Thesis Proposal

1) Working Title 

The Journey

2)What is your thesis question?

How to build the connection between participants and refugees in a dynamic interactive space?
How to put participants in refugee’s shoes to experience their stories and to trigger people’s empathy toward refugees?

3) How do you propose to answer it, elevator pitch

Using smartphone and the refugee’s voice recording to create the connection between participants and refugees in the space. It’ll be a dynamic interactive environment with projection and sound.

4) General Description

It’s a mixed media installation which corresponds to users’ movement. I’ll be using smartphone as messenger to tell a story about refugee’s journey to Europe. With the participants interacting with the phone and walking to different locations, they could hear different audio contents coming out. I want to make it feel like they’re getting a phone call from refugees who tell their stories on the sea which is actually voice recording. 

In the very beginning I’ll be using a smartphone, putting it inside a balloon and make participant hold it in their hand. What’s the point am I doing this? I found how smartphone plays an important role during refugee’s journey to Europe and all the attempts they make to protect their smartphones. It’s quite normal that they put smartphones in the plastic which is actually a balloon to make it waterproof. By getting people’s attention to this unfamiliar object, they’ll learn the story behind this after interacting with it.

The balloon somehow becomes the mask to transform participant’s phone into refugee’s phone. When participants hold the smartphone in their hands, they immediately become one of the refugees on the boat. The purpose is to put participants in refugee’s shoes in this experience. My goal is to try to erase the misunderstanding of refugee crisis, to reveal the truth, to create empathy and to raise awareness about refugee’s problem.


5) Research Process

There’re two key directions in my research so far. The first thing is that the new crowds of refugees flood into Europe recently is different from what we pictured them before. The most needed help is power, wi-fi hotspot for them to contact their families and to guide them when they arrive. Of course there’re still needs for some basic supply like food, water so I do want to know what’s the proportion of this new generation of refugees. Also listening to opponent’s point of view will help me to be neutral as a storyteller.

Another direction of research is the story itself. I’ve already looked and documented lots of stories of the refugees from newspaper, Unicef website and Cowbird. But it’s hard for me to figure out a way to put it together. Some of the stories are interview, some are voice, some are text or pictures. There’s no consistent subject to fit my interest of research (which is the story about their boat ride to Europe). So my next step is trying to talk to refugees or NGOs to collect the stories.

6) Personal Statement

I’ve been keeping an eye on refugee’s issue for a long time. A photograph of a Syrian girl surrendered to the camera (she thought it was a gun) has been in my iPhone lock screen since the first time I saw it. It’s hard for me to describe how deeply this image influences me. I felt sad and guilty that I could not do anything to help her. It’s not the thing a 4-year-old girl should have experienced and I know there’re more and more children suffering from this. I felt I want to do something but my power is so tiny to make any change. The helpless feeling kept following me till I read an article about smartphone plays an important role for them. Suddenly I realized we’re all connected via Internet/ facebook/ instagram. They’re just like us! So I decided to make their stories being heard by the touch of technology.

I’m always interested in collaborating storytelling in my work since I’m really into stories happens in the hidden corners. I somehow feel it’s my mission to tell stories about them as a storyteller. My inspiration come a lot from films and some humanities websites like “Humans of New York” and “Cowbird”. They are just like my personal bible for thought, reading them has became my daily routine. That’s how this idea came to my mind. To tell a story about refugees, also to let people know and listen to their voice.

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