Critical Objects

Critical Objects Final

Team: Arnab Chakravarty, Gilad Dor.


For our final, we are working the topic of more-than-human centered design. As we collectively face environmental degradation in the context of the Anthropocene, the question we are asking ourselves is whether we can build systems that include non-human voices and agendas. Can we design everyday technologies to amplify our connection with the non-human instead of hiding them away? Is there any space for designing objects of technology with principles of empathy and kindness instead of efficiency and usability? Here, we would like to anchor our project in the principles of Para-functionality as defined by Anthony Dunne in the book “Hertzian tales“ and the idea of eccentric engineering by Tega-brain.

The form of our final project is tentatively titled ‘Plant radio‘ where the functionality of a radio and a plant is intertwined into its form and function. The plant is embedded with moisture, light and humidity sensors and the users have a big dial with which they can change the radio station. The radio station plays as expected when the plant is being kept well. However, if the plant is not being taken care of it will randomly change the radio station to another station that is close to it’s mood (sadness, hurt, melancholy). The user and the plant engage in a subtle tug of war which doesn’t have a fix apart from taking care of the plant. The aim is to make the viewers and users think about the nature of out computationally mediated interfaces.


  • Soil/moisture/light sensors -> Arduino -> VS0153 mp3 board -> FM transmitter


  • Attribute: Household object

  • Device: Transmission

  • Mood: Eccentric


  • Tabletop object with 1 to 1 interaction between the user and the device.

  • No acrylic


critical 5_ anxiety


critical objects 4

Predictive Policing Awareness Machine

Working within the guidelines of having an organic element, conveying surrealism, and emoting anxiety; Morgan and I had to choose an aspect of tech and to design and build a critical object around it.


We decided to work around the topic of systemic bias, more specifically that of predictive policing and their use of artificial intelligence. This piece from Propublica was eye opening to us and helped to shape the framework of the awareness machine we created.

The critical object we created was based around the idea of of a feedback cycle where data that has an innate bias in it continually gets fed into a system where the output seems uncontaminated but contains remnants of the biased data within it.

The system we created was an organic representation of those black box systems. Having a dropper of durian essence, an extremely pungent fruit that can fill a room quickly, fall onto a flower which acts as the output of the system. The liquid then creates an odd sensation where a flower which is usually associated as beautiful and pleasant smelling is now revolting. The final piece of the system is that the flower has a chance of falling into a blender and being chopped up. This is partially to make a statement about how the American criminal justice system can be a crap shoot and to say that it can have permanent effects on those who fall into it for one reason or another.

Arduino Code

Critical Objects - Comfort Frame

As we increasingly look at the world around us through our smart phones, the prospect of looking at the real world as it is becomes disconcerting.

The Comfort Frame solves this problem by always providing you with the comfort of a phone frame, mediating your visual perception of your surroundings.

Available for purchase at all museum entrances.

Collaboration with Sukanya Aneja.