One Button Workshop

funny animated gif

I’m currently taking part in a workshop being put on by the Openlab Workshops group. Openlab specialise in workshops in art and technology using free software such as Processing and Arduino.

This particular workshop appealed to me because unlike most others there is the motivation to achieve a particular output at its completion rather than a particular level of knowledge which is harder to work towards and gauge.

The output of this workshop is to make a device which is powered by one button only. This sole precondition initially seems to restrict the creative possibilities because designing a digital artifact today more often involves a complex array of buttons or other more ‘sophisticated’ interfaces (touch, movement, sound). However the opposite is actually true as you are not bound by a history of electronic and digital product design that produces atifacts which are predominantly functional or technical opposed to other possible affordances such as the aesthetic or cultural.

In a world where our interaction with technology is dominated by qwerty keyboards, multi-functional hand-held devices, motion-detection controllers and touch screens what becomes of the lowly, single button? Is it still possible to find inventiveness in simplicity?

The one button device workshop was inspired by an event earlier this year put on by the Kokoromi collective. The event is documented in this photo set. Unfortunately there is little in the way of written documentation to detail the individual buttons at this workshop but they seem to have some very interesting pieces. They larger majority of them seem to be focussed on the playful and entertaining. Our workshop so far seems to be taking slightly darker route as our buttons seem to be more geared toward the evocative and affective. See our wiki so far for progress – we are up to week 3.

Lately I have been increasingly interested in making projects that are technological introspective. Software that is self-reflexive and critical and the conception for a one button device is taking a similar direction.

I have two concepts so far both looking critically at the abundant use of buttons:

1) Difficult button – A personified, ‘difficult’ button; like a difficult child or person. Antagonistic, belligerent and embarrassing to be seen near or with. Buttons are so easy to press today (to easy?) and the consequences or effects are abstracted from any direct relationship to the action itself. Turning on a light, starting a car, dropping a bomb or crashing a stock market. All simple button pushes with outcomes far greater then the power of one persons index finger!

- The button senses presences and proximity.
- Responds in an increasingly belligerent manner as people come closer to pressing it.
- EITHER shouts varying coherent/ranting phrases OR just shouts/screams incoherently OR creates some noise which causes physical discomfort
- Pushing the button simply increases the volume or intensity of the experience.

2) No title – Again indicating the lack of direct relationship between physical action of button pushing and the effects that this can cause. Using a pressure sensitive button to make a more tangible relationship between human physicality and the incorporeal digital effects of button pushing.

- The button is aware of how hard it has been pushed.
- The harder it is pushed the further a signal – a bluetooth/AM/FM singal – is broadcast throughout the area.

This is the progress so far. Need to start making things today as we only have two weeks remaining! Eeek.

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  1. By Ultraviolet Design Blog : One Button Device workshop on September 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    [...] workshop is put on by Openlab Workshops. There is more detail on my particular project on my blog. -> [...]

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