KAD Connect Bell

Speculative Design
3D Printing
Community Fieldwork

Objective: Create a "seeing machine" showing a hidden relationship in a community.
Result: An interactive design concept for KADs (Korean Adoptees) to use in Koreatowns or Korea.

The KAD Connect Bell is a near-future device that would help KADs explore Korea or nearby Korean communities — perhaps for the first time or with limited Korean-speaking skill. The bell is modeled after the “ding-dong” service call bells on tabletops in Korean cafes and restaurants. It re-imagines this modern-day Korean object to have new features specialized for KADs. Pressing its buttons will help KADs smoothly begin conversations with Korean speakers; ask questions about food, culture and language; and connect with Koreans around them. The project seeks to spur collective imagining of new ways for members of the transnational KAD diaspora to connect with their birthland and heritage. 


MAKING process

The prototype was built through 3D printing.

Laser-cut buttons show topics ranging from immediate questions to individual histories.



concept Demo Video

Two KADs, Bobby Elsinger from Iowa and Suzzie from Sweden, shared their stories as they demonstrated the device in K-Town, L.A.


interaction Framing

For KADs accustomed to striking up conversations with strangers in the West, the bell acts as an intermediary in Korean culture. Traditionally, introductions in Korea happened through a trusted 3rd person. In this context, the bell uses fluent, modern, polite language to introduce KADs to Korean speakers. Avenues of communication would open for many KADs who grew up with no exposure to Korean or who feel clumsy speaking it.

In its first user-testing, the bell sought to facilitate dialogue between some of the 124,000 living in L.A.’s Koreatown and some of the more than 200,000 global KADs, many of whom come to K-Town to explore, play, or live (Kim Park Nelson 2009, 5; Los Angeles Times, 2009).

Thanks to Bobby Elsinger, Suzzie, and Ted Im for video participation; Art Center core faculty Sean Donahue for his Media Design People & Publics course; Association of Korean Adoptees of Southern California members for site visits and discussions; and Korean American Adoptees Facebook group for input.

The device's interactions can help people who’ve had different life experiences start to connect as they share the same space.