Throughout the entire semester, we were trying to come up with an interactive art piece under the umbrella of the theme of belonging. Throughout the process the theme of connection kept coming up. Our goal was to build an interactive sculpture or activity that will bring the people in the Smith community together and from there they were able to share each other’s stories. In our process of ideating from our individual interviews of how someone feels like they belong or do not belong at Smith lead to the concept of the red thread in Chinese culture, where there is an invisible red thread that connects people together regardless of place, time, or circumstances.
We were intrigued with the idea of the red thread and we thought of different methods of we wanted to have the Smith community tell their background with this medium. We were inspired by the maps of “Where is Home?” covered in tacks in the houses on campus. However, we wanted to use a 2D map that did not distort continents. Moreover, because maps are important tools of empowerment, we want a map that was not eurocentric. As a result we decided to use Hajime Narukawa’s AuthaGraph World Map, which recently won Japan’s Good Design Award.
We decided to prototype with us as the users first to get a sense of the type of questions we can ask our audience. We pull down the screen and projected the image onto a whiteboard to write on. What question would resonate and encourage more participation from all those who walked by this exhibit? We decided not to ask where you come from, because what one calls home sometime can be a person, rather than a physical location. Thus, the first prompt we asked ourselves was “Add a line between you and someone you love.” One by one we silently went up to the board and drew our lines. It was very exciting to see all the lines come together and the different backgrounds of the people in the inspire group.
The second question we tested out was “where did you journey to get here.” Because this was an abstract question with very little context, everyone’s idea of their journey was different and it made it exciting to see all the lines come to one single location that everyone is right now. Some people defined their journey as their journey of their life from the place where they were born to the place their loved ones resides before coming back to their current residence at Smith. Other people interpreted as the journey they took to during the summer through study abroad programs in Denmark to internships and family before arriving back at Smith.
We had a lot of fun putting together this prototype and our next steps were figuring out implementation. We even wanted to preserve the red threads or lines that went up and take the map away. It would encourage the curiosity with those who walked by it. In order to achieve this goal we wanted to use the same setup as we did when we prototype on ourselves: project the map onto a plexiglass and have the users use whiteboard markers to draw their lines.
Even though we were not able to bring this to the Smith community, we had a lot of fun creating it and hope to implement this idea on campus one day.