How Far? ✢

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This 2020, Session 10

Zoë Elizabeth Urand
3 min readNov 23, 2020

AJ Jacobs’ talk on the importance of self-delusion in the creative process really spoke to me as I considered my ultimate dream for the BA project this past week. Jacobs believes that if you pretend, you will become. For instance, if you’re feeling down, act as if you were confident and optimistic. Your mind will eventually catch up with your actions. I definitely see potential in this method to help me reach my ultimate dream. The only problem is I’m not at a point where I can articulate what I hope to achieve. I am actually feeling a bit lost in this process. For this reason, maybe the best thing to do is to take Jacobs’ advice now and pretend my way into another mindset. The question is, “How does a person who is not lost behave?” I immediately think of the line from the J.R.R. Tolkien poem, “Not all those who wander are lost” (cheesy, I know). Perhaps I’m not lost at all, but wandering my way through library books, reading research papers, and having conversations with people.

One such conversation happened with Roman where we discussed our BA projects. He briefly mentioned his interest in phatic technologies and their potential to help build and maintain social connections in a community of businesses. This sparked my interest, because I had yet to see phatic technologies used in this setting or for this purpose. All of my research had shown use cases for couples in relationships, as well as families. It might therefore be useful to take a step back and ask myself what phatic technologies can offer to other groups of people, and/or how they can be introduced into new spaces.

Our conversation reminded me of the book The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, where she discusses the shortcomings and detrimental effects of 1950s urban planning policy in cities throughout the United States. Jacobs repeatedly highlights how urban planners considered city slums to be areas that desperately needed fixing up, when in fact these areas were the safest in the city. People in these neighbourhoods were able to look out for each other, in part because of the city infrastructure. It might therefore be interesting to investigate (with Roman) how phatic technologies could be incorporated into city infrastructure to help strengthen communities further.

I also spoke with Jyoti about my topic of phatic technologies and remote communication. Her advice was to branch out and continue exploring (through research and conversations) different aspects of communication, such as the human senses, or how behaviours, facial expressions and gestures help to better express our emotions. In addition, she shared a paper with me titled Philosophers Living with the Tilting Bowl which I have yet to read.

Though small, I have already made strides this week by wandering into conversations with various people. Hopefully I will continue to have these kinds of conversations, and they will help me to better understand my topic, as well as provide new insights that lead me in new directions.

Asking people to share their ultimate dreams for the BA project in today’s zoom session could be compared to pulling teeth. Everyone seemed to be digging their heels into the ground and I honestly don’t blame them. When you are unsure of what direction to pursue it is quite difficult to articulate what you hope to achieve. However, I really appreciated Janina sharing with us that her ultimate dream at this point is to just find a topic. I can definitely relate to this as I am not 100% set on my topic. Maybe i’ll explore other areas in addition to phatic technologies and remote communication.