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Social Crowning… or the Physical Facebook

This week in class, we had an interesting discussion of how technology affects our notions of social capital, in addition to the way it affects notions of public space (as we discussed in previous classes).

During the lab, we decided to scrap the RFID idea we had last week, realizing that it was too complex for this project and might be a good idea for our final project instead. The team decided to brainstorm a whole new idea and build it in one lab session. WOW! We had the option to build a wearable device or a project that implemented Digital Rights Management (DRM). Our initial idea combined both, but we decided instead to build a wearable device.

crown, Arduino, breadboard, battery

crown, Arduino, breadboard, battery

Some silly team member suggested making a crown. It started with an idea to build a wearable that could indicate the wearer’s mood. Then the discussion turned to ideas of social capital and social networking technologies. We eventually decided to make the crown into a wearable device that would indicate different elements of “social status”. Though at first we designed it with high school students in mind, the final device is an object meant to be worn by undergraduates or young adults aged 18-22 at social events ( the types of events which are attended for the purpose of meeting new “sexy” people). The crown has four categories, Single, Straight, Sober and ?, each with an LED embedded above it.  By turning on certain lights, the wearer announces their status to people at the event. The categories are humourously intended and are meant to critique the often limiting choices available for describing ones social status on social networking sites such as facebook (for example, the option of straight/NOT straight excludes other possible sexual preferences).

During class, Matt focused on the question of “how can we design objects that are meant to be re-purposed?” It is quite possible for wearers to re-purpose this technology to overcome these constraining and somewhat degrading categories, in a very grassroots way. I hope this doesn’t shatter the illusion for anyone, but those categories are made using black pen on yellow electrical tape. Anyone could peel them off and create their own categories. Symbols or logos could also be used, especially to indicate secret status or membership in a secret society. This technology could even be used to indicate serious allergies or health conditions.

Because of the powerful, transformational potential of this object, we’ve decided to make the code open source:

// CROWNTASTIC! by Mike, Nancy and Marta

int led_13 = 13;
int inPin2 = 2;
int val2 = 0;
int led_12 = 12;
int inPin3 = 3;
int val3 = 0;
int led_11 = 11;
int inPin4 = 4;
int val4 = 0;
int led_10 = 10;
int inPin5 = 5;
int val5 = 0;

void setup() {
pinMode(led_13, OUTPUT);  // declare LED as output
pinMode(inPin2, INPUT);    // declare pushbutton as input
pinMode(led_12, OUTPUT);  // declare LED as output
pinMode(inPin3, INPUT);    // declare pushbutton as input
pinMode(led_11, OUTPUT);  // declare LED as output
pinMode(inPin4, INPUT);    // declare pushbutton as input
pinMode(led_10, OUTPUT);  // declare LED as output
pinMode(inPin5, INPUT);    // declare pushbutton as input
}

void loop(){
val2 = digitalRead(inPin2);  // read input value
if (val2 == HIGH) {         // check if the input is HIGH (button released)
digitalWrite(led_13, LOW);  // turn LED OFF
} else {
digitalWrite(led_13, HIGH);  // turn LED ON
}

val3 = digitalRead(inPin3);  // read input value
if (val3 == HIGH) {         // check if the input is HIGH (button released)
digitalWrite(led_12, LOW);  // turn LED OFF
} else {
digitalWrite(led_12, HIGH);  // turn LED ON
}

val4 = digitalRead(inPin4);  // read input value
if (val4 == HIGH) {         // check if the input is HIGH (button released)
digitalWrite(led_11, LOW);  // turn LED OFF
} else {
digitalWrite(led_11, HIGH);  // turn LED ON
}

val5 = digitalRead(inPin5);  // read input value
if (val5 == HIGH) {         // check if the input is HIGH (button released)
digitalWrite(led_10, LOW);  // turn LED OFF
} else {
digitalWrite(led_10, HIGH);  // turn LED ON
}
}

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