Archive of Uncertainty is an initiative that aims to promote a sense of collective togetherness by sharing feelings and emotions in times of a pandemic and exploring how certain aspects of uncertainty feel for each individual.
As an increasingly prominent feature of our existence, uncertainty accompanies us as constant permanently. The initiative »Archive of Uncertainty« investigates based on a participatory web application, how aspects of »uncertainty« feel for each individual. The elusive and vague characteristics of uncertainty are reflected in the handling of the website and at the same time summarize a collective mood of all user contributions in an archive. The term, with its mostly negative connotations, can thus be viewed from a different perspective and draws attention to the transformative abilities of uncertainty.
The term Uncertainty is defined as a lack of information about an event and is characterised as an aversive state that people are motivated to reduce.1Uncertainty during an emotional event makes unpleasant events more unpleasant and pleasant events more pleasant. It works as a catalyst for feelings on the inner emotional state.
„In these uncertain times“, a catchphrase one can not avoid come around in all types of media. With this intervention I want to investigate, what a crisis like a pandemic does to our sense of certainty and well-being. With the method of a cultural probe, I aim to capture, how the past year has huge effects on our well-being and affect us on various levels. On a global level, one can enumerate long-term events such as climate change or the polarisation of the political landscape. But uncertainty also affects us on a very personal level with job uncertainty, health crisis, illnesses of loved ones and social isolation.2 Added up all these factors contribute to our sense of uncertainty. As a long-term state, it can affect the community health of the whole population.
As an increasingly prominent feature of our existence, uncertainty accompanies us permanently as a constant. Especially in challenging times, we are reminded of this aspect in the media on a daily basis. Since then, the term has often been associated with horror, fear and despair. Uncertainty is not welcome, often blamed for crisis, insecurity, vulnerability and indecision. Perceptions like this increase social impatience and the desire for quick solutions.
Nonetheless, uncertainty is at the core of our existence, a dimension that cannot be removed. Paradoxically, it plays a disruptive and at the same time generative role in our existence.3 At first glance, uncertainty can seem very daunting. Depending on how it is perceived, however, it can generate great potential. Because it doesn't close any, but opens up new possibilities and paths. It is also an important part of development and innovation.
For this project I intend to investigate how it is possible for us to accept uncertainty and specifically record and document this research. Through co-design and collaboration normative structures and boundaries can be broken within the process, to work with tensions, accept disturbances and thus create vivid narratives.
Looking at uncertainty from a scientific point of view, open-spaces can operate as a stress factor within our brain, trying to choose a course of action. In a constant state of evaluating between taking actions that are too reckless (risk-taking) or too cautious (missing out on things).4 We are permanently forced to filter these kinds of information. The state of uncertainty combined with a potential threat creates anxiety and therefore acts as close relative to it. The effects of a pandemic can be, amongst other things, social unrest, with toxic effects on the brain and the rest of the body. Remaining healthy habits like meditating, exercising, a good sleep schedule and nurturing social connections, can mitigate these consequences. A key factor that gives us a sense of safety, is to maintain the feeling of community and social togetherness. In this on going collective uncertainty we are facing, it can be alleviating to share a burden or enlighten a total stranger with your point of view.
The website works with these responsive and transformative skills and uses cultural probes to capture how uncertainty affects our well-being and influences it on various levels. The investigations will make it possible to throw off predominant assumptions about the topic and enables to recognize special features or changes about uncertainty.
Probes are collected within this web-archive acting as a documentation. Users are able to share their state of mind about four different questions concerning uncertainty and thus become part of the intervention.
The aspect of uncertainty can also be found in the operation and handling of the website. The feature volatility occurs in the archive part of the page, through which the posts are rerolled with each reload and appear in a different order. The blurry and vague component of uncertainty is reflected on a visual level. All contributions are shown blurred, except for the one post that is active. These properties are intended to visualize the possibilities and opportunities that uncertainty offers.
Archive of Uncertainty is a place of inspiration that should spark curiosity through discovery and browsing. Uncertainty is always a state of origin. It creates fertile ground for playful, pluralistic ideas and narratives. With just a few terms, it is often possible to tell little stories or create impressions. Paired with color and shape, this makes it possible to create a mood.