Due: Mon, Feb 24, 11:59PM


noun: parasite; plural noun: parasites

  1. an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense.”the parasite attaches itself to the mouths of fishes”
  2. DEROGATORY a person who habitually relies on or exploits others and gives nothing in return. “the capitalist is really a parasite on the workers”

The above is from Google Dictionary.

The theme for this week is Parasite. (While we know this is a recent, award-winning film – our reference for parasite is the definition above.) You and your partner should work together to create one parasite that interacts with at least one human body using the pneumatic system we are introducing in class. Your parasite should transform in at least one way and give the illusion of being alive. The form of your parasite should help us understand how it is exploiting a human body. Here are some questions to help move your concept along: What feeds your parasite? What are the environmental conditions that the parasite needs to survive (i.e. sunlight, darkness, silence, noise, etc.)? Is the host-body aware of the parasite? What is the relationship between the parasite and its host? Is the parasite quickly or slowly detrimental to its host? How did the host first come in contact with the parasite?

To create and animate your parasites, this week you are exploring “medium-pressure” pneumatics and heat-sealed plastic. Pneumatics offer the opportunity to create a transformation using air pressure, which is completely new to our way of working in this class thus far. Heat sealing the plastic is much like sewing in its ability to create 3-D forms out of 2-D materials, and many similar principles will transfer (i.e. creating pleats, gathers, etc.). It also creates opportunities for more indirect animation using manual control of the valves; the potential exists to create an “instrument” which a person might have to practice.

You will have access to a multi-valved pneumatic system that runs at 2 psi. While this system is considered “medium-pressure/low-volume” compared to other pneumatic systems, it is still very low pressure relative to most high-pressure applications (such as tires on a bike). The large inflatables in the inflatables course are considered low-pressure/high-volume pneumatic systems. Your parasite can use between one to four pneumatic valves for animation. Like our most recent projects, you are encouraged to consider how the parasite integrates with and actuates other textiles or clothing. Your heat-sealed form can also be a “bladder” covered in another fabric skin. For now, one of the pair can wear the parasite and the other of the pair can activate it turning the pneumatic valves. The pneumatic valves have three states: neutral/no air flow, inflate, and air release.

Please think carefully about what instigates the movement of the parasite. Are there certain human movements that wake-up the parasite? Does it just continually move on its own? How is it integrated into the host’s existence?

We are expecting one parasite per pair, documented with a single blog post authored by the pair. Working in pairs will create new questions and opportunities revolving around collaboration. We would like you to work toward a mutual result, deciding together on the conceptual basis of the parasite, the specific pneumatic solutions, and the technical execution. It will make sense to divide the fabrication work as possible, but please be sure to continue developing your individual skill. It may be tempting to divide work along previous experience, but it would be more valuable individually and more exploratory to choose tasks based on inexperience and opportunities for skill development.


Each pair should please create a single short post on the course site with the following:

  1. One short video clip showing the movement of the mechanism. The video should be embedded for direct viewing.
  2. A brief paragraph outlining your explorations: intended effect, surprises, discoveries, successes.
  3. A few sentences about the collaboration: how you go about collaborating and sharing the project? What did you learn about collaborating through this assignment?


Below are the criteria we will be using to assess your assignment. As you are exploring the possibilities for this assignment, keep these criteria in your focus:

  1. Stay open and go with your discoveries. We are most interested in seeing what you discover that is engaging and is working, not simply an implementation of an idea you have predetermined. For example, you may be trying to execute a specific idea, but along the way you discover something that is much more engaging or works more smoothly than your original idea. Put aside the original plan and go with the new discovery that is actually working.
  2. Experimentation and creative exploration is more important than refinement. The purpose of this assignment is for you to use your time trying multiple experiments and ideas, rather than perfecting only a few. Your resulting experiments need to work but do not need to be highly refined. Develop your experiments enough so that they are convincing and understandable, but not so much that you get stuck in the details of perfect construction. For now, accept that you are using temporary materials to create your experiments (tape, zip ties, etc.) and that there will still be room for further refinement.
  3. Make clear documentation. Your online documentation will be how we experience many of your assignments. It is very important that your documentation clearly communicates your projects. Tips: Remove distracting items from the background; make sure your camera is in focus and your lens is clean; use a tripod or other support to stabilize your camera; if you are shooting video, orient your camera in the landscape (horizontal) format; make sure your project is well lit and without distracting shadows.