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2019 SIAH

Creating Alternate Worlds

June 24- August 23, 2019

Our world is in trouble. Problems caused by systemic inequities based on race, gender, and ability still constrain human relationships, while seemingly new problems, such as global warming, proceed faster than previously imagined. Making things even worse, our attempts to create better futures through innovation often end up exacerbating the problems that they were meant to address. How can we as designers, artists, scholars, and activists engage our world in a way that effectively harnesses the power of our imaginations to rethink not only what we can create but change the ways we have of creating?

The 2019 Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities will draw on world building practices in design, literature, gaming, art, afrofuturism, philosophy, and science to encourage students to envision and materialize different worlds. In doing so, we wish to explore world building as an interdisciplinary practice that explores how all acts of making involve implied worlds, how the genesis of other worlds remain tethered to the present, and how a focus on “worlds” shifts inquiries from the making of “things” to the delicate act of co-creating with and for a community of human and non-human others. Come see how designers imagine worlds from objects, how scientists use modeling to understand what can’t be immediately sensed, or how stories extend beyond characters and narrative to the settings that stories take place in.

Students will participate in lectures, seminars, small group critique, workshops, and tutorial sessions. They will read and discuss theoretical readings and learn techniques in world building from design, art, literature, and sciences. Students will then use these techniques to create worlds that reflect their ethical, intellectual, and creative commitments. The institute will culminate with a day-long seminar and a “Worlds in Progress Exhibition” where students present their worlds as a form of research and creative practice.
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Teaching Team

Phillip Thurtle

Associate Professor, Comparative History of Ideas
Thurtle, Phillip 150x200

Phillip Thurtle is professor in History and Director of the Comparative History of Ideas Program at the University of Washington. He received his PhD in history and the philosophy of science from Stanford University. He is the author and co-editor of numerous books and electronic media, including his most recent book, Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life (University of Minnesota Press, 2018). His research focuses on the affective-phenomenological domains of media, the role of information processing technologies in biomedical research, and theories of novelty in the life sciences. His most recent work is on the cellular spaces of transformation in evolutionary and developmental biology research and the cultural spaces of transmutation in popular culture and the arts.

Audrey Desjardins

Assistant Professor, Interaction Design, School of Art + Art History + Design

Audrey Desjardins is an assistant professor of Interaction Design in the school of Art + Art History + Design at the University of Washington. She holds a PhD in Interactive Arts and Technology from Simon Fraser University. Trained as an industrial designer and interaction design researcher, she uses design as a way to critically reflect on people’s creative tactics to make, adapt, and transform their homes and to investigate potential futures in domestic spaces.


Tyler Fox

Lecturer, Human Centered Design & Engineering

Tyler Fox is an artist, researcher, technologist, and educator. His work focuses on the ways in which nonhuman relations shape our experience of, and relationship to, the surrounding world. His teaching fosters interdisciplinary research by nourishing student-centered projects that incorporate critical theory into practice-based research.

Before joining HCDE, Fox was a lecturer in the school of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and Studio Director of the Interactive Media Design program at the University of Washington Bothell. He is also a member of DPrime Research, an arts and science nonprofit research organization.

Fox holds a PhD from the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia; an MFA in Intermedia from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, New Zealand; and bachelor’s degrees in Art History and Comparative History of Ideas, both from the University of Washington.

Heidi Biggs

MDes Student, School of Art + Art History + Design
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Heidi Biggs is a second-year graduate student studying interaction design at UW’s School of Art + Art History + Design. Due to her academic background in English Literature and long-time love of science fiction she was drawn to design practices such as speculative futuring, critical design and experimental design research. Her thesis seeks to create speculative, wearable technologies that help everyday cyclists tangibly understand their intersections with climate change.



Nat Mengist

Outreach Coordinator, Comparative History of Ideas

Nat Mengist is proud union worker at the University of Washington—employed as a part-time outreach coordinator for the Comparative History of Ideas Department (CHID) and a part-time research study coordinator for an NSF grant-funded project called Learning in Places. Nat wrote an extended undergraduate thesis exploring interdisciplinary understandings of alchemy with Phillip Thurtle in 2015. He then leveraged a master’s in education policy to facilitate racial equity work in the Seattle environmental nonprofit scene. Currently, he presents on historiographical, epistemological, critical, and ecological thought at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts and Post-Human Network annual meetings.

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Below are the participants in the 2019 University of Washington Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities:

Peyton Blackmer

Intended Major: Comparative History of Ideas; Informatics

Peyton Blackmer is a prospective Informatics and Comparative History of Ideas student with a passion for ethical usage and implementation of technology. Beginning her junior year, she hopes to further her skills in speculative design, computer programming, and information communication. She is the current web editor of The Daily, hoping to add an information visualization page to the online paper to spread current relevant data about campus happenings in a user friendly and engaging way. In her free time, she enjoys going to DIY shows around campus and writing poetry. While partaking in the Summer Institute, she hopes to use its current theme to critique and reimagine our current world’s relationship with technology to find solutions to the problems we face. She has a specific interest in anonymity and our lack thereof at the current time and she is excited to put her questions about its relevance to the genuine human experience to the test.

Ioan Butiu

Major: Industrial Design

Ioan Butiu is a multidisciplinary designer interested in the intersections of technology, social systems, and material cultures. His previous work ranges from speculative objects and graphic design to interactive exhibits. As part of SIAH, Ioan aims to research the ways in which design can explore possible futures. By embodying alternative ways of being through tangible artifacts, design presents a rich opportunity for critical inquiry into our current world.


Eden Chapman

Major: Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies

Eden is a queer, disabled rising senior at the University of Washington pursing a degree in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies with a minor in Disability Studies. With a background in molecular biology, they are passionate about combining science and the humanities. Of particular interest to them is embodied knowledge and phenomenology, and legitimizing embodied and non-normative knowledges, experiences, and ways of living in and with the world. Their other interests include gardening and visual arts, including drawing, painting, and fiber arts. Eden is excited to be a part of the 2019 SIAH cohort, and looks forward to exploring the design of new worlds over the course of the summer.

Kat Curtis

Major: Art

Izabel Del Bosque

Major: Anthropology: Medical Anthropology & Global Health

Izabel Rosalia del Bosque is a Senior at the University of Washington. She is pursuing a degree in Medical Anthropology and Global Health with a minor in Gender Women and Sexualities Studies and plans to attend Nursing school after graduating. She intends to use her interdisciplinary interests to focus on the decolonization of medicine and health care. She hopes to use anthropological and scientific research studies to critique the act of “care” in society, through analyzing lives and stories of marginalized groups; including indigenous and immigrant communities. Izabel hopes to bridge the gap in applying quantitative and qualitative research to medicine and care.

Rio Faltys-Burr

Major: Comparative History of Ideas

Rio is a fifth-year undergraduate majoring in Comparative History of Ideas with a large emphasis in Mesoamerican Futurism. In the SIAH program, Rio hopes to investigate and research into the physical structures that create communities in a society, inspired by the ancient Mesoamerican cultures that are often overlooked in popular media. To Rio, the Mesoamerican cultures of the past carried aspects of community and infrastructure that were lost to time and deserve to have a story told in the future so that we might learn and introduce new ideas into our society. Aside from school, Rio works part-time while training to become an Experiential System Designer. In his downtime, Rio enjoys video production and experience design as well as outdoor activities.

Rachel Fazio

Major: Visual Communication Design, Gender Women Sexuality Studies

Rachel Fazio is a junior at the University of Washington, currently trying to focus her educational path around everyday activism through design. Rachel advocates for evaluating current systems of art and design to act symbiotically with technology and theory. In the past, Rachel has worked hands-on researching current systems of menstrual equity and policy in the Seattle area. This summer, Rachel hopes to research possibilities of systems and resources to support queer individuals who have faced sexual assault. Rachel also is a digital media artist and a painter.

Bre’Anna Girdy

Major: English Language & Literature

Bre’Anna Girdy is a recent graduate of the University of Washington who will be moving on to work in the literary arts after the Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities. Her interests lies in the realm of genres, technology, and the ways in which theory provides a basis for expanding in these contemporary structures. In her own writing, she practices this expansion and offers a look into worlds comprised of alternate and irrefutably real relationships, communicated through Afrosurrealist and Afrofuturist means.

Riley Guerrero

Major: Comparative History of Ideas

Jack Johnston

Major: Industrial Design

Jack is a senior undergraduate in the Industrial Design program at the University of Washington. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Jack developed a strong visual arts background while attending a public arts magnet school, which he uses as a foundation for aesthetic creation in the Design program. He spends most of his time riding his bike, reading the news, and viewing art. Jack is interested in how social, political, and fiscal incentives shape the way we navigate our world, both as scholars and as artisans. Furthermore, he is exploring the social-capital economy of neoliberalism. He hopes to bridge the gaps of miscommunication and inequity through visual contemporary works, backed by his research as a SIAH scholar.

Rosemary Jones

Major: Drama; Political Science

Rosemary is a 2nd year and senior majoring in Drama and Political Science. She has a background in stage management both on campus and in the larger Seattle theater community. She is interested in how people create stories and profound experiences through communally playing. She seeks to investigate how alternate worlds can be used as a teaching tool through shared experiences such as live performance and tabletop games. Her passion for “Creating Alternate Worlds,” arises from her love of high fantasy and science fiction, and her experiences running tabletop games for her friends. When she’s not embroiled in schoolwork or working on a show, she can be found tinkering, building, and fixing.

Keith Matt

Major: American Indian Studies; Education, Communities & Organizations

Keith is from the Colville Indian Reservation located in Omak, Washington. He is an upcoming fourth year double majoring in American Indian Studies and Education, Communities & Organizations with a minor in Comparative History of Ideas. Being the first in his family to attend college, Keith is driven to push the boundaries of possibility with the support of his family and peers. In the past, his work has focused on cross-cultural understanding, traditional land-based practices, and community-based research. This summer, he is eager to collaborate with the SIAH teaching team and students to imagine and create alternative worlds. His summer research focuses on the use of innovative storytelling as a way to establish understanding, universal connections, and a world of belonging. Ultimately, Keith is excited to use this opportunity to further develop his indigenous worldview, critical thinking, and clear vision for creating something beautiful.

Teddy McDonald

Major:Creative Writing

Teddy is a rising junior at the University of Washington studying English with a minor in DxArts. As someone who loves creating stories, he is especially interested in the way relationships can shape our worldview and the reality around us. He wants to explore the alienating effects of capitalism, how the gender binary helps hold the systems around us in place, and how relationships can begin to change this narrative. Teddy enjoys art, playing guitar, and Scooby-Doo.

Jena Mcwhirter

Major: Interaction Design






Alwyn Mouton

Major: Comparative History of Ideas; Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies

Alwyn is an artist, storyteller, theorist, and traveler. They create zines to illustrate and disseminate ideas discussed in the classroom, ranging in topics from critical plant theory to the politics of travel. Alwyn is primarily a comics’ artist, but also combines photography, poetry, and painting in their zines and other works. This summer they are interested in manifesting a micro-utopia that weaves theory about queer representation, plant and human interactions, and relationships to space together. Alwyn will create a small window into a world that allows space for a kind of bodily autonomy and freedom of relation that many queer bodies are typically denied.

John Peterson

Major: Comparative History of Ideas

John is a fifth year senior who has studied at Seattle Central College, La Universidad de Chile, and now The University of Washington. He immerses himself in alternate worlds as often as possible by reading science fiction novels. John’s ideal alternate world would not be a utopia. He thinks that life would be no fun if there were nothing left to create. John focuses the scope of his studies on metaphysics, Spanish and entrepreneurship. He knows that his time left at the University of Washington is precious and fleeting, so he tries his hardest to take advantage of all of the resources that this institution provides for its students.

Mira Petrillo (she/her)

Major: Comparative History of Ideas; Philosophy

Mira is an incoming senior studying Philosophy and Comparative History of Ideas. Her research interests include the philosophy of cognitive science, phenomenology, and human systems in relationship with the natural environment. At SIAH, she is excited to immerse herself in a project that brings together academic research and creative process and hopes to emerge with a new understanding of the dynamic relationship between material and immaterial worlds. In her not-so-free time, she works as the editor-in-chief at The Daily, the UW’s student newspaper, where she is driven by a desire to maintain and cultivate a developmental community space on campus. Despite not knowing what she would like to do after college, Mira is excited about the symbiotic growth of SIAH and about how it might lead her in unexpected directions this summer and beyond.

Mariama Sidibe

Major: International Studies

Mariama Sidibe is a rising junior at the University of Washington pursuing an International Studies degree on the Human Rights track. She is interested in the role of oral history in African Studies because she believes that the emphasis on written history obstructs the impact of colonization on African history. Although she is studying Human Rights, she believes that the field needs to make more room for marginalized voices, especially women of color.  She is originally from Guinea and is passionate about going back to Sub-Saharan Africa to do advocacy work with women’s rights organizations. Her passions include social justice, human rights, and community building in marginalized communities. In her free time, she writes poetry that explores her identity as an African woman. She is currently a co-host on the Still Black podcast and an Ellis Civic Fellow.

Anisha Uppungonduri

Major: Comparative History of Ideas; Physics

Anisha is a senior in Comparative History of Ideas and Physics. They get especially excited about cameras, art and media theory, makeup, complicated systems, and a good book. In their work, they investigate representations and the systems that create them: for instance considering textbooks and scientific knowledge, or breakdowns and benefits of systems that detect or regenerate faces. They have a background in science and cultural studies, as well as experience around robotics, computer vision, scientific research, and media art. Through SIAH, they are excited to gain experience crafting magical ideas. Outside of the classroom, Anisha can be found breaking symmetries with accessories.

Maxx Yamasaki

Major: Comparative History of Ideas

Maxx is an interdisciplinary roboticist and artist. They work across Comparative History of Ideas, Mechanical Engineering, and Digital and Experimental Arts to better understand alternative paths for technology and joyous ways of dealing with our everyday robots. Maxx hopes to make technology more fantastical by making it more personal, more understandable, and less normative. Currently Maxx is working on insect inspired robots in AIRLab with Dr. Sawyer Fuller. Maxx is also working on a personal project to imbue embroidery with live motion and animation. They hope to eat all the different noodles that there are.

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