Parsons School of Design

BFA Communication Design

Thesis 2015

Joan Koo
Abstraction/ Specification
Joan Koo
Abstraction/ Specification

We order our perceptions to make meaning. This project seeks to uncover the ways that particular orderings—what we call interpretations—create a variety of meanings. Three text-based experiments investigate how design affects the elasticity of written narrative language when its content has been partially abstracted. The intention is to push written language just before it renders nonfunctional in order to expose the limits of narrative comprehension and retention. This discovery is important in obtaining a better understanding of how much detail is necessary for information to make sense to the average individual. All three experiments borrow diary entries from Anaïs Nin, remove certain grammatical forms, and replace them with deliberate blanks. These spaces introduce abstraction to the text much like Mad Libs, where individuals are prompted to fill the blanks with their own words. This generated content transforms the diary entries from person to person, creating new meanings in the text while also shedding light on how individuals interpret fragmented information in a way that helps them to create meaning. Results are documented in a final research book of textual observations and analysis. In the future, the project can be expanded to explore other aspects of language, such as the visual and aural. The questions behind these additional studies expand to how individuals interpret media in varying ways in order to create meaning. Designing at the threshold of productive and nonproductive ambiguity turns these modes into mediums of manipulation; obtaining a better understanding of the limit of ambiguity creates the opportunity to curate information cognizance in any shape or form.


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