You might have heard different forms of textual messaging or communication mediums such as Short Message Service (SMS) / Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). However, such interactions are limited to visualization elements on 2D screens. In a way, this form of communication lacks ‘closeness’ and ‘tangibility’ because people can’t ‘touch’ and ‘feel’ it. Rather than this virtual communication, we proposed to use edible food as a new approach for social communication in physical format. Therefore, as part of on-going research on using food as a medium of interaction, we propose Food Synthesizer, an application that makes use of food via food printer to facilitate emotional communication and bring interaction to a ‘closer’ level.
Before we go further into the details of emotional ‘closeness’ in food interaction, we give some examples of the common usages of food for communication in certain occasions.
Image adapted from
Image adapted from
From these examples, we can see that food is a significant medium to send social greetings. Even if the message being sent to the receiver is the same with textual message, there are certain key factors that are present in food communication that may be lacked elsewhere, for example, the unique features of food (smell, taste, and colour) which can trigger emotional feelings and even trigger personal memories. These factors portray sincerity and connect people at the emotional level. This is because apart from the literal message, the food itself encompasses the effort of the sender in which people can feel cognitively. Due to these reasons, the intended message is much stronger than it is without food. Considering the rich emotional meanings that are embedded in food, we consider food to be a potential medium for emotional communication.
With these reasons in mind, we can see the potential of food-mediated interaction in bringing the ‘closeness’ that is not present in typical electronic communication means. From a recent article written by Professor Preston Ni (Preston N, 2012), it suggests that emotional closeness is categorized into 4 main categories, namely Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Shared Activities. A generalized list of examples in each category is as follows,
Physical contacts, such as hugging, kissing and holding, enhance emotional closeness. Physical contacts are often sensual in nature and portray direct affection for one another.
The ability to express loving emotions that is nourishing and constructive such as “I love you”, “How are you feeling” (Preston N, 2012). Unlike physical contacts, emotional levels deal with expressions and feelings linkage between the actors involved.
It refers to actors that engage in topics that they feel having a common level of intellectual content. Topics are not restricted in any form but needs to be intellectually linked among all actors involved.
Communications invoke positive memories of activities that were done together such as cooking and travelling. Unlike physical contacts, shared activities do not portray direct affection for one another. Instead, they promote bonding in a psychological way.
From the categories above, one can relate that by manipulating the use of the food printer through the use of an application, some form of positive memories that enhance ‘closeness’ can be achieved when one 'cooks' for the other. Similarly, emotional messages can also be used to enhance the effects of ‘closeness’ among people. In further parts of section 1, we’ll take a look at how we try to fuse emotions and food together to create this sense of ‘closeness’ that is lacking in literal messages.
In a nutshell, by fusing food with emotions, one can express his/her feelings for each other at a whole new level, beyond the limitations of flat display screens which is merely for-the-eyes only.