A Message in a Jam

A jam jar can be spoken into and replays messages to absent family member through a specially designed speaker.

This machine was created for Lisa and her husband Will and their children Alex, Oliver, Steve, Kevin, Billy and Rachel*, who live in Kent. When driving her truck, Lisa often finds cards and messages that one of the children has hidden in her bag. These are welcome little mementoes from home that she cherishes, as she is regularly on the road up to five days a week. Although Lisa admits that she often misses home, she also really enjoys her work and travelling around the UK.

For Lisa, and her family, we were immediately drawn to the lorry cab as a site for the interaction. This space operates both as work and home for Lisa for five nights a week, through the probe responses and interviews we got a sense of her complex relationship to this: the freedom of the road, the pressures of a making delivery times despite traffic, living with very basic amenities, in a male-dominated profession and the separation from her family with whom she stayed intimately involved whilst away.

We were very interested in the ways in which Lisa brought homely touches to the cab of her truck. There are relatively few ways in which she can adapt the space and we learnt about a pink rug and her pride in the presentation of curtains that draw across the windscreen at the end of each day. She cannot materially change the cab space.

The choice of pink was a recurring theme and one Lisa clearly enjoyed: from the rug, to her carefully painted nails, to the bodywork of the car that she and Will had built together. Lisa explicitly saw this as a way of expressing her femininity.

After exploring a variety of ideas, we focused on the traffic jam as a time in which we could suggest a new ritual. Hold-ups seriously impact a lorry driver’s day and cause a good deal of stress in meeting tight deadlines. We wondered if we could make a counterpoint to this.

This Ritual Machine has two components: a speaker that hangs inside the cab of Lisa’s lorry and a jam jar embedded with electronics that stays at home. By removing the lid of the jam jar a voice message can be stored within that is sent to the speaker in the lorry, but only played at the moment of a traffic jam. We played on this pun.

The jar contains custom electronics on a printed circuit board that records audio messages, illuminates the jar to show when a message is stored and connects to WiFi to transfer the file to the server and then to the speaker which is with Lisa in the cab.

The speaker has been specifically designed to reflect Lisa’s femininity and resembles a small pink handbag. The unit contains an Android phone that uses GPS to determine the lorries location and speed; using this information in conjunction with online traffic services, the speaker can determine if Lisa is in a traffic jam or not, and replays any messages stored in the jam jar at home.

* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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