Collaborative Unit

Brief: Design an experience that explores the posthumanism of your object.

My group: Hugh, Sanjana, Ivy

Object: Birthday cake

Our Collaborative Unit started with a discussion about post-humanism led by Taylor. He also showed us a few example projects in this field, such as High Water Pants and Beirut Design Week exhibition, which I find very innovative, although sometimes lacking the context. Shortly afterwards each group was given an object and had to express its different relations to the world as an exploration of post-humanism that displaces the traditional human subject.  

Our group’s object was a birthday cake, so we came up with a 3D map made out of layers that represented the journey as well as the layers of the cake. We thought that if would be a good idea for our map to present the cake’s journey from life to death. It all starts with the sun and water that enable the growth of grain and trees, which later turn into key ingredients, such as flour, that form the cake. The process then continues with transport and sales, followed by the human context of the cake, such as birthdays, holidays and other celebrations. The final stage is the death of the cake, reminding us of the human journey, which inevitably ends the same way.

First model.

Following the first model, we had to develop a starting idea according to our brief this week, which was to design a post-human experience that is centred around our object. Hugh and Sanjana’s idea was related to the stages we go through while eating a cake, whereas I wanted to present the making of a cake from the perspective of water as an ‘object’. As Tayler and Alaistair preferred the latter, on the grounds of it being more post-human, we chose to develop it further. We created a model where small balls act as the water molecules and show how water travels through different processes. The comments we received led us to believe that our idea was too much of a process presentation and did not take into account that water itself is also affected in the process.

Second model.

After taking the feedback into consideration, I came up with the idea of presenting the ageing of water through the process of creating a cake. In the beginning the water is clean, but as it goes through different processes, it becomes ‘older’ and more ‘polluted’. We decided to use ink to represent the pollutants (such as pesticides, lead colouring) that are used in different stages of the cake creation as a way to present ageing. With our model, we showcased how clear water goes into each process of the cake creation and comes out polluted. The polluted water then formed the layers in our cake, and as it reached the top layer with the candle, it ‘blew out’ the candle, representing the birth of a cake and the death of the water.

Play Video

Presentation video.

We also wanted to mix all layers of the cake to create an uglier brown colour, showing the darker side of the cake, but we thought that it would be too messy to do it in a classroom. The feedback we received was quite positive, but the main comment was that we could present the whole process in a less graphic way, allowing the audience to figure and interpret this installation by themselves. I do agree to a certain extent, but I think that in this time frame the installation would be hard to understand without the visual representation. During this week I did learn that although we as designers are usually taught to hide the back-end, it could be beneficial to expose it. It can lead to a better understanding of the process, as well as encourage the thought process.

Behind the scenes of the presentation.


Crawford, K. and Joler, V. (2019). Anatomy of an AI System. Virtual Creativity, 9(1), pp.117-120.

Denchak, M. (2018). Water Pollution: Everything You Need to Know. Available at: (Accessed 15 February 2020).

Goel, P. K. (2006). Water pollution: causes, effects and control. New Delhi: New Age International.