Fire Pit


Project Title: Fire Pit
Names of group of members: Nilam Sari, Neo Chen, and Lilian Leung

Project Description

This experiment is a continuation of our first project “Campfire” from Experiment 1 by Nilam and Lilian. The experiment expands upon the topic of conversation, from the importance of face-to-face communication over the use of mobile devices, to exploring the power of anonymity and distance with a platform that allows participants to type their negative feelings into the text box and literally throwing their negative emotions into a virtual fire.

Project Progress

November 8

The team worked together to update the imagery of the flame, exploring different shapes and beginning to style the text box and images. One of the references we pulled was from aferriss (2018)’s Particle Flame Fountain. Taking their source code, we revised the structure of the fire to connect it with user presence from PubNub. 



Then we implemented it into our interface.


November 9

The team added additional effects such as a new fire crackle sound, to emphasize throwing a message into the fire when users send a message. Attempted to create an array that would cycle with a set of prompts or questions for participants to answer. Rather than just having the message stay on screen and abruptly disappear, we also added a timed fade onto the text so that users can see their message slowly burn.

November 10

We worked on the sound effect for when messages are being “thrown” into the fire, and managed to combine two files into one for the sound that we want. 

Changed the way to submit the text by using your finger to swipe up rather than pressing the button. Along with the new fire crackle sound, the fire temporarily grows bigger every time it receives an input. The input text box resets itself after every message is sent.

We tried to add an array of text for questions/prompts, but haven’t been able to display the selection of the questions randomly. When random() is used, the following error message shows up: 

“p5.js says: text() was expecting String|Object|Array|Number|Boolean for parameter #0 (zero-based index), received an empty variable instead. If not intentional, this is often a problem with scope: [] at about:srcdoc:188:3. []”

The random() is now working by calling random(question); rather than the index number let qIndex = random(0,3);. Now everytime the program is opened there will be random questions and will get randomized again every time the user submitted an input.

Nov 11:

The sound of a log of wood being thrown into the fire is added to the program. Everytime a new input is being sent the sound plays. We also changed the CSS of the input box to match it with our general aesthetic. We then added a prompt to tell people how to submit their message instead of using ‘enter’


Nov 12

We are trying to change the fire’s color when the text input is sent and adding a dissolved effect for the text.


What we have so far:

  1. The more people that join the conversation, the bigger the fire becomes
  2. The text fades out after a couple of seconds, no trace of history
  3. The fire changes color and plays a sound when new input is being thrown into it
  4. Swipe up to send the messages into the server and fire
  5. Prompts added just above the text input

To communicate our concept, we felt that producing a short film for our documentation would be the most effective. To do this and be able to record content individually, we created moodboard of the visual style we wanted to use for our film.


Our final step was to put the film together as both presentation and documentation.

Project Context

This experiment is a continuation of our first project “Campfire” from Experiment 1 by Nilam and Lilian. The original concept for the piece was creating a multi-screen experience that was focused on coming together and the value of being present and having a face-to-face conversation. Participants were asked to place their phones on a foam pedestal that light all the screens to recreate a digital campfire.

img_7854_edited doc1

Switching the concept we explored the use of distance and presence online and the practice of speaking into the void when sharing content online; for example, twitter or tumblr, where users can post their thoughts without expectation of a response. People’s personal posts differ from vague to incredibly revealing and are a method of venting and also personally working through one’s own thoughts.

Within Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (2011), she writes how technology can be seductive because of what it offers for human vulnerabilities. Digital connections and networks provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. The platform is preferably used on a mobile device because of the intimacy of a personal handheld device.


Our idea was to have participants land on our main screen with a small fire. The size of the fire is dependent on the number of participants logged on, though the amount of individuals is hidden to maintain the presence of anonymity. Participants can’t tell how many users are online exactly but are aware there is a body of people depending on the size of the flame. Turkle (2011) writes about anonymity as compared to face-to-face confession as having the absence of criticism and evaluation. Participants are able to take their thoughts and throw them into the fire (by swiping or mouse drag) as both a cathartic and purposely gesture. 


Participants are able to see their message on screen after submission and have it  burned in the flame. When participants swipe or drag the screen, there’s the sound of a wood block and fire crackle as the image gets send, as the message metaphorically feeds the flame. The colour of the fire changes as well on send. 

Other participants on the platform can see submitted message temporarily on their screens, the change in the fire both informs interaction with the fire and encourages other to submit thoughts on their mind troubling them as well to burn as well. Rowe in Write it out: how journaling can drastically improve your physical, emotional, and mental health (2012) describes the use of journaling and writing out one’s emotions has been proven to reduce stress by allowing people to open up about their feelings. 


Once the message is sent and burnt, there will be no traces of the message anywhere. There is no history stored in the program or PubNub. It is as if the thoughts that the user wrote and threw into the digital fire and the thoughts become digital ashes. This is both symbolic and literal in terms of leaving no digital footprints. While PubNub allows developers to record the users’ IP addresses and information, we choose to not record any of the users’ information.

This work wasn’t inspired but harks back to the use of PostSecret, a community mail project created by Frank Warren in 2005, which allowed people to mail confessions and secrets anonymously which were hosted online.




Project Video

Project Code on Github


aferriss. (2018, April). Particle Flame Fountain. Retrieved from

Rowe, S. (2012, March-April). Write it out: how journaling can drastically improve your physical, emotional, and mental health. Vibrant Life, 28(2), 16+. Retrieved from

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together : Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Basic Books, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Yezi, Denise. Maybe You Need A Tree Hole Too, May 3 2010

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