Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.

Conversations - June 2016

Over the past few weeks I've started to have some great conversations with others about my area of inquiry. 

I sat down with Lucy Knops, former PoD student, a couple weeks ago to get her insights from having gone through the thesis process herself. Specifically I had been thinking a lot about conducting a barefoot experiment, and she had incorporated a similar aspect to her thesis with her uniform wardrobe project (http://www.lucyknops.com/nothing-to-wear). Lucy not only had great tips for documenting and viewing the experiential/experimental aspects of thesis, but also had some great leads for further research. She introduced me to Jasper Lawrence's story about purposefully infecting himself with hookworms through the soles of his bare feet (https://www.ksl.com/?nid=968&sid=20838871). Further she recommended I look into a TV show called Dual Survivor as one of the hosts of the show, Cody Lundin, has been walking barefoot for 20 years. I can't wait to look into these two sources further. (Thanks Lucy!)

Image from AZ Central

Image from AZ Central

I recently started my internship at R/GA as an experience designer. My manager Sruj and I had a brief conversation about my thesis and came across an interesting duality. One way of looking at barriers between human body and nature/environment is in the optimistic environmentalist point of view: breaking down barriers, reconnecting with nature, and taking better care of our planet. On the flip side, a more dystopic take, would lead to the idea that we're already screwed in terms of saving this planet and experiencing increasing natural disasters because of it, we need to barrier ourselves from nature even more. Personally, I prefer the optimistic view. But the dystopic could provide fertile grounds for speculative and critical design.

Image from Orlando Sentenial

Image from Orlando Sentenial

Finally I was able to speak with my brother Will, a biologist, about my thesis. He, too, quickly presented me with a collection of news/media related to this field of study. Apparently there was a woman in Florida who tried to live off the grid but ran into legal barriers for doing so.  He also recommended watching Cosmos for a thorough summary of the evolution of our planet - not only the creatures that live on it but the climate and physical environment as well. And finally he was very excited to send me his chapters on "helminthic therapy" (purposefully infecting oneself with parasitic worms for various health benefits). 

Image from UCSC Science Notes

Image from UCSC Science Notes

Jenna Witzleben