Light and Time

This class is about both light and time. Light changes over time, and it’s partially  through those changes and through our own actions that we can perceive the passage of time. In designing light, you’re also managing the perception of time. The length of time a light change takes, the pattern of the change, and the moments within that change where a participant can affect it are all yours to control.

Because light and action are immaterial, you’ll need analogies to describe  the change in light and the actions that cause it. When you have to hold a button down to fade a light up over several seconds, for example, the change might feel sluggish, and you might try to press harder to speed it up. Changing the timing of the fade or the curve of the fade, the designer can change this feeling. If the controller is a force sensor or a squeeze bulb, the change in light might feel like it’s oozing, or puffing up. Light turned on and off by a stiff switch might feel sharp. Light that gradually spreads across a space might feel liquid. As you work with light and observe it, find your own terms for it, and discuss them with others to see how well they translate.

Countless writers have written abut the qualities of light, and their writings can be your sources for inspiration. Here are a few examples:

“From the door she saw the jewels glittering on the table under the mercurial light, and it was as if she had seen a scorpion in her bed.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Strange Pilgrims

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

– William Gibson, Neuromancer

“A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the washstand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor.”

F. ScottFitzgerald,  The Great Gatsby

“It is just dawn, daylight: that gray and lonely suspension filled with the peaceful and tentative waking of birds.”
William Faulkner, Light in August

“I began also to observe, with greater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me, and to perceive the boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me.”

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“As the radioman says
It is 5 am
And the sun has charred
The other side of
The world and come
Back to us
And painted the smoke
Over our heads
An imperial violet
It is 5 am
And you are listening
To Los Angeles.”

Mike Doughty, Soul Coughing, Screenwriter’s Blues

Here’s a useful list of adjectives describing light.