Defining our user
Our primary users are passers-by and customers for the services inside North End Way (a hotel, a cinema and a number of restaurants). The space is under-utilized at night, and we want to make it a more attractive place to go – with greater personality. In light of this we’re focusing on a non-business audience including tourists, restaurant patrons, hotel guests and movie-goers. What can we do to bring the space to life for them?
One day Narcissus was walking in the woods when Echo, an Oread (mountain nymph) saw him, fell deeply in love, and followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?”. Echo repeated “Who’s there?”. She eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He stepped away and told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo sound remained of her. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learned of this story and decided to punish Narcissus. She lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection. He didn’t realize it was only an image and fell in love with it. He eventually realized that his love could not be addressed and committed suicide.
Defining our intervention: as thing, base sense, content delivery
Reflective objects only become sources of vanity when observed. Our object utilizes and in some ways toys with its own core property – reflectiveness. As it moves, bouncing light becomes fractured and ambient, responding to the elements in the environment. Through the material we manipulate the way light passes through the space.
Two potential new interventions
Mylar has a great organic quality but it’s hard to control when it’s not stretched taut or pinned at corners. Through our experiments we learned that people react well to reflecting and bouncing light in a open space. One way we’ve been able to achieve this effect is through mirrored tiles made out of Mylar that act as pixels/facets.
- We want to explore ways to both emphasize and undermine the reflective properties of our object in relation to people / observers. By making our object cease to function as a mirror in the presence of people, it compromises on its expected purpose, it becomes a “shy mirror”. This is one avenue for creating playful interactions and engagement, and responding to our creation myth.
- We want to expand upon the effect our material can create – multiple lights, wider field of reflective material, colors, and projected images could all act in parallel with the elements in the environment to create new and surprising ambient light effects.
New intervention ideas:
- record musicians and hang up recordings
- piñata + stick // something unique and surprising inside
- message in a bottle
- letter to yourself 10 years ago
- have them make tree ornaments
Park-goers who have an interest in connecting with their community:
- College students
- Parents and kids
- Wall St banker stumbles on a tree, notices a tin can on a string hanging from tree
- Picks up the tin can and says hello
- Listens to his younger self on the other side
- Made him happy to remember and reconnect with his childhood, remembers his values
- On his way back, he grabs a doughnut
- A text prompt communicates the platform for discussion
- Answers are publicly visible which facilitates community connecting and sharing
- Interface will be tangible — possibly chalk on pavement, a paper board, or hanging ornaments
Studio Prototype Tests:
1. Quick, one-word answers
We installed a big poster with a colorful grid of post-its in the elevator. The question asked, “As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?” The post-its gave each participant a small but open space to write or doodle an answer, and being in the elevator provided a time constraint. The poster was full within an hour.
2. Free-form responses
We made another poster that had no constraints on it and invited free-form responses to a more complex question: “What advice would you give your younger self?” First we installed it in the foyer of Floor 7, only to find that someone had later removed it in angst. Apparently there was a rule against posting in that space that we didn’t know about. Then we placed the poster in the elevator and found it filled with responses later in the day.
Rough 6-Week Plan:
- week 1 – rapid prototype in the studio
- week 2 – rapid prototype in wash sq park
- week 3 – rapid prototype in wash sq park
- week 4 – preparation for higher fidelity prototype
- week 5 – higher fidelity prototype launch
- week 6 – wrap up and document – create video?
This week we explored some new materials. Sam C suggested we consider Mylar (AKA biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate) for its reflective properties. It’s also very thin, so would blow dramatically in the wind. We wondered if we could utilize each of these properties to (continuing our nature theme) create a water-like effect in light?
Luckily the material is relatively cheap, we acquired 50ft for less than $40. Shining direct light on the material while it’s moving creates an array of compelling effects we’re only just beginning to understand, and a small piece of material can create a surprisingly large light effect on nearby surfaces. We tried crumpling it, cutting it up, shining images or colored light onto it… it feels like there’s lots of potential.
This evening we placed a small construction by the window, where it would blow in the breeze. We then shone a theatrical light on it. Here is the effect:
Our next steps are to understand how the effects might work in the space itself – there are quite a few environmental factors to consider at North End Way. How will natural light affect it? How will the wind affect it? Will we be able to create a more convincing effect at night? Will reflections appear clearly on the glass walls or ceiling?
We also need to explore how we involve people more. We have some early ideas, but these all depend critically on how the reflection effect works in the space – so we’ll need to gain a clearer understanding of that first. We’ll be returning to the space for experimentation very soon.