Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

Design critics: Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of Ecosistema Urbano

MYPS is personalized cloud to ground cartography that reshapes both how we compose our farewells and how we receive the farewells of others.

A P.S. is an afterthought – an easily appended message that crosses our mind after we think we have said all we mean to say. Yet the postscript also contains our final words, which are actually quite powerful. When combined with the power of place in the development of memories, these afterthoughts can create meaningful journeys for our loved ones to revisit after we are gone.

MYPS uses the GPS capabilities of mobile devices in combination with familiar media sharing formats to facilitate the process of recording our shared memories so our loved ones may literally revisit them after our passing.

The following video is a preview of my final review “experience”. It shows how MYPS could tie together three generations of memories.  When my Mom came to see me in Boston, we visited the places my grandpa remembered from his own time living here during World War II.  After her passing, I will be able to revisit our route to see the memories she left behind.


I was invited to participate in a networking event by Ruth Faas, my main contact in Boston’s death-care industry, on December 8th in Arlington, MA.  Attendees included board members of both the Eastern and Western Massachusetts Funeral Consumer’s Alliances, Grief Therapists, Artists, Funeral Celebrants and Funeral Directors. Here’s what they had to say about MYPS…

MYPS Reviews



MPYS_ConceptualOrganization

A graphic representation of the structure and terminology of the MYPS application.

When using MYPS, the authographer (author + cartographer) links each PS they upload to a “Journey”, which will be compiled into a map with the geotagged messages  and sent to the listed recipients.  The preferences for each journey are set up by the authographer when the journey is initiated, including the contact information for the recipients and the intended length of the journey.  The lifelong journey cannot be closed until the entire account is deactivated; the planned journeys have established dates when they will close, and the unplanned journeys can be closed manually at any time. Your companions are the journeys fellow authographers have sent to you.

Deactivation and recipient contact information are controlled and updated, respectively, through periodic emails.  An e-prompt will ask you once every 3 months to update your contact information, your recipients’ contact information, and to confirm your continued use.  If the authographer does not respond to 3 successive prompts, the entire account will automatically deactivate.  This can be disabled, temporarily, if the authographer does not plan on having e-mail or internet access for an extended period of time.

Each PS can be a note, a photo, a video, a recording, a sketch or a placeholder, which will allow you to revisit the PS and add a message later off-site, or simply remain as a “place” on the map.

 

UI_Organization

An outline of the user interface organization (using FreeMind software).


 


MYPS Logo

The Concept…

My Postscript is a cloud to ground cartographic composer that allows an individual to gradually create a map of messages for their loved ones to discover after the individual is gone.  The process is incremental, both in design and delivery, so senders and recipients can handle the farewells at their own pace.  A PS can be a note, picture or video and as small as a tweet or as long as a letter.  Each PS is geolocated so recipients can visit (or happen upon) the place where the message was left for them and feel that much more connected to the sender.

 

The Prototype – MYPS v0.1 …

If you are interested in helping me develop MYPS, please send me an e-mail with your name, your intended recipients’ names and whichever of the following you are comfortable providing:
– your recipients’ contact information (e-mail or snail mail) if you want me to send them the maps directly
– your age (can be approximate)
– gender
– nationality
– current city
– religious, spiritual or philosophical affiliation
– any other information you think is relevant to your use of this prototype (are you tech savy? tech terrified? pragmatic? a hopeless romantic?)

Once I have your information I will send you the username and password for the blog so you can start posting.  For each note, picture or video simply add a tag with the intended recipient(s) and as specific a location as you can give.  When the trial is done I will compile the maps and send them to you or to the recipients if you provided their contact information.

Ideally these will be real messages for real people so that I can get a better sense of how MYPS would be used in the real world.  However, silly messages to fake people, silly messages to actual people and sincere messages to fake people are also acceptable (and may help me add humor to my final presentation at the end of the semester).

** This is currently in a blog format so that the posts are easily editable and so your input format will be as close to the final version’s input format as possible – if you have privacy concerns let me know so you can e-mail the PS’s to me and I will keep them solely on my harddrive till the trial is over.  Also, the Tumblr is not searchable so only other reviewers will see the content**

Feedback or questions are welcome at anytime through email or as blog posts.  At the end of the trial I will send participants a short, optional survey to see how I can improve MYPS for version 0.2

 

For those of you with smartphones, iPads, etc…
Feel free to post PS’s to whatever platforms you already use (twitter, instagram, facebook, flikr) with #myps2u and I will add them to the blog.  Please make sure to tell me what platforms you use beforehand.

For those of you who want a more private option or do not blog, tweet, instagram, etc…
E-mail me your PS’s with the subject line MYPS and I will add them to the blog for you.  Make sure to include an approximate location for each PS and an intended recipient.  For example, “to Buzz Aldrin: Remember when we became the first people to walk on the moon – those were some good times! Location: West Crater, Earth’s Moon.”

 

Thank you for your help and feedback.  Hope you enjoy MYPS v0.1

Jennifer Lee Mills
jmills@gsd.harvard.edu


The introduction to my mid-review presentation. Slides revised for second day of presentations as shown below to focus more on the rituals and reasons underlying funeral traditions…

DeathCafeMenuAfter a short conversation on these topics reviewers were presented with the following video and proposal…

Moving Forward


Death Cafe MenuAlthough mortality is humanity’s common ground, the subject of death has become taboo and the spaces of death are treated with morose reverence that often excludes them from the public realm and society’s consciousness.  Cemeteries no longer function as vital urban spaces; they are Terra Mortis, dead land, set aside to memorialize our loss.  However, even more disturbing than this underutilized land is the waste generated by postmortem processing. Society’s efforts to produce an illusion of permanence after death has resulted in an industry that defies, consumes and contaminates nature at the cost of public health, environmental security, urban green space and our overall spiritual well being. My project asks if we can transform cemeteries into a common, fertile ground that allows people to understand death as an integral part of life. We will begin the session with a Death Cafe in the tradition of Funeral Celebrants – be ready for Death & Donuts!
-Jennifer Lee Mills

 


The waste produced by the funeral industry affects the economy, our natural resources, public health, city planning and our cultural misconceptions about death and tradition.

The waste produced by the funeral industry affects the economy, our natural resources, public health, city planning and our cultural misconceptions about death and tradition.

 

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Who would benefit from cemeteries becoming zones of material output?

Who would benefit from cemeteries becoming zones of material output?

 

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What groups are dealing with "future occupants" in a positive way and what concerns them?

What groups are dealing with “future occupants” in a positive way and what concerns them?

 

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Why does the raw material waste of the burial process concern green funeral advocates?

Why does the raw material waste of the burial process concern green funeral advocates?

 

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How is green burial a solution?

How is green burial a solution?

 

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What other solutions are out there?

What other solutions are out there?

 

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What would be the difference between a contemporary cemetery and a green cemetery?

What would be the difference between a contemporary cemetery and a green cemetery?

 

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What's stopping the independent groups in Massachusetts from establishing a green cemetery?

What’s stopping the independent groups in Massachusetts from establishing a green cemetery?

 

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My network thus far (includes people and proposals).

My network thus far (includes people and proposals).

 

 

The following are speculations on why people fear death and their body’s decay:

 

The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman’s portrayal of death seems very classic, with his flowing black robes and intimidating features.  The main character in the movie later states that he fears dying because he wants a guarantee that heaven awaits him.

 

The Hearse Song

Don’t you ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you may be the next one to die.
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
From your head down to your feet.
They put you in a big black box
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.
All goes well for about a week,
Then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle in your snout,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out your eyes.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You’ll spread it on a slice of bread,
And this is what you eat when you are dead.

This song was a popular “scary story” used to frighten friends at sleepovers.  When my aunt explained that she wanted an airtight casket because the thought of worms eating her body terrified her, this is what came to mind.  Through my conversations with people outside of the funeral industry I have found that many people do not understand the process of decomposition, especially the fact that it is inevitable.  Many still operate under the misunderstanding that embalming preserves you for eternity, when, in fact, it merely used a highly toxic fluid to preserve your body for the short amount of time between your death and internment.  Everything from your body to your “airtight casket” will eventually decay and return to the earth.


A few independent groups in Massachusetts are trying to encourage a more positive acceptance of our mortality and how we think of and plan for death.  Among them are the Green Burial Committee ( a sub-committee of the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance of Massachusetts) and Mourning Dove Studio.  The documentary series Earthrise recently interviewed the two groups and their video, “Green Goodbyes,” takes us on a short tour of the limited green burial network in the state…

Earthrise: Green Goodbyes

You can also check out my own interview with Ruth Faas in the post “Mourning Dove Studios” (coming soon).


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Mills, Jennifer

Jennifer is a Landscape Architecture student in her final year of the MLA I-AP program at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. She is interested in re-designing underutilized urban spaces to include renewable energy infrastructure, sustainable raw material production, increased public agency and programs promoting physical and emotional health. Jennifer is also a semi-professional swing dancer who has choreographed, taught and performed with the Boston Lindy Bomb Squad - a grassroots dance troupe that organizes flash mobs to spread the joy of traditional American dance.



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