Text Fish is an exhibit built for The Exploratorium as a prototype to demonstrate the Tragedy of The Commons. The exhibit was initially conceived by Bill Meyers, and initially designed and built by me with Twilio API integration by Doug Thistlethwaite.
In this exhibit, visitors deplete a shared resource of fish. A visitor must regularly catch a certain amount to "survive," but if too many visitors catch too many fish, the common pool of fish is depleted and all visitors "starve." Visitors catch fish by texting the word "fish" to a specific number. once they start fishing, their boat appears on screen, and further information is sent to the visitor via sms. This provides a means to address users individually who are fishing too much or not enough, as well as provide additional information about the Tragedy of The Commons than could otherwise fit on screen or on a sign.
The exhibition was designed to encourage visitors to think about their decisions, and the impact they have on those around them. To accomplish that, Text Fish was built to be calm and contemplative, while the continually setting sun and moon instill a sense of urgency. Each visitor appears on screen in a visibly labelled boat to encourage discussion amongst those using the exhibit. Visitors can see when someone is catching too many fish and can ask them to slow down.
Articles and videos about Text Fish:
TRBQ — Is it human nature to share?
Twilio — The Science of Sharing: San Francisco Exploratorium Re-opens with Twilio-Powered Exhibit
American Psychological Association — Psychology at San Francisco's Exploratorium
Swedish Exhibition Agency — The Science of Sharing at Exploratorium - June 2013