An exploration of fortune-telling rituals - its roots, influences and evolution - and how they may redesigned and reimagined with aspects of the digital age, as if they had been created today.
To create the capstone Thesis project to culminate two years of study at ITP NYU. Completely open ended with no creative constraints.
Since the beginning of time, humans have grappled with the question, “what does the future hold.”
As a way of coping with this uncertainty, fortune-telling was born. These longstanding methods and practices help us to dispel doubts, appease our minds, and provide guidance to those who seek it. The problem with these ancient rituals is just that, they’re ancient. While the questions they aim to solve are timeless, the tools and technology they use still reflect the age in which they were built. Ancient runes use the current Viking alphabet for divination, and the Tarot reflects the socio-economic times of the medieval epoch. For my thesis, I wanted to explore ancient fortune-telling methods in order to pull them out of the past, and infuse them with technology and culture that better incorporate our state today. I decided to re-design four of the most popular methods—Viking runes, tarot, tea reading and palm reading, as my aim was to imagine what these rituals might look like in an age where emojis are part of our alphabet and Google maps hold the lines of our life.
1. viking runes
For the first experiment I redesigned Viking runes using emojis. Runes are a set of 24 ancient alphabetic symbols cast into a cloth and read as a whole. I decided to take the ancient symbols on the stones and replace them with some of the most popular emojis in the world. Today, emojis stand as alphabetic symbols on their own. We use them to express how we feel, to enhance written word, and sometimes to replace words entirely. This experiment seeks to keep the balance between the old format - the stones - and one form of our contemporary digital folklore - emojis.
For the second experiment, I investigated the Tarot. The Tarot deck is divided to represent parts or pieces of you. Much like the it, Reddit is a reflection of who we are together, as the internet. Oftentimes Reddit has been called the front page of the internet, and within it, multiple communities are formed that hold specific interests, these are called subreddits. So I redesigned this ancient deck using some of the most active/popular/controversial subreddits, so that it shows the good, bad and sometimes ugly of who we really are.
3. tea leaf reading
For my third experiment, I investigated Tasseomancy, or the method of fortune-telling that interprets patterns in tea leaves. Both tea reading and Instagram are methods that are based on our visual sense, so Instagram was the perfect medium for this test. The reading happens in several steps. First, my algorithm scrapes a user’s account and finds the later image they posted using one of the seven most popular hashtags on the social media platform. Once the picture is selected, it is then run through a color processing library that extracts the dominant color of the image, and the two main secondary colors. After that, based on the color theory and psychology, words are pulled that are associated with the colors found in the image. Lastly, a reading is put together using those words and then served back to them.
4. Palm Reading
Finally, for the last experiment of the series, I explored palm reading. The paths we take in our life leave an imprint in us that we may not notice until some time has passed. The same happens with the lines of our hands. Palm reading or hand prediction is done to gauge a person's personalities, fortune and future by analyzing the lines of their hands. I instead decided to analyze the ‘roads most traveled’ by the person, and provide a reading that might provide insight into something they may have not been privy to before. The experiment locates where the user is at the moment of the reading using geolocation, and then allows them to plot out three other points into a map of New York City—the places that, for them, matter the most. Once all points have been plotted, lines are drawn between them. These connective lines are "read" as in the original ritual, and a fortune is given to the user.
Observer: Internet Yami-Ichi Feature
Category: concept design, graphic design, programming, digital fabrication
Date: May 2017
Personal Highlight: To have owned this project 100% from start to finish and be extremely proud of how it turned out