Update January 2017

So a lot has happened since I wrote this post. We have done more extensive research into many related and unrelated topics, and drawn huge amounts of inspiration from them. Although a lot of the inspiration from the research and topics that I discussed in this post made it into the final project build, some of the ideas and discussions I raise were ultimately overwritten by future research that I have outlined in later blog posts.

But although some of the ideas in this post never came to fruition, the themes discussed below definitely impacted the final project. Just read on knowing that things in this post are subject to change in later posts. Read on!


Our brief, as my group understands it, is to merge the physical world with the digital “immaterial” world, the world “not consisting of matter,” into a new and unique experience through use of technology and networks. In computerising the physical world, giving it a larger and more tangible immaterial layer, we can create more interesting interactions.

To achieve this mergence of material and immaterial into one, I was immediately drawn towards spaces. Internet of Things is becoming more prevalent as we know, and introducing new interactions to existing objects is a very contemporary practice. Therefore, to push the boundaries of IoT experiences, we became interested in adding a new dimension, new interactions, and new meaning to a physical space.

We want to fill a space with a more interactive and tangible immaterial layer. This was where the initial idea of a plinth came from, because of the common relationship between a plinth in a room and the room’s point of focus. It is afterall a plinth at which the speaker will address a crowd, the platform upon which a vase or bust may sit in the centre of a museum room, or upon which a font may sit in the church.

ostrakaIt is this last example, the font, from which our idea evolved even further. I was drawn to my interest in Greek history wherein the Athenian citizenry would sometimes cast votes or ballots by way of throwing coloured pebbles or pieces of pottery (ostraka) into a jar or font in the center of the city, usually preceded by, influenced, and influencing a debate on the issue.

From this act of depositing your ballot into a physical object as part of a debate, I was fontdrawn to the idea of turning the central focus point of our space, and thus the space itself, into a place where people may deposit their thoughts and ideas. This central point should allow passers by to quickly and effortlessly transfer their thought into the font. The font would then capture their thought and add it to the pool of thoughts from people who came before. Our pool of thoughts will be physically projected onto the surface of the font’s water, creating a physical interface with which the user can interact.

An important aspect of our thought font is to make it timeless and spaceless. Timelessness will be achieved by giving no precendence to any single message in the font, displaying them all the same way regardless of their age. This allows for conversations and discussion to happen and evolve organically if people wish to reply to somebody else’s thoughts, instead of simply to whoever interacted with the font last. Spacelessness is planned to be achieved by building the font in such a way that it can be duplicated all over the world and networked together. Such networking would allow for a thought deposited in one font to simultaneously deposited in every other font.

Palantir-930x495

This, we hope, will allow the font to transform any given space into a networked, living environment with a direct connection to all other identical spaces. A nice analogy might be the crystal ball that allows instant communication and interaction with all other crystal balls in their network. An example of this can be seen in J.R.R Tolkein’s Palantirs immortalised in Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Saruman. These Palantirs are all connected and identical, allowing the user to experience the world as if in the presence of every other Palantir. Our thoughts font may not be as sinister in purpose, but the purpose of the network – to allow the user of one to experience and interact with the information gathered by all fonts – is similar in my mind.

We want to create an interactive experience, and we feel that the water is an excellent medium for creative and interesting interactions. Since reading Elisa Giaccardi’s pillars of commensurability, I have enjoyed playing with ideas of interaction that do not involve screens. The “thoughts” projected onto the surface of the water can be “refreshed” or “shuffled” with a stir of the water – after all with such a small space that a font provides we will have to limit the number of thoughts in display at any one time (though not in relation to their age). Our more exciting interaction, however, will come from the user. When depositing their thoughts, preferably through speech, the font drip a single droplet of water into the font to materialise and visualise the user’s thoughts entering the pool, followed by the emergence of the thought in text format in the pool.

That’s the high concept as it stands as of 17th November 2016. It is sure to change and adapt over the coming weeks as the project and the idea are developed, so stay tuned for updates and technical details as the project gets underway properly.