May 2007 — Irvine, CA
Digital Sandbox is a sculptural object that invites the viewer to explore its innerworkers through openings on both ends. Located inside is a field of sand, soft and cool to the touch. Reacting to the manipulation of the sand by the participant, the sandbox will respond by blowing the sand either in accord or in disagreement with the participant.
If the participant sweeps the sand from side to side, fans will react to blow the sand against the movement in an attempt to equalize the environment. If the participant picks up a handful of sand or shifts it toward the center of the box, the fans on the opposite side of the sandbox will blow. In this way participants are able to have individual experiences in addition to having the opportunity to explore communication via the sand.
In this work the sand acts as a self-referencing metaphor for information and communication. By moving the sand the participant is manipulating physical bits and has the affordance to send these bits to a participant located at the other end. Furthermore, and most immediately, the sand will reference the memory of the participant, providing an emotional response and will recall the participant's tacit knowledge of sand that will drive the participant's explorations. The experience and implicit affordances of the sandbox are left to be discovered and interpreted by the participant.
Sand as a Metaphor for Information
As an isolated sculptural object the digital sandbox provides the opportunity to explore information through sand. Sand is a suitable material for this exploration in many ways: it is patternable, mobile, a medium of construction and destruction, can be considered soft or abrasive, and symbolizes the passage of time. The actual material composition of sand has more parallels to information. All digital information is stored in memory as bits, zeros and ones, that convey the information when properly recalled. Similarly, sand is an individual mass composed of many granules. Most poignant of all, the composition of our modern processors that control our digital information are made of silicon, the same raw material as sand.