A Thesis Compendium

I have something I’d like for you to read, but I need your help to put it together.

Would you be willing to lend me a hand?

I’ve been working on this thesis compendium. Someone told me to make it. I probably wouldn’t have made it otherwise.

But, here we are. Or rather, here I am, and there you are.

It’d be nice if we got to know each other better. What’s your name?

Hi, [NAME]! My name is Gabriel.

My job is to design things. Practically speaking, that means that I get paid to create artifacts of visual, auditory, and experiential communication.

Does my job make sense?

Before I studied design, I studied computer science and theater. Because of these experiences, I think of design as medium-agnostic.

To me, design is about the performativity of objects, and the relationships between objects and people.

To be honest, I don’t have a strong grasp of what that means.

That was pretty good, but what is a “transformative” experience?

This reminds me of a book: Erika Fischer-Lichte’s “The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics.” It’s the book I come back to the most.

Erika writes about a feedback loop that occurs during a performance.

A performer acts, and a listener-spectator subtly reacts. The performer then reacts to this reaction, momentarily becoming a listener-spectator themself. Erika calls this the “autopoietic feedback loop.”

Does this feedback loop make sense?

I grew up loving video games. It took me a long time to realize that the experience of playing a video game is a feedback loop similar to what Erika describes.

The player is constantly switching roles with the game, acting and reacting in turn.

But there’s a funny illusion with video games.

During performances, people have the ability to act and react because people are conscious.

Does that mean video games can’t be performative?

It’s true that in digital media, our interactions have to be much more precise than in live performance.

But at the same time, live performance has its own limited set of possibilities. Even if there are subtle changes with each performance, a play will still transpire in a relatively similar manner each time.

Even though I’m carefully crafting this experience, I can see glimpses of you.

For instance, I know you answered “” to the last question. I also know that you’ve spent seconds on this page so far. These details are the sorts of things I could respond to, if I wanted to.

And even though you have a limited set of ways to respond, your full array of options are vast.

With just the few options presented so far, there are 1,728 total permutations of possible outcomes.

At the start, I said I needed your help to put this thesis compendium together.

When I first started this project, I knew I wanted to include you in the process somehow. Without you, an audience of some sort, this thesis compendium doesn’t really exist.

I thought I would create a tool to let you design a version of the compendium. That’s why I called this “A Thesis Compendium” — one of many permutations.

But in crafting this collaborative design experience, I have realized that this is “a” thesis compendium also because it is one of many possible experiences of a thesis compendium.

That singular experience is your experience, the one you are having right now. That experience is a performance, a transformative collaboration with an inanimate object.

That is my job — to craft an experience by creating the things that manifest it.

Those are the questions that my practice deals with.

I make playful, interactive experiences because I want us to collaborate in a performance. And I believe every part of that experience matters — I even designed the typeface used here.

But it’s not a simple like-or-hate relationship that affects this performance. It’s a deeper dialogue involving medium, voice, form, narrative, interface, and all the details that fall in between.

At this point, I have conveyed everything I wanted to tell you. All that remains is to show you my actual thesis compendium, if that’s what you want.