My role: Designer
Time: Jan 2018
One of the sounds I enjoy hearing at work is the sound of laughter. I work in market research and we have demanding deadlines. Lots of people are stressed, but yet they still find the spirit and time to laugh. This really fascinated me and I wanted to capture this moment. How do I measure this short but intense moment of positivity? I decided to measure the frequency of laughter. This is a visualization of laughter I recorded in one of our busiest times of the year, from October 2017 to December 2017.
Some key trends you might notice going through this is that the number of laughs decrease over time. This may be due to various factors such as busier workloads in the office, and people taking time off for vacation. Another subtle factor is that as I got busier, I started to tune things out in my surroundings. When something stresses you out, you start missing out on things that are happening in your life, good or bad. This is a unique finding because it is a balance between sensation and perception. Some people will see the cup half empty or half full depending on their mental state and this whole project is a metaphor for that. Life isn’t always clear, exciting, or fun, but there are moments when all that dissolves, even for a moment, it’s just a matter of capturing that in our day-to-day life.
One of the days I observed a high number of laughs was when we had social events, like the Thanksgiving potluck on Oct 4. When you put many people together with homemade food, it’s the perfect formula for joy. One of my most favourite times of the day is having dinner with my family. We talk about mundane things, share something funny we saw on social media, and talk about everything else. Meal times are a time when we spend time together and share a laugh. Like many other cultures, Chinese culture has a strong emphasis on eating together. The next time you are at a traditional Chinese restaurant, you might find a large round table. These tables are round by design, it allows for everyone to face each other. It is a shape that brings people in and together. The exercise of counting the laughs I hear in a day has made me notice how often I do laugh when I am with my family. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find if you did a count the next time you are with friends or family.
This project is a reflection on how we enjoy life despite challenges we face. One of my co-workers has worked at our company for a long time (20+ years), and he has the heartiest laugh in the whole company. I asked him what’s his secret. He said he suffered from a near fatal accident in his youth and that changed him. His attitude towards life changed as he decided to become happier because life is too short. His positivity and perseverance to lead a good life reminds me of my mom. She has seen so much, good and bad, and she would sometimes say to me “I’ve had more salt than you’ve had rice”, as a way to express how much longer she has lived than me. Her work ethic never ceases to shock me, she still works 12+ hours a day even after 20 years of owning her own business. Yet, she never complains and still has the heart and energy to laugh with life
On Dec 19, we had a combined of 140 laughs that were shared among people. This count was a rough estimate, but I believe it’s not that far off. We had a holiday game called “Dirty Santa” within our company, which employs roughly 80 people. Each person would either pick an unopened gift or steal an opened one from someone else. If your gift got stolen, you could either steal another gift or open a new one. It was my first time playing this game, but I was fascinated when I saw veterans play the game. They were surveying opened gifts, planning ahead of time to snatch it from them. One co-worker was known to take their time opening new gifts, they would shake, touch, and even smell the gifts to find the best ones. The most interesting gift was definitely a stack of lotto tickets – imagine if that won the jackpot.
Some behind the scenes: I used these index cards to tally up laughs I heard throughout the day. This entire project was very ‘manual’ in process and labour. I used one card per week.