We will be premiering the RealSnailMail webmail service at SIGGRAPH2008 The 35th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques at Los Angeles Convention Centre, California USA from 11th August 2008.
Visitors to the SIGGRAPH2008 ‘Slow Art’ exhibition will be able to access the realsnailmail.net website on a terminal and email a message via the RSM website. Their email will travels at the speed of light to the realsnailmail.net server where it is entered into a queue. Here it waits until a real snail within the tank at Bournemouth University UK wonders in range of a hot spot. The hot spot is the dispatch centre in the form of a RFID reader. This reader identifies the snail from the RFID chip attached to its shell and checks to see it has not already been assigned a message to carry. If the snail is available it is assigned the message at the top of the list. It then slips away into the technological wasteland. Located at the other end of the tank is the drop off point. When, or if, the snail ever makes it here, it is identified by another reader, which then forwards the relevant message to the recipients email address; once again travelling at the speed of light.
At each stage of the emails transit the sender will be updated with the messages progress and when the email finally arrives at its destination it is appended with details of its carrier and a log of its journey. The realsnailmail.net website, encourages users to consider the efforts of a diminutive mollusk lugging their message across a tank and for this reason urges them to send a message of value.
For the duration of the conference there will be a SnailCam accessible on the RSM website where visitors can see live footage of the snail tank in action.
Normally when we communicate by email the physical endeavours of our fingertips are followed by an uninterrupted digital transportation until our thoughts are emitted through the pixels of the recipients screen. What boredomresearch is doing here is creating a physical and biological interruption to this flow, but they hope by doing this it may also interrupt, for one small moment, our understanding of communication, allowing us to explore notions of time. It may even enable us to take time rather than lose it.
During the SIGGRAPH2008 conference we will be talking about the development of the RSM research project in an informal 20 minute talk in the art gallery (date & time to be confirmed) there will be an opportunity to ask questions to both myself and Paul Smith.