Gone With the Wind (2014)
(2013) Role: Research, UI, UX, Prototyping
By translating an experience, a feeling or an emotion into visible language, Gone with the Wind is designed to make the experiences and the feelings graspable and “discardable.”

Initial Idea

The project was inspired by Dr. Pennebaker's theory of expressive writing. Dr. Pennaber asserts that his research has shown that writing about traumatic or stressful events has beneficial effects on both physical and emotional health. He says that when we translate an experience into a language we essentially make the experience graspable.idea of translating an experience into something graspable. This idea has inspired me to think: If we can translate an experience into something “graspable,” we should also be able to make it “discardable.” This way, we would be able to get rid of annoying thoughts and make our minds clearer. Then the bad emotions that come along with the thoughts would go away, and our minds would clear up like the sky after a storm. That is the initial idea of my project Gone with the Wind.

First Design Concept

The first design was a clear sky in front of the user and surrounding her. It was a video of sky projected from a projector hiding in a pedestal in between the sky and her. On the pedestal there would be a tablet and a pen with which she can write. As she write something on the tablet, the characters or sentences would form clouds in the sky — translating thoughts into something “graspable and discardable.” My idea was to build the clouds with HUD, head-up display, so that they would seem to be floating in the sky, and the user could blow the clouds away.

Implementation and Revision

I ordered some plexiglass and did some experiments myself. I hung a plexiglass with a 45 degree angle, and made a 27-inch iMac the projection source. The result was not bad. The words clearly showed on the plexiglass. However, because I could not get a bigger glass and a bigger screen that was bright enough to be the source, the “sky” looked restricted, and I did not like that. I wanted to create a more open vision for the audience. Thus, I decided to leave out the sky, and to project the clouds directly on the wall instead of using refraction.

Final Result and Presentation

The result turned out great. The project was first shown at the Fresh Media 2014 at CyberArts Gallery in Jamaica Plain, MA. During the show, I was standing by the space to observe how people used it and to interview people afterwards. I was glad to see that the final design, though without a sky-like background, worked well for the audience.

Feedback from the Users

So what were people’s reflections to Gone with the Wind? “Thank you!” A lot of people thanked me as they walked out of the room. I was told that the experience was amazingly healing. Some wrote about sad things, watched the clouds moving, then blew hard on the pinwheel, and enjoyed seeing the clouds disappear. I observed that the more obsessed someone was by their thoughts, the harder they would try to blow the pinwheel. And they did feel better after the blow. Amy, a staff at MassArt Counseling and Wellness Center says in her notes “I could see this being helpful for people to deal with stressful thoughts.” An interesting thing was that people not only wrote about their worries and/or sorrows, some wrote about their wishes. It seemed to be the opposite of what I was intending, but it was actually not that different. From a psychological point of view, a wish can be the other side of a negative thought. They form when some needs are not met. From my observation, writing down a wish and blowing it away (into the sky), to some extent helps the user form a vision of “letting go” of the dissatisfaction. Thus, Gone with the Wind is therapeutic either way. I was very touched when I saw all the thank-yous in the guestbook. Those two words are the best reward of being a designer.