By Angela Montoni / Lead imge: Morgan Rees, The Daily Pennsylvanian
Thanks to social media, we have been able to redefine communication. It only seemed like the next logical step was to use social media to communicate beyond one another.
Blossom Interactive is a large-scale light installation located on Locust Walk at University of Pennsylvania that opens and lights up with each use of the hashtag #feedblossom. The idea for Blossom Interactive was the product of PennDesign students Phillip Chang and Jono Saunders. They started contacting professors and nonprofits in October 2015, generating buzz about the project.
With the help of PennPraxis, the Social Impact and Outreach Division of PennDesign, they were about to find a suitable location as well as navigate the approval process to place the sculpture on campus. The duo paired the mix of technology and art by throwing in a little philanthropy as well.
— Blossom Interactive (@blossominteract) September 28, 2016
Partnered with charities that support hunger awareness such as Philabundance, The Food Trust, Broad Street Ministry, and Coalition Against Hunger, Blossom Interactive’s hashtag use will determine the amount of donations made to these charities. Not only does it bring a physicality to digital communication, but it provides a purpose as well helping those in need through a simple hashtag.
While their ambitions were lofty, Saunders and Chang had to scale back some of their ideas to make the project feasible. “We might have been a bit ambitious at first, we realized we were biting off more than we could chew,” said Chang. They then took an editing eye and scaled back to bring the project to reality.
Blossom Interactive is one of four Social Impact Projects this year with the focus on food insecurity in the Philadelphia area and aims to raise awareness. Over 2,500 Philadelphians look for free meals every day, but roughly 1,889 are provided.
“We find this intersection to be an exciting space to bring together the physical and digital spaces together, and something still in its infancy from and art and design standpoint,” said Chang. “We saw this project as an experiment to see how people would respond to a physical thing through digital means.”
— PennPraxis (@PennPraxis) September 30, 2016
At 10 to 20 uses of the hashtag, the water lily fully opens and displays its rows of chasing multicolor lights in a show rewarding user participation.
Blossom Interactive takes social media interaction to the next level by introducing a tangible element to the sharing of information. Along with the physicality that Blossom Interactive contributes to the social media sphere, the charitable contributions provide a purpose for interaction besides just aesthetics.
Let’s face it: Our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds have become the modern day cave wall. Except instead of leaving behind stories of your ancestors, you post pictures of your dog, vague inspirational memes, and overpriced meals. While art is the purest form of expression, social media is the purest form of obsession. We obsess about everything from status symbols to celebrity gossip, and social issues in a competition to see who can be the most insightful, witty and deep.
Blossom Interactive appeals to the activism of social media while engaging the user in contributing to the artwork and charity at the same time. It takes our motivation to make ourselves the center of everything through our profiles and incorporating that want into participation with the art world.
— Samantha Klasfeld (@SJK314) September 18, 2016
When asked what’s next in the collision of the art and technology worlds Chang said. “Next we would develop the physical interaction further, for example, individual petals would respond to people walking up to it by moving or lighting up in a specific way. From a digital standpoint, we would want to add an intersection via text.”
Blossom Interactive will be on display until Fri., Sept. 30 at Locust Walk on University of Pennsylvania’s campus at 37th and Locust streets. There will be a closing event on the installation’s final night.
“We hope that this project can inspire other artists to venture more into this field,” said Chang.