OUIJA was created with my friend and colleague Abigail Browning in Spring 2016. The project uses Arduino technology, Processing visuals, and two sets of accelerometer sensor data to recreate the experience of playing with a Ouija board and calling upon the “spirits” to answer questions. The instrument receives data from two hanging accelerometers on either side of the [0U1JA] planchette. Depending on how users move the digital planchette, the accelerometers receive a range of x, y, and z coordinate data that are then reconciled with each other and interpreted in Processing as a visual phenomenon. The accelerometers are extremely sensitive, so even when users are not physically moving the reader apparatus, the accelerometers are still taking in miniscule movements from users’ hands and producing effects.
Theoretically, the project prompted us to consider the ways in which ideas about femininity, relationality, and technical mystification map onto new media technologies. We used the ideo-motor effect to theorize how our bodies could in someway manipulate our Processing program to create “ghosts in the machine”. It was especially important that this process was both known, in that we wrote the program, and unknown, in that our Arduino was collecting tiny, micro-muscular movements even when we thought we weren’t moving the planchette. In this way, our project mirrored the ways that young women often experience technology as something mystical and unknown, when in fact the private lives of women and girls are rife with scientific and technical expertise, from the technology of the Ouija board, to the binary code of fiber craft, to the chemical and physiological theories behind cooking.