We Need to Talk:
Agents of Thermal and Social Conduction

Waylon Richmond



Are we aware if and when our attention and behavior is being manipulated?

How do we flex power over unseen energy harvesters?

In the culmination of global capitalism, modern computational technology, and the harvesting of vast amounts of behavioral data, surveillance capitalism was born. Made of coded algorithms and fueled with personal data, these digital agents have succeeded in behavior manipulation based on identifying and triangulating moods, locations, and desires of their users. They reward their captive audience with shallow dopamine spurts that quickly crash and emotionally reverse, triggering addictive tendencies through revolutionary digital tools such as the smartphone.

As these digital forces steer the direction of culture and etiquette, a reciprocal force is applied for equilibrium. This thesis seeks to design counter-acting apparatuses to address these unchecked forces. These balancing forces mean not to extinguish the already integrated smartphone, but to raise opportunities towards the direction of awareness, collective truths, and the pursuit of equality.

The thesis will be prototyped through public apparatuses on a neighborhood scale. Designed apparatuses come in the form of physical objects with associated social cues. Rather than tapping into our vulnerable reactive intelligence, as the manipulative algorithms do, these designs seek to promote our reflective and deep intelligences, instilling curiosity through interaction, and elevating wisdom over efficiency. The designs aim to exploit pressure points of emotionally addictive design using participation, space, and a rediscovery of reductions. Apparatuses have the ability to grow into the fabric of the neighborhood, influencing social routines and fostering a neighborhood commons. The prototypes reference technologies used prior to the information age that offer intimate analog, closed loop energy-transfer processes through water, steam, heat and electricity. The weather resistant material pallet consists of various cast forms of reinforced concrete and aluminum, volcanic rock, polyethylene tubing, and copper pipe.


Faculty Advisor: Malcolm McCullough, DATA::DISTRICT