A Discussion of Food and Racism (Concept Development)

A Discussion of Food and Racism is a 3D-modeled graphic that looks at utilizing AR to address systemic racism in the food world. The project is considering simplicity, color, and representation in symbols in the design. These same concepts come back in my later projects Pagan Folklore & Architecture and Specious Spaces.

In the Beginning…

For this project, I was interested in the intersections between AR, Racism, and Food. In terms of AR, I have been interested in the interactivity, especially considering how interfaces can pose threats or can help promote education, wellness, and much more.

Food culture has become a big thing, especially with travel. However, we have become quick for aesthetics that culture is often times misrepresented and the traditions and rules are ignored. So I am interested in the media implications.

In terms of racism, that is a heavy and prominent topic in our society. What caught my attention was the idea of language and representation. Through the subtly of language, people have been discriminated against in the workplace or their ability to move up or expanding their expertise has been minimized.

Here is a Venn diagram which contains all the ideas and thoughts I researched over the course of this assignment.

As I worked to figure out which space I wanted to analyze, I started to write down questions I had.

Visualization of Ideas…

Eventually, these questions started to take form into sketches for what would later become a 3D-modeled graphic. I was taking into consideration simplicity and object connotations.

Out of all the things from the initial sketches, I took the hand, phone, and human gestures with me. The reason for the hand is because in AR, it is important for direct interactivity, but we also use it to scroll through media daily. The content our hands create can have a positive or negative impact. With the phones, this AR seemed more widely accessible and adaptable with the messages I was playing with. In terms of human gestures, a lot of the stories dealing with racism presented strong emotions of power and oppression. As a result, it did not make sense to not include the human body, which is depicted inside the earth.

While I was finalizing the visual representation, I was considering the flow of information. Because of the way we interact with media today, we are more use to a top-to-bottom or bottom-to-top flow. Dealing with a subject of the digital world, this made sense. It also allowed the information to flow in a story showing the connections between the three topics.

Final Product…

If you start from the bottom and move up, it starts with a problem, which happens to be an intersection of food and racism. This is the lunchbox idea, where a child is bullied for their cultural food (be it that is smells or looks strange). As a result, they are ashamed of their culture and often conform to their peers. As we move up, there is a baby mobile, which looks at this idea we are raising a culture that is blind to systemic racism because of how it has subtly embedded itself. At the top, we have a hand cracked and corrupted. Often times what happens is, the food these young children are criticized for becomes popular and a fad. They no longer have access to their culture, and others profit. When looking at AR, there are privacy issues and accessibility issues, but what is worse is even if you develop an app to help it with the situation by providing a platform for people to learn and engage in culture, there is the possibility of corruption and profit that can skew the solution in various levels of the system.

Now, if you reverse this image, going from the top, AR has the potential to expand the perception of the viewer from what they know as well as how much of the world they can reach. Empathy training is another possibility with AR. However, the thing to keep in mind is that a single use is not enough and those who already have a racist mindset are less likely to receive the information well. If all these are factored in, the gap between the earth can be closed and bring together a change as the problem areas represented in the symbols are addressed.

Questions Raised…

  1. How to encourage or raise curiosity in people who normally wouldn’t engage in a subject through the visual design of a problem?
  2. What are the steps needed to properly discuss culture in order to create a safe space that does not compromise/erase/remove important voices?
  3. How does the style of graphics illustrate or properly convey a message to a viewer?