As part of a project on sustainability and raising awareness on energy consumption in urban neighborhoods carried out at Interactive Institute; Stockholm we conceptualized the Telltale. The Telltale is a transitional object in the sense that it continually transforms in accordance with the energy consumption in a household provoking the household members to consider their energy habits. It is a multipurpose furniture in the shape of a box. The rigidity of the box depends on the energy consumption, the lower the consumption the more rigid and vice versa. Moreover, the Telltale travels between households only to stay there about a month at the time and everywhere it goes it gathers permanent traces of how it has been treated.

The outset of the study was an interest in the possibility of expressing energy consumption directly through changes in a material's expressional appearance. We decided to explore the potential expressions of such materials through a series of lo-fi, large-scale prototypes. We collected a heap of different kinds of textiles and various sorts of rubber plates to form the basis of each samples. We then treated them with various qualities of paint, glue, soap, foil, etc. either to create a layer that would abrade and gradually reveal the layer below, or to give the textile stiffness that in itself would abrade.

The Telltale is a part of the switch! program at the Interactive Institute, and was made in collaboration with by Jenny Bergström, Ramia Mazè, and Johan Redström. The mechanical prototype was made with Alberto Frigo and the household study was led by Brendon Clark. Switch! is funded by the Swedish Energy Agency with additional funding from VINNOVA through the Smart Textiles initiative.


bergström, jenny, clark, brendon, Frigo, Alberto, ramia mazé , johan redström & Vallgårda, Anna (2010): "Becoming materials: material forms and forms of practice", Digital Creativity, 21(3), pp.155-172 [url]