ASMR as Design Inspiration

When I first watched an ASMR video I was both fascinated and confused. I found these videos to be fantastically strange because they had an uncanny way of taking conventionally boring objects and situations and turning them into a source of interest and relaxation for millions of people. I wondered if the way that we interact with ASMR videos is reshaping our relationships with technology. Or perhaps indicative of some cultural shift that is already underway. Over the course of a year, I worked with Laura to gain a deeper understanding of ASMR related media and whether or not it could be relevant to the design of technology, specifically the wearable kind. This project included: an indepth look at ASMR videos on youtube and tried to isolate their unique aesthetic qualities; a pilot study where users took home a “sonic toolkit” in order to understand how “ASMR-like” sounds relate to everyday life; and an interview with a Melinda Lauw, a “live” ASMR creator. The project culminated in the creation of two interactive garments that are based off of Laura and I’s individual interpretations of how ASMR videos can inspire wearable technology for connecting meaningfully with our surroundings. 

Designing early concepts for impossible sonic garments
The listening jacket sound amplifies and distorts environmental sounds, like the satisfying clicki-ness of this keyboard.
The screaming coat triggers audio playback to breath, allowing one to scream with their samples

To learn more about the garments as well as all of our different ideas surrounding ASMR and design please check out the paper! 


Exploring with Yarn and Sound for Expressing Personal Data Narratives

How do making and materials contribute to our understanding of personal data representations? To explore how materials, data, and humans collaborate to produce physical data representations, we created a series of artefacts from personal data we collected (about commuting, forgetting, and busy-ness) in different media: yarn and sound.

A commuting mini-quilt, conveying the emotions Mikhaila felt while commuting.
Mikhaila’s commuting yarn artefact: “I wanted to represent segments of my commute (car or bus), the decisions behind them (convenience, price, time), and how I generally felt while commuting (frustrated, anxious, indifferent). Since I had been playing with crocheting different shapes the week prior, I wanted to create both squares and triangles. I originally wanted to create a larger patchwork (to possibly turn into a pillow), but I ran out of time and instead chose one day to transform into the artefact.”

A schematic diagram showing the sonic layers in Jordan's commuting sound artefact.
A schematic diagram showing the sonic layers in Jordan’s commuting sound artefact, which you can listen to here: “For commuting, I was unsure of my abilities in sonification and thus focused on a straightforward mapping between duration data and the length of sound elements. The result is a short composition scaling down five complete days of data, using sounds from and a few of my own recordings to construct sonic blocks for each commuting segment.”

We used these data artefacts to interrogate the boundaries between maker and interpreter, and to ask who—or what—has the authority to interpret narrative and assign meaning to data things? We exchanged these artefacts without providing guidelines for how to interpret them in order to study where the boundary between maker and interpreter emerges. In exchanging the artefacts, we explored the role of the interpreter as a re-maker and how multiple narratives can productively co-exist. We conclude with a discussion about how reimagining the roles of maker and interpreter might lead to new interactions with personal data narratives.

This photo shows close-up detail of the “forgetting” scarf, with elements such as diagonal lines of holes and groups of bulbs, as well as the creator, Mikhaila Friske, wearing the scarf.
Mikhaila’s forgetting scarf: “I knew that I wanted to make a scarf before I had even finished collecting information on forgetting. I have knitted scarves many times before with bulky yarn, thus I knew I would have no problem finishing a scarf within a week’s time. It then became a question of what to visualize, and I decided to focus on how disruptive remembering I forgot had been and the feeling of just forgetting.”

A schematic of the forgetting sound artefact, wich was presented on a website. Each sound has layers representing the category of forgettances, as well as how many items were in that category.
A schematic showing Jordan’s sound forgetting artefact: “I challenged myself to create a sound artefact that didn’t unfold temporally and could be explored non-linearly. This guided my data collection and analysis, which produced categorical clusters of types of forgettances. During data collection, I found and fell in love with a dataset of humans imitating familiar sounds, like birds or home appliances. The strange-yet-familiar echo of multiple voices imitating the same sound resonated with my experiences of forgetting. Using these sounds, I created 30 short compositions, one for each forgettance, and presented them via a web interface: the listener clicks a button to hear a random sound.”

Through creating hand-crafted physicalizations and sonifications, we present three themes on making personal data narratives:

  1. matching data to the materials (and vice versa),
  2. accepting the materials’ will to co-author,and
  3. negotiating between the experience of the data and data of the experience.

The busyness mug cozy, with a mess of tangled yarns on the inside.
Mikhaila created a mug cozy to represent their forgetting data: “In trying to think of what I could make, I thought about what is a thing people do when they are really busy: drink lots of coffee. My last personal data narrative became a mug cozy, something to put on a coffee cup to keep your hands from burning; its function relates to when I am at my busiest and its look mirrored a calendar.”

A comit representing the busy-ness sound artifact, which was a dialog with an Alexa assistant about perceived versus actual busy-ness.
Jordan represented her busy-ness data through an imagined interaction with a voice assistant: “I collected daily journal entries describing the things I had to do each day along with a 1 to 10 score for the perceived and actual effort. I was struck by how wrong my perceptions were and imagined a voice assistant-controlled to-do list that could help me recalibrate my own perceptions. I presented this in the form of a short audio drama that contains short vignettes of conversations between me and an Alexa device.”

We found that our relationship to the roles of maker and interpreter is a circular one—we are constantly being reborn from one to the other.

To learn more about our work, read the full paper here or watch a video presentation:

A Fabric that Remembers


As a next phase in ongoing explorations of sensing textiles, We have created this exhibition piece of a fabric that remembers where and how it was pressed. The fabric is currently on display at Accenture Labs in San Francisco and uses both the fabric and tablet to visualize touch in realtime. My personal constraint that guided the work was to get as much of the circuitry as possible embedded into the fabric. Thus, for the e-textiles nerds out there, you might be happy to know that all of the wiring for the resistive sensing and voltage dividing is embedded into the fabric by way of using different resistance yarns. I have included all of the swatches I made in preparation for the final design for reference. A full description can be found at my lab webpage, Special thanks to Sasha De Koninck for introducing me to the wonderful world of 2-pic weave structures, and stocking the lab with every conductive material I could have ever wanted and to Shanel Wu and Emma Goodwill for their masterful work programming the ESP board to collect, store, and communicate to the visualization server in realtime.


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Design Memoirs

Design Memoirs explore design as a mode of telling personal stories about how something feels, felt or may be felt differently in the future. It consists of a very personal collaboration between Laura Devendorf, Kristina Anderson, and Aisling Kelliher. Specifically, we started the project as an attempt to understand the limits of design–what does it mean to design if it’s not about making something “better” or “easier.” Specifically, we thought back on our experiences as mothers and tried to develop methods to investigate that experience through design. In this way, we try to make “memoirs” with objects that tell of our felt experiences and that bring out practices of witnessing and honoring instead of resolving.


MAKING DESIGN MEMOIRS: UNDERSTANDING AND HONORING DIFFICULT EXPERIENCES Laura Devendorf, Kristina Andersen, Aisling Kelliher April 2020 Best Paper Honorable Mention

Research Lab of Ambiguous Futurology

The Research Lab of Ambiguous Futurology creates heirlooms for the future. At the lab, Sasha studies future scenarios and creates wearables in response to those futures. We are living in uncertain times, some might even say, ambiguous times. The Internet of Things is evolving into the Internet of Disposable Things. Our technology is becoming smaller and cheaper to produce. We are creating so much waste, and have no ways of processing it. What is the future we are creating for ourselves?

At the Research Lab of Ambiguous Futurology, we want to create objects for you to preserve for future use. An antique heirloom is traditionally a used object which is preserved to be passed down to future generations to treasure, but its usefulness has typically passed. A future heirloom is an object whose usefulness has not been used up. You preserve your future heirloom for future use. And once it can no longer serve its purpose, it must be repurposed, recycled or revised.

Digital Crafts-Machine-Ship

Some friends and I recently collaborated on a written piece devoted to the topic of crafts-machine-ship, which is our rethinking the relevance and meaning of “craft” within the field of human-computer interaction. Led by Kristina Anderson, a good friend and fellow TC2-tamer, the piece brings together from design, philosophy, textiles, and electronic music to express how we want more from our machines. In doing so, we consider the wisdom of luddites, describe a craft machine as swimming, and playfully interject the word “sammunsurium” which is an amazing and untranslatable Danish word that I have come to learn means something of a beautiful mess. you can read it here:


Quantuition: Exploring the Future of Representing Biometric Data

In a future where we track everything, how will data representations dictate how we relate to ourselves and the world? This speculative design project explores the relationship between personal biometric data and the meaning we find in it.

Quantuition is a speculative self-tracking system that collects data from body-based nanosensors. The system renders that data into 3D data sculptures. Presented in the form of an Instagram feed, this speculation highlights how data-design influences the process of individual and social sense-making. We often ascribe power and authority to data representations — while simultaneously overlooking the hidden decisions embedded in those representations about what to measure, analyze, emphasize and display.

This schematic shows the basic steps of using the Quantuition system, from ingesting and applying the nano-sensors, to collecting and transmitting the data, to producing 3D-printed data objects.

When self-tracking becomes pervasive, are we ruled by data or do we rule it? In the near future, personal sensors track everything: how fast our hair is growing, the amount of dust we inhale, how many tears we cry. As we become aware of these myriad personal data points, they could overwhelm us. How do we draw meaning from this data? How do our interpretations of this data influence our actions, and what are the implications of these new feedback loops?

This Instagram feed tells the story of a user integrating Quantuition into her life.

This project raises several provocations for tangible data futures:

  • What new interpersonal interactions does data physicalization uncover?
  • What positive and negative feedback loops are present in a hyper-quantified future?
  • How will emerging technology shape the relationship between data representations and actions?
  • Where does the user’s control – and free will – begin and end?

This work was submitted to the TEI 2019 Student Design Competition, where it won the award for best concept/design.

Read the project paper | View the poster

Designing Machines for Human-Wind Collaboration

An exploration into new mechanisms for jacquard weaving, as well as an ongoing interest in asking how non-human materials or forces can be engaged as collaborators resulted in the prototype of the wind loom—a modified tapestry loom that with every 4th warp connected to a sail that moves the warp position in and out. The fabrication of the loom was led by Jen Mah and Rachel Bork, who iterated between several prototypes for laser-cut heddle/hooks that can be attached to the yarn, arms are connected to umbrellas that can move when the wind blows, easily attachable and detachable components to support easy travel, and so on. The prototyping process was complex and frustrating, as the summer in which we prototyped was not very windy and it was hard to test in its specific working conditions we imagined for the loom. Local weaver, and friend, Julie Rodriguez, took the prototype out for a test and captured the photo above. Her approach was to wait for a gust, and then weave into the wind-produced shed with alternating colors that she chose.
Continue reading Designing Machines for Human-Wind Collaboration

Pathfinders: Felt Experience versus Embodied Statistics

This is a summary of my (Gaspard Bos’) work done at the Unstable Design Lab  in the month of July 2018 as a practice-based researcher and residence. I sought to do a project abroad in an inspiring space, with inspiring people, where I could work with interactive, connected and intelligent tech on social/societal issues that are my drive as a designer. I was happy to have been given the opportunity to work with smart textiles on the topic of parenthood at the lab and build on the research and work that has already been done there.

The project I developed is called Pathfinders: Felt Experience versus Embodied Statistics. Pathfinders invites participants to experience and play with anxieties that our present day risk society projects upon prospective parents. Conceptualized as a designerly form of autobiographical storytelling, the experience is intended to prompt reflection and conversation on gender stereotypes, societal expectations that are reflected within and reinforced by statistics on health and parenthood. The piece is part of a broader collection of design objects and technologies that tell personal stories about the felt experience of becoming parents in a world of increasingly sophisticated techniques for quantifying risk, intervention, and genetic modification. The work was completed in collaboration with the Unstable Design Lab and used the groups experience in designing smart wearable technologies to produce an experience that is not only about becoming parents, but brings the participant into an embodied and felt experience of navigating the choices facing prospective parents.

Continue reading Pathfinders: Felt Experience versus Embodied Statistics

Beyond Hybrids: Metaphors and Margins in Design

Published at Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) 2017. This paper describes how the metaphor of the hybrid shapes how we imagine the future of technology. Drawing on feminist technoscience, We propose the alternative metaphor of coproductions to provoke visions for human-technology futures.