Soft Fading
Sept 2019–Ongoing
Soft Fading is an analog device that slowly collects sunlight data on a cylinder of revolving turmeric dyed fabric. We created Soft Fading to offer a subtle and diffuse way of noticing data, or of being with data. We argue that, in everyday life, data do not need to be constantly engaged with. In fact, many people just notice, perhaps from the corner of their eye, elements of data enmeshed within their daily life. As a way to diversify opportunities for data engagements, we propose that data may simply be ‘lived with’ over time, in a soft, calm way.  

Soft Fading is one of the three artifacts in the Odd Intepreters family. View project details for Broadcast and Data Bakery.
Collaborators:
Audrey Desjardins
Jena McWhirter
Eve Peng
Chandler Simon
Jeremy Viny
Soft Fading captures the amount of sunlight that enters a room each day. The uneven fading of the fabric accumulates as an ongoing, analog archive.
Construction
The exterior of Soft Fading is a closed tube with a single slit running vertically down the side. Within the exterior housing, is an indigo-dyed weaving sewn around a smaller cylinder. The inner tube, holding the weaving, sits atop a motor. The motor rotates 360 degrees once per day.

We asked our users to remove the weavings after 8–12 months. During this time, areas of the fabric will lighten, corresponding to sun exposure.
TEXTILE WRAP
INNER CHAMBER
outer chamber
Materials:
Hand-dyed indigo cotton
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The Fabric:
We wanted a fabric that would lend itself well to fading over time. We originally thought of using Indigo dye, but it proved difficult to source. Further research led us to madder (brown, rust) and turmeric (bright yellow). We experimented with both dyes, on more or less thick fabrics. After placing these swatches in a window for 5 weeks, we compared them with the original swatches (kept in a sealed dark box). The best contrast was found with turmeric dye on light cotton fabric.
Top. Faded fabric after 6.5 weeks of sunlight during a Seattle winter (about 8 hours of sunlight a day). Bottom. Original fabric.
We left a piece of fabric in Soft Fading for 48 hours without the cylinder turning, by mistake. This accident revealed a faded strip in the middle of our fabric, confirming part of our hypothesis—that over time, parts of the fabric will fade, while others will stay bright yellow (as seen below in a concept illustration).
Materials:
Unbleached cotton muslin
Turmeric powder as dye
Publications
Desjardins, A., Viny, J.E., Key, C., Johnston, N. (2019).

Alternative Avenues for IoT: Designing with Non-Stereotypical Homes. In Proc. CHI'19, New York, ACM Press, in press. (acceptance rate: 23.8%)
Desjardins, A., Key, C., Biggs, H.R., Aschenbeck, K. (2019).

Bespoke Booklets: A Method for Situated Co-Speculation.

In Proc. DIS'19, New York, ACM Press, in press.
(acceptance rate: 25%)
Construction
The exterior of Soft Fading is a closed tube with a single slit running vertically down the side. Within the exterior housing, is a turmeric-dyed fabric secured around a smaller cylinder. The inner tube, holding the fabric, connects to a motor. The motor rotates 360 degrees once per day. The inner barrel detaches from the outer shell allowing the home dweller to remove the fabric.
A motor rotates very slowly (one turn per day), exposing each section of the fabric to the sun at the same time each day.
We will ask home dwellers to remove the fabric after 2-3 months. During this time, areas of the fabric will lighten, corresponding to sun exposure.
Because of its connection to the sun, Soft Fading has the potential of being perceived similarly to other living beings in the home: plants, pets...
Looking forward:
We ponder: What will happen when home dwellers remove the fabric? Will they find new meaning and function for their faded home data? Could they assemble the fabric into a scarf or quilt? This poetic, material, and ongoing trace of sunlight offers a new route for living alongside and subtly noticing data in the home.
Data collection in the context of home IoT is often considered to be digital, precise, and instant. Soft Fading encourages people to rethink this fast-paced convention. Feedback from Soft Fading is not instantaneous and any change that happens occurs over the span of months. Living with Soft Fading calls for acts of subtle noticing over an extended period of time, rather than constant interaction.
Next Project
Data Bakery