Slow digital

2nd Apr 2014

The Physical Playlist project challenges the instant gratification of instant downloads by applying elements of time.

The shared mix tape had an emotional and physical connection that digital shared content often lacks. Writeable CDs came to late or too close to the rise of the mp3 to become a shareable treasured object, this project aims to explore the relationship between the physicality of a card reader and digital content embedded in a shareable personalised object. The intention is to create the opportunity to build a series of objects and platform for sharing digital content, thus allowing content to be designed, shared and read through the object reader.

The concept of a mechanical physical object reader was designed to scan objects in the same way a record player read grooves on a record. Rods positioned either side of a threaded helical arm would stabilise the reader as it rises and falls while reading a series of physical digital objects (This early hand drawn sketch suggests the reader is mechanical and moves to read the objects in its path).

The physical playlist project challenges the instant gratification of the instant download by applying elements of time to the project. With a mechanical motorised arm the physical playlist project requests you slow down, wait for the arm to reach the next track, play and move to the next.  Like the 90 minute audio cassette that took 4 minutes to rewind, the player is designed to take the same time to reset back to the read-ready state as a rewinding cassette.

Will users embrace this format in the same way the slow food movement was adopted? Will users saviour the content and share the experience in the same way the mix tape was created? With the rise in the slow media movement, could this be the beginning of slow digital?


Building from the original sketch Dan and Adrian have been busy in the lab prototyping the physical reader that will in turn read digital content from a series of physical objects.
Building the cogs from acrylic laser cut parts and assembling them upon a motorised platform supported by vertical rods; the complete and simply elegant threaded central column solves how to manoeuvre the card reader from top to bottom as it scans a series of RFID tags. Safety buttons have been installed top and bottom so that the reader identifies the position of the read head and can reset the reader arm back to its read ready position at the top of the platform.
The next stage is to connect the card reader to the raspberry pi to create a connection between the card reader and the object. For test purposes this will be linked to Spotify for initial object testing.