Presentation 1 Notes by Stephanie Beattie




My project is currently titled Hand Grammars, for reasons that are likely already clear to most of you.




My thesis project asks the questions:


Can designing small acts of cooperation inside of existing social situations reinforce mutual, reciprocal trust and vulnerability?


How might we employ arts/design research processes to create these acts and present them in order  to encourage discussion?




The focus of my research is on the tactile, the common handshake.  Please, turn to your neighbor & shake hands.

-a small, mutual ritual of cooperation

-cultural function

-also psychological/physiological

-engenders of mutual trust and willingness to cooperate  




Service & interaction design describe interactions not centered on a physical object.

-Focus on transactions being completed between a service provider (either a person or an interface) and a user


DOES NOT easily describe the handshake.

Here, both parties have equal action and position.

-An active metaphor of sorts for the rest of the relationship taking place around it


Social choreography,

Intersection of:

These design fields


Performing arts/performance art


With this space in mind, I have taken the handshake, and recreates it...


HAND GRAMMARS VIDEO a series of 5 symmetrical gestures between two equal participants.



AFTER a while


Through the shared understanding of their general meaning, the act of performing these signs physically creates a platform for other forms of specific discussion and connection.


I designed the series with already-existing contexts in mind,

using service blueprints to break down moments where the social script does not underline their reciprocal nature of the actions being performed.


THEN I used contact improv to explore meaningful touch that could live inside those moments without interrupting the flow of interaction.


They vary along the spectrum of intimacy, from

  1. transacting with strangers, such as buying a sandwich,

  2. to more extensive interactions, like receiving healthcare,

  3. to the highly charged and ambiguous context of negotiating physical and emotional intimacy with a partner.


The point of the gestures are primarily theoretical, to point to the possibility of reshaping our everyday relationships through touch.


I have been practicing them personally though.




In the next weeks,

-Collect documentary photos




Could they live in the world beyond me?

Used THE GESTURE OF CONSENT as my guinea pig

A series of (performance) experiments to explore the cultural salience & actual usability of the gesture.


These take two forms: discussion experiments and intimate experiments.



This is a public, hypothetical use of the gesture.

Cultural salience of gesture with experts in the fields of social/student health and... Experts in personal intimacy


It involves teaching a group of people the gesture and providing a series of prompts to facilitate conversation around it.


I will now teach you the gesture: find a partner by turning to your neighbor. The person sitting on the left will be the asker, and the person on the right will be the answerer.

ASKERS, imagine you are in a situation where you might like to increase intimacy with your partner. It does not have to have a sexual connotation. Place the five fingers of your NON-DOMINANT HAND in the air, offering the tips of them to your partner.

NOW, all answerers, WHETHER OR NOT you would like to get closer than you already are to your partner, touch your MIRROR HAND FINGERS to theirs, acknowledging the ‘ASK’.

NOW, BOTH partners press your palms together, in an acknowledgement of the intimacy that you ALREADY SHARE with each other.

Next, ANSWERERS, you have two choices. If you feel that this is enough intimacy, you can retreat from the gesture the same way you got into it. BUT, if you feel like moving FORWARD, YOU (AND ONLY YOU) have the choice of clasping your fingers to the asker’s palm, & if you do, ASKERS can do the same.


Formal experiments forthcoming:

Workshop with the staff of The New School Student Health Services on April 6


Workshop with the SexEd Collab studio class at Parsons.




Is the gesture of consent something that can actually help to negotiate intimacy?  

How can it actually be used in its current form?

These experiments explore that.


They involve:

  1. teaching the gesture to my partners & attempting to use it in my own intimate experience

  2. teaching it to people in stable partnerships for them to explore in their own relationships


These results will be collected in the form of ethnography, and either questionnaire or interview.


I engaged a collaborator at the New School for Drama, who I met for the first time for the purpose of demonstrating the use of the gesture in a socially consequential situation.

Here follows an excerpt from the experiment/performance, in which we actively use the gesture to negotiate the process of entering into an intimate encounter.



How best to frame questions to capture the full complexity of response in both types of experiment?

How best to represent the data I collect?

Further extension into the world (youtube tutorial, animated GIF, online?)


Some preliminary observations from GoC filming by Stephanie Beattie

In the wake of experimenting with the Gesture of Consent on film, some things I noticed about it & the way it is used in this (admittedly contrived, abstracted & bizarro) setting. 

1. Prompting the gesture is generally accomplished (once already physically touching) by tapping or holding the other person's elbow. 

2. The gesture is not the intimacy, meaning that the act of the gesture precedes the actual shift in intimate proximity. 

3. Observed order of operations: First, putting oneself up to it. Second, initiating the gesture. Third, using the gesture as a focus of the interaction. Fourth, negotiating verbally what acceptance of the gesture means. Fifth, allowing whatever was negotiated to happen. Sixth, emotionally engaging with the new intimacy. Rinse & repeat.

4. The gesture supplements but does not in any way replace explicit verbal negotiation of boundaries.

5. The gesture provides an opportunity to externalize some of the discussion around what is next, seeming to effectively take some of the pressure off the act of initiating the consent conversation (although not really off of the negotiation once it has begun). 


Further analysis & whatevs to come with time/editing

Gesture of Consent by Stephanie Beattie

It is a gesture of phasal, not complete, consent, hopefully augmenting & supporting the other ways that we negotiate boundaries. Here's the steps involved & what it looks like. Try it out & let me know what you feel!

It is essentially a "phasal yes", incorporating an element of appreciating and connecting on the current level of intimacy before opening a discussion of what the next thing might be. 


1. the asker presents their five fingers to the asked. 

2. no matter what, the asked meets the asker's five fingers

3. they press palms in an acknowledgment of the intimacy they are already sharing.

4a. if the asked is interested in opening the next level of intimacy (and whatever discussions might surround defining that), they clasp their fingers around the palm of the asker. 

4b. if the asked wants to stay on the intimacy level that is currently being shared, they reverse the palm-finger contact & move away without clasping.


VIDEO link:

password: connex

Pilot Workshop Proposal by Stephanie Beattie

Advert for a pilot workshop in the New School residential dorms around teaching the GoC and getting feedback from people who might be interested in the vagaries of non-verbal consent. 


DESIGNING INTIMACY (with Stephanie Beattie (MFA Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons))

Recently, there has been much discussion, especially on college campuses, around what constitutes consent and the ways that we gain consent from our partners. Despite many good verbal strategies ("always ask first" and "yes means yes"), words are only one way that we communicate with each other, and often not the primary one. 

Join us for an exploration of non-verbal communication and how a gesture (like the handshake) might be used to clearly express desire or to enforce boundaries while maintaining positive connections. Could there be such a thing as a "gesture of consent"? What could it look like and how would we use it to negotiate the boundaries of our intimate encounters? 

Palms in Shakespeare by Stephanie Beattie

Thanks Charles!

Romeo and Juliet, Act I Scene 5

So when Romeo meets Juliet, it escalates from touching palms to kissing. There is a pun on the word "palmer", which means a pilgrim (also, Juliet's reference to kissing "by the book" is a double meaning - "The Book" often means The Bible.)

The first fourteen lines of the dialogue takes on the same rhyme scheme as a sonnet (ABAB CBCB DEDE FF), and similar to a sonnet, the theme is love/seduction, and it takes a number of poetic/argumentative terms.

I found a clip online that is pretty faithful to the text. Also note that the courtly Renaissance dance that they're doing in this scene has a lot of palm-touching.



If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.



Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,

And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.



Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?



Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.



O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;

They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.



Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.



Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.



Then have my lips the sin that they have took.



Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!

Give me my sin again.



You kiss by the book.

JAZZ HANDS by Stephanie Beattie

JAZZ HANDS is a video reflection on the process of exploring hand gesture and performance.


It is meant to be presented as a continuous loop, playing inside of a peep-show setup (the screen on the wall, hidden by a box with an individual viewfinder, placed in front of a chair). No audio.