Tweenbots in the city

Have a look at Kacie Kinzer’s Tweenbots here. She says, “Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal.”

I love the low-tech aesthetics of Kacie’s robots – as only minimally anthropomorphised performing objects (head blob, body blob, smiley face) they nonetheless manage to mirror very complex human experiences of vulnarability but also social connection in the urban environment. It reminds me of urbanist Jane Jacobs’ observations of the social life of city sidewalks in her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities: “They bring together people who do not know each other in an intimate, private social fashion and in most cases do not care to know each other in that fashion” (55). And yet, there is “an almost unconscious assumption of general street support when the chips are down… a web of public respect and trust” (56). The ability to engage in an intimate social interaction (I’ll help you) without this implying private committment (I can still be anonymous) is, Jane argues, a hallmark of city streets and the density of the urban environment.

Kacie is a postgraduate student in NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in Tisch School of the Arts. They do such fun stuff in this program! Have a look here.