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Click to use the QWERTY engine Click here to use the QWERTY engine

The QWERTY project is an investigation into digital communication. In its original form it was a joint project with Steven Lewis and was installed for seven weeks in Oxford Brookes University. The project now exists in a digital form.

The QWERTY project consists of a computer connected to a monitor which is placed on a plinth. The computer has the usual 101 keys connected to it, although these keys are not arranged on a keyboard. The keys are connected to the computer by 700 meters of wire. The keys are distributed about the building, attached to the walls and ceilings.

In Phase 1, the physical installation, the QWERTY project existed as a simple communications device. The impracticalities of QWERTY's usefulness are inherent in its design. Any meaningful communication was either accidental, or took the participants several minutes to write. The people using the building were encouraged to use qwerty as an informal message board, and slowly messages built up.

Click to use the QWERTY engineQWERTY is now in its second phase. The 174 images of the installation have been digitized and placed in a Java engine. The installation can be navigated by using the eight direction buttons. Once the desired key has been located users can click on it to build a message to send to the message board.

© 1998 Nico Westerdale and Steve Lewis


QWERTY2 was performed in 1998. The performance piece consisted of two players wearing the QWERTY suits attempting to communicate. Each suit functions as its own computer keyboard, with the keys placed on the back, but the output from the keyboard is not displayed on a monitor. Each sentence that is typed in is digitally spoken through a speaker placed in the typists mouth. The keys are connected to a central circuit board by red and blue wires, reminiscent of bodily circuitry, which gather together to form a two meter umbilical cord connecting the suits. The suits were connected to a computer by a fifteen meter cable t0 process the keystrokes and digitize the speech..

QWERTY2 puts the two people that want to communicate in an interesting position. Movement is slow due to the umbilical cord, and the mouth is closed off by the speaker, so that the two people have little choice other than to use the keys to communicate. The act of typing a sentence requires the listener to turn their back on the speaker, the opposite of what would happen in face to face conversation.

The inconvenience that QWERTY2 causes to face to face conversation is similar to the inconvenience that QWERTY causes to writing a simple note. As the suits create a shell the two people are entrapped in technology, the 'speech' that comes out is only an approximation of human speech, and the suits obscure features to create an anthropomorphic sterile being.

© 1998 Nico Westerdale and Steve Lewis