The Paper Cup Telephone Network is a collaborative work by the technology art group Simpel; Matthew Biederman, Aleksander Erkalovic, Adam Hyde and Lotte Meijer. The device is an exploration of the children’s toy / game of making a telephone from paper cups to communicate across short distances. Here the device is in fact an interface to the internet:
where your voice is streamed to all the cups on the network carrying it blocks or even miles or a continent away…The paper cup is an effective vehicle for simple communications but there is no scope for augmented information. How do we know where the person on the other end is from? Are they close, a block away, on the other side of the world? To determine this we must participate with the network of speakers. The technology provides no additional information but is instead a ‘dumb’ receptacle. No caller ID, no address book, no traceroute. Instead you have to rely on the other people in the network for assistance and information. The more people on the Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½lineÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ at once, the more interpersonal communication needs to be regulated by those using it at that time. Just like all of networked society, whether mailing lists, chat rooms, P2P, Wiki, or the web itself, its users will govern the system.
For similar(ish) work see Thinktank.