ALPHABET SHIFT. 2013. Birch, paint, steel bolts and screws.
Alphabet Shift presents an interface in which the physical affordances of pushing and pulling facilitate the creation of messages in a public space. The piece has been installed on the third floor of the Pollak Building, the main library at VCU, and a common space at VCUQatar. The structure consists of birch strips supported on a frame made of birch and aluminum braces. Each strip contains a full alphabet and one blank space. The strips can be pulled to the left or the right to highlight one letterform in the frame, creating a message. The interaction is quick, short and easy, so the interface garners a lot of attention. Instructions are not necessary as the simple mechanics appeal to intuition. Many inhabitants of the third floor chose to interact with the piece, creating messages alone or with the support of their friends. Most messages were status updates for the floor. Others were short poetic or provocative statements and conversations. From “MIDTERM REVIEWS SUCK” to “FORM LIKE VOLTRON ON” and “ILLUMINATE MY COCK,” the messages created a brief ethnographic glimpse of the third floor. Not only did the sociable personality of the piece promote intrapersonal exploration, its communal nature allowed individuals to invest in interpersonal relationships by participating in collective conversations.