Exhibition visitors could send out a message via letterpress, refrigerator magnets, or marker board.
Known as one of the biggest design exhibitions during NYCxDesign, WantedDesign‘s choice of location, the Terminal Shops (formerly Tunnel nightclub) serves as an amazing backdrop. But it also presents some problems. The city block long interior corridor seems to stretch into infinity. And the old school iron and stone construction does an excellent job of deflecting mobile phone signals. This can make communication with people inside the space challenging from both location and digital signal angles.
The students of the MFA in Products of Design program at the School of Visual Arts saw this as a design opportunity to not only make communication easier but also as a community building experiment to lure visitors’ attention away from their mobile devices. They staged MISSION CTRL, a collection of roving analog interactions that encouraged personal and community sharing within the WantedDesign space. Each of the interactions was a twist on a digital social media counterpart and served as a critique of the dependence to communicate and share through a world that isn’t real.
Here’s a look at each of the eight interactions:
#PORTAL replaces the idea of “checking in” or “logging in” to the digital world. Since people are coming to Wanted Design to have a real life experience, here students create a ceremonial “beginning experience,” initiating them to the show and inviting an opportunity to talk about the mission of MISSION CTRL and the move from the digital to the analog. (Motion sensors in the device trigger an audio surprise audible to the visitor as they pass through the device.)
As a way to physicalize the “like” button in a new and compelling way, visitors to the exhibition are given a hand-screened, chipboard paddle—called a fan—which takes its cues from the auction world. When visitors see something that they like at Wanted, they “give a wave,” voting with their fan by holding it up alongside the exhibitor—who have been provided with a deluxe model. Together they are able to draw attention to the exhibitor’s work, creating a new gesture of approval and appreciation.
Here, seven roving vertical signs travel the vast expanse of the exhibition space, allowing visitors to “analog tweet” in real space and in real time. Messages can originate from the Mission CTRL booth, or can spontaneously be created live on the fly. Students work with visitors to help them construct messages, engaging them in conversations around social media and point of view. Analog tweets range from shout-outs of great work, to messages back home, to news of after parties or lost items. #POST provides a large, low-tech, and mobile affordance to help people get their messages seen.
#PRESS creates an analog experience that provides a rich, interactive way to create messages. Posting to social media can be so easy that messages can often be unconsidered and rushed. #PRESS builds in time and labor into the process, painstakingly stamping out messages to be displayed throughout the Wanted exhibit on mobile signs.
#SNAP is a time-based analog tweet, taking its cues from self-destructing messages like the ones you’d find on services such as SnapChat. Here, visitors write messages on the boards and then hold them up for a limited time. Products of Design students use stopwatches to time the message for 20 seconds, at which point they are lowered and deleted. Here, messages tend to be more personal (and more risky!), where the temporality of the message influences its content.
#FRIDGE is a magnetized letter version of the analog message boards where visitors compose their messages using magnetized alphabets to construct words. Students wear aprons with the sorted letters, inviting interactions between visitors and their ideas.
#FOLLOW is a design intervention that takes its cues from people and ideas that are trending. Here students replace the of gathering followers and retweets in the digital world with actual clusters of human beings—literal “followers”— in the physical world. Students cluster around selected visitors, walk the show with them, and amplify their “likes” by holding up their fans in groups, adding even more attention to the visitor’s message.
#DECISIONCTRL is an installation to guides visitors through a decision tree, inviting them to evaluate whether or not to tweet something. Students’ insight was that people often regret posting something to their social media—that it’s just too quick and easy—and #DECISION builds in more time to consider whether one should post something or not.
The project is the result of a 10-week Design Performance class led by Sinclair Smith which ‘explores design exhibition beyond the pedestal, focusing in on interaction, participation, and staging new behaviors’. Smith said he had no idea how the project would be received and accepted by both exhibitors and visitors to the show. Some of the interactions required on the fly tweaking over the three days and others morphed organically to take on new functions. He was surprised by the interest and participation and the ways the interventions adapted while traveling the concourse.
Check out more of the development and project results on the MISSION CTRL tumblr page.