MAS.890 Assignment 2: Evaluation of Meetings from assignment #1.
Gian Pangaro

1) Valentina Nisi - Media Lab Europe.

I looked forward to meeting Valentina from our first email, because I
discovered we were both of Italian origins (she more directly than
me). She also seemed to have a creative spark, since in the same email
she suggested that we trade photos and manipulate them based on our
impressions of each other. Actually I was a little intimidated by this
because I soon learned that she was a painter, and I don't really
consider myself much of a visual artist. Still, Valentina's easy and
friendly manner over email put me at ease. It helped also that we
talked a little bit in both English and Italian.

I first spent some time trying to find out about Valentina from her
websites. There I could see her resumé and read a little bit about her
research, and I was impressed with the paintings she had in her
portfolio. Valentina doesn't have much personal information on her
website, so I still didn't get a sense of what Valentina was like, or
what her interests were outside of the Lab. From the few words we
exchanged over email, and from looking at these few websites, I
imagined that Valentina was a thoughtful and imaginative person,
interested in many kinds or art and technology, in short, the perfect
mediaLab student.

When we met over the iCom, this was one of the first questions I asked
her - what she liked to do outside of her work at the lab. Her answers
supported my ideas that she was a thoughtful person: she likes to walk
outside and to see unusual movies at the cinema in Dublin.

There were a few things that surprised me about our interaction on the
iCom. Valentina seemed friendly, but our talk was very formal, and we
didn't joke around very much, which is something that I like to try to
do with people when I first meet them. Valentina sat off-camera (on
purpose), so I couldn't see her face on the iCom screen. This,
combined with the audio dropping out occasionally, made it difficult
to tell if we were understanding each other, which of course made me
hesitant to make any jokes or to try anything strange with the iCom
(like hold up pictures). At the same time, people were passing through
the 1 Cambridge Center iCom space, since it's set up in a hallway. We
were using the headphone setup, so people couldn't just walk into our
conversation, but I felt self-conscious about standing in the hallway,
feeling that I should acknowledge everyone that walked by and explain
what we were doing.

After our meeting was over, I felt like I didn't get a good sense of
Valentina at all, but I blamed this on the iCom (which I guess will be
a common theme in most of these evaluations). In reading the
impressions she wrote of me, I learned that Valentina felt that she
didn't get to know me very well either. This may be because we both
learned that we have many interests and backgrounds that aren't
immediately apparent from our webpages or other information on the
internet. I think she picked up on most of my basic interests, and
that I'm "immersed in my work" as she puts it. Both the portraits
(manipulated photos) that she made of me are interesting and
accurate. The first one is pretty intense and serious, with a circuit
board and me wearing a tuxedo, while the second one is much more
playful, and shows a plane flying across the Atlantic on its way to
Singapore, where I often go to see my girlfriend. I think Valentina
picked up on these two sides to my life (and she very accurately put
them in two separate photos, as if these two parts of my life don't
intersect much, which I think is true!). The first photo I made of
Valentina was the better of the two, even if it wasn't very
accurate. I had made several assumptions about her from her webpage,
the biggest being that she had lived in Italy most of her life. When I
went to re-manipulate the photo, I found that I could only add small
and obscure images, which is basically what I had learned about
Valentina from our meeting: vague impressions of interests and travels
and background. It seems as if she has had and interesting life, but I
find I know almost nothing about it.

The lesson I think we both learned from this assignment is that the
iCom is not the best medium for meeting someone for the first
time. Still, it gave us the opportunity to learn more about each
other, and it made me look forward to seeing Valentina again in the

2) Ivan Chardin - Media Lab (Boston) My meeting with Ivan was a bit different. We decided to pair up at the end of class the week before, but I didn't get around to meeting him until Monday of the next week. When emailed him, he seemed a bit confused as to why we were meeting, and even sent me some emails regarding the "design that matters" meeting he was going to that day, which I really didn't know anything about. I think the fact that I contacted him on email contributed to this, since I introduced myself as "John" in person and my name appears as "Gian" over email (this often leads to confusion). We only had a few emails back and forth, just coordinating where and when we'd meet. I wasn't able to find much about him on the internet, so he was kind of a blank page except for what I knew of his research. When I did meet with Ivan, I figured out why our emails were kind of weird - he had kind of misunderstood the assignment and didn't know we were supposed to meet with one person from each place. At our meeting, I think I made things a bit awkward by pulling out a stack of paper from a manila envelope so I could take notes on him. He seemed a little taken aback, and gave me this look as if to say, "ok, what's your first question?" He soon countered my first gesture by pulling out a manila folder of his own, which was full of some printouts from his research. This turned out to be a good move, because it got us talking about his work and I was able to ask him how he got into it and about his background. Things got a little more relaxed when Ivan suggested that we go get some tea in the kitchen. On the way back from the kitchen, we ran into Parul in her office, and ended up spending the rest of our meeting in her office. There, we were much more relaxed, since both of us know Parul relatively well. We were able to joke around together, and Parul, who's much more talkative than I am, helped me to grill Ivan about things Russian and otherwise. I didn't get the chance to find out everything I might have wanted to know about Ivan, but I got a sense of how he is when he's just hanging out with people, which is much more important to me than where he went to school, etc.. In general, I found it really tough to get to know someone on purpose, especially when you only have a few hours to try to get a sense of a person. This difficulty is made worse when there's not much (such as another person or some activity) to mediate your first interaction with this person. You don't know where to start. Parul helped break the ice in a big, big way. Ivan's reflections on our first meeting show similar results. Most of what he found out about me he learned from my webpages and not from our meeting. Still, I guess the stuff on the internet paints an accurate picture of my interests, because he picked up at least on two big themes: music and electronics. The best thing about Ivan's impressions was what he wrote about our meeting after we went to get tea: "All in all, he is a really nice guy. At some point we went to the kitchen to get some tea and stuck at Parul's office on our way back. We kept talking and laughing for a while. It was a lot of fun." That's all I can really ask for from first impressions, I guess.