As we approach the end of the semester and a period of high burnout rates, I wanted my final project to take on CMU’s stress culture, and finding ways to foster a greater sense of community. I’ve always been inspired by the projects of Candy Chang, who has taken on the mission of “Making cities more emotional”. Some of her most well-known projects include “Before I die…” and “Confessions”
A principle of her projects and what I want to pursue is the idea of crowd-sourcing. With the capabilities of the tools that are available to us, it should would be easy to collect, store, and showcase such data. It’s only a matter of what that data is and how. One project I came across was Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Voice Array” (2011), in which participants can record their voices, which is looped and layered with the collection of all the past recordings.
It is a beautiful display of both user input and history, like an updated oral tradition rich with meaning from those before. I think that it would be interesting if there were a prompt of some kind–like Candy Chang’s “Before I die I want to….” or the confessions that she prompts. But instead of displaying them as mere handwritten notes, how cool would it be to hear the voices–complete with intonation and personality–upon tapping into them?
Messa Di Voce (2003) by Zachary Lieberman, Jaap Blonk, Joan La Barbara, and our very own Prof. Golan Levin is an example of displaying user audio-input, creating bubbles of audio that release the sound recorded when the bubbles are dropped. For a project based on confessions, displaying a participant’s confession as such gives a sense of anonymity, as well as a randomness when others try to tap into and listen to these confessions.
Possible prompts that I have in mind for such a community confession booth would be things like “I wish______”, “I dream_______”, or “Where I see myself in 5 years time”. It would be interesting to see what the hopes and dreams of CMU’s students are, and also a good opportunity for the stress-ridden students of CMU to remember why they are here (i.e. the pursuit of their future, etc.). Another form of a prompt could also be a way to pay homage to Randy Pausch (“What are your childhood dreams”), who was one of my biggest reasons for being here at CMU, as well as fostering my love for the convergence of technology and art.
Another element of community building is by fostering a sense of connection between strangers, making fleeting, transient interactions meaningful and/or interesting. I’m particularly inspired by Passing, a project by Jonathan Ota, a CMU Design graduate during his study abroad in the Netherlands.
I was equally intrigued by the extensive testing and research he did for this project, as well as the simple beauty of the interaction itself. Through this, connection between strangers is facilitated in a transient space.
This then got me thinking about the transient spaces on CMU’s campus, the closest one for me being the long hallway of Maggie Mo, a place truly interdisciplinary both in the spirit of the Design school residing there, and in the literal sense of the mix of students that pass through it, from design, to architecture, to music, to business, to economics, and so on. I thought about ways that I could perhaps facilitate connections there, but struggled with trying to not be too intrusive as it is a very high traffic zone, and dangerous for any projector and kinect to be installed.
Another idea I had was inspired by the Talking Doors project by Julijonas Urbonas that was shown to us in a previous class, where Maggie Mo’s popularly used revolving door could be used as a control for music to be played. I’m not as keen on this one as it is rather one-sided, and kind of a rip-off of its inspiration. As an artist seeking ways to facilitate meaningful community building, it would be important to seek two-way interactions–a give and take/collect.
I think it would be interesting to have a device that demonstrates the goodwill of CMU students. On the giving end, participants would have some equivalent of a “big juicy red button” to push, with the prompt that they could make someone’s day. If pushed, somewhere else, a Hershey’s kiss/some sort of candy/some sort of compliment/note/treat would be released, ready to be picked up by those around the device. Even cooler would be to have live video feeds in these separate stations, so that the Giver could see the results of his goodwill. A compassion machine of sorts, if you will.
The context of the input and output of such a device could very greatly change its intentions–for example, thinking about the differences between a student giver to a student receiver, and a student giver to a campus employee receiver. Whereas the former could be taken as a recognition of empathy, the latter is a form of thanks for the employee in their service of the students. If the input is not a tangible button but rather a Facebook ‘Like’, that it itself already taps into the debatable realm of how meaningful/substantial “Likes” actually are.
Lots to think about and let incubate. I look forward to fleshing out some of these in studio later today!