Message in a Bottle: Experiment in Union Square

Field Experiment: Can we entice people walking through the park to stop and contribute to an interactive public design project?

Plan: A clear glass bottle, tied with ribbon and a pen, a clipboard with cut paper strips, and a sign reading “Write a Message in a Bottle.” We set up 4 different stations along the fence in the park and also hanging from a street sign pole. We left a note saying that whoever wanted updates on the future of this project could leave their email address and we would contact them. The messages left behind will soon be developed into another public design project!

Goals: To discover if our prompts get any attention in a busy park like Union Square. Will our materials disappear if we leave them set up like this an walk away for a few hours? Will there be a trend in the demographic of people that participate? To find out what people liked about the project, and why they left a message, if they did. What kind of things will people write? Were their messages mostly positive or negative, etc.? Were the messages directed at specific people, or at the community as a whole?

Observations: This was a very busy day in Union Square with great fall weather, the bustling Saturday farmer’s market and also an Occupy Wall Street rally going on. With these conditions we were pleasantly surprised that our bottles and clipboards weren’t taken off of the fences by either sanitation, the police, or passers by. In fact, the bottles quickly began filling up with messages.

Comments from participants: We stopped some of the participants to find out why they stopped to leave a message and were please to find out that they found our bottle and message station pretty. They admitted that they probably wouldn’t have stopped if they were in a hurry, but they liked the idea of writing something out to get it off of their chests.

Plans for next time: Set up this project in different kinds of public spaces around the city, and observe how this changes peoples’ reactions/interactions and their messages.

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