Internet of Things: disgusting humour research

Although my main idea for the project is to look at dead flies and insects in food bowls, while researching to look at similar works I also started expanding into looking at the idea of disgusting humour. I think the main appeal of the idea of a fake fly in the bottom of a bowl is the base instinct of knowing that you’re witnessing something disgusting, and that you instinctively feel repulsed by (flies being repulsive to humans at the best of times, let alone dead and in your food which you are eating and has already been inside your mouth), but then contrasted by the relief of realising or knowing that it isn’t real and will not do any harm to you. I think it is this that causes you to find the situation funny, and there have been plenty of studies done linking laughter to anxiety and a release of tension. I think this is best exemplified in objects where the psychological link we make to the object directly contrasts the function, so in this instance the idea of filth and bacteria which would usually be a cause for you to avoid or stop eating a food, directly built into an object which is designed to contain food. Other humorous examples I’ve found are

b1785bc7034bf3ac4f99e3db30f7b78bA soap shaped like a dog turd, something which we would usually avoid making direct skin contact with at all costs because of it’s filthy and germ ridden nature, but in this instance is necessary in order to make your hands clean. I think this is probably the best example of this that I have found as it contrasts so perfectly between it’s function and it’s associations.


While not such a direct association as the turd-soap, I find this toilet shaped mug both clever and funny, making an association that never would have occurred to me with the colour of a cup of tea and filthy toilet water. It shows how important context can be, and that putting the dark coloured water into the context of a toilet gives it a completely different association. However I think this is far less “disgusting”, probably due to the change in scale of the toilet breaking the illusion of the context change, and therefore making it easier for us to recognise that it is not in fact dirty toilet water.


I think what amuses me most about this picture is the absurdist element of trying to use a fair of fish for flip flops. Everything about this image is ridiculous, imagining how a person would balance on the slippery fish, the sound that they would make slapping along the ground, the smell as they start to decay, they are just completely unfunctional in every sense. However I don’t think this quite hits upon the idea of disgust, as I don’t think dead fish are something we immediately associate with disgust. Perhaps if they were more obviously rotting, as rotting fish is widely considered a disgusting smell, but these fish look too similar to live fish which we have no issue with.


This image however goes in the opposite direction, with it being entirely based on disgust, but then having no real functional element. What made the fish sandals funny is while they were “unfunctional” in the sense that they fulfilled their purpose so poorly as to be ridiculous, it was ridiculous because you could imagine a scenario in which they were being used. These “shoes” however do not in fact have any function at all, and while disgusting as images they do not engage the viewer, you do not imagine trying to place your foot inside it and use it as a shoe, it is disgusting simply because it is feces, and while the laces add to the narrative of the image it does not make it funny. These two pictures go to show that its a fine balance between disgust and function that makes an item humorous.



Looking at these two pieces by Kina Ceramic Design, they are good examples of my idea. However, I would say that the very deliberate way in which the insects are laid out across the plate, in almost a pattern with ants walking in a line across one side, with various other insects in groups elsewhere, detracts from the illusion of it being “real”. Not only this but the insects aren’t necessarily technically accurate, and strike me as being more “drawings of insects” than accurate representations of insects themselves which I tried to capture in my drawings for my bowls in France.


Field: Internet of things new project idea

After my week in France at La Perdrix and our collaborative project in making dinnerware, and I was specifically painting dead flies into bowls, I realised that I could use this as a basis to bring forward my internet of things project which I had previously been pretty stuck for ideas on.

dead fly bowl

dead fly bowl

The project in France originally planned to have an outcome involving Augmented Reality, although we didn’t manage to achieve that due to the very poor internet making us unable to be able to upload videos to Aurasma (an augmented reality program). However I thought that this was something I would be able to relate back to the Internet of Things, which was a bonus because I had been very much enjoying painting flies in bowls and wanted to continue.

Ideally I would like to be able to throw my own bowls and to paint the flies in with glaze, as I did in France (although I can’t take any credit for having thrown the bowls, they were all made by a ceramics student Jago Poynter in my group). However, with my very limited experience of throwing, the last time I did so being a year ago on my previous trip to La Perdrix I do not feel confident enough to be able to produce pieces of good standard in the amount of time we have left in university, especially given that time and resources are becoming increasingly more scarce towards the deadlines. But, after having spoken to my tutor Ingrid Murphy about this it was suggested that I could use ceramic decals, which would allow me to print an image onto the decal and then transfer it onto an already glazed bowl. This means that I can buy some bowls that suit my purposes, and then transfer drawings of flies and insects I have done onto the surface in order to get the effect I want. I then intend to link this to Aurasma, which will then overlay a video, perhaps of the bowl full of soup and then draining to find the fly at the bottom, or having real dead flies floating in the soup.

I like the idea of creating a piece of work with a humorous tone to it, which is not only functional but desirable because of it’s novelty (as well as hopefully skill with the illustrations). I think the augmented reality will then be able to enhance this novel and humorous element, reinforcing the joke of the disgusting idea of finding an insect at the bottom of your soup but in a safe environment where you can recognise it is not going to do you any harm.

Field troubles

Coming up to the end of this current Field module on “The Internet of Things”, I’ve found myself running into a few problems. My main issue is that there is no clear direction in the project brief, which while I appreciate this is to allow people to go in any creative direction that they wish, I think having no direction at all leaves me lost for any sense of purpose. The internet of things, and use of technology and coding within art and design is an upcoming field which is both exciting and interesting, yet all the examples and research I have looked at are all outside the realms of my capabilities, or of little to no consequence. Not only do many of these processes have a high barrier to entry in my opinion (coding especially), my main problem is not being able to see any useful outcome that I can work towards. While I can see that all of the things we have looked at are useful skills that can be applied in a variety of ways, I can’t necessarily visualise an artistic application that I can apply to my own practice. If I were thinking very ambitiously there are many ways in which technology could be used in my work, but I don’t think any of these ideas are feasible for someone of my knowledge level, and I don’t even necessarily know if my ideas are practical in real life.

However, the one area in which I feel I may be able to integrate the internet of things organically into my work is directly leading on from my last Field project, Interaction Design, and I can think of a variety of ways in which I could use technology in enhancing my “rumblebee” final outcome. I will have to consult with my tutors whether this will be allowed, to combine two field projects into one outcome or whether I will be expected to produce two separate objects, in which case I will have to start from square one.

Field: Internet of Things

Today we have started our new collaborative field project, my chosen subject being “The Internet of Things”, which looks at the interactivity in the modern world between humans and objects, as well as objects communicating between eachother. While this is widely known as the internet of things, this is evolving to become the “internet of everything” where almost all objects have intelligence and communication with the user and each other. This can have a variety of applications, from novelty and amusement to collection of data which allows companies to refine their services and resources. In terms of artistic application from what I have seen it seems to be leaning towards the direction of novelty, however it is important to remember that novelty has an important place in generating interaction and enjoyment from users with an item that is perceived as exciting and interesting. I think I personally would like to be able to create something which can communicate with the user and possibly other objects in order to create something with a sense of fun and personal connection, much as I have looked at in my previous projects.

Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos, one of the project leaders for this course showed us a live project that he was involved in by the REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub called the Objects Sandbox, which is a design competition related to the internet of things. One of the artifacts which has come out of this project is the “Breathing Stone”, which greatly interests me.

Unfortunately I cannot embedd the video into this blog, but I highly recommend you click here to watch it

Breathing Stone - Paul Leonard, Chris Clarke, Joseph Hyde and Adaptive Media

Breathing Stone – Paul Leonard, Chris Clarke, Joseph Hyde and Adaptive Media

The breathing stone itself is a handheld, screenless object which measures the user’s stress levels with a heartrate and breathing monitor, and responds accordingly with soothing glowing lights and ambient music. The music and lights adjusts dependant on the heart and breath rate, and aims to calm the user and reduce anxiety, which they will then be able to see a representation of with the stone. This very much relates to my previous Field project where I aimed to create an object without a screen, and this along a similar vein of what I aimed to achieve. While this object could very much stand on its own, the ambition is for it to have internet connectivity which allows it to communicate its data to chart levels of stress all around the world. However, I do have to question what exactly that achieves, and what the data is going to be used for. I find it difficult to believe that the makers of the breathing stone will be able to use the data in any productive manner in which they will be able to actively combat stress in a certain area of the world, and the ambition to fit each stone with 4G internet connectivity just seems like it will add complications and added price, without any real benefit to the users.


Another of these projects which is strikingly similar to things I have previously been looking at is “InTouch”

Again, I cannot embedd the video, but I recommend you watch it by clicking here

InTouch - Victoria Bates, Ki Cater, Kinneir Dufort

InTouch – Victoria Bates, Ki Cater, Kinneir Dufort

This also focuses on key ideas and themes which are of great interest to me and which I have been trying to express in my work, including in my previous Field project, especially looking at the use of haptic feedback in order to create an emotional response between people and objects, or in this case between two people through the use of objects. Unfortunately I am struggling to find more information on this project, other than the initial statement on the REACT website and various other sites, as I would like to know a bit more specifically how the object itself works in terms of how you interact with it and how it responds. I can only assume that the paired object produces haptic feedback of varying degrees mimicing the touch that the other person is making. However I would like to know how exactly it was then used, as it strikes me as being possibly quite a limiting tool of communication as it has only a small area to interact with, and how the two people are supposed to know to be using it at the same time without some sort of verbal or text based communication, which I feel might slightly defeat the point. But certainly very interesting nonetheless.


“Curpanion” is another project which I find interesting, although perhaps not quite so directly related to my practice, looking at enhancing the museum experience with added content through the use of RFID tags (radio frequency identification) embedded into physical objects.

If you’re interested in the video, click here to watch it

Curpanion RFID tagged object on stand - Merle Patchett, Andrew Flack and Play Nicely

Curpanion RFID tagged object on stand – Merle Patchett, Andrew Flack and Play Nicely

I think what I like most about this project is the desire to add extra content to museums, but without the use of tablets or smart phones which seems to be an increasing trend with augmented reality. Personally I have always found augmented reality to be slightly cumbersome, and not necessarily rewarding, as well as the problem of your focus being drawn away from the physical object and onto the screen, which begs the question why visit a museum at all? This system allows the user to unlock extra audio and visual content both inside the museum and at home, but with a physical object which is both functional as well as encouraging the user to appreciate the physicality of an object. I also think this system would be very rewarding for children who are interested in learning as they can “unlock rewards” online after a museum visit, giving them added reason to go and interact with the gallery objects.


Our lecturer (Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos)’s own project is called “The God Article”, looking at the Turkish instrument the “Ney”, which has much significance in the culture. While an important instrument, few can play it as it’s breath control is difficult, and Alexandros was looking to share and encourage learning through the internet of things.

To watch the video, click here

The God Article - John O'Connel, Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos, and Anthony Mace

The God Article – John O’Connel, Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos, and Anthony Mace

By creating an open source, 3D printable Ney this allows anybody with access to a 3D printer to make their own. This will then be identical to the other Neys which are being played, allowing a fair comparison of data between them and more accurate teaching on how to use that instrument. This is a project I would like to be involved in, as I do have access to 3D printers in university, however my main barrier to entry is having to set up the data recording with arduinos and copper sensors which I wouldn’t know how to do without assistance and I cannot find an article showing me how I would do this. I suppose this might happen later in development, but even so I feel that would be the main barrier stopping most people becoming involved in this project. But perhaps I could talk to Alexandros himself and ask him for some assistance.


The other two projects don’t particularly interest me. “Fans on Foot” focuses on creating a wearable item for a fandom which guides them to significant areas of interest in the real world (such as Torchwood Tower from Doctor Who) and having the item look recognisable to the show. However it wasn’t made particularly clear exactly how this object would guide them to the area, and it strikes me that people who would be interested enough in the fandom to visit site specific areas would already have a good idea of where they are. There is also the question of how this object connects to the internet, and one of the posts from the makers reads “we could create a phone app and send out a pin badge to everyone who downloads the app. Functionally, this is entirely equivalent”, which seems to almost undermine their idea in the first place. Why not just have an app? While I certainly appreciate a physical object and merchandise related to a fandom, I feel like the functionality aspect of it is far more impractical than just having a smart phone app to guide you.

Click here for the video

Fans on Foot - Naomi Dunstan, Ross Garner and Media Playgrounds

Fans on Foot – Naomi Dunstan, Ross Garner and Media Playgrounds


The last project “Reflector” is a learning tool which seems to be aimed primarily at schools in order to educate them further about objects that are on display and give them a wider background of knowledge before their visit to a museum. While I like this idea in principle, there’s something about it that just fails to grab my interest. Thinking about it, I struggle to see where the internet of things really relates, as it seems to come preloaded with the information related to the specific museum visit, and then prints out information in either a set or random order (this is unclear). The internet connectivity was mentioned at a point during the video, in relation to sending out information about ongoing dig sites and discoveries to reflectors all around the world, but that just seems to me to be an overcomplicated twitter stream. This also raises the question of whether these updates would be coming from a central source (one specific dig site or team), or whether everyone with a reflector could send out updates to every other reflector. This would result in a mix of information from lots of different sites, without the choice of what information you wanted to follow or not.

For the video, click here

Reflector - Alex Bentley, Mark Horton and Design Week agency Uniform

Reflector – Alex Bentley, Mark Horton and Design Week agency Uniform


While all interesting projects I think my main issue is that some of them seem to have very little need for the internet or connectivity between objects and can stand on their own as independant items. I think going forward this certain has to be the focus of the artifact I create, rather than something that is shoehorned in as an afterthought.