Absurd in Public
The Pictogram project is a commision for the Remediating the Social Conference, and creatively interprets the language of street signage to highlight how communities form spontaneous social codes. The ideal street sign has an unambiguous meaning based on a standard icon. Pictogram signs, on the other hand, depict curious mashups of icons and invite passersby to contribute their own explanation of what the signs represent. The physical pictogram sign consists of two panels, joined at the sides to reference the look of a bound book. One panel includes a Quick-Response (QR) code pointing to a Web site where users can type in their interpretation of the sign’s meaning. Once they have submitted their response, users may read what others have contributed. Throughout the conference, submitted responses may change as attendees are influenced by what others have written. The Pictogram has a real-world and digital-world existence, whose meaning is made and shared somewhere between the two worlds. Street signs manage public space. They tell people how to act: No Parking. They inform of distant places: Hospital 300m. They warn: Slippery Road. What happens when a community has a hand in deciding what street signage orders them to do?