Some of Elise's projects, like halo and garment
chimerical, are related to the visual expression of personality and
individuality, each finding a unique technological interface to the body's
tendencies toward expressiveness. Elise's research attempts to identify how
we can tap into our own personalities and use technology as an enabling tool
to amplify our natural individual tendencies.
As interesting as these projects are, perhaps the biggest eye-opener in Elise's
research is the lint project.
On surface examination it appears to be little more than a fun experiment in
guerilla information passing, but a further look at the technology
reveals that Elise's research is really proof-of-concept for a larger idea
that hasn't been fully explored: casual transfer of personal data through
physical contact. The use of the lint metaphor is apt in this case, as fibers
are often passed from person to person through incidental contact. Picture a
busy subway stop and you can easily imagine how this could happen. Elise's
basic hardware allows 'whiskers' from individuals to brush against each other
during casual contact, and for data to pass from one person's unit to the
others, causing a light display to change based on the information being
passed across and how it interacts with information already received.
But beyond the rave culture applications for this technology, there are many
possible practical applications, and some serious implications for the way we
handle our personal information. Here imagination will take over from science
for a moment. Imagine a personal high-capacity storage device with the
ability to process and store information, coupled with a personal display
system (not unlike the 'gargoyle' getup in Snow Crash). Now imagine that each
user has a set of public information, a sort of fat .plan file or massive
vanity site that not only has contact information like email and ICQ address,
but also links to communities and cultures where the user interacts and
defines a personal identity, like k5 or Slashdot or alt.sex.fetish.orientals.
Imagine also that wireless network access is available and even ubiquitous in
certain economic and social groups. Now you have the elements of a physical
bridge between virtual worlds, where the scope of the bridge or junction is
defined by the rules of the physical world, not the virtual, and where
identity is defined not by what you're like, but by what you like, to borrow
from Nick Hornby. Brush up against someone wearing a Slashdot shirt, and find
out that they also like Weimeraner training and that they collect doubloons.
In a virtual environment where information is spread out and disparate, and
even the best tools cannot always find what
interests you, Elise's technology provides the means to use your physical
life, work, and habits to interact and create the links that may define or
redefine your identity and expression.
Questions of identity and privacy are nothing new. By redefining the way we
look at expression of identity, Elise Co has opened a door to
exploration of personality, identity, and interaction using technology as an
enabling force. I look forward to her future projects as links worth