Category Archives: culture mapping

Sinead O’Dwyer On Why Body-Diverse Casting Needs To Become The Norm At Fashion Week

London-based Irish designer Sinead O’Dwyer has made it her mission to promote body diversity – from casting to the clothing she puts into production. Still on a high after showing her spring/summer 2023 collection at London Fashion Week, on a cast of models from size 8 to 26, O’Dwyer says it’s “only going to get better” from here. Here, she shares the steps she’s taken to prioritise inclusivity – and to encourage others in the industry to do the same.

The Gamification of Humanity

When did daily life come to feel so much like a competition? In “You’ve Been Played,” Adrian Hon traces how and why gamification — the application of video-game principles like experience points, streaks, leader boards, badges and special challenges — has come to suffuse nearly every aspect of human existence in the digital era. Examples range from exercise (Nike, Strava), housework (Chore Wars) and brushing your teeth (Pokémon Smile), to — more disturbingly — going to school (ClassDojo) or work (Amazon warehouses’ PicksInSpace).

Hon slips easily between the perspectives of expert, enthusiast and critic. An education in neuroscience informs his explanation of the behaviorist underpinnings of gamification. And in his capacity leading the games company behind the popular running app Zombies, Run!, much of his working life is spent tussling with these issues. Some of the book’s most insightful moments come when Hon discusses how his team considers ethics and user experience when deciding how much to use gamification tricks in their own work.

The Dark Side Of Nostalgia Culture

We are living in a time of global uncertainty. The world has changed irrevocably since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and current news cycles detail the effects of climate change, the cost-of-living crisis, energy shortages, the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the Russo-Ukrainian warFashion trends respond to our environment and consequently runways in recent years have been awash with bright waves of nostalgia, reflected in the recent resurgence of the Y2K aesthetic. In an age of social unrest, the allure of a more carefree time is understandable. Low-rise jeans, Von Dutch caps, bandanna crop tops and micro skirts have made a comeback. Gen-Z have heralded the return of ‘indie sleaze’, a chaotic, dishevelled era which developed in reaction to the slick celebrity culture of the early 2000s, when American Apparel disco pants, rosary beads, backcombed hair and smudged eyeliner were the norm.

Imagining Invasive Species Community Kitchens 

“When Henry Hudson arrived in what is now New York City in 1609, there were approximately 350 square miles of oyster reefs in the harbor and its surroundeing waters. These waters contained nearly half of the world’s oyster population — some of which are said to have been, gulp, almost one foot long.”

In an article from October 2020, the NY Times reviewed a broader movement to reduce, if not eradicate, invasive species by changing our appetite for them. 

“The theory goes that the more people eat invasive species, the more incentive there is to hunt and harvest them — a classic free-market approach, except that the point is to boost demand until there is no supply. Should diners in fact grow fond of these novelties, the plan could backfire, recasting the species as a valued commodity.”

What Happened to Manhattan’s Oyster Barges?

Where Do Memes Come From? The Top Platforms From 2010-2022

To truly understand how the internet changed over time, it’s crucial to pay attention to the culture that runs through it. Memes are symbols that provide a window into what is culturally significant during a given timeframe, acting as key indicators for how social media ecosystems work.

By looking at the number of memes recorded for each platform by Know Your Meme annually, we can follow the rise and fall of different social media platforms and gauge their relative influence over digital culture at different moments in their history. Through memes, we can help to tell the story of the social internet and how it became what we see today.

K-everything: the rise and rise of Korean culture

The global success of Psy’s rap could be traced back to the dramatic rises and falls in fortune that have characterised Korean history (the peninsula has been invaded and colonised many times, without ever encroaching on its neighbours). After the Korean war, South Korea was ranked among the poorest nations in the world. With a mixture of authoritarian repression and collective will, the “hermit kingdom” had by the late 1990s turned that around to look like a tech and manufacturing success story. That rise came to an abrupt end with an economic crash in 1997, when the Korean government was forced to ask the IMF for an emergency loan of $57bn. The day of that request is still known as the Day of National Humility. In order to pay off the debt there were many collective sacrifices (including a drive for gold that saw tens of thousands of ordinary Koreans donate wedding rings to the national cause).

Tuning the Prompt

Perugina. Airport. Sepia. Soldier. Rome. Yet, another precious family photo lost in Google Photos among mundane recipe screenshots. And, yet, another reminder that it’s all about the prompt. The prompt I never set up and lazily relegated to the wisdom of a Google algorithm.

When we’re using prompts in search, we use them like fishing lures slowly trolling cyberspace. The more technically proficient we are, the less we are bothered by combing through junk to reach what we need. But the emerging GPT-2 and GPT-3 language models has turned that expectation upside down, revolutionizing what we can do via prompt engineering. 

Now, we can not only retrieve, we can create.

And the breadth is relatively wide from NLP to AI synthesis, emails can be generated and images can be rendered through iterations of text prompts. The trick to getting it right is through effective prompt engineering. And that is a cultural issue. (No different than ethnographies are only as good as their recruitment.)

Lisa Li Xiang and Percy Liang write about prefix tuning, “a lightweight alternative to fine-tuning for natural language generation tasks” (Li, 2021). They propose that “Fine-tuning is the de facto way of leveraging large pretrained language models for downstream tasks. However, fine-tuning modifies all the language model parameters and therefore necessitates storing a full copy for each task…good generation performance can also be attained by updating a very small prefix.”

It’s within these small spaces that cultural context can be applied. We began this discussion in March 2020 at the Intelligent Human Systems Integration Conference in Modena, Italy. The challenge is to have the design remain open to human potential, rather than structural control.

“It’s no surprise that most people engaged in ‘tech-mediated intimacy’ prefer sexting with ‘adult’ chatbots over sex robots. They can imagine a human at the other end. As designers, we need to understand human traits and be ahead of that moment” (Stock, 2020).

Let’s not forget that according to Encyclopedia Brittanica, “the words engine and ingenious are derived from the same Latin root, ingenerare, which means “to create.” This is one thing when we are haphazardly throwing prompts at Midjourney. There, it’s okay to have others run with your prompt and see where it goes.

Jason M. Allen, a maker of tabletop games, won the 2022 Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition for his AI-generated work using Midjourney. “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” took first place in the digital category. “Some artists defended Mr. Allen, saying that using A.I. to create a piece was no different from using Photoshop or other digital image-manipulation tools, and that human creativity is still required to come up with the right prompts to generate an award-winning piece” (Roos, 2022).

But, what about when we need to land effectively and quickly get to that promising work? That’s when we need to start tuning upfront.

Already, virtual prototyping is becoming essential for automotive research and design (Girling, 2022). Think about how far we could go without heavy investments in building upfront.

Imagine if we could simply focus on the thinking? Implications reach far beyond the tangible.

Consider occupational identities. Julia Yates & Sharon Cahill state “Evidence suggests that occupational prototypes have an impact on career decisions. Psychology undergrads were asked to evoke a typical member of each of four occupational groups and describe their prototype in detail. A classic grounded theory analysis identified the characteristics which were symbolised by the features of the prototypes and resulted in eight dimensions: warm, energetic, fun, intelligent, conventional, highbrow, successful and cool” (Yates, 2019). What if we could leverage prompt engineering to bring better context to education and career design too? But, then again, what if I could simply find that missing Google photo?

– by Tim Stock and Marie Lena Tupot

Works cited

Girling, W. (2022, July 29). Virtual prototyping is becoming essential for automotive R&D. Automotive World. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from 

Li, X. L., & Liang, P. (2021, January 1). Prefix-tuning: Optimizing continuous prompts for generation. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from

Roose, K. (2022, September 2). An a.i.-generated picture won an art prize. artists aren’t happy. The New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from 

Stock, T. J., & Tupot, M. L. (2020, January 22). Pre-emptive culture mapping: Exploring a system of language to better understand the abstract traits of human interaction.  Intelligent Human Systems Integration 2020. IHSI 2020. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, vol 1131. Springer, Cham.

Yates, J., & Cahill, S. (2019). The characteristics of prototypical occupational identities: A grounded theory of four occupations. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling49(1), 115–131.