Monday, March 13, 2006

Tag: idolatry

This morning drinking coffee and browsing Timo's links (the best I know on ubicomp-y things), I totally fell in love with Rabbit, an animated short by Run Wrake.

1950s educational stickers portray a world in which everything is visibly tagged with its name, turning the landscape into a sort of futuristic version of ladies' embroidery samplers.

This isn't an idle comparison. Embroidery shares much in common with computation, but contributes a unique history as well. Originally a way to collect patterns, embroidery samplers recorded motifs, served for stitch practice, and then later for reference. Embroidery guilds of Medieval times comprised both women and men, and it wasn't until Victorian times that embroidery became inextricably connected with femininity and women's (leisure) work. As performative objects in a girl's education, embroidery samplers stitched worlds together, framing the identities and values of particular subjects and objects - gender, religion, geography, literature, mathematics. They were a way for girls and women to not only master themselves, but also the world around them. Spatial annotation and the internet of things offer similiar means of mastery, and tell us just as much about contemporary cultures of design and computing as embroidery samplers tell us about Victorian cultural relations.

But it's the story of Rabbit that's so good. We're introduced to a young girl and boy who capture and butcher a rabbit - only to have a golden idol pop out of its belly. The idol, like many tricksters, can transform all sorts of objects--even insects into jewels. The children see great potential for wealth, and put out animal carcasses and jam to attract more insects that the idol can transform into further riches. When they have accumulated enough valuable objects to sell, the boy and girl go to town. However, while they're gone the idol gets restless and turns a passing rabbit into a tiger. The tiger ends up eating the idol, and with his death all the children's riches are transformed back into insects. In the end, the tiger reverts to a rabbit and scampers away from the small bodies of the girl and boy, swarmed with insects, writhing and struggling.

If we transfer this fairy tale, this moral play, to a world of augmented reality where everyday objects are tagged and shared, who or what are going to serve as our icons? How will our fetishes - our idolatries - be revealed to us? What will be our fates?


Blogger Timo said...

Anne, I'm going to have to get the film to you somehow, it's really good: even more than the stills suggest.

Anonymous anne said...

oh yes please!! div-x not PAL :)

Anonymous Rob said...

Re. embroidery and computation... if you haven't seen it already, you may like this:

Check out the 'catalogue'


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