Nestled in a single “hub” on the fifth floor of the college, this room contains, perhaps, the greatest concentration of creative ingenuity in the entire building. The students undertaking Honours projects in these two courses were tasked with inventing a device or application that may make a meaningful difference in someone’s life, as opposed to merely turning a profit or utilising particular technologies. The thirty-nine pieces displayed do not disappoint.
Catriona Binnie’s work is nearest to the door upon entering, and her project, titled “Unfold”, immediately captures the attention. It incorporates a starter kit, of sorts, for anyone preparing to take care of a loved one in the early stages of dementia, complete with a sewn tweed clutch bag to hold all of the accompanying notebooks and pamphlets. Alongside, Victor Loux displays “Reminiscer”, a digital tool promising to amalgamate and preserve the combined histories from all of one’s social media sites, thus protecting against the “impermanent nature” of internet service provision. This exhibit was a remarkable distraction, with its realistic depiction of a Facebook timeline across two decades proving hard to resist poring over.
Stephen Macvean’s “Almanac” app sorts news stories, not by date or by search engine relevance, but by users rating the “importance” of articles they have already browsed. Inspired by the poor level of debate he saw during the Scottish independence referendum, Macvean suggests that this “disruptive” style of ordering news content might encourage people to read beyond “knee-jerk” breaking news on social media, as well as still providing options to filter via geographical or political demographics. The MLitt student in me adores “Writers’ Block” by Tim Andrews – another starter kit design, this time providing inspirational questionnaires, motive cards and blank character “mannequins” for budding authors in a beautifully tactile wood-and-red-leather box – though wonders if this one focused slightly more on style than on truly original substance.
The exhibition is at its best, and really quite moving, when the designers’ focus is on alleviating health difficulties in various individuals. “Reach Out”, by Kirsten Dow, is a “digital ornament” intended to aid survivors of domestic abuse – a moulded plastic orb that sends notifications to the vulnerable party’s supporter when held, and glows internally with blue light when the message is received, reassuring them that they are being looked after without a word needing to be exchanged. The “Invisiball” by Louise Ednie carries this concept a step further, providing a means for children and adolescents who struggle with verbal communication to express their emotions via written or drawn accounts, as well as a physical device that sends messages requesting assistance simply by touch.
Alternative communications is a key theme to the exhibit as a whole, and the explorations continue with Craig Murdo’s “Timbre”. Envisaged for use by adults this time, a metronome-esque wooden pyramid displays eight plastic knobs on one side; turning each affects the quality, pitch and tempo of several overlaying sounds – some constant tones, others playing at constant rhythmic intervals. Again, Murdo intends the device to allow individuals who find difficulty with communicating verbally to compile a sound unique to their mood at any time, including a professionally-researched guide to interpreting the potential meaning behind it.
The inventiveness endures relentlessly. I hadn’t the foresight to read about “The Calming Bear” before picking it up, and was startled as it quivered at my touch. Its creator Jodie Anderson was thankfully on hand to explain its purpose – the vibrations, quite subtle, come consistently every four seconds, and a child with anxiety would be encouraged to breathe in time with said vibrations to subdue panic attacks. Not all of the exhibits relate to health – Nick Walker’s “Tool-Less”, for instance, is a conceptual flat-pack furniture set that assembles, as the title suggests, without the use of a toolkit. However, they are the most inspiring, such as Kevin Wong’s “Tactile Air”; essentially speakers for the deaf, two encased fans blow air corresponding to what the audio volume would be, creating “surround feel”. Leaving the hub, you’ll be unable to shake the feeling that your own brainwave is waiting to manifest someday…