Responses to ‘Nearness’

The broad response to the short film Nearness has been tremendous. In the two days since it was launched it has received over 55,000 views and has been covered all over the internet.


It is great when a project is not just just well received, but thoroughly understood and appreciated for the underlying reasons it was made. The purpose of making the film was to introduce the ‘magic of proximity’ which is largely left out of the discourse around RFID. The film attempts to communicate the delicate and subtle aspects of a rather obscure technology, so we were pleasantly surprised by the engaged, thoughtful and broad discussions that it has initiated.

Adam Greenfield was one of the first people to pick up on the intertwined concept and aesthetics:

“What really gets me about it is the fusion of technical insight, aesthetic sense, skill in execution and sheer patience it represents. If every made thing in the world were even one-twentieth as carefully thought out as the most offhanded gesture here, we’d all of us be in inestimably better shape.”

While Lisa Smith at Core77 immediately saw the way in which the film explores RFID from a new direction:

“The video very sensitively explores the physical implications of proximity, using RFID for much more than identification.”

Moving Brands responded to the strong legacy of Fischli & Weiss and Honda Cog but saw how:

“Nearness takes the Fischli & Weiss concept further though as it explores how modern day interactive technologies (RFID) with the use of proximity detection make “touching” redundant. It’s an original modern day version of a masterpiece.”

We have always framed the film through a vivid memory of our first viewing of Der Lauf Der Dinge. But a cultural reference that emerged very quickly was Heath Robinson and Rube Goldberg. The Goldberg reference in particular stuck in many discussions, where the relative merits of physical versus virtual interactions were argued out. On Boingboing some commenters disparagingly described Nearness as the “Phantom Menace of Rube Goldbergs”, while another commenter thought the electronic aspect added a contemporary twist:

“The fact that it is entitled “Nearness” and each interface is from indirect interaction elevates this from science project to art for me.”

Guybrush over at has an amusing take on RFID chain reactions that manages to take RFID paranoia to new heights:

“Would be funnier with one of the new Barclaycards: swap your card to pay for groceries, see how thieves invisibly get your number, print a cloned card which is then used to access your bank account and to transfer all your money to Russia, where mafia associates can use it right away to pay for a plasma tv on the web which is then delivered to them in a few minutes. Closing shot of smiling Putin-lookalike turning on the tv by remote control.”

There were lots of lovely links from Delicious:

“A nice way to demonstrate near-field communication without getting all swipe-to-pay-for-x” by technekai

“No surprise, but this single page has possibly the highest concentration of awesome on the internet.” by Blaine Cook

“Lovely film of glancing blows, near-misses, wielded fields, touches-without-touching” by Rod McLaren.

And Twitter:

“Now mildly obsessed by non touch thanks to the awesome twist” by macintosh

“Beautiful piece of design and thinking. Like Moustrap for the digital generation.” by TheLeith

“Quite a thought provoking movie, such a rich capture of the nearness concept” by Dries De Roeck

But we’ll leave the final word (for now) to Bruce Sterling:

“Just cut to the chase and give them the Nobel, that’s what I say.”

Related things:

  1. ‘Nearness’ goes further Since the launch three weeks ago, our film Nearness has been seen almost 100,000 times, and favourited by over 500 people. Thanks for all the feedback and commentary! Creativity contacted us for a “Behind......
  2. Responses to ‘Immaterials’ In the two weeks since we launched our film Immaterials we’ve seen it spread across the internet, going much further than we anticipated for such an esoteric exploration! So far it’s been covered by......
  3. Nearness One of the essential properties of Near Field Communication is nearness, but this is set against one of the paradoxes of touch-based interaction where, in fact, nothing needs to touch. In a very short......
  4. Designing with film We’ve compiled a short sequence of some of the design experiments and tests in audiovisual media in the Touch project. Here we show some of the ‘behind the scenes’ tests and processes where we......

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  1. By Interacting without Touching | rekeeb on 25 October 2009 at 14:46

    [...] and interactive objects. This article explains some of the thinking. Even more interesting are the responses on the film by others from the [...]

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