WisdomArc Time Machine is an interactive installation exploring perspectives of growth and change in life, through the collection and interactive display of messages of wisdom: What message would you tell your younger self? And at what age?
» Visit the installation today at the Exploratorium in San Francisco  
In the work, participants can submit a message of wisdom to any age in their past. All collected submissions are then visualized as illustrated, interactive arcs through time on a large, multi-touch screen. Touch any age to see the wisdom delivered to that age!

Example submissions:
  • Wendy (age 51 to age 15): "It's okay - you're a late bloomer. Exercise more. Don't get a credit card at 19%. Don't move to Telegraph Avenue. Love yourself for real."
  • Laura (age 48 to age 25): "You don't need to lose weight."
  • Kelly (age 31 to age 16): "your mom is doing the best she can with what she was given. she is sick and doesn't know better. just love her without expectations."
  • Bicky (age 31 to age 12): "Don't stress about life. You'll get IBS."
  • Pamela (age 57 to age 21): "Don't get stoned after your success in NY. Go down to the party and respond to each and every offer."
  • Nicole (age 29 to age 18): "Share your shine! Stay focused. Stay fierce but don't be so tough on yourself. No BF in high school? Smart girl. University boys are cuter!"
  • Rob (age 49 to age 23): "Go now. Pay later."
  • Bonnie (age 16 to age 14): "dont take ap bio omg"
  • Lucus (age 22 to age 16): "Don't do drugs you will end up bad"
  • Paul (age 41 to age 26): "Choose elisabeth again and again"
  • Joha (age 38 to age 8): "Never have expectations of recovering an absent father."
  • Kristin (age 9 to age 3): "ask mom not to make meatloaf"
WisdomArc creates a space to share and learn from our collective wisdom and life lessons. In the above, a participant is activating their own recent wisdom submission by physically touching both of their ages on the display screen. This initiates a special animation where the wisdom flows between their actual fingertips and appears for all to view.
Any visitor can sit down at the second kiosk and, using a physical keyboard, directly contribute their wisdom message. WisdomArc self-updates in real-time to capture and visualize all submissions. To date, the work is already capturing and preserving over a thousand submissions per month.

WisdomArc was born in the summer of 2013 out of an artist residency and deep partnership with the Exploratorium in San Francisco. During this time, the artists worked with the brilliant team there to refine its concept and functionality and adopt their scrappy approach of quick prototyping and hardware hacking, real-world observation, and strategic iteration. In just one example, the system was not originally programmed to support "swipe" actions but, when observing the iPad-accustomed generation using the first prototype, it became startlingly obvious this was an oversight and the whole interaction mechanism was rebuilt to directly support swipe actions. Similarly, the team made many refinements in the presentation of its core concept after observing where early prototypes did and did not connect with museum visitors. Through this real-world testing process, the alpha version of WisdomArc was refined and successfully launched to all in September of 2013.
Display Screen: a mounted 55" ideum touchscreen monitor running fullscreen Chrome with dynamic visualizations powered by the open source D3 JavaScript library.

Submission Kiosk: a vertically-mounted HP monitor running fullscreen Chrome attached to a physical keyboard and Arduino-based press buttons with rotating, sequential input screens powered by the open source Reveal.js project.
The Team

Chris Johnson studied photography with Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Wynn Bullock and has been the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation (w/ Hank Willis Thomas). In 1994, he co-produced and directed "The Roof is on Fire" with Suzanne Lacy, which was broadcast on KRON. His fine art photography has been widely exhibited and published. Johnson is a full Professor of Photography at the California College of the Arts. homepage

Eric Doversberger is a data visualization artist and product manager at Google. Eric also provides technology consulting for social change organizations and is the co-creator (with Wendy Levy and Tomorrow Partners) of Sparkwise: an open source impact reporting platform. Before joining Google in 2007, Eric was a researcher at the Mathematics Department of Brown University. homepage

The Exploratorium and their brilliant team made this work possible through their deep insights and gracious support. Massive thanks to everyone there and especially the core team of Pamela Winfrey, Doug Thistlethwaite, Kerri-Ann Mullen, Nina Hido, Hugh McDonald, Diane Burk, and Aminah Ikner. homepage