Branch Out is an interactive installation I created with Stefanie Kleinman and Tak Cheung. We were inspired to develop a project that would encourage strangers to speak to one another in public spaces. We hoped to allow people to share their stories, backgrounds and experiences.
We designed and constructed two audio devices that look like tree stumps. Each tree stump contains “walkie-talkie” components and speakers and the top cover of each of the stumps has the prompt “Branch Out: Start A Conversation With A Stranger.” People are able to talk into one stump and be heard through the speaker of the opposite stump. The concept for this installation is that these tree stumps can be placed in various public spaces to allow people to speak to one another. We experimented with placing the stumps in different locations, including around Washington Square Park and on New York City streets to observe the differences in the ways people interacted depending on the site.
One of my inspirations for this project was my personal desire to want to connect with people. Having lived in New York City for most of my life, I’m used to strangers—and I’m used to ignoring them. In parks we surround ourselves with strangers but we tend to isolate ourselves with technology. I wanted to give people a way to talk to each other while still feeling a safe sense of anonymity in this public space that is so ripe for interaction.
Below are excerpts of some of the conversations had.
While online social networks increasingly are empowering us to stay connected digitally, our system for making connections in the real world remains as low tech and inefficient as it’s been since the dawn of human society. When people are in a space together–on a street, in a classroom, at a conference, in a bar — no matter how easy and obvious certain connections between them may be, actually executing these connections relies almost entirely on chance encounter.
Kami, a project I worked on as Lead Product Designer, is a social location based app that attempts to address this problem and help bring greater social interaction to shared spaces, starting with one place in particular: ITP. The app allows users to manage location aware profiles, to browse other users detected in the space, and to set recommendation and notification settings that will alert them of certain types of nearby activity. In so doing, the app attempts to help users find, connect, collaborate, and communicate with other students while they’re on the floor looking for everything from a drink to help with building a circuit.
Sonic Flux is a musical instrument that allows two players to act as music controllers based on their movements. The two must heed the others movements and work together to create an engaging composition. Sonic Flux made it’s debut appearance at Cameo Gallery at 93 North 6th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on December 11th 2011.
With Sonic Flux, one performer takes on the role of a sort of composer while the other performer acts as an orchestra. The components of this instrument are installed in suits specific to the performers role. The composer controls the tempo of the music with an accelerometer in his or her glove and controls the frequency of one instrument with a tilt switch in his or her right sleeve. The other performer, the orchestra, has a tilt switch on each arm and leg that corresponds to a unique instrument.
This project uses Arduino and the visual programming language Max.
Reflecting The Stars
Reflecting the Stars was a public installation by The Windmill Factory that used wirelessly-controlled-solar-powered-LED-lamps to recreate our night sky on the decaying posts of Pier 49 in the Hudson River at Bank Street in Manhattan. The project ran from August to October 2011, was free to the public, and was a featured highlight of NYC Climate Week.
Nightly, lights twinkled in various patterns as the tides concealed and revealed the lights. Visitors on shore could press buttons which highlight constellations that are no longer seen in urban centers because of air and light pollution.
Steel pipe caps were chosen for the casing of the lights, which rusted within days of installation to match the natural decay of the once-bustling transportation pier. The contrast of new technology encased in a rusting shell mirrors our species’ race for advancement that is changing the climate, melting our glaciers, and leaving us at a global crossroads.
I assisted in the electrical engineering and fabrication of the project.
For more on Reflecting the Stars click here.
Freshly Drawn is a collaborative illustration and printing project. The project aims to not only create interesting artwork, but to create memorable experiences in the hopes of fostering the idea of community at events. It began as an attempt encourage creativity through doodling and to level the playing field between artists and fans. We create an experience where groups of people have the opportunity to collaborate on pieces of unique artwork with artists from all over the country as well as their fellow event attendees. We then take the artwork and reproduce it through a silk screening process on site at the event, giving all those who participated an opportunity to take home their extremely limited and unique piece of art.
For more on Freshly Drawn click here.
Chroma is a digital game where the player’s objective is to get a designated number of colored particles to a goal at the opposite side of the screen within one minute and forty seconds. The player must manipulate the game’s environment carefully by clicking the mouse to move the particles. Click too close and you’ll exert too much force on the particles, click too far away and they won’t move fast or far enough. Throughout the environment are obstacles—gravity wells that attract the particles. The gravity wells locations are randomized so they are moved with each play.
Sovee is a solar powered pet and protector. To take care of Sovee place him on the windowsill to soak up the sun before leaving the house. Four super bright LEDs come on automatically when a Sovee enters a dark room to ensure that no monsters make an appearance. Pet Sovee and he wobbles to let you know he’s happy.
I decided to make Sovee because solar powered toys tend to be dull, stale novelty items that children cannot form a bond with. For the most part the same toys have been around for years. Solar toys are usually a car or an animal with a tiny vibrating motor that moves across the ground when it sits in the sun. They are played with for a few minutes and are soon forgotten. I wanted to make something that children could connect with for more than just a few minutes. Not all the feedback is immediate so the user must nurture Sovee over longer periods than is typical in many toys. This is why Sovee must charge up for a few hours before he can light up. The environment also plays a big role in how a Sovee acts. If it’s dark or rainy he won’t shine as brightly.
Another reason I wanted to make Sovee was to encourage conversations about solar power as well as the effect the sun has on our personalities.
For more on Sovee’s and a few of the iterations they have gone through click here.
Jackie O In The Box
Jackie O in the Box was created in response to a short assignment for a Toy Design class. We were asked to create a simple Jack in the Box that reflects our personality. I chose to make a Jackie O in the Box because I think the best way to learn about a person is to see what kind of sense of humor they have and I’m silly, cheesy, and I love puns and wordplay. Jackie O in the Box also reflects my style: simple and refined with fun twist.
In making my Jackie O in the Box, I also wanted to focus on what I believe to be the most important part of a Jack in the Box: the element of surprise. People know the drill with a Jack in the Box by now. Turn the crank, wait for the music to stop and a character on a spring pops up to startle you. A Jack in the Box is usually a child’s toy so no one expects to see a former first lady pop up at them.
Jackie O in the Box was constructed from a handmade wooden box, a spring, and a musical crank (that plays “Funeral March of a Marionette”) with a triggered latch. Jackie is made of felt and because she is removable, also functions as a finger puppet.
She is part of an upcoming series of Jack in the Boxes including Jack the Ripper in the Box, Jacques Cousteau in the Box, and Jack Russell in the Box.
For more documentation on Jackie O click here.
The Factory is an Andy Warhol inspired gumball/pinball/music playing extravaganza I built with Matt Tennie. We refurbished a gumball pinball machine that was in very poor condition when Matt stumbled across it on the side of the street. The machine was not functional and had no working electrical parts when we acquired it. After fixing the machine’s coin operation and the simple motor function that allows a gumball to enter the playfield, we modified the machine with simple switches, an accelerometer, MP3 capability and a LCD display.
As a music player, the machine only plays Velvet Underground songs. To navigate through the playlist the user uses the pinball flippers to go forward and go back. The accelerometer inside the machine allows users to play and pause the music by bumping it.
When it’s time to play pinball and a quarter is inserted, the music functions are disabled so the player can play pinball without constantly changing the songs. When the game is over and the gumball is removed the music navigation functions are reinstated.
There is also a monitor mounted above the playfield which displays a music visualizer. It uses the Minim library for Processing and implements beat detection to create a ball generator based on the beats in the music being played.
The design is inspired by Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory and is covered in silver tape and is adorned with Warhol’s iconic banana and 2 replica Velvet Underground vinyl records.
The Factory was a featured project at the ITP 2010 Winter Show.
For more on The Factory click here.
I’m Lynn Burke, a maker, experience designer, and spatial interactivologist from New York City. A recent graduate of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, I’m interested in exploring interaction related to public spaces, building communities and relationships through a marriage of physical and digital interaction, the future of fandom in music and entertainment, and sustainable technology. Most of all, I love making fun things.
I am a lover of craft beers and a music enthusiast with an affinity for sci-fi, the silliest comedies and the goriest horror films. If I could choose one superpower, I would want to manipulate magnetic fields like Magneto. My favorite food is pizza, my favorite web browser is Chrome, my favorite recent digital game is Sugar, Sugar and my favorite arcade game is air hockey.
If you like what you’re seeing here or if you’re interested in the process behind any of it, hop on over to my notebook.
In my notebook I talk about the ups and downs I face when making my projects and expand upon the conceptual and technical aspects involved.