MicroutopiasInteractive installation and webpage
Circuit design and hardware hacking - Julio Zaldivar
Programming - Leonardo Aranda
Micro-utopias is an interactive installation that problematizes the way we displace our expectations of social change from the physical world to the virtual world, through a series of minimal actions on the Internet. The system works like a game of continuity, where the number of users simultaneously connected to an Internet site, made expressly for the project, translates in physical form in the tension of a chain that is pulled in opposite directions by a pair motors, able to pull a ton each. The more users, the higher tension, the fewer users, less stress. The objective of the game is to collect a number of users able to break the chain: an action that any individual can do for himself, but seeks to be achieved through the community. In this sense, the success of the game requires great effort and collaboration of a large number of participants, and yet the result is really absurd and insignificant.
The piece works both as an installation and as a telematic performance, where remote users can intervene in the outcome of the game remotely simply by staying connected to the project page. At the same time, they can monitor the evolution of the game through a real-time video streaming, and through a data visualization that metaphorically brings together all the connected users in a virtual representation of the physical location of the installation. In this sense, the project relies heavily on the users own viralization of the project, conducted to encourage more people to participate and stay connected.
The project was presented in March 2013 in the Zocalo of Mexico City during the Digital Village event. The Zocalo of Mexico City is where traditionally public demonstrations against the government congregate. However, any demonstration was removed or banned during that time to mount the Digital Village event. The piece came to count on its peak with about 3000 simultaneous users.
In technical terms, the piece works through a website, entitled to make a count of the total visitors connected simultaneously. An application developed in Processing makes a scheduled request to the site and calculates the tension the chain must have in relation to the number of connected users. This number is received via Arduino, and results in a pulse that drives the motors in one direction or another, depending on whether to tighten or loosen the chain.