168 Hours: Thesis Process Book

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168 Hours deconstructing grind culture

Jiayi Ma


168 Hours deconstructing grind culture

Or, I thought about this for 2,520 Hours so it could live in the BU SVA Archives until it disintigrates.

Jiayi Ma Boston University School of Visual Arts Senior Thesis Spring 2020


Thank you’s that couldn’t be forgotten

Thank you Professor Yael Ort-Dinoor for leading me like a lost sheep to the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when I was struggling the most. Thank you to my parents and family for giving me the biggest headaches and heartaches, but also the biggest push to succeed, I couldn’t have made it this far without your support. Thank you to my wonderful roommates, Angie and Angela, who Zoom-ed me throughout quarantine, branded the thesis show with me, and listened to me bitch and cry for 3.75 entire years and didn’t kill me :,^), so much love for you. Thank you Jason Cho for picking up the phone freshman year and every time after that, I couldn’t have imagined my college experience without you. Thank you to my most patient and loving boyfriend Daniel who never let me starve to death and put up with 2.5 whole years of 8AM CFA classes and late, late nights in the studio. Thank you SVA for believing in me, and especially Jen Guillemin for all of your support and belief in me, and making it possible for me to stay here at BU financially. Thank you Jill Grimes, Richard Raiselis, James Grady and Yael Ort-Dinoor for all of your guidance, I truly would not be here graduating from SVA without your support. CSA, PCT, you drove me crazy but you made me a lot of who I am today, so I guess thank you too. Kevin, Clara, thank you for having my back through this all, through the years and all the miles of distance, the awkward silence kept me sane through it all. There are so many more thank you’s to be said, but I wanted to be sure I started off this thesis process book by thanking some of those who were the most important to my process.


Table of Contents

01. 02. 03. 04.

Thoughts Thesis Statement 50 Questions Research Book

05. 06. 07. 08.

Schedules & Interviews Abstraction Final Stretch Thoughts



Thoughts Mostly comments from myself at 3:00AM

I’m ambitious, I’m excited, and I’m ready to take on the world (I’m pretty sure).


168 hours 8 weeks A long winded way to say that I was overwhelmed and somehow still had a good time

This book was created with trepidation and love at 5:44AM on May 1, 2020. In the last 3.75 years, I’ve learned so much more about myself than I could have imagined, and tried many things, and couldn’t give up so, so many things. If you’re reading this, whether you’re Yael (<3), a BU faculty, or a senior working on your thesis now, I hope you can feel how grateful and thankful I am for this experience. If you’re the senior reading this who’s thinking about your senior thesis, I believe in you and I know you can do it. It might be a bit early for me to make these promises considering I haven’t actually finished my thesis, but as much as we can hope, time keeps going and the days never stop flying by. I suppose now is the time to set the scene. Is this where I say “Dear reader”? 168 Hours was a project born out of my frustration with my first 3 years of undergrad. The NYC School system is a very interesting one, especially for minorities and POC. The tangible energy is there, that meritocracy is real and you will succeed if you work hard. And to a certain extent that is true: there is the SHSAT, a standardized test that admits you to 8 of the most prestigious public schools in NYC. It was easy to figure out how to win that system, but what I didn’t realize was that I was losing the greater system, private schools, nonPOC, non children of immigrants. There were so many things that culminated in my struggle and frustrations with grind culture, I joined a business fraternity that really highlighted grind culture and it’s negatives for me. Here’s eight semesters worth of thoughts!


That’s me at 5 in Kindergarden, rocking the quarantine bangs that I refuse to give myself.


Senior photos last Fall for the yearbook that I never actually bought.. I probably should. Or at least edit out the watermark illegally.

Senior graduation photos this March, alone. But a few of my friends came to watch! Thank you Gavin for your gown and for coming to support me :)



Thesis Statement Mostly comments from myself at 3:00AM

I straight up lost my mind writing this statement I swear but COVID-19 really saved me. Turns out I really thrive under limitations, but the idea of “what-could-have-been� plagues me forever.


168 Hours is an observational commentary on grind and hustle culture, burnout and the maximalizing of the 168 hour week. Social media and the desire for a meritocratic system have perpetuated grind culture, but the source can perhaps be traced to startups motivating their employees through guilt and fear, with the narrative that there is always something more you could be doing to drive business forward. 168 Hours also observes and analyzes the relationship between


“adulting” and the todo list. The Elite Daily says, “The Modern Millenial for the most part, views adulthood as a series of actions, as opposed to a state of being. Adulting therefore becomes a verb. ‘To adult’ is to complete your to-do list -- but everything goes on the list, and the list never ends.” 168 Hours is a collection of interviews, content and sources from within the institutions of higher education. It is given form through a series of virtual por-

traits, a collection of posters, and a series of experiments that juxtapose the machine with the human body with the hope of understanding resilience, grit and merit. This thesis presents extensive research, and asks the question, “Why are we pretending to love the grind?�


Some physical thesis show exhibition styles I was thinking about pre-quarantine.


Motion tracking tests and to-do lists


To-Do Lists as a form of portraiture, schedules as a form of portraiture and understanding




THE UNKNOWN NEW TERRITORY Over the next week practice something in an arena you consider yourself a novice*. Document and design a _____________ to share the experience. *novice A person new to or inexperienced in a field or situation, in a certain task, etc; beginner; a person who has just started learning or doing something.

DESCRIPTION Designers are story tellers. For this assignment you will take on the role of a story teller and design a narrative via your own experience. Based on a chosen arena consider what it means to learn a new skill or try out something you are not familiar with. The process enables you to wear the hat of a narrator. What form of story telling serves to share your experience? Is it about learning a skill? Is it testing something you have never done before? Over the next week (seven days) document the experience and collect data. You have a dual role in the above, a participator as well as an author. Are you necessarily the protagonist (the leading character or one of the major characters)? Your goal is to generate content and consider a compelling vehicle to share it. Any solution or medium is valid (printed matter, screen based or installtion), as long as it supports the content. Class discussion will introduce linear and non-linear forms of documentation and story-telling.

OBJECTIVES – Content generation and documentation – Explore the relation of content and form – Story-telling and narratives (lineaer or non-linear)

PROCESS 1. Document the process over the course of seven days. What form does your data take? Pick a documentation vehicle that best serves best to collect and present your data. 2. Analyze the data collected over the course on one week. What does it imply? Do you recognize patterns? Is there a clear beginning, middle and end? 3. Translate the narrative (data) into a form that serves to share your unknown territory experience with others.

SCHEDULE 09.07 Handout and presentation / examples 09.08 Day 1 of your process 09.12 Studio session: share documentation from days 1–3 09.14 Review content (days 1–6); concept of story telling vehicle (form) 09.19–21 Studio session: form and content 09.26 Final due

Evaluating grind culture through the lens of “The Unknown”. Thought a lot of about schedules, routine, habits and what it means to break those habits within the context of grind culture.


“Contrast + Tension Why are we glorifying something so painful�

Not quite sure why I spent so much time looking for a grid notebook just to write on it on a diagonal?


I started thinking about grind culture and the 168 hour week in the Fall of my senior year, and explored this idea in digital photography and senior studio. I was having a really hard time taking my work from concept to form and form to function, especially within the context of a physical space (808 Gallery). I also found out during this time that our proposal was chosen and my roommates and I would be working on the BFA Thesis Branding team!



25 Questions Thoughts about the world and our relationship with it


1. What if we wore an equivalent of a Girl Scout sash where you could gain achievements in a quantifiable way? 2. How do people fall in love? 3. What if everyone had facial blindness? How would people fall in love? How would taste, beauty and love change? 4. What if our Calendar system changed and was reorganized to have 13 months? 5. What if we had an extra day of the week inbetween Saturday and Sunday? 6. What if we could see what we actually look like, instead of just our reflection? 7. What if people stopped valuing food? What would replace meals as a social & cultural staple? We first had to develop 25 questions about the world. I split my questions into 5 subsections, culture, community, relationships, education + system.

8. What if you could hydrate with a pill instead of by drinking water? 9.. What if everyone’s perception of the work week changed and a traditional 9-5 ceased to exist? 10. What if copyright ceased to exist and everything became open source? 11. What if there was a system like in China where each person’s social worth was measurable and comparable? 12. What if there was a way to translate what we see in our mind immediately into the physical? 13. What if there was technology that would allow you to see more colors? 14. How do you define class and taste? How can we

change the definition so it is objective? 15. How can recipes and foods continue being passed on in a modern world? 16. How do you define manners? 17. What are the expectations of politeness? 18. What do I prioritize? 19. Are these the golden years? 20. What will matter when I am about to retire? 21. What’s the most important? Is it self? 22. How can I build good habits? Healthier habits? What matters? 23. How can you quantify consumer economy? 24. Who owns what? If you go viral on the internet, how can you transfer your celebrity into cash value? 25. How has humor changed in a “woke” time? What’s the double meaning of ridiculousness? 26. How do signifiers of wealth change between different socioeconomic classes? 27. What are new markers of wealth and class? 28. Would you swap out an Apple watch for a fancy watch for an interview? 29. How can we change the statistics that having children and starting a family disproportionately affect women in the workplace? 30. What if motion sensors


and lights could be used as an alternative to coffee? 31. Will we lose appreciation for the handmade and selfdone? 32. Will automation become standard? 33. How will legislation change as self-driving cars become the standard? 34. What if you had to opt out of the sustainable choice? 35. How can we judge youth? What is the first part of the body that shows age? 36. How can higher education act as an incubator for individuals of different backgrounds? 37. How can we keep learning? 38. How has consumerism transformed the economy, especially when it comes to fast fashion? 39. How do language and food serve as a medium to share culture? 40. What if consumer safety and style became synonymous? 41. How can we create lateral growth within the arts community? How can we lift each other up? 42. Do soulmates exist? There’s a huge computer science community, how can we create a community that builds these networks and support designers? 43. How can we improve technology for translating and transferring between digital and physical? Transportation accessibility is integral for creating eco-

nomic equality, how can cities develop to better serve low-income communities? 44. How can we juggle the responsibilities and expectations of multiple different cultures? 45. How do you approach end-of-life care? How do the expectations change giv-

en cultural differences? 46. How can culture be shared authentically? 47. How can we identify authenticity?




Started thinking about juxtaposing these (hopefully) thought proviking questions juxtaposed against mundane objects. However after group crit, the limitations of printing on paper towels and napkins detracted from the overall message and I needed to rethink the final product.


I wanted to continue working with juxtaposing the mundane with the questions, and I decided to install in a supermarket in order to confront people with these questons in a mundane environment and moment as opposed to the napkins and paper towels.












Key Foods Supermarket Buy 1 get 1 free on oatmeal, soup and all “brain food�. Terms and conditions apply, one per customer, two if you tell a joke at the register Only for use at Key Foods Supermarket, at the discretion of the manager or supervisor.

For my final vehicle, I created a grocery store flyer in a package of other goods that I vinyl printed with questions on them.

Key Foods Supermarket

All Valentine’s Day Chocolates & Flowers

50 % off

Take $1 off of any coffee, tea and energy drink brand.

99 ¢


Spring is (almost) here! Get your allergy medicine now, flip me for those FIRE deals!

Terms and conditions apply, one per customer, two if you tell a joke at the register Only for use at Key Foods Supermarket, at the discretion of the manager or supervisor.



Research Book Thoughts from others, thoughts from me, some late night elbow grease

Some research fro m my research book, some research from post quarantine to reorient.


Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work? By Erin Griffith Jan. 26, 2019


Never once at the start of my workweek — not in my morning coffee shop line; not in my crowded subway commute; not as I begin my bottomless inbox slog — have I paused, looked to the heavens and whispered: #ThankGodIt’sMonday. Apparently, that makes me a traitor to my generation. I learned this during a series of recent visits to WeWork locations in New York, where the throw pillows implore busy tenants to “Do what you love.” Neon signs demand they “Hustle harder,” and murals spread the gospel of T.G.I.M. Even the cucumbers in WeWork’s water coolers have an agenda. “Don’t stop when you’re tired,” someone recently carved into the floating vegetables’ flesh. “Stop when you are done.” Kool-Aid drinking metaphors are rarely this literal. Welcome to hustle culture. It is obsessed with striving, relentlessly positive, devoid of humor, and — once you notice it — impossible to escape. “Rise and Grind” is both the theme of a Nike ad campaign and the title of a book by a “Shark Tank” shark. New media upstarts like the Hustle, which produces a popular business newsletter and conference series, and One37pm, a content company created by the patron saint of hustling, Gary Vaynerchuk, glorify ambition not as a means to an end, but as a lifestyle. “The current state of entrepreneurship is bigger than career,” reads the One37pm “About Us” page. “It’s ambition, grit and hustle. It’s a live performance that lights up your creativity … a sweat session that sends your endorphins coursing ... a visionary who expands your way of thinking.” From this point of view, not only does one never stop hustling — one never exits a kind of work rapture, in which the chief purpose of exercising or attending a concert is to get inspiration that leads back to the desk. Ryan Harwood, the chief executive of One37pm’s parent company, told me that the site’s content is aimed at a younger generation of people who are seeking permission to follow their dreams. “They want to know how to own their moment, at any given moment,” he said. “Owning one’s moment” is a clever way to rebrand “surviving the rat race.” In the new work culture, enduring or even merely liking one’s job is not enough. Workers should love what they do, and then promote that love on social media, thus fusing their identities to that of their employers. Why else would LinkedIn build its own version of Snapchat Stories?

This is toil glamour, and it is going mainstream. Most visibly, WeWork — which investors recently valued at $47 billion — is on its way to becoming the Starbucks of office culture. It has exported its brand of performative workaholism to 27 countries, with 400,000 tenants, including workers from 30 percent of the Global Fortune 500. In January, WeWork’s founder, Adam Neumann, announced that his start-up was rebranding itself as the We Company, to reflect an expansion into residential real estate and education. Describing the shift, Fast Company wrote: “Rather than just renting desks, the company aims to encompass all aspects of people’s lives, in both physical and digital worlds.” The ideal client, one imagines, is someone so enamored of the WeWork office aesthetic — whip-cracking cucumbers and all — that she sleeps in a WeLive apartment, works out at a Rise by We gym, and sends her children to a WeGrow school. From this vantage, “Office Space,” the Gen-X slacker paean that came out 20 years ago next month, feels like science fiction from a distant realm. It’s almost impossible to imagine a start-up worker bee of today confessing, as protagonist Peter Gibbons does, “It’s not that I’m lazy. It’s that I just don’t care.” Workplace indifference just doesn’t have a socially acceptable hashtag.

‘It’s grim and exploitative’ It’s not difficult to view hustle culture as a swindle. After all, convincing a generation of workers to beaver away is convenient for those at the top. “The vast majority of people beating the drums of hustle-mania are not the people doing the actual work. They’re the managers, financiers and owners,” said David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder of Basecamp, a software company. We spoke in October, as he was promoting his new book, “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work,” about creating healthy company cultures. Mr. Heinemeier Hansson said that despite data showing long hours improve neither productivity nor creativity, myths about overwork persist because they justify the extreme wealth created for a small group of elite techies. “It’s grim and exploitative,” he said. Elon Musk, who stands to reap stock compensation upward of $50 billion if his company, Tesla, meets certain performance levels, is a prime example of extolling work by the many that will primarily benefit him. He tweeted in November that there are easier places to work than Tesla, “but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” The correct number of hours “varies per person,” he continued, but is “about 80 sustained,

peaking about 100 at times. Pain level increases exponentially above 80.” Mr. Musk, who has more than 24 million Twitter followers, further noted that if you love what you do, “it (mostly) doesn’t feel like work.” Even he had to soften the lie of T.G.I.M. with a parenthetical. Arguably, the technology industry started this culture of work zeal sometime around the turn of the millennium, when the likes of Google started to feed, massage and even play doctor to its employees. The perks were meant to help companies attract the best talent — and keep employees at their desks longer. It seemed enviable enough: Who wouldn’t want an employer that literally took care of your dirty laundry? But today, as tech culture infiltrates every corner of the business world, its hymns to the virtues of relentless work remind me of nothing so much as Soviet-era propaganda, which promoted impossible-seeming feats of worker productivity to motivate the labor force. One obvious difference, of course, is that those Stakhanovite posters had an anticapitalist bent, criticizing the fat cats profiting from free enterprise. Today’s messages glorify personal profit, even if bosses and investors — not workers — are the ones capturing most of the gains. Wage growth has been essentially stagnant for years. Perhaps we’ve all gotten a little hungry for meaning. Participation in organized religion is falling, especially among American millennials. In San Francisco, where I live, I’ve noticed that the concept of productivity has taken on an almost spiritual dimension. Techies here have internalized the idea — rooted in the Protestant work ethic — that work is not something you do to get what you want; the work itself is all. Therefore any life hack or company perk that optimizes their day, allowing them to fit in even more work, is not just desirable but inherently good. Aidan Harper, who created a European workweek-shrinkage campaign called 4 Day Week, argues that this is dehumanizing and toxic. “It creates the assumption that the only value we have as human beings is our productivity capability — our ability to work, rather than our humanity,” he told me. It’s cultist, Mr. Harper added, to convince workers to buy into their own exploitation with a change-the-world message. “It’s creating the idea that Elon Musk is your high priest,” he said. “You’re going into your church every day and worshiping at the altar of work.”

For congregants of the Cathedral of Perpetual Hustle, spending time on anything that’s nonwork related has become a reason to feel guilty. Jonathan Crawford, a San Franciscobased entrepreneur, told me that he sacrificed his relationships and gained more than 40 pounds while working on Storenvy, his ecommerce start-up. If he socialized, it was at a networking event. If he read, it was a business book. He rarely did anything that didn’t have a “direct R.O.I.,” or return on investment, for his company. Mr. Crawford changed his lifestyle after he realized it made him miserable. Now, as an entrepreneur-in-residence at 500 Start-ups, an investment firm, he tells fellow founders to seek out nonwork-related activities like reading fiction, watching movies or playing games. Somehow this comes off as radical advice. “It’s oddly eye-opening to them because they didn’t realize they saw themselves as a resource to be expended,” Mr. Crawford said. It’s easy to become addicted to the pace and stress of work in 2019. Bernie Klinder, a consultant for a large tech company, said he tried to limit himself to five 11-hour days per week, which adds up to an extra day of productivity. “If your peers are competitive, working a ‘normal workweek’ will make you look like a slacker,” he wrote in an email. Still, he’s realistic about his place in the rat race. “I try to keep in mind that if I dropped dead tomorrow, all of my acrylic workplace awards would be in the trash the next day,” he wrote, “and my job would be posted in the paper before my obituary.”

Lusty for Monday mornings The logical endpoint of excessively avid work, of course, is burnout. That is the subject of a recent viral essay by the BuzzFeed cultural critic Anne Helen Petersen, which thoughtfully addresses one of the incongruities of hustle-mania in the young. Namely: If Millennials are supposedly lazy and entitled, how can they also be obsessed with killing it at their jobs? Millennials, Ms. Petersen argues, are just desperately striving to meet their own high expectations. An entire generation was raised to expect that good grades and extracurricular overachievement would reward them with fulfilling jobs that feed their passions. Instead, they wound up with precarious, meaningless work and a mountain of student loan debt. And so posing as a rise-and-grinder, lusty for Monday mornings, starts to make sense as a defense mechanism.


Most jobs — even most good jobs! — are full of pointless drudgery. Most corporations let us down in some way. And yet years after the HBO satire “Silicon Valley” made the vacuous mission statement “making the world a better place” a recurring punch line, many companies still cheerlead the virtues of work with high-minded messaging. For example, Spotify, a company that lets you listen to music, says that its mission is “to unlock the potential of human creativity.” Dropbox, which lets you upload files and stuff, says its purpose is “to unleash the world’s creative energy by designing a more enlightened way of working.” David Spencer, a professor of economics at Leeds University Business School, says that such posturing by companies, economists and politicians dates at least to the rise of mercantilism in 16th-century Europe. “There has been an ongoing struggle by employers to venerate work in ways that distract from its unappealing features,” he said. But such propaganda can backfire. In 17thcentury England, work was lauded as a cure for vice, Mr. Spencer said, but the unrewarding truth just drove workers to drink more. Internet companies may have miscalculated in encouraging employees to equate their work with their intrinsic value as human beings. After

a long era of basking in positive esteem, the tech industry is experiencing a backlash both broad and fierce, on subjects from monopolistic behavior to spreading disinformation and inciting racial violence. And workers are discovering how much power they wield. In November, some 20,000 Googlers participated in a walkout protesting the company’s handling of sexual abusers. Other company employees shut down an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon that could have helped military drones become more lethal. Mr. Heinemeier Hansson cited the employee protests as evidence that millennial workers would eventually revolt against the culture of overwork. “People aren’t going to stand for this,” he said, using an expletive, “or buy the propaganda that eternal bliss lies at monitoring your own bathroom breaks.” He was referring to an interview that the former chief executive of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, gave in 2016, in which she said that working 130 hours a week was possible “if you’re strategic about when you sleep, when you shower, and how often you go to the bathroom.” Ultimately, workers must decide if they admire or reject this level of devotion. Ms. Mayer’s comments were widely panned on social media when the interview ran, but since then, Quora users have eagerly shared their

own strategies for mimicking her schedule. Likewise, Mr. Musk’s “pain level” tweets drew plenty of critical takes, but they also garnered just as many accolades and requests for jobs. The grim reality of 2019 is that begging a billionaire for employment via Twitter is not considered embarrassing, but a perfectly plausible way to get ahead. On some level, you have to respect the hustlers who see a dismal system and understand that success in it requires total, shameless buy-in. If we’re doomed to toil away until we die, we may as well pretend to like it. Even on Mondays.


Time Is Meaningless Now Is it Tuesday, or Saturday? Who cares. By Shayla Love Apr. 10, 2020

n 1962, a French geologist, Michel Siffre, descended into a cave more than 400 feet below ground and stayed there for two months. He left his watch, and any other indicators of time, at the surface to experience what life was like "beyond time." He discovered that without any external time cues, he started to lose track of the minutes, hours, and days. He went into the cave on July 16, and had planned to come out on September 14. His team alerted him when the day arrived, but according to his estimation it was only August 20. “I believed I still had another month to spend in the cave. My psychological time had compressed by a factor of two,” he said in a 2008 interview. We are not currently plunged into darkness—in a cave with no natural light—nor are we stripped of our phones or watches. But many people are feeling, with social distancing and the world grinding to a halt, that time has similarly started to lose its meaning. Monday, Saturday, Wednesday; 10 AM, 4 PM, midnight—who knows what day or time it is? Last week, Stephen Colbert tweeted: “The last two weeks have been a strange ten years.” One cable news channel even launched a segment called “What Day Is It?,” announcing triumphantly one recent Tuesday: “And if you said Tuesday, you're right.” It's like, as Siffre said, in a 2018 interview: “The brain grasps no time because there is no time. Unless you write down what has happened, you forget it immediately." First, a reminder that if you’re stuck at home, starting to feel a senselessness in the passage of time, it is a privilege to feel this way—many essential workers are still bound to the clock, and healthcare workers are feeling a different kind of timelessness as they work long hours in overwhelmed hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients. But for the rest of us, something strange is happening to our sense of time. Because of the deluge of news, anxiety and stress, along with the lack of change in our environments and activities, time could be stretching and twisting to feel much longer than it normally does. There’s so much uncertainty about when this will all end and what the future looks like; with social isolation dates continually being pushed back, it leaves us stuck in a never-ending present. These factors are mixing with how those of us with 9 to 5 lifestyles are usually subservient to the clock, and are now being challenged to consider how to structure our days in ways that feel worthwhile. This is fodder for jokes and funny memes, but may have larger implications: Research has suggested that how you think about and perceive time also affects our decisionmaking and perspectives on the future. Instead of letting time lose all meaning, there are some ways to bring back a sense of normalcy—and maybe even remember what a Friday feels like. Our relationship with time is governed by our lifestyles and our cultural perspectives. As J.T. Fraser, the founder of the International Society for the Study of Time, once wrote, “Tell me what to think of time, and I shall know what to think of you.” Based on what we think about time right now, one might conclude that we're feeling lost and confused. This is caused by several changes to our daily lives that influence how we experience time, said Hal Hershfield, a psychologist at UCLA who


has studied how perceptions of time relate to the choices people make. One is that we’re paying attention more than we usually do. A couple of weeks feels incredibly long because we’ve taken in so much new information, from Twitter, online news, or TV. “We roughly use the number of things that happen in a given period of time to tell us how much time has passed,” Hershfield said. “When way more things have occurred in a standard period of time, it makes it feel like that period of time has been longer than it actually was.” On top of that, things that are unusual seem to last longer, called the “oddball effect.” When a psychologist at Dartmouth, Peter Ulric Tse, and his colleagues showed people the same flashing images, when a different one popped up, they said it lasted longer than the others—even though they saw it for the same amount of time. Our emotions, like fear, also play a role in how we feel the passage of time. In 2011, a study showed students different scenes from movies that evoked fear, sadness, or neutral emotions. When they were scared, the students experienced the video durations were longer. In 2010, David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, had research participants go on an amusement park ride on which they dropped a precipitous 15 stories. When asked how long the drop took, people tended to overestimate the duration. While we’re being bombarded with new news and new fears, stretching time out, other parts of our lives have become less diverse. Eagleman has also done research showing that novelty is an important ingredient to make time feel longer, and suggested that that’s why our childhoods feel longer and time seems to move faster as we get older—because we experience less novelty as adults in our routines. This contradiction might explain why for some there's been a kind of accordion-ing of time. Sometimes, the days feel long, as we’re trapped in the news cycle and novel fears arise. But time can also slip right by, or hours and days can blend together, in the absence of seeing new people or doing new things. In past research, done on people not living through a pandemic, Hershfield has found that people who thought the present lasted for longer periods of time were not as motivated to plan for the future. “The implication might be that if time loses meaning, and we’re in this perpetual present, it may be more difficult to do things for the long run,” Hershfield said. “I’m not sure that time itself has actually lost meaning. But I am worried that people are losing meaning within these stretches of time because we’re not quite sure what to do with ourselves.”

In his book Geography of Time, social psychologist Robert Levine found that there was a relationship between a city’s relationship to time and many factors, like economics, climate, population, and whether the culture was geared toward individualism or collectivism. Anglo-Europeans live our lives in “clock” time— meaning we use time to schedule the beginning and end of activities. This is compared to “event time,” in which events begin and end according to other parameters. “Events begin and end when, by mutual consensus, participants ‘feel’ the time is right,” Levine wrote. Anglo-Europeans additionally struggle with something called “time urgency,” or “the struggle to achieve as much as possible in the shorter period of time.” “It sometimes seems as if life is constructed with the primary goal of avoiding the awkwardness and sometimes the terror of having nothing to do,” Levine wrote. So many of those factors have suddenly changed for us, said Marc Wittmann, a time researcher at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Germany. And because our "tempos" may have been ingrained in our previous everyday lives, this shift can be especially jarring. For a culture that’s so rooted in productivity and time urgency, a sudden shift to event time is uncomfortable. We’re starting to experience this with Zoom hangouts with friends—which don’t end because people have to go somewhere else or commute home, but just… end when friends have had enough of each other.


“You always used to have this perspective with which you regulate,” Wittmann said. “You know, now it’s 9 AM and at 10 I have a meeting. But now, you lose your usual schedule and your time references that you have in everyday life. The days just pass." Anne-Laure Sellier, an associate professor of marketing at HEC Paris Business School, has done follow-up research on clock and event time. She’s found that people who live with event time feel more in control of their lives, while clock-timers feel the world as a disconnected and more chaotic place, because events are not related to one another or controlled by human agency or will, but by their time, and can be shuffled and rescheduled without regard to one another. My days used to sound a lot like how Sellier describes clock time in an article for The Conversation: “An alarm clock at 7 a.m., breakfast from 7.30 a.m. to 8 a.m., arrival at work at 9 a.m., work until noon, one hour lunch break, work again until '' at 6 p.m., a return home around 7 p.m. to sit down to eat with the family at 8 p.m. and go to bed at 11 p.m., just to sleep eight hours.” But life now feels more like event time: “It begins with a natural awakening, followed by a breakfast that ends when you feel ready to attack work. Once at work, we stay there until hunger calls us. We eat lunch until we feel ready to go back to work. We continue until we decide that it is ‘time to stop, tomorrow is another day.'" There could be a benefit to losing the shackles of the clock and introducing a bit more

flexibility into our schedules, but completely abandoning time structures could result in leaving behind elements that were good for our mental health—like the weekend. Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the Australian Catholic University, has done research that revealed a “weekend effect”— people have higher moods, more energy, and fewer physical complaints on Saturdays and Sundays. “A lot of that story was that for many people, when they’re working, they’re feeling less autonomy and connectedness to other people,” Ryan said. “Whereas time off gave them a chance to connect with people they love, and share positive experiences with them." People tend to have higher levels of well-being when we’re able to fulfill basic psychological needs, like autonomy, competence, and relatedness, along with making sure that you have the time to do things you value and are interested in. During social distancing, the weekends have lost a lot of these advantages. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s Friday or Saturday or Tuesday,” Ryan said. “We can’t go out and be with the friends that we care about.” How can we reclaim the positive effects of the days of the week, our weekend, and time in general? As many of us are learning, days of the week, routine, and structure are important to us after all. “In theory we could be like, ‘Well there's no structure, there's no boundaries, there's no limits. I can eat ice cream at nine in the morning and I can drink whiskey at 10. I can do whatever I want.’ But I think the


novelty of that is going to quickly wear off,” Hershfield said. During isolation, since we can’t go out—to the movies, to a restaurant, soccer game, or museum, one way to make time feel full and meaningful is to populate it with a lot of diverse activities that segment the time into different sections. Hershfield suggests also trying to stick to a routine— and to do so, it might help demarcate time by creating small rituals. Researchers Francesca Gino and Mike Norton at Harvard University have studied how rituals can help people separate their work from home identities—finding, for instance, that nurses might feel they have better home/life balance if they made a ritual out of changing out of their scrubs into different clothes at the end of the work day. Introducing rituals could help separate time so that we can focus on different parts of our identities. It might be therapeutic if you’re getting lost in the days of the week, or the difference between weekday and weekend. “What you’re doing is creating a salient cognitive cue that it is now time to shift gears,” Hershfield said. I tried a new ritual of my own last week. On Friday evening I closed my work laptop and switched to my personal laptop. (They are identical MacBook Airs.) I’ve started wearing a small ring on my hand while I’m working, and taking it off around 5:30 or 6 to mark the end of the work day. I’m planning on coming up with some other fun weekend rituals to signal to myself that it’s time to rest, perhaps having a “weekend” hat, or a weekend dance that I start the day with. Gino and Norton found that these rituals can be beneficial, even for people who don’t think they will work. As time plods on, these strategies could help us cope with a world that's suddenly changed around us, and be a reminder of what it used to be like. “Ultimately, what does it matter if it’s Friday at five if it might as well be Tuesday at nine?” Hershfield said. “But that type of thinking gives rise to the loss of meaning. Being able to keep some rhythm, some routine, can help us at least stay connected to what life was like prior to this.”

The best way I can tell time is how long my roots are and how grown out my nails are...



Schedules & Interviews When in doubt, ask others?

Here’s the project and brief and thoughts and etc Here’s the project and brief and thoughts Here’s the project and brief and thoughts and etc Here’s the project and brief and thoughts Here’s the project and brief and thoughts



What’s your name? What are you studying? Where are you from? What are you involved in on campus?

Hello, my name is Jason Cho. I'm studying computer science at Boston University. I'm from New Jersey. I am involved in PCT, in a business organizational fraternity. I’m also involved in Boston Hacks, the hackathon here at BU. I’m uh involved in UPE, the technology honors society as well as the church on campus: Symphony.

Where do you I work at BU IT Help Center on work on campus? campus. Okay, can you walk Sometimes I’ll wake up like me through your an hour before work and I’ll weekly schedule? kinda lie around bed until 30 minutes before work and then I'll start panicking and then I’ll grab a coffee from Starbucks and then go to my shift from 11-2. That’s most of my days. Then after my shift I get a quick lunch, go to class and after class I usually start working on homework or I go take a nap because you know, sleep is valuable. Sleep is valuable. Sleep is very valuable. How do you I like to think of all the things prioritize? I have to do, write it down on a piece of paper. I let myself have maybe 5 to 10 minutes with that, and then as soon as I am confidenet with that


I just start listing out things that have the most immediate deadlines or the most weight. I kinda like work things down from there. Can you walk me The list will vary day to day. I’ll through your to-do pu the things with the closest list? deadlines first. I’ll sort of walk through all of my classes and see if there are any upcoming deadlines or any assignments posted. Then I’ll start working towards personal things like doing laundry or hanging out with people or making sure that I’ve scheduled lunches or dinners with people. And then there will be extra fun stuff like times to go hang out with people at TITS or at the arcarde or things like that. Why are you in- Because I enjoy them and it volved in the things gives me a sense of purpose that you are? and it keeps me preoccupied. As a senior what’s one piece of advice you would have given your freshman self, or one thing you wish you had changed?

I wish I had been more involved my freshman year because the only thing I really did was hang out with people and go to class, and I feel as though if I had gotten that head start things would be a little different from where they are right now. If I had gotten started early with the internship grind I could possible have more

internship experience under my belt, and I potentially could have gone for better companies I believe. The skills I would have developed frshaman year. How do you define I define hard work as making hard work? some sacrifices to things that you want to do for the sake of academic development or professional development. Anything that results in prioirties, it’s not just about putting in the time, it’s about putting in the actual efforts as well. Cause anyone can sort of cancel plans with friends and just sit around and do nothing. It’s a matter of utilizing the time to really improve yourself and make substaintial progress on yourself. That’s how I would define hard work.





















Abstraction & Color When in doubt, ask others?

After the collection of schedules, I wanted to find an additional layer of abstraction. I also took Color Theory and was interested in bringing concepts discussed in that class into my senior thesis.


168 hours 7 days 24 hours

With the abstraction of schedules, I was interested in bringing the ideas of time into a grid based system. I broke down the week into an 8 x 21 grid and




Inspiration from nickytes.la about color and fill and blocks with an interactive grid resume.



Class Sorority CSA Sleep PCT Mugar TA Meetings


Class Meetings Meetings Sleep ASU Branding Soul Cycle


01:40 Health School Extracurriculars Worktime Job Sleep





Final Stretch When in doubt, ask others?


Starting thinking about abstraction and puzzles as a way to convey the feeling of stress relating to prioritization and time. I felt like Tetris was a game that conveyed a similar feeling and I created a short game where the goal was to fit all of the blocks into the 168 block grid, similar to the days of the week. As you went through the game, there would be too many blocks and you would have to eliminate blocks in order to makke them fit.


Made a small zine about to-do lists, reminiscent back to the beginning of the semester.






So much math lmao but some feedback and notes from faculty reviews and large group class meetings.



Exploring a timer that I coded out on After Effects expressions! Started working with the idea of time and creating tension through blocks and motion in the background. I was also really interested in the juxtaposition of abstraction as you go from schedules to grids to video motion! I wanted to show this in my final thesis work, as you can see in my thesis website: jiayikma.com/thesis I was interested in the way that color can create tension and interactions, and utilized motion to show that!


Worked on some triptych narrative motion videos.


Medium Thoughts

“At this time, I'm currently in the last weeks of my senior thesis. This reconfiguration of the project has me reflecting on my last four years here at Boston University. What is community? How can you cultivate community in an authentic way when there's so much pressure on "leveraging your network and your community".

of class), prep time for meetings, cleaning/ cooking and other requirements to live. As the grids started overlapping and pushing through the time, I was really interested in the way that motion could highlight that tension and show the internal and external pressure. I didn't include socializing time or travel to and from class or meetings.

For this project, I had a really hard time finalizing what community means to me in a time of immense change. I started thinking a lot about what space, time, and location add and detract from a sense of community. I thought about this project within the context of my senior thesis. My senior thesis, 168 Hours, discusses and deconstructs grind culture and the maximalizing of the 168 hour week. I was exploring scheduling apps like Google Calendar, color, time, and modular abstraction.

From here I brought these forms into Cinema 4D to create the feeling of tension, but I really struggled with working in Cinema 4D and bringing it into AfterEffects and ended up leaving the grid background and playing with opacity. It created an unintended but appreciated dimensional effect! I also worked with expressions in AfterEffects to code out a timer that I sped up with the goal of passing through all 24 hours in 5 minutes. I wanted to utilize the gradient lava-lamp feeling as a way to show the time-blocks and overlap fighting with each other and the tension when it comes to prioritizing and deciding between responsibilities. The colors are taken from the crowd-sourced Google calendars and then blended in AE as a background for the timers. I brought all of them together as a triptych which you can see below!

With my thesis in mind, and through the lens of community, I wanted to translate the idea of time and shared time, and making connections and creating a sense of community by sharing time. With the intention of being seen as a triptych, I wanted to create a narrative of 2 people trying to connect, but the time never overlapping. I also wanted to utilize Cinema 4D and 3D visualization. I started with schedule abstractions in Illustrator, as you can see above. I abstracted Google Calendars that I collected by breaking down the 168 hour week into an 8 x 21 grid and then breaking down time-blocks from the calendar as solids, and then the invisible time blocks as lined blocks. I defined "invisible" work time as homework (with the equation, 1 hour of class time = 2 hours of work outside

I learned a lot through this project and through this class, and I'm really grateful that I was able to learn a new skill even through this transition to virtual learning!�



Thoughts When in doubt, ask others?


Jiayi Ma Boston University School of Visual Arts Senior Thesis 2020 Typeset in Druk Wide and Questa Sans Printed by Blurb

I had the most difficult time writing this entire book, but I learned a lot. Here’s to the future!