Investigation 2 - Creative Exercise

Parallels (Group Exercise)

tl;dr:As a group, investigate a Historical Analog that can help ground your proposal. Write up and report (150 words, 1 representative images) and juxtapose it against contemporary technology. Consider how it offers a reframing, critical perspective, or alternative view of the technology. Time Limit: 2 hours

Precedents and Context

Graham Dove and Anne-Laure Fayard’s [*Monsters, Metaphors, and Machine Learning*](

Returning to Graham Dove and Anne-Laure Fayard’s Monsters, Metaphors, and Machine Learning. The authors developed a hands-on workshop to materialize questions posed by machine learning. They introduced a series of ‘monster cards’ (see above) to help encourage reflection on designing with machine learning. Each monster is related through a brief description to an aspect of machine learning’s uncertainty and processes. Using this, participants map out their assumptions and concerns about these processes and later materialize them as a monster using everyday materials.

Digging into the history — and specific examples — of myths, magic and monsters, just as in Dove and Fayards’ workshop, offers really valuable metaphors for the strange and unsettling effects of everyday technology.

BIY or Believe it Yourself is a recent project by, presents a set of three belief-based computing kits. A critical but playful exploration is grounded in close work with experts in alternative belief systems like divination and fortune telling from different cultures to translate their knowledge authentically into digital forms. By digitizing divination practices, BIY empowers  non-objective interpretation of the world through AI-powered microcontrollers; it offers a nuanced interchange between belief, explainability and systems.  Not only does this suggest a process for critical production, but it highlights the broader potential for divination, superstition, and ritualistic practices to be embedded into new digital devices and critical prototypes.

Rather than mining superstitions or the supernatural as convenient tropes and metaphors (like magical wands in gestural computing), BIY suggests the value of reverently attend to the aesthetics, systems and cultures of these non-normative traditions and practices.

Learning Objectives

As part of this exercise you will be asked to:

  • Investigate and report on a historical perspective that might be a useful frame on everyday technology;
  • Build your individual and shared understanding of a specific spooky frame;
  • Develop your understanding of the supernatural as a resource for design;
  • Draw parallels between one specific example and your project work within this module; and
  • Synthesize complex histories and phenomena into a coherent, succinct and accessible forms


Taking cues from Dove and Fayard (see above), investigate and report a historical analog (e.g. witch’s familiars, dowsing rods, ESP) that could be used to frame your project proposal.

Research that thing and report on your findings.

It should be succinctly and clearly summarized (no more than 200 words). It would be helpful to add links to related reading (an article describing it in more detail, a place to get more detail) so that other groups can benefit from your research too.

Most importantly, add a list of possible relationships to contemporary technology (just as Dove and Fayard do at the bottom of the monster card).

Some examples of historical analogs might include

  • Time Slips
  • Stone tapes
  • Familiars
  • Household deity
  • Gremlins
  • Electronic Voice Phenomena
  • Extra-Sensory Perception
  • Zener Cards
  • Divining (Rods)
  • Astrology
  • Palm Reading
  • Tea Leaves
  • Crystal Balls
  • Tarot
  • Apophenia
  • Astral Projection
  • Fairy Rings

Requirements & Considerations

  • This work is completed as a group.
  • This can be used as an attachment to your project proposal or as a way to This is an attachment to your project proposal
  • You must have at least 3 sources to support your work.
  • You must have at least one image to represent your chosen analog.

Submitting your work

Post in #projects with a ~100-150 word write up and a supporting image.

  • Your post should have a TITLE (the historical analog), a well researched SUMMARY of the analog, a short description of possible parallels and LINKS WITH TECHNOLOGY and a list of related reading or RESOURCES to better understand it.


  • Refer to the Spooky Technology book — it contains many examples of historical analogs.
    • e.g. Post Mortem Photography
    • e.g. Masks
  • Graham Dove and Anne-Laure Fayard. 2020 @. Monsters, Metaphors, and Machine Learning. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–17. DOI: