I think I’m starting to get a pretty good handle on what I want to do for my research project. I’ve been wanting to try and find a way to mesh traditional craft with emerging technologies, as both of these practices are really important and interesting to me.
The general idea that I’m working with is the real-time visualization of human emotion as translated through body/skin temperature (I obviously need to figure out if those two things yield different results, and if so, which one is more appropriate to use for this task), much like what occurs in the changing colors of a mood ring. I guess my research question in this case would be something along the lines of, “How can the ever-changing fluctuations of human emotion be conveyed visually in real time?”
My idea for how to execute this idea is to create a wearable that’s fitted with probably multiple temperature sensors, so that multiple areas of the skin are being read simultaneously and creating different “zones” of input data. This input data would then be translated into various colors (I’m imagining that different points within the range of temperatures from the high to low end of “normal” human skin temperatures would each be assigned to specific colors, so that anything that falls between those various points would fall within that color gradient) that would change along in sync with fluctuations of the skin temperature, so the overall effect would be this changing map of colors that correspond to changes in the wearer’s emotional state. There are a numerous studies and scholarly articles on the relationship between emotion and changes in body/skin temperature. I think I need to take some time to go through more of those to really hone in on what kind of variation is reasonably expectable.
I want the wearable to be relatively self-contained and the changes in color not to be overwhelming to the viewer, so I also want it to to be a large enough item so that color changes can be detected, but not so large that it becomes gaudy; also, there’s obviously the consideration of the cost of materials, so something smaller is going to be more feasible. I also want it to be relatively comfortable, as I image it being displayed on a wearer, as that’s the only way to properly activate the piece and allow it to perform its intended purpose. At the very least have video footage of someone wearing it displayed with the final object itself.
The final form I decided upon was that of a pair of long fingerless gloves/armwarmers, kind of like these, but maybe a bit longer:
At surface level, it’s a little riff on “wear your heart on your sleeve”, but I feel like there’s a deeper significance even to that simple little cliché. Imagine if you could just look at someone and know they were angry, or depressed, or afraid. We would interact with each other so differently if that kind of deep, personal information was available to us without us having to ask or the other person having to say a word. It’s so easy to ignore the emotions of others on a day to day basis–out of sight, out of mind–but it’s harder to do that with them staring you in the face. Maybe we’d be kinder to one another, treat each other, and even ourselves, more gently. Obviously, this isn’t a completely sweeping general thing; there are obviously times and places where it’s preferred and even unacceptable to let your emotions show, but this isn’t really meant to be a the kind of thing that’s applicable in every situation. I’ll admit, that concept feels a little bit cheesy to me and not exactly like what it is that I’m going for, but I think it’s okay to not necessarily know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing right from the start. I feel like as long as you’re just doing something at all, and you keep thoroughly questioning/examining your initial idea as you do it, you’ll get to the right answer eventually. I definitely want to continue putting more thought into what the reason/importance behind this project is for me
I’ve been knitting for over 10 years, so I’ve got the construction of the wearable itself firmly inhand already. I’m thinking the best thing to knit it out of is conductive yarn, which is something I’ve been wanting to work with for a while. Obviously I need to do some more research into what type/brand will work best for what I’m doing, but that’s just a matter of reading up on the available products and what not.
The hardest part, obviously, is going to be constructing the whole temperature measurement feedback system between the sensors and the LEDs. One of the resources I’ve been doing a lot of searching on is Instructables, mainly because I’m already really familiar with the site. After some searching, I came across this particular instructable, which seems to fit pretty well within the parameters of what I’m trying to do. I also recently contacted artist Christian Nold, who had previously done an emotional mapping project, to ask him if he could point me in any general directions of research. He got back to me the other day and suggested looking more into Galvanized Sin Response (GSR), as well as really thinking about I’m expecting this visualization to look like, so that’s all stuff I’m going to be taking into account as well. I’ll probably also do some poking around for potentially useful arduino programs that are similar to what I’m trying to do, and then try to tweak them to my purposes.
Beyond that, I’m probably going to need some help getting started in the right direction with respect to the construction and programming of the electronics portion of this project. I’m very, very new to working with arduinos, so I’m still kind of in that place where I don’t necessarily know what the right things to be searching for are or what kinds of questions I should even be asking.
That’s about all I’ve got for now. It wasn’t until within the last two weeks that I really started to hone in on what kind of a thing I wanted to make and what I wanted it to do, so I’m still very much in the process of researching this project. I think I’m off to a pretty good start, though.