Affirmation Mirror: Eye Scream

This project focuses on raising mental health awareness in the Black community, delivered through an Afrofuturistic lens using the concept of phototherapy. Eye Scream is an art piece, and device, that takes the concept of light therapy and applies it to neopixels that react based on amplitude.  When you sing or talk to it, it lights up.  The lighting up follows the concept of displaying light to increase serotonin production, similar to how the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamps work.  But unlike the SAD lamp, Eye Scream ties into black culture through its light responding to sound.  Since movement and discussion are some of the ways people in the black community cope with their ailments, Eye Scream encourages community discussion, talking and singing.

Journey to Affirming

Context

Education Tool

 

Galleries

 

Conference

As a graduate student, I had become a product of stress. Not just from my academic experiences but the dramatic change from Atlanta to New York, Psychology to Art Tech, and an HBCU to an Ivy League. My intersectionality of being a black woman was not being affirmed in the spaces of education, art, and technology because representations of black women in these fields are not highlighted.  The commonality in those spaces was that I went from being in an affirmed space, at Spelman, to a place where I was constantly fighting for my existence and personal process. I wanted to be affirmed and I wanted a space to connect, and I wanted a space for my friends to connect as well.

Problem

My problem began with me realizing that my experience was specific, but not feeling affirmed of my diverse background was a universal issue for my peers. Not only had I not been affirmed, but the lack of affirmation turned into searching for self-care and true healing.  I began pondering on how to begin discussions of ways to heal in the black community. I also wanted to create a device that tended to people and not a device that develops a relationship where technology manipulates but affirms. I thought about my background in Psychology and how Major Depressive Disorder is a common form of depression in the black community. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness or a lack of interest in external stimuli. 

 

According to the National Institute of Health, in 2016, 10.3 million adults (18+) had at least one major depressive episode, and black adults represent five percent based on findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health Methodological Summary and Definitions from the National Institute of Health (NIH). And 3.1 million adolescents reported a depressive episode and nine percent represented the black population. For these statistics, it seems like black Americans represent a small percentage of reports, but an article from 2007 provided perspective.

 

William and colleagues (2007)  found that whites (17.9%) had the highest lifetime prevalence of MDD, but Caribbean blacks (12.9) and African Americans (10.4%)  followed closely behind (Williams et al., 2007), which refocuses the data presented by the NIH about black adults and adolescents. They also found that MDD affected African Americans and Caribbean blacks equally, but it was usually untreated, severe and more disabling than in non-Hispanic whites (Williams et al., 2007). Caribbean blacks and American Americans are less likely to report and be treated for Major Depressive Disorder, yet the condition is more likely to be severe and disabling in their everyday life.

 

I meditated on the stigmatization of mental health in the black community and how it is not respected and traded in for other coping practices. Religion, self-medication, distrust, seemed to be some contributors as to why black people seek alternative solutions compared to their white counterparts. Yet conditions, such as MDD,  affect blacks of the African diaspora and are under-diagnosed and mismanaged during their care, which was the root of the problem. 

 

 

My questions became:

  • How could people of the diaspora heal?

  •  And how could they heal together? 

  • What does healing in the black community even look like?

 

 

Method of Solution

I first began thinking about how people of the African diaspora communicate and interact, focusing on collectivism and gathering. Speech and movement were examples of large tools used to share culture and history in most African tribes prior to colonization. I also thought about how those qualities carried over into the diaspora whether black Caribbeans or black Americans.  Examples of dance, singing, and griots were forms of storytelling and dialogue initiators that have transcended the  African diaspora and could be seen across it. The idea of sound as an interaction variable seemed appropriate.
 
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the lamp used to treat SAD helped develop the idea of light as the second interaction variable. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or the Winter Blues,  is a form of depression that is onset by shorter periods of daylight during the winter, affecting production levels of serotonin. The lamps are used to treat SAD or compensate for the loss of sunlight affecting serotonin production. 

 

I thought about the different ways black people cope and socialize which heavily focus on sound and movement. Light (response) and sound (communication) as variables led me to think of sensors and devices used in physical computing. The incorporation of Afrofuturism was used to increase the idea of inclusion of blacks in tech and its aesthetics focus on the inclusion of black culture in mental health, deepening the meaning of the piece. 
 

© 2018 Copyright Trisha Barton. All Rights Reserved

di·as·po·ra

dīˈaspərə/

noun

  • the dispersion of any people from their original homeland.

  • the people so dispersed.

ser·o·to·nin

ˌsirəˈtōnən,ˌserəˈtōnən/

noun

 

  • [BIOCHEMISTRY] a compound present in blood platelets and serum that constricts the blood vessels and acts as a neurotransmitter

​​

  • directly and indirectly affects:

​​

bowel function

mood

clotting

nausea

bone density

sexual function

  • deficiency symptoms:

poor memory

 low mood

difficulty sleeping

craving sweet and starchy foods

low self-esteem

anxiety

aggression

© 2018 Copyright Trisha Barton. All Rights Reserved

Insights

1

2

3

The piece could be more rooted in the diaspora by adding Oshun, and connecting individuals within the diaspora. The Eye Scream could create a meeting place for those of the diaspora because the different destinations in the middle of passage determined how much culture could be kept. Oshun’s depictions involve commonly holding a mirror, which is why Eye Scream is shaped as a mirror.  She is a goddess that dwells within fresh waters and heals the sick, brings fertility and prosperity and answers calls from the needy.  Her origins come from southwestern Nigeria, mainly Ifa and Yoruba religions. But you can see her also practiced in Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean tradition that combines Yoruba and Roman Catholic traditions first originally practiced by slaves in Cuba.


The mirror is a conversation initiator because it requires engagement with either speech or loud movements. It requires someone to discover their voice and existence. Providing that idea of healing occuring through interaction and using technology, not manipulate humans but to respond when spoken to.

 

The concept of the neopixels getting brighter encourages people to talk and move more and louder. The activity of movement and sound are coping techniques used in the black community, but the device encourages movements and sound around the concept of mental health awareness in the black community and reconnecting to the African diaspora. It forces individuals to discover what healing means to them and how they can best do it through their cultural lens. 

 


 

© 2018 Copyright Trisha Barton. All Rights Reserved

People's responses after using the Eye Scream were:

 

  • They felt seen, responded to and affirmed

  • They felt mesmerized

  • The mirror is extremely playful and makes them smile and evokes silliness

  • The mirror is slightly hazy which focuses individualism and the fear of addressing the self. 

  • It lessens the intimidation of facing you

  • People with different careers saw its purpose and potential use differently

Outcomes

Resources

Williams, D.R., Gonzalez, H.M., Neighbors, H., Nesse, R., Abelson, J.M., Sweetman, J., & Jackson, J.S.. (2007). Prevalence and distribution of Major Depressive Disorder in African Americans, Caribbean Blacks, and Non-Hispanic Whites. American Medical Association, 64, 305-315.

© 2018 by Trisha Barton