That’s what the Microsoft Epigraph is trying to encourage. This device (which strangely enough makes me think of a security camera monitor) consists out of several channels, of which each represents a specific member of the family. Every member can send photos or text messages to it, which it will then display on the screen.
The Epigraph is a project from Microsoft research, and as you can see, it’s still in an experimental state. I had a hard time finding any audio-visual material about it. The only video I came across can be found here on the website of the BBC.
In the video, the Epigraph is explained as being a social network brought to your living room. In essence, that’s true. It’s interesting if you look at it as a niche social network. The Epigraph’s main goal is to encourage people to create a presence when they’re not around. This is only one of many purposes a big network like Facebook is used for.
Social networks always evolve around social objects. Flickr does it with photos, youtube with video’s etc.
Bigger networks like Facebook have a number of objects. Till now this has been somewhat of a trend. The bigger the better. Every social network out there has bee trying to have as many members as possible. Within these social networks you often have the phenonoma that people are trying to have as many friends as possible (Is there a name for this phenonoma?). Again, the bigger the better. But not with the Epigraph, and that’s what I like about it.
The Epigraph focusses on such a niche, that it shines a new light on social networks as we know them from the internet. A network to improve the connectedness between the members of a single family. I doubt if it will really enrich my life. Do I really have the need to feel the presence of the people that, I see everyday for the biggest part of the day, even more? My guess is (when it’s only about creating a presence) that the less time the members of a family spend together, the bigger the added value of the Epigraph will be. Why not let it be a collective art piece which you hang on the wall?