Critical Incidents


Cover design by Salvador Orara

Max Montagna, Organizational Communication, '23

Mia Aguilar, Communications & Sociology, '23

Evangeline Muyano, Mechanical Engineering, '21

Section title featuring Evangeline Muyano

Level: ,
Duration: 14 weeks
Category: ,
Filed Under: , , , , ,
Bookmark Project

Project Brief

Storytelling is a natural human act. Stories connect us to history. Stories connect us to possible futures. While there is much to be said about stories and history, it is our connection to possible futures which is of primary focus. “Critical Incidents” is specifically focused on stories that connect us to that which we don’t understand. 

As technological advancements and specifically Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), impact the creation of products, services, and experiences within the artificial world, there is a topic of interest supported by a challenge by Philip van Allen: 

“There is an urgent need to develop generative and effective methods that explore the consequences of design choices when creating AI systems, including consideration of the new ecologies they create. This is an interaction-design meta-task– not just designing for A.I., but designing HOW to design for A.I..”  - Philip van Allen, Animism in Design: Creating an Internet of Quirky Things

Developing A.I. is the new surrealism. It is the chaotic work of augmenting reality by juxtaposing supernatural experiences alongside the attrition of dying products, systems, and services that support the same human needs and wants within everyday life. A.I. has already found its way into our lives and soon it will become more prevalent in ways that seemingly make our lives better, fitter, happier, and more productive. In the context of higher education, there is a call to have a basic understanding of how A.I. will impact professional practice and the everyday futures our students will find themselves living and working in.

Learning Objectives

Project Setup

Students were given a description and example of the \\\\\\\"Critical Incident\\\\\\\" method from the Universal Methods of Design by Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington. Typically used as a method of qualitative research, the method was re-purposed as a mode of inquiry and speculation – we used it to create something rather than as a research tool. In addition to the description of the method a brief introduction to using Adobe Illustrator was also provided. None of the students in the class had taken a graphic design course.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Develop an understanding and a point of view of the future applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning 
  2. Students will gain simple sketching and prototyping skills for visualizing and communicating ideas in 2D and 3D forms 
  3. Students will expand their abilities in persuasive communication through storytelling, presentation, and other communication modalities 
  4. Students will be exposed to specific technologies for prototyping machine learning models 


  • Every week each student was to submit 1 critical incident of any context and any pre-existing or fictional thing.
  • All critical incidents were submitted as 8.5×11 inch PDF documents.

All submissions were compiled into an 8.5×11 saddle stitch booklet with a simple typographic treatment, a written Foreward, and a Reflection statement by the instructor of the course.

The booklet was then printed by the UP Campus Print Shop. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the entire course and project was conducted remotely online during the Fall semester of 2020.



  • Lidwell, W., Holden, K., Butler, J., (2010). Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design (2nd Edition). Rockport Publishers.
  • Marenko, B., van Allen, P., (2016). Animism in Design: An Internet of Quirky Things(Web)
  • Martin, B., Hanington, B., (2012). Universal Methods of Design: 100 ways to research complex problems. Develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions. Rockport Publishing.


The project was part of a course called, Living with Intelligent Things. The course focused on opening up the conversation of artificial intelligence beyond that of the computer science program, and definitely from a less technical perspective. The project is design as inquiry. Something that went well was the hyper-focus on the emotional impact of technology, wherein each critical incident we could discuss the value and meaning of implementing such technologies under specific banal situations which suddenly became peculiar. Another positive aspect that unfolded were discussion points revealing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and the threats of A.I.. Overall, the simplicity and quantity of outcomes provided a lot of space for reflection and discussion on technology, behavior, sociology, and the possible communication tactics between the humanities and engineering to interrogate and explore these futures. 

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