Though I present this as a joke in a blog post on my site, I really did get my inspiration for this project from an episode of E’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians where Kris Jenner hires a personal scribe to record everything she says so that her brilliance doesn’t go to waste. Though we had different motivations, I empathized with Kris. Often in my life, I wish that someone could be there to write things down for me when I’m unable to; whether I’m driving, falling asleep, or sitting in class. I also think faster than I can type or write, so it’s often frustrating trying to put my thoughts down. So for this project, where we were tasked with making a subjunctive product, I followed the old saying to “see a need, fill a need.” I saw a need, both in my personal life and in Kris Jenner’s, and I set out to create a product that would fulfill those needs.
For the fifth hack that asked us to remix existing media in a transformative way, I made a trailer for a documentary called Stalked.
I had four source materials for the project. The first is a Ted Talk from Robin Brockelsby where she talks about when her and her family were stalked by a known acquaintance. In the talk, she offers advice and support to those going through the same thing. I used just her introduction, where she uses lighting tricks to build suspense as she introduces the topic. The next source is the opening sequence from the 1996 movie Fargo that infamously (and erroneously) informed viewers that what they’re about to watch is a true story. Next, I took the audio from the trailer for the Netflix series You that was released in 2018. The series tells the story of a bookstore manager that starts dating one of his customers. The relationship quickly turns volatile as he becomes obsessed with her and uses technology to control and stalk her. The fourth source was video footage from Taylor Swift’s music video You Belong With Me, which has almost 100 million views on Youtube. In the video, a young Taylor lusts after a boy who seems to be just out of reach until they lock lip on the dance floor at prom.
The Ted Talk and the You trailer are both scary pieces of media that evoke terror and fear. They both deal with stalking, one in a personal, first-hand way and the other in a fictionalized, sensationalized way. The Taylor Swift video, on the other hand, is a lighthearted video about unrequited love where Taylor dances, plays dress up, and eventually gets the guy. At first glance, these pieces don’t seem to go together, but with some simple editing they come together quite easily and seamlessly.
As Steven J. Jackson said, “breaking is generative and productive” (223). One example he gives is Edward Burtynsky’s Shipbreaking photography series. The collection brings into the light things are normally invisible to the world by showing the destruction of massive cargo ships. The photos deal head-on with the themes of breakdown, maintenance, and repair. These themes are usually thought to be mutually exclusive; they’re thought of as different points of an objects’ lifespan or different ways to combat brokenness. However, breakdown, maintenance, and repair can coincide. This is known as broken world thinking, where “breakdown, dissolution, and change, rather than innovation, development, or design as conventionally practiced and thought about are the key themes and problems facing new media and technology scholarship today” (Jackson 222). The video that I created for this hack seeks to demonstrate the importance of breakdown, dissolution, and change within the world of repair.
Google Sheets is part of Google’s G Suite, a set of productivity programs that closely resembles Microsoft Office’s similar software. Much like Excel, Google Sheets is a spreadsheet software that enables users to conduct a vast array of computations and data visualizations. It’s marketed as “Free Online Spreadsheets for Personal Use” that “makes your data pop,” as seen in the screenshot below:
Like other spreadsheets, Google Sheets prioritizes objective calculation and analysis of numbers and other data. It also allows for data visualization with built-in features. It is not, however, as user-friendly as some of the other G Suite products. Google Sheets is a technical software and a lot of the capabilities go unrealized by everyday users because they lack the skillset to code for them. While many students now learn Excel basics for at least one of their college courses, there’s a vast array of tools that aren’t as readily accessible because they require advanced command of the platform. In this way, Google Sheets privileges niche knowledge and the analysis of complicated data sets that can’t/shouldn’t be handled by other, simpler means.
For this hack, we were challenged to transform play into something more than itself; something that goes beyond whimsy and binaries in order to engage the player in a more thought-provoking activity. As Flanagan said, subversion is “an action, plan, or activity intended to undermine an institution, event, or object” (Flanagan 10). I immediately knew that the institution that I wanted to undermine using play was American politics.
The news, whether print, television, or online, often feels like a jarring mix between horror film and comedy show. Newsmakers and events seem to be getting more incredulous every day. Perhaps this is in part because of the divisive nature of politics these days, or perhaps it is because of new tools that can be used (such as social media or new surveillance techniques) that allow for previously unimaginable circumstances. We live under a President who often makes foreign policy simply by Tweeting it. We live in a time where people’s home assistants, like Alexa, are calling the cops on them. These changes, coupled with the 24-hour news cycle that requires constant fodder to consume, makes for some interesting (to say the least) headlines. It is this uncanniness that I wanted to subvert in my hack. I wanted to call attention to the gravity of the problems we face through irony – that is, show the magnitude by trying to make it funny.
For my hack, I used the Makey Makey to create an interactive photo display. Like many college students, I have decorated my dorm room walls with photo displays that contain some of my favorite pictures of my friends and me. At the beginning of each year, I go through my camera roll and painstakingly pick out which photos I’ll print out: I don’t want them to all be of the same person or pose, but I want them to look unified. The display becomes something I meditate on when I’m taking a break or need inspiration, or it serves as a conversation topic when friends come over. It is a reminder of happier times when I am stressed, and it’s a reminder of all of the people that I love.
I wanted to take the emotional investment I have in my photo display a step further by personalizing it even more and making it interactive. To do so, I framed pictures with conductive tape and hooked them up to various keys on the Makey Makey. Next, I asked the friends in the photos to send me a brief voice message that could play when I touched the photos. After a bit of explaining and a lot of amazement about Makey Makeys, I had collected a few audio messages. I then used Scratch to link the audio messages to Makey Makey commands, thus bringing the photos to life with the voices of their inhabitants.