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Imagine a game “African-American or not”? What about “Irish or not”? These game titles sound a bit strange, don’t they? I’ll share a story with you. It’ll be short. One of the most offensive things I’ve ever heard said to me was at my first corporate job at a real estate firm (right out of college). One of the engineering managers said, “Hey Louisa”. I turned around and said, “It’s Dorothy”. He replied, “Oh, whatever, you all look the same”.

Really?

That incident was 12 years ago and as much as I would like to think things have changed. They haven’t. I’m not upset (anymore). Rather, it makes me wonder how I perceive my culture and ethnicity. Or, how do I see other people of color? Last weekend, my dear friend and her partner took me to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) showing of XXX Shorts, which is not what you think (X=10. X + X + X = 30. 2012 commemorates 30 years of SFIAAFF!). Each film included thoughtful and provocative interpretations and meditations on various traditions and issues across various Asian cultures.

Subsequently, I perused the Center for Asian American Media site and had to look through the Interactive projects (I’m always looking at what designers have created to supplement an event). It’s rather common for festivals and art fairs to create interactive apps for patrons and supporters. Typically, the governing or founding organization develop these tools for android and iPhones so the viewer is connected to the entire event regardless of the end user’s location. Theoretically, these projects serve as a way to build consciousness and awareness around race and gender. I ended up downloading the game application, “Filipino or Not“. Initially, I had mixed emotions (only because I had never played a guessing game regarding this specific issue – guessing someone’s ethnicity!).  Playing the game, I learned a few facts about Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the media. The goal of the game is stated clearly within the application. Despite my initial feelings of ignorance (my first score was 8/10, apparently, the average score is 7/10) after my first game, I’m sure the game designers’ intention was merely to enhance our knowledge and awareness. However, a friend’s thought was that it increases racial profiling and stereotypes, which can be true depending on one’s experiences. I’d like to think, at the end of the game, that the player is reminded to NOT judge people based on their appearances. Or, does the game actually do more harm than good?

Curious? Feel free to download and let me know what you think. Here are some questions for you…

What do you think of these types of games? Have you every played one? What ways have you learned about your culture and ethnicity? How does interactive design and technology help or hinder our understanding of race and gender?

Who said beauty doesn’t matter? Similar to art, beauty’s ubiquitous and enigmatic nature is ever-present in our visual landscape. It is not just on billboards, in magazines, or the growing number of photographs we see of others (i.e., seeing our own ‘beautiful’ friends on social networking sites as we all re-define self-portraiture in this digital age) but even deep seeded in our histories, you will find how standards of beauty have been created. Our histories reside in our bodies. It is obvious in the way in which we care for ourselves.

The Pagbabalik Project created an excellent performance piece comprised with rich stories and experiences of women within the Filipino culture. They looked at the cross sections of American and Filipino history, post-colonialism, and standards of beauty and how each are inter-related. After viewing this ‘work in progress’, it definitely goes beyond the Filipino community and steps into more universal themes such as acceptance, equanimity, tolerance, and a desire to learn about the self as well as other.

My only criticism at this point: Looking at standards of beauty with the LGBTQ community (but during the talk back session of the opening weekend performance, this is an element of the entire project that has yet to be incorporated), which I was very excited to learn. I also heard the collective is interested in seeing how such issues are depicted in the Visual Arts (across genres). I foresee some amazing art coming out of The Pagbabalik Project!