Master thesis project by Fiorenza Scarpa
GEODETICA is a conversational tool that, after increasing the pressure, reveals everyday stories and experiences about microaggressions and pushes us to initiate a conversation and self-reflect on our own behaviors.
WHY IS THIS PROJECT ABOUT DISCRIMINATION?
What was the story behind it, how did it touch me, and why I was feeling the necessity of working on that: even if I have partial answers to all of those questions, I still don’t think these are the important points.
Firstly, in my privileged position as a European and white woman, my concept and experiences of discrimination can only be partially compared to the ones I discovered and analyzed during the process of this project.
Secondly, the way migration and discrimination touched my reality and social conception was mainly coming from articles, news, and books: a shielded and protected approach to the topic.
Thirdly, it took me time to understand the layered complexity of migrations and migrants: I have always been bewildered by the coldness of politicians’ declarations, or friends’ comments on fellow humans, by absurd laws’ implementation (in Italy), and by the low priority of basic necessity of “certain types” of humans. However, I was looking at the surface of everything, focusing on individual events without connecting them, instead of investigating more in-depth why those events were happening in the first place.
All of these thoughts and many more were built conversation after conversation, confrontation after confrontation, in a process that began around my teenage years and continues undaunted even now. Small and invisible stones, one after the other, built a maze of reasons, explanations, justifications, but the origin, the middle, the end of this thought were always circling back to one fundamental question: why do we have a different perception of humans, only based on their geographical origin?
At the beginning, the concept of the artefact started as a tool to generate conversations based on keywords randomly combined. Whereas the idea of randomization was interesting and created a parallel with some illogical connection at the base of discriminatory behaviours, the complexity and specific wording used made clear, after two testing sessions, that the conversation was quite forced without a facilitator. Focusing on this observation, the concept developed in a form and shape that could visualize and make a tangible parallel of unconscious discriminatory behaviours in the form of micro-aggressions. To do that, I looked back to the interviews I conducted in the initial phases of the process and based on their words, I tried to recreate their experiences.
“Small things like, how aware this woman is when I’m walking in there and how she’s not when it’s one of my mate doing it, is just…is just causing mental health issues. When you have this systematic racism, these micro-aggressions where people say “it’s not that bad”, you know, it still is, but you can’t point fingers.” Eskil
“You get emotionally drained. It breaks your spirit and people’s mind. […] They feel entitled to be discriminatory. This kind of things break ethnic groups into pieces.” Isabela
“I would like to put them in a situation where they will have to take steps to recognize that they’re doing something wrong.” Laura
The experiences and stories shared by the interviewers stated that, besides rare and heavy racist episodes, the main problem is represented by microaggression that, added one to the other, is causing damage to the well-being and identity of the receivers.
To tackle that, I ideated GEODETICA: in geometry, GEODETICA is a curve representing the shortest path between two points on a surface. It represents the lack of thoughtfulness and understanding that bring us from our biases to discriminatory behaviors.
Whether it’s just a joke, a comment, or an action, this could be the tipping point for another person, even if we don’t realize it. The challenge with unconscious behaviors is that we don’t see the consequences of them until it cracks.
The individual parts of GEODETICA with personal stories inside
After the user squeezes and blow the balloon inside GEODETICA, the shell will crack, revealing the pieces that compose the external layer. Following the instruction on the base, the user will lift the singular pieces, revealing the stories of discrimination and micro-aggression hidden behind them. Using the talking cards hidden in the base slot, the users will be triggered to read and discuss around the stories, initiating a reflection process while talking out loud about challenging topics.
Fiorenza is Industrial Designer and did the project on the MA Design for People Program at Design School Kolding, 2022.
Supervisors: Canan Akoglu, Joan Pedersen
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