Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Story Hat, Joe Pankowski

Within The Story Hat project, I would like to create a portable conversation starter in the form of a wearable zoetrope. A zeotrope is an old fashion stop motion viewing machine, that I would like to conceal inside of a hat. The wearer could draw out short stories in an animation then play them in this hat at social gatherings, with friends, or strangers out in public. It would give a chance for the viewer to be creative in inventing new animations and ways to interpret a story or idea, while allowing them to start up conversations and meet new people.
I have always liked old technologies like the zeotrope. These technologies have a certain feel of Victorian novelty, so much time was put in to building them to be elegant and decorative just for the sake of entertainment. These things were also built for leisurely time and were experienced by groups of people. There was also manual labor involved to start these machines; a crank here a pedal there. Now a days we have machines that are more complex bringing us an experience right away without any work. In the case of an i-pod these new technologies may also isolate us in our leisure time rather than bring us together. We put on our head phones and bury our face into that little screen leaving the world around us. The Story Hat is the exact opposite of this experience there is work for the wearer to draw the animations and to crank them to view. The wearer is also not cranking the animation for themselves but for others creating an experience for a group and not the individual.
I envision the end product of this kit being a hat (preferably stove top), with a small hand crank coming out of the side to run the animation, and a two inch wide one inch tall rectangular whole in the hat to view the animation. The animation would be drawn on a strip of paper the length of the interior circumference of the hat. The strip would then be placed into a ring inside the hat that could be rotated with a gear attached to the hand crank. The moving animation could be viewed from the viewing whole back lit by a battery powered led light, hung from the top of the interior of the hat.
I think to distribute this kit I believe I would create a instructional video of me building and describing the piece. Then I would show it being used in a storytelling situation. I could also create printable plans and put them on my website.
The builder of the kit after finishing his or her zeotrope hat could go out into the world as a traveling storyteller. They would be able to switch out different animations with each story they told endlessly changing or adapting their animated tales.


  1. I really like this concept.

    The Zoetrope has basically fallen out of the everyday lexicon of human devices, so users/viewers of this device will be introduced to something they've never seen before. It seems very doable, from a medium difficulty DIY project, and the potential for builders to create their own animations gives it a great deal of breadth, audience wise.

  2. I love the idea. I would suggest a slight modification of the kit itself: instead of including the hat in the kit, I would have the kit as the strip + crank (well, all but the hat), and the instructions to insert it into the user's own hat. That way you don't force a specific fashion into it, but instead it could be integrated in any kind of hat the user already uses... that way it could fit better into the daily fashion of somebody that already uses hat but would not switch to another one (even though the kind of hat you propose fits much better into the aesthetics of the zoetrope's time).

  3. (I did this comment before, but I selected name/url to post it and it required confirmation, so I will post it again)

    I love the idea... just a suggestion related to the kit itself... maybe it would be good to create the kit without the hat itself, so that the user could integrate it into their own fashion (their own hats). You could set the instructions on how to "hack" any hat to carry the zoetrope... I know the aesthetic of the hat you propose fits better with the times of the zoetrope, but maybe you could just use that for the kit instructions/demo but allow the user to put the idea into their own hats.

  4. I like this idea because it is an example of wearable computing like Tesia Kosmalski is doing. The metaphor here is social / medial and the personal as medial / social. On the one hand What's the point of Facebooking with those already in our midst? On the other hand it focuses more on the personal aspects of media technology.


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