emily zhao © 2021


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Try the experience first!

Racing Thoughts is an interactive experience intended to spark self-reflection. It calculates the speed at which people come up negative and positive thoughts and presents the data back to the user in the form of a receipt – a physical takeaway, if you will.

The project was derived from my own struggle to compliment myself. At the time of development, when asked by my therapist to recite self-affirmations, I couldn’t think of a single positive thing to say. With self-deprecations or insults, however, the stream was fast-flowing and easy. I wondered how some friends would fare when tasked to say something nice about themselves; many found it difficult, as well.

While it would have been nice to develop an experience that only encouraged people to speak kindly of themselves, I found that taking a neutral approach to be the most successful. By having people say both positive and negative thoughts, I’m not assuming anything about their ability to say either. Time elapsed is also very matter-of-fact, too; it’s not inherently judgmental.

People are hard to change, and I didn’t think I could create an experience that could alter someone’s internal monologue, but I could certainly provide some data to reflect on. Racing Thoughts is merely meant as a place to begin thinking about our self-perception.

I’m currently working on a visualization of the responses I collected at the ITP Winter Show in 2019. You can see a preliminary version of the project here.