Info  Email  CV

Selected Work
Project Clutter  Design Research
Lumen Design Research
Bockey  Sound Installation
Gazebo  Interactive Performance
Moiré Fringe  Virtual Production
Clock 1  Kinetic Sculpture
Vending Door  Critical Design
Use-Less Phone Case  Absurd Design

About Me

Project Clutter

Xiaoyu Ke / 2020
Visual Demo
Moving Image of Personal Objects Projected on Wall and Compiled into Virtual Statues
Objects, Arduino Sensors, GAN Generated Moving Image, Computer, Projector

Project clutter visualizes the transient perception of value to challenge physical clutter in our daily life.


I. Background & Context

        The American Household are owning more than ever. According to The Story of Stuff, the average American household contains 300,000 item and consumes twice as much material good as 50 years ago, whereas aveage family size shrank. Following the influx of material goods, American Family also has more housing space to take care of, as average housing space tripled in size.

        Cluttering has far-reaching impact beyond a messy room. According to research conducted in Cornell, Princeton, and UCLA studies, a clutter environment can lead to higher stress, distraction, and irritation.
Overconsumption caused by cluttering also affect communities and environment to a serious extent.

        Two major industries emerged in response to the growing need for decluttering: private storage services and home organizaing industry.
#1. To house the vast amount of items, private storage facilities became the fastest growing real estate sectors ever since1960.
#2. Home Organization (HO) emerged as an profession in 1984, and consequently develped into an industry approaching 21 Billion by 2021.
But these solution was not proven effective. Firstly because the expandable space encouraged more consumption of material goods, and secondly often the tools to eliminate clutters ended up becoming part of the clutter.

Research Question

    If order and space are not the key to organization, what contribute to cluttered situations?

II. Secondary Research

       I started by looking at the definition of organization in different context. and discovered that Organization is not captured by certain universal standard but instead are contextual decisions made by one for oneself. Here are a few examples. 

        Organization is not captured by certain universal standard but instead are contextual decisions made by one for oneself. If so, how do people make decisions?In simple economics, “Individuals always make decisions that provide them with the highest amount of personal utility.”

        Looking closer at decisions that led clutter to form, I realized that it is the discrepancy between the marginal value and the perceived value that led to the dilemma of cluttering -- a rather counter-intuitive behavior.

Iceberg of Perceived Value


Many subjective, non-transferable value we see in personal belongings cannot be fully captured by monetary value.

III. Primary Research

        A survey that investigate cluttering habits is distributed to understand common reason for cluttering.

        Through an in depth interview with 30 participants about their personal interest and value, and his or her typical journey with their belongings, how value is conceived became clearer to me.


Journey Map

        Regardless of different value, the common experience of a person with his beglongings is extracted from the intervews into the journey map below.

From analyzing the corresponding relationship between action and perceived value, we discover that more positive mood is generated through scenarios with more sensational input. Regardless of personal identify or preference, values are perceived and reinforced through experience and engagement with the item. Our values are  subjective, conditioned, dynamic perception of importance based on multitude and aptitude of experience, which challenge any objective measures.


The desired solution should address all three common reasons
 behind clutter
, while illicit the transient
quality natural to our perception of value .

Design Question

How might we reconstruct our perception of value through an experience based system? 

IV. Ideation

IV.1 Organization in Nature

We have discover that clutter is not caused by the amount, variety or even density of objects. There are places in the world that have elements of all but remain a calming space to be in. Can we learn organization from these spaces?

Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk is a chinese idiom as well as the title of a memoir by Lu Xun, one of the most influential Chinese writers in recent history. Lu coined the phrase as a metatphor for revisiting childhood memory. 

By recollecing the natural environment in which he grew up, Lu made the parallel that memory, just like fallen flowers, can have immense value and beauty that transcend beyond their decease.
Trees seem to grow forever. But from the anatomy of a tree one can see that it is not a simple accumulation of substance, but instead an open system of gain and loss, in which the dead support the living, the pass shape the present.
Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese philosophical concept for finding the beauty in
imperfection, and accepting the cycle of birth, growth, aging, death, and decay.

Emerging in the 15th century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi encourage the observation on the uncertain and transient nature in all things and shape a moral standard accordingly.

Mirroring this approach, this project will attempt to present the transient value in things that one possess.

IV.2 About Subjective Experiences

In 1982, analytic philosopher Frank Jackson challenge the objectification of subjective experience in a materialist point of view with a famous thought experiment. He invovled the concept of Epiphenomenal Qualia to capture the intrinsic, nonrepresentational properties of experiences.
def. the subjective or qualitative properties of experiences

Thought Experiment : The Monochrome Mary
There’s a neuroscientist called Mary. All her life she has been in a black-and-white environment, learning everything physical about brains and neuronal proceedings.
She watched lectures on a black-and-white TV and learned everything about color perception, so e.g., what exactly goes on physically if a person sees a ripe, red tomato.
At some point, Mary gets out of this room and she sees for the first time a red tomato.
Will Mary learn anything new?
If yes, the intrinsic quality of experience would be quale.

Looking from a neurological viewpoint, a recent discovery that approach the explanation of subjective experience — specifically in vision—would be the pattern recognition process that laid the foundation for our visual interpretation process.

Selective Vision


Rather than seeing the world like a camera, the human visual system actively explores the environment, captures and organizes information selectively, and utilizes memory templates in the brain to build meaning.

As a result, in the example above, even when looking at the same taxi, the perception can vary greatly from person to person depending on the subjective visual memories. We do not see a taxi, we see instead what we think a taxi looks like.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) were introduced in 2014 by Ian Goodfellow and are a fast-growing area in Machine Learning that can be used to generate realistic images through finding pattern in its training data by training two networks that compete against each other.


V. Design

        Using the inevitable subjective vision as a metaphor for subjective experience with an object, and the growth of a plant to represent the dimention of time, a growing virtual sculpture can be made through series of GAN generated images. A tangible representation of the ever-changing value is then formed against the visually stable object in one’s hand



Interactive System Flow Chart

VI. Develop

A compact sensor that can be attached to items big or small without hindering normal use of the item, through which the interaction is registered on a computer real time.

Interaction Sensing Device
        Next, I kept track of my activity in a day and selected things that value the most to me. Multiple photos of each item is by iPhone-x as HEIC file. In order to better accommodate to existed GAN models, we resize all of the images into size 256x256 in JPEG format. Each of the 4416 image is labeled with the name of the item.

Building Training Data Set

Training GAN


Demo Exhibition
        Due to safety concern during the Covid-19 pandemic, I organized a demo exhibition in my living room.