Hacking


This modification of fence sheeting is clever because it (a) anticipates a problem, (b) recognizes human needs, and (c) responds with restraint. It’s so simple as to inspire awe: Of course people might crash into each other, of course they will want to be able to see around the corner to prevent that, and of course only one perspective matters.

peemoeller2

This hack reminds me of forced-perspective parking garage signage. The signage is perfectly readable only when you need to read it, and disappears as soon as you no longer need it. (Axel Peemöller was the artist for the project.) In other words, instead of looking at plan and perspective drawings of our buildings, I think we should consider them in human-scale four-dimensional terms. The space should change as we move through it. This isn’t a new idea—human circulation engineers talk about altering ceiling height or lighting to subtly inform wayfinding decisions—but the level of detail in these two specific cases is incredible. There is a fineness to them, a smoothness, that comes with correctly anticipating human wants or needs. And isn’t that what we want our spaces to do?

A stroller with attached umbrella. What does this say about the parent? What does it say to other parents? Are you a bad patent, especially in Seattle, if you don’t have an on-stroller umbrella?

Stroller as accessory development platform. Cup holders, diaper bags, etc. Exaptation. To what extent do we expect products we purchase to be adaptable/expandable?

Another instance of umbrellas.

My campus post office has a bulletin-board wall across from the PO boxes for flyers. The wall has separate spaces for each day of the week (so that you can look at one day-section and see what events are going on that day) and an 8.5×11 grid system (so posters stay [relatively] organized; you can see the white lines above). I was checking my mail and found that a collection of posters had taken over part of the bulletin board, displacing announcements seeking subjects for psych studies and flyers advertising cultural events. Write To Someone, the posters instruct.

 

The installation is made up of individual pre-stamped postcards, four to a perforated sheet, forming the cells of the larger image, which itself represents a postcard. Or write to me, they offer, giving the anonymous artist’s address: PO Box 200131, New Haven CT, 06520.

The bulletin-board take-over is a compelling manifestation of how we annotate physical space, following some of its rules and bending or breaking others in order to use it to our own ends, in order to see ourselves in the walls and spaces around us.

 

There’s a compelling recursive geometry to this collection of posters, that while the large image of a postcard is formed from smaller real postcards, the message remains consistent. And there’s an element of decay: The message is loudest when the postcards are collected en masse, as they are now; the installation will slowly lose its power over the viewer as viewers collectively participate, taking away postcards to write to the artist, and, in so doing, destroying the installation. The postcard will slowly fade out, reabsorbed into the patchwork of flyers.

Implicit rules, implicit restrictions: Take one only if you intend to use it, leave postcards for others to take. The assumptions we make about material interactions; the obligations we feel (or don’t).

The message, too, is interesting: This isn’t a request to write back to the artist, post-secret style, but a command to write to someone, anyone, a reclamation of the power of the written word. (So what does it say that I’m blogging about it?) I took one thinking I would write back to the artist, but as I started thinking about people in my life—people nearby, far away; people I talk with daily, people I’ve lost touch with—I realized that not only are there a lot of people I should write to, but I don’t have to choose between them. The postcard I took is a physical and metaphorical invitation to write—not just to one person, but to many.

To misquote Stalin: One million deaths is a statistic—and one million tragedies.

I left my laptop sitting in the library for a few minutes while I went to get a book and found this flyer next to it when I returned. While similar flyers posted around campus and table tents in our dining halls carry the same message, those are addressed to a plural, general, anonymous audience—this flyer was meant for me, and no one else.

The leaving of this flyer, like the hypothetical theft of my laptop, both have to happen when another person intrudes into my space, into my life.  This is classic show-don’t-tell advertising: Instead of drumming advice into someone’s head, demonstrate to them what might happen if they disregard your advice.

Signs as moral agents. Or, sign as voice for the public. Either way, preventing the tragedy of the commons.

The expectation that users will follow signs; the likelihood of following a sign based on how much you agree/disagree with its tone.

Also: Look closely: User annotation of signage. “Take only what you need. To survive.” Signs as statements; the built environment modified to our ends. Hacked, even. How long until the built environment incorporates a comments feature? No need for Yelp! or UrbanSpoon; just call up the reviews of the restaurant in front of you.

Rumble strips repurposed to create music. Exaptation in action!

Related: The exaptation of obsolete computer equipment. Listen to your scanner perform Vivaldi’s “Spring”, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, or Beethoven’s “Für Elise”. Or listen to your floppy drive perform The Imperial March. What makes an instrument?

 

[via Kim Komando, thanks, Dad!]

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