A few weeks ago I came across an article on the Fast Company design blog about an installation called Cell. Using three Xbox Kinects, this fascinating installation allows users to interact with a “digital aura” composed of information posted on social networking sites.
The idea of the digital aura is nothing new, but visualizing it and making it interactive transforms this information we all know is out there into something real and tangible. Though the interactivity in this visualization is limited to words or phrases that track an individual’s movement, it’s still interesting to see a connection established between the physical self and the digital self.
The designers of Cell intended to create an interactive, engaging, and stimulating experience that forces people to think more about their real and digital identities. I think this idea has a lot of potential to do more than that, however. In its current form, Cell uses fictional identities rather than actual personal information of participants. Obviously there are concerns about information sharing and privacy that probably informed this decision; but for Cell to become a tool that allows us to learn more about our digital selves it would need to feature actual users.
I envision using Cell or a similar set-up as a way to show connections between users—for example, if both users have “liked” the same page on Facebook or used the same hash-tag on Twitter, a connection would develop between them. If users selected that connection (a line or whatever it might be) they could see the connection and possibly even use Twitter or Facebook within Cell itself. By expanding the potential of Cell in this way the barrier between the digital world and the real world becomes more flexible: digital space recognizes physical bodies, and the body itself is attached digital significance.
I’m curious to see what other people think about these videos. What other potential rhetorical applications or questions can Cell lead us to? Make sure you check out the original article from FastCo.Design and visit the official website for Cell.