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SECRETS

Jamie Chang | Design Development Spring 2011 | Professor Jeffrey Riman


TABLE OF CONTENTS introduction process prototype conclusion


INTRODUCTION

Secrets are ubiquitous; every person holds secrets. From government conspiracies to couples having affairs, secrets permeate every level of society. Secrets have existed throughout time. No matter what the content may be, secrets affect those carrying them. Secrets may be trivial and silly or burdensome and serious. They are powerful by nature and have the potential to become invisible chains, holding those carrying them hostage. Through exploration of the context, scope, and consequences of secrets, I hope to discover and understand the complexity of secrets and methods of reducing the burdens they create.


PROCESS


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INSPIRATION Being a devout follower of PostSecret, an ongoing community art project by Frank

Warren where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard, I was inspired and intrigued by the wide spectrum of secrets people revealed. It was clear that, with no regard to the severity of the secret revealed, every person in participation felt some form of relief through expressing the more than less obvious. In addition, the concept of anonymity seemed to be the biggest driving force behind the project’s success. As a reader, I observed that I feel many empathethic emotions when I look at the postcards. I can see and feel the microcosms of the creators’ experienc and empathize and sympathize with them. Reading through the postcards provided a release for me as well because they showed me that every person undergoes similar experiences and that, like me, everyone holds something they cannot share openly with others.


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source: PostSecret archives


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QUESTIONS Beginning the conceptual development process, I needed to ask a series of questions

before I could begin my research to answer them. Why do people keep secrets? Why do people reveal secrets? What are the consequences of keeping secrets? What are the physical and emotional consequences of keeping secrets? What are the consequences of revealing secrets? What are the physical and emotional consequences of revealing secrets? How does the setting of a situation affect the content of the secrets? What kinds of secrets are there? Are secrets inevitable?


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SE·CRET adjective

`sēkrit

not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others not meant to be known as such by others fond of or good at keeping things about oneself unknown (of information or documents) Given the security classification above confidential and below top secret

noun

something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others something that is not properly understood; a mystery a valid but not commonly known or recognized method of achieving or maintaining something formerly, the name of a prayer said by the priest in a low voice after the offertory in a Roman Catholic Mass


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PROGRESSION OVERVIEW level of enthusiasm towards project 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 weeks 1

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PROGRESSION DETAILED (OBJECTIVE)

Week 1- Startup Week 2- Introduction to topics in healing & learning Week 3- Preliminary concepts (diabetes networking platform, secrets, media & healing) Week 4- Concept plans (diabetes platform and secrets) Week 5- Class discussion on reading Week 6- Speaker (Irish Malig) Week 7- Group discussions (Melissa & Hanbyul) Week 8- Spring break (start blog) Week 9- Class discussion on blogs Week 10- Class discussion on progress Week 11- Speaker (Madeleine Beckman) Week 12- Class work time Week 13- Final


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PROGRESSION DETAILED (SUBJECTIVE) Week 1- Startup

Week 2- I find topics in healing & learning very interesting Week 3- I come up with my media & learning and diabetes topics uickly. Week 4- I am enthusiastic about my diabetes and secrets topics but cannot decide which topic to choose. Week 5- I begin to focus on secrets, but I search for a way to meld the two topics together. Week 6- I am focusing on secrets, but I am hesitant because I cannot see a tangible product. Week 7- I am still hesitant, conflicted, and frustrated. Week 8- I start my blog, which helps me explore the topic and “immerse� myself. Week 9- Random occurances during the week lead me back to diabetes and I combine the two topics to focus on why people with invisible disabilities choose to tell or not tell others about their illnesses. I am extremely excited. Week 10- I conduct a few casual interviews but I begin to feel a disconnect between the topic and my final. Week 11- After receiving positive feedback from the in-class speaker, I revert back to my secrets topic and develop my prototype concept. I feel optimistic. Week 12- My project is coming together, but there is a time crunch and I feel STRESSED. Week 13- STRESS. STRESS. STRESS. This leads to a lot of crying and eating.


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RESEARCH & DATA

My methods of research and data procurement consist of personal reflections, online and printed literature, and casual conversations. Such methods illustrate the use of primary and secondary resources.


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WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP SECRETS? insecurities self image denial obligation independence timing expectations cultural stigmas fear


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CLASSIFICATION INTO CATEGORIES Business | Social | Personal


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BUSINESS The category of “business� signifies the professional world, not just the corporate world. This includes politics and all organizations.

Secrets in the professional world vary greatly and can effect large numbers of people. From lying about taking off from work to tax evasion to keeping secrets about the unlawfully detaining people, secrets in business can potentially bring about severe consequences. Morality and honesty are values emphasized in business. However, how well are these values honored? How well can secrets be kept amongst a large organization? What are the ultimate consequences of being caught in a web of deception and secrecy?


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CASE STUDY: WIKILEAKS “WikiLeaks is a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news

and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to our journalists. We publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of our sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices.� source: WikiLeaks.ch


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source: WikiLeaks.ch


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WIKILEAKS WikiLeaks is a secret-sharing website that aims to bring important news and information to the public. They have named their practice as “principled leaking.” In the organization’s perspective, principled leaking is a method in keeping the government in check, an additional ‘balance of power.’ WikiLeaks firmly believes that principled leaking is essential to journalism, good government, and a healthy society. They emphasize securing the anonymity of their sources while striving to provide physical evidence of received information to ensure that the truth is corroborated. They have broken stories concerning war, killings, government, suppression of free speech and free press, diplomacy, spying, finance, taxes, trading, climate, abuse, violence, cults, and many others. WikiLeaks is a consequence of keeping secrets in business. It has emerged and gained momentum because society has glimpsed the dishonesties the government and other important figures and now demand to know the truth. The operation has been criticized as a hazard to national safety. However, as there are consequences to keeping secrets, there are also consequences to revealing secrets. The question is, are the consequences of revealing these secrets greater than the consequences of keeping the secrets secret?


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SOCIAL The category of “social� indicates a smaller cluster, or group, of similar people and societies. These groups may be created to establish identity or tradition. Sometimes, these groups demand secrecy both within the group and towards outside parties.

In order to create identities, there must be a separation of different societies (i.e. the rich and the poor, the under-represented and the influential), exclusivity, and creation of some form of hierarchy. Within these hierarchies, there will always be a spectrum leaders and followers. The more powerful members of societies will always know more than the less powerful members. Therefore, secrecy within societies are created. In addition, inevitably, secrets towards the public exist as means of protection. Implications of revealing secrets within societies may result in rejection and expulsion, even death in severe situations. Characteristics of social secrecy can be seen through the traditions of mythical societies such as the Mafia, gangs, and secret societies.


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CASE STUDY: THE MAFIA Most underworld secret societies owe part of their structure and ritual to the most

infamous of them all: the Mafia. The Mafia was born on the relatively isolated Italian island of Sicily. Sicilians were tribal people with a pyramidally structured culture: the family, the clan, and the tribe. The clan, a unit of extended family, may have been the most important. Between the time that Napolean and Mussolini were in power, the of the clans of Sicily took control and ruled the land. The Code of Silence governed the lives of all Sicilians. If they were being interrogated by civil officials, they were told to swear they never saw, heard, knew anything. Breaking the Code meant imminent death.


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THE MAFIA In the Mafia, there are secret rituals, complicated rules and tangled webs of family loyalty.

There is a hierarchy where higher-ranking members make decisions that trickle down to the other members of the family. Those lower ranked in the family have the least amount of say in the activities of the family. Because the Mafia is conventionally a family bound circle, one may be born into the Mafia and have no option to live another life. For decades, the practices of the group were carefully kept secret. It ran on the principles of fear and tradition. Outsiders, intruders, betrayers, and opposers were eliminated and taken care of, ensuring that those in the circle were loyal and devoted to sustaining the well being of the family. The Mafia is a prime example of social secrecy because it is a developed tradition. the members of the organization are bound by blood and obligation. Going against the mafia could result in death of not only the individual but those around him/her. In this case, maintaining secrecy is of the utmost importance to ensuring the safety and well being of other humans.


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PERSONAL The category of “personal� indicates the most common and intimate application of secrets.

Beginning at about age four or five, children begin to keep information to themselves. This is a crucial part of becoming independent because it helps create a boundary between the child and the world. In adulthood, secrets continue to serve this function. Keeping some thoughts and actions private helps maintain privacy and individuality. Adults also may keep secrets to avoid potential negative consequences. However, it is most dangerous one feels he/she cannot tell anyone his/her secret. Secrets are capable of consuming, controlling, and destroying their keepers.


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“There are two kinds of secrets; the ones we keep from others and the ones we hide from ourselves.�

-Frank Warren

source: jalacourel


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THE SCIENCE (HEALTH) Keeping secrets create inner conflict. Should one conceal or reveal? To whom should one

reveal his/her secrets? Such conflict inevitably leads to anxiety and endless worry and can produce sustained stress that may contribute to various health problems, including digestive problems, headaches, back pain and high blood pressure. Secrecy also produces anxiety that can fuel unhealthy behavior. Emotional distress without apparent explanation suggests that one is keeping things from his/ herself and/or others. Angry outbursts over insignificant things, exhaustion for no reason and/ or physical ailments with no medical explanation suggest that one could be suffering from stress related to keeping secrets. Research shows evidence that revealing a secret, which can be anything from telling someone to writing it on a piece of paper that is later burned, is related with both physical and mental health improvements. People hiding traumatic secrets showed more cases of hypertension, influenza, and even cancer, while those who wrote about their secrets showed, through blood tests, enhanced immune systems. In addition, research has shown that writing about trauma actually unclogs the brain. Using an electroencephalogram, an instrument that measures brain waves through electrodes attached to the scalp, researchers have found that the right and left brains communicated more fluidly in subjects who disclosed traumas.


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THE SCIENCE (RELATIONSHIPS) In relationships, one may keep secrets because he/she may be embarrassed or scared of

rejection. However, keeping secrets cuts one off from others. Secrecy can indicate denial; by being dishonest with him/herself, one is also dishonest with those he/she interacts with. When some secrets get out, relationships may become estranged or end completely. Being in healthy and happy relationships are indispensable parts of fostering a healthy existence.


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METHODS OF RELEASE There are several methods and rituals for release. The first step towards healing would be to be as honest as possible on a regular basis. Establishing a confidante would also be a helpful way to relieve the burdens of keeping secrets. Historically, religious confession can also provide an outlet. If the case is severe, seeing therapists, professional secret-keepers, may prove to be very beneficial. The most important step in the healing process may be to be honest with oneself first.


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CASE STUDY: PINOCCHIO “Pinocchio, Pinocchio, That little wooden bloke-io, His nose, it grew an inch or two With every lie he spoke-io.” -Shel Silverstein


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PINOCCHIO The classic children’s story of Pinocchio, a wooden puppet created by a woodcarver named Gepetto, has become a prime illustration of the importance of being honest. In the fairy tale, Pinocchio’s nose grows longer every time he tells a lie. He is told by his fairy godmother that he must be a good boy and only tell the truth if he wishes to become a “real boy.” Pinocchio is now often a term used to describe an individual who is prone to telling lies, fabricating stories and exaggerating or creating tall tales for various reasons.

Pinocchio’s dream of becoming a “real boy” can be analgous of how being truthful can set a person free and lead them on a path of honesty and health. Pinocchio’s secrecy, lying, and exaggeration lengethened his nose, which can be synonymous to how a person may become further hardened through dishonesty. Just like any person, Pinocchio lies because he is afraid of the conseuences he may receive. For example, when he is asked if he skipped school, he replies that he did not which leads to his nose growing. While humans do not have to worry about spontaneously growing noses, the moral implications of Pinocchio’s story is completely applicable to how lying can lead to more secrets and manifest into a physical impediment.


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PORTFOLIO


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STAKEHOLDERS As mentioned several times, secrets effect everyone. From nations to provinces to

states to towns to large corporations to small businesses to families to everyday Janes and Joes to everyday little Janes and little Joes, secrets are a fact of life. Every person is a stakeholder and user.


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NARRATIVE It all started when she was fourteen years old, freshman year of high school. At first it

was just a slight discontent with her body: her arms were too flabby, her stomach was sticking out, etc. She had never been the “skinny” girl; she had always been a little bit chubby (but in a cute way, as she was told). Nonetheless, this idea that she was fat began its embedding process in her head from when she was young as a result of her relatives pinching her cheeks and calling her “cute” but “chubby.” The idea did not officially hit her until she started high school. Every girl wants to be cute and pretty and attractive, and high school just did not feel like she was. After dinner one day near the end of freshman year, she ducked into the bathroom, pulled up her shirt and began to cry. “Fat, fat, fat.” Her mind was screaming at her, telling her she was just plain fat and ugly. No one would want her. In that moment, something in her brain changed. She was determined to become “skinny” and “pretty,” at whatever cost. She joined the gym and started counting calories: gym at least 3 days a week burning at least a thousand calories each session, wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts, calorie consumption of only 800 a day, anything over was unacceptable. When her parents asked her why she was suddenly so health conscious, she quickly generated a story about watching a documentary in health class about the importance of being healthy from a young age to build a foundation for a longer and better life.


The new school year began and she continued to shrink in size. At home, her parents began to get worried, but she insisted she was fine. Her BMI was still in the “healthy� range and, technically, she was still eating. However, with school, extra curricular activities, and working out at the gym, she was exhausted. She began to miss food. Slowly, she began eating more and more and, as time went on, she could not stop. Her desire to eat overcame her; she started thinking about food all the time. However, after eating, she would always feel guilty. She only knew one solution to this problem: purging. Her first time purging made her cry, the second time she only felt a pang of guilt, and after the third, she was desensitized. She started secretly buying snacks and hiding them in her room. Her parents were happy that she was eating more and she finally felt she was getting the best of both worlds: food without the weight gain. Her habits became more and more severe. She was eating insane amounts of food and spending hundreds of dollars a month at supermarkets and fast food restaurants. Her parents found snack packages under her bed, in her closet, but did not know what exactly was going on. Though she hated lying to her parents, she told them she was spending money on food for school functions or that she was splitting food with her friends. Even when her parents were not interrogating her, she was beginning to feel paranoid and scared, but she could not stop. She began to lie compulsively, about everything. Her illness consumed her and the web of lies she had built trapped her. She could not tell anyone because she was afraid of how people would see her, of how people would react, and of how people would treat her differently. Unconsciously, she had completely lost herself in a complex and isolated world of secrets she felt she could never share with anyone.


PROTOTYPE


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CONCEPT To focus on the healing aspect of revealing secrets, I have conceptualized a half-day long

(noon to 6pm) event to take place in at the Central Park Lake in Central Park, New York City with a program of activities dedicated to encouraging participants anonymously to unload the unspoken truths that burden them. Events will include a Secrets Tree and Sailing Secrets, both of which are detailed in the developed prototypes.


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Let your secrets soar.

Who: everyone over the age of 4. What: day-long activities centered around sharing secrets anonymously When: September 10, 2011 @ noon Where: Central Park Lake Why: Secrets can affect both psychological and physical health. Share your darkest secrets in complete anonymity and set yourself free.


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SEC R E T S ept

Y A D R U m T A n-6p S S oo

e m b er 1 0,

1 1 0 2

n

SAILING SECRETS

From 2pm to 5pm, attendees will be able to either build their own paper boats or choose all ready made boats. Meant to never be seen, secrets written on these boats will float away and particpants can reveal their deepest, darkest secrets to the park lake. This activity ensures complete anonymity and emphasizes the importance of releasing the burdensome secrets for the healing process.

INFORMATION

Beginning at about age four or five, children begin keeping information to themselves, a step in becoming independent. In adulthood, secrets continue to serve this function. When the secrets one keeps starts to affect relationships with others, the balance of power shifts. The secrets take control. Keeping secrets provokes inner conflicts, inevitably leads to anxiety and endless worry. Living in this state can produce sustained stress that may contribute to various health problems, including digestive problems, headaches, back pain and high blood pressure. The mission of this event is to provide an outlet of release with an emphasis on eliminating the fears of consequences and judgement by ensuring anonymity to all individuals revealing their secrets.

@ Central Park Lake

SECRETS TREE

The “Secrets Tree� will be open from noon to 6pm. Participants can write down however many secrets they would like (without their names) on a ribbon and tie them onto the tree. During the last half of the event, participants are encouraged to browse the secrets tied onto the tree and can take one or two of their favorite ones.


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CONCLUSION


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The conclusion of this project brings me great relief. This statement is not an indication of a bad experience. I just have to be honest (as my entire project is on not keeping secrets). This project has brought upon much stress, but the entire process has truly been a learning experience. I began this project with great enthusiasm and fear. I recognized how personal this project would be. The liberty to choose my own topic proved to be both the most attractive aspect of the project as well as the scariest. On one hand, I was being given the opportunity to focus on a topic I could be passionate about. On the other hand, I was being given too much freedom. I always appreciate freedom, but I also would have appreciated stricter guidelines, which would have facilitated the progression of this project. The journey to the final product I have now was not an easy one. In fact, it was probably one of the most difficult tasks I have ever had to complete. My first obstacle occurred the third week of class. I was looking at two topics I had great interest in. My diabetes topic was one of my first ideas because it was extremely personal. My secrets topic was intriguing and I wanted to explore it. If I had come up with the idea to focus on why people with invisible disabilities choose to tell or not tell others about their illness earlier, I probably would have continued with that topic. In addition to my own personal interest, I was largely encouraged to focus on my secrets topic because I received very positive feedback from the class. Even after I had decided to focus on secrets, I continued have qualms about it. Because it is such a broad topic, I had difficulty coming up with a final product for the topic; moreover, I did not know what direction take in my research. Prior experience in Design Research Methods instilled the fear of not having a complete final product in sight. However, I was encouraged to not think about the product but to immerse myself in the topic and focus on the process. My uncertainty in the topic and fruitless Google searches discouraged me from delving into the topic. I found myself feeling unprepared for class every Tuesday and unsure of if I was doing anything right. The semester continued and I felt my heart drifting from the topic. Near the last quarter of the semester, after a series of random events, I found a way to meld my initial two topics together. Enthusiasm towards this newly developed idea faded quickly when I found myself frightened to face a topic so intimate. After Madeleine Beckman’s visit to class and positive response to my secrets topic, I was re-energized. As a person who produces more ideas under pressure, I conceptualized my prototype and was therefore able to delve more wholeheartedly into the project.


conclusion

The final product I have now is one I am content with, although I know for a fact that there are many areas that still require further detail and research. Through this entire process, I have become very dependent on receiving feedback from my peers, something very uncharacteristic of me, as I have always been fearful of showing my work until I absolutely have to. I have not yet decided whether or not this is a positive or negative acquirement. Through this class and my interactions with my professor and classmates, I have found that I find great enjoyment in learning about others, their experiences, and how their experiences have shaped their interests. Very rarely will I probably have the opportunity to have so many people involved in my work as well as involve myself in others’ works. I cannot particularly imagine what I may have done differently throughout this process. I have always had the mindset that all my experiences are learning experiences, so I do have any regrets concerning this project. Given more time, however, I know I would have been able to carry this project further. On the other hand, I am not completely ruling out that I will not one day come back to this project and take it further. Nonetheless, at this time, I am relieved to have finished this segment of this project and will need a break from it for awhile. In regards to my actual topic and not my project, I have confirmed that secrets are inevitable. Without them, we would all be naked and flat.


SOURCES

Online Articles: http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=irp.001.0291a http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Psychology-of-Secrets&id=3552477 http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?id=2015 http://www.truthaboutdeception.com/lying-and-deception/secrets-lovers-keep.html http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200909/the-power-secrets http://people.howstuffworks.com/mafia4.htm http://wikileaks.ch http://www.bottomlinesecrets.com/article.html?article_id=48975 Books: The Secret Life of Families by Evan IrabetBlack, Ph.D The Psychology of Secrets by Anita E. Kelly Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies By Christopher Hodapp, Alice Von Kannon People: Tanya Gupta Caroline Payumo Professor Jeffrey Riman


FIN.


SECRETS