mdp thesis

a cognitive mapping experience

Category: Conversations

Conversations with Jameson

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When I first started talking to Jameson about this week and the various conversations and sentiments I had it had started off very passionate. So far I had on my agenda of potential products that would aid in harm reduction of drugs and an empathy experience created from the body of research I will be conducting. So far most of my professors had responded favorably to the idea of taking the Human Center Design approach, market development and the business of social impact into an American context, one that focuses on a developed world’s issues rather than development in a developing country (or tackling the issue of world poverty for example). That said, Drug Culture is my case study into attempting to design within this scope, employing strategic research and design thinking to attempt to prove my case within the complicated world of drugs. However upon observing the heated debate we had over the term “War On Drugs”, the pervasive racism from targeted drug searches and lament on just what one would create or even address the negative and real problems, he asked me “Why are drugs illegal?” I could think of generalizations I had from looking at the history of the War on Drugs to when it first became illegal with paranoia over marijuana in the late 1930s and 40s with propaganda fueling its ban, to the hippies era in the 1960s and how LSD was publicly advocated by Timothy Leary (as the military was using it to conduct questionable experiments) universities went up in arms and either flocked to protest the Vietnam War or celebrated peace and love on the grassy plains of Woodstock. All were banned and the most recent uproar of a substance was MDMA – a drug we are in the midst of feeling its effects on culture. That drug was actually legal when it was created and was administered by therapists for sessions with patients. After being manufactured by a chemical pharmaceutical company, someone branched off to develop the product and started selling it to clubs and venues where it gained traction. Of course the therapists didn’t want another LSD outbreak to happen again and wanted to keep it within their circles, but the MDMA gained traction as it was called the empathy drug it became the love drug and started to be called by the street names Ecstacy and Molly then soon after became banned. Controlled substances have a controversial nature of being (mis)used like wildfire by tons of young people that leads to its ban, to deduce from circumstantial evidence. However this doesn’t explain WHY they were banned in the first place because pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol and cigarettes are widely abused marked by death that grows in numbers daily. We are only now dealing with the consequences of such laws and policies with nothing in place to repair its damages it is now creating. Politics are really complicated…

After the Avila Beach show, I thought some more on this subject on the politics of drugs… I remember thinking on the way out even seeing a police car that the way this event was handled was very smooth and clearly a lot more ravers and drugs I can perceive being taken yet event staff and security were okay with everyone as long as no one was being too rowdy or going out of control. It made me think about how specific locations cater to different cultures and laws might prohibit certain types of acts to be pushed out but yet in other places around the world or even in the states laws can be lax (think Las Vegas’s welcoming EDC and LA banning it- perhaps due to the family and racial demographic of LA?). For certain places due to a death or suing, when illicit activities at events or venues are openly challenged and the media is engaged, cities or events need to publicly validate such fears and oppositions but in locations where governments don’t care (or not held accountable) or where nothing tragic has happened, things can keep going as “normal”. Sometimes it really all comes down to fear in a way.

I ended up thinking how my empathic experience in the car would use fear to place people in another person’s shoes – creating “theme park” like experiences that use fear techniques but to create isolated manifestations towards awareness or impact, much like the immersion of documentary films but in the physical world. It uses fear to tackle fear. This was also based on how LSD and other hallucinogens during a trip would create points of high intensity, confusion and nonsense to create episodes of what is called “a bad trip” that one feels physically and mentally – transgressing that of technologies that aim to create immersive experiences such as theme park rides, video games or even the internet. How can technology move closer to this? Can it even embody that or do drugs actually have some sort of inherent quality to them that makes them so special to embody both the physical and mental plane of experience?

And are Drugs the only catalyst for these communal collective “revolutions” or “conscious awakenings” to occur in our society? Is it specific to our day and age?

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From fear leads to play and how to play with my topic of drug culture without getting too boggled down by all the politics. (Ironically most times fear comes before the dawn breaks on a trip… where self awareness is expressed and possibilities open up) I started to think more on the angle of looking at how various communities are formed by the catalyst of drug taking and how communities now are formed that come closer to being realized in our society. Communes were idealistic but lacked diversity and logical basis. With the recent criticisms of Burning Man and how it has caved into capitalism and being dominated as a sandbox for the rich and Silicon Valley tech hubs which has curbed attendees (and mainstream) attention, it seems like many idealistic utopian faring communities loose their original message and intent as they grow in popularity only to be stereotyped in the end. But behind the guise of its culture contains many areas of possibility and by diving headfirst into such a niche community, it may provide ways at looking at social spaces that strive towards impactful environments. To look at communities and individuals who do play with drugs can be paralleled with those that are immersed in video games, internet culture, etc. How technology can actually merge with the drug like experience or come closer to that – like how big massives attempt such urges – and thus creating more connected and social beings are ways to take my topic out of its political under pinnings and imagine a new or advanced space for temporary social environments and immersions.

Takeaways:

  • Socially Created Temporary Communities Enabled by Drugs and Recreation
  • Relationship of Drugs and Immersion Technologies with Empowerment
  • Recreation of Fear Towards the Healing Aspects of Psychedelics

Conversations with Felix

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I talked with Felix over Skype after my first week of meetings on my thesis topic. We went over how I was talking about the whole subject and how some students and professors had responded. Then we moved on to review my interview questions I had created for Users and Sellers editing them.

Overall, as we talked about drug politics and drug communities it became an interesting discussion on really who am I to be designing for and whether I want to focus on Harm Reduction and Safety or the messy politics (outdated term of War on Drugs). I think that conducting interviews and just jumping in will start to guide my project rather than thinking about the finished or speculated thing I will make to encompass this. Also the way I pitch it to people is very important and I can tell that by talking to various friends and Felix that those who are in the community are very responsive to the topic but talking to outsiders they focus on the topic rather than the design issue and then it loses them.