English and Computing in the Arts
Rachel Nichols and Margaret Noble
In this semester, students used computer programming, visual design, essays, articles, and literature to investigate how humans become labeled the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” the hero and villain, the respectable citizen and the criminal element, the “us” and the “them.” Each of these labels (and others like them) has a history, and its use in a particular context carries with it the vestiges of previous iterations. Students considered how these labels function as cultural cues, how they carry historical contexts to the present, and how we maneuver within such categories to express our own complex identities. Final projects resulted in interactive performances with animated murals, choose your own adventure narratives, and video games made in the Java based programming language, Processing.
Guiding Essential Questions:
What is it about human nature that makes social panic and groupthink (or mob mentality) possible? What are the dangerous consequences of unchecked fear?
Exhibition Photos and Student Projects:
Witch Doctor Escape
We selected Tanzanian witch hunts as our topic. We heard about witches making potions out of albino people’s body parts. Our topic relates to modern day witches because the people making these potions are real witches or what they call them in Tanzania “Witch Doctors”. People should care about this topic because of what is happening to albino people is vile and inhumane. Albino people and especially children are being left with missing limbs, cut off by witch doctors, and in some cases, they are murdered. This is an ongoing problem, currently without a long term solution because of the unhelpful government.
Our project is an interactive game with an aesthetic design that is simple and easy to pick up, it also has complex and thought provoking ending that makes the user realize that this is not a game but a reality albino people have to go through every day.
Slut Shaming: A Modern Day Witch Hunt
Slut shaming is a common occurrence in school, between friends, and especially online. We both have known and constantly come across people who have been slut shamed and have had drastic changes in their emotions, schooling, and life because of it. It has negatively impacted many young girls lives. Social media has become a platform for women to be witch hunted and labeled as a ‘slut’. In the Salem witch trials, only the towns people could label a witch, today thousands from all over the world can label an innocent person a slut over social media.
We created this game to not only show the harsh comments and opinions spread over social media, but to call to attention to how women and men do not receive equal consequences. While a man can post a photo at a party wearing shorts and a t-shirt and receive no hate, a woman can do the same and will often receive different results. People feel that if the majority is labeling someone, they are allowed to do the same.
We chose to make a dress up game set in a mock Instagram post because that is a common place where slut shaming occurs. We hand drew everything and left a lot of it in black in white so that there was nothing taking away from our message. We wanted this to be an interactive game so that the audience could feel more empathetic to the situation. We chose to highlight in red the harsh words within the comments.
The Wrongfully Convicted in the 21st Century
We chose the wrongful conviction of colored men in America because we were interested in learning more about the motivating factors behind false confessions and the process to incarcerate innocent people. Through this project we wanted to stress the importance of acknowledging the lack of evolution in the criminal justice system. America’s system is setup to fail people of color. Once a person is in the criminal system they will continue to return. The person is then neglected by society and don’t know how to return to the general population and are forced to continue doing what got initially got the person there.
This project is designed to make you feel like the victims did, forced to make a decision that will impact you for the rest of your lives. Our audience should care because this is something that can happen to anyone, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or looking similar to someone who did commit a heinous crime. We must acknowledge this issue and do what we can to help all of those innocent people who remain in prison today because the justice system failed them.
While conducting our research on the Innocence Project we found that the majority of wrongful convictions recorded were caused by the improper handling of investigators. We decided that it would be interesting to have the audience go through the interrogation process and understand that falsely confessing to a crime is not as easy as it seems. The project is designed to be an interactive experience inside of a investigation room and be interrogated by investigators. The user has the chance to answer their questions, it does not matter what they choose the investigator asks the same question. The case presented occurred in 1988, and was represented by the Innocence Project and used direct quotes from the investigation. As you progress through the investigation the room darkens and the music in the background becomes ominous and tense. With all of these effects occurring at the same time it gets across the heavy and frustrating feeling of having to falsely confess.
A Little Boy’s Dream
We decided to pick this topic on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, DACA because we both felt connected to the subject and we were both passionate about it. The end of DACA would affect both of our families in a negative way and we are strongly against it. Dreamers are being witch hunted in the United States. They are seen as scapegoats for problems in the United States. The government blames the lack of jobs on dreamers and make false accusations against them.
Our goal for this exhibition is for the audience to understand a dreamer’s perspective on this subject. DACA is affecting many students and families that we know, and our project is based on a dreamer’s life and the obstacles they have to overcome to ‘fit in’. We want our audience to understand that this topic is a current issue and is causing many families to fear for their child and even themselves. All the people enrolled in the DACA program are being affected by the decision to rescind DACA .
For our project we have decided to create an electronic diary of a dreamer so that the audience can better understand what this dreamer is going through. The audience should be able to know what the protagonist is feeling and what is going through his head. The vocabulary used helps the reader understand the progress he has gone through as he grows up and expands his English language.
The Art of Storytelling
We chose to research previous and present Ku Klux Klan events, and how they can be compared to witch hunts that had happened in 1692. We chose to research this topic because we match the description of the KKK’s targets. In 1692 civilians would hunt down and accuse others of being witches. At the time anyone had the right to accuse another of being a witch.
This is a topic that everyone should care about because even though our events start from Emmett Till’s 1955 murder, 62 years ago. Unfortunately racism has not changed between then and the most recent Charlottesville attack in August of 2017. Many believe that though Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in August of 1963 that should’ve at least minimized the racist attacks but only 18 days after, members of the Ku Klux Klan attacked, once again. This time they killed little girls in Birmingham, Alabama. The violence isn’t over and without change it will continue to prosper.
The artistic aspect of our interactive art gallery came from the idea of applying three historical stories of young black men and women in America alongside a powerful art piece that express the truth of injustice in our world then and now. After educating our audience we would want them to walk away with the mindset that it’s okay to speak up against and discuss racial issues rather than sitting quietly on the sidelines.
I picked this project frankly just because I was curious about the subject (which you will find out in/from the code). My code links to my research due to one child being accused of the Boston Bombing and almost to the brink of serious depression just for wearing a backpack and nothing else. This child was hunted and exiled on social media and it almost lead to serious effects.
People should care, at least know about this or similar because many others out there say things without solid factual evidence. It’s okay to be wrong, but if that involves someone getting hurt then you have to know. It could lead to some devastating consequences, my code being a prime example. I want this code to make you feel for the character you play as, feel what happens when you are the victim, and when you are helpless against the mob.
My interactive narrative is reminiscent of a Twitter page along with simple pixelated and pictures. People don’t usually expect something heavy from something used in joyful things like social media. It’s suppose to have the player lower their guard and expectation, then the heavy information and ending will hit them even harder as they navigate a true media witch hunt of an innocent young man. The goal is to leave them in shock and have it stick in their minds for a while.
Don’t Color Me Red
We selected this topic because we felt that the misconceptions about mental illness affected people close to us. We wanted to share what happened in the past and connect it to how many people may face the stigma today. Today , our society will label the mentally ill as “them” or “outcasts” just as the public did in the 1690’s when misunderstood people were labeled as witches. Both were demonized and persecuted out of unjustified fear and we want to bring light to that.
We hope to educate and give others a positive representation of those who have mental illnesses. Many times the only exposure those who have a mental illness get is a negative portrayal. This results in unfair stigmatization and unjustified demonization of “them” or in this case, the mentally ill. Through our project, we want to portray what people with mental illnesses endure on a daily basis, which is stigma, misrepresentation, and even persecution/mistreatment.
Our interactive art piece is simple, such as the grayish-tan, black, and white, because we wanted to symbolize the lack of individuality those with a mental illness had. We decided to use red as an accent color because red represents danger. Once the girl in our project was stigmatized because of the media, she was then “colored red”. We also included the box with a chaotic pattern to represent stigma. For our last scene, we wanted to portray a sense of escape from the stigma and mistreatment.
We chose red baiting as our topic because we were interested in learning more about communism and neither of us had ever heard of red baiting or the “red scares.” Red baiting is a modern witch hunt because hundreds of people were accused of being communists with little to no evidence to back up the accusations. Even though the majority of the accused were innocent, many people’s reputations were ruined.
Red baiting can relate to many contemporary issues today. When you think about islamophobia, racism, and other similar issues, it is easy to see the similarities to red baiting. Much like red baiting, innocent people are used as scapegoats or jailed and harassed for crimes they did not commit. People are persecuted because they are believed to go against the “norm.”
In our video game we chose to use photos and a black and white aesthetic because it fit best with the time period of red baiting and we find it to fit the mood of the overall game. We used hints of red throughout the project because the color was commonly associated with communism. Throughout the game as the character goes through the trial he becomes more and more red to that show others begin to see him as guilty. This is a game without a winning scenario.
Witchcraft is a topic of conversations with topics around our families. We’ve heard many stories of curses and superstitions that our families believe. This is because of the things they have heard from Mexico and the Philippines. We were both interested in modern day witches because they’re still prevalent in Mexico and the Philippines, where our families are from, and similar in ways in which witchcraft is practiced. Both carry an important role in rural villages in each country.
For our project, our goal is to make our audience more skeptical than cynical about witchcraft. Just because it isn’t as evident in America as it is in other countries, specifically Mexico and the Philippines, does not mean it’s not evident at all. We want our audience to realize that even if witchcraft in America may have evolved into a scientific form of reasoning, it’s indeed still around today. We’re trying to have our audience walk away knowing that though the Salem Witch Trials were many years ago in America, it doesn’t mean witch-hunts targeting accused witches do not happen today.
We decided to take our audience through an interactive experience of our two cultures and their magical practices. We were inspired by Google Maps to show the difference and similarities between the Mexican and Filipino culture. Our interactive experience gives our audience the option to choose between science or witchcraft as the reason behind peculiar situations. Though all of these answers are opinion based, some people find logical reasoning behind each situation and others believe in witchcraft depending on what people are influenced by.
Witch Hunts in the Media
We chose to research fake news and fear in the media. It’s a common misconception to always believe the news that you see and research reminds that sometimes the news will be wrong in order to get your attention. Ever since 9/11 happened, crime rates against Muslims have risen and today many people have negative stereotypes on Muslims. Muslims are easily blamed when a terrorist attack happens. Our topic connects to modern day witches, outcasts, and villains because Muslims are often targeted for crimes they didn’t commit. The media influences the viewer to be afraid of Muslims without having any valid reason. The media labels Muslims as the villains of the United States.
People should care about this because discrimination is something extremely serious and goes on all the time in the world. Discrimination is a problem that only gets worse if people keep believing everything they see in the news. If people are being influenced by the news, we plan for the audience to walk away with a sense of having an open mind when it comes to people they don’t know.
We wanted to create an interactive story that everyone, including children, will understand. How Muslims are targeted as outcasts and villains, because of the media. In the story, two boys live a normal life but one is persecuted. The message is that Muslim people are the same as everyone else and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions and blame them when bad things happen.
Diego’s Life in the Field
I selected the topic of farm workers witch hunts because I’ve always been interested in learning more about immigrant rights in the United States since I’m one of them. I want my audience to realize that farm workers play a big role in the U.S. economy and that they deserve to have the same opportunities that everyone in the United States.
The topic of farm workers connects to modern day witches because illegal farm workers are constantly being discriminated by the government and American society. They are blamed for taking the jobs of Americans, but in reality they’re taking the jobs that nobody else is willing to take. Farm workers have to work for long periods of time under the worst conditions, for the lowest wages in the United States.
My audience should care about my topic because farm workers play a big role in the U.S. economy. They should care because without them we wouldn’t be able to have fresh fruits and vegetables on their tables. I want my audience to think and reflect about how hard it is to be an immigrant in the U.S. and I want them to put themselves in the shoes of a farm worker.
My interactive art piece communicates the struggles that an illegal immigrant has to go through in his/her daily life and how hard and repetitive their life may be, due to the lack of opportunities. I created my own hand drawings for telling this story.
A Clear Vision through the Clouds
We selected this topic because we want to inform people on how often stereotyping occurs in the community. We believe that stereotypes are exactly like to witch hunts because there is a huge group of “antagonists” and “protagonists” whether they’re police officers, Muslims, or African Americans they all get and do stereotype and pin blames on each other We want the audience to walk away and realize how often stereotyping happens in the community.
We want the audience to see both sides of the spectrum and have a good understanding why it happens.The audience should walk away being fair and at the same time being careful of what they see. The point of our game is to show and see the systematic persecution based on prejudice and stereotypes in America.
We feel that the message is well portrayed through our rollover animation project. We explain the effects that stereotyping has on different races of the community through thought clouds coming from that specific race of person. when and while you’re rolling over them you see a regular person as they are and then as their stereotypes.
Witch Hunts Then v.s. Now
The topic of Witch Hunts in India had shocked both of us because we didn’t think that women could be victimized the same way as the 1690’s, like the Salem Witch Trials. When researching our topic we read an article that was written exactly a year ago. A woman was tied in fishnets and beaten till unconscious. This took us by surprise leaving us more curious as to what else was happening to women in India and how the situation grew. The more research we did the more upsetting it became to read about, until we saw a movement was happening. Women were standing up for each other and continuing to fight back against the rumors and physical violence. Seeing how they were standing for their rights made us feel encouraged to stand up for ourselves.
Women have been labeled as weak, since the dawn of time and are targets of horrible events. In the Salem Witch Trials during the 1690s, the targeted people were usually old women, who were seen as vulnerable. Today, in Assam, a state in Northeast India, people mostly accuse women of witchcraft and hold them accountable for the horrible conditions that remain within their village. These innocent people, the majority being widows and plantation owners, are blamed for deaths and diseases. In the 1690 ?s women were defined as defenseless and threatening witches. It ?s 2017. With our research we have found that the past has never been erased, and that women are still treated the same way.
For our interactive project we decided to do a comparison between Salem, Massachusetts Witch Hunt Trials to North Eastern of India Witch Hunts. To show the historical time difference between Salem and India we decided to have one as black & white and the other in color. Another is the artifacts that are highlighted because the information we give follows along with the image. We also incorporated sound effects to show the difference between the villages, for example, day and night.
Protests in Sports
Shelby chose this topic because as a young woman of color she cares about the black lives matter movement and equality for black people in America. She has noticed the harsh backlash that people within the community get once they try to speak out about these issues, and feels like it is important to address it. Luke chose this topic to find out more of why people in sports protested, what happened to them and why it is still happening today.
The topic we chose connects to a modern-day witch hunt due to the fact that people without power are targeted by those who have power. In the instance of the protests that we display in our project, the protesters are advocating for positive change. In return they are attacked by members of the community with the support of people who have power.
The audience should care about our topic because the idea of witch hunting has been present since the Salem Witch Trials. It is important to recognize the way a witch hunt has changed since then. The most important thing we want the audience to recognize is that witch hunting is something that is still prevalent in modern day. In our topics, each person was attacked by the public because they took a stand on pressing issues with society. Despite these protests being positive and peaceful, they were all faced with such negative backlash from the public. It’s frustrating to see such important protests be undermined and stripped of the true meaning of its message.
We chose an interactive piece with objects that represent each of the protest. Each object is highlighted green or red to display what the protest means and the backlash the protest received. We made newspaper articles for each explaining the protest and the backlash. We chose to display our text within a series of newspaper articles. We did this to represent the media, and how people often get their information from articles online. In regards to our topic, this made sense, because critics wrote many negative articles in response to the protests.
Cycle of Outcasting
The reason why we chose Anti-Semitism as our topic was primarily because the Jewish ethnicity has been deemed as a modern day witch hunt, people criticizing, and the Holocaust was a witch hunt against Jews. Since the rise of Donald Trump, Anti-Semitism and racism has risen to an all time high in over 20 years. The issue of Jews being targeted has been prevalent throughout human history, which is why we chose the topic.
The audience could relate to the causes of Anti-Semitism via the Internet. Our project will show the perspective of an internet hater, through the use of fun gameplay of a side-scroll shooter. The audience needs to care since Anti-Semitism is becoming prevalent in the U.S., a country which has had a history with fighting countries that promote oppression and persecution, if the U.S. becomes a country that openly promotes the ideals of a country that once brought almost all of Europe to its knees, then the ideals of democracy will be lost.
We created a internet meme/comments based game. The reason we tried to symbolize internet hate through our side scroll shooter project was to give the player a sense of “entertainment” while they were hurting people. Our project communicates the idea the persecution and hate may come from anyone no matter their background.
The Skeletons in Eisenhower’s Closet
I chose to write about the Lavender Scare because I have close ties to the LGBT+ community. I knew I had to learn more about it and educate myself. Many people in the LGBT+ community have felt that they were an outcast at one point. Being gay was considered a mental illness until the 1970’s, and the LGBT+ community is still being persecuted and treated as lesser beings today.
My audience should care about this because even though we’ve made progress in terms of LGBT+ rights, there are still many issues that need to be addressed. In the 1950’s, gay men and women were being demonized and called sodomites. Now our current government is demonizing trans people and calling them perverts. I want the audience to leave with the idea that people were fired for no reason other than homophobia.
I chose to do an 8-bit pixel aesthetic, interactive simulation where the user moderates who gets fired and who gets to keep their job based on personal activities. The appearance is very relaxed and cutesy, but there’s a much darker undertone.
We selected the demonization of advocative artists because music has been an influence throughout our lives. Music helps us to remember significant memories, people, and lessons throughout the years. Our topic focused on three music groups, from three different genres, who were demonized by the government for using their platform to promote a different lifestyle or ideas. The three groups (N.W.A., The Sex Pistols, and the Dixie Chicks), all promoted a different viewpoint of what others expected to see out of them. Like “Modern-day Witches”, they are individuals from a minority group who have been targeted and created as “other” due to the majority groups’ ignorance. Many of us only accept genres of music that we’re comfortable listening to, and often don’t give other genres that we see as “thuggish” or “aggressive” a chance. This is because of the images we have already gained which have been formed by the people who surround us. We should all learn to listen and understand different viewpoints, lifestyles, and people, regardless of their background. Something that is “different” doesn’t always make it “bad.” There wouldn’t be diversity without acceptance.
Our game displays three birds who will fly to songs of their liking, but the birds are punished for enjoying artists who have been demonized by the government. The plane represents the authority, or the highest figure in the country. The birds are individuals who are seen as “different” because of their appreciation towards something other than what the government wishes for. The three birds are then oppressed by no longer having the chance to fly beyond the cages that trap them. It’s a metaphor for the loss of expression, and are punished for being “different”.
The War on Communities
I chose to focus and research the war on drugs because of our heightened political climate, where men of color, specifically black men, have been wronged for so many years. I wanted to look deeper into why that is and how people in power contributed to it. It is a topic so near and dear to my heart because some of the most important men in my life are black men. The fact that people readily discriminate against people of color has always bothered me. I wanted to educate myself further so that I can educate others as well.
My topic connects to modern day outcasts and witches because during Nixon’s presidency he singled out people of color, specifically blacks in lower income communities where drugs were common. Nixon used his own personal hatred and turned it into a campaign called “ the war on drugs”. This was his way of making it look like he was doing a good thing when it really wasn’t. I want people to really understand why this is a continuous problem. I want them to know that Nixon used to be our president, a person who is supposed to unite our country to be stronger and better. But he did the complete opposite, and now we have someone like him in office once again. There are on going patterns of prejudice and hatred taking over our country. I refuse to quietly. I hope that others would feel the same.
I created an interactive infographic. I used black and white photos from different prisons, the Selma march, etc. I did this because they look more powerful. I used hints of red for emphasis. I want my message to really pop off the slides with the drama of the message. On one of my slides I had a statistic about the number of black boys who were at risk of being incarcerated. The way I showed the statistic was by highlighting one of the boys in the picture with a red tint. So not only did I say what I wanted to, but I showed it in my work for a deeper meaning.
Tea and Samurais
I chose to research eastern medicine and green tea because I wanted know more about it and find the relationship between of green tea and samurai.While researching, I found that drinking Green tea can reduce the risk of certain cancers and help people feel better.
Matcha is related to green tea and used in ancient Japanese tea ceremonies
Some samurai liked Matcha Ceremonies because they knew about the specific health benefits of green tea. Many people think that Eastern medicine is ancient magic, but it is really just beneficial medicine.
My interactive art project shows anime characters moving on a background. The ninjas represent an attack on the temple. The samurai is protecting the temple from the ninjas. The woman is a priestess of the temple, and she is serving matcha to the samurai to make him grow bigger and stronger. This is a fictional account of characters attacking the ceremony.
Vietnam Vets & Persecution
I chose my research topic, The persecution of Vietnam War veterans by Anti-War protesters, because I really didn’t know what the history behind the soldiers during the Vietnam War. I love history when it comes to wars but what intrigued and perked my interest was the fact that U.S. Soldiers were mistreated by American people the same people they fought for. This made me ask “Why did the American people persecute their own soldiers?” Through more research I found out that most of the soldiers during this time were drafted and didn’t even want to fight in the war.
The persecution of the Vietnam Veterans was a horror that happened which I feel isn’t really talked about in history. Young American men were drafted — meaning they had to enter the war whether they wanted to or not by order of the government. During the war some of soldiers committed horrible acts one of which resulted the massacre of a village people. When all the soldiers came home they all were blamed and mistreated for the actions of the few.
I did an interactive mural with the veterans and events during the Vietnam war and after. I chose for the subjects to be silhouettes because I didn’t want them to have too much detail and take away from the actual text or meaning of the mural. The mural has President Nixon representing the government on the left, the protesters who persecuted them are on the right, and the soldiers and their experiences are caught in the middle of these two group who were against them. I wanted this to show what the soldiers experienced during this time.
What makes a villain? At the end of the day, there are two distinguishing characteristics; they have power, and they do not act according to others’ best interests. But how does someone become corrupt? Does power really cause corruption? And how does the ousting of a villain impact society?
Kaemon: “I’ve always heard that revolutions are beneficial for a country, because they serve to get rid of a corrupt government. Yet as I looked deeper, and saw what happened when a country underwent repeated revolutions, I began to wonder if revolutions were not as helpful as I’d thought.”
Soren: “The premise of ‘power corrupts’ has always seemed like something of an excuse, used to make sense of a world in which people in power take advantage of those without. We don’t understand what could make other people (or even ourselves) act corrupt, and so we accept it as natural.”
When an audience member steps up to the display of our multiplayer game, they’ve probably got a specific understanding of corruption; people who come into power become corrupt because either a) they were “bad all along,” or b) power just magically corrupts people. But when that same audience member finishes the game, we want them to start to see corruption as something much less mystical. Corruption is an attempt to maintain power, which arises when temporary power is given to someone who does not see themselves as valuable without power.