DISARMING - a place specific project for St. Johannes Church in Malmö - PDF

DISARMING - a place specific project for St. Johannes Church in Malmö Marika Bredler School of Arts and Communication Malmö Högskola Malmö Edda Kristín

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DISARMING - a place specific project for St. Johannes Church in Malmö Marika Bredler School of Arts and Communication Malmö Högskola Malmö Edda Kristín Sigurjónsdóttir School of Arts and Communication Malmö Högskola Malmö ABSTRACT Our interest in place specific computing brought us after a short browsing in Malmö to the church of St. Johannes. As a place for interaction designers to explore it is a particularly interesting site in terms of its nature as a spiritual place and the development currently taking place. St. Johannes could also be considered to be a collection of places within places which adds an extra twist of interest. In this paper we will introduce the site and its special qualities based on our field study and discuss what we consider to be the most interesting findings. We introduce a design proposal for St. Johannes, Disarming, where we offer visitors of the church to exchange their mobile phones with an interactive item for use in the church. Keywords Interaction design, religion, spirituality, physical computing, ambient media, place specific design. INTRODUCTION The St. Johannes Church in Malmö was built in the years and was designed by the swedish architect Axel Anderberg in an Art Nouveau style, were soft rounded forms are the main characteristics. The church is situated in the center of Malmö, close to the Triangeln shopping mall, the Malmö Konsthall and the building site for one of the entrances of the City Tunnel, that will connect Malmö and Copenhagen trains when finished in It is an open-minded church that welcomes experimental projects and hosts various events. The central location, together with the above mentioned qualities, combined with its traditional heritage gives the St. Johannes Church a special position. It is a challenging site and offers a possibility to introduce new techniques in a perhaps unexpected context. The concept deals with the space in between the two different worlds of the church and the outside, both the physical space and the mental space and what we define as a transformation, that one goes through when entering the church. Being aware of and using existing structures and qualities to introduce a new way of interacting in a religious context, our aim with the project is to create a subtle experience that enhances the personal experience of the visit by Disarming the visitor when entering. Furthermore we want to offer visitors to reach out and contribute to a bigger picture. RELATED WORK Spirituality appears to be one of few territories that is largely untouched by technology and explorations within the field of interaction design. Place specific projects in particular in a religious context were hard to find but those we did come across focused mainly on means of communicating for pastors, podcasting ceremonies or using technologies to support research or for pastoral care [9]. Online spiritual experiences were the main issue of a study called Spiritual Life and Information Technology. It discusses how despite the spectacular technologies [8] (p.83) common in everyday tasks of many people, spiritual aspects of our online lives remain rather traditional. The study concludes that people s spiritual experiences often are subconscious and the spiritual lives are intertwined with our workday lives. Disarming invites to an untraditional experience in a spiritually traditional setting, in a church that indeed will physically be intertwined with people s daily lives, thus encouraging spiritual everyday experiences for passer byes. AltarNation is designed for those who are physically isolated and focuses on tangibly spiritual online lives. It discusses the collective strength of individuals and proposes a personal altar for use in the home. It aims to imbed technical interaction in existing, familiar objects; sound and candlelight [6]. Using candle light, Disarming focuses on a familiar ritual rather than existing objects and translates it into a new interactive experience. The use AltarNation makes of lights, referres to stars in the universe, representing presence of each user. Disarming uses the same connotation, but where each light represents a visitor and a contribution and shines long after the visitor has left. In AltarNation the stars enable mediators to share sounds whereas in Disarming they are part of a constantly developing light installation that has a mirrored presence online. Candle Altar also uses the connotation with the candlelight and bringing light to one starts a recording where the visitor who is in a public space shares a meaning, prayer, thought with future visitors with the aim to externalize a problem...of spiritual significance [1] (Chapter 4.0 Benefits to the user). For the recording to stop the candle has to be blown out and then the message left is represented by a flame on a display. In Disarming the key is to leave the light behind and as with today s ritual of lighting a candle in a church, saying (whispering, thinking) a prayer or a message is a one time only experience that can not be heard by oneself or anyone else again. FIELD STUDY As a part of the field study we visited the church and its surroundings, observed the interior and the visitors, their rituals and behaviors as well as talked to employees. Ida Wareborn is a priest at the church and through the development of the project she provided us with useful information and shared thoughts. We looked at existing structures within the church and different spaces within it. We studied how these are spaces for different rituals and practices and how different groups of visitors use them. The field study was documented with digital photography, short video and audioclips and note taking. The internet was our main source when researching for relevant existing projects. CONTRASTS AND SIMILARITIES Place and Space The physical location of St. Johannes Church is particularly intresting because it is placed right in a developing central space of Malmö City (Fig.1). The flow of people in the area is estimated to increase dramatically and will most likely attract new visitors to the church, opening up for new and exciting opportunities. Apart from being located in a physical space, the church has a special place in our minds. The church is often thought of as a stable icon that does not change easily in swiftly winds, and a place where all are equal. The church has a different meaning to people and for some not a religious one. By entering a church one becomes the purest of oneself and finds time for self-reflection and a feeling of beeing a part of a bigger entity. The church, as well as other spiritual spaces, could be considered to be an oasis in the city, a personal place that offers a pause from the outside and at times hectic everyday life [6]. In 2008 the entrance of the City Tunnel and the entrance of St. Johannes will be facing each other at a close distance. This will create a new and dynamic space where contrasts meet. Old meets the new, efficiency meets calmness and constant development meets stability. The church s tower reaching towards the sky and the drill of the tunnel forcing its way underground can be seen as two entities shaping that space, where there is indeed room for contrasts. We see these contrasts representing a descriptive mental picture as well, that mirrors the relationship between St. Johannes and the people of Malmö and how the church is maintaining old values but wanting to embrace new ones at the same time (Fig.2). How do these contrast blend together and is it desirable that they become connected more closely, or is the difference indeed a value? Figure. 2 Priests from St. Johannes Church performing a service for the tunnel and the tunnelworkers [11]. Places within the Place How to behave in certain circumstances is affected by social conventions, all depending on the nature of the situation and the people occupying the space. According to Dourish, by configuring space in different ways, different kinds of behaviours can be supported [4]. Places in the church have different meaning, and different behaviours and practices are expected. The altar at the end of the church and the baptismal font at the left are strong religious symbols and are only used for certain occasions. Using these on different occasions would be inappropriate. The right and left wing have small groups of chairs for more intimate and informal gatherings. Stands for lighting a candle are on each side. Figure. 1 Contrasts; St. Johannes Church and the buildingsite for the Citytunnel in December 2006 Observing a group of elderly visitors in the church, that after a ceremony were replaced by a school class of kids, revealed very different behavioural patterns. The way of sitting and using the benches for example varied a lot between the two groups. The elderly sat in a row next to each other, forming two lines in the front rows, sitting quietly and following the service. The group of kids on the other hand, formed a circle and moved around, changed places, discussing amongst themselves and with the priest.the volume of talking and singing was very different. This varied behaviour is discussed by Dourish and he argues that a place will be different for different communities in the same setting [4]. St. Johannes Church puts great emphasis on being an open church to different communities. The social context is very important in the church and changes the atmosphere according to the event taking place. The outside world and the church have rituals in common. These may be very different but nevertheless they create a personal framework as well as a social one. On both sides, people follow certain rules, some of which are unwritten (eg. respecting other people s privacy in the church / standing on the right side of escalators). In both cases, people also create their own rituals, making their experience unique (always buying a coffee before going to the train, always lighting a candle in the church before leaving). Armoury room When entering the church doors, a small room is traversed before entering the actual church space. The room does not have any ornament or religious symbols. The room is called the Armoury room and in more violent times it was used for leaving weapons behind before entering a church. Visitors put faith in religion and God to protect them and trusted other people to do the same thing and respect the churchs sanctuary (Fig. 3). In just a few steps the visitors goes through a symbolic transformation by leaving one role and entering another. Most likely, this transition is unnoticed by the visitor but subconscious nevertheless. We asked ourselves what disarming in today s society could be? In Between Place The transition that one goes through when crossing between the two sides and the physical and mental aspects discussed above, can Figure. 3 The Armoury Room be framed in what we have chosen to call an In Between Place. In Disarming we use the Armoury room as a symbolic representative of the In Between Place, where the qualities of the two worlds meet and transitions occur. Light One of the first things we noticed when entering the church was the light. There are three differnt light sources; candle light, artificial/electrical light and daylight, that shines trough stained glass windows. The artificial light is made to look like candle light with suspended chandeliers and it is very soft and has the same yellow tone as candle light. Is that a way of introducing and adopting new technique that we want to ues - by disguising it as something old and familiar? MODERN ARMOUR AND DISARMING Based on findings from our field study we wanted to address the notion of the experience of visiting St.Johannes. We aimed at introducing a new subtle way of interacting in this religious context and enhance the experience of the stay. Using light as the key element we wanted guests in St. Johannes to be offered to contribute to a bigger picture while pausing from the daily life. The symbolic transformation that guests go through and the Armoury room as a physical representant of it became our ground to build upon. The design was to be an unobtrusive experience that is on demand only, and aimed at everyday visitors to the church, wheather in a group or alone. The Disarming focuses on the In Between space and could be considered as a threshold between the outside world and the church. The Armoury room thus becomes a place of new rituals that maintains its old meaning in an abstract understanding. Visitors could enjoy a quiet or a playful moment in the church with the possibility to leave a light behind by interacting with the cross and contribute to a project for a good cause. This is relating to the 4D model of Thomas Gad [5], that in this context is translated into an interactive experience in a religious setting. According to Gad s 4D model this would be a great part of the spiritual and mental dimensions, serving higher purposes and providing an inner feeling of wellness and satisfaction. We defined the mobile phone as the modern armour. An unwritten rule in the church is not to use mobile phones inside the church, therefor with a reference to our field study, the optimal grounding, Disarming, was evident. Offering visitors not only to turn their phone to silent or off, but to physically leave it behind. Disarming in a modern context therefor is about willingly leaving part of your identity behind and place your trust in someone else to look after it, and confidentially step out of one role and temporarily into another one. This is a reference to warriors leaving their weapons behind and placing trust in God to protect them. Using bluetooth, a message is left in the mobile as the visitor arms again, displaying a short message related to the visit. The Cross The cross is an interactive item and is made out of a 15mm plexiglass tube with 2 mm wall thickness. It has 4 LED (light emiting diodes) lights inside, connected to a silveroxide battery. It is pressure sensitive and emits ligt when pressure is detected. The cross is meant to provide a feeling of trust, similarly to holding a hymn book. The carrier holds it while in the church and feels the glow getting stronger or weaker according to own gestures (Fig. 4). The decision to have the interactive item a cross was questioned by guest now has the cross that fits well in the hand, and soon it starts to glow as it is held tightly in the hand. The glow increases and decreases according to how firmly it is kept in the hand, providing instant visual feedback. The visitor takes a seat and enjoys a quiet moment, before moving towards the installation at the bottom of the church. A number of lights are lit, some glow stronger than others and the visitor wonders how many have been lit today. The cross is pointed at one of the unlit lights at the bottom right corner and it lights instantly, and now it is the brightest one. A simple action that brings a feeling of inner well being to the contributor. When leaving the church the visitor puts back on the armour of modern times and leaves the cross in the handcrafted bag. A message has been left at the mobile phone, thanking for the donation, and offering a visit to the connected website where all lit lights can be seen in a mirrored installation. The circle is now closed and the visitor returns back to the outside battlefield (Fig. 6). Figure. 4 The cross and the handcrafted bag. Ida Wareborn, who stated that the cross is Christianities strongest symbol and should not give the impression of providing any power to the individual. Other forms were discussed during the prototyping process and that discussion would be taken up again in the next phase. DISCUSSION AND FUTURE WORK We presented Disarming at St. Johannes Church in january The idea of Disarming in a modern context raised many questions about today s armour and offered a great challenge in various fields. How do church and technology play together, and how does the individual interact in such context? How does the individual shift between the different roles of society and how aware are people of those shifting roles? Trust is an important factor and calls in this context for an evaluation of peoples value in today s armour. It appears as if people do put great value in their mobile phone as parts of their lives, which makes Disarming an even more powerful experience, but one that has a delicate balance. Bellotti and Sellen discuss the importance of feedback and control for maintaining privacy which is important in a church [2]. The Light Installation I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (JOHN 8:12) Light was a natural choice as a key element in the design. Light has a strong reference to Christianity as well as it provides the opportunity for visual feedback. Inside the church, the guest has the possibility to leave a light behind as a reference to the ritual of lighting a candle. The installation is a collection of LEDs that refer to the stars of the universe. The installation is connected with free charity and offers the visitor to contribute to a bigger picture, both the development of the installation itself and to reach out and give a helping hand to those in need. The free contribution is connected to a network of charities and supporters in the same way as existing projects [10], but here brought to a new context. A light is lit as one of many light sensors in the installation detects the increased amount of light in its range. A message is sent with this information and time and date are registered in a central control system. (The system is coded in Flash with Action Script) The LEDs are situated irregularly on a flat surface were none of the lights are dependent on the other but were the visual impact becomes stronger the more there are lit (Fig. 5). The installation is newer complete but is constantly changing where each day is special in its development, as is the case with the universe itself. SCENARIO In the armoury room, a visitor is presented with the opportunity to exchange the mobile phone with the cross to use in the church. The Figure. 5 An interactive Light Installation of LED-lights. The Altar Acknowledgments Disarming was made under the theme Physical Computing at the MA Interaction Design program It was supervised by Jörn Messeter and Per-Anders Hillgren. Magnus Wallon provided technical support. The project was conducted as a groupwork, and together with the authors of this report, Nixi Kennedy and Azadeh Mohammadi were members of the group. We would like to thank Ida Wareborn, priest at St. Johannes for her cooperation and help. Baptismal Font References [1] O.Bayley, S. White. Candle Altar: The Creation of an Artifact to Facilitate Spirituality. Interval Technical Report IRC# Nov Available at candle/ (Jan 2007) [2] V. Bellotti, A. Sellen. Design for Privacy in Ubiquitous Computing Environments. In Proceedings of The Third European Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (ECSCW 93). Milan, Italy: Kluwer Academic Publishers [3] P. Dourish Seeking a Foundation for Context - Aware Computing. Financial Times, Prentice Hall. London. Armoury Room Figure. 6 St Johannes Church overview and a visitors navigational route The feeling of holding the interactive cross that the visitor has been introduced to when doing the exchange, the visitor feels in control as it only has functions on demand and the feedback is visual in the form of light. Furthermore Hong, Ng, Lederer and Landay argue that privacy is a heterogeneous, fluid and malleable notion with a range of needs and trust levels [7] p.92. With the combination of a trustworthy exchange and storage for the mobile phone and on demand functions we try to address these needs which would enable us to confidently bringing technology into the church. The St. Johannes Church is, according to I
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