Social Things 7. Concerning objects (3) LED matrix

For the refugees, one of the most crucial problems is ‘Language Barrier’. According to references, when they have some supports from doctors or volunteers who use a common language ‘English’, it is hard to communicate and share their problem with them because there are the limitation of language support. In addition, in a wide context, Syrian migrants have been suffering form being involved in each country as the members of society. In this respect, I found out an interesting reference called ‘Open Informat’ made by Superflux in 2013. It makes me to be able to think about another ‘Possibility of Communication’ without voice.



Open Informant’ is a wearable badge with an e-ink display that attempts to confront the unsettling realities of surveillance in a networked age.

I have brought an idea which can be called ‘The Hope of Communication’ from ‘Open Informant’ project. In fact, my project is supposed to make people not to be close to  a person who wear the ‘Prisoner Uniform’ as well as ‘Noisy Warning Horns’. However, in a way, through this project, I want to inform some information on brief regrettable conditions and circumstances about ‘The Crisis of Syrian’ to someone who see a campaigner. It means that as the meaning of the ‘Campaign’, people can notice and understand what it is through the text on the LED matrix.

  • Test

This is 8×8 LED matrix, and by using scrolling text from right to left, I was able to put some text on the screen. The next step was ‘Finding a suitable words’. such as ‘I am a Syrian refugee’, ‘I am living in a Syrian refugee camp for 4 years’, ‘Help me from the refugee camp’ and so on. However, the problem was the fact that people do not know exactly what it is through these words. Therefore, I decided to put an extended information from the words ‘SYRIAN 6500000’ on the uniform in the LED matrix. I set up a sentence ‘By the end of August 2014, the UN estimates 6.5 million people have been displaced within Syria.’ which is exact information from the UN. Besides, it is enough to make people notice the crisis with the number ‘6.5 MILLION’ which is unbelievably tremendous.

  • ‘SYRIAN 6500000’ on uniform


  • Final result


Social Things 6. Concerning objects (2) Buzzer

When it comes to making distance between me and others, I decided to use sound to make ‘Invisible’ and ‘Inaccessible’ barrier being able to bring a feature from ‘Social Prison’. Generally, in terms of the severance of socialising, there is a huge barrier ‘Uncomfortableness’. In a way, something makes us uncomfortable regarding being social with these terms such as  ‘Awkwardness’, ‘Nervousness’, ‘Discomfiture’ and ‘Strain’. In Syrian refugee camp, most of the refugees have these kind of feelings without any hope. In order to take inherent and emotional feelings out physically, Noisy sound is one of the well-directed ways because of generating ‘Invisible Uncomfortableness’.

  • First experiment with ‘Active Buzzer’

I used a active buzzer which make abstract noise without any instructions. By establishing a minimum distance layout, when people come inside into the minimum distance, the buzzer makes some noise in order to make someone who is inside of the area uncomfortable and awkward.

Ultrasonic sensor to recognise the distance of an object

  • Second experiment ‘Passive Buzzer’

However, just with active buzzer, there was a limitation of making sound flexible and controllable. I changed the buzzer to ‘Passive Buzzer’ which is controllable of the level of sound as well as ‘the interval of sound’ depending on the distance of people.
I set up the interval of the beep sound more frequently if people come to the distance (Ultrasonic) sensor closer. It naturally means ‘Do not come closer’ like warning horns.

And then, I am considering installing the sensor and buzzer on the front pocket which can disturb to be close face to face with others.


  • Set up a distance sensor and buzzer


Social Things 5. Concerning objects (1) Uniform

My project is related to the life of prison, and the title ‘Refugee Prison’ means a ‘Name of Fake Prison’. In addition, in prison,we know that criminals are generally supposed to wear an uniform for prisoners like below pictures.

A screen capture in ‘Pretty Little Liars’ season 5


If we meet a person who are wearing this uniform, what are we going to think when we are walking on the street. By using this kind of uniform only, people are most likely to avoid as possible as they can like sidesteps. This is a main object to represent my project refugee ‘Prison’. Just imagine. You wear this, and go out to a crowded street. You can? or You can stay there for a long time with the uniform of representing a prisoner.


This is a mock-up of uniform I want to make with some words. First of all, ‘SYRIAN 6500000’ means simultaneously two aspects ‘The number of Prisoner’ and ‘The number of Refugees’ in camps. When I first found out the information on the number, I was shocked because of unbelievable figure which is offered officially. It means that there are more refugees existed outside, and I want to encourage people who wear this uniform to become a 6500000th prisoner in order to empathise with them in a way. I made a prisoner uniform like below based on my idea and mock-up.

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I had endeavour to make a uniform in order to look like a prisoner uniform. I engraved the text on the red uniform by cutting the paper along the text to paint the text on the custom.

Social Things 4. Sketching an approach

Based on, the scenario ‘Refugee Prison’, I tried to make a ‘Empathy Project’ which can become a campaign being able to empathise with them in the refugee camps in a way. Actually, when we progressed an interim check with small exhibition, there were common feedbacks and mentions from tutors and classmates. My project is strongly related to ‘Empathy project’.

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To empathise with refugees, the most important experience is ‘Making people far away from me’ in order to make an obstacle of ‘Connection’ or ‘Communication’ with others to make an experimenter isolated like a prison. That is the main point of my project, and I made a approach based on technical possibilities in the field of our study ‘Physical Computing’.


This sketch is related to make people not to be close physically, and it means that having ‘A Sense or Feeling of Distance’ is strongly in relation to ‘Interpersonal Distance’. When we communicate and converse with someone, one of the most significant things is definitely meeting and having a conversation together ‘Face to Face’. It is strangely awkward not to be face to face such as ‘standing back to back’ or ‘standing far from each other’ like 10 and 20m.

There is a field of study ‘Proxemics’ to prove my approach more credibly and understandably . According to an explanation briefly,


A chart depicting Edward T. Hall‘s interpersonal distances of man, showing radius in feet and meters

Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behavior, communication, and social interaction.[1] Proxemics is one among several subcategories in the study of nonverbal communication, including haptics (touch), kinesics (body movement), vocalics (paralanguage), and chronemics (structure of time).[2]

Based on the theory, the close relationship between ‘Socialising’ and ‘Physical Distance’ is demonstrated, and getting out of the social distance causes the severance of socialising making us lonely, isolated and depressed.

Social Things 3. Scenario with references

After establishing the direction of the project, I wondered a question ‘How about the feeling of imprisonment?’. There is an interview with a guy who has been in Prisons and Prison Life with 60+.

‘…It was like this invisible door just closed on me… I thought about never having a future, never fulfilling my ambitions, being a pariah, a persona non grata from society. It was a terrible experience. As I watched the cars go by on the freeway, I saw the people of free society going through their daily routines, taking for granted the freedoms I wish I could have again…’

There are some keywords which are valuable such as ‘Invisible Door’, ‘Pariah’, ‘Free Society’ and ‘Freedoms’. It means that someone is severed from society without any ‘Contractual Connection’.

Do you remember the episode of Christmas Special episode of the drama ‘Black Mirror’? By using a device, everyone can block somebody off like below picture, and when they are talking, their voices are distorted as just noise. You can be blocked off from everyone like a person who cannot socialise with anyone.


In this regard, I have been thinking about setting up a scenario. The title is ‘Refugee Prison’ which is from refugee ‘Camp’. It means that by changing the term ‘Camp’ to ‘Prison’, people can recognise this situation seriously. Roughly, when it comes to technical approach, an experimenter wears a device or clothes attached a distance sensor which recognise and calculate distance, and then when people come and are closer to the experimenter, the device make some warning horns or recorded warning voices to block the connection off with others. By doing this, the tester will be most likely to avoid people not to make some noise, and can become isolated and will get depressed like a prisoner.

Social Things 2. Direction of project

There is a one thing I realised that I was frequently considering thinking about just making something helpful directly for the refugees. However, except that, there are diverse methods to intervene in the crisis such as campaign to give wider publicity to the situation to be able to get helpful reactions from the public. Sometimes, introducing the truth to people who do not know an exact situation is more likely to become a worthwhile solution to improve and fix the problem in a way. Therefore, I decided to shed light on the truth of the current state in refugee camps by choosing a big problem. There was one thing that I wanted to introduce. Most of the refugees in the camp have been suffering from huge depression due to the fact that they have felt the camp like a ‘Prison’ without any hope and bright futures. I fount out the truth of this situation through several articles below.

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In these news, briefly, the the current state of refugee camp is like ‘Open-air Prison’ being able to change the term as ‘Social Prison’. with the severance of society. In fact, most of people all over the world cannot fully understand this the feeling of being in a prison. In this context, I might be able to progress an experimental campaign becoming a prisoner as well as experiencing their area of activity with some equipment of suppression being able to inhibit freedom. This is namely ‘Empathy Project’.

Social Things 1. Interest of an issue

This project is for the class ‘Physical Computing’ to make something with various technologies and design approaches. We have been asked to find and choose a tribe.

‘A tribe is social group that existed before nations but one could argue that group of people passionate by a certain way of life, thinking, passion, fear, … could easily constitute a modern tribe. As I have often mentioned, people afraid of EMF (electro magnetic frequencies) are a tribe and the work done in Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects is certainly a great example of design done around that tribe.’ (The e-mail from the tutor ‘Nicolas’)

In this respect, I am always thinking of the dark side of society related to the problems of design widely. I heard that from the news, there has been a significant number of refugees from Syria to avoid a dangerous civil war. When I looked at the report with pictures to be able to check the Syrian refugee camps (Fig. 1), I was shocked by the poor surroundings without any appropriate supports such as houses, necessities of life and so on. They are living in hopeless life like the unprivileged in ages.

(Fig. 1) Syrian refugees in Lebanon face health care crisis – Amnesty (From BBC)

From my perspective, as a designer, there has been a big problem to have to look at regarding depression, mental illness amongst them (Fig. 2). It is seriously hard for refugees to have proper psychiatric treatment because there are no effective methods to express their feeling in poor surroundings such as language barrier, shyness, mental shock and so on. This is an initial idea of my project. I am considering making something to help people have proper treatment with an efficient communication system with doctors, mainly psychiatrist. I am going to dig down more specifically about this situation in the camp and decide what they need for communication with specialists.

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(Fig. 2) Depression, mental illness endemic amongst Syrian refugees (From DW)