‘go with the flow’

‘go with the flow’ is a project developed by dean mcnamee and filippo cuttica during their TUI class at copenhagen institute of interaction design. it is a tangible user interface that allows users to visualize and filter incoming emails. divided into three categories by tags (work, family, and friends), the emails are represented by colored water drops from 3 tanks and 3 different tubes. here one is able to decide the amount of emails from the different categories that one wants to receive in their inbox. the concept, even if meant to be a statement, helps people working from home better divide their personal and work lives. this creates a liquid membrane instead of a solid barrier.

video demonstrating ‘go with the flow’

dean mcnamee + filippo cuttica: go with the flow coloured waterdroplets visually representing the flow of incoming emails

dean mcnamee + filippo cuttica: go with the flow valves can be shut off/on to control the amount of communication received from each category

when a new email message arrives, water is released into one of three tubes representing categories of work, family and friends. by controlling the valve on each tube, users can control how much communication he or she receives from each group. for example, one could completely shut off work after 5pm. the tube will still fill from any new messages but none of these messages will be passed on to the email. one could later, perhaps the next morning, open the valve completely and the held messages will be passed through to the inbox.

dean mcnamee + filippo cuttica: go with the flow

this physical representation provides much greater awareness and control over the competing aspects of the user’s life. one can quickly see how much e-mail arrives, which groups it is from, and control whether now is the appropriate time to read it. it offers more meaningful transitions throughout one’s day, from turning work off and letting friends come over for lunch, to deciding to let a little bit of work into one’s saturday.

dean mcnamee + filippo cuttica: go with the flow

mcnamee and cuttica initially started the project by drawing from the objects around them such as household items, lamps, furniture, and appliances. their user research findings then defined the area they worked within. one of the most interesting aspects for them was seeing how people managed their separate email accounts and the self discipline imposed to try to force away distractions. one homeworker they talked with specifically set aside a single time of day to check his personal email account. after much work around the theory, metaphor, and aesthetics, they had to face the hard reality of working with available resources. driven by materials, costs, time and electronic component availability, they were forced to continually reshape their final prototype.

dean mcnamee + filippo cuttica: go with the flow