Friday, April 13, 2012

The Deviant in Space

I happen to be a Freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, Qatar, and had to take a Foundation class called Space Research. For our final project for that class, we were asked to design prostheses for our own bodies to enhance a certain function, or to make our body perform an action that it normally would not. An Attachment with two mirrors to see the back of your head, for example.

Now prosthetics normally are primarily meant for those people in the society who are given the social status of disabled.  Yet, we were made to think of our own fully capable bodies as imperfect. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that, but, regardless, it was deviant thinking for the sake of good design.

I took a good look at myself and came up with this idea: finger extensions with wheels on the ends. Here's a picture!

Seemingly, a ridiculous thing, but it served my purpose well. Why? Because, whenever I am around someone I am close with, my hands tend to want to play or touch them or tug at their clothes – a terrible habit that usually ends with me the other person screaming and giving me horrified looks (unless they’re used to it). Sociology would very formally refer to this as informal negative sanctions

The prosthesis I would design would enable me to…well…not touch anyone by being too busy trying to keep control of the contraption on my left hand. Win-win situation for everyone, yes?
I took my half-constructed prosthesis to a mall once just to see people’s reactions, but surprisingly, I only received a few looks now and again in spite of the deviant nature of the object. No sanctions from security, nor anyone coming up to me to ask what that is, or trying to take pictures. It is possible that the shoppers were already used to seeing deviants inside of malls. We’ve experienced that a few times in and around Doha.

...Or it could have been that I was just ignoring everybody too well.

However, at VCUQ, it was quite different. Many times, when I would walk by wearing them, people would stop me to ask me about the project. I’m thinking the difference between the reactions of the two groups was two things--

First off, they were different groups with different interests. One was larger, and mainly focused on their shopping, while the other was comparatively smaller and an active participant in ‘deviant design’ and in engaging with whoever was involved.
Second, it was the space/environment they were in. The mall was a large, open space surrounded by many attractive, luxury items. Also, it was what people had come to look at, primarily. My project didn’t fit the bill, even if it did make a few heads turn. It just wasn’t enough.

The university, on the other hand, is full of projects like mine on display, and the social group in there typically strives to make their work as deviant as they can manage. They were able to recognize my project and offered me more curiosity because the prosthesis was more uhh ‘involved’ with the space. In other words, it made perfect sense for it to be there.

It was definitely very interesting to see what placing one object in two different spaces would do to people. Now I only wish I could try and interchange those two groups by putting them in each other’s environment. Would it give me the same results?

I'm sure most of the regular readers have seen the video of the flash mob at the City Centre Mall that appeared out of the crowd and started dancing to Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger. So I'll leave you with a different flash mob video clip from July last year at Villaggio Mall:

Loving how they melt from the crowd and gradually grow in number~ Till next time!

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