Wed. May 27, 2015
Wed. May 27, 2015
Xochi Solis (BFA in Studio Art, 2005) presents work in Flatlander at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition is on view May 21 – September 13, 2015.
Thu. May 21, 2015
Describe your design practice.
Shrankhla Narya: My practice as a designer is rooted in the belief that future designers will have to critically examine the theoretical, philosophical, and social aspects of design. My formal education in engineering, social science, and aesthetics has allowed me to develop an interdisciplinary approach towards design and examine its relationship with human needs and environments.
I believe that human-centered design, backed by in-depth research, can open doors for innovative solutions to real world problems.
What attracted you to the graduate Design program at UT Austin?
SN: The graduate Design program at UT Austin was an excellent mix of research and skills. I wanted to spend two years doing a course that would not only allow me to do studio work, but would also let me conduct research in areas that truly interested me. The program at UT Austin has been an excellent mix of making and thinking. The fact that we can take electives from any department makes it all the more valuable in terms of the variety of thoughts and experiences that we are exposed to.
What is your current research focus?
SN: My current research work seeks to investigate alternative narratives of technology use that are not driven by the prevailing consumerism of the privileged quarters of the world. I am beginning to streamline my research to investigate and suggest technological interventions for underprivileged people, currently focusing on day laborers in Austin.
Although I acknowledge that policy change and changes in the social structure are very likely the best methods of empowering marginalized communities — in the absence of enlightened legislation — I believe that technological interventions, deployed with an understanding of the social context, can support and complement this process of empowerment and inclusion.
Projects such as Krama and MissU and my ongoing research with day laborers in Austin can be taken as responses, in their own contexts and via their own perspectives, to the larger question “Who do we talk about when we talk about users?” Whether dealing with the most vulnerable sections of the society or engaging small and isolated communities to better understand the many dimensions of inclusion and exclusion, my work describes encounters with technology informed by different cultural, economic, political, and linguistic constraints.
What issues were you trying to solve in your Krama project?
SN: Krama is Sanskrit for progressing step by step towards a desired goal. This project is a speculative system for the future. Krama's aim is to build an alternate economy for the lower caste people (regarded as untouchables) in India by fostering upward mobility for them, both socially and economically. The lower caste people in India have faced extreme discrimination for centuries, and were denied access to public water wells, places of social gatherings, temples, and schools.
Krama creates 3D-printed DIY solar energy kits and portable water purification units for them and helps them learn how to produce resources for themselves, eventually leading to the possibility of an alternate economy for them to function in.
SN: MissU is an app that allows for communication through subtle visual cues displayed on physical objects around the receiver. The idea was born out of my need for long distance communication with my mom, where the time difference between our geographic locations and her lack of exposure to technology and English were the primary hindrances. The app communicates with the night lamp at the receiver’s end (who does not need a smart phone) through arduino and wireless shields.
In the future, we wish to develop 3D printed lamp shades with screens to display the icons and change color based on the sender’s mood.
How has your research or work developed over your time here so far and what are you looking forward to in the next year?
SN: My work has undergone some significant changes since the time I joined this program. I was a fresh chemical engineering graduate from India with no prior work experience. The past 10 months have been an excellent learning experience, along with a rigorous process of unlearning. I have found the area that interests me most, which is at the intersection of interaction design and social design. Arriving at a research area that one can commit to for a long period of their life is never easy, but I am glad that I have been able to find something that brings together my interest in technology and certain questions about our society that have troubled me for a long time.
I will be spending the next few months talking with day laborers in Austin and organizations that work with them. I hope to take my first significant step towards understanding a culture that is alien to me.
Wed. May 20, 2015
"My favorite thing about UT Austin thus far is the size of the Department of Art and Art History. By the end of the year, all the freshmen faces become recognizable, and it begins to feel like a small Twin Peaks-esque town."
— Guneez Ibrahim (BFA candidate in Design)
"My favorite experience from this year has definitely been going on the Holy Week trip to Antigua, Guatemala. On our second day there, we were on a walking tour of the town, and we walked past a shop playing Livin' On A Prayer by Bon Jovi.
I said, "Bon Jovi?"
Jason Urban turned around and said, "That's basically our life this week."
So, even though his comment didn't make perfect sense to everyone that heard him, one of the themes of our week became livin' on a prayer for sure."
— Kendall Bradley (BFA candidate in Studio Art)
"My favorite experience during my first year at UT Austin was visiting the BOT Greenhouse with my drawing foundations class to sketch. The light was really beautiful in the early spring, and it was nice to discover a new part of campus."
— Abbie Weller (BA candidate in Art History)
“One of the best things about coming to UT Austin is being able to interact with people in all disciplines. It really helps you to approach your own studies from a unique perspective.”
— Seth Murchison (BFA candidate in Studio Art)
"Probably my weirdest, yet funniest, experience during my first year was when I was walking back to my dorm late at night and came upon two guys trying to film a skate video in a street intersection. The guy being filmed was very slowly going across the intersection while the other guy was clumsily skating in front of him and filming. Both of them were wearing sunglasses, khaki shorts, weird hats, dress shirts, and ties — and looked barely conscious."
— Madalin Beavers (BFA candidate in Visual Art Studies)