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Cezanne Charles + John Marshall

Cezanne Charles is the Director of Creative Industries for Creative Many, Michigan’s agency for advancing and cultivating the creative sector. She is responsible for co-leading the design and implementation of Creative Many’s creative industries research, reporting and supporting efforts to define public policy strategies, sector supports and investment priorities. Charles holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies from The Ohio State University. She is on the programming committee for the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and was Assistant Editor of the July 2009 MIT Press Special SIGGRAPH Edition of LEONARDO, Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology.

John Marshall is an associate professor at the School of Art and Design and an associate professor at the Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. He is the Program Director for the Master of Design (MDes) in Integrative Design at the Stamps School of Art & Design. His creative and scholarly work is design research that results in both exhibitions and publications. Marshall’s research interests include digital fabrication, tangible user interfaces, design methods, problem-based learning and communication between cross-disciplinary design teams. He has degrees from Robert Gordon University; The Ohio State University; Manchester Metropolitan University; and Glasgow School of Art.



Based in metropolitan Detroit, rootoftwo is a hybrid design studio co-directed by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles, that makes hybrid design projects, social objects, experiences, and works for the public realm – typically at the scale of devices, furniture or small buildings. Through humor, play, interaction and participation, they work to disrupt, undermine and reframe systems, infrastructures, and networks.


Whithervanes: a neurotic, early worrying system

Their keynote talk for HASTAC 2015 will focus on a recent project commissioned for the Folkestone Triennial 2014. rootoftwo created Whithervanes, a Neurotic Early Worrying System (NEWS) consisting of  a network of sculptures in the form of five headless chickens, to be presented on the highest points of five buildings.

The Whithervanes, weathervanes for the twenty-first century, track and measure the production of fear on the internet. Their software looks for predetermined keywords related to fear (e.g. natural disaster, economic collapse, war, etc.) in news feeds from Reuters. The keywords have been generated in part by the people of Folkestone through community engagement workshops and also from the 2011 US Department of Homeland Security Media Monitoring Capability Analysts Desktop Binder. When fear is encountered, the chickens respond by rotating away at increasing revolutions and are illuminated in different colours. They share real-time newsfeed data from around the world and passers-by are able to influence their behaviour via Twitter. This ‘early worrying system’ highlights how much our contemporary media, policy and political frameworks utilize fear as a persuasive method.

In 2015, rootoftwo will expand its “Whithervanes” project, through Knight Arts Challenge funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. With challenge funding, rootoftwo will create an open-source toolkit and provide workshops to help others create their own sculptures to visualize and humanize additional data and information flows.


THR_33 (Tea House for Robots)

Their installation, THR_33 (Tea House for Robots), is comprised of a responsive environment and a group of robotically enhanced domestic appliances. It was made for the exhibition: “Trouble in Paradise/Medi(t)ation of Survival” at The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan. THR_33 proposed that as our appliances become smarter we might change the way we live and come to think of them.

When someone approaches the tea house, they are visually scanned by the OMRON Smile Scan, which measures the degree of a person’s smile. This measurement controls how much the tea house eyes open, which allows for a direct line of sight between the visitor and the robots. When a robot sees a human, their behavior changes. The robots (TST_003, RDO_002, and MXR_011) all have unique traits, behaviors and interactions.

Contact Information

rootoftwo, LLC. (John Marshall + Cezanne Charles)
@ r+d LAB 100 North 4th Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Email: [email protected] URL:
Twitter: @rootoftwo Instagram: rootoftwo

HASTAC2015 on Twitter

  1. 4Humanities
    4Humanities: RT @Profrehn: .@roopikarisam S/o to @alanyliu #4humanities as exemplary DH which pushes back against disciplinarity isolation. #hastac2015
    about 2 days ago