Despite its fragility, the vintage egg timer continues to persist,
while modern models are locked in a cycle of disposal [ 6].
to it while it counts down, and it makes me think
about the other people [i.e., grandmother and aunt]
that have had it before me.”
The simple mechanics and design of the egg
timer resulted in the participant’s transparent
understanding of how it works on a functional
level and engaging with it as a material entity—
ultimately leading to conscious consideration and
care over time, across generations. When probed
about whether a digital timer could ever take on
the same significance, the participant responded:
“No, it will never be an antique because it will
never make it that long. Plastic will break and it’s
not unique—just functional and will never have
aesthetic meaning for me. Not that it’s about being
made out of fine metal. It’s more about the quality
of how it works.”
In this case, the transparent nature of the egg
timer resulted in intentional care across family members and, consequently, the achievement
of heirloom status. Conversely, the poor-quality
components and closed design of the digital timer
caused it to be viewed as a disposable entity capable only of providing a means to an end, devoid of
the allure and intrigue characterizing heirloom
[ 6] Timer originally
authors. Image later
re-shot courtesy of
[ 7] Kinsey, A. C., W.
R. Pomeroy, and C. E.
Martin. Sexual Behavior
in the Human Male.
Consider an elaborate multimedia installations.
Installation (B) has fully 10 complete sets of dedicated videogame systems and controllers, while
installation (A) has 13! The ages of the different
systems vary considerably, including both vintage
and state-of-the-art platforms. The owner of one
of these gaming emporia describes the space this
way: “I invested a lot of time and money into creating this room and especially the display case. I love
to display them all [game systems], and they’re
all functional, but I really only use the latest ones
[Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Playstation 3]. …I
keep the older ones around to remind me of my
memories of playing them when I was younger.”
Additionally, that same participant noted that
his most frequent new purchases were add-ons or
upgrade devices for this environment: “Most of the
new things I buy go into this room. They’re either
new games or systems—or just modifications to
my display case.”
As described by one participant, older hardware
was used less for functionality and largely maintained as souvenirs of times passed and memories.
[ 8] Collier, J. and
M. Collier. Visual
Photography as a
(revised and expanded).
of New Mexico Press,
perseveres across space and time given its fragile
When asked if the glass had ever broken when
in her possession, the participant remarked that
she had “never been careless with it, always wrapping it up carefully with utmost caution when
moving.” This conscious care over time led to the
emergence of dense experiential histories, endowing the egg timer with meaning and a rich reflective affordance. For example, when discussing the
particular placement of the egg timer within her
home, the participant remarked: “I attached it to
a special place on the wall in the kitchen where
grandmother had it. I like it better than the other
timers because it can’t malfunction. I mostly use it
for short things because it only lasts for three minutes, but I like it because I have to pay attention
[ 9] Nelson, H. G. and E.
Stolterman. Design Way:
Intentional Change in
an Unpredictable World.
Englewood Cliffs, N. J.:
Publications, 2003, 29
[ 10] Stolterman, E. “The
nature of design practice and implications
for interaction design
Journal of Design 2, no.
September + October 2008