The Homesick Hotline Process and Launch

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Step one: Finding a hotline system

After a lot of research, we settled on Twilio Studios because we wanted a pay by minute plan for our low call volume and for the flexibility of the system. With widgets, we did not have to code ourselves which was convenient but later on screwed us over. The Widgets had bugs that I ended up getting around through very time-consuming, tedious trial and error, and staring over a few times. And emailing customer support a lot.

I briefly tried out Telzio but was suspended when they found out I was a student.

Recording Interviews

We were lucky enough to have a very diverse class so we had access to so many perspectives, cultures, and a decent range of ages. Some interviews we scheduled but about half of the 16 interviews were faculty or students that happened to be in the building and agreed to participate on the spot.

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We had our basic set of questions to slowly work our way to more personal questions but we were very flexible to accommodate to how the flow of conversation was going. We learned a lot of interviewing skills and how to properly record audio.

List of interview questions:

Who are the members of your family?
What is your family dynamic like?
What are the things your family expects from you?
How does your family show and receive love?
Are there special ways your family shows love to each other? Is there a specific story you can tell?
What do you cherish the most about your family?
When was the first time your family disappointed you?
What does home mean to you?
What do you need to make your own home?
What does homesickness feel like?
When are the times you feel the most homesick?
When is the last time you called home?
If you could talk to any family member right now who would it be?
What would you say to them that you feel like they need to know but havent said out loud?

We did our best to structure a quite, private space and provided tea and snacks and let the interviewees talk as long as they wanted. We found it did not take much prodding for people to talk about the people they care about. Some people talked for 15min and some were over an hour regardless if they were our friends or an acquaintance.


After we had reached our goal of 16 interviews we took the audio and transcribed the over 8 hours of audio. We needed to cross reference all the interviews to organize their answers into topics for the hotline, and we also wanted full transcriptions of the interviews for our homesick hotline directory. Kathy typed it out by hand where I listened to the audio and dictated it in Word.

Editing Audio

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We highlighted the transcriptions of what we wanted audio clips of and I set to work hunting them down and splicing together different interviews to make 2-3min segments for the hotline. In total, there are 27 segments with a correlating number that can be dialed on the hotline to listen to it. When a two digit number in dialed in the hotline, participants will hear 2-4 different people’s answer or opinion on a particular subject. I also recorded myself speaking instructions for the introduction and voicemail instead of using the bot.

Configuring the Hotline

Twilio is not user-friendly and is extremely tedious to do any task. After five days of doing nothing but work on twilio studio bugs I finally got it running. We were not really using the hotline flows for what they were built for and the system started to get finicky and over loaded. I’m glad twilio didn’t suspend my account over what I had been emailing them!Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 7.08.01 PMScreen Shot 2018-12-16 at 7.08.12 PM

Homesick Hotline Directory

We wanted a physical object that could be a compliment to our hotline and become an archive for it once the hotline ever becomes disabled. The directory provides instructions for how to use the system, includes the numbers callers can dial with brief descriptions, and full transcriptions of the interviews. The interviews were anonymous so Kathy drew illustrations of the people we interviewed without including their face, and represented who they were in the number of miles away from home they were from where we conducted the interviews.

We also want to sell the directories to help fund the hotline to stay activate for as long as possible.


The Hotline Number

The Homesick Hotline number 410-927-1738 can now be officially called on any phone, anywhere in the U.S. We encourage callers to leave us a voicemail so we can then use their responses and include those audio recordings into the hotline as well.

This platform is very exciting for its mobility, sincerity, and how easy it is to exist outside the gallery space. The idea of call-in listening libraries has almost limitless possibilities and we have been really happy about the feedback from this project. Listening to strangers “talk to you” on the phone is an intimate experience and for many very emotional. This hotline is the heart of our community and now others have the opportunity to experience this simulated version on their own.


The Homesick Hotline


The new collaboration project with Kathy Guo is still staying true to our original interests about creating illusion of intimacy and how to simulate care or presence of loved ones who are not here or far away.

Homesick Hotline

Phones can become an isolater when people are around but turn into our sole connection when far away. The Homesick Hotline is a listening library of nested voice menus that will guide callers to specific stories determinded by how they answer questions through the hotline. Callers can then leave voicemails which are then recorded and are turned into more voice menus. The idea is the hotline can grow itself and become an interactive database of sampling family memories and history.

Our timeline

Nov 1

-research family trauma/family love interviews

-research interview tips/styles

-make an email account

-figure out hotline system. Are there ways to hack it?

Nov 8

-Start conducting interviews, start recording them.

-get our interviewees to branch out and interview/record the people they know.

Nov 15

-organize recordings, put them into phone numbers

-start designing the white pages?

Nov 22

-keep collecting/organizing recordings, put them into phone numbers

– designing the white pages? Book of story extracts?

-start making installation

Nov 29

-make installation

Dec 5



-finalizing project





Wind Phone

In Japan there is a Wind Phone where people can talk on an unconnected phone to speak to loved ones who had passed on. It was built by Itaru Sasaki in 2010 when he lost his cousin, and in the following year the infamous tsunami hit Japan triggering a nuclear meltdown. The gesture is simple but powerful and it is believed almost 10,000 people have made a pilgrimage to speak into the Wind Phone.

Prank numbers

From rick rolling to rejection hotlines, there are so many pre-recorded voices that exist only through our phones. The structure of a hotline is interesting because the expectation is to talk to a person but often just end up interacting with recordings/desk assistants. In regular hotlines, the one number you call is the entry point to an entire system of people. In the Homesick Hotline we hope to reverse that and have the callers become the network of the hotline.


Project Outline


Research Question:

How can communication technology be used to create illusion of intimacy?

Supporting Questions: How can space be “collapsed”? How can you turn distance into an illusion? How do illusions help us and hurt us? At what point to illusions turn to harm?When is the point illusions become real? Why do we crave illusions? What makes domestic objects intimate? How can we create technology to be intimate?


It seems as if families and loved ones are required to live farther and farther away from one another. Whether it be for jobs or immigration, distance is difficult to manage in relationships. Technology has made it easier to keep in touch with facetime and skype but the person on the other end of the line still feels far away when they’re framed in a laptop or phone. Holograms have a long way to go before tech is advanced enough to have full body hologram calls but with a combination of pepper’s ghost trick and the magic mirror concept, the illusion is possible.

By disguising tech behind domestic imagery, it allows people to forget about the mechanics of how they are talking to someone miles away and fall into the illusion that they are present in the space. This is achieved by a two way mirror film on the front side of a sheet of plexi-glass and a rear projection film of the backside. A live feed of a person lit up in front of a dark background will be projected on the rear projection film so only the figure will shine through to the front. The front side with the mirror film will reflect the space and the projected figure will be super imposed onto the reflection so it appears the figure is in the room but only exists in the mirror. Callers must immerse themselves in the illusion to experience the sensation of “collapsed space”.



Magic mirror test: plexiglass with 2 way mirror film against monitor. To avoid needing a giant flat screen TV for a monitor for the scale I need, I turned to the idea of projecting an image on rear projection screen film.

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Reading Response: What is Cybernetics?


Cybernetics is about the essential relationship between humans and machines. Norbert Wiener makes the case for making smarter and more capable machines to free humans from being button pushers or mind numbing computer operators which is a waste of human intelligence. The advancement of machines is actually a humanist motivation and Wiener envisions it as craft movements that use social reform and integration as their central idea.

Feedback loops and AI is essential for machine and human communication and symbiosis. Machines act as a “pilot” or “guide” for humans; just look at phones and computers. These communication and researching machines already act as our external brains. Opening communication and integration between man and machine is important for creating sympathy. The more machines can be humanized, the more we can humanize the systems machines already control and influence like economy and social fabrics.



Cultural Aspects of Reflected Images

narcissusNarcissus is a greek myth about a young man who falls in love with his own reflection. When he realizes his love is only his own reflection, he becomes so heartbroken that he commits suicide. He discovers his illusion could never become real and his despair leads to his own death. The myth is supposed to be about the dangers of self-obsession but for me the allure and loss of illusion is poignant to me.

Another version of this story surfaces in pop culture in Harry Potter with The Mirror or Erised. When someone looks into the mirror, their reflection shows what they desire most in the world, and the longing for the things people see in the mirror but can never have in real life, drives people into madness or suicide. In storytelling, mirrors and reflections are used to portray character introspection or reveal a psychological state. Self-reflections reveal alter personalities like in Black Swan, hidden desires like the magical mirror in Harry Potter, alternate dimensions, and passage of time like in 2001: A Space Oddessy. In visual art, mirrors distort reality or displace space like Anish Kapoor’s Sky mirrors.


Self-reflection started from distorted images in water to polished metal and then finally mirrors and photographs. Catoptomacy, which originates in ancient Greece, was a way to predict the future by interpreting reflections (originally in water) in polished metal disks to interpret patterns of moon beam reflections. This practice is most likely the origin of crystal ball fortune-telling. Mirrors are seen as portals or gateways into the spiritual realm, that the distorted images can give them glimpses into the other side.


Breaking mirrors or destroying a portrait is bad luck or an omen of death. In myths, vampires or evil creatures do not have reflections or shadows because they do not have souls at all. What is it about the human image that makes it “spiritually tethered” to its original owner? Ironically, instead of being afraid that getting your photo taken will steal your soul, people now want their “souls stolen” by images because that is how immortality is achieved. There are piles of family albums in most homes, social media documenting selfies, and even the hope of one day uploading consciousness into the cloud.




In class: Origami


In class we did a workshop on the fundamentals of origami and digitally mapping origami folds on Grasshopper. It was cool to learn how much origami mechanics are being used from packing space stations to medical implants that can expand/fold out with a patient as they grow.

Origami is completely dependent on the material being folded and usually the material is paper for its malleability and memory. Once a fold is creased, it cannot be undone. Even smoothed out, the evidence of the fold remains. The craft completely relies on materiality because there is no other element besides material and fold. By using Grasshopper, folds are mapped out digitally and divisions are made mathematically. The file is then sent to the laser cutter which cuts perforated lines to then be folded by hand.

The Fold


The Fold by Gilles, Deleuze combines analysis of Baroque thought and Liebnitz to describe “the fold”. The fold is difficult to describe since it is applied to broad and specific things from describing the universe to the in-separation of the body and soul. This mirco/macro model is very similar to Liebnitz’s monads, which are the philosophers description of the building blocks of the universe. Within each monad, reflects the entire universe and therefore a single branch can reflect the cosmos. The fold is like the arrangement, construction or interaction of monads. The building blocks do not combine. They fold in unity or in arrangement to create forms and objects.

The soul is described as an evelope of folds. The soul contains infinite folds because it is only with the possesion of the soul, can people percieve other folds. There is no material for what is being folded but rather a process of how things, thoughts, matter, can interact and touch in infinite points. I still do not understand what the fold means or its allegorical purpose but what I can do is associate “the folds” to what I already know. For example, the shape of proteins on a molecular level are complex folds, and the shape and struture are what gives it function. Protiens are a literal interpretation but an example I can use to comprehend the philosophical applications. The fold can create strutures, envelope, increase or unfurl. I suppose the ability to create rigidity/ fluidity, clarify/obstructuct, and combine/divide faces is a useful picture to use to describe poetic truths about how things are.