Flow Factory | 2016
A public artwork that creates human connection by getting community members to become quite literally in sync with each other. The installation utilizes physical computing, real-time data capture, and audiovisual feedback to guide participants into a state of flow.
Client: City of Austin
Audience: general public
Project Role: creative director, executive producer, grant writer
Getting in the zone for positive outcomes
In Positive Psychology, flow is a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of focus, involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity — like an athlete in the zone or a musician swept away in a moment of free improvisation. Research has shown that people who have experienced this state of mind report higher levels of productivity, creativity, and happiness. We thought if we could create an environment where people could experience flow, together, it would be the perfect way to spark a sense of community.
A childhood toy becomes the perfect tool
We often think of flow of being something that only a highly skilled person can accomplish, but this is not the case. The state of flow is achieved through a balance of challenge and skill. With this in mind, we set out to identify an activity that could be learned in only a few minutes in order to make the flow state experience accessible to anyone. Enter: the Skip It, a children’s toy from the 90s that was oddly ideal for the task.
A collaborative flow experience
Activating the Flow Factory requires two participants, each wielding a modified Skip It on their ankle, working together to control an immersive audiovisual environment. The Skip It is equipped with electronics to measure the user’s motion. When both participants reach “flow state” — that is, when they sync up in rhythm with each other without making any mistakes — the system rewards them with a more harmonious audiovisual feedback. A swarm of particles on screen coalesce into a spinning sphere. And the previously discordant sound effects become one slow, satisfying vibration.
Over 200 people interacted with the installation at 3 pop up events. As a result of this success, Flow Factory was selected to be a part of the official City of Austin New Year’s Eve celebration and to represent Austin at the 2017 Gwanju Media Arts Festival in Gwanju, South Korea.