Everything in nature has a rhythm. Rhythms help us orient in time and space and make sense of the world around us. Yet, when it comes to technology, in this context meaning networked computational things, these smart devices seem to miss the quality of rhythm.
There is a gap in our understanding of these things, since their computational processes are often hidden away or inaccessible to the one interacting with the thing. There is a lack of expression in things that help us understand what it is that they actually do, see, hear etc.
What if computational things instead expressed their internal processing rhythms? What could these expressions be like? And how might humans interacting with the things respond to these expressions?
In four design examples, I’ve tried to explore the design space of temporality and rhythm and the issues of lack of expression in networked things. I’ve situated these things in a home environment, considering the home as a place for disconnection and reflection, in a reality where human users have adapted new rituals in relation to things as a way of sense-making. Each artifact is given a name that relates to its perceived function in the view of the human interacting with it, The OracleThe InterpreterThe Motivator and The Storyteller. The four cases illustrate different scenarios, each with their own set of questions, but with these 3 interaction layers in common:​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
1). An artifact with an internal processing rhythm. (Code logic)
2). An expression of the artifacts internal processing rhythm. (Motion, sound)
3). A response from a human interacting with the artifact. (Ritual)

This project was conducted individually within the Interaction Concept course at Umeå Institute of Design.
Course responsible: Heather Wiltse & Marije de Haas
Thanks to external tutors: Holly Robbins, Jeroen Peeters, Joshua Bronson

This project and project video is also published on the Medium page of the Fluid Assemblages research project.

The Storyteller
A speaker that tells the story of a connected home. Its undefined sound changes depending on the current signal connection of the home, expressed in dB. Every now and then it also plays a very special message, as if wanting to reach out. It’s not exactly clear what the sounds are, where they come from or why they are changing. But it must want to tell us something, right?
The Motivator
A curtain alternates between two pre-set positions, A and B. In this scenario an update is being retrieved, making the curtain move up and down while installing a third parameter, position C. The human in this scenario sees this as an encouragement to get up and do some stretching exercises, as if greeting the outdoors as the curtain rises and bowing in gratitude as it lowers itself.
The Interpreter
A camera repeatedly captures its surroundings in timed intervals and reflects what it sees back onto its surface, kind of like a mirror. The continuous frame capturing by the camera is causing a fast flickering movement, until it times out and freezes. The twist in this example is that the mirror function is useless until the image freezes and becomes still. The human in this scenario is waiting patiently for this particular moment, when the image is clear and one can see one’s own reflection.
The Oracle
The Oracle only listens to questions, not commands, and it will take its time to gather and select the information needed for a reply. This process can take several hours or even days. It might also ignore the question completely. While processing, it wobbles back and forth and the rest of the time it sits still. As a response, questions are carefully chosen and the reply, if any, is highly valued by the human.
Stills from project video
>> VIDEO <<