Category Archives: The Temporary Expert

Limits Playground: Final Presentation & Postmortem

Final presentation of my Living with Limits project, Temporary Expert: Anthropocene Edition, April 29, 2015.

Above is my presentation deck for my Living with Limits project, which was my final for The Temporary Expert: Anthropocene Edition taught by Marina Zurkow.

By way of a postmortem, and to reflect sooner then later on the process, I’ll respond to a series of questions.

What did I learn?  One surprising bit of consciousness-raising that happened during this project was that I gained more of an understanding of the effective limits of individual action — in individual isolation.  What I mean by that is: when you look at the numbers, and you consider the potential for real impact, an individual action that you take such as taking a shorter shower every day, will not have much of a systematic impact and will be counteracted by the larger forces of resource-use in our societies.  What can be beneficial or impactful is taking individual or small actions and amplifying them, for example via technology or public performance/exposure.

I also came away with a renewed understanding of how I personally relate to limits — for me they have always been liberating and energizing.  I had a theater professor once who talked about the power of constraints to generate creativity; I have adopted this as a sort of life-philosophy and this project just drew on and rekindled this awareness.  What I was able to communicate to some degree with my users, and what I would like to expand more in the continued life of the project, is how this relates to the limits to growth that we will all face one way or another if the models are accurate.  So perhaps eating less of certain types of food as a society, reducing how much we drive, or having fewer children can be productive, inspiring limitations in the same way that artists find fuel in parameters and restrictions we set for ourselves.

What did you wait too long to do? I would have liked to review the resources Marina provided me earlier in the process, because they were highly relevant to the work I was doing and because the artists she pointed me to are NY based, I could have tried to connect with them as Experts.

I would also have liked to do an earlier iteration of my CONTEMPLATION STATION, so I could take what I learned and apply that in continued designs and additional stagings of the booth.

What excited you most? I was most excited by the Daily Practice, and while I did try some odd things, and I did compile a body of different investigations that I can look back on now and draw conclusions from, I wish I had 1) taken the intensity of the rules or games I was creating further and 2) reigned in the variety of things I was trying and done something more discrete so I could follow its evolution more clearly.

What was new and useful? I was very inspired by my conversation with Rosemary Randall, and her work on the connection between grieving, loss, and the Anthropocene/Climate Change.  I found this framework for considering interventions around individual climate consciousness to be very rich and I intend to continue working with it.  Also reading Is Shame Necessary?, reaching out to Steve Lambert, and having Jacques from The YES Men visit our class all pushed me to consider some assumptions and programmatic thinking I have around where each of us as individuals can be effective and where the responsibility lies for making major changes in our systems of consumption and energy use.

Besides having more time, what do you want to improve on next time (research technique, experimentation, etc)?  In addition to the things mentioned above, I would like to make more objects that are tangential but not directly related to my project, as a way of drawing inspired connections and provoking edge-thinking.

Anthropocene: Limits Offering 2

FullSizeRenderAll the ingredients for homemade Soylent.


This week for my Daily Practice I am living off of Soylent, a “food-replacement drink” that was developed in Silicon Valley by a trio of guys who didn’t want to have to worry about food.  I’m proposing it as a possible subversion of the industrial food system by limiting ourselves to only the nutrients we need, prepared by us with minimized energy use & waste.  It’s also, potentially, a cost-effective option for basic nutrition.  The original recipe has been critiqued based on nutritional and political grounds, however the recipe was open-sourced, improved, and remixed to suit a variety of tastes and address some of these concerns.


The process of preparing the drink is straightforward and takes very little time.  More on that and also an update on Concept and Experts below.

Continue reading Anthropocene: Limits Offering 2

Anthropocene: Limits Offering 1

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Living with Limits survey presented to ITP student body. 

I’m trying to keep a sense of play in my final project for the Temporary Expert: Anthropocene Edition, but it’s focus has shifted from the notion of a playground.  The heart of the project is definitely the notion of an OFFERING.  In my last post I discussed my conversation with two Jehovah’s Witness pamphleteers and the way the emphasize PRESENCE and INVITATION.


This week I’ve been trying to find ways to concretize and make more public these engagements.  One attempt was to create a survey — the ITP student body has been bombarded with surveys to fill out thesis projects, and I thought (in an analogy to setting up a stand near a farmer’s market) that I would offer an alternative kind of survey that allowed for reflection, gave as much to the responders as it asked for, and provided the potential for a COMMUNICATION TOKEN to extend the experience into the physical and into the future (in the form of a magnet that any responder could receive).  Only a few students took the survey, but I learned a lot from what they said.  After the break, some of the thoughts people chose to publish:

Continue reading Anthropocene: Limits Offering 1

Anthropocene: Limits Playground 3

FullSizeRender_2A variety of sticker designs.

This post is an update on my work for the continuation of Living with Limits.  As described in previous posts, I’ve been researching communication and improvisation to expand the notion of subversive play & contemplation that is the heart of my final project.

As part of my Daily Practice, I wore the same clothes for one week. Only our professor noticed.  Not even my wife, until I pointed it out to her!  Profound: there’s a limitation that we could all adapt to (I am aware that ITP, where so many students come-and-go, is a different context than, say, a small office with a small staff, where perhaps the exact same outfit would get noticed — but even if it would, as long as it was clean and professional, would it matter?).  In addition to the Uniform, I also spent last week pursuing my Studies in (dis)Engagement & Annoyance.  I documented people around or on the subway who were performing, soliciting, or simply offering.  Photographs after the break, log of my reflections here.

Continue reading Anthropocene: Limits Playground 3

Anthropocene: Limits Playground 2

FullSizeRender (4)Concept Map of my topic, “limits to growth”, from this week.


Earlier in the semester I completed a Concept Map around my Temporary Expert: Anthropocene Edition theme of “limits to growth”.   As I stated in last week’s post,  I needed to take this process further as a next step in my project development.  As you can see in that first map below, there is an area in the upper right-hand corner where I identified a gap in research and thinking.


My research and understanding have advanced since then, and armed with those I tried to fill out that missing section of the map.  First of all, I needed to identify the stakeholders whose actions could provide a significant response to the pitfalls of unregulated growth.   I narrowed my list to INDUSTRY, POLICY MAKERS, and the CITIZENRY, with INDUSTRY being the most powerful, ostensibly.

Continue reading Anthropocene: Limits Playground 2

Anthropocene: Limits Playground 1


2 days worth of waste (and I missed some things) documented for Daily Practice.

Moving into more development of my Final Project inspired by Limits to Growth, I began my Daily Practice of Playful Rules.  I’ve been logging the experience, you can read my reflections here.  Rules I’ve tried to follow (to varying degrees of success):

  • Apologize to the planet when I throw something away and document the object before it “disappears” (see collage above)
  • Hold my breath for at least 30 seconds every time a baby/small child and I share the same space.
  • Each time I turn on a light, create an illustration of a light fixture (can be any kind, here are a sampling):

FullSizeRender (2) FullSizeRender (3)

FullSizeRender (1)




I’m also in Research Mode and looking at the following texts and artists:

  • An Anthology of Chance Operations by George Brecht
  • The Psychology of Climate Change Communication by The Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED)
  • Is Shame Necessary? by Jennifer Jacquet (also Jacquet’s Shame Totems project)  
  • The Situationist International
  • Rules of Play by Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman
  • Kate Bingaman-Burt
  • On Kawara
  • Hassan  Elahi
  • Improv Everywhere

Next steps are:

  1. Diagramming and Concept Mapping the project
  2. Contacting Experts: Jennifer Jacquet, the Yes Men, CRED, Improv Everywhere

Anthropocene: Living with Limits Postmortem

Living with Limits- Presentation

Reflection slide from my Midterm Presentation.

In my last post regarding Living with Limits, outlining my midterm presentation for The Temporary Expert Anthropocene Edition, I indicated the following goals for the next project.

Places I would like to improve or expand on for the next project:

  • Continue contacting experts until I have been able to speak to a few.  I didn’t push enough on this after initial radio silence and my first interview.  I know additional perspectives will be very beneficial to the process.
  • Prototype more — whether building or creating experiences/interviews/surveys/tests — I want more real-world feedback to balance the theoretical/research, and earlier in the process.
  • Follow stranger paths — do some work to really go down them and at least consider them (I think the slides were a beginning of this, but I’d like to continue) 
  • Strive to be intentional about materials from the beginning.  This round my concept overtook material considerations, and I think the materials I ended up using work against my ultimate aims, and my slide design is not fully realized because it doesn’t include sustainable materials — I just didn’t factor that in.
  • Use the tool of Research Questions & Conceptual Questions in a more formal way (I was really inspired by Rebecca’s work in this regard).

After class I received some excellent feedback, and I want to incorporate it as well into what I do going forward:

  • The stamps were the more tangible, effective part of my project — was this just a function of the presentation, or is there more in them than in the slide idea?  How do they convey my concept better than the slide?
  • Does the notion of the slide as an installation effectively capture the conceptual concerns of my project?  Could an intervention that is more active for the participant, encouraging them to perform something in response to the prompts/contemplations on the stamps, be more powerful?
  • What sort of non-verbal cues or communication could come into play, as opposed to the text-based ones that provided context in my midterm version of the project.

Overall I think getting more specific within the framework of “limits to growth” early on would have been helpful to propel the project within the limited timeframe.  The projects that were presented by my classmates, that I found most compelling, all had a very tangible, concrete nugget around which to wrap their concept and carry out their investigations (examples: Stream’s myth, Lufti’s sci-fi near-future).

Anthropocene: Living with Limits: Midterm

 Living with Limits- PresentationSlide 1 in my in-class presentation, 3/4/15.

This week marks the culmination of my Living with Limits project for The Temporary Expert: Anthropocene Edition.  Combining research and concept development has led me to the following proposal for a design engagement around the theme “limits to growth”.


I propose to construct a semi-permanent, playful installation, The Limits Slide, that can live at such events as Street Fairs, Music Festivals, and Mardi Gras, or in a site-specific urban location.  The Limits Slide is an actual slide that is adult-sized (like this one in Seattle, WA).  Similar to many playground slides, it has a prominent twist in the path from top to bottom.  Unlike other slides, this one involves text-based provocations that conflate prescriptive measures (speeding tickets, fines, tolls) with the exchange of amusements,  turning the rider toward contemplation of natural limits.   At the base of the steps leading to the Limits Slide is a booth, where riders must receive a stamp if they want to proceed up.  The stamp they receive marks them with a question for ongoing reflection, such as “What if we see progress as a non-relentless process?”   Upon reaching the top of the steps, the rider is faced with a concave barrier that reads, “Up  Forward: You Cannot Ascend Further”.  Two choices become available: turn around and go back down the steps, or, descend the slide that is now also behind the rider.  The slide, as mentioned, twists as it descends and anyone who goes down will emerge further in space than when they started up the installation.  At this other end of the slide is a second booth, where anyone with a stamp can receive an upcycled traffic ticket; on the ticket are instructions that state, “The bearer of this ticket is entitled to one free Living with Limits service provided by the following sponsors and participants.”  Companies and organizations will be collaborators in the project, and donate services such as a class on home-composting, an organized clothing swap, and a communal meal made from community garden harvests.


Click here for my in-class presentation deck.

Continue reading Anthropocene: Living with Limits: Midterm

Anthropocene: Living with Limits 4

The Fun Slide, a fixture of summer carnivals countrywide.

This week I’ve been attempting to circle in further on my Limits to Growth project.  I started out by engaging in a series of Generative Operations presented to us in class.



  • Limits to Growth is part of a warning system, a call for change
  • Limits to Growth encompasses modeling, research efforts
  • This project is a ride within a festival of coming-to-terms
  • This project is childhood in a lifetime of coming-to-terms


  • This project is like a black comedy, like Gilliam’s Brazil
  • This project is like a banana-peel-gag
  • This project is like reverse psychology


  • Physical + Emotional
  • Physical + Philosophical
  • Humor + Play
  • Art + Amusement


  • Up / Down
  • Amusement / Interrogations
  • Invitation to energy / Call to reduction
  • Ephemeral play / Lingering provocation


  • The amusement park barker
  • The child selling lemonade
  • The peddler of amusements

Continue reading Anthropocene: Living with Limits 4

Anthropocene: Leverage Points

Leverage Points and Ron Finley’s Urban Gardening

This week I collaborated with Rebecca Lieberman, Kat Sullivan, and Jessica Wilson, to dig into the concept of Leverage Points as described by Donella Meadows, through the case study of Ron Finley’s urban gardening in LA.  We considered possible design engagements that could intervene in urban food systems.

Follow this link for our work, posted on Rebecca’s blog.