This post is part of an ongoing narrative about how media affects our interactions with food.
Sitting down to a meal with friends and family is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It just isn’t the same when loved ones can’t join us. If only they had a magic carpet so they could come from afar and poof! be at the table with us in an instant.
Enter the Telematic Dinner Party (TDP).
In 2011, researchers in the UK used technology to allow people in different countries to attend dinner parties together in real time (Barden, Comber, Bryan-Kinns, Stockman, & Olivier, 2012). At each location, speakers in chairs represented the remote guests and allowed them to hear each other, tabletop projections allowed them to see each other, and still other technology allowed them to interact physically (p.1). One such example was synchronized turntables that allowed guests in one locale to rotate a plate of food on their own table and likewise on the remote guests’ table as if they were there rotating the plate in person (p.1).
That was not the first TDP, though. This video of an earlier TDP, the 2001 project Liveform:Telekinetics by Jeff Mann and Michelle Teran, highlights how their guests interacted via technology. The remote wine pour looks fun!
Using technology to allow people to remotely dine together is an example of convergence between the physical and digital worlds that enables the evolution of our relationship with food (and with one another). It also demonstrates the “shrinking world” concept of globalization and hearkens to Janet Murray’s (2003) comments in her introduction to The New Media Reader, in which she discusses our affinity for the spatial and participatory properties of computers (p. 6).
TDPs aren’t yet a reality outside of these experiments, but in a sense they bring us one step closer to the fantastic—albeit improbable—notion of magic carpets that whisk friends to our side in the blink of an eye. Who knows – maybe one day TDPs will be widely available, even commonplace. After all, many new media technologies that we take for granted today started out as yesterday’s wild dreams.
Barden, P., Comber, R., Bryan-Kinns, N., Stockman, T., & Olivier, P. (2012). The Telematic Dinner Party – tdp_siggraph.pdf. Retrieved from http://isam.eecs.qmul.ac.uk/projects/telematic_dinner_party/tdp_siggraph.pdf
Murray, J. H. (2003). Inventing the medium. In N. Wardrip-Fruin & N. Montfort (Eds.), The new media reader (pp. 3-11). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
ubermatic. (2009, February 8). The Telematic Dinner Party [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fdi5cohMpz4