Watching The Horologists INF385T Design Synthesis

Assignment 3: Reframing Semantic Context

Time-keeping Devices embedded in multiple perspectives

The goal of this assignment is to reframe the idea of time-keeping devices in multiple semantic contexts. By forcing the idea of a "time-keeping device" into multiple environments, user perspectives, and physical embodiments we can explore the underpinnings of the concept itself.

In the tables below I've produced, essentially at random, 10 Environments, Perspectives and Embodiments as frames within which to consider time-keeping devices. Alongside each of these named frames I've stated my interpretations of the goal of time-keeping within that frame with an accompanying set of insights and scenarios.

3.1: Environment

This list asserts time-keeping goals in multiple locations and settings in an attempt to generate insights into how changing environmental situations carry their own specific time-keeping and time-awareness scenarios. Some of these are admittedly silly, but the spirit of the exploration is to think through these situations in new ways.

Environment Primary Goal Implications & Insights
1. Airport Get people to their planes on time It's opaque what passengers are in greatest need to advance through the airport security line and few are assertive enough to state that need. A possible solution would be new Boarding Passes, or phone-based equivalents, that glow a deeper tint of red as their departure times grow near. This could help TSA employees spot urgency and make line-jump decisions in crowded security situations. I've seen manual grouping techniques like this used in the Paris international terminal and the process was difficult. In proposed scenario a simple "Hold up your passes! You, you and you, come here" could solve many problems. It would also allow less assertive people to walk up to stalled security lines and make the pass visible to passively engender sympathy from others in the line to let them skip ahead.
2. Mexico City apartment Know when the worst times are for pollution Whenever you go to open your front door the security chime dings. If the weather service has issued a warning it will be a correspondingly low tone in a minor key. If the air is excellent the chime will be a high, happy "ding" like a winning slot machine. This way you always have some awareness of air quality as you leave the house and can plan your breathing accordingly.
3. In freefall Convey length of time left in chute-opening window A small altimeter + buzzer attached to the skydiver's hand starts vibrating in pulses at suggested altitude for pulling their chute (set personally or by an instructor). As they draw closer to the minimum safe distance it begins vibrating more fiercely and closer intervals and causes mild pain when critical distance is approaching.
4. Space capsule Measure time between orbits Portholes have a single, thin projected rotating hand that rotates around the viewport at the same rate the spacecraft completes an entire orbit. If an astronaut approaches it and touches their finger to the glass it will render statistics like total rotation count, distance traveled, or any other information that is useful for them.
5. Trapped in the trunk of a car Inform how long a person has been trapped A digital readout will start keeping time as soon as it detects any loud thumping in the trunk of the car. This will help the person trapped in the car keep track of time and keep perspective on how long it might be before their loved ones know they are missing. It will also help investigators establish exactly how long the person had been trapped in the trunk without expensive crime-scene tests. Mobsters can use it as a benchmark for measuring job performance.
6. Freezer Length of time food has been in deep freeze The food container can have a small built-in clock with time and date function that uses plastic gears suspended in liquid. As the liquid freezes the gear train becomes frozen. You can look at the frozen date on the clock to deduce exactly what time the food reached freezing temperature. You can thaw the time-piece and reuse it. Also, if the freezer turns off for any period of time it will thaw and let you know exactly how long your food was at above-freezing temps.
7. Sailboat How long will given sea conditions will last The main sail boom has a strip of LED lights along its length. When navigating a storm the main boom lights light up to represent length of time in 10 minute increments until the storm conditions should pass.
8. Underwater Communicate dive-time remaining in scuba air tanks Create a very distinct scent (red onion or cider vinegar?) that is injected into the diver's facemask at decreasing intervals, becoming increasingly stronger as remaining breathing time diminishes. As the rate of scent injection increases the diver is reminded gently through scent that they need to consider heading for the surface.
9. Presenting at the awards show Limit the time of recipients' thank-you speech A large striped prop cane could begin emerging from the backstage area at the beginning of the recipient's thank-you speech. As it draws near it informs the recipient and the audience that their allotted time is nearly up.
10. Bobsled Track Move bobsledders as quickly as possible down the track Series of lights along the lip of the track show the relative progress of your team vs the lead team. Green means ahead, yellow means close to the leader, red means behind. Drivers could use these to help determine how hard to push the sled throughout the remainder of the course.

3.2: Perspective

Users in different roles have vastly disparate needs for measuring time, some very pressing. I made the list of user perspectives and then tried to think of goals and implications inherent in those perspectives.

Perspective Primary Goal Implications & Insights
1. Racecar driver Information to help make faster laps A subtle heads-up display rendered as a simple set of 2 concentric circles. They form a reticule that expands and contracts focus as the driver gets "in the zone" according to an indexed value composed of section times, biofeedback, tire temps and exit speeds. The focused reticule is a reward for performance and helps to give a concise feedback mechanism for a complicated set of values.
2. 18 Month old baby Get plenty of sleep so you aren't grouchy Special shirts have the ability to detect complete lack of motion and increment a visual accumulator on the shirt. The accumulator might be a row of puppies that increases in number for each hour spent sleeping. When parents pick up their kids from child care they can glance at their shirts and tell exactly how much nap time the child has had.
3. Dog Remind owner to feed you on time A programmable fob for the dog's collar that will play the sound of a bell dinging at whatever established mealtimes. Deluxe models and expandable content could feature celebrity voice-overs, or song-samples like ringtones.
4. Texas Governor Know when to execute humans As the time nears for the human to be executed a special device would help the governor by playing endless pleas for clemency by the prisoner's family members along with narrative pieces detailing past flaws in capital punishment cases. Supplementary signifiers could be letters, protests and active civic debate concerning the failed role of capital punishment as a deterrent and the dangerous right of the state to murder its citizens.
5. Coal miner Know length/density of exposure miner has had to dangerous contaminants in lungs This could be an attachment to a miner's light that detects particulate density in the air in front of the shining light and records it to memory. This could be offloaded and calculated into an index of particulate exposure vs time and compare this with medical data to issue warnings to the wearer when they have exceeded the safe exposure index levels associated with black lung and other respiratory illnesses.
6. Fundmentalist Mormon Husband Pay appropriate attention to multitude of wives for marital harmony This could be accomplished with a centralized Wifely scheduler system. Each day the wives can text hours spent with the husband to the central system. Each day the system will send the husband SMS messages with a total hour count of wifely time-spent during the previous week. These texts could be accompanied by supplementary suggestions "Tina's birthday is next week and she has the least accrued marriage hours. Perhaps you should spend the day with her".
7. Catholic Priest Make sure paritioners are regularly forgiven for their sins Rosary beads that change color depending on how long it has been since the paritioner has made confession. Only the priest has the necessary key needed to reset the beads to "fully confessed" status.
8. Hair stylist Keep schedule in bounds The glass container on the stylist counter that holds sterilizing solution for combs could be tied to the main salon computer. At each appointment start it fills to the top and begins a slow, measured draining process like an emptying hourglass. At the end of the appointment the stylist can reach in the now empty jar and grab a comb to give the customer a final grooming.
9. Fireman Know when a backdraft might occur The fireman's mask has sensors for detecting pressure drops, whistling sounds of pressure differentials or certain types of super-hot combustion off-gasses that precede backdrafts. It uses this information to display green, yellow or blinking red seconds-until-backdraft-event indicators in their helmets.
10. Corrupt politician Receive bribes in a timely manner A system that organizes and records bribes in a manner not understandable by a user other than the politician, yet expressive enough to act as a reminder system. Represent the person from whom bribes are due with mnemnonic symbols, a cryptic value scale to set up an expected period of payment and amount. Make the politician aware of shortfalls in agreed payment schedules by rendering symbols and values at appropriate times without leaving actionable trail of evidence. Possibly pattern it after Durell Bishop's Marble Answering Machine.

3.3: Embodiment

Finally, This is the most difficult reframing task. Empathizing with an essentially random list of inanimate objects, ascribing goals, is not a natural thought process.

Embodiment Primary Goal Implications & Insights
1. Cactus Not be overwatered Engineer a cactus that grows barbs as it uses its water supply. The longer and sharper the barbs become the thirstier it is. When you do water it the barbs fall off and the process starts over.
2. Baseball Get thrown fast and hit hard Install a tiny readout in baseballs that measures time and distance from when the bat hit it until it comes to a stop along with a timestamp and the number of the player that hit it. This would leave a permanent record in the ball itself that could be shared by any fan that caught the ball and increase the level of authenticity.
3. Pool Spend as much time as possible in the sun Create a pool surface that exacerbates shadows created by overhanging trees and shows fading trails as the sunshine passes across it. This will help the pool owners gauge how much shade is being provided by various tree limbs and inform their trimming decisions.
4. Diving mask Protect the diver Masks will have simple polarized lines that appear as the glass distorts under pressure. These lines calculating depth based on pressure required to cause this distortion and demarcate number of minutes it will take for the diver to safely rise to the top without decompression sickness
5. Oil drum Memorialize the spirits of the ancient organisms that compose it Barrels will have an adjunct fitting on the bung that performs radiocarbon dating of the oil with a color scale approximating the age of the oil's contributors. Anyone interacting with the barrel will be forced to take note of the timescales needed to produce fossil fuels.
6. Brewing Tank Precisely control various extraction processes of brewery Sight glasses on the brew tanks are connected to a centralized brew timer set by the brewer. At the beginning of any important stage of the brew process the tank will fill the sight glass to the top with the wort and slowly empty it over the duration of that stage. Brewers can see remaining time at-a-glance while doing other activities around the brewhouse and also check the opacity and color of the wort.
7. Moon Create tides at known times A massive multi-angle display could be built into the moon's surface that uses the same technology found in Cracker jack toys. Depending on your position and viewing angle you would see the exact times for hi and low tide in your position projected on the moon's otherwise underutilized surface.
8. Coffee cup Have freshest coffee possible in it As coffee cools over time, thermal glaze on the cup will fade in to say "Make New Coffee".
9. Rooster Be the loudest thing on the farm Roosters could become audible timekeeping devices by adding a small implant that triggers whatever receptors inform them it is time to cock-a-doodle-doo and trigger that response once per hour during daylight hours.
10. Pasta Be al dente Create spaghetti that changes curvature with cooking time. At 8 minutes it is a letter C, the gap closes into an "O" as the spaghetti becomes overdone.