A “Make Your Own Museum” Text Adventure

A “Make Your Own Museum” Text Adventure

Charged up from our on-site experience at the San Jose Tech Innovation Museum, I had this funny idea about a museum that would house everything that I thought was cool. I realized that a lot of the things I like have some kind of transformative power, and that a lot of these artifacts were actually devices that were designed to translate from one kind of energy or data to another more convenient form. The idea that you can convert one thing to another is a foundation of practical engineering, and perceptually being able to switch your brain into a more convenient plane of reference is a skill that I’ve been interested in cultivating since the 10th grade.

Examples of Transformation Exhibits

  • Devices that convert mechanical energy to electrical energy, and vice versa!
  • Glassblowing: From sand to shaped glass!
  • Mathematical conversion of coordinate spaces to imaginary spaces: Euler spaces come to mind…Ugh.
  • Extreme Makeovers and Fashion: It’s amazing what you can do with a little bit of applied shadow!
  • Empire Building: The process of integrating cultures is difficult and devious task.
  • Landscaping, Feng Shui, Interior Decorating: Being able to transform the flow of a physical space is pretty amazing
  • Baking Bread: The sheer number of variables involved in creating a great loaf frankly astonishes me. And who wouldn’t want to go to a museum that smelled like freshly baking bread?

Examples of Translation Exhibits

  • Language Concepts, Linguistics, and Psychology of Communication: There are certain common concepts that most languages share. I’d like to know what they are.
  • Codemaking and Codebreaking: Especially physical devices used for this. They’re just cool.
  • Signal Reproduction: From sound to video, the ability to convert physical phenomena into digital form, and then store it in another physical-based media, is pretty amazing.
  • The World of Signals: Everything in Electrical Engineering is a signal, and every signal is arbitrary. If I’d known that when I started engineering school, I might have been good at it.
  • Time and Money: The idea that time = money dates back to Benjamin Franklin. Is it true? How do you measure it?

I’ve decided to call this new institution The Museum of Transformation and Translation (aka THE MOTT). Since creating my own museum and collecting all the artifacts that I’d like to have in it will be prohibitively expensive, I decided to create a Wiki version of it in the Public Wiki area. And because I’m an aging nerd, I am building it to resemble an old-school text adventure. I guess it’s more accurate to say that it’s a hypertext fiction approach I’m taking, but never mind that.

Right now it’s just a placeholder, but if anyone would like to come by and build an exhibit by describing an interesting collection of transformation/translation related concepts or artifacts, come on down!


  1. Scott 16 years ago

    Only an engineer can look at the beautiful lines and impressive stonework of the Brooklyn Bridge and conclude that it’s a line between two points.

    However, I agree with your energy-conversion sensibilities (and I think a great deal of people are with me on this) and look forward to contributing to the MOTT. However, how do you plant to organize this? Just as all jobs boil down to a common component (sales and marketing), just about any process or language can be considered a transformation or translation.

  2. Dave Seah 16 years ago

    Scott: I think that would be the response of a mediocre engineer. A great engineer would see a different kind of beauty beneath the surface of that beautiful stonework, in structure and context of many factors, and be uplifted. The ability to perceive what is implicated beneath the surface (or in the case of the MOTT, between entities) is one that I think is overlooked. Perhaps that’s one of the MOTT’s mission statements.

    As for organizing this: since this is my first wiki museum, I’m assuming it might go something like this:

    1. Person with an architecture, collection, or exhibit idea writes it up and links it somewhere off the main entrance. The namespace is “TheMOTT”. People who are not familiar with Wikis can just leave a comment here and someone will move it in.

    2. Other contributors informally refine or comment on each exhibit or space, adding to the collections or ideas. Any registered user can do this.

    3. Curators (me to start) reconfigure spaces (that is, links) into themed wings. I will also provide overall continuity and clarifying the mission of the MOTT. They may also play an editorial role, ensuring that every exhibit is descriptive and engages the imagination.

    Personally, I’m going to use the MOTT to finally start my collection of “useful mechanical concepts” as they apply to getting things done.

  3. Dave Seah 16 years ago

    I should add that exhibits can develop over time, so even a very rough and terse description is good enough. The collection of exhibits themselves, as they are made to fit the general theme of transformation and translation, will make for an interesting read.

    I think one of the themes I’m interested in is perception of non-obvious relations, and the transformative power of being able to harness them. Translation is a useful technique in moving from one reference space to a more convenient one, and it does as you say underlay quite a bit.

  4. Sarah 16 years ago

    On “Language Concepts, Linguistics, and Psychology of Communication”
    …I did a tiny exhibit a couple of years ago – had a friend write a text in German, which was then translated forth and back between German and Japanese ten times – the text morphed until it was something completely different – in the end, they were three instead of two main characters, people’s names had changed and even the location of the short story had changed.
    It was really interesting.
    I’ve long wanted to do something different also involving English – would this fit your concept?

  5. Dave Seah 16 years ago

    Sarah: It certainly would! I’ll open the entrance and stick in an idea board and open the two wings.

  6. zombiedad 16 years ago

    “Personally, I’m going to use the MOTT to finally start my collection of “useful mechanical concepts” as they apply to getting things done.”

    Could you clarify the idea of a “useful mechanical concept”? I guess I’m getting stuck between the concrete transformations (sand > rock > quarry > block > bridge) and the translations (secret message > encoding > decoding > action).

  7. Gogo 16 years ago


    I think you should rename it the “Mad Alchemists Lab” or “TheMAL”.

    Great post.

  8. S. 16 years ago

    Nice, creative, fun, kid-like!

  9. Ken Woodman 15 years ago

    I think the wiki format is a great idea and it is definitely user friendly!