Look, Ask, Try, Learn


One of the priorities for the bioluminescence project is understanding the impact of integrating of this bio-actuator in a community and whether or not the impact on its ecology is positive. For this topic, I specifically looked at public areas that consistently have people going through this space. The areas that were observed are as follows: Tempe Town Lake, James Terrell ASU Skyspace, and a number of canals within the area. Presenting my idea, I would hope to gain insight on the benefits and faults of the project.


When asking questions about the bioluminescence project, I tried to ask to sets of questions that would give insight to in the impact that this bio-actuator may bring. One set of questions was relating to communal participation and the idea of revitalizing the urban environment by creating new paths and lighting these paths along a run or track. Then next set of questions were related to sensing the environment and pollution within a given area or bodies of water.

In regards to urban revitalization, there were some interesting comments that arose:

  • People would be willing to participate in random generated path events, but they would prefer not to be bothered when they are on the way to an important events.
  • In the case of people running or working out, they would like for the lights to keep up to their pace providing enough light.
  • The light from this project would benefit dim lit areas, especially beneficial for late night strolling.
  • Very few brought up the conclusion that it seemed unnecessary or expensive to implement as special events would be recognized without alternate paths attracting a person to the location.

Now in regards to environmental sensing, the following comments arose among people:

  • There was numerous responses that they would rather have that information provided to them before they are in a potentially hazardous location.
  • Some people understood the use but they the sensing was compared to chemical sensors that have been implemented near specific buildings, which have their own alarm systems.
  • In some rare cases, color blindness was brought up as a concern for distinguishing color variations and brightness within this bio-actuation.


To produce an environment for the project, specifically the notion of urban revitalization, I had volunteers help plan a random course for light activating (turning on flashlights to indicate path) and luring people to new locations. With the large variation of ASU Tempe campus, there were numerous varieties of paths that could be taken through each urban exchange. Through my experience of walking through the path, I had several concerns

  • As the path would progress from one “tile” to the next, there would be some space of darkness that arose as a void, which left the person walking in the dark.
  • Depending on how long the “random” path is, there should be variation in speed, brightness, color to indicate whether or not the location is being neared. Some paths could last too long if a person plans to follow to the very end.

Other questions arose, when we included a second person that would travel in a near area:

  • On converging paths, there was no indication of separate paths when splitting up, creating a confusion when individualizing paths.
  • Although this may provide a communal aspects to the urban environment, this test case did not provide enough information for the people in this experiment knew one another.


Through understanding how bioluminescence could be used in urban environment, there are some concepts that should be explored as well as understood for the best implementation of this bio-actuator. I learned that environments play an important role for this project as dimly lit places may benefit from this light, but it would be important to not leave any void spots in between. Also through these experiments, it was preferred by most people to have this project be individualized to their needs, whether that is keeping up with pace or specific color when others on a similar path or to take into considerations of color blindness, there are multiple ways that people would like bioluminescence  to cater to their needs.

Unfortunately, I was unable to receive enough information to use bioluminescence as a sensing for the environment as I the narrative was not strong enough in this moment. But there some other considerations that need to be accounted for in the next experiment.

Look, ask, try, learn

Our project is related to bioluminescence, algae, and situationism (urban and psychological theory). In my research, I was exploring all three aspects. I was also exploring potential connections of those with city water systems and waste water treatment.

look: what are people doing and saying?

The great source of inspiration for me are TED talks, so I spent some time finding and watching talks related to the topics of research. Some are more, others are less useful.

Energy from floating algae pods by Jonathan Trent

  • Biofuels that compete with fossil fuels
  • Algae grow in containers with waste water
  • Algae produce natural oil inside containers
  • Large area of algae pods
  • Microalgae – very small organisms, many species
  • Off-shore is a design decision
  • Waste water + CO2 + sun = growing algae + oxygen
  • Algae are biodegradable, can’t live in salt water
  • How to make algae happy? What they eat, what kills them?
  • Look at whole ecosystem
  • Circulate algae through plastic tubes; they take CO2 and the oxygen is “filtered”
  • What to do with plastic?

Pollution-free lights, powered by microbes by Sandra Ray

  • Use natural resources to avoid environmental disasters
  • Growing lights with limited resources
  • Some organisms have genes that provide bioluminescence
  • Native Americans were using insects as home lights!
  • Hard to use underwater bacteria
  • Introduce the genes to common bacteria found everywhere
  • Synthetic biology: system lasts longer, can have different colors, can be turned off and on
  • Changing perception of what light is and how we use it

How bacteria “talk” by Bonnie Bassler

  • Bacteria have one piece of DNA
  • Humans have 1o times bacterial cells than human cells
  • Bacteria communicate with light
  • Molecule produce light that turns on light when bacteria agglomerate
  • Squids use bioluminescence to “turn on” light and hide their shadow
  • Collective behavior of making light

The weird, wonderful world of bioluminescence by Edith Widder

  • Bioluminescent plankton: single-cell algae
  • Stir the flask to agitate algae
  • Shrimp, fishes, squids, corals – pretty much everything in the ocean
  • Squid makes up light “torpedos”
  • Brush against coral – it flashes light
  • Squeeze part of the animal – light goes to the ends
  • Optical Lure – 16 LEDs to talk to shrimps!

ask: elicit feedback or participation from someone in regards to your project idea

Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to interview people I wanted about the project. However, I was interested in community building before and interviewed several architects and landscape architects last semester. Below I am including the selected parts of the interviews that give a better overview of the issue that we are trying to solve with the project.

Wendell Burnette about canal system in Phoenix
Professor of Practice at The Design School at ASU (specialty in Architecture).
Founder and principal of Wendell Burnette Architects (architectural practice).

Another natural (and also historical) context of the Valley that may be important for designing a unique park environment is water. Native Americans who inhabited the Valley before the European colonization developed one of the most advanced irrigation systems of the ancient world – the canal system of the river Verde. Prof. Burnette recommended a book by Nabhan G. (2002) “The desert smells like rain” about its history. According to this book and other historical records, lives of native Americans was intertwined with water, its flow,  and natural cycle. The modern canal system that provides water for the Valley is built upon the ancient one. It is also important that Tempe itself was – and still is – an agricultural city. Not so long ago the canals were playing a significant role for the city. Cotton trees were planted alongside its banks and Tempe transit roads followed their courses. However, due to various circumstances, this green corridors system along the canals is no more. Professor Burnette said the city lost its character with it.

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 14th.)

James Hoffman about loci genius and community
Faculty Associate at The Design School at ASU (specialty in Landscape Architecture).
Founder and principal of Coffman Studio (landscape architectural and planning practice).

Mr. Coffman stated (interview for DSC 598 course, 12 Sept. 2016) that, in his experience, creating the unique personality of a place that relates to its users is one of design challenges that are most important for a successful performance of a space. It creates a huge benefit for people: if they are able to form an emotional connection to place, they start feeling that it is their own and feeling safe in it. It also benefits the city, as when people care about their surroundings, they would avoid damaging it and instead would be more ready to assist in bringing positive changes upon it.

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 12th.)

Anastasiya Yurkevich about paths and landmarks
Landscape architect at AFA (landscape architectural practice in Moscow, Russia).

Ms. Yurkevich claimed that there are two main factors that influence a design. First is proximity to a city center and other prominent landmarks that attract people and influence transit routes and a contingent of a park user groups. Second is social context and existing relationships of people with a space in focus. 

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 6th.)

I am now waiting for the interview confirmation from a biologist to explore bioluminescence from the scientific perspective.

try: simulate or participate in an activity yourself

How I drifted the city of Tempe and explored the city as a situationist.

The notion of psychogeography as a tool to describe the city interests me profoundly. Taking inspiration from the pioneers of situationism, I made a short dérive in Tempe late in the evening.

As defined on the web page of situationists movement, dérive (“drifting”) is “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.”

Using this technique I explored the affordance of Tempe urban environment for the act of drifting itself and exploration after the sunset. The questions I tried to ask were:

  • What triggered me to make an unexpected turn into an unknown street?
  • What prevented me from doing it?
  • How do other pedestrians behave in streets? Do they stroll aimlessly, for leisure or do they seem to have a destination? Do they stop if something interesting is happening?

I have started my journey from home around 7 p.m. when the sun was setting down. I have decided to go in the direction of the Beach Park first. In the next three hours, I walked to the other side of the Salt river, was scared to death by a weirdo in the street, tried to find a place I remember from awhile and failed, got lost and used a map application to return home. During my drift I realized several things:

  • There are not many pedestrians in the city even on Saturday night.
  • All pedestrians are hanging out in places of attraction: parks, The Mill street, and ASU campus. Outside of these places they were clearly going towards their destinations, maybe homes.
  • There are more cyclists than pedestrians.
  • There are some people jogging on the big streets like University Drive.
  • I got scared by dimly lighted roads and tended to follow the most illuminated paths.
  • Meeting just one person on an empty street made me wary. If I met several people, I felt comfortable.
  • I mainly navigated the city using light and sound. Music and lights attracted me. Cafes that used creative lighting peaked my interests the most.
  • Surprisingly, empty parking lot are lighted at least as well as pedestrian streets.
  • Most of the places in Tempe look very similar to each other.

Unfortunately, my camera is not good with low light 😦

learn: identify ‘thoughtless acts’, patterns, problems, or opportunities.

  • There are possibilities of energy generation and CO2 treatment using algae
  • Phoenix citizens lack awareness about the canal system.
  • Walking in night requires not only navigational lighting but also certain security levels provided by bright lights and presence of other people. All three factors provide the affordance of urban space to explore using unusual paths.
  • Algae can reproduce and thus pollute fresh water reservoirs, have to be really careful.
  • The act of lighting up algae by agitating it could become an act of volunteer placemaking and shaping the city.
  • Algae can show the street activity and pop-up events like picnics or even street sports.

Look, Ask, Learn, Try – Timothy Vance


For our Biodesign project, we are planning on making a net that catches CO2 or methane so I needed to observe something having to do with air.  What I observed was a show that happened on April 2nd at the Mesa Arts Center named Brain Candy Live.  During the show, they not only talked about air and how it interacts with people but did many demos showing these properties. Some of their demos included machines that condensed air into rings and ones that showed how air reacts to different stimulation such as boiling.



Even though the show spoke a lot about air, they only briefly talked about CO2 and the subject of air pollution did not arise.  My time to ask was during the intermission they asked the audience to send them a question via Twitter.  The questioned that I asked was “Does an increase in CO2 effect the air in more ways than people mention?” For the rest of the intermission, I asked some people around the same question in the hope to uncover something new. Unfortunately, due the high amount of people attending the show they could only answer about 10 questions from the audience and mine was not chosen.  There was one question they answered that was on the topic of methane though and it did provide some amount of insight.


What I learned about from the question was that besides power usage methane has a few other uses such as:

  • Used in some plastics
  • Used in some papers
  • Used in some concretes
  • Used in some stage effects such as fog

As for the air pollution question that I asked the other attendants that evening most of them gave the standard answers like that is has longer lasting effect and that methane is a much stronger for on climate change.  This gave me the insight that if the public knew more about the harmful effect of theses gas it might give them more incentive to change the way that they do things.


As I had mentioned, during the show they had several demos that showed off the concepts they were describing and some of them had people from the audience come up to the stage.  The people were already chosen ahead of time and the show did prohibit photography, so all I can do is recount their tests. The one that sticks out in my mind is that they had a long tube that was knotted in the middle and they had two people from the audience blow into either end in order to fill in faster than the other person.  They were both given different techniques and they showed how one method is much more effective for collecting large amounts of air. This got me thinking about the net and how the more air it can collect the better it will do.  The better technique was to back up fro the end and to blow into it from a distance in order to collect more air.  SO when we are designing this net I will take this into consideration.

Antonio “Look, Ask, Learn, Try.”

First off, I understand that the assignment asked to visit a place related to my final project. However, there is a conflict of schedules where I would not be home in time to visit because the businesses I had in mind were already closed.

My roommate is a former Navy Veteran, whose job was Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD). He disposed of bombs, to put it in a simpler term. So he understands chemistry, biology, and sciences of that nature. So he now works for a missile plant in Phoenix. I ASKED about the importance of carbon dioxide in his facility and if it is important to know the levels of CO2 at any part of his job.

Surprisingly, he did not talk much about the bombs or missiles, it was more of the Air Conditioning that stood out during the conversation. There could be levels of CO2 that could interfere with the creation of missiles, but other than that, he was not much help.

I also decided to ASK random people (perhaps a sample group of 30), if they knew about carbon dioxide and the dangers of it. 29 out of 30 quickly referred to committing suicide by leaving the car on in the garage and falling asleep. Most were not aware of the levels and how it affects the carbon footprint or the human body.

As I did more research online, I LEARNED that:

Carbon dioxide can lead to people feeling tired and less productive in the workplace or school. It can even lead to headaches.

If rooms are not properly ventilated, carbon dioxide can increase rapidly. This refers to what most people knew when they replied about leaving the car on in an enclosed space, like a garage.

Some locations have high levels of carbon dioxide and need to be monitored. This can also be good for energy efficiency.

Anthony Look, Learn, Ask, Try


One aspect of doing some kind of billboard is that billboards are only seen as advertisement mediums. It is because of this that they follow a set of rules to make them effective. They don’t have lots of text, the text needs to get the point across, and the visuals need to grab the attention of the user. We aren’t actually doing advertisements so we don’t have to follow these rules exactly.


I spent a lot of time looking at what makes successful advertising. The first usually is something that catches the eye or ear. Think of the last ad you saw, now try and remember the audio and visuals that accompanied it. Did they add to the overall experience of it or did they take away from it? Now these are questions that should be asked if the billboard would be used for traditional advertising, something that our billboard isn’t doing. We aren’t making a traditional billboard so we are going to have to look differently at what we are trying to achieve with our billboard. Do we want to have it blend in with the environment, or do we want it to stand out?


I spent sometime asking people what they think of billlboards. Many people said that they don’t see them as often as they used to. From an advertising point of view advertising on things like Facebook are far more important than physical advertising. This makes me think that our billboard isn’t going to be one that has any form of advertising. Maybe the right approach is to find something that blends in with the environment so that is still serves a purposem but not in a flashy manner.


Sadly I wasn’t able to try any small experiments. I am not sure what I would try however. I don’t have any experience with advertisements and I don’t have anything that I could put up on a billboard and see how people react.

Look, ask, learn, try – campus columns


I decided to observe a space on campus reserved for public advertisement. The most obvious spots are the columns placed in high traffic areas that are plastered with posters. As I observed the columns, I noticed that there were a wide variety of posters hung up including, but not limited to, academic opportunities, club information, and concert promotion. The columns seemed to be a common meeting spot for kids in between class. This caused the columns and their surrounding area to have a dense student population during most passing periods. However, most students who were by the columns did not engage in the advertisements. The most engagement with the columns actually came from people hanging up their own posters then checking the other ones out.


I got closer to the columns during a passing period and asked students to point out which types of advertisements drew the most attention out of the variety of posters. Most students pointed out that the concert promotions, which were generally large, colorful, and professionally designed, were their favorite to observe. The reason I asked this question was to gauge what types of visual components are necessary to pass a certain message in a high traffic area.


I tried to post a simple yet visually stimulating poster regarding environmental facts to see how much attention it received in comparison to the other advertisements. Quite simply, it received very little attention much like the other posters on the column except for some concert promotions. Although bright and average size, it seemed that the informational poster should be isolated or else it will be overwhelmed.

I learned from the last two practices that the idea of the columns can be refined and applied to our green billboard projects and vice versa. The columns are effective in their location and design but lack consistency in quality information and aesthetic appeal. In this way, our billboard should also be in a high traffic pedestrian area such as a busy walkway on campus. However, our billboard will display only bright yet simple designs that catch the eye and are simple to read. The simple information may be accompanied with a tasteful graphic to gain more attention. The clutter of the columns are their downfall, therefore singling out crucial information is key to getting a point across. Replacing half of the columns on campus with our green billboard would clean up the air around campus and would provide good looking, important environmental information to the generation who most needs it.

Look, Ask, Try, Learn


Our project is a clean display billboard that analyzes community data and displays it in a unique way, pushing communities to improve their overall environment. In order to be most effective, I wanted to research existing information on successful billboards so ours can be most influential. Although Design and Biology are of most importance in our project, marketing strategies will also have a large stake in the effectiveness of our project. Some of the best advice I found while looking at successful billboards were:

  • 2 lines of less of text (minimum information that be ready easily
  • Provide information that is useful, but accessible
  • Avoid Repetition – provide unique information that is fresh each time someone drives by


I wanted to go out in the field and ask other members of the community what billboards they have noticed in order to procure data that would be effective in strengthening our project. I asked 10 random people on the street what the last billboard they remember seeing was, where is was, and what it’s best quality was. These were some of the best responses.

What: Chik-Fil-A  Where: Freeway  Quality: Comedy

What: Playstation Ad   Where: Bus – Stop   Quality: Artistic Value/ Style

What: Banner Health   Where: 101 Freeway   Quality: 3D Style/Artistic Value


I wanted to put myself in the shoes of the general community member and see what caught my attention while I was driving around or walking down the street. I wanted to discern successful billboards from ones that didn’t receive the attention necessary. I focused on specific qualities of each billboard and tried to glean information from them so we can use it in our project. One of the qualities that stood out to me from some of the best billboards were short, clear, concise messages that matched the art on the billboard. For example, the text on the billboard matches the message or company that the artist is trying to portray. Another quality that impressed me was when the art on the billboard helps tell the message, rather than add to it. For example, a Hail Damage repair billboard shows fake hail damage on the actual billboard. Finally, I found that the size of the billboard has a lot to do with how much information you can place on it. I found that Bus Stop billboards have much more textual information on them than Freeway billboards because you can stop to read them while you are waiting, rather than driving past the board on a freeway.


I took a role-playing strategy take on how knowledge of the health of someone’s surrounding environment would impact them in changing their habits on a day to day basis. One environmental issue that is affecting almost every community is waste and failure to recycle in order to slow the growth of landfills. I took a small sample size of my roommates/friends and asked them how often they recycle on a day to day basis. The results I received were very low, as only three of the ten people in the study remember recycling in the past week. Less than half of them even have a recycling bin in their house. I then showed them statistics on the amount of waste being generated just in Phoenix and how recycling could change those numbers significantly. I got an overwhelmingly positive response on members who genuinely were seeking a change in their recycling habits, and planned to either buy a recycling bin or recycle more frequently in the future. I am excited to see that knowledge being spread to the masses could positively affect these environmental health issues, as long as it is presented in the correct manner.