Jono Shaw

Human Experience Designer
Affective Interaction Explorer
Speculative Art Attempter
Social Robotics Practitioner

What People Say


A speculative installation exploring the deep-seated cultural and behavioral constructs that influence human mental models of social anxiety in the context of collectivism.

# Culture and Humanity
# Anthropomorphism
# Ethics and Social Ecology

Special Thanks to
Prof Stephen Loo
Dr Eduardo B. Sandoval
Dr Haider Akmal
Sarah Arnesen
Syna Chen
Avish Chand

2023 · Interactive Installation Art · Case Study

Speculative Design · Social Robotics · Human-Computer Interaction
Exhibited at UNSW Annual ’23
Frost* Design Prize - Shortlisted

./behave_mechanical orchestrates an interactive trio of a robotic arm, an autonomous lamp, and the viewer themself, who becomes an integral “human” component upon nearing the installation. By forming a mini social ecology, they conjointly observe, elicit, interpret, and perform certain characteristics of each other.

Centering on individuals in collectivistic cultures, it prompts audience dialogue and reflections on the tension between personal orientations and societal expectations.  At its core, the installation expounds the ethical dilemma of socially anxious peoples’ roles within intricate cultural ecologies, responding to the status quo of the social anxiety community within collectivistic societies through a critical, socio-philosophical lens.

Instinctual behaviors and gestures can represent our protective mechanisms against certain unsafe environments, either physically or culturally. However, a commonly overlooked example of this is social anxiety. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by an overwhelming fear of social situations where judgment or humiliation may occur (Health Direct, 2019). In 2019, an estimated 301 million people worldwide were affected by anxiety disorders (Yang et al., 2021). In Asian societies, social anxiety exhibits unique cultural manifestations and prevalence rates. Examples include Japan’s “Taijin Kyofusho” concept and the rising rates among Indonesia, China, Korea, and others (Vriends et al., 2013; Guo et al., 2016; Han et al., 2019).

Social anxiety transcends mere health or mental illness, intertwining deeply with cultural and social factors, particularly in collectivistic societies in which a strong link between cultural norms and emotional negativities is found (Hofmann et al., 2010). In these societies, the conflict between personal orientations and societal expectations is more pronounced, leading to a heightened risk of social anxiety. This is further compounded by the cultural emphasis on shame and submission, intensifying self-criticism and feelings of inadequacy (Schreier et al., 2010).

Thus, as argued by Norman et al. (2008), social anxiety largely stems from external factors such as social stigmatization, cultural ethics, and personal sacrifice, rather than being solely a disease. In this context, speculative art can play a pivotal role in stimulating discourse on the societal and cultural dynamics that perpetuate social anxiety, thus intervening in the ideological misstep of this dilemma through a reflective lens.

Conceptualization & Artifacts

Drawing inspiration from the “altruism” technique in psychology, which involves observing, exploring, and engaging with individuals sharing similar situations (Behenck et al., 2017), this project aims to enable subtle observation of social anxiety traits and their societal roots, without intensifying self-critique.

The use of non-human, speculative interactions provides a unique opportunity for this purpose. By imbuing a non-human entity with socially anxious characteristics and making it responsive to socially anxious interactions, we can create a safer space for introspection through a third-party lens. The playfulness of these interactions will also help to intrigue the “non-social anxiety” community, fostering empathetic discussion.

However, to provoke deeper, critical reflection, mere replication of real-world socially anxious interactions is insufficient. Thus, we also envisioned a non-human “mediator” probe to “disrupt” the typical behavioral and mental patterns — a Foucault’s heterotopic space of otherness (Topinka, 2010): neither here nor there, both physical and mental, half-conscious and half-mechanical. This intervention allows all agents in the scenario, including the viewer themself, to form an unconventional microcosmic “ecology” that encourages examination of all elements’ roles and mutual relationships within the overarching system, thus nurturing insights into the complexities of social anxiety.

Consequently, the project’s vision is a tapestry of multiple interconnected considerations, from psychological and societal underpinnings to design methodologies, reflected in three core components: a non-human entity representing social anxiety traits, a disruptive non-human element to break the conventional patterns of social anxiety interaction, and the viewer, who influences the reactions of these two elements, especially the first “socially anxious” entity.

We selected a robotic arm to embody the “socially anxious” traits, characterized by its distinctly mechanical nature. For the unconventional “disruptor”, we opted for an interactive, autonomously moving desk lamp. The lamp’s dynamic gestures are designed to prompt anthropomorphic associations and interpretations by viewers. Human behaviors are captured by a webcam and analyzed through visual recognition algorithms in Python, then the results will be returned to the two mechanical “creatures” to process and respond to. Conjointly, they constitute our interactive installation artwork — ./behave_mechanical.


ReferencesBehenck, A., Wesner, A. C., Finkler, D., & Heldt, E. (2017). Contribution of Group Therapeutic Factors to the Outcome of Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy for Patients with Panic Disorder. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 31(2), 142–146.

Guo, X., Meng, Z., Huang, G., Fan, J., Zhou, W., Ling, W., Jiang, J., Long, J., & Su, L. (2016). Meta-analysis of the prevalence of anxiety disorders in mainland China from 2000 to 2015. Scientific Reports, 6(1).

Han, S.-H., Kim, K. T., Ryu, H. U., Lee, S.-A., Cho, Y.-J., Kim, J. H., Kang, K.-W., Shin, D. J., Lee, G. H., Hwang, K. J., Kim, Y.-S., Kim, J. B., Kim, J.-E., Lee, S.-Y., & Seo, J.-G. (2019). Factors associated with social anxiety in South Korean adults with epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior, 101, 106569.

Health Direct. (2019, October 2). Social anxiety disorder.; Healthdirect Australia.

Hofmann, S. G., Anu Asnaani, M. A., & Hinton, D. E. (2010). Cultural aspects in social anxiety and social anxiety disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 27(12), 1117–1127.
Norman, R. M. G., Sorrentino, R. M., Windell, D., & Manchanda, R. (2008). The role of perceived norms in the stigmatization of mental illness. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43(11), 851–859.

Schreier, S.-S., Heinrichs, N., Alden, L., Rapee, R. M., Hofmann, S. G., Chen, J., Oh, K. J., & Bögels, S. (2010). Social anxiety and social norms in individualistic and collectivistic countries. Depression and Anxiety, 27(12), 1128–1134.

Topinka, R. J. (2010). Foucault, Borges, Heterotopia: Producing Knowledge in Other Spaces. Foucault Studies, 9, 54.

Vriends, N., Pfaltz, M. C., Novianti, P., & Hadiyono, J. (2013). Taijin Kyofusho and Social Anxiety and Their Clinical Relevance in Indonesia and Switzerland. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(3).

Yang, X., Fang, Y., Chen, H., Zhang, T., Yin, X., Man, J., Yang, L., & Lu, M. (2021). Global, regional and national burden of anxiety disorders from 1990 to 2019: results from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 30(36).

Raised in an Asian culture where children grow vigilant from strictures, resilient against rigid systems, bewildered by lofty expectations, and embattled with yearning, my childhood was mixed with constraint, criticism, and curiosity. 

Then, I serendipitously entered the design field. 

With this project, I drew both my chaotic childhood and my master’s journey to a close.