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Design and Events
Digitaonga: Preserve, Reconnect, Repatriate

Digitaonga is a research project that explores the usefulness of new and emerging technologies (particularly 3D scanning and blockchain technology) in the curation and repatriation of ancestral taonga or cultural treasures. This co-design project involves Māori community groups, museums, curators, artists, and researchers from design, creative technology and contemporary Māori arts. It is funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Media Design School Auckland.


The first stage of the project will work with three partners to co-design digital experiences of taonga belonging to iwi (Māori tribes) held in domestic and international museums. Digital experiences will be created in the Māori creative tradition incorporating the spatio-temporal, sensory, rhythmic, spiritual, cosmogenic and poetic. We envisage that 3D scanning will be used as part of the digital experience and ownership will be registered on the blockchain. Among other uses, iwi will potentially be able to loan the digital assets to galleries and museums (in some cases in exchange for the repatriation of physical taonga). By exploring these possibilities with Māori communities we will consider the role that new digital taonga might play in long-term care and repatriation initiatives.

Behind Open Doors

Media discourses about gender and sexuality are often highly polarizing and reinforce binary thinking. However, people’s experiences and feelings often bend, blur and break society’s binary codes. Behind Open Doors is an experience created in order to unbox gender by design. It aims to repurpose user experience design methodologies to encourage intimate reflections about gender and sexuality that emphasize complexity and contradiction.


Through design intervention, in the shape of a participatory experience, the project seeks to emphasise the queerness of everyday life. It flips design methods by making data the foundation for shared understanding rather than data collection being the starting point for generating design solutions. In doing so, it questions the power of the designer. By repurposing the UX method of cultural probes the project seeks to foster empathy not as a means to a market but to encourage compassion and an ethics of care. 


Participants will take part in two workshops in which they will gain insight into the gendered experience of themselves and others. They will be asked to create a gender box that includes a digital visualization of their gender identity and a multi-sensory journal. All experiences shared during the project will be anonymous and confidential.


Watch this space for pop-up locations.

Feminist Futures Workshops


Drawing on feminist theory and participatory design methodologies, this project aims to develop methods that enable feminist futures. Popular visions of the future are dominated by either by capitalist utopian visions of glass touch screens, completed to-do lists and clean spaces; or dystopian scenarios of mechanical failure, environmental destruction, and warfare. Feminist utopian visions are noticeably absent and new technologies tend to reproduce gender inequality.


By looking at design methodologies through the lens of feminist theory, this project aims to redesign speculative methods. I argue that different reference points are needed in order to create feminist futures and by exploring past materialities, memories, alternative experiences, and “failures”, new realms of possibility emerge. In a series of upcoming workshops, I aim to work with participants to degender the future.


Watch this space for workshop details.

Emergent Technology, Design and Indigenous Culture


10 May 2017

Organised by Dr Sarah Elsie Baker and Jodi Meadows


Indigenous culture is often associated with traditional practices and the past. We organised this one-day event (conference+workshops) to explore how emerging technologies were being used to inform and transform the practice of indigenous art and design in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Part of Tech Week, the event considered issues such as integrating the innovative and the traditional in creative practice; engaging communities with new technologies; and the future opportunities offered by technological developments. The morning conference session featured keynotes and rapid-fire Pecha Kucha presentations showcasing the work of creative practitioners from graphic design, games, VR/AR, animation, digital making, video, art, and interaction design. Speakers included Tristan Schultz (Designer and Lecturer at Griffith University), Siliga David Setoga (Artist and co-chairperson of Tautai, Janet Lilo (Artist), and Patrick Hussey, Vincent Egan and Madison Kikorangi Henry (Co-Founders at Maui Studios).  Afternoon workshops included a session by Johnson McKay (Creative Strategist at McFly) on 'Approaching Māori Cultural Concepts with Confidence' and a workshop by myself and Jodi Meadows on 'Decolonising Design Futures'.


Click here for video of event.

Moodbank: How do we feel and what is it worth?

13 March - 22 March 2014

Dr Sarah Elsie Baker and Vanessa Crowe


City spaces have often been thought about in terms of the functional flows of people and things: the money that is exchanged, the congestion of rush hour, the accumulation of rubbish and the cold face of professionalism. More recently businesses and governments have come to see the value in finding out how happy we are. But what about the more diverse and complex emotional life of the city? How do we actually feel?


At the Moodbank you can visualise, deposit and exchange emotion. A quick transaction can be made via our ATM-style mood machine found in various locations throughout the city, on-line or by visiting the branch. One-to-one and group appointments can be made with the Mood Manager for a more detailed visual mapping of your mood. Data gathered on-line and via our ATM-style mood machine will be used to produce mood trends and a market index that mimics a stock exchange ticker. 


The Moodbank consciously acknowledges and validates all moods rather than just those that are deemed valuable in consumer culture. We want to provoke debate regarding appropriate/inappropriate emotion and the privileging of happiness. By mimicking and subverting the aesthetics of a bank and by contrasting analogue and digital data we hope to draw attention to the processes in which our feelings become commercially valuable. In our attempt to make the collective mood of the city visible we propose a social rather than an economic form of exchange. 


Click here for publication

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