#GraduationProject #Interactive #non-place

This project is inspired by Marc Auge’s impactful book Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Nowadays, our ways of transportation have become faster than before, the scenery around us has become more blurred and remained unchanged when we got on the vehicle, bus or subway.

It is a set of devices that use the webcam to change the speed and clarity of the image according to the number of people who stand before the screen and the distance between them. As the number of people increases, and the space between them decreases, the speed will increase gradually. If you want to see each photo clearly on the big screen, you must be alone and close to it. This goes against the expectation of general interactive installations which encourage more people to interact with a piece of work, but you can slow down the image and move closer to the screen infinitely.

What is a non-place
After reading French anthropologist Marc Augé's publication Non-Lieux: Introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité (Non-place: An Introduction to Supermodernity), we also dug into Un ethnologue dans le métro and Le métro revisité. The author writes in the perspective of observing the daily anthropologists. The two subway observation records are separated by two decades. We are witnesses to globalization following Augé in the Paris Metro.

Non-place, as the name implies, is the other side of the place. If a place is carrying history, emotion and meaning, a non-place can be changed and replaced so people can flow quickly in this type of space. As long as they show proof of identity (a ticket, an identity card, a passport, etc. ....), they may enjoy anonymity and have the right to use the space.

But a non-place does not grow naturally, it is shaped by people's conscious. What kind of social form and consciousness influence guides us to choose on building non-places? Augé proposed the term: supermodernity.

With the understanding of supermodernity, it is easy to find that its relationship with the Internet generation is inseparable. Overloaded information and floating collective consciousness are the problems faced by this generation. We are truly impressed that Augé could sum up such far-reaching insights through non-place research in the period when the Internet is not yet popular. After searching for more recent research materials, we accidentally saw an experimental documentary video from the Graz University of Technology in Austria.

“All human actions involve interaction with other things; interaction is the core of all cultures, and every action arises from it.”

—— Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language

Interaction: Two experiments (circle, mirror)
According to Augé's theory, researchers from Graz University of Technology did a simple but interesting experiment at a station by randomly drawing circles around passengers. After sharing the documented film with professor Chiao, he hoped that we could follow the example of the experiment and explore the cultural differences between Europe and Taiwan.

In the process, we regarded ourselves as postmen, hoping someone would answer the door. But in their eyes, we were more like policemen, temporarily checking the status of every household, and showing fear by avoiding contact. Only a few people accepted the circle drawing and even asked us the intentions. We understand that even if we try to draw circles around people, it is impossible to interact with strangers freely. Then another question came up in mind. Is there any way people will naturally interact with space?

Following the questions left by the previous experiment,  and once again in a non-place observation, we occasionally started a discussion on human behavior while looking in the mirror, which was mentioned in our earlier discussions by Sandy. When you see yourself in the mirror on your way, do you often stop and tidy up your appearance or simply glance into it?

Who knows? Buy a mirror and try it. The second experiment was born in such a hasty discussion. So we put a full-length mirror in the MRT station, and some people actually went up and combed their hair. This reminded us of Daniel Rozin using the glamour of mirrors making many amazing interactive projects.

After making a few interactive sketches, we realized that even if we follow our theory and design, the direction in which viewers actually receive information is the opposite of that of the designer. It is very difficult to push back to theory in the process of experiencing the works.

When Text Disappears - The Image Plan

The experimental results did not extend smoothly to the design direction as expected, so while editing the two experimental films, we re-read the book Non-place: An Introduction to Supermodernity. Augé suggested that non-places use words as a medium to establish the relationship between people and the environment. We were curious: if people are connected with space through text, will space reveal its true appearance when text disappears?

With the question in mind, we planned a simple shooting trip, then, a selection from more than 500 photos, 16 of them stood out. We removed the text information on those images step by step. Our eyes no longer focused on the text content. We started thinking about the location and meaning of each object in the space.

During the discussions, professor Chiao once proposed that non-places are planned and constructed by people. Can we view the space from different perspectives such as from other species? In this way, these non-places are no longer camouflaged, leaving behind the original design.

Without the interference of information, we can finally observe the appearance of every lamp, gate, and corridor carefully. Because of the pursuit of efficiency and values, we build non-places. The landscape of space is framed by time, and its meaning is gradually replaced by time. Everything that passes through from home to Taipei Main Station is turned into fifteen minutes. These numbers represent the journey. We are lost in it day after day and year after year.

Affected by Jonathan Harris' work The Whale Hunt, we decided to develop a three-dimensional viewing experience based on a series of photographs, and to infuse the idea that the meaning of space is replaced by the meaning of time into the final presentation. After having a very clear idea of the feeling we want to deliver, we also have some visual ideas and settings in mind. Knowing that many photographers used the perspective of architectural beauty to capture the outline of non-places, we discovered that the use of digital technology to create a rhythm different from a photo album was something worth trying.

The aesthetic symmetrical composition and artistic settings in the classic movie 2001: Space Odyssey and Cooper's final glide into the Hypercube (Tesseract) in Interstellar shaped our imagination of space and time. These impressive visual settings in movies have influenced the image model in our design. After working with Michael Yi, an engineer, we’re glad to find that it is gradually possible to link the speed of model rotation with the distance and movement of the audience. This is a further simulation of how to throw a proper amount of clues in a limited time and whether the interaction process is enough to lead the audience to think and recall how they get along with space.

Finally, working smoothly with engineers and mastering the technical operations, we began to develop more detailed pictures and processes. We want the viewers to enter the scope of detection and set off on a ride, just like how we followed the path of Augé’s from the beginning: every word and image can now find itself a tiny spot in the viewer’s mind. If this can be done, it is actually the completion of what we are looking forward to at this stage.

LOST IN(NON-PLACE) (2018-2019)

Professor: Chiaowei Ho, Kentsai Lee

Designer: Guanhao Zhu, Sandy Chuansun

Engineer: Michael Yi


The Silent Language by Edward T. Hall

Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity by Marc Augé

Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture by Casey Reas, Chandler McWilliams, LUST