This is Not your Shoe

+Arduino Uno
+Ornaments, Clothes and Gender norm

The project started with questions: Are we currently taming social norms? or are we TAMED by them? Who has the power to tame social norms?

I propose design experiences to think about what everyday object means to us.
“This is not your shoe” explores how certain shoes are supposed to be for certain people and intentionally exclude others, which imply imposed beauty norm and individual's cruel effort to fit into certain society.

This is not your shoes from won on Vimeo.

An interesting, everyday gesture that women and men encounter is trying on new shoes for the first time. When wearing new shoes, I always wiggle my feet around in them when putting it on to see if it fits me or not.
What kind of metaphor could I design for in this ordinary gesture and where does this everyday gesture suggest about societal norms ?

I conducted user research to see the nuances of this gesture with different shoes, such as sneakers, slippers, booties, and high heels, as well as with different people: men and women. The video here shows the different variations of putting your shoes on.
What is most interesting is that all of us, no matter who we are, have to deal with the uncomfortable “breaking in” period before the shoes become truly ours. Over time, shoes fit to every individual’s feet and this temporal quality is interesting.

With this in mind, how do we establish ties with our everyday objects? What does the selection of our footwear reveal about us?

And what does the simple gesture of turning your foot reveal about how we are tamed by certain objects or how we in turn tame the objects?

Unfortunately, the reality is that we have to sometimes go through the physical and psychological pain of “breaking a shoe in” for us to fit into society and its imposed norms.

As a female, beauty is an inescapable imposition on our femininity and the shoe is a classic symbol of this.

I chose the happy fairy tale of Cinderella to illustrate what it feels like when the shoe DOES fit — we are fed the illusion of a fantasy and stereotypical image of female beauty. We absolutely think that it’s cliché and childish but we cannot throw this away because we think it is ‘standard’

but when the shoe does not fit, the screen displays an extreme –– other women fitting into imposed beauty norms from their culture and the cruel efforts to be a standard of beauty. But both side of the image is no different because all of them is the beauty norm; one side is cliché and another is beauty norms from different country that we are not used to.

At the end of the day, beauty is subjective. Who are we to impose and judge cultural beauty norms and cultural standards? Also, beauty is an individual notion that extends beyond the world of females. We have to think about gender norms in this scenario as well.

We must remember

“Before we criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”

We cannot understand different cultural beauty standards until we understand the individuals themselves.

Further, What I learned from this project came from more close observation about people’s gesture and individual’s unconscious action, representing one’s psychological fragility and how it visually appear in front of us.

Unconscious gestures, like the wiggling of one’s foot to fit a shoe, are interesting interactions to me because they reveal deeper psychological and social structures at play. These micro-interactions should be explored more, because they are very fruitful nuances to design around.

But the question remains: how do we see ourselves in taming social norms? or are we tamed by them? Who has the power to tame social norms and if we have the power to tame these, why are we still not liberated from them?

Project Brief:
This project explores the integration of the physical environment with the media environment through the limited palette of one physical sensor and one kind of media.

It uses a knob sensor, and asks the designer to transform it into something that no longer feels like a raw sensor, but operates in the world in a way that makes sense to the user. It’s a knob, but not a knob. And that “not a knob” affects the display of media in a way that feels very refined and interesting.

Lab Core B: Critical Prototyping
Phil Van Allen
2016 Fall