Final Project: Open Book/Libro Abierto

Open Book Screenshot

Calvin Z. + Kate W. + Daniel C.


Open Book/Libro Abierto is designed to be a versatile platform for community members to share their stories. The print medium allows users to interact with the book in a tactile way, physically making their mark on the story of their community. The book presents handwritten and printed words along with photos of community members, and offers viewers access to audio interviews via QR links. Our goal is to create a hackable book that invites viewers to share their stories and start conversations, responding in whatever medium they choose. The book will be exhibited in Urbano’s Nomadic Sculpture, where visitors will be able to read the stories and respond by writing directly in the book. We hope to foster productive and honest conversations about what displacement and community mean to the people of Egleston Square, both physically written in the book as well as verbally during and after the exhibition.


Updated 05.21.17:

Link to project:

Link to presentation:

Link to case study: Case Study 

An Interview with Kathryn Fenneman at Tutoring Plus

Kathryn Fenneman

For this week, I interviewed Kathryn Fenneman from Tutoring Plus, an organization dedicated to youth and families in the Cambridge Area 4/Central Square community. We had an amazing conversation about gentrification, the right to the city, and displacement from a very different and unique point of view. I personally became interested in the role of education in combatting these issues after speaking with the Cambridge Community Foundation, who recommended that I reach out to Kathryn.

One of the things that was the most striking to me was before the interview, where Kathryn expressed a bit of hesitation. She made a point that we should be speaking with the community members as well, and that she did not speak for the community. As the CoDesign studio, this was really great for me to hear that concern, and definitely something that we have discussed in class as well.

We spoke about Kathryn’s activist work, how she got involved in the community. We spoke about the Cambridge poverty rates, and the disconnect between what we think about Cambridge (MIT and Harvard), and the neighborhoods and families that are being forgotten and left behind by Biotech companies and corporations.

Our conversations about barriers, as well, was great. We had a conversation about the giant glass walls of MIT, Harvard, and all the other corporations and institutions: even though many of the students live next door, they sometimes don’t feel welcome, or have the right to go in, or access its resources. One way that Tutoring Plus is involved is breaking this physical and symbolic barrier: bringing students into the Media Lab and MIT, involving them in the community, and also bringing in volunteers from these institutions to see the greater community.

Her vision for 2030?: Ending childhood poverty in Cambridge.

Our interview went really well–I felt more comfortable during this interview than the previous ones, and felt much more confident as the interviewer. A transcript will go up soon! 


Activits of CoDesign: A HONY-Inspired Project

Cover Image from Salvador

Cover Image from Salvador

We (Calvin + Kate) are Atelier Co. (a semi-tongue-in-cheek reference to our Architecture backgrounds). Our project draws inspiration from the Humans of New York project, a series that shares photos of New Yorkers along with their personal stories in a concise and accessible format. The project began online but has spread to a book form as well. We wanted to use this method of spreading different perspectives to spread ideas that really matter to people in the Boston area.

With this goal in mind, we collected the audio interviews, blog posts, and photos posted by members of this class, and we organized them into folders that could be accessed by our code. We then developed a simple, modern template based on the HONY aesthetic to feature our organized content, focusing on the interviewee’s name and image with the audio and text underneath. Finally, we wrote the code needed to fill the template with our content and create an interactive online book.

We chose to make an online book because it provides an easy way to reach many people very quickly. The book can be accessed during someone’s commute, when they have time to listen to long interviews, or at home when they may just want to flip through the pages and skim the blog posts. Either way, they would find a clean, simple interface that keeps the emphasis on the content. This book could be accessed via a standalone url, which could be linked via Facebook, Twitter, and other types of social media. We could also feature specific pages on social media in a style closer to the original HONY posts.

Our eventual goal with the project was to create a physical book that plays the different interview recordings as the pages are turned. While this is not as easy to access whenever it’s convenient for the user, it would provide an interactive and informative element to physical exhibitions like those proposed by Urbano. Because we have very limited experience designing electrical projects, we decided to stick with a virtual book for now, refining a design that could then be transferred to physical form should we connect with a mechanical or electrical engineering student later on. The physical book would also be more suited to short audio clips instead of the half-hour long interviews most people posted, so it would require more time to edit these as well.

Based on the feedback, we looked into Articulate Storyline as a more efficient way to produce our virtual product. While it looked like the sort of software that could potentially meet our needs, it cost several hundreds of dollars to acquire if we wanted to project to be modifiable beyond the free trial period, so we chose to stick to coding it ourselves. Though our code may not be accessible to people without a working knowledge of Javascript, it provides a good framework that can be adapted by experienced programmers. These adaptations could include things like connecting the site to another website that allows users to easily upload files. Our code is based on a simple numbering system with folders for each file type, so it would be very clean and easy to expand the file collection.

That being said, we have struggled with Javascript and integrating our functionality with our design. For our next steps, we hope to debug the final version to make sure all the buttons work properly and refine the code to adapt to mobile devices. This project has the potential to be a great interface for enjoying podcast-like content, so we hope to improve our design so that it is both beautiful and easy to use on a variety of devices.

Local Hot-Shot Attorney Appointed Director of USCIS



Nicole (right) representing at ECAASU 2017 Conference. Image credit ECAASU 2017 FB page



In 10 years, that is also what I hope the headline will be. Nicole Fink, a mentor, friend, and attorney, is an amazing example of how we as individuals can affect change in a community. Today, she is an immigration attorney and legal consult for NGOs, but in ten years, I think America’s families would benefit greatly from her appointment as USCIS director, bringing families together, making immigration easier, and ending the immigration backlogs. When I asked her if she wanted to become president, she kindly declined, “I would gray hairs so easily!”

Last week, I interviewed Nicole Fink, who I worked under at the East Coast Asian American Student Union. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule, amidst all of the immigration-related chaos and consults to speak with me about how she got started as an activist and community organizer, and where she sees herself in the future.

We discussed a variety of issues pertaining to her work, but what stood out to me was how she pinpointed where our issues with organizing and engaging lie— empathy. We discussed how it was difficult to engage youth because many feel that they have to be personally affected in order to become involved and be engaged with these social and political issues.

Nicole discussed with me the ways that she believed we could start engaging more youth, and I actually had a moment of realization; she discussed the importance of mentorship and how that is needed to kickstart each person’s activism.

The media was also a big point of discussion, and as AAPI activists, we agreed that the problems that Asian Americans faced were not being represented in mainstream media, because they were not the stories that people bought into. (We wanted to clarify, though, that we were advocating for all people of color, and for fair representation of everyone).

If you’re interested in hearing the full interview, in which we also talk extensively about North Carolina’s political climate and the recent ECAASU conference, go to this link of all associated files, where there is an audio file and a transcription as well.



About Calvin

Hi everyone!

I’m Calvin, a Junior now in the Architecture Department and excited to participate in the CoDesign studio this semester! I come to this class as a designer and activist– I hope to explore how we can apply art and technology in innovative ways to create and inspire movements.

I grew up all over New York City– Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, in diverse neighborhoods such as Flushing and one of Brooklyn’s many Chinatowns. Growing up in New York, I’ve developed a keen sense of the problems that minorities face living in urban environments. As a designer, I like to tackle these problems and examine how we can design the built environment to be more accommodating, safe, and provide equal opportunities.

During high school and at MIT, I worked with ECAASU (East Coast Asian American Student Union), a youth-led NGO. While working with ECAASU, I was engaged with people from organizations such as WHIAAPI (which got me thinking more about policy and education) and NAAPIMHA (mental health and intersectionality) at the yearly ECAASU Conference.

Coincidentally, this past weekend was the 2017 Conference in North Carolina, co-hosted by the Triangle-Area universities: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University. This is what inspires me this weekend– the conference brings in thousands of youth from all over the country to focus on the issues that matter to us as students, activists, organizers, et cetera. This year I was unable to attend, but what stood out to me was their passion and reason for hosting in NC this year.

In the past couple of months leading up to the conference, there was a lot of discussion about North Carolina, specifically. ECAASU has brought themselves out to North Carolina to be engaged in the conversation and has shown solidarity with the marginalized communities in the South.

Looking forward to working with you all!