Nevertheless She Persisted: The Cycle of Science and Nature

This blog is part 4 of a four part series about our Sisyphus machine. all links are presented below.  It is produced in concert with Jing Ke and myself (Samantha).  We are happy to unveil this to you and to the class! 

This is it! Here we go! The big reveal!  This blog will discuss the project from a finished standpoint but more importantly It will critique from Jing’s and my perspective, how the project went, what we could improve, and what could be done with some reworking.  this will be divided into the project, then Jing’s opinion, and mine last.

The Project:  “Nevertheless She persisted”

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After careful thought about the duality of man and nature,  the concept of scientific progress being masculine and the feminine identity of nature brought to light a duality that closely resembles the eco-feminist theories of the seventies and the more recent feminist conversations surrounding the united states congress.  “Nevertheless she persisted” is the story of women standing up and speaking against the control that male congress leaders in the U.S. came to think was the norm.  they rose up and in the same way nature rises to meet mankind.

It also hearkens back to those times when the greatest of power, the moon, the earth, the winds, love, and time were in the hands of powerful goddesses in the Etruscan, Egyptian, Greek, and roman pantheons – not in the control of man.  Recognizing that same power, and recognizing the evolution of super-bugs to combat scientific protection from them seems almost perfect.  So we have chosen to name our Sisyphus machine, “Nevertheless She [as in mother earth] persisted.”

For a more detailed discussion of the meaning of our machine view our second blog!

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Jing’s Critique:

Composing and constructing the Sisyphus machine has taken both Samantha and I a lot of time, but we got there in the end.

I would evaluate the workflow of building the machine to be slower than planned, and we did have to make a few adjustments to our Sisyphus blueprint to save time as the oncoming due date approached such as minimizing the carving needed in the walls of the Styrofoam box, due to limitations surrounding the hotwire machine. We also encountered complications with the construction of the internal motor. Specifically making sure that the cogs could maintain friction and turn with sufficient torque. The other was underestimating how heavy the models we made that were supposed to rotate, were. The arms of the machine were unable to support the weight of models. However, to solve both problems that were outlined, Samantha used a rubber band to increase friction and bind both cogs together so there was enough support and rotory motion for the clogs to turn. For the arms we basically added more lego pieces to the design then desired. The model of the man also fell onto the floor and shattered into a few pieces. Thankfully we did have some super glue on hand.  We ended up each designing two sides of the machine (ultimately all sides were decorated) in a black-and-white scheme to demonstrate the balance of color symbolizing the balance of nature and to make it easier if we wanted to carve in the future.

The overall box’s intent seems spot on.  Trying to tip the scales of life in one’s favor will undoubtedly make nature, “leap frog”. The box exemplifies the importance of equilibrium and thoroughly represents the ever-going war between Man and super microorganisms. There is no winner.

However, evaluating the problems we had this time around I believe there is definitely more to improve on such as being able to manage our time better, handling our materials better and being more on the ball when crisis hits.

To find out how it was made click here to read this blog!

Samantha’s Critique:

The sisyphus machine has taken a lot of hits from concept to final product but overall it does its job.  I’m very proud of Jing for her work on the external designs and the figurines and am very happy to have worked with her on this.  There are several areas of improvement, particularly with the admitidly janky mechanism I wish I could improve such as the lego parts which are very bad at sustaining eight of the figures and can’t do much about the friction.

I think that we did very well in composing the designs and the images given the dimension of the box.  It was a little wonky working with the odd dimensions but jing pulled through phenomenally.  The internal mechanism works albiet haphazardly and it was really a lot of fun to build.

Improvements made to the box as a whole would be its overall length.  I think that the lenght was too long to really support the designs on the sides of the box as needed and more thought should have gone in to how we would cut the roman columns out.  Despite prior experience with a hotwire device before I am a little miffed at myself for not getting to cut out the columns properly.  thinking on it cardboard would have been better suited to build up the box instead of cutting it from styrene.

The concept of the box was to make a comment on the cycle of science and nature and I think that in that way we did very well.  The notion that human scientific advancement is inevitably followed up with great natural leaps and that our affects on the world occur three fold makes its point very clearly in a siyphus machine.  the designs on each side represent a duality as Jing said.  I feel anyone coming upon such a machine in public, given some time, would completely get it.


This has been a fantastic collaborative project and I feel so lucky to have had Jing as a partner.  Thank you to the first year class of creative arts and to the home-stay families who had to endure our project on their kitchen tables for so long!

All four blogs are presented in this list:

  1. What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?
  2. Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science
  3. Rome, Built in a Day: How We Made a Sisyphus Machine
  4. Nevertheless She Persisted: The Cycle of Science and Nature

Rome, Built in a Day: How We Made a Sisyphus Machine

This visual project was co-produced by Jing Ke and Samantha Logan for a class project

Welcome to Article 3 of our Sisyphus machine build!  If you’re not sure what this project is about, please visit our other articles including a powerful mission statement!

  1. What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?
  2. Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science
  3. Rome built in a day:  How we made a Sisyphus machine
  4. Nevertheless She Persisted:  The cycle of science and Nature

This blog, unlike our other articles detailing the project is a bit more low key.  In this blog we will cover how we built the machine, and what problems we ran in to.  We will begin with the concept and measurements for the box, then break it down to the boxes internals, and its designs.

The Concept

As stated in our first article, the purpose of this machine is to illustrate the march of science and nature in a perpetual cycle.  Interrupting it could have devastating consequences and because of that Anti-vaxxer and anti-antibiotics movements have a detrimental effect on how we handle the natural evolution of harmful viruses and bacteria.

We thought that the greatest way to depict this concept was in a perpetual motion machine – a kinetic and moving sculpture that always moves in specific ways.  A Sisyphus machine is a specific type of kinetic sculpture that gives the illusion of moving in space – much like Sisyphus in the Greek tale would move a rock up a hill, and then wake up back at the bottom again.

The scribbled notes on the front and back provide initial ideation mechanics and despite their mess, they largely translate to the following plan:

  • Internal (Samantha):
    • 2 options – a wheel or piston bar can produce the motion we need.  Motion we are looking for is about 8-10cm rotation where the rods coming out of the top of the box move up and down in a circular motion.
  • The box (Jing):
    • Jing had a polystyrene box measuring 87x30x27 cm.  Cutting roman columns out of the polystyrene box would require a hot wire cutter. only access to this tool we had was in the creative office and we didn’t have time. Tried anyway.   On all sides a plaque would be provided that includes the title for the piece.  a border of DNA will also frame the full box.
  • The sides:
    • front (Samantha):  The march of human evolution with a grim reaper at its back and a slew of dead bodies under them.
    • Side R (Samantha):  The invention of penicillin
    • Side L (Jing):  Bacteria and Viruses
    • Back (Jing):  Someone getting a shot injected in to them.
    • Top (Samantha):  the cycle mentioned in our second blog article about the march of science and man will be detailed going around the box with the full title of the project: Nevertheless, She Persisted.  this refers to the politics surrounding the anti-vaxxer movement as well as a call to the persistence of mother earth – nature.
    • Figures (Jing):  one would be a man and the other will be bacteria.

19190802_1761469167201229_1166559111_n.jpg    19191043_1761469180534561_1153799470_n

We will go in to detail regarding this list now.

The Inner workings:

The internal workings were the most difficult part of the build.  There were two conceived options here – we could make a wheel that would move two pistons, or a piston rod that would move two pistons.  We initially went with the wheel as resources allowed it to work more easily, but had to scrap it after it didn’t work and went with the rod design which as of writing this is also not looking super positive (but we’ll get there!).  The chassis and the actual rods were fashioned together using an old Lego set.  The engine we used was a basic 12W converter that pushed about 8 volts of electricity to turn the bottom rod.

The internal mechanics built and “working”

In the end the device worked well “enough” for a proof of concept to work so our internals seem pretty solid.  If only we were able to machine our parts instead of relying on lego parts this would work a lot better.

The Outside: 

While the internals were quite possibly the most difficult part of the build, it was the designs on the outside, and the figures that created the most difficulty for us.  We chose to build our box using Polystyrene and in hind sight this wasn’t the greatest idea.  With no access to a hotwire from the university we were forced to use a very sharp exacto knife to get in to the device. While it worked, there was no impression that we could make. We had to make do with just providing a poor illusion in the design.

The polystyrene box with the blue markings that will show the columns.

The Designs: 

The designs  were probably the ones that we had the most fun with during the course of the project.  Each side was meant to compliment each other.  There were 5 drawings and 2 figures in total – most of which Jing was responsible for.


evolution drawing

Left & Right:

19206357_1764265870254892_395281156_npenicillin Drawing






Our next blog, “nevertheless she persisted” will unveil the final product and discuss the full project, including how we think we did, but a brief discussion of the final product is in order at least.

This project has been a stressful one full of failures in the case of the engine and the polystyrene box, but what engine hasn’t created problems?  Without the proper machinations to produce what we needed it was difficult, but we would not trade this experience.  It has taught us a lot about building and about art.  We hope that the finished machine will create thought provoking ideas surrounding the place of science in the greater natural evolution of our world, how this applies to global warming, and especially how artists around the world can impact the world around us.  Stay tuned for the final reveal of the finished product in our next blog!

Ongoing Review of How to See the World

Please note: I dislike writing blogs that are public online for a class assignment that seems largely unrelated to content here, but I must so please know this article is written for class. In future publications, I will place the same warning as if it is paid content.

Although I have read only the introduction of How to See the World by Nicholas Mirzoeff I can tell that this book and I will be great friends already.  By relying on psychological, anthropological, and sociological perspectives (including citations from Manuel Castells on page 13 who I already have high esteem for) Mirzoeff gripped me almost immediately (Mirzoeff, 13).

Through a cursory overview of the challenges the modern world faces he imparted three key facets of understanding visual culture in the modern world that I have seen little about outside of communication white papers.  First was the change in time as perceived visually, second was understanding visual culture beyond communication, and last came setting up a frame work for understanding images in the deep future.

To elaborate on the first point, his analysis of the blue marble versus the astronaut’s ultimate selfie throughout the introduction focused on the instantaneous aspect of artistic decisions in time expanding past it’s context (Mirzoeff).  These images transcend chrono-synchronous visual communication beyond context in a way that is self-referential; the images context was provided in it’s imagery.  This is contrasted with the canonical artistic belief that the viewer completes the image as a one-to-one communication model.  Understanding visual culture has now become a one-to-all asynchronous model across time and space.

Rhetorically speaking the canonical belief is still true, but the rise of self-predicated imagery on social media makes the receiver’s end of a communication model a little less necessary.  The focus of our images in the modern world are now asynchronous.  People take images for themselves and share them to the internet in general.  They refer to these images when they are relevant and the images disappear into the ether when they are not.  They can be brought back with reverse image searches and tags, or never referenced again. Regardless they are a permanent part of the internet landscape.  As Mirzoeff says, “what we are experiencing with the internet is the first truly collective medium […] It makes no sense to think of the web as a purely individual resource” (Ibid, p.21).

Second, Mirzoeff discussed visual rhetoric as not only a communication method, but a new type of sense for our scale and understanding of the world.  By referring to what I call cultural lenses or the ways in which we see the world as determined by the things we see and feel, Mirzoeff makes the claim that our visual senses are not simply seeing per-say (Mirzoeff p. 11).  They are actively filtering the way in which we see those things.  In what Castells and Mirzoeff call a Networked Society that is increasingly dominated by globalized visual communication, opening this perspective is vital to understanding the visual stimuli we receive (Mirzoeff & Castells).  We are being bombarded by signs and symbols which tell us what we should take from it, but we automatically adjust that thinking based on our cultural lens.  To adapt to the future we must explicitly learn how to analyze the messages coming through in a trans-cultural manner.  But even then, how can a book teach us what this will mean when the future changes? Mirzoeff’s answer to this question leads us to our third point.

Mirzoeff answered this question by speaking less on how to look at images and more laying down a framework for thinking about visual culture in the deep future.  I term deep future here as the future we cannot determine due to technological innovations and cultural challenges we have yet to solve in the modern hyper-connected world (Crash Course).

In the last paragraph of his introduction Mirzoeff lays down his response to this difficult question; “How to See the World will suggest how we can organize and make sense of these changes to our visual world.  We will see what is on the rise, what is falling back and what is being strongly contested” (Mirzoeff, p. 27).  The table of contents offers a plan for adapting to a future we currently know nothing about via a bottom-up approach to explaining how we as humans think and see, how mediums and channels affect the way we see, how our immediate communities affect it, and finally, how our world communicates to us through these channels.

Mirzoeff offers for me, in this brief introduction, a beautifully crafted plan for teaching me how to understand a world that is getting increasingly visual.  I cannot wait to review future chapters.

Work Cited:  Click Read More
Continue reading “Ongoing Review of How to See the World”

5 Features Windows 10 has made Unsafe For the LGBT+ Invisible Community

In a momentous several times per lifetime chance people are getting a free upgrade to the brand new Windows 10 platform just released on the 29th of July.  As soon as it launched this weekend however widespread criticism on privacy rights has been a major concern with the platform.

Trans* Youth Channel however, an organization that seeks to bridge the gap between out LGBT+ organizations and the largely invisible online community, sees these privacy issues as a much larger problem than most seem to think it is.

Web privacy is integral to the success of closeted and stealth LGBT+ individuals as well as those who don’t have resources locally because without resources, community, and proper research, they’re in the dark; something that as Leelah Alcorn exemplified, can be fatal.  Suicide rates are astronomically high in the community because of familial and social hurdles barring invisible members to these resources and the stigma that comes with being a member of the LGBT+ community. A safe, anonymous and secure internet is such a small window to resources that could save thousands of lives, but Windows 10 could potentially snuff out the only access many people may have to these online LGBT+ resources…right from installation.

Here are 5 examples of how Windows 10 is detrimental to the safety, security, and ultimate well-being of the LGBT+ communities’ closeted, stealth, questioning, and under-resourced population:

1.  At start up
Before windows 10 has even finished installing on your computer a closeted LGBT+ person is at risk.  Take a moment to actually read the 2 “express settings” screen versions for windows 10.


Why is this a problem?
I hope you already see the general lack of okay-ness here and if not view this general article on how this is not okay, but for the LGBT+ community specifically we’ll use a running example.

Let’s call the person in our example John for sake of not being completely hypocritical and ‘outing’ a real life closeted LGBT+ individual.  John is a closeted Trans* masculine individual seeking hormones, but he’s 14 and lives in a very religious Philippine household only 2 generations in the U.S.  In John’s case this means his family has rather rigid traditional values and is highly religious; something that is worrying for his circumstances.  It also just so happens that his mother is single, taking care of him and 2 other siblings with a job only paying about $10 dollars an hour in Philadelphia.

Because she can’t afford personal devices for three kids the only computer in his house sits in the living room.  It was just running windows 7 for 5 years and this free upgrade was well received by his mother because after all it’s free and it’s new.

Now consider what would happen if John were to google in the brief tiny bit of privacy he has, “how to come out to my parents” on that family computer.  Per his mother’s very fast “use express settings” choice, this windows setup screen would allow his search to get sent off to windows for processing, and to be taken advantage of, then sent back upon his family computer for all of the features windows offers to cater all future search results, products, and services to his recent declaration of wanting to come out… Problem no?

2.  Setting up the Microsoft account.
Now let’s say that John’s mother read the form and decided that this infringed too much on her privacy.  She then said no, and proceeded through advanced setup to find a lot of disturbingly vague questions about location settings, using calendar, contacts, and literally every keyboard input to “make the system better” that would have been on had she said yes.  Even if she navigated through this entire vague legal hubbub and came out with some privacy control, the next thing she would run into causing problems for her blossoming yet closeted Trans* kid is on the very next page of setup!  The option to create a windows account for her kids and then limit, view, and manage what internet access John might have.


Why is this a problem? 
The problem is, even if having an account is “optional” according to our friendly geek guide on installing windows ten, “We’d recommend using a Microsoft account because otherwise you won’t be able to use half of the new features…”  If John’s mother signs up for this Microsoft account,  simply rinse and repeat the problems described in part 1.

But wait!  Having a Microsoft account doesn’t mean the end of john’s world right?! I mean, once you set up an account john’s mother would create accounts for all of her children to independently use.  Wrong.

John’s mother is a master on the account allowing her to set privacy rights for all of the sub accounts she makes for her children.  That means that in addition to straight up restricting him from finding resources on the system, she can also view his histories, and even completely remove his access to the actual computer console…pretty much indefinitely. One false move and he’s as alienated as Leelah Alcorn was.

3.  Using Cortana
Once setup has finished forcing you to allow Microsoft into your house like a vampire in the dead of medieval night, and your parents have created a full-proof filter for you not to get the resources you need, the next part of Setup is what all of this has all been for:  Cortana.
image of cortana on the desktop
Cortana is basically the windows equivalent of Siri or Iris on your mobile device and unfortunately with Microsoft’s Famous privacy exploitation tricks, it spells bad news for LGBT+ people who are closeted or otherwise.   They even wrapped Cortana’s privacy issues into a nice handy little FAQ for us too.

First off, in order for Cortana to work after you leave setup, if you turned off any of the settings in the advanced setup instead of choosing express (problem 1), Cortana will ask you to turn them back on again and she requires a windows account.  Seeming as Cortana is one of the biggest features in windows 10 and we are so very used to the wonderful features and assistance of Siri, and Iris (who have their own privacy and security risks) most people will indeed opt to do so.

So what is the problem?
Harkening back to the first example, john searches in Cortana’s bar “how to come out to my parents”, Cortana will then remember this search and attempt to “personalize searches” in the future and offering that data to the Microsoft account to display when his mother looks at it.  Additionally there is no way to “go stealth” in Cortana’s bar like with private browsers, so wiping the history from her is quite difficult and out of the way (you have to go to Bing to do this and it’s a convoluted process).

In combination with the Microsoft account recording his every actions John has officially been outed because his mother was all too curious as to what he was doing talking all night with his friends at school, or because a sibling logged on to his account, or he forgot to log out, or he forgot to use a private browser, or because he used Cortana at all in the first place.

4.  Windows Edge

If this is getting a little repetitive I totally understand because it is.  Every little windows 10 “feature” compounds on itself to make life absurdly difficult for John, but go with me on this.

Internet browsers, no matter what browser you use (possible exception in Firefox), make it difficult to keep your privacy safe, but with Microsoft’s replacement to internet explorer (in name only it seems) it gets worse.

To begin, by default, your privacy settings on Microsoft’s new Edge browser are as open as possible.  If john were to use the default browser it would save all of his form entries, retain all of his browser histories, cookies, and other data, page prediction would be on (using prior page visits to determine where you’ll go in the future), and sending ‘do not track requests” would be off meaning sites outside of Microsoft could track his movements and advertise their own relevant materials rather in-depth. If Cortana was already enabled in the system it is now fully integrated into edge as well giving that same repetitive compounding of problems for him.

Why is this a problem?
Do we need to go through this again?  The problem is basically that the browser is allowing every service ever to say, “Oh your coming out? Looks like you’re gay!!! Here have pride advertisements from all over the country for the next week!”


5.  Multi-Device Interfaces – OneDrive, Xbox,

your phone, and tablets
Even if using the OS on your computer isn’t bad enough, consider those moments when you are using a second device.  For closeted LGBT+ teens, phones are really the most secure things they have at their fingertips and now with the compounding effects of privacy violations that can easily be done by your siblings, parents, or Microsoft and other corporations, by the proliferation of the Microsoft account, and Microsoft’s OneDrive program, Windows 10 makes that phone just at risk of hurting you as your computer does.

The whole point of a Microsoft account is to make it easy for you to access everything you need over a variety of devices to have it at any time.  This isn’t old hat because Dropbox, Google, Facebook, and many other organizations are trying to make the multi-device realm work as seamlessly as possible. After all that means you’re buying more devices and tying in more services.

The problem:
They simply aren’t as secure.  Xbox’s OneDrive and Microsoft account can be accessed by your siblings with a few touches of a button to sign in to a specific account.  Windows 10 and the Microsoft account have now migrated all they know over to that system so if john, were to begin researching how to come out to his parents again, it would be game over on a game console.    At least google has the decency to keep it PC for the most part.   (Sorry for the puns, but I hoped to lighten the oppressive mood.)

Throughout this article there was a lot of pressure on windows 10 and it’s the new device on the field so it needs to be said that the service is dangerous for those who are just questioning their identities, are stealth, or closeted due to a wide variety of circumstances.  Most people will say in defense though, “well google does that too” and “well that’s the way the world is right now”.  Well, to them I say this is a terrible defense.

Yes google is doing it too, and net neutrality is an important factor in the safety of the LGBT+ community as a result.  If we want a secure, anonymous, and un-pressured LGBT+ community who can come in to their own without fear, we need social media platforms, OS software, private accounts, and communities built to reduce their anxieties and hurdles; not increase their restrictions.

I saw a recent web comic from everyday feminism talking about how the traditional idea of a person taking 1 of 2 roads to decide who they were going to be was false and our life changes decisions are more like an ocean of currents.  Our decisions are effected by the services, platforms, conversation, society, and traditions around us.  We can’t close off an invisible LGBT+ member’s secure, private, and anonymous exploration simply because we want our computers to remind us everything, or because our parents are worried about the internet they quite frankly can’t control in the first place, or because Microsoft wants us to.

Want to do something about it? 
5 things you can do to maintain your privacy right now:


  1.  Opt for a more secure OS system like Linux Mint
  2. Use Firefox, a non-profit run browser with net
    neutrality, privacy and security in mind
  3. Learn how to set up windows 10 in a more
    secure fashion.
  4. Learn how to browse the
    web safely with this-info graphic  –>
  5. Sign up for our 100% anonymous weekly digest so
    you don’t have to risk outing yourself to find resources

***This post has been cross-posted from the Trans* Youth Channel blog and is Samantha’s original work.

Full Sources:

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