-on technical and craft skills (prototyping with foam-core and paper, sculpting, 3D modeling and rendering, electronics prototyping, photography). If it sounds like a lot to cover, it was! But our students were totally game for the challenge and together we played, learned, and experimented over 8 intense days. …


Alexis Hope

Designer & Researcher at MIT Media Lab & MIT Center for Civic Media / Industrial & Furniture Designer at MassArt / Speaker

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