December Fellow Talk (Boston): “Tools for Improved Social Interacting”

January 12, 2010

Awesome Foundation for Arts and Sciences and dorkbot-boston Present:
Lauren McCarthy: Tools for Improved Social Interacting

Fri, Jan 15, 7-9PM (Free and Open to the Public)

The talk will be at sprout’s offices (339R Summer Street, Somerville, MA – just outside of Davis Square T). It’s set back from the street, down the driveway to the right of 339 Summer Street (the “R” stands for “Rear”).

Reception to follow at The Spirit Bar (2046 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA – near Porter Square T) on Mass Ave and Creighton across the street from the Hess station.

Lauren McCarthy will present her latest work of wearable devices. Funded in part by The Awesome Foundation, her Tools for Improved Social Interacting are items of clothing that use sensors and electronics to train the wearer to better adapt to expected social behaviors. The Tools for Improved Social Interacting are a “Series of wearable devices that use sensors to condition the behavior of the wearer to better adapt to expected social behaviors.”

Guests are encouraged to bring their own projects to participate in OpenDork after her talk, a show-and-tell of people doing strange things with electricity. Art and technology projects at all stages (sketchbook to polished) and of all levels of complexity are welcomed.

  • The Happiness Hat trains the wearer to smile more. An enclosed bend sensor attaches to the cheek and measures smile size, a servo motor moves a metal spike into the head inversely proportional to the degree of smile. The smile size data is logged on a microSD memory card for download at the end of each use period.
  • The Anti-Daydreaming Scarf contains a heat radiation sensor that detects if the wearer is engaged in conversation with another person. While he is, the scarf vibrates periodically to remind the wearer to pay attention and stop daydreaming.
  • The Body Contact Training Suit requires the wearer to maintain frequent body contact with another person in order to hear normally. If the wearer stops touching someone for too long, static noise begins to play through headphones sewn into hood. A capacitance sensing circuit measures skin to skin body contact via a metal bracelet sewn into the sleeve.

Lauren is a designer, artist, and programmer, and currently an MFA student in the UCLA Design | Media Arts program. She received a BS in Computer Science ad a BS in Art and Design from MIT and has also worked at Continuum and the MIT Media Lab. Her portfolio includes on client projects for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art on behalf of ‘Small Design Firm’. Her work explores the structures and systems of social interactions, identity, and self-representation and uses whatever medium (video, performance, software, internet art, interactive objects and environments, and media installations) best tells the story at hand. Her interest in the slightly uncomfortable moments when patterns are shifted, expectations are broken, and participants become aware of the system sparked this project.


  • Founded in June 2009, The Awesome Foundation for the Arts and Sciences awards $1,000 grants monthly to projects that advance the interest of Awesomeness in our universe. There are no strings attached, no definite criteria, and no limitations beyond the necessity for being awesome. Grants are paid out in cash, check, or gold doubloons. Get on over to our website for information on how to apply!
  • dorkbot-boston is a monthly meeting of artists (sound/image/movement/whatever), designers, engineers, students, scientists, and other interested parties from the boston area who are involved in the creative use of electricity. dorkbot meetings are free and open to the public.
  • sprout is a group of learners and teachers working to inspire the practice of everyday experimentalism by running science programs that are embedded in the community—drawing inspiration and resources from the people, places, and things that surround us everyday!