Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Production company proposes ‘digital wall’ for Dublin Airport

‘Electronic sketchpad’ would display messages from emigrants, immigrants and passers-by

Tue, Aug 20, 2013, 16:38


Eoin O’Callaghan

Last September, I returned home after three years in Canada. Touching down in Dublin Airport and stepping through the arrivals hall felt different. It wasn’t a holiday this time. Sometimes familiarity is comforting. Sometimes it’s asphyxiating. I was somewhere in between. Living in a different country, part of a different culture, I had been a version of myself. I grappled with the concept of never truly being “me”. And here I was, home at last but a mess of contradictions. Struggling with the return of “Irish me”, almost pining for the one I’d left behind. Here I was, in Dublin Airport, with lots on my mind.

In an airport, everyone has a different story to tell. With the increase in Irish people moving about the globe in recent years and engaging in life-changing experiences, I’ve thought about a Dublin Airport project for quite a while. The success of various online diaspora-focused communities means that there’s a healthy demographic who want to engage, who want to tell their stories. Many young people continue to leave Ireland in search of a better life and greater opportunities. What’s going through their minds before stepping on that plane? Others, like me, have returned home content with a brief dalliance abroad, perhaps relieved with being back to what they know. Are they experiencing a myriad of emotions like I did? And there’s another important element – the tourists who continue to flock here regardless of the economic turbluence. As outsiders, how do they perceive our country?

As part of The Arthur Guinness Projects, an initiative looking to support and reward innovative and creative entrepreneurship, the Sixsem Production Company, of which I’m a director, has proposed the installation of two “digital walls” at Dublin Airport – one stationed at the departure gate, the other at the arrivals hall. They will serve as electronic sketchpads and will encourage emigrants, immigrants and passers-by to contribute and/or absorb what others have to say. Messages can be uploaded from inside the airport via smartphone devices or by using specially-designed kiosks to type, design and post. The walls will float the best messages, poems and sketches across the screen while an online archive will allow you to search for previous entries. Prompting users to leave certain personal information will see the digital wall also act as a digital guestbook.

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Writing on walls has been around for thousands of years, from Pharaohs to Facebook. But the idea is an unusual spin on what a regular installation is. Here, the contributors are also the consumers. The content is the thoughts and opinions of everyday people. And in an environment where our past is celebrated so proudly with various quotes from Irish history, the prospect of facilitating what the present generation has to say, particularly at such a fractured time for our country, seems eternally rewarding.

The digital wall is a legacy project – a reflection of where the country was on any given date, of any given month of any given year. It’s a declaration of proud Irishness with an international slant.

Members of the public have until this Friday August 23rd to vote for the idea and can do so here.