About Edit

Emotional Infrastructure is a project that I started (under the name of 'This Is Our Algorithm') over at

The initial part of the project was the creation of a set of diaries that are to be kept, recording a persons emotional engagement with different infrastructural elements of their environment. During the residency at Lighthouse I plan to develop the diary concept in a number of ways.

  1. To develop the paper diaries, improving the design of the content and prompts within the existing diaries. To develop them as cultural probes in examining infrastructure and the infrastructuralness of systems within the modern urban environment.
  2. To develop a set of workshops or participatory events to further encourage the collection of the information in the diaries.

To this end I will look at possibly merging the diaries into a single publication with multiple prompts within it to consider different infrastructural elements of the environment as well as further breaking out some of the components using cards and maps to develop other ways of capturing the information.

Diaries Edit

I have used Bookleteer as the tool to develop and 'publish' the diaries. This allows anyone to download, print and make a small booklet. Through bookleteer it is possible to do small print runs as well.

Currently there are 4 diaries, each with a different topic, Surveillance, Water, Power and Communications.

As a Cultural Probe Edit

Cultural Probes were developed by Gaver, Dunne and Pacenti in 1999, though the term 'probes' has become used to cover a number approaches and tools. These approaches include methods such as Diary Studies, to which the Infrastructure Diaries most closely allude.

The aim in using these tools in a design process was to collect an underlying understanding of the situation into which the design initiative was to be situated. The first use of Cultural Probes by Gaver, Dunne and Pacenti involved the design of a 'pack' of items that were given to the participants to use, complete and return, in this case the items included postcards, maps and a disposable camera as well as a couple of 'books' to be completed. These were pre-addressed and had postage affixed so that all the participant had to do was complete the task on the item and pop it in the nearest postbox.


Diaries and Ethnographic studies Edit

Diary studies comes from research in the fields of psychology and anthropology. Again the aim is for the participant to complete some kind of task, to prompts which is then reviewed by the researcher.

In learning, keeping a learning diary is a useful reflective tool.

Problems Edit

The main problem with the use of diaries and other forms of cultural probe is the participants willingness to carry out the activity in question, making notes in a diary, taking a photo or marking a map. These can be seen as intrusive to their normal everyday actions and as such need the participant to be willing to take the time to specifically carry out the task. Unlike purely observational processes where the researcher will be responsible for recording activity (though again, if the researcher has to ask the question as to the feelings of the participant then they will be intruding upon their normal actions, asking them to reflect and articulate their emotions).

Archive Edit

An email address has been set up so that people can scan in and send the scans of their diaries, I also have a PO Box set up if people which to contribute their actual diary to the archive. The actual format of the archive is yet to be designed, as it would both be an artistic artefact as well as a resource of use to design, policy and other critical thinking around infrastructure and society.

Related Edit