Hybrid Letterbox
The Hybrid Letterbox was originaly developed to serve as an interface for communicating and sharing ideas within local communities. Bridging the gap between the analogue and the digital, it allows everyone to take part in a discussion within the digital realm. Since the act of posting a letter to a mailbox is strongly ritualised and well understood by all generations, the hybrid letterbox focuses on the inclusion of digital strangers in digital discussions.
The design and implementation of the Hybrid Letterbox was developed in the context of the project Community Infrastructuring at the University of Arts Berlin (Universität der Künste). The project investigates the role of design in fostering social communities in an urban context. The concept of the Hybrid Letterbox relies on the process of idea-sharing as a motor for social interaction. It animates locals to a playful, but also serious reflection on the local urban environment, utilising the public space. Through a horizontal discourse, issues within the neighbourhood are identified and vocalised, stimulating cooperations within the communities and at the same time providing researchers with material on how the locals perceive their environment.

The Hybrid Letterbox is designed as a simple mailbox, scanning submitted postcards and uploading them to a website. The postcards are asking people to vocalize issues and ideas for their local neighbourhood. A touchscreen displays a collection of submissions, allowing users to see what others have posted. Multiple Letterboxes can be installed at different locations and be easily connected to share their collected data.

Figure 1: Final version of the Hybrid Letterbox

Gallery: The four prototypes of the hybrid Letterbox

The first prototype of the Hybrid Letterbox generated a lot of interest - not only within its originaly intended context of communication within urban neighbourhoods. Other institutions and companies expressed their interest in utilising the letterbox for other purposes. We decided to build a new, less costly and more reliable version of the letterbox.

We went through several new iterations of designing the Hybrid Letterbox creating three new prototypes until we were satisfied with the result. Four of the final Letterboxes went to the SPD, to use it for their "#DigitalLEBEN" campaign. The new version of Letterbox runs on a Raspberry Pi, using an 10 inch android tablet for displaying its content.

Gallery: Building process of the Hybrid Letterbox

The Project was done in collaboration with Andreas Unteidig, Jennifer Schubert, Florian Sametinger, Fabrizio Lamoncha and Juan Puablo Garcia Sossa at the Design Research Lab Berlin.