The Playful Misuse of Everyday Interface of a Power Cube

The Power Cube is a multi-face USB power plug. The cubic design of the multiple faces provides the convenience of using all sizes of power plugs. The cube shape not only helps to avoid the narrow spaces of the conventional power bar but also has a kind of playfulness as a game object that can be misused and used in other unconventional ways. 


Misuse Method 1: use it as a measurement

The 1st misuse of this object was to use it as a measuring unit. I was interested in creating a connection between my daily activities to this object, not by using its function, but by finding an overlapping area between this object and my daily life. So I used this power cube as the unit to measure my body, my steps, and measure my surroundings using this power cube. 

The first exercise I created was to measure the length of my step using the cube. My step counts as 13 cubes. Once I figured out the length of my step, I started calculating the spaces with the cube and created a chart for collecting the information. For example:

space  length width area
Office  10.5 steps / 136.5 cubes 8 steps / 104 cubes 14196 sq cubes
Studio  16 steps / 208 cubes 12 steps / 156 cubes 32448 sq cubes

With the result of the calculation, I suddenly felt the space that I’ve occupied is huge. A total of 46644 cubes would be required to fill my working area. By multiplying the height of the studio by roughly 16 feet (14 steps), the space would contain 373,152 power cubes! 

I also used the cube to measure my body and collect the data. 

arm 13 cubes
Leg 15 cubes
Body height 34 cubes
Chest size 9 cubes

There are two aspects of misuse. First, due to the relatively smaller size of the object, the result of the measurement ends up with bigger numbers. It somehow makes the measured objects, space and individual seem more powerful and confident. I certainly feel more comfortable telling people that I am 34 cubes tall! Secondly, I feel this is a relationship-building between my everyday life and this ubiquitous object. This seemingly unimportant object could become a representation of my daily activities. Imagine if I used it to measure the number of cubes I walk each day, and what is the “cube” distance between my home and work? I think it would certainly entertain our perception of space and distance. 

Misuse 2: Generative method.

In this misuse, I took the advantage of the cube shape and used it in a generative design method. The six faces of the power cube naturally become a dice for me to play a game. In this experiment, I simply created a set of rules for using three basic shapes to generate drawings. By rolling the cube, the random number assigned to each face guides my drawing process.

1.  Draw a triangle  4.  Draw a triangle + a rectangle.
2.  Draw a rectangle  5.  Draw a triangle + a circle.
3.  Draw a circle  6.  Stop, start over.

In this misuse, the power cube becomes a device that generates the actions of a dice. With a simple set of rules, the cube provides opportunities for creation and imagination. The randomness often juxtaposes the expectation: although the player has the control in rolling the die, the outcome is never a certainty. The anticipation at the moment of rolling the cube creates a brief excitement and surprise, sometimes disappointment (when the game ends in a short run), or an inpatient stand-by (when the game keeps going). The randomly generated numbers work as codes or the algorithm that creates endless possibilities in the process of

drawing where imagination is the only limit. As a result, the combination of the shapes appears to be abstract or figurative. The design process becomes alive with infinite combinations between freedom and limitation. There is so much fun in discovering new possibilities in this playfulness. 


Misuse 3: Story-Telling

Since the socket interface provides the basic graphic feature of a face. Naturally, I cannot help but play with the idea of making them into characters. It makes me think about Christoph Niemann’s illustration while I was playing with this idea. Using everyday objects to create images that are embedded with meaningful social commentary slowly forms the process of playing. Although the ideas were not super clear at the time, I was thinking about social injustice, violence, police brutality, censorship…etc. Maybe as a result of the playing and making, it led me to deeper thoughts. The image-making using the power cube and green masking tape started to take life. The gaps between the sequence of these images, somehow create ambiguity and imaginary spaces for more interpretation.

In this misuse, the simple everyday object can be used to antagonize the pre-configuration of its deemed functions. In this case, instead of being a submissive device, the power cube is misused to illustrate social issues, creating stories that communicate messages and commentary. Moreover, the Interface is not only the design that provides aesthetics and functionality but also, it is a space that can be expanded beyond its functional and technical limits to a much larger social and political critique. 

Misuse 4: Social Intervention Graffiti Stamp.

Talking about making the ubiquitous interface work in a social context, the last misuse of the power cube extends an exploration of this cube to create an intervention in different contexts and public spaces. Since the cube can be held in my hand comfortably, I had the idea of using it to create a rubber stamp that I could use to create public graffiti art. Extending this concept to the debate of graffiti as public artwork or vandalism, I believe artists have the right and the responsibility of creating comments and messages in the public space, however, it does not mean the artists can take no concerns to vandalize public property. In this case, the site that I chose to work with my Power Cube Stamp would also become a  critical component in this misuse as it needs to create a positive message and be artful 

I feel more like a situational artist in this play as I was walking around the neighborhood to find the spaces to make my art intervention. 

In conclusion, interfaces exist everywhere from complicated systems to everyday life objects where we only pay attention to the designed function and usage. Our rationality often controls and guides our imagination and behavior, which makes us more passive and submissive to the system and convention. Playfulness helps to deconstruct conventional logic and existing structures, allowing our imagination and senses to take precedence in the process of discovering possibilities. Playing does not only make us feel more relaxed, but also it can lead us to explore and find meaningful thoughts through the process. Finally, by learning how to play with the misuse of the things around us, we can think more critically about ourselves and in relation to the things around us, our environment, and the world.