what becomes of us (we do what we bear / we bear what we do)

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This interactive sequential narrative is my final assignment, or “digital artefact”, for the Coursera course E-Learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc).

From the beginning of my #edcmooc course and throughout the discussions each week, I’ve been thinking a lot about our expectations of technology, our portrayals of it, and our impressions of how it transforms our experiences and our own knowledge/perspectives.  Where does the idea of “utopia” come from? From a desire for creating something perfect based on our experience of the world. How does the concept of “dystopia” arise? From the fear of unleashing the worst within us. Are the tools we create making us more or less human? Are we not humans when we create and use them, and is creating and using these tools not what we as humans do? Ultimately when we create new tools, new technologies, and assimilate them into our everyday lives, more than anything else we create mirrors that expand and refract our experiences and perspectives. A continuous evolution, so to speak.

There’s a saying in Chinese: “自做自受” Literally, “self – do – self – bear”. In other words, you bear the results of your own actions. Generally, it has a negative meaning – “you did this to yourself, you dug your own grave; you made your bed, now go sleep in it.” However, the actual words themselves can be quite ambiguous.

One thing that is clear to me is that much of how these expectations and experiences come to be is cyclical and often chicken/egg in nature. As humans, our inventions reflect what we see within ourselves. We are our own catalysts. What we see influences where we as humanity choose to go next. We create what is “human” to us and we respond in a “human” way, and all of these things build endlessly upon themselves in our communal knowledge, the way we think, the way we interact with the world around us. Perhaps the end result may not seem very “human”, and some people may fear this, but it all stems from a very human place. We’re the parents of the technology, and just as children teach their parents, so too do our children take us to places we can only imagine.

This is what I wanted to capture in my final assignment/digital artefact. I wanted to create something highly visual in nature that would be difficult (or impossible) to replicate in a non-digital medium, with the user able to control different aspects and choose how s/he experiences it. So I wrote and illustrated a short poem with the quote “we shape our tools and thereafter they shape us” (John Culkin, 1968) and the Chinese saying in mind, and built a loop around it.

Here is the full text of the piece:

what becomes of us
who are we?
we are what we make.
we are what we consume.
we do what we bear
we bear what we do.
this who we are.
this is what we do.
and so we shape what we use
and so they shape
[endless repeat]

Development notes:

Please note those on some versions of Internet Explorer may experience minor glitches when scrolling. For best results, view in Firefox or Chrome. Javascript is needed to view the interactive components.

7 thoughts on “what becomes of us (we do what we bear / we bear what we do)

    1. maiji

      Oh! Thanks so much for the kind comments! I actually didn’t even promote this anywhere yet aside from publishing it here (in case I forget when the assignment deadline comes around, haha), and I’m still editing/finetuning some of my thoughts, so that was unexpected and nice :)