In this project, we explored how the concept of the echo activated the design fiction potential of an interactive installation, which was designed for an 18th century festival that took place in the city of Aarhus, Denmark, in March 2012. Ekkomaten is an interactive installation that served as a physical and auditory interface with 18th century Aarhus. During the festival, Ekkomaten was placed in the city’s cathedral square (Store Torv) for three consecutive days.
When interacting with Ekkomaten, people can listen to six different “echoes” from the past, which have been “intercepted” by the machine. The “echoes” are site-specific stories embedded in a general soundscape, and presented in a dramatized form known from radio plays. In order to discover the “echoes”, people need to physically turn Ekkomaten. When pointed at specific locations, such as the church or the former city well, the “echoes” emerge. The stories presented as “echoes” are inspired by historical persons and events that either reportedly have, or could have taken place around Store Torv in 18th century Aarhus. In extension of this, we argue that through its physical manifestation and conceptual framing, Ekkomaten offers an experience that engages its users in the exploration of an imagined narrative space emerging from the intersection of fact and fiction.
The empirical findings clearly demonstrate that, in a variety of ways, the use of Ekkomaten activates rich narrative potential. We believe that it is possible to use and develop this knowledge in future projects, where Ekkomaten and the conceptual framing of the echo could function as a design fiction strategy for engaging people in other areas, for example, matters of civic interest.