A blog started in 2010 by designer Chris Thomas to document the process of his final year project in BA Design at Goldsmiths.
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Blasts from the Past
Category Archives: Makings
So here is one of my final experiments, entitled “The Human Printer”. An earlier version can be seen here, where I split up sections of an image and had them drawn by 10 people to come together and complete a full print.
I decided to take the idea further and mimic more closely a printer works, dividing an image up into four colours and assigning a sort of colour layer for each one. Each participant would then be a pixel in my printer.
I made 12 stamps, each of which represented a certain size and colour of dot for its user to print. On the bottom of each stamp was a letter, which referred each person to specific points upon which to stamp and leave their mark.
The most difficult part of designing this process was choosing a suitable image to get 12 people to print.
Jimmy said to me, “it should be your face”. I said “why?” He said “because it should”.
Here’s how it went.
So I’m going to take five minutes out from intense last-week-or-so work to write a blog post. Why? Because I care about you, my loyal readers (hi mum).
So carrying on from this thing of getting people to come together for collaborative making of stuff, I was looking at the idea of using scripts, as a way of fragmenting a task amongst its “actors”. They do their bit, come together and make something. Basically. I decided to try it using sections of a visual, in this case the logo for our degree show.
I gave out these “scripts” to ten people, armed them with a sharpie marker, and thus the human printer was born.
Not bad, I reckon. Got a much more ambitious full colour version in the pipeline.
Watch this space.
Challenging private use and consumption of objects has been central to what I’ve been doing recently. Well, this and my secret goal in life, which I think is to make everything in the world more like Lego.
So, I reasoned, it was time to accept the inevitable and do some IKEA hacking. I took an IKEA kit, in this case a “Kullen” chest of drawers, and set about how I might fragment or rearrange it to make sociability, sharing and co-operation intrinsic to its existence.
I went through the instructions, splitting them into four separate books, each only containing a quarter of the guidelines to making the cabinet. Then I repackaged the components into four boxes, the contents each corresponding to their respective fragmented instruction manuals.
I gave these four boxes to four different people, put them in a room, set up a camera, and said go:[vimeo http://vimeo.com/21321228 w=500&h=400]
And there you have it – one 2-drawer KULLEN cabinet. Look at them, aren’t they proud?
I think you could call it a success. I love how they hit nails in for each other at the end – it was a change in behaviour that was not in any way dictated by the instructions, but arised as a result of the way the task was designed. Which is good.
The way the instructions were used surprised me too – much less based on a sequence and taking turns, but in a more fluid and collaborative way, bringing them all together in the middle and discussing how each stage links with another. Matt, who had the least pieces in his box and therefore the least “to do”, took the role of making the other people’s instructions make sense together. Its interesting to see how different people react to these situations.
There’s no doubt, once again, that doing this alone would be quicker – it took the guys about 40-45 minutes to finish the thing. But all this has nothing to do with efficiency. I’ll write more on this another time.
Thanks to Ben, Matt, Mikey and Zahra for so wonderfully displaying their IKEA prowess.
In a rare philosophical moment for this blog, I’m going to start this post with an old Vietnamese parable, on the nature of heaven and hell:
‘What are the differences between Heaven and Hell?’, a young Zen monk asked an aged Buddhist priest who was renowned for his wisdom.
‘There are no material differences,’ replied the old monk.
‘None at all?’ asked the puzzled young monk.
‘That’s right. Both Heaven and Hell have a spacious hall with a big pot in the center in which noodles are boiled, giving off a delicious scent,’ said the old priest. ‘The size of the huge pan, the number of people sitting around the pot and the bowl of sauce placed in front of each diner are the same in both places.’
‘The odd thing is that each diner is given a pair of meter-long chopsticks and must use them to eat the noodles.’
‘To eat the noodles, you must hold the chopsticks properly at their ends,’ the old monk told the young Zen monk.
‘In the case of Hell’s kitchen, people are always hungry because no matter how hard they try, they can’t get the noodles into their mouths,’ said the old priest.
‘But isn’t it the same case for the people in Heaven?’ the junior monk inquired.
‘No. They can eat because they each feed the person sitting opposite them at the table. That’s the difference between Heaven and Hell,’ explained the old monk.
A wonderful little story, and rather relevant to my project. Many thanks to Stuart Bannocks for sending me it.
So I decided that it would probably be quite fun to see how such a situation would work, and see if eating collaboratively really is just like heaven.
Being, as I am, a carnivorous northern englishman rather than a vietnamese monk, I use a knife and fork and eat sausages. Even chopsticks of a regular length represent a significant challenge for me. So I made some metre long knives and forks, and set out on a more “full english” approach to ancient eastern parable.
Heres an abridged video of the meal.[vimeo http://vimeo.com/20843576 w=500&h=400]
It was bloody good fun, I have to say. It was amazing how quickly you get used to feeding, and being fed by, someone else. The simple extension of eating tools facilitates a completely new social experience, where co-operation and sharing is necessary to getting a good meal. Just as the Buddhist priest said.
Is it heaven? Looking at the aftermath, probably not. I might look into how to refine this experience more to accommodate this behaviour – what would a collaborative-eating restaurant look like?
There’s a certain child-like nature to using these collaborative tools I’ve been creating. They require you to forget your previous privately oriented behaviour and go back to being more open and willing to share and rely on others. This is what I’m looking for.
Maybe I’m getting somewhere.
To continue my stream of random stuff I’ve been making, the other day I made these one-wheeled skateboards – again, the idea being that it would make sharing and interdependent behaviour necessary to get anywhere with them. They were really easy to make, just a bit of plywood and a wheel, took about 25 minutes to make one.
So here’s a little gif of the boards in action. You might need to click on it for it to work.
With four people using them (or, for that matter, two or three) they didn’t really go anywhere quick. Mostly because the wheels weren’t very good – they held the weight well, but didn’t roll very smoothly. It was still kind of fun though, there was something nice about the having to physically hold on to each other in order to not break your neck.
I’m not sure whether to refine the design to make it work better or just leave it. I think, once again, it was the sense of anticipation and experimentation that made it work – not knowing what the outcome of this shared process would be. This has definitely been the most successful thing so far throughout my experiments, so its perhaps this that I should focus on going forward.
Also need I to use real people, not designers. They’re not real people.
So recently I have been experimenting with fragmenting the way we use and consume things in order to inspire more social and collaborative behaviour from users. Here’s another thing I did a few days ago, looking at text and the idea of collaborative reading.
I took the communist manifesto, as a relatively short book and standard text, and re-formatted it in such a way that it needs to be read cyclically by four people for it to make sense. It was just a little quick idea but I think they look quite cool. Perfect for starting your own anarchist reading group.