AE | Interview

I conducted an informal interview with an ayi that lives in my neighborhood. She approached my roommate and I as we played a few rounds of Solitaire at my small table setup in the middle of the road. She insisted she simply wanted to talk rather than play, and so this recording has snippets here and there of our half-hour conversation.

Throughout the conversation, she kept going back to the impact of the Cultural Revolution on hers and many others’ lives. I only included snippets I thought were important in order to create a concise interview segment. The piece begins with her exclaiming her age, as I felt the audio was very much reflective of her animate personality. She then discusses how she was previously engaged in international trade until the Cultural Revolution, a time during which she was sent back to the countryside to serve as a teacher. She introduces her colleague and her husband and their proficiency in Spanish as well as English and Japanese respectively, and her lack of language skills. She stresses her passion for accounting and how she used to use an abacus to calculate. I close the piece with a segment where she elaborates on the importance of China’s international engagement, interchanging between Shanghainese and Mandarin as she notes how the Cultural Revolution played a influential role in restricting the exchange of ideas between China and the world.

Overall it was a really interesting conversation, and one that I wish I would have been able to more actively participate in.

PDS | Randomization Project

Professor: Rune Madsen | Student: Sabrina Goodman

For this randomization project, I ran through several ideas before finally settling on Peter Halley’s “Prison” series. I knew I wanted to randomize colors from the start, but randomizing the widths and heights of each rectangle proved challenging as I dealt with two different rectangles – both the inside and outside rectangles. I realized that I had to generate starting points for each of the rectangles in order to set a point from which each rectangle could be drawn. I went on to define the random widths and heights of the rectangles to fit within the 600×600 canvas without overlapping. When it came to drawing the two different rectangles, I had to draw out a sketch in order to conceptualize the widths and heights of the inside rectangles as they relate to the outside rectangles and include a gap in between to space them apart. Overall I think the project turned out alright.

Link to Code:

Peter Halley’s original “Prison” piece is the top left image.


AE Field Notes: First Observation

Professors: Ann Chen & Leksa Lee | Student: Sabrina Goodman

11.30am – 1.30pm on Sunday, November 4th, 2018

It’s a slightly chilly afternoon and gusts of wind blow from different directions every few minutes. There are not a lot of people around. Some scooters and bicycles whiz by here and there, but for the most part, the neighborhood is quiet. Birds chirp loudly in the trees above and the cars outside on the street speed by in the distance.

My table is set up on the corner of my apartment building in between two parked cars. It is a brown fold-up table with two matching foldable chairs purchased from the online shopping site Taobao. On the edge of the table sits my makeshift notecard with the characters “玩游戏”. I figure this is the best way to attract a potential gaming partner.

Not everyone is aware that this notecard even exists. Most people walk right past while they take out the trash on their way out to run errands. Several curious children walk by with their grandmothers following closely behind but do not stop to interact with me. Some passersby are simply curious about my set up and stare as they walk or ride by. I seem to be more of a second thought, as they glance back not realizing there is a human nestled there at the corner between two cars. I figure this is the best place to set up because it is directly across from the small grass corner where many ayis sit and chat in the early hours of the weekday mornings. There are about three vacant and worn-down chairs that are perpetually positioned there for the elderly to come sit outside and socialize. There are no ayis there at the moment.

The very first interaction I have is with an uncle as he walks by on his way home. He appears to be genuinely curious about who I am and my placement in his neighborhood. He asks what I am doing. I reply that I am playing games and ask if he wants to play. He explains that he must return home to cook lunch and so I relinquish efforts in coaxing him to join me.

A few more silent minutes pass by. I sit alone at my table waiting for others to join. Some older aunts and uncles walking by themselves come closer as they are curious about me and my table. There are two younger women who whisper amongst themselves as they walk by but do not approach or say anything to me. Most motorists riding by on scooters do not even glance over. A small brown dog approaches underneath the table, with his owner quietly lurking behind. The dog quickly passes by, nearly as disinterested in my table as his owner. I play several rounds of solitaire by myself as I cannot seem to find a partner to play with.

A different uncle approaches on his scooter and asks what I am doing, if I live here, and about my housing situation. I reply that I am playing games, I do live in an apartment nearby, and I am a student living with two other classmates. He asks more about my background but does not seem interested in participating in any of my games. After I answer his line of questions to his satisfaction, he departs on his scooter in the direction opposite to my apartment.

About an hour into my project, I realize that perhaps this is not the right time to be here, as there are no people around. It is noon and most residents are eating lunch. Fewer and fewer people pass by the longer I wait. I wonder if I should have chosen a more familiar game, such as Mahjong.

A few minutes later, a very smiley ayi comes up to the table and says hello. She is dressed in a light down vest and pajamas. I say hello back and explain that I am playing games. I ask if she would like to join but she politely replies no.  She then proceeds to look through the trash bins to the right of my table. She searches for cardboard boxes and recyclables but only manages to retrieve a handful of items before retreating to her home.

My roommate comes out to check on me about an hour into this process. I convince him to play a few rounds of doubles solitaire with me because I believe this will attract more attention. After the first round, the second uncle on the scooter walks back over to my table and asks my roommate about me. My roommate is noticeably Chinese and answers first in Mandarin, then in Shanghainese as the uncle switches languages midway through the conversation. He continues his questions about me and my purpose in setting up this gaming table in the neighborhood. After a few minutes, he is satisfied with my roommate’s answers and continues on his way back to his apartment. My roommate and I continue to play doubles solitaire.

An older ayi walks over slowly but surely, bearing a smile. She asks what we are doing, and I explain that we are playing a game. I ask if she wants to play and she replies no and goes on to say that she will just sit and watch. She asks my roommate to retrieve the empty chair across from my table where most ayis and uncles socialize in the mornings. The conversation continues as she explains how she was going to take a nap but figured this would be a better activity for her brain. She asks if we live here, and we reply that we are students from NYU Shanghai. She asks what major we are studying and we respond. In a moment of silence, I proceed to explain the game Egyptian Rat Screw to her, but she insists that we play amongst ourselves. She wishes that more Americans would chat with the Chinese. She goes on to introduce her background, talking about her husband who had passed away but used to speak a variety of languages, her 85 years of age, her spinal troubles, etc. She directs us to continue the game as she talks, and laughs at my mispronunciation as I explain the directions. Midway through the conversation, she unzips her small canvas tote bag and takes out a rag which she uses to pat down her face. She insists that she does not wish to play the game because her brain is too old and slow, and she would rather observe us. She talks about her family, kids, and tells us that she will teach us a lesson on how our studies will be useful later on. She was formerly an accountant dealing with international trade before the cultural revolution, and it was during the revolution that she was forced to leave for the countryside and become a teacher. She whispers these parts of the conversation in a hushed tone. She goes on to discuss her children and what had become of them as well as what she wished had become of them. She ends the conversation with hopes of continuing the following week, and I insist that we see her again next Sunday if the weather permits. After she leaves, my roommate and I pack up the foldable table and chairs and carry them back up to the apartment.

Link to Project Proposal:

AE: Final Project Proposal

Professors: Ann Chen & Leksa Lee | Student: Sabrina Goodman

Final Project Proposal

  1. I am interested in investigating the elderly residents in my neighborhood. I’m not sure what specific stories I’ll be able to draw from them, however I believe that as a generation, they have some significant tales to tell. The topic might be categorized as elderly Chinese communities, or something along those lines as I am very interested in interviewing and getting to know this community in further detail.
  2. This project is socially relevant because it proposes a deeper observation of a population that is rarely considered – the elderly. Most investigations nowadays revolve around younger populations, but I feel that investigations into older populations are essential to gain an understanding of just how drastic a change China has been through in the last few decades. Culturally, too, this change has been significant to the Chinese and younger generations will view China in a totally different mode than older generations, but I feel it is important to preserve the perspective of these older generations in order to paint a fuller picture of the society as a whole.
  3. I would like to conduct interviews with the residents in my community, and perhaps record the content of their conversations as well as other interactions they might have with other residents.
  4. I haven’t decided on an output yet. Most likely I will present this audio through individual segments per person I interview. I might also combine all the elements to present. I might also incorporate the audio in a more interactive project but I still haven’t decided on this yet.

Soundscape Project: New in Town

Instructors: Ann Chen & Leksa Lee | Student: Sabrina Goodman

New in Town: An Audible Introduction to 源竹小区


I’m new in town. I moved to 源竹小区 (Yuanzhu Xiaoqu or “Origin of Bamboo Community”) in early September. Adjusting to my new environment has naturally been a drastic change from what I was used to back home in Los Angeles as well as here in Shanghai, as both my freshman and sophomore years were spent in the Jinqiao dorms. The community is mostly made up of the retired elderly who often take care of grandchildren during the week while parents are at work. There are some younger individuals and families here and there, but it is predominantly an older community. As far as I know, it has been around for at least two decades, and sits directly behind Lianhua as you walk towards Yuanshen Stadium. There are vacant chairs scattered here and there for ayis to sit and chat with one another in the afternoon. Mobikes and scooters are at the entrances of every building for tenants to use. There are cars lining the walkway but people hardly use them – they seem to be more of a decoration than a necessity. The soundscape reflects my observations as I walk to school and return home, and notice the acoustic environment of this community.


I set out to record the sounds of this community in order to create a sense of place from my perspective – from the eyes of a novice ethnographer. I include a variety of short audio clips that represent the sounds I hear nearly every day, and some sounds I simply noticed as a result of becoming more aware of my environment since I’ve lived here. As I edited the piece, I decided to transition from one sound to another according to flow. For example, in the beginning of the piece, you may hear a car speeding up closer and closer to the microphone until it fades away and the sound of water drain echoes it out. I also decided to edit the piece to create somewhat of an arc as you might find in a story. Sounds are compiled one after another, at times becoming increasingly noisy and chaotic, until I open the door to my complex, walk up the stairs to my apartment, and open the door. Crickets chirp as the sound was recorded at 2am and the community is silent save for the ecological environment. This is meant to buildup the cacophony within this community and provide insight into the transition from sound to silence as morning turns to afternoon and afternoon turns to evening. Some of the audio is overlaid with other segments I took at different times of the day such as the conversational piece with a variety of voices speaking to one another, but for the most part it is simply segments of audio I pieced together and faded in and out. Recording the audio was a lengthy process, especially when considering what sounds best represent the environment and the community, but I think in the end this soundscape does a decent job of portraying 源竹小区.

PDS | Midterm Idea

Professor: Rune Madsen | Student: Sabrina Goodman

For my midterm, I plan to redesign the logo for the Southern California Genealogy Society (SCGS) in a style that can be adapted to its local affiliate organizations – the Chinese Family History Group of Southern California (CFHGSC), the Nikkei Genealogical Society (NikkeiGen), and the French-Canadian Heritage Society of California (FCHSC). Below are the current logos and variations for SCGS and its affiliates. CFHGSC does not currently have a logo; rather it is simply the Chinese characters for jiapu or family history book. FCHSC has a very distracting logo, while NikkeiGen has a more subdued minimalist logo. I would really like to stray away from the concept of a family tree as it stereotypically affiliated with genealogical organizations and would instead like to create a simplistic design similar to MIT’s while at the same time conveying the sense of a network or series of lines that all trace together as I believe that is what genealogy truly represents.

As of late, my mom and I have been attending Chinese genealogy conferences as a method of bonding. I’ve noticed that for the most part, the hosts and attendees are over 50 years old, and genealogy for them is simply a social activity or hobby. I feel that younger generations would be especially interested in tracing their ancestry if genealogy were presented in a more attractive manner, and so I aim to redesign the logo in the hopes of sparking more interest in genealogy among youth.


Instructor: Rune Madsen | Student: Sabrina Goodman

My code is very minimalist, as always. I adapted the “rule-based font” code from the text into my own block font. The font is based on a 3×2 grid where up to three rectangles combine to form either a horizontal or vertical line. I segregated the horizontal values from the vertical values to properly organize the vectors on the screen. Each list of values creates the rectangles that shape one letter which combined draw the word. My word choice not only reflects the parameters of the assignment, but (I think) also reflects my personal everyday struggle with code.