Trina: A Design Fiction is the primary outcome of the Micro Mega Meta project. Trina uses design and fiction to investigate the cultural implications of emerging technologies for reading and writing. The story’s primary form is a 20-minute live performance that combines a reading + a slide show + electronic sound. (Think: PechaKucha meets La Jetée). Trina was conceived and produced by designer Anne Burdick in collaboration with writer Janet Sarbanes (Army of One), with electronic sound by sound artist Casey Anderson. The story can also be experienced as an online video and a book-based script, both of which are included here. 


Printed book pdf:

The book shown here (as individual pages) was printed in a limited edition of 25 to be distributed to a group of invited critics, each of whom wrote an interpretive response. (You can also view the book in a page-turning simulation on issuu.) 



The Trina Story

Trina is an unemployed literary scholar who works alone in an RV in the desert, taking on text analysis H.I.T.s (human intelligence tasks) for Humanitas, Inc. to make ends meet. In spite of her isolation, Trina is connected to the digital world through solar and satellite. It is through Trina’s eyes that we see the software-mediated daily reality within which the mystery of a cryptic, typewritten document unfolds. But it isn’t until she gets into the gendered history of the typewriter and assumes the hands of the typist that she is able to decipher the document’s hidden meaning. And although Trina herself works with devices implanted in her eyes and her hands, it is her embodied relationship with writing that renders her a cyborg.


Design Fiction as Theoretical Inquiry

The action in Trina happens within imaginary interfaces — what Matthew Fuller would call “speculative software” — “software whose work is partly to reflexively investigate itself as software. Software as science fiction, as mutant epistemology.” One of the applications Trina uses, the interface for accessing and contributing to the “Commons,” imagines reading and writing in a three-dimensional virtual environment built for critical interpretation that affords ambiguity, multiple perspectives, and situated, subjective judgment. Inspired by Jerome McGann’s notion of n-dimensional texts, this imaginary tool is a response to his call for a digital spatial textuality that is autopoeitic. It is the result of critical making experiments and VR prototypes designed to explore and model McGann’s ideas.

The project also questions the appropriateness of technology development best practices, such as user-centered design, for the creation of software for critical interpretation. Informed by Lucy Suchman’s research into how designing human-computer interactions involves configuring the “human” in tandem with the “computer,” the project asks, what model of “the human” is best suited to the design of technologies for interpretation? But rather than attempt to model a user, or even a “human,” the Trina project attempts to model subjectivity. It is an experiment in prototyping a complicated, messy, and situated subject in tandem with her digital counterpart.

Informed by theories of distributed agency (Latour, Haraway, Suchman), the story and its design also examine how texts might be understood as resulting from situated configurations of writing technology, language, and the body.