Color Commons is a responsive installation by New American Public Art that invites passersby to change the color of The Greenway’s twelve 24-foot tall Light Blades that line the Wharf District parks (between State Street and India Street) via text message. As an added element of intrigue throughout the installation, in addition to texting colors, the public can solve a cipher and text the decoded message to the Light Blades. The cipher – a simple letter substitution puzzle – will be posted on-site. By texting the correct message, the visitor will be rewarded with an unexpected color show.
“We’re delighted to again commission New American Public Art to work with us on an activation that achieves our goal of providing engaging wintertime entertainment for Bostonians and visitors,” offered Greenway Conservancy Executive Director Jesse Brackenbury. “Color Commons provides a terrific opportunity to pair The Greenway’s free WiFi network – one of the state’s largest – with an innovative local design studio as passionate about interactive experiences as we are.”
Color Commons is programmed with over 900 different color names, utilizing the color list created by XKCD. The piece connects the Light Blades to the Greenway-wide carrier-grade free WiFi system using a Raspberry Pi microcontroller with a built-in web server. When someone sends a text, the server sends the message to the microcontroller. Whether it’s a color or the ciphered message, the microcontroller translates the text to a trigger code which changes the colors of the Light Blades.
By activating Color Commons, New American Public Art and The Greenway hope to make Boston a more playable city, one where existing urban infrastructure can be reused in ways that enhance person-to-city and person-to-person connections. In 2016, The Greenway made a commitment to playability through their hire of a full-time Play Coordinator. Both groups hope to continue their collaborations to put Boston on the map of cities across the globe that have joined the movement to make their urban spaces more playable.
Color Commons will be on display through Winter 2017 and the phone number for texting the system will be posted on site throughout the installation.
The code for Color Commons can be found on our github
Documentation of the previous Color Commons install can be found here.
Here is a fun visualization of the first week that Color Commons 2017 was installed. It shows unique users and every color that they sent.