Helen Wu
Digital Design Portfolio
walking across the cut.gif

Intelligent Environments

Intelligent Environments

walking across the cut

Design Challenge

To represent "intelligence in environments"; how people interact with their environment. 


  • Class: Environments Studio IV: Intelligences in Social Environments


  1. Research 
  2. Iteration
  3. Deliverable

1. Preliminary Research


I'm interested in exploring the way we understand things. It's hard to deliberately look for an insight; I think it will be easier to make a design product by reframing the pre-existing system. Because I want to find new ways to look at things, I want to understand the background behind what helps us understand our every-day experiences. 


Gestalt is a "philosophy of mind: from Berlin School of Experimental Psychology. (This was taken straight from Wikipedia). In design, we commonly use it in visual form. Dictionary dot com defines Gestalt as "a whole that is perceived as more than its parts". Carnegie Mellon especially follows the Bauhaus style. 

Taken from  here . A bauhaus poster uses geometric form to suggest a familiar subject.

Taken from here. A bauhaus poster uses geometric form to suggest a familiar subject.


This principle is the basis of creating a model. Done correctly, a model represents a system bigger than itself, and lets you gain insight into the system it represents. We have a lot of experience translating and creating visual metaphors to represent various phenomena. 

I'm interested in using other ways to translate experience. 

Gestalt, applied in sound, is the recognition of transposed music, or "form quality". Occupies a temporal rather than spatial form. 

We understand a truth in vague forms, as there are many interpretations for basic shapes and behaviors. 

My question is, how can I use sound to help us recognize visual rhythms?


The Nature of Experience by Sir Russell Brain

Bought this book from the Caliban Bookshop. 


Specific excerpt on psychiatric case studies. Clinical neurologist --what happens to us is very real. Patients that hallucinate describe their hallucinations in the first person, present tense. Not "I saw," but "I see". What is unreal to us is very real to them. Somewhere in the middle, is some ambiguity. How objective is our objective reality, when we understand the totality of experience in our head? 

Concept of qualia: the internal and subjective component of sense perceptions, arising from stimulation of the senses by phenomena.

Exemplified by the Knowledge Argument, (also known as Mary's room or Mary the super-scientist) is a philosophical thought experiment proposed by Frank Jackson in his article "Epiphenomenal Qualia" (1982) and extended in "What Mary Didn't Know" (1986). The experiment is intended to argue against physicalism—the view that the universe, including all that is mental, is entirely physical. The debate that emerged following its publication became the subject of an edited volume—There's Something About Mary (2004)—which includes replies from such philosophers as Daniel DennettDavid Lewis, and Paul Churchland.

So how can we understand these experiences? Perhaps out of scope for this project, but a good thing to think about. 


2. Iteration

Sound Experimentation

Started off by playing music from popular pieces--like Gestalt shapes, easily recognizable. Looked for songs with simple and continuous melody, like that of people walking.  Four final songs are listed below. Experimented with random sequences, looked for tunes that I like. Posted some examples of what I did below. 

Sheet music for above part. 

Sheet music for above part. 


Video Footage

Recorded people walking across the cut during Tuesday, 2:00 PM.  


3. Final Product

This is a Gestalt-inspired representation of people walking across the cut. I wanted to use sound as my main medium for this model, with a visual representation supplementary. Both are supposed to be suggestive to the movement of people taking steps. 

Each person is represented by a key. Each step they take is shown by pressing down the key. As more people enter and leave the cut, the sounds overlay to create a representation of individual and group behavior.