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Senior Project

Semilattice, pt. 1

Senior Project Brief


In mathematics, semilattice means a partially ordered set in which elements could have multiple parents. Christopher Alexander compares the city with a tree and a semilattice in his essay, A City is Not a Tree. He borrowed the mathematical concept to illustrate the necessity of viewing a city not as defined and separated districts, but as multiple overlapped and organically-grown communities.

Diagrams of tree (left) and semilattice (right) structures. Christopher Alexander.

The idea of semilattice doesn’t only apply to urban planning. It also offers designers an approach to map out dynamic systems and complex relationships. The word does not directly relate to the technology’s stance in our life. Instead, it honors the complexity of:

  1. The nuanced understanding needed to design intervention for systemic problems.
  2. The non-linear, spontaneous, and organic formation of thought.
  3. The societal, cultural, and political implication of the technology’s influence on one’s mind.


How does technology augment and/or undermine humans’ ability to think?

The full context of the inspiration could be found in the essay On Thinking, as a Way to Build the Future.

Problem Space

The project considers the following items as relevant issues in the problem space.

Wicked Problems

  • Deteriorating space for public discourse
  • Climate crisis
  • Political extremism and division


  • Algorithmic personalization
  • Information and knowledge management system
  • Machine learning

Skills and Abilities

  • Systems literacy
  • Critical thinking
  • Agency / freedom of choices


To address different opportunities in the tangled and complex problem space, the project is organized as multiple short sprint sessions to create as many playful and communicative prototypes as possible. Each session focuses on a particular intersection of the problem space. (i.e. Climate crisis & critical thinking.) As the research progresses and new challenges emerge, the definition of the problem space will change accordingly.


In the first 6 weeks (Sep. 28 – Nov. 8), each session is two weeks long. In the next 4 weeks (Nov. 9 – Nov 29), each session is one week long.

Sat&Sun / Sat

  • Academic research into the problem space
  • Expert interview (depending on schedule)
  • Determine primary research interviewees (3 users/customers)
  • Contact and schedule appointments with primary research interviewees

Mon&Tue / Sun

  • Context collection
  • Inspiration
  • Analysis of existing solutions
  • Expert interview (depending on schedule)
  • Exploratory interview with users/customers

Wed&Thu / Mon

  • Expert interview (depending on schedule)
  • Formulation of exploration/problem statement
  • Brainstorming session
  • Technology/feasibility research

Fri&Sat&Sun&Mon / Mon&Tue

  • Rapid prototyping of interactive prototype or multiple prototypes
  • For two-week sessions: Documentation online
  • For two-week sessions: Reflection writing

Tue&Wed / Wed&Thu

  • Concept testing with interviewees
  • Evaluation of concept testing
  • For the next session: Brief academic research into the problem space
  • For next session: Determine expert interviewees (>1 expert)
  • For next session: Contact and schedule appointments with expert interviewees

Thu&Fri / Fri

  • Documentation online
  • Reflection writing
  • Refinement on problem space

In addition to sprint sessions, there will be daily JavaScript learning as preparation to kickoff building the MVP next semester.

In the last 2 weeks (Nov 30 – Dec 13), the project shifts focus as the semester comes to the end.

  • Wrap-up of any additional work from sprint sessions
  • Determine MVP direction from proofs of concepts
  • Evaluation of JavaScript learning progress
  • Project Plan for second semester
  • Presentation