This project will distribute 1,000 interactive blinking LED devices to bicyclists who will attend Northern Spark 2012, a dusk-to-dawn citywide arts festival in Minneapolis/St. Paul, which starts on June 9. The devices are outfitted with electronics that allow them to synchronize with others, so that all nearby devices automatically and mutually engage in an observable process of synchronization. These devices, in isolation, appear similar to conventional LED cycling safety lights, but in groups, they exhibit an immediately noticeable and striking phenomenon. Participating cyclists are encouraged to gather for an 11:59 PM ride across the Stone Arch Bridge on June 9, the night of the festival. Northern Spark has contributed generously to this project, but more money is still needed for graphic design, raw materials, laser cutting, volunteer rewards, shipping costs, and other expenses.
The aim of the project is to activate and transform the social networks and urban dynamics associated with cycling by fusing this system with one biased towards synchronization -- an outward display of unity through cooperative display, perception and adjustment. Grafting this artificial dynamic system of synchronized blinking lights (a textbook example from the domain of cybernetics) onto a real-world urban transportation system will accomplish two goals: 1. call attention to the individual act of cycling as a component of a larger dynamic system with its own unique patterns and qualities, and 2. momentarily transform that system through a subtle but pointed intervention in urban social space.
All steps of the project are documented and published on a project blog: http://1000fireflies.net. The software and hardware implementation details are published under an open-source license, allowing others to reproduce and tinker with the design. All files are available on GitHub.
Update -- Thanks to everyone who has supported this project! We've reached the goal of $1,000, but our true goal is 1,000 cyclists. If you haven't yet, reserve your light today and join us on June 9 at Northern Spark.