Category Archives: MassArt

why we laugh


i’ve done a lot of research in the areas of ‘humor, laughter and the areas in-between’ as a means to understand what makes things funny or not, and its a fascinating topic with numerous theories for us to consider — the leading theories include: The Superiority Theory; The Incongruity and Incongruity-Resolution Theories; The Benign Violation Theory; The Mechanical Theory; and The Release Theory

all of these theories delve into the rather interesting and subtle dynamics around the conditions that produce laughter from human beings, but i’m not so sure they actually even begin to answer the question:

Why do we laugh?

i remember reading all about Peter McGrath’s Benign Violation Theory in The Boston Globe a while back — McGrath’s claims behind his theory almost promise a rather compact and cozy little concept around interpersonal dynamics that almost stand alone as the veritable Holy Grail behind Humor and Laughter Research — a sort of ‘one simple theory explains it all’ — but closer examination and consideration, especially when bringing up examples of humor that actually purposely do not intend to produce genuine, out loud human laughter, subtly shifts Benign Violation from a category of laugh theory into more of a comedy strategy

i’d like to suggest that many of these theories
completely miss the mark

these theories do not actually explain why human beings laugh but instead examine the contextual circumstances that almost mechanically provoke the human response of laughter in only certain situations — know what i mean? 

its taken me quite some time now to really look at this subject matter in the proper light and to interpret and really analyze all the theories and nuances of laughter, humor, comedy and funniness — and i feel its oversimplistic and almost unfair to think that only one theory does the trick here, because laughter is a very complicated human phenomena, almost as complicated an area of study as our belief systems and our cultures

but, as a means to completely contradict myself now, i feel that we can, in fact, explain the ‘Why?’ question — and embed all of these various theories around the circumstances surrounding laughter into the major reason we laugh — with a new theory of laughter evolution as i’m about to try and articulate …

toward a
New Theory of
Human Laughter Evolution

an initial theory to answer the question ‘why do human beings laugh?’

this is going to sound totally ridiculous, maybe even funny to you, but i believe we laugh as human beings because we have to

we simply need to laugh

as human beings, we all walk through the world as these living, breathing vessels for various psycho-dynamic energies

some of these energies can be positive and some of these energies can be negative

but the energies build up inside all of us as if we were containers made of flesh and blood and bones that simply hold these mysterious energies


antiquated scientific theories actually suggested that liquids called humours literally coursed through our bodies — and that these liquid humours were what triggered joy and laughter in an almost endorphin-like fashion

but i believe that the energies we build up { not measured as liquid or solid or gas in form } need to be released — and one of the most positive ways we can release extreme build-ups of our internal energies is through laughter

one other consideration that might make this a wee bit more complex and realistic as a pseudo-scientific theory follows

we, as human beings, probably initially cultivated laughter as a release system in an iterative, evolutionary manner as our species needed to adapt to the tense circumstances of our world — this does not mean that i subscribe solely to Freud’s Release Theory, but our need to release unhealthy energy is the most likely original reason we began to laugh as a species — in early human pre-history we needed to ultimately release the harsh feelings and energies building up inside as we dealt with our environment and the ways of the world — and laughter is a rather transgressive human expression of these potentially negative energies that feel far too intense for the body and mind to handle in a healthy manner

so, we need to laugh to survive

laughter is an adaptive behavior we’ve developed over time as a means
to psychologically brave the challenging experiences we encounter in life

and now — depending upon our contextual circumstances in the moment — we’ve evolved a rather intriguing set of socio-dynamic systems around laughter { beyond our original adaptive ‘energy release’ needs } with a multitude of complex, situation-based rules to govern when, why and how we laugh, and whether or not a particular expression of laughter indicates certain levels of social acceptability and awareness

its all fascinating stuff, right?

i plan to post more here and elsewhere on the webz along the way as i conduct further research into laughter and humor through Laugh Institute with the final outcome being a new book project that i’m affectionately calling the laughterLife as inspired by the fourth stream of cyberSurreal subConsciousness from my graduate design thesis confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy

[: stay tuned :]

Want to participate in a Laugh Study?



A culture of curation


PHOTO TAGLINE: the original cover and title concept as designed, developed and implemented by the Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation

one of the 4 streams of my design and art research and work included in my thesis from back at Dynamic Media Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design touched upon my curation &/or co-curation and involvement in several gallery exhibitions — putting together these shows helped forge and fulfill some personal dreams for me as inspired by the inclusive, immersive and collaborative, interdisciplinary spirit of the ArtRages events frequently put on by Mobius Artists Group in Boston as well as other performance and music-oriented, multi-act shows in the area like: rösS Hamlin’s OpeNFauceT Productions; David Wengertzman’s Digital Cabaret series; Burlesque Revival Association; Leah Callahan’s Les Cabaret des Enfants Terribles; Chris Mascara’s Scara’s Night Out; and The Steamy Bohemians’ Jerkus Circus

anyhow — its fun to watch how influence and inspiration flows within and across various communities over time — and its equally interesting to see the evolution of ideas as they branch and grow and move along waves of people and places

after starting grad school at MassArt in 2008 and poking around campus and the community there i soon discovered that grad students could reserve Doran Gallery to curate shows and exhibit work

i took the dream-like inspiration from these past shows and events that i’ve held near and dear to my heart and brought the collaborative and celebratory spirit i found in them to my work and research from ‘stream 3: art shows, a streaming cycle of’ from my thesis, confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy — and in retrospect the shows i am extremely proud of the shows i dreamt up and put on and love the collaborations and event-based shows that blossomed from this fertile garden of amazing Boston show history to pick from as my inspiration

prior to my first curatorial effort at MassArt — American Cheese: an introspectionDMI MassArt colleagues Colin Owens and Dennis Ludvino curated several shows out at Doran that helped pave the way for the series of further student-run design curation that seems to have nicely inspired a long legacy of gallery exhibitions and event curation at Dynamic Media Institute

by starting up the efforts to officially catalog and celebrate DMI’s ASCii, if /then and Inter-Akt exhibitions at Doran Gallery i hope to help document and commemorate some of the early history of our show culture at MassArt’s graduate design program — i know these shows inspired me with an excited sense of the interdisciplinary and immersive experience of interacting with functional, living and working design prototypes in a gallery setting — certain boundaries of High Art exclusivity seemed to instantly break down with the inclusion of various inputs and outputs and the participatory invitation to the gallerygoer to actually touch and interact with the pieces on display in the gallery setting — the vibrant din of sound and conversation filled the room with enthusiastic conjecture about what the artwork ‘does’ in its clever, premeditated ‘playing’ with its audience

the feeling of these shows immediately pulsed in a far more alive way than the standard trip to the MFA ever conveyed to me — the work on display in this student gallery interacted with the gallery participants { no longer mere passive viewers } to meet them halfway in any interpretation of the artists’ intentions behind each piece

i hope to respectfully document these amazing early DMI shows out at MassArt with my efforts to write and composite the book A culture of curation

ifthen_colin ifthen_gunta ifthen_jason ifthen_phono ifthen_record6 ifthen_press

the theatre of Work, ReVisited


back in 2009 when i still conducted critical design research for Dynamic Media Institute in Boston i decided to start up a presentation series aimed specifically at helping my greener friends coming into the industry with some of the basic challenges they might encounter along the journey of their profesional lives

i’ve encountered more than my fair share of interesting twists and turns in my rather adventurous career as an accomplished experience design professional — and some of the joys and tribulations of navigating the glorious terrain can benefit by simply continuously building a better and better understanding and awareness of the environments in which we need to perform

in delving into the digital archives of my mind i recently rediscovered a few slides appropriately titled the theatre of Work — survival tips for newcomers to the workForce

the theatre of Work

the phrase by itself starts to imply some of my subconscious views and feelings regarding: the social dynamics; the essential personal behaviors we need to exude while performing; and general feel of the landscape set up by the workaday world as a means of reaching toward success for ourselves and for the companies we work for

i am an experience designer and a performance artist

i never studied the theatre, which is an important key differentiator i need to continually remind myself of along the way

its also vitally important to have an unrelenting sense of self-awareness and continuous introspective reflection for the kind of trek we’re all on within ANY industry

just this hybrid mash-up between designer and artist can have extremely important internally conflicting motivations embedded within the very nature of each role

but anyhow, i digress { i just heard someone on blogging across the way stand up and scream, ‘DigreSsioN!’ ala that famous set of passages from A Catcher in the Rye ;] }

after living a little longer and experiencing a few more years of this life of work we all live and breathe, i believe i have even deeper, more profound wisdom to share than i originally intended by designing up a few slides for a future-such talk to be about workerly advice

i am therefore re-opening this thread of thought — copy-pasting the open Keynote file and the PSD folder from my portable harddrive back onto my current active MacBook Pro device to really start digging into what new significance i can bring to the table to help people navigate the choppy waters and hopefully not make all of the same foolish mistakes i’ve made along the way

i know my triathlon could’ve gone a LOT smoother so far had i just had proper mentorship or perhaps better personal self-awareness and more thoughtful empathy to guide me

but i’m an impatient clown, for the most part

i always want the impossible and i design to reach for the bluest of the bluest skies

i would be more of a fool, however, if i continue to noodle and clown without ever learning and growing for the journeys i’ve made — and i feel that if i share some of my story in a thoughtful and meaningful way it might actually make up for my own silly idiocies and hopefully make for a better overall experience for colleagues, friends, acquaintances and frenemies that even care to listen at this point

i need to focus on my storyFirst presentation out at Massachusetts College of Art for the next few weeks, but i also hope to put some time into this theatre of Work concept, too, as it is near and dear to my heart — i want to help people and give them better perspective and hopefully facilitate better and better experiences in the world through my designwork and my design leadership

but, until then — shove off, bitchez! ;]




mediaLuscious Design + Art Review

i just recently finished editing up the official exhibition catalog for mediaLuscious Design + Art Review — thanks to everyone for not only showing your work and participating in such an amazing gallery exhibition, but for also patiently putting up with my random email requests for photos, writings, input and feedback over the last few weeks

i have to say — this is probably the best book i’ve put together to-date, much better-looking in my mind’s eye than my own thesis even, which can probably be contributed to the fact that this project of capturing the spirit, energy, community and fun of this show was done for DMI and The DMI Family moreso than myself

anyhow, after a few more tweaks here ‘n there, i will be sure to post this up to Blurb and get a print proof to deliberate — and then and only then the book will be open for more public consumption via Blurb, ISSUU or wherever

[: what a show :]

almost there


after another semi-hectic but productive weekend of writing, designing, editing, refining, thinking, reflecting, analyzing, fermenting — just about doing everything but sleeping — i am almost there, nearly done with my thesis for defense at Dynamic Media Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design

its been an amazing 3 and a half years — and looking over the book i’m astounded at how much work i got done in the program

and what’s funny, too, is the fact that i only now seem to fully understand the kind of games i play in my the majority of my design and creative processes

i’ll present the material from my book — aptly titled confounded — future fetish design performance for human advocacy — but i feel that only in the last 2 weeks have i truly whittled away all the extra conceptual baggage i’ve collected over the last few years to really pull it down to its solid core

anyhow, i will probably be back to blogging in some capacity now that i’m approaching the end

and i will probably write more about this core design principle that resides at the heart of my personal processes

i think this is gonna be fun :]

transducer :: like, my favourite new word ::..

aight … in my Sound for Dynamic Media class last nite, i think i decided my new favourite word of the day ( at least for this week ) is transducer … here’s the MW definition for you to get better acquainted ;]

transducer – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Main Entry: trans·duc·er
Pronunciation: \-ˈdü-sər, –ˈdyü-\
Function: noun
Date: 1924


: a device that is actuated by power from one system and supplies power usually in another form to a second system <a loudspeaker is a transducer that transforms electrical signals into sound energy>

how ’bout them apples, eh? ;]

the laughter life

aight, aight, aight …

new concept … coming right outta this here Sound for Dynamic Media course @ The DMI …

so … lately … on my Facebook laugh group, i’ve been using the smile emoticon as a sort of parenthetical, visual naming element + convention … so, the name of the group + all that is surrounded [: like this :] in little smileys, right? … + then on the other more poetry-based Facebook group i started up ( an actual second attempt to eRessucitate the poetry round-robin open mike i had running back in the early ’90s, The Sound of Dolphins ) i used a slightly different, but subtly similar convention … |: something more like this :|, right? these are the written music symbols that surround a repeating set of bars …

… so …

… why not create a Score for Laughter? sections of the score would be surrounded by the old [: smiley emoticons like so :] … + i could use the pitch + other parameters of musicality to really demarcate what i might want a laugh ensemble to produce for me as the laugh conductor … might be ridiculous, but worth trying out, right? ;]

could be creepy-cool-fun


Design Seminar 2 » Blog Archive » one cozy minute of isolation

one cozy minute of isolation

By lou suSi March 4th, 2009

a crisp, saturday evening in autumntime

down in the fort point area of Boston, the mobius annual artrages fundraiser party takes over an entire floor of commercial space to create an atmosphere of surreal, unbound creativity — the crowd warms the space — the rawness of the space goes unnoticed as people walk through and enjoy the art installations, participatory music and performance art, roving performances, and the company of so many amazing, creative people — lights and sound cascade and echo across the hardwood floors — there is a sense of celebration, uncanny premeditation and a joy for the subconscious enjoyment of this ocean of possibility

the night sings of timelessness — suspension of clocks and watches — a quarternote of one moment

i am waiting in line — the half hour passes fairly quickly as i talk with the waiting people — there is an installation up ahead — conversation in the line compresses time even further — there are people to watch, performances to figure out and discuss, distractions and thoughts pouring in like sunlight

as i get closer i see a man in a dark suit — very much a sombre sight — serious and cleancut — either a bit of business is being conducted or there may be a funeral, i can’t quite figure it out — but he is opening and closing a wooden door { the door to the installation } — letting people in and out, one by one — he is pleasant enough, but tall and calm in demeanor

every once in a while there is another person — shorter, wider — dressed in overalls and a thermal shirt, workboots and a red and black plaid hunting hat — he seems to have tools and occasionally goes into the wooden space between the flow of the line — he’s a bit nervous, but all smiles —  almost a living contradiction to the suit

as i get closer i can see that the wooden door opens into an outhouse construction labeled with a large ‘#1’  above the door — the man in the suit talks to each person at the head of the line — he literally helps each person in and out of the installation — i can see each person being pulled up and out from behind the door — everyone that emerges from the installation seems happy, pleasant, a bit relaxed

i look at the artrages map — apparently the piece is called ‘claustrophillick enclosure #1’ — i am almost at the front of the line — people are wondering what’s inside

i finally get to the front of the line and the man in the suit welcomes me — he explains that one person is allowed in the space for exactly one minute — he warns that the space is tight and if i have any fear or phobia of being alone, enclosed in a tight space, then i may want to reconsider experiencing the enclosure

he opens the door, reaches in and helps a young woman get up and out of the space — the interior of the outhouse is lined with a pink, floral cushioning material — the woman stands up, readjusts to the light of the mainspace and moves to re-gather with friends at the party — the man then helps me curl up inside the womblike fabric of the inner space — as he closes the door i am completely alone, surrounded by darkness — it is warm — the scent is that of flowers, perhaps the previous visitor to the enclosure

since i am enveloped in pitch black — my attention is drawn immediately to a subtle soundtrack — no real music, or at least no instrumentation — just many sounds, a soundscape — water dripping — passing traffic — a jet flies by — little girls singing together — songs from a playground — hopscotch or jumprope comes to mind — a muffled heartbeat becomes the most overwhelming sound in the mix

the space is warm and soft — very accommodating

my eyes begin to grow accustomed to the dark — i see what looks like someone moving, directly in front of me — just the silhouette — a little scary — i am looking into a mirror — a mirror on a medicine cabinet that is clearly marked ‘PRIVATE’ — an image of an angel dangles from the edge of the cabinet — i am facing my reflection in the mirror of the medicine cabinet — i notice a sign that says ‘Open Me’ — i open the door to the cabinet and can see restroom signs, the symbols for ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ — between them is a small jar with a magazine clipping — the image of child inside the jar — just the child’s face — there is also another clipping that says ‘True Love’ — and then i notice a sign that says ‘Close Me’ { very reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland | Through the Looking Glass } — i close the medicine cabinet and quite suddenly the door opens up — the man in the suit asks me how i am doing, let’s me know my minute in the claustrophillick enclosure is up, and reaches down to help me exit the outhouse — my eyes hurt a bit as they begin to readjust to the light

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blogpost to Design Seminar 2 for The Dynamic Media Institute @ MassArt :: in response to Kevin Brooks’ session on Storytelling and Narrative …

..:: datamummification + madness ::..


Judith Donath stopped in at Media Tech Tonic sponsored at MassArt’s The Dynamic Media Insitute to discuss The Sociable Media Group’s latest exhibit ‘Connections’ at The MIT Museum. A lot of amazing work … I checked out some of the people involved in the project work earlier in the day … specifically looking deeper into some of the previous work in visualization and interface design. I particularly enjoyed Alex Dragulescu’s ‘Spam Architecture’ as I had previously attempted to approach the topic of troublesome eMeddlings in my own ‘Operation Enduring Email’ …

but seriously folks … the jist of the discourse tonight centered around a new ‘new media’ twist on the concept of portraiture … excellent lecture, fantastic work all around … i especially loved the participatory installation ‘metropath(ologies)’ … such a dream project for me … the overflow of information projected on a cityscape model, a veritable maze of data + architecture to get lost in … amazing work + the best of the collection shown at the talk … i gotta get down there + check it out

i’ve digressed once again … so, back to portraiture … a quick whirlwind history of the portrait as an artform … a golden bust of royalty from greco-roman times, renaissance-painted realism complete with symbolic items and less idealized facial features, 20th century cubistic renditions capturing a more abstract essence of Picasso’s art dealer, and for the 21st century …

the portrait of the micromoment involved feeds from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Seesmic and other multivariate social networking sites the your modernday eCitizen gladly pours information into with feverish up-to-the-minute details about the minutae of our daily lives … ‘Data Portraits’ took the unsuspecting tweets of the twitterverse to create a portrait visualization of each user … words { the smallest common denominator allowing some balance between private and public exposure } from the user | participant’s tweetstream make up the outline of head, neck and shoulders … words on the left are from recent tweets, words along the right of the datahead silhouette are the most-used throughout your tweetstream history … the words of each portrait pop forth from the black backdrop muchlike a smooth data-persona tagcloud, quite literally outlining your wordstream of the moment for you

what strikes me the most about these linear-textual gestural snapshots is the cocoonlike and ghostly bodily presence of each figure … there’s also a wonderful sense of swirling … the words seem to envelope or mummify a preset human form … besides certain key words that pop out { i am guessing the word size follows the same sort of rules of frequent use that most tagcloud methodologies implement }, there is little differentiation from portrait to portrait … the shape of the head, neck and shoulders remains the same … and the words simply outline or ‘contain’ the previously human form

at first i thought that the datamummification might be a purposeful artisitic and aesthetic choice … i don’t think i get the sense that my portrait would look that much different than anyone else as far as physical attributes are concerned … same height, same weight, same shape, same lack of eyes, mouth, ears and hair … you are your words in these portraits … you are the ghostly echo-trace of your micro-bloggings … a bit sobering … a little scary … and unless you are lucky enough to have micro-entered some emotionally-laden and unique words over the last year or so, you are just as unique as everyone else on Twitter …

part of me wants to think these implications are an intentional affect of the visualization as portraiture … and if nothing else, perhaps we can see this as a subconscious expression of the artists involved … maybe there is no true participatory auto-magical means to create this sort of portrait … or perhaps the effect is completely intentional … a statement about machine-produced { app-influenced } human behavioral modificationthe media we use shapes our behavior, and now we quite literally all itch to tell it all right now … a sort of electronic OCD …

another memorable concept that came up tonight was the notion of ‘pure knowledge’ … an amazing question from the crowd mentioned Elie Weisel’s Zalmen, Or the Madness of God … in the book a person comes to know God, but not as the bearded, old white guy in the clouds oft-depicted by Michelangelo … but instead as the concept of ‘pure knowledge’ … the question specifically asked tonight had to do with the current proliferation of information ‘out there’ for all of us to access and whether or not we, as humanity, are reaching a moment of ‘pure knowledge’ … my own answer to this concept delves into questioning ‘knowledge’ … information is not knowledge … accumulation of datapoints provides no higher wisdom to the individual or to society at large … consuming data alone, collecting data does not translate into knowledge or a deeper understanding … in fact, my personal belief is that knowledge and wisdom are not even closely related … and neither can ever be thought of as ‘pure’ …

Evelyn Glennie shows how to listen | Video on

amazing clip that demonstrates the difference between translation + interpretation