on the work of jenny odell

While watching Jenny Odell introduce here how she simply goes and walks around to observe her surroundings, to internalize her new environment– I found myself recognizing how I have a similar method of observation. I resonate with this idea that sometimes, it makes more sense to just step out and have a look around with a general curiosity for things whether they be about design or people or location. My mind remembers more about a place or city when I can stand on a corner and register that “this is the corner I live on” versus looking at it’s digital counterpart on google maps.

“Place” carries meaning when I am in “it,” and usually only thereafter. By this method is how I “map out” and discover fully, any new place that I enter. I can read maps and understand them, but they give me no more than indication or generalization of a certain space. All frame of reference on a map is suddenly lost when I turn 180 degrees… so I prefer to be up close, to know what it means to “enter a new space and suddenly all of the buildings look different” because that gives me sense of place by feel and movement, by color and mood or language and style. I can recall the size of a building, the shape of that one tree, or type the patio furniture of a cafe much easier than I could give you an intersection or address.

Ex) Despite traveling through South America IRL, as I moved across its 3D images on google for our most recent project, I became frustrated because I knew the image I wanted to harvest, but I did so with great difficulty; not fulling knowing how to navigate from “up above” or north to south rather than “by and through” in car or on foot, by sight and sense.


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In another talk, Odell speaks to the experience of “using technology to augment elements of the human experience rather than flattening it or replacing it.”

I am inspired by her point here– how so much of technology can be easily criticized but she chooses, instead to let it empower her artistic drive. To provide the world with a more conscious reaction to these “media effects.” I believe I am in media studies for a similar reason. By understanding media & technology and how it functions to serve us (or not serve us) I am able to “re-enter” the world in a more informed way. I become more comfortable with technology because I know that it can be perceptible and detectible.

I immediately drew the comparison to my experience of wearing a hybrid prosthetic-orthotic piece of technology, my exosym. This device enables me a physical experience of the world that I might not otherwise have without it. It enables me a new identity. It enables me a new point of advocacy for people with disabilities. Technology is a perceptual prosthesis in every sense because it can provide us with the means to subject ourselves to new realities and new experiences. The same goes for my exosym. I am more abled-bodied as I wear it and when I put it on, I enter a new space and a new category of “disability” according to how others perceive me. I am “recovering” versus “congenital.” I am an “injured athlete” versus “one with CP.”

Had I “escaped” this new, bionic reality the moment it became too hard and difficult to process, I might never reached this comparison with Jenny Odell’s work and understanding over her own artistry.