project

Interactive | Obsolete

Interactive | Obsolete is a combination of six stories about obsolete technology all built into the same set of playing cards. Eeach of the six stories is embodied in a tag — foundation, declining, obsolete, reviving, art — and each tag is physically encoded into the cards using punched holes. The cards are enclosed in a box with a pin attached to the side, and six corresponding holes cut out of the top.

Placing the pin into any of these holes amounts to a simple query of the set of cards, allowing the reader to single out one of the six narratives at a time for exploration. An accompanying book helped readers to create even more complex narratives by explaining the foundations of unions and intersections of sets.

To understand how this system works, consider the tag "obsolete," which corresponds to the third hole. The cards tagged as obsolete have notches cut away from this hole, and if a reader inserts a pin into the third hole in the box, only the obsolete cards will fall out.

There is a centuries-long history of this type of modular storytelling: in simple playing cards as well as fortune-telling cards like the Tarot. But I was inspired by the history of edge-notched bibliographic systems that were used in libraries and research institutions before the advent of databases.

Independent of the tagging system, it is also possible to simply play with this set of cards, shuffling them and laying them out in random orders and combinations. I found that the unintended effect of this set of cards was that it sparked fantastic inter-generational conversations about the technologies contained in the set, and spirited debate about the validity of my own tagging choices.