For my final project I decided to explore the future possibilities of plastics in the human body. Right now scientists are becoming alarmed at how widespread microplastics are not only in the natural environment, but our food chain and even our bodies. We breathe, ingest, and come into contact with plastic at every turn. However, the issue is that scientists are not sure about the short- or long- term health effects that micrplastics will have on our bodies. This situation does not bode well considering research shows that microplastics can harm the digestive system of other animals and cause their livers to have to work harder. While this is a very real concern, I didn’t want to condemn plastics entirely and even consider how they could be seen as beneficial as part of the body.
With these issues in mind, I created Plastic Futures, a speculative design that uses collaborative storytelling to explore the topic and generate discussion. It uses the “crazyboard” trope from crime and thriller stories as a way of representing future possibibilities. In the fiction, there is a conspiracy about a laboratory accident, missing scientist, and a machine that can provide glimpses of the future. Players make connections between clues shown on the board to construct narratives that hopefully incorporate the issues surrounding plastics just mentioned.
Plastic Futures is based on an interactive installation developed with other collaborators this year. This version makes a departure by shifting from a “crazyboard” to what looks like a “murder board”. The design is meant to make it a “found artifact”, one that hides darker secrets and higher degree of mental instability. The facts, dates, and calculations written in marker on the board are meant to show the evolving ideas of the missing professor who at first saw the dangers of microplastics in the human body then had an epiphany, seeing that entire limbs could be plastic and therefore, useful, as shown in the cryptic saying that appears many times, “A tool, is a tool, is a tool.” This was actually an insight I had when creating one of the narratives that I would make clues for.
The class provided useful feedback on this project. They suggested providing players a card with questions that they needed to answer by examining the board. This could direct them to certain aspects of the game that are important. But, as one classmate pointed out, this could take away from the open ended nature of the project. How much to guide and structure the interaction is an aspect of design that I continue to work with and will explore.