Painful Memories and Memorable Pain

Gabi Schaffzin // The following contains spoilers for Amazon’s Homecoming series. Proceed with caution. I’ve been thinking a lot about memory. This started after I recently finished bingeing on the Amazon series, Homecoming, a quick but worthwhile watch for the psychological-thriller fan in all of us. Briefly, the show, directed by Mr. Robot’s Sam Esmail,…

Scientific Typography

If you are a formally trained graphic designer, it’s unlikely that you have not heard of Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style, most recently updated to its fourth edition in 2012. Originally published 20 years earlier, the work is filled with answers to the book designer’s common conundrums: typeface choices, page arrangements, knowledge of…

The Complicated History of the Visual Analog Scale: Part 2

Gabi Schaffzin // Last month, I introduced the Visual Analog Scale and began to trace its history back through the 20th century. I ended with the suggestion that use of the VAS was made necessary by the ways in which pain trials changed in a post-Beecherian world. Pain researchers adopted the VAS from the world of…

The Complicated History of the Visual Analog Scale: Part 1

Gabi Schaffzin // A few hours after knee surgery, a nurse or doctor might come into your room and ask how you’re feeling. They might show you a scale of 6 faces like this: Maybe a notched line like this: Or, they might show you this line. It will probably have two phrases on it:…

Theorizing the Web, Theorizing the Body

Gabi Schaffzin // Towards the beginning of her talk at Theorizing the Web 2018, Alanna Reyes asks, “is it possible that we are perpetuating ides about our bodies and our technologies that we use by writing them into our real lives?” The scholar (a PhD in Science Studies & Communication at UC San Diego) goes…

Role/Play: Collaborative Creativity and Creative Collaborations, A Review

Earlier this month I was offered the privilege of attending the Sackler Colloquium at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. The event—organized around the theme of collaboration between the arts and sciences—was in two parts: a student symposium [pdf link] during which about 50 Sackler Fellows presented projects that they are undertaking at their…

Ontologies of Cure and Care

Last month, I wrote about a struggle I had with my participation—or lack thereof—in an Alan Kapprow Happening called “Company”. The specific instructions, written in 1982, are: A person locates a bare room and sits in it for a long time. Then she or he brings into the room a cement block and sits with…

Disability as Experience

In this post, I’d like to make things a bit more personal than I have so far. Last week I got into a debate with a professor. It’s not important what this debate was about. Instead, it’s important what this debate wasn’t about. This professor was asking my class—myself and six other graduate students/artists—to participate…

The “Fake News” of pain reporting

Shortly after Ronald Reagan’s administration came to power in the United States in 1981, Health and Human Services secretary Richard Schweiker began expelling scores of individuals from the Social Security disability rolls. His argument: their pain was not real. Instead, he argued—along with Social Security commissioner John Svahn, and White House policy analyst Peter Ferrara—benefits…

Embracing the Fiction in Sci-Fi

I recently returned from the annual conference for the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Science fiction has been, as you can imagine, a rather common theme here and I was excited to see that this year was no exception. Like last year, there was a panel…