Star Light, Star Bright

Imagine making the stars shine bright: just for you?

Star Light, Star Bright brings to life dark, winter streets. Surface mounted push activated lights (Star Bright Beacons) appear across the city, mapping star constellations from the winter night sky, visible above Oxford, onto the city’s surfaces.

Star Light, Star Bright brings together strangers – whether tourists, residents or students. It plays with location and serendipity, discovery and curiosity to reveal a hidden, unique view of Oxford.

Our Star Bright Beacons are smart, IoT networked, touch activated lights which appear embedded in the pavements, mounted on walls, clustered together, and found across the city. You touch one and a light starts to pulse- but there is always more than one star in a constellation – someone touches another, and both pulse in unison: brighter now. When all the Star Bright Beacons in a constellation are activated a bright beam of light bathes our gathered strangers, who leave united as a constellation of stars.

With all 29 winter constellations located across the city, this is a chance to explore Oxford’s landscape and architecture, creating colourful star maps.

22 thoughts on “Star Light, Star Bright

  1. I really love this as it seems very intuitive and would look stunning in a city like Oxford with so much old architecture. I was wondering how the other participants will understand that they have influenced the constellation? Will there be some sort of hint near the button to explain that there are more people in this universe? How many constellations are there? Will people be aware that you can activate more than one?

    1. Hi Vanessa,
      Thanks so much for such great questions!
      We wanted to create a project that was accessible no matter your age, or access requirements. You can participate in Star Light: Star Bright by pressing the beacons with your foot, your wheelchair wheel, a pram or a walking stick.

      Each Star Bright Beacon which is part of the same constellation has both the constellation name, a picture of the constellation and which beacon you are pressing etched onto them.

      This will help people know how many they need to find to complete a constellation. Each time they find one more, and it is pressed all the activated beacons glow brighter, so everyone knows they are getting closer to the whole constellation being activated.

      There are 29 constellation, 8 featured stars (like Pollux) and 2 planets spread across the whole of Oxford: not just the tourist or university areas.

      This is a playable city project designed to reach the edges of a city and all its’ demographics. With a intuitive and accessible entry point (stand on a light: it turns on) Star Light: Star Bright rapidly creates an opportunity for serendipity, collaboration and spontaneity: each constellation needs more than one person to activate it to create the ultimate beam of light. We have designed Star Light: Star Bright to be democratic and city wide, demonstrating a shared city. It is a rapidly shareable activity that fits our visual world and can be easily captured for Social Media. Continued curiosity is encouraged; follow the map, hunt them all: Find all the constellations in Oxford look how the stars shine for you.

      We will create a dynamic app, that allows you to see when constellations are being activated across the city. We want to work with Oxford Tourist Information to overlay the location information onto the Oxford Tourist Information App, Google Maps, and similar Travel API based Maps, so that it becomes a really easy ‘trail’ to engage with across the winter. “Find them all” trails have worked really well at engaging people with a diverse range of locations across a city- there is also no cost barrier, they can be found in people’s local areas and are a great activity for all the family.

  2. I sense this entry will bring to life a bit of magic to oxford and reflect the city and it’s astronomical cleverness. I hope the playfulness is accessible I can’t quite visualise what bathing in light and leaving as a constellation will look like?!?

    1. Thanks for your great feedback, I think I answered your question about accessibility whilst replying to Vanessa above, but I love your two other questions.

      “Bathing in Light”
      When every beacon in a constellation has been collectively activated by a group of people (for some constellations this is 2 people, for others 5 people) then a much stronger, coloured beam of light ‘shoots’ up from the beacons at the same time – imagine 5 people turning on a torch at the same time. The top surface of the beacon diffuse the light, so this isn’t dangerous.

      The idea of the beam of light is to
      1) Get people to look up, and connect the constellation on the ground, with the constellation in the sky.
      2) Reward everyone working together.
      3) engage more people who will suddenly see a whole constellation on a street, because of everyone working together
      4) The beam of light is brighter: just like the stars are themselves.

      “Leaving as a constellation” is about the memory of ones actions: Having made something appear in the dark city – we hope people will feel empowered to connect with people again and to look up at our night sky. Imagine posting on instagram “I just figured out what Aquarius looks like” or “ Neptune! I made Neptune glow!”

  3. I love the sound of this! What a beautiful and original idea. Very intriguing too…

  4. I would love to see this in other cities too. Very clever that the night sky is mapped at ground level – what moment will you choose to you map, as the night sky changes? How are you powering the lights and technology?

    1. Two great questions: Thanks so much Rachel!
      We’d love to see this tour too – imagine seeing Ursa Major, which we’re so familiar, with upside down in Australia. You would get totally different constellations mapped onto each city. We have been joking about how lovely it might be to do a ‘star-exchange’ so Montreal’s constellations could be mapped onto the ground in Shenzhen and visa versus- connecting us to people on the other side of the world!

      Q) What moment will you choose to you map, as the night sky changes?
      I know! a challenge, right? We decided to go for around 11pm: when the constellations mapped out onto Oxford would match the majority of star gazing guides that people purchase.

      Q) How are you powering the lights and technology?
      Because we’re using LEDs we’re going to be using a very low power consumption, so each constellation can be powered from Oxford streetlight infrastructure.

      The Star Light: Star Bright beacons are designed like a torch: using surface mounted LEDs and an internal reflective surface to maximise impact. They are networked together via wireless protocols. We aim to build them using Particle Units (or similar micro boards designs for IoT products) and a Pi Zero. Each constellation is a unique network which is robust and allows us to synchronise the light pulsing, as more people join in.

  5. Love this – night time play is really important and this is a gentle approach which I think could have a big impact on how we view safety and cities and night time – such a lovely idea. Will there be a way to find out where the elements are – if one wanted to connect with all of it? Or is it just happenstance?

    1. Hi Jo,
      Thanks for your comments: Star Light:Star Bright will be supported with a social media campaign, online content, a dynamic app and map based tools to make sure the project reach the widest demographic possible. I think first time engagement will be happenstance, and I hope that people will find some in surprising places – but the constellations might make a lovely walking tour or audio tour too! We’re really interested in using Wakelet so that we can aggregate all the social media content and resources into one place so that it’s easy for people to find out more.

  6. I’m excited about this. My favourite of the shortlist. I don’t want light pollution but welcome ways to enliven dark nights.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for lovely feedback: We have worked on a lot of city specific projects, and were really aware that light pollution can be a problem, so I’m glad that the balance between creating safe, engaging and enlivened spaces, and not overwhelming locals with light pollution comes over. It provides us with a great opportunity to create new way-finding throughout the city, that’s not about big imposing street lights, and which is sympathetic to Oxford’s architecture.

  7. Sounds great to me…fun and non intrusive…will there be anything Oxford related? eg in unknown places of interest or is this just an interactive trail?

    1. Hi Wendy-
      This version of Star Light: Star Bright is unique to Oxford:
      The constellations that will be replicated in the lights are those that are visible over Oxford in the winter night-sky. With 29 constellations to locate we will definitely be able to place some in surprising and intriguing locations – we’re looking forward to spending time in Oxford finding out about peoples’ favourite secret places!

      Star Light:Star Bright is definitely more than an interactive trail. We’ve learnt from our city based work around the world that a project must be satisfying as a one-off unique experience (by making one constellation, like the Plough, to light up). We have built in layers of engagement from finding out what Aquarius looks like, or where Neptune is in the winter sky over Oxford, to working with friends and family over the course of the two/ three month installation to find them all. An obsession with the stars that grows on you!

  8. Beautiful and ethereal and the strongest entry for me. And it’s truly specific to Oxford and no where else.

    But one question…will it work as well during daylight?

    1. Hi Ruth,
      Thanks for your kind words: We did take ourselves to task about that.
      The commissioners asked us to consider a piece that would work in late 2017- so the winter months. The sun sets by 4pm in November, in Oxford, and this project creates a family friendly activity that is outdoors, despite it being dark so early.

      We found out some interesting facts whilst we were doing our research. It’s often quite wet and overcast in Oxford (it rains on average 15-20 days in November) and the average number of hours of bright sunshine in November, December and January in Oxford is only 2 per day!

      Though Star Light-Star Bright won’t have as much impact during the 8 hours of daylight: It will create an opportunity to engage with the city, as we make our way to work or school (and leave!) in the dark – a bit brightness and fun amongst long nights.

  9. Feel like this would bring some real connection between places and people, although not sure I have grasped how you know where to find the next light. But beacons of light for dark months a beautiful idea.

    1. Hi there, thank for your feedback:
      We going to do alot of user testing to make sure that the information we etch onto the top of the beacons (which shows which constellation it is, where you are in that constellation and how many other beacons are in that constellation) is a clear as possible. We want to make sure that the project is really intuitive to engage with, and that the information on the maps and apps is really clear. We’ve planned lots of user testing to make sure its easy to find the next light and will look at what additional clues and information might be needed.

  10. Delight is the word that comes to mind with this one. I can imagine feeling delight at being bathed in light in return for my interaction. The strongest pitch in my view. Well done.

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