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Category archive for: spring 2017

thesis – thesis archive content


• 1 – 4 images with captions — 960 x 540 px

• Name  — Renata Gaui

• Thesis Title — hysteria 

• Relevant Categories — identity perception, female empowerment, empowerment, wearable technology, speech recognition

• Thesis Question — how can technology prompt conversations about micro-aggressions towards females?

• Elevator Pitch – A wearable device that detects verbal microaggressions towards females during daily conversations and reacts to it.

• First paragraph of long description — A wearable device that protests against misogynist linguistics habits: a ruffled shirt neck connected to a speech recognition software that detects verbal microaggressions towards females in a conversation – and reacts to it physically by revealing behind the ruffles a biting toy denture.

• Long description — On a daily basis, females are suppressed by negative vernacular habits.“you’re being emotional”, “are you on pms?”, “grow a pair”, “you’re so smart for a girl”, “don’t be a pussy” etc. make part of our daily interaction with people (males & females). they are cultural vices that often goes by without being questioned. is there a way that we can flip this pejorative speech and turn it into something that empower female? can emerging technologies work as tools to create conversations about cultural mannerisms? my thesis project is a wearable device that protests against misogynist linguistics habits. A ruffled shirt neck has embedded in it a hardware that is running a speech recognition software that is trained to detect verbal microaggressions towards females in a conversation. Once it recognizes that a micro aggressive expression was used, it reacts to it by making a denture toy (that is placed behind the ruffles) to bite – “mimicking” the aggressor and revealing itself by making the ruffles to fly through the denture movement.

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thesis – iteration spreadsheet analysis


after (finally!) ending my iterations, i had to make this spreadsheet to compare them through different aspects: intention, specification, interaction, feedback type, positive and negative aspects. i was trying to keep characteristics that i wanted to try through every iteration, but i feel like only after doing all of them i realized what are the characteristics of my final wearable device (in blue).

The characteristics I want my object to have:

  • looks like a regular apparel piece
  • suprise users / reveal something
  • approach the interruption through comic relief
  • in some way translate human emotion / expression such as disconfort or disagreement
  • be obvious for both users that it is reacting

My project will be a ruffle shirt neck that when detects a verbal microaggression will react to it by revealing the biting denture underneath the ruffles.

I’ll be focusing this week on the fabrication of this project having in mind a final version that works with my computer and an arduino uno. Currently I’m working with a python speech recognition library that does the analysis to find the microaggressions that is communicating with the arduino – that is controlling whatever output i want to.  Ideally it will be implemented on a raspberryPi and everything will be on python, but considering my timeline (and deadlines), I’ll be focusing on how to improve the system and the fabrication of it.

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thesis – post midterm & quick n dirty

so after thesis midterm, i took the week off (spring break!!) but I was cooking in my head how to tackle the issues brought up by the reviewers. I also talked with Despina Papadopoulos and Lauren McCarthy to talk about outputs & audience.

  • who is my audience?
    one of the feedbacks that I got from the midterm presentation was that it was not clear who was my audience. is it the aggressor or the aggressee? Ideally my audience is the aggressor and the aggressee – maybe through different stimulus, but they will be notified at the same time. So ie while the aggressee will receive a “introverted” feedback such as vibration, temperature change, electric chocks (?) etc. the aggressor will get an “extroverted” feedback like a visual change on the necklace, sounds, lights etc.
  • what are the characteristics i want this object to have?
    i think that my biggest goal at this point is try to think how  to translate human expression in a wearable device. do I want it to be funny/serious? do I want it to surprise the users in a subtle or a disruptive way? is it something that looks “normal”/ daily use or is it something that looks like a haute-couture / art piece?having these questions in my mind, I decided to do variations that tries to tackle these aspects in different ways.
  • variations / rivet grids
    to test the human expressions matter of my piece, I created a latex necklace with a gird of rivets that allows me to explore that kind of shapes I can change through a cable system. here are a few of my variations:

    even though these variations were all ~ manually ~ activated, I believe I was able to learn a lot about the material and the feasibility of what I’m trying to achieve. so for the quick and dirty, i decided to do a new variation that combine internal and external feedback.

  • quick and dirty show
    for the quick and dirty show, I decided to test the combo internal + external feedback while proposing a simulated scenario. I had microaggressive expressions written in cards, so the proposal was to have two people in a conversation. One would be using the necklace, the other would take one of the cards and try to find a moment in the conversation tho say it. Most of the times I was the one using the necklace, but I was able to have other people using it as well.

    when the microaggresive term was said, i’d push a button that would apply voltage on the shape changing alloy and reveal the “nope” written. most of the time people noticed, but it felt very subtle. because my user test involved a conversation, i  ended up testing it with 7 people and this is the feedback i got from people:

    – who is the user?
    – “nope” felt more like a intervention that was shutting the conversation or verly negative instead of raising a question.  how can I confront in a friendly way, that make people feel open do discuss about the topic?
    – people that were prompted to say the expression felt uncomfortable about using it in the conversation but understood it right away when the “nope” appeared.
    – try to turn the issue around. so maybe make people uncomfrotable by what they said through repetition or some kind of sassy response. (either like a pirate’s parrot or something like “excuse me”/”excuse you”)
    – maybe it’s about not interveining in the moment, but sending the aggressor some kind of information about what they said. ie, maybe send them a message with an article about microaggressions or the specific expression that was said?
    – what is the conversation i intend to have after the wearable change?
    – how to make this experience more “sticky”? what si the bordeline of trolling someone and whatthe device is response?
    – it felt too still, needs to contrast more / create a bigger direct impression.
    – what are you trying to say?


  • post quick & dirty steps
    so after tuesday, I decided I need to continue testing to find two main things:
    – the tone of my wearables device: how I want to approach the usage of microaggressions?
    – the final format of it pt1: will I consider it a daily accessory, portability challenges etc or is it something that is an art piece, will use materials that require high voltage etc?
    – the final format of it pt2: will it be a series of iterations or will it be a single piece?


i’ve also realized that in the end, it doesn’t matter what my project ends up being as long as i get the conversation happening.

and also i feel like my thesis question has changed to: how can a wearable device be a tool that propels conversations about microaggresions?

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thesis – comparables



Adrian Piper’s calling cards





















Roopa Vasudevan’s Hate Couture –


Ying Gao’s (no)where series –

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thesis – timeline

there are still a few details to add as time passes (and i understand better what i need to do).

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thesis – core ideas and more question

stripping down the opera frame, what do i have left?

is it really necessary to be in the opera context? i think my kickstarter moment was in opera, with this passage of a lecture i attended last summer about Lucia Lammemmoor:

Some scholars and contemporary directors (Francesca Zambello, Met 1992, and Katie Mitchell, 2016 ROH) have toyed with and theorized the role of Lucia and so, we have a great range of viewpoints on her character and the portrayal of the role. Is she a victim of the patriarchal manipulation of the men in her life, led to madness by her brother’s controlling personality for the sake of his lacking business bravura? Or, is her madness a vehicle to freedom from it all? Would that make her a victim OR her own heroine?

this moment of reflection for the presenter made me think of how certain female characters can be framed as a mad or heroines depending on the vocabulary choice. on that perspective, i started analyzing how the male characters refer to the female characters (either describing or talking directly to them) and i noticed that there is normally a pejorative tone on the speech. and then i questioned myself: is there a way that i can flip this pejorative speech and turn it into something that empower female? and most importantly, is this a question exclusive from the opera context?

the answer i got for the latter question came right away. no. it is not exclusive from opera. being perceived different than yourself through speech is something that happens on a daily basis and, as a women, we are constantly being suppressed by negative vernacular habits. interventions that start with “well actually”, phrases such as “you’re being emotional” or “you wouldn’t understand” make part of our daily interaction with men (and sometimes even with women). they are cultural vices that goes by without we realize and it takes time after the conversation for us to reflect and conclude that actually that was not a nice way to talk to someone. and talking with friends, after we reflect we always think how we could have answered or intervened in some way but because of timing we end up not bringing that up later – specially when it’s some kind of vocabulary usage that is not directly offensive.

can we empower women by pointing out subtle moments of misogynist cultural vices? can we help our community in not breaking the cultural mannerisms that we don’t think that much? can we, as women who are frequently interrupted by sexist vocabulary in conversations, act faster and be able to talk with people that are using these terms without realizing how they can be harmful?

what social gender norms am i talking about? what within that i want to tackle?

with that being said, i’ll be focusing on conversation as an interaction we have as humans and how vocabulary usage can reflect misogynist ideas that are inherent in our culture. the gender norms i’ll be talking about is what are the language expressions usually used when talking to women – and form those, which can make females feel harmed / discomfort / self-doubt.

what are the core elements of my project?

female empowerment

wearable device that reacts through live semantical analysis of conversations

what are the goals of this project?

give the opportunity for females to act faster when people use sexist expressions – and also to make people (including women) reflect over their vocabulary usage.

is there any room for improvisation?

yes! i guess it would, because a lot depends on the connotation and how i decide to implement it – so i’d assume that if i decide to implement semantical analysis through machine learning, it would likely evolute and understand when it’s ok and when it’s not to use certain expressions.

what is the context of application?

i’m still open for this one but i think that now i’m thinking about a daily routine accessory – but maybe there could be specific interactions that will go beyond the daily basis usage, such as art installations, performances for the device – maybe as costume prop skeleton?

what the wild woman archetype has to do with this?

the fact that people are still using archaic verbal expressions just reinforces female stereotypes and make females drift away from our essence and instinct.

new references:

mansplaining –

microagressions database –

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thesis – proposal feedback

once we submitted our thesis proposal, we got a feedback from it. I got thumbs up but they definitely made me think a lot of different things. i’ve high lighted a few things on the comments that i thought that were interesting or made me rethink what is the scope of my project.

Matt Romein

You’ve done a great job researching and articulating the elements of your research that you find interesting. I’m starting to wonder if the central idea you want to explore has outgrown the context of opera though. The central idea of language and words and vocals and how they are used against women in the realm of micro-aggressions, shaming, demeaning, and catcalling is a rich area to work from and examine especially when you are looking at how to manifest and visualize/audiolize these slights. The context in opera is tricky to navigate though since it has explicit rules of how it is performed and viewed and having the text and language be predetermined makes the idea of doing live semantic analysis redundant and conceptually confusing. I would ask what is more important to you at this point, opera or verbal aggressions and slights towards women. I don’t want you to feel like I’m telling you to abandon your idea but I feel like there’s a lot of breathing room for the things you want to explore if you work outside of opera specifically. If it being opera is extremely important to you then by all means continue to explore it. I think there are a lot of conceptual parts to the project that need to be ironed out still and I’d be more than happy to work with you to figure those things out.


Your thesis proposal is clearly well researched and your reasons of intent are solid. I think you need to focus on why opera is so important to you in designing around social gender norms and which norms in particular you want to address. I agree with Matt that I think you need to consider other situations in which this project can come to life, as it has many applications to scenarios outside of opera.

Reviewer 1:

Given that opera is tightly scripted and directed, wouldn’t you be able to know in advance, and then be able to direct the performer to change her actions accordingly?

I am all for changing the gender power balance, but I don’t understand why there is need for a device to analyze a pre-scripted event, when a human can do that so much better. Instead of making a device, why not just hire a director more attuned to gender politics?

Reviewer 2:

Cool idea. I personally think this would be much more interesting device if it were pitched toward an “everyday” context. Opera, in itself, is an interesting topic too, but having the device and opera come together in this project may not be the best for either investigation.

Reviewer 3:

I like the idea of using technology to transform a female voice. In what ways will your device change the female voice in your project? Will the actual words spoken change? The tone of the voice? The tenor? What does a wild woman sounds like?

My main question is about the connection between opera and your concern about social gender norms. It sounds like opera is a personal love and something you wish others loved, too. How does this overlap with your thoughts about female empowerment? So many of the opera texts are from a long time ago. Gender norms have evolved, if slowly, since many operas were written. Perhaps your device would be better applied to more current performative art forms or even to real time social situations to show how far we still have to go.

I’d like to hear more about the social gender norms that will be used to identify the use of authoritarian speech/text. How agreed upon are they as norms? Who has determined them? Do they apply equally to male-female and female-female conversations?

Have you heard of the Bechdel test? It’s used a lot in the film industry to determine whether or not a film includes strong female characters and to point out films with gender inequality that fail this simplest of tests. It’s very simple – do two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man.

Reviewer 4:

I’m very on the fence with this one, because having talked with you I really like the core ideas, but the current output relies on vocal amplification. Opera inherently is against vocal amplification. So while I really respect the question and its goals, I think the project needs a significant shift.

Backing up I agree that “why opera” needs to be addressed more clearly. I think you could argue with some deep research, that there was a cycle of opera reinforcing gender norms through history. And certain powerful sectors might still attend the opera regularly. (You could focus your study on the Met for example, and look at their corporate sponsors. You could even go through one of their programs to see top donors, or there are various non-profit tools to try to parse out their donors.)

You will know the entire score and libretto befhorehand. So the sensing might be to track where in the score they are at each performance, but you will know ‘when’ these moments occur in advance.

Also you should look at shows that were pretty sexist when written, directed today by strong women.  A great example (I think still running??) is Sweet Charity directed by Leigh Silverman. Because a strong directoral hand can help.

If you want to focus on the music, perhaps you focus on the orchestrations. Scan the score and the libretto. Find those moments. And then have the orchestration change at these moments you want to highlight. Perhaps dropping out under the male character in moments, or boosting the female characters. I believe there was some great work NVIDEA was funding on using their cards for machine learning and orchestrations.

Reviewer 5:

I love the idea…..but you would already know the libretto and what is coming so it doesn’t need to respond dynamically and live.

The interesting thing to me is that gender norms are still alive and well, so well we don’t often notice them. Anyway, they were 19th or early 20th century norms…What if what the characters displayed was what a modern woman would be thinking or saying. There’s a movie with Mel Gibson called What Women Want, where they guy develops a super power to know what women are really thinking, no matter what they are saying…

Reviewer 6:

I suppose there is a contradiction of going through the trouble of making and interactive device in an pre scripted environment. But I like the idea. Perhaps this is a setting that has all the operatic trapping but leaves room for improvisation of for instance the woman fighting agains the device.

Reviewer 7:

While sharing the concerns of the other reviewers, I kind of echo  looking at the idea not only from opera but from “everyday” context.

The idea of a device that would shift the tonality of the “performer”, make them more aware of the voice they are using and help overcome their “prescripted” voice and awaken their “wild woman” could be a powerful thing in itself.

so in the light of the feedback, i started questioning myself the following things:

why opera?

what social gender norms am i talking about? what within that i want to tackle?

what are the core elements of my project?

is there any room for improvisation?

what is the context of application?

what the wild woman archetype has to do with this?

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