Industrial Designers Create New ‘Human-God Interfaces’

Industrial Designers Create New ‘Human-God Interfaces’
Box of Wishes (Photo: Michael Zalesak and Gürkan Orak)

A joint project between students in the Industrial Design course at the University of Wuppertal, Germany, and the Catholic Educational Institution in Bonn is bringing (sort of) high tech to the Catholic Mass.

The Catholic faith hasn’t really upgraded since the Second Vatican Council, at which time they swapped development environments and communication protocols from Latin to the vernacular. The rest of the Catholic hardware — the vestments, the chalices, and even the Sanctus are a few centuries old.

This project, called “Human-God Interfaces,” aims to bring the Mass into the 21st century. This includes a number of improvements to the traditional prayer process and includes digital and analogue solutions to the problem of human-to-deity communication.

The students, Miriam Glöß, Maximilian Klaiß, Katharina Kurm, Ina van der Linde, Kathrin Neumann, Gürkan Orak, Katlin Sommer, Thanh Ta Dui, Paulina Wagner, Rebecca Lake and Michael Zalesak, worked together to rethink holy objects.

“Most Catholic rituals are hundreds — in some cases, thousands — of years old. Taking a fresh view, especially in times that often do not put much emphasis on religion, may lead to a discussion about which rituals may be helpful — say, for contemplation or for a feeling of connectedness, purpose, and belonging — but not quite fitting into today’s everyday life,” Dr. Fabian Hemmert, a professor of human interface design at the University of Wuppertal, said in an email.

A project consists of a few different objects including the Candle of Sins (a candle containing little bits of coloured material) and the Chests of Mindfulness, a concept product that detects when an object is placed inside and then opens another box somewhere else.

The Box of Wishes, below, allows you to enter prayers onto a bit paper and then transfer those prayers to other people, allowing more bang for your prayer buck.

Some of the projects work and others are concepts, but the idea is simple: to create religious items that would be at home in West Elm and, presumably, popular with penitents of the future.

The real value of all of this is to rethink singular religious experience in the modern era, an era full of interconnectedness and science. Going to Mass or Temple was once one of the primary social outlets humans had and, through the accretion of more and more distractions, it’s become harder to achieve that outlet. These tools visualise a world in which prayers are international, interconnected, and interpersonal.

“We were able to walk the thin line of carefully redesigning traditional Catholic rituals, without going for the one extreme — only renovating them on the surface — or the other — questioning it entirely — but finding a sweet spot of bringing those rituals into the 21st century,” said Hemmert.

The Wall of Confessions (Photo: Kathrin Neumann and Ina van der Linde) The Wall of Confessions (Photo: Kathrin Neumann and Ina van der Linde)