David M. Rieder
North Carolina State University
About this Kit
From here I can see my armada. I collected all the letters I'd ever meant to send to you, if I'd have ever made it to the mainland but had instead collected at the bottom of my rucksack, and I spread them out along the lost beach. Then I took each and every one and I folded them into boats. I folded you into the creases and then, as the sun was setting, I set the fleet to sail.
— From thechineseroom's "Dear Esther"
Origami paper boats, ADXL 335 accelerometers attached to Arduino microcontrollers, and XBee wireless radio transmitters. A partial tech list for a networked, wireless armada — a project inspired by a poignant scene of loss, hope, and remembrance in the thechineseroom's 'first-person' story, "Dear Esther." Presently, the project is in an early stage of prototyping.
"Dear Esther" was developed as a mod using the Source game engine. The story takes place on a deserted island in the Scottish Hebrides. The unidentified, shipwrecked protagonist is injured and somewhat delusional. He is still mourning the death of his wife, Esther, who was killed in a car wreck on the mainland sometime in the past. As we make our way across the island toward a red, blinking beacon in the distance, the protagonist recites snippets of the letters he has written to his deceased wife—letters that he'll eventually fold into an armada of paper boats and send off to sea. As we walk up to the candle-lit cove in which his armada of 'lettered boats' are either strewn on the sand or floating in the water, the statement in the epigraph above is recited.
Inspired by the armada of paper boats as well as by the poignant way in which they engage with the the feelings and process of loss, hope, and remembrance, the goals of "Dear Accelerometer" are two. First, develop a physical computing project that uses paper origami boats as a physical interface. The boats can be relatively large (2-3 feet in length), and they can be crafted to float in body of water, or to be picked up and handled by participants in a gallery setting. Second, associate the data from participatory engagements with the boats with a dynamic multi-media project about the European migrant crisis. When the two goals are combined, the end result is an interactive project that implicates participants in a critical engagement with the migrant crisis. The 'lettered armada' in "Dear Esther" is transformed into a series of paper origami 'migrant boats.' Printed in cursive on the boats will be the names of migrants, the places from where they fled, and descriptions of their successes and failures to reach safety. As participants handle one or more of the 'migrant boats,' they are implicated in the claim that the migrants' lives are in their hands, too.
This kit includes instructions, Processing code and sound files to build a single boat.