Thesis: Un/Belong

MDP | Thesis | Spring 2022 | UX Design | UI Design | Systems Design


Un/belong is an interactive autofiction application designed to discuss and spotlight the experience of unbelonging.  It is an application that allows the user to craft their own stories of unbelonging as they weave their own experiences (real or imagined) with pre-existing narratives surrounding the multi-layered experiences of unbelonging for young Asian women in their 20s and 30s. While the pre-existing narratives follow a character whose experiences of unbelonging are further complicated by interactions, “borders” and tensions created by different cultures, societies and family specific to Asian culture and is written in an Asian woman’s point of view, Un/belong can be engaged with people of other cultures, in order for them to gain empathy and a better understanding towards this specific kind of experience of unbelonging.


This work aims to engage with the larger discourse on unbelonging by acknowledging it as a complex, multidimensional, personal and diverse experience, and offering a point of view on the subject that does not see unbelonging as only a consequence or result of an action, but as a choice that can be made. Unbelonging has often been considered a negative outcome, resulting in feelings of alienation and other-ness, and while such feelings are often present in the experiences of unbelonging, this work offers to look at unbelonging as kinship as well.

How It Works

In order to honor just how diverse, complex and multi-dimensional experiences of unbelonging are, this application uses a method of constructing the fictional storyline through the randomized selection of narrative sequences based on the user’s input within the GoApp interface and the Event interface.


In order to explain this further, the construction of the story is like putting a string of beads together, where the application chooses which bowl of beads to randomly select a chapter or sub-chapter bead from. 


Which bowl the chapter bead is selected from is determined through the input on the GoApp interface, so for example, if you choose Fall as the Season and Day as Time of arrival, the application will randomly select a chapter bead from the Fall and Day bowl of beads.


The same thing applies to sub-chapter beads, the only difference is that sub-chapter beads are selected from bowls that are determined through the input on the Events screen. 


While thinking about designing this application, it was really important to me that people were able to craft diverse stories, even if they selected the same events, so this system of progression throughout your story and how you are in control of the sequence of chapters and sub-chapters, and yet you aren’t in control of the narrative sequence itself was really important to think about and put together.

Un/Belong is an ongoing Thesis project for a MFA from Media Design Practices. 
Special thanks to Anne Burdick as lead advisor, and Tim Durfee and Elise Co as co-advisors.