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throw thesis es away by: michael leng instructor: jane pirone


05/03/12-08/31/1 (MUSt be rela

“At the end of the season, there are so many emotions. Nobody likes to talk about it, because one of them is fear, fear that you make it this far and it all could end. Some dreams could die, but me, I like fear, it means I’m close, it means I’m ready.” –Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal


I ventured into Parsons as a lost sophomore and currently, I am

writing this thesis book as a lost senior. Sometimes, I feel as though embracing uncertainty allows for one to truly become in touch with themselves. The two thesis topics I will present in the beginning of this process concentrate on different aspects of my personality. Both subject matters are incredibly inimate and interesting for myself, but they emobody an entirely different method in completing either path. One process involves directly assisting those in need, and also utilizing my education thus far, in order to potentially better the lives of those less fortunate. While my alternate thesis exploration journeys into my greatest interests as a designer, thinker, and human being; having one last opportunity to seize and materialize a piece solely for fueling my individual intrigue.

Because of this, I have felt that I simply can not drop one potential

topic for the other. I have thought to myself, why force myself to make a choice, before I have to? So I sit here, writing this foreward, hoping that somewhere along the way that I may potentially receive more insight on what I want to do for my senior thesis. Until then, we can only track my progress and see how far my mind may wander and the many shapes/ forms my process could potentially travel.

– michael leng


values and traits of the public are vastly different from years prior, however they have become increasingly difficult to generalize. As the information age accelerates the method

in which we receive information, the desire to formulate opinions, ideas and work increase

exponentially. Through the N KM, I hope to better understand the wide palettes of thought today on several contemporary values and key issues. Through this social analysis, I hope to frame a diverse range of thought and individuality, while also hoping to connect recurring trains of thought and ideologies together.


receiving an opportunity to work with the non-profit organization, Friends Without a Border, (a non-profit dedicated to funding/sustaining hospitals in developing countries) I felt enabled for one of the first times during my education. The ability to potentially benefit others’ lives not only provides the ultimate test of my educational experience, but also a chance to cause a tangible change in which many less-fortunate people may benefit from.

man i festo Rules of the game


1. u n d erstan d

8. appreciate

Understanding is the key principle in my design thinking. Before any piece is conducted, the designer must first recognize and understand his/her goals. After understanding their goals, they must then understand their audience and space in which the design will occupy. Upon fully understanding the audience, space, and goals, then the designer must then understand themselves and their capabilities.

Always be acceptable to the new. Appreciate every step you take, as it is different than the one you took before. Love each day.

2. n o co m placen cy What you already know is everything you have already lived. There is no excitement without discovery and stimulation is harder to come by. This isn’t a claim to go out and merely experiment for originality’s sake, but rather a suggestion mix it up. You will never know what you enjoy and what you love without having experiencing these opportunities .

3. appreciate h u m i lity Your failures build you into who you are today. Fail early, fail often, equates to learning early, learning often.

4. put a bi rd o n it If something bores or is uninteresting to you, spruce it up. Manipulate it to your interests. You have a lot of control over your environment and utilize your abilities to the fullest.

5. d esi g n th ro u g h livi n g Utilize your life and experiences in your designs. Everything you’ve been taught, everything you’ve enjoyed, everything you’ve hated, everything you’ve remembered. They’ve made you into who you are today, let them contribute to your work and thoughtflow as well

6. d o n’t sweat th e small stu ff A lot of things have the potential to make you upset, however you are in the driver’s seat and you have to maintain good control of your situations and surroundings. Do your best to not allow the minute things in life to negatively impact your mood.

7. o mar d o n’t scare Don’t let intimidation play a factor into your beliefs and designs. Fear is a very powerful inhibition and can restrict a lot of free-form thinking and removing this restriction can allow you to access areas that are unfamiliar to you.


Now is not the time for professionalism and brown-nosing my friends, that comes later.

preli m i nary–m i n d maps I have no idea what I’m doing

not required by law

clunky, obnoxious



cyc l i n g i n th e c it y My passion for cycling in the city had led to to possibly consider my thesis project to be about the current situation in the city. However, after a somewhat thorough self-exploration process, I realized that I lacked a passion for cycling in the city as many of the problems I face are out of my control.

cambodia The struggling country of Cambodia is a place of low standards of living and holds a sincere place in the hearts of my family and myself. Through design, I believe that I could potentially benefit a small group/area of the country and help raise money to better the lives of others.

2012 i d e o l o gy My passion for cycling in the city had led to to possibly consider my thesis project to be about the current situation in the city.

unreliable at times

leading cause of death




lack of exercise

cycling in the city


commuter crisis cars

hobbies security

oil congestion

introvert’s dilemma


stolen bikes

5x5 I have no idea what I’m doing

With all the advancements in modernmedicine being utilized, there are still many variables that we must always account for. Namely human error. There is always a constant inconsistency amongst humans. Our nerves twitch, our focus shifts, we eyes deceive us. With something as frail as a human life in our hands, surgeons must be as accurate as 100% in order to ensure the highest probability of care.

T : th e b o o k o f to d ay

Surgical tools have been advancing throughout the course of time. From barbaric tools, to the surgical steel we use today, we are always increasing the probablility of life. Surgery is now able to do wondrous things and the tools are becoming so far advanced, beyond anything we could have comprehended 10 years ago. Perhaps some of the greatest tools available today are the lasers and cameras we are able to use, in order to properly conduct surgery and scope out areas of the body unreachable by the human eye. However with the advent in new technology, comes improvements.

Purpose: Through case studies, provide a concrete assessment of the world today and how far developed certain aspects of the world are.

In the near future, we will soon resort to mechanicical beings to conduct surgery. Machines are unlike humans in that they are methodical, consistent, and do not require ample rest. They are our superiors in many ways, as they are able to perform a repeated task much quicker than humans. Industrializing the manufacturing trade allowed for an entire revoloution in mass-production. With this new technology, humans will be able to conduct minor surgeries at a much more alarming and quicker rate. This new technology will be the greatest medical advance since the discovery on anesthesia and penicillin. This ease of access to surgery will allow for more doctors to tend to the care of other humans, while the machines would be able to conduct surgery at a more precise and quicker rate than the human surgeon themselves. This would allow for more time to be spent towards research and design, and less towards managing patients. Catherine Mohr, a surgeon based in San Francisco states the learning curve of surgery was an impeding factor in the lack of qualified surgeons. Machines are able to log over CpibloadrPageNumber

Surgery using the Da Vinci Robot [7]

3000 hours of performing a task, and are born to conduct surgery, while human anatomy has difficulty reaching into other parts of the human body. These new surgical methods, allows for many surgeries including removing tumors. It is able to help discern tumors using probes and allows to view cells directly. This revolution in surgery will allow humans to live longer, and for all of us to have minor side-effects and damaging from these technologies.

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ta g s Format: photo journalism/ to be further expanded programmes necessary: camera, lightroom, photoshop, further applicatoins TBD

a h c & f r i e n d s w ith o ut a b o r d e r Format : collaborative outreach Programmes necessary : any and all applicable

n k m : n e g ati v e k a r m a m a c h i n e Format:infographic Programmes necessary: after effects, indesign, illustrator, surveying, potential expansion in interaction

l i f e 2012 e d iti o n Format : board game design Programmes necessary : any and all applicable

Book: I n k m : n e g ati v e k a r m a m a c h i n e

Format:infographic Programmes necessary: after effects, indesign, illustrator, surveying, potential expansion in interaction

research Not all who wander are lost

“Morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” and those that are “bad.” The philosophy of morality is ethics. A moral code is a system of morality (according to a particular philosophy, religion, culture, etc.) and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code.”–Wikipedia

research Not all who wander are lost

Ste v e n P i n k e r’s th e b l a n k s l ate “Pinker argues that modern science has challenged three “linked dogmas” that constitute the dominant view of human nature in intellectual life: the blank slate (the mind has no innate traits) — empiricism. the noble savage (people are born good and corrupted by society) — romanticism the ghost in the machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology) — mind/body dualism Much of the book is dedicated to examining fears of the social and political consequences of his view of human nature: “the fear of inequality” “the fear of imperfectibility” “the fear of determinism” “the fear of nihilism” Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the book Pinker uses a range of sources from different fields. Particular attention is paid to thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes who Pinker argues has been undervalued. Pinker’s use of ‘un-orthodox’ thinkers follows directly from his observation that the data on violence contradicts our current expectations.”–Wikipedia Summary

J o n ath a n G l o v e r’s h u m a n it y: a m o r a l h i sto ry o f th e 20th c e ntu ry “This is an important work written in a clear and accessible manner. It is anecdotal and interpretive in style. Typically, one or more chapters tell a war story including details which may not be generally known; then the end of each section develops lessons to be learned. Glover’s book is a terrible indictment of war and other atrocities in the 20th Century. It is sometimes a tough read but is much more focused on the “whys and wherefores” than on the gruesomeness of the underlying subject matter. In other words it examines the psychology, politics and philosophy of war. The book is not comprehensive. We can all think of history which is not covered here. I guess I still have not quite figured out what criteria Glover used to include or exclude material. However, his themes are rationally developed. Some wars are shown to have been tribal in nature, some based on a belief system. Sometimes objective truth was abandoned and a cycle of selfdeception ensued.”– C. J. Roberts amazon review

research Not all who wander are lost

c u lt-u r e: i d e a s c a n b e d a n g e r o u s Culture is your local consensus reality; your clothing, cuisine and hairstyle, the music you listen to, the films you see; your values, ideas, beliefs and prejudices. Culture, unlike race, is not quite an inevitability of birth, but ultimately, in its choice of statements, an intellectual position. Today culture has a powerful new vector: the internet. Ideas--from a YouTube video to a viral marketing phenomenon or a fundamentalist religion--are travelling further and faster, and changing the cultural landscape like never before. In a new electronic democracy of ideas, cultural power is devolving to the creative individual. Amid our symbol-drenched existences, we desperately need a way of decoding the messages that bombard us. Written and designed by author and artist Rian Hughes, and sporting such design features as a faux-leather cover, die-cuts and tip-ins, Cult-ure is the culmination of a decade’s research into why and how we communicate.

B eyo n d G o o d a n d E v i l In the opening two parts of the book, Nietzsche discusses in turn the philosophers of the past, whom he accuses of a blind dogmatism plagued by moral prejudice masquerading as a search for objective truth; and the “free spirits”, like himself, who are to replace them. He casts doubt on the project of past philosophy by asking why we should want the “truth” rather than recognizing untruth “as a condition of life.” He offers an entirely psychological explanation of every past philosophy: each has been an “involuntary and unconscious memoir” on the part of its author (§6) and exists to justify his moral prejudices, which he solemnly baptizes as “truths”.

research Not all who wander are lost

preced ents & i nspi rati o n If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

n i k e+

d ay tu m

myf itn e s s pa l

preced ents & i nspi rati o n If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

N i c h o l a s f e lto n’s b i e n n i a l r e p o rts

preced ents & i nspi rati o n If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

N i c h o l a s f e lto n’s a n n u a l r e p o rt Nicholas Felton’s use of data-logging creates a nice inspirational piece for my direction and my work. I recently stumbled upon his work while discussing my thesis with a Parsons’ Alum and I was pointed in this direction. After viewing many samples of his work, I felt as though his aesthetic and design choices were very similar to the choices and decisions I often make. His use of simplistic designs, coupled with a strong emphasis on typography play a large role in my design. Upon viewing his annual report and DAYTUM, I saw that his work had a lot of information, however it was merely a datalogging service for the user’s sole interest.

early stag e d evelo pm ent There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

n e g ati v e k a r m a m a c h i n e

A concept of karma (along with samsara and moksha) may originate in the shramana tradition of which Buddhism and Jainism are continuations. This tradition influenced the Brahmanic religion in the early Vedantic (Upanishadic) movement of the 1st millennium BC. This worldview was adopted from this religious culture by Brahmin orthodoxy, and Brahmins wrote the earliest recorded scriptures containing these ideas in the early Upanishads. Until recently, the scholarly consensus was that reincarnation is absent from the earliest strata of Brahminical literature. However, a new translation of two stanzas of the Rig Veda indicate that the Brahmins may have had the idea, common among small-scale societies around the world, that an individual cycles back and forth between the earth and a heavenly realm of ancestors. In this worldview, moral behavior has no influence on rebirth. The idea that the moral quality of one’s actions influences one’s rebirth is absent from India until the period of the shramana religions, and the Brahmins appear to have adopted this idea from other religious groups

macro-level positive karma event 05/03/12-08/31/12 (Must be relative to subject)

sustained reward/ good-karma event 05/03/12-08/31/12

sustained punishment/ bad-karma event

Michael Leng equilibrium


dob: 03/26/1991 Place of origin: USA













N e g ati v e K a r m a M a c h i n e The Negative Karma Machine exemplifies modern day society and the obsession with Data-Logging. Currently, people are obsessed with quantifying certain values. Terms such as “healthy,” and “wealthy” have a quantifiable measurement associated with them. However the term “good” does not have a form in which it is quantified. The term Karma has been used, however it has never been scaled and quantified in a numerical unit as it has a large subjectivity. Rather than assigning number values, the level of Karma will be associated and scaled relative to other actions and deeds conducted by the user and others.

sci en ce fai r sh owcase MOM, Look at what I’ve made!

l i v e-d e m o 1



















ta k e away The main takeaway from the science fair was the question of “why” and how to prevent users from “cheating,” and dishonesty. These were all questions as well as the strong skepticism provided allowed for me to view potential audience response. I realized user interest could potentially wane, and that anything created for the sole-individual could potentially fade very quickly.













seco n dary sci en ce fai r MOM, Look at what I’ve made!

karma scale research

C U M U L ATI V E S C O R E S H E ET Would you consider yourself available for future surveying/questioning/research? If so, please list contact information below (you’re allowed to say no):

P O S ITI V E K A R M A B O X List any events you’ve considered positive karma events

ta k e away


The main takeaway from the second session, was a lot of close, user research. I had the chance to delve in and research what people thought Karma meant and the factors involving the scale of each action. Also I was able to survey the occurances that many classmates have potentially witnessed. This allowed for a more intimate setting in which I was able to ask questions and consider other thought processes.

List any events you’ve considered negative karma events


futu re d i recti o n Because at some point I have to plan something

A cti o n j o u r n a l

p hys i c a l d ata-l o g g i n g A return to the essence of data-logging would allow for users to be able to easily navigate & reference past material. Attempting to find users who are willing to track and log their daily activities would be difficult as user interest would likely wane. However, attempting to find those who have a vested interest would be optimal. Currently searching for people who would actually would like to contribute.

futu re d i recti o n Because at some point I have to plan something


ta l k i n g b e c o m e s wa l k i n g In the next steps, I plan on initiating design flows and wireframing the application and its functionality. I want to be able to display enough information to keep users interested, while also being able to manage to maintain a strong sense of usability. Wireframing dictates a lot of how the website’s aesthetic choices, while also managing the content of the website.

futu re d i recti o n Because at some point I have to plan something

p ote nti a l c h a l l e n g e s

l i v e d ata-l o g g i n g Researching technologies and capabilities and limits of data-tracking has been a difficult process for me. Information technoligies relative to stock tickers and filter systems would be good places to start. Also determining where to mine the data would be an interesting consideration. I believe social media is an interesting venue to pursue, as well as user-inputted information.

i nterm issi o n Because, all work and no play makes for a bad day

I wa n n a r o c k r i g ht n o w

Credit: Fox

p utti n g p e d a l to th e m eta l Let us rock out, and progress forward towards completion.

D esi g n bri ef Wacka Wacka

Datalogging has become more abundant and prevalant than ever before. There essentially has an overexposure of the amount of data people track on a daily basis. The amount of data logged ranges from images of their pets, desserts, sundaes, girlfriends, boyfriends, concerts, and the quantity of each. We are able to track whatever forms of information we wish, and we through datalogging, we are able to gather, collect, and assign an inherent value on these subjective events. Being labelled a “good person” or a “bad person” has been a topic many are conflicted with. It is a question I have oftentimes asked myself, there is no measure of quantifying such an abstract and subjective matter. How many good deeds does it take to make a person good? How bad of a deed can ruin all of the good you have done? These are the types of questions that fuel my interest and caused me to create this Negative Karma Machine (working title) and allows for users to understand the weight of their actions. Quantifying subjective means presents a large area of interest for myself. I must research many thought processes and ideologies in order to discern a method in order to track the social data I am attempting to depict. Through analyzing the deeds and actions of the potential users, I would be able to visualize the amount of good deeds and bad deeds that they commit. Through this process, I will be able to scope and allow users to reflect upon the actions they have committed. It creates a digital conscience in addition to a memoir and allows for greater recollection of their memories. It also will depict to its users the interactions its has with many people, both friend and strangers, and how they could have potentially impacted the lives of others. The concept of Karma is a current ideology that is somehow inherently known, and somewhat widely believed. With such a widely understood concept already inplace in today’s society, I decided to use this concept at the forefront of my design process and research. Through using this preconceived notion, I am able to relate to a larger audience and I am also spare the difficulty of creating a new social construct in which people must learn and understand. Through this added familiarity, the project’s main concept and ideation is able to be widely understood and explained to the general user without much additional knowledge or research required of them. The greatest challenges I believe I will come to face is the process of quantifying these deeds and assigning values to these actions. Subjective matters such as these always tend to tiptoe a line in which many are not willing to cross in order to not offend others, however I wish to inherit the scale through surveying users in order for them to help contribute in the creation of the scale. Another large challenge I face is the information I must gather from the user base, to what extent should I attempt to mine data? Is social media and user-based input going to be misleading or informative and a great area of study? And with that data, how could it potentially contribute to benefit the userbase? Also how could I keep the userbase enriched and entertained within the application? Also scale is a factor I must consider, I wish to focus on an alpha-test group for the mockup phasing of the application development before expanding onto beta testing and larger areas. At the end of completion of the application, I hope the userbase will have an ability to view upon their life events and the interactions they have with others. Every action logged will help them determine the amount of impact they could have potentially affected the lives of others both positively, and negatively. Also through determining a set system in which the application would take form, it would then allow for the application to become self-sustaining and create the information through this system. The main takeaway I would like the userbase to receive from this application is a possible increase of incentive to beging to become more outwardly kind to others. This application may have a short live within its userbase, however I want its effects to remain with the users for the remainder of time. To always have an additional reminder that every action counts, and increase the amount of “good” deeds a user may commit. The project is meant for the user to consider the consequences of their actions more heavily than they may already do, and I hope the ability to log and track it would allow for users to consider their deeds more wisely and with more consideration.

Final Presentation  

Updated thesis book. I'll continually update this file over time. Sorry for any misspellings/incomplete content/bad grammar!!

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