Admittedly my first thoughts on watching this video were “wtf”. However, as quickly as you can say Strøget (Copenhagen’s main shopping street and the longest pedestrianised street in Europe), cool nods of respect and the odd envious pang emanated from the room – a certain “I wish that I had thought of that” type of technophile awe. Nevertheless, the idea is a simple one – tricky to pronounce street names deciphered and transmitted to those passing by; digital and everyday reality converging in a satisfying and useful way.
Designed by Momo Miyazaki and Andrew Spitz, the installation partially removes the strain of asking for directions in a foreign country (while holding a map), yet without going Rosetta-stone strict. The location-based and inviting scale and nature of the piece instead makes “What the phonics” more of an urban feature – part daylight karaoke fun with old school speakers, part tourist explorer goes Danish. I consequently like the idea as a simple and design-led solution to a common problem – some patient street corner asssistance to the lost, tongue-tied and Lonely Planet dependable.