Where are you?

We are seeking to understand the challenges of working away from home by building bespoke machines for families who are separated by their working practices. The machines are not solutions to the problem of absence from home, rather they are playful and provocative, a way of creating experiences that enable conversations with the family about their attitudes to home and work life.

Where are you? is the machine we built for Emmie, Mark and Joseph.

A Family Rituals 2.0 project by David Chatting, Naomi Elliott, Paulina Yurman, Jo-Anne Bichard and David Kirk.

Emmie, Mark, their son Joseph and Molly the dog live in a village in Cornwall. Both Emmie and Mark are self-employed. Mark is a lawyer with clients who are based across the South of England. He makes visits to them in their homes and will typically spend two or three nights away per week. Emmie is a management consultant for cultural organisations; she also has periods of working away, but less regularly than Mark.

Our brief was to design a machine for Emmie, Mark and Joseph to live with for two months that would cause them to reflect on their work/life balance.

We got to know Emmie, Mark and Joseph through interviews and the materials they generated from a set of cultural probes. We responded to their love of their geography and the outdoors and became interested in the way in which Joseph communicated with his mum and dad when they were away.


Emmie, Mark and Joseph received a parcel in the post, they didn't know what was inside. The machine we had built for them came flat-packed with an instruction manual.

We designed a telescope for Joseph that allows him to see the world beyond his village. By pointing the telescope in different directions and by zooming with the wheel he can explore the whole country and beyond. Inside he sees an illustrated world of the towns, cities and landmarks.

The telescope is constructed from laser-cut acrylic and cardboard, held together with elastic bands. It is designed for Joseph to build and modify it himself.

The display is driven by an iPhone that runs a bespoke app using the electronic compass and gyroscope to determine the telescope's position. The zoom wheel translates rotations of the wheel into false-touches on the iPhone screen. Allowing the circuit to be passive; without an additional battery. It communicates via WiFi.

For Emmie and Mark we designed a flag device to mark their travels. Wherever they plant the flag it will appear in the telescope world.

The device contains a mobile telephone with a pressure sensitive screen, when the flag is pushed into the hole the screen changes colour and the current location is determined by GPS and communicated by the mobile data service to the telescope.

Joseph has a paper map so that he can record these places when he finds them. We hoped this would begin conversations either on the telephone whilst they are away or together with the map on their return.

The telescope contains 30 detailed panoramas of England, Wales, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and beyond illustrated by Naomi Elliott. Each constructs a complete 360-degree view of the world at successively greater distances from Joseph's home in Cornwall. There are day and night versions of each that are interchanged at the point of sunset and sunrise, the time of which is recalculated each day.

We developed a set of tools that enabled us to produce templates for the illustration, that would mark the extent of the land and show the correct placement of towns, cities and landmarks. In addition they show the changing terrain, from mountain to plain.


Emmie, Mark and Joseph are now living with the telescope and we are excited to see how they use it and what they talk about because of it.