Tavofono, device for the definition of the self.


If the telephonic conversation is one of the frames of interaction where, according to Ervin Goffman, people play their identity, then the ‘definition of the self’ and the ‘performance’ are the founding concepts of Tavofono, the table/telephone created by Crispin Jones, with the help of Sara Manazza, for a children interactive workshop at the Telecom Italia Future Center. The tavofono is an installation whose user can record audio into one of the buttons that make up the table surface and then write on it the name of what he has recorded. He can make a telephone call without speaking directly with the person he is calling, but using the audio that others have created. Over time the table becomes an archive of calls. Telephonic conversation is one of the first social frames that kids play imitating adults. The frame of the performance is the game, where participants play the role of interlocutors following the rules of the prototypical phone call. The Tavofono amplifies the ludic attitude of this symbolic interaction changing its rules: the physical presence of the speaker is not necessary to activate the conversation; what one of the two participants says is a mash up of portions of registered speech, and the outcome of the exchange is surreal. Thus the Tavofono seems to be a ‘Smile Machine’ for the definition of the self.