Tangible Emotion Workshop

Emotion and Communication

A series of workshops designed and led by Xinglin Sun and Caroline Claisse with academics from AHRC network (May 9th, 2014) and RCA postgraduates students (June 24th, 2014). A part of AHRC founded project:Designing Video Games for Hospitalised Childern.

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Outcomes of the workshop

-Workshop Purpose-

The activity aimed to study how do people represent and communicate emotion with the help of specific materials (eg: stories, drawings, colours and textures). The use of certain materials have particular affordances enabling certain expression of meaning and the workshop shows how it has encouraged the communication and expression of one specific emotion in playful and interesting ways.

-Workshop Material Kit-

In order to enable the participants to create their physical emoticon or what we call ‘tangible emotion’ through using different materials, we created a material kit for each participant. We also tried to bring in multimodal aspects to the kit by involving the sensations of taste and touch to the kit. Necessary tools such as pen, glue sticks and pair of scissors are also provided.The kit features:

1. A candy wrapped in a sheet of paper on which was written one of six universal emotions (happiness, surprise, anger, fear, disgust and sadness)

2. A 10 x 10 cm white cardboard cube for each participant.

3. Packages of coloured and textured paper for each participant. (Contents of the packages are explained below).

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-Workshop Outline-

Each participant received a white cardboard box, inside of which there was a candy and two packages named Coloured #1 and Textured #2. Inside the wrapping paper of the candy a word – one of the six universal emotions – was written. Inside package Coloured #1 there were five small pieces of paper card of the same size and texture, in five different colours (red, yellow, blue, white and black). In package Textured #2 there were 15 small pieces of paper of the same size, with five colours and three textures: Tracing paper (smooth surface), crepe paper (rough surface), Arotz paper (neutral surface).

1. On each table, black pens were provided along with scissors and glue.

2. Participants were given a sequence of small tasks following the procedure of the workshop:

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(1) Write a short story about experiencing the emotion revealed in the candy, on the inside cover of the cube. Keep it secret, then close the box.

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(2) Draw something about the emotion on the front side of the cube.

(3) Turn the cube clockwise, use the paper from package Coloured #1 and create a collage with colours. Piet Mondrian’s Composition II in Red, Blue and Yellow was explained and displayed, and discussion was encouraged.

(4) Turn the cube clockwise, choose paper with a different texture from package No.2 which represents the emotion, and create a collage use tearing, twisting and other actions that explore the characteristics of the paper.

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(5) Turn the cube clockwise and use the rest of the paper from Textured #2 to make a collage of a face representing the emotion.

(6) Exchange the cube with others, and try to guess the emotion the other cube expresses. The participants could ask for permission to reveal the story inside the box if necessary.


Research based workshop design and leader, collaboration with Caroline Claisse. Photo by Xinglin Sun and Caroline Claisse.

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