“Sharing a mealtime, but not truly eating together can cause social friction and discomfort. For instance, being closely observed whilst eating can feel awkward and disrespectful. The person who is last to finish the food may suffer the discomfort of being watched by their no longer actually eating dining companions.”
What, if anything, might be done? For answers, see the work of ethnographic provocation specialist Professor Laurens Boer (at the Mads Clausen Institute, University of Southern Denmark) who, along with colleagues Robb Mitchell, Alexandra Papadimitriou and Youran You, has worked on the development of a ‘Keep-Up-With-Me’ dining table :
“This mechatronical table incorporates a mechanism to gauge the relative weight of food on the dishes of dining partners. Actuators gradually raise the dish of a slower eating partner, and lower the dish of a faster eater by a corresponding amount. These discrete signals may iteratively bring the eating pace of dining companions back into mutual alignment.”
See: ‘Really eating together: a kinetic table to synchronise social dining experiences’ in: AH ’15 Proceedings of the 6th Augmented Human International Conference, March 2015, Singapore, pp. 173-174.
For another example of the professor’s ethnographic provocations, also see ‘The Toilet Companion’ – an augmented toilet brush, which aims to provide moments of joy in the toilet room.
“Based upon the amount of time a user sits upon the toilet seat, the brush swings it handle with increasing speed: initially to draw attention to its presence, but over time to give a playful impression. Hereafter, the entire brush makes rapid up and downward movements to persuade the user to pick it up. In use, it generates beeps in response to human handling, to provide a sense of reward and accompanying pleasure.“
Question: Improbable seems to recall accounts of an artist who built a dining table that, over the course of the meal, swapped around the location of every seat, so that people got to spend part of the meal seated next to each other person at the table – but now we can’t find any reference to it. Can any readers assist?