Project: Elementarea

This project requires a PicboBoard and the Scratch PicoBoard Extension. However, you could do something similar with Makey Makey Classic (v.i., s.v. “How It Works”).

What It Does

Elementarea is a responsive environment for invoking the four classical elements: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. As you step on each panel representing one of the elements, a color and sound corresponding to that element are manifested in the space.

How It Works

Four force-sensitive resistors are set beneath four 12 in.2 wood panels and connected to the four resistance sensors of a PicoBoard via copper tape. When nothing is set upon a panel, its corresponding resistance sensor in Scratch measures 100, but when you step on a panel the resistance drops. Exactly how much it decreases depends on how much you weigh, how your panels are attached to the floor (I used Scotch/3M reusable mounting squares), and how hard your floor is, but responding to anything less than 90 should cover most variables. When the resistance drops, Scratch responds with an appropriate color and sound.

Elementarea Panels
The four panels, with wireless speaker and incense censer in the center
Elementarea Sensors
The force-sensitive resistors beneath the panels. I first laid down black art tape to mark the sensors’ positions, then two strips of copper tape for each sensor, with more black tape to keep the sensors in place and to fasten their leads to the copper tape.
Elementarea PicoBoard
The other ends of the copper tape, attached to the PicoBoard’s crocodile clips with more art tape to keep the clips from moving and errantly touching each other or the wrong strip

Elementarea has only one sprite, Elmntarea, with nine scripts. The main script loops through checking each of the resistance A–D values and when it finds one that has dropped below 90, it broadcasts a corresponding message. Here is the check for the Earth panel connected to the resistance-A sensor on the PicoBoard:

Elementarea Earth Loop

When the message invokeEarth is broadcast, two additional scripts are executed:

Elementarea Earth Scripts

The costume earth is just a solid green color that fills the entire screen; the other costumes are similar (yellow for Air, red for Fire, and blue for Water). The ghost effect is used to fade the color in and out—a nicer transition than having the solid color change abruptly. The reason for broadcasting the message playSoundEarth is to play the note at the same time as the ghost transition. If we had replaced the broadcast(playSoundEarth) block with the play note (61) for (4) beats block, the repeat (100) loop that contains the ghost transition would not execute until after the note had finished playing.

The notes that play are E# (i.e., F) for Air, E for Fire, G for Water, and C# for Earth. Such are the notes for the fixed signs of the zodiac corresponding to the elements (per Paul Foster Case): Aquarius=Air, Leo=Fire, Scorpio=Water, and Taurus=Earth. For more about astrological and musical correspondences, I refer you to Astromusik by Ezra Sandzer-Bell.

I used a video projector to display the colors, and a wireless speaker placed in the center of the four panels to play the sounds.1 In the video shown above, I step on each panel briefly to show the response, but typically you would remain on the panel long enough to sufficiently invoke the element it represents, and you might strike an appropriate pose or perform an appropriate gesture such as drawing an invoking pentagram.

Elementarea Postures
Elemental body postures from Creating Circles and Ceremonies by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart (New Page, 2006) [3PC]
If you do not have a PicoBoard but you do have Makey Makey Classic, you can accomplish something similar to what I have demonstrated above, by using just a pair of copper tape strips for each element, and stepping on them with bare feet (or shoes having electrically conductive soles). I have made a separate project for this, Elementarea2 (download or preview online), which assumes the following connections:

  • Earth: one copper tape strip connected to the ‘LEFT ARROW’ input, and the other connected to ‘EARTH’ (i.e., the common ground strip on the Makey Makey board)
  • Water: one strip connected to the ‘DOWN ARROW’ input; the other to ‘EARTH’
  • Air: one connected to ‘UP ARROW’; the other to ‘EARTH’
  • Fire: one to ‘RIGHT ARROW’, one to ‘EARTH’

Make It Better

Project: SIBOR

What It Does

SIBOR is a general-purpose, cybermagical servitor—a servitron—whose countenance is inspired by luminous anomalies and arcane artifacts such as the Loc-Nar from Heavy Metal. The minimalist design also emphasizes how simple animations can suggest intentionality. SIBOR’s personality is inspired by Bit from Tron.

SIBOR is capable of three operations:

  1. Charge — SIBOR is “charged” with magical “energy” by concentrating on its sigil while projecting ætheric energy at it
  2. Enchant — SIBOR responds to sigils you draw and submit to it for “analysis”
  3. Divine — SIBOR can respond “yes” or “no” to polar questions

There are two builds of SIBOR. Mk II adds a physical touch devices to enhance the charge operation.

How It Works

Before I get into SIBOR’s nuts and bolts, I want to take a moment to explain some basic servitronic theory.

Carroll’s Eidolonics

In his book, Psybermagick, Carroll gives the formula for a “general purpose cybermorph,”1 based on his earlier magical formulæ,2 which were later updated and simplified.3 What these altogether say is essentially:

  1. Magic is the ability to (weirdly) alter probability.
  2. Magical power is the product of (g) the sorcerer’s altered state of consciousness; (l) her magical link to her target or goal; (s) the degree to which she is able to trick her conscious mind into not thinking about her goal; and (b) her belief in the efficacy of magic.
  3. “By profound effort of ritual,” the sorcerer can effectively transfer g, s, and b to “a named semi-autonomous sentience,” which then needs only an adequate l[ink] in order to work magic on the sorcerer’s behalf.

Such is Carroll’s theory in nuce, and Chaos servitors that are not explicitly modeled on it tend to tacitly concur with it. Combined with computer technology, Carroll’s eidolonics (from eidolon [εἴδωλον], “figure, representation,” whence idol) may inspire a vast array of servitronic designs of which SIBOR is but one exemplar.

Mk I

SIBOR’s stage manages the menu options and coordinates the selected operations via broadcasting and receiving messages.


When the charge operation is selected, SIBOR switches the stage backdrop to show SIBOR’s sigil, then broadcasts the message ghost that tells the Body sprite to fade in and out. The Text sprite also changes its costume to display the charging instructions. The charging is (arbitrarily) complete when the Body sprite has faded in and out five times. The stage then broadcasts confirmCharge, which just tells Text to change to the costume that says, “CHARGING COMPLETE,” before the dance broadcasts, telling the Body to move in a little star shape, and the Text sprite to switch to a costume that says, “AH, THAT FEELS BETTER!”


The enchant operation uses Scratch’s pen feature to let the technomancer draw a sigil on the screen with her finger, stylus, or mouse, using. After drawing, the analyzeSigil script performs some sleight of mind, drawing a series of black lines horizontally across the screen to give the appearance that the sigil is being processed by SIBOR.


SIBOR’s divination operation uses a unique (among other Technomancy 101 projects) means of selecting a response: when the query is submitted, SIBOR checks the current value of the timer block and if that is evenly divisible by two (using a () mod () block)—i.e., the number is even—then SIBOR responds ‘yes’, otherwise it responds ‘no’. The ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses are communicated by animations of SIBOR nodding up-and-down or shaking back-and-forth.


SIBOR-II (download or preview online) is served by a Vital Energy Accumulator (sounds more busy than a mere “receiver”) that collects ætheric energy projected out of operator’s hands, and stores it to power SIBOR. The accumulator is made to be connected to Makey Makey GO, but it would be easy to modify the design for Makey Makey Classic (you would need to cut the metal panel into two halves and leave some space between them, then connect one half to SPACE and the other to EARTH), or if you have a PicboBoard, you could make a pair of accumulators and detect the resistance change when you touch them both simultaneously.

SIBOR Mk II Accumulator
The accumulator connects to a Makey Makey GO dongle via a custom patch cable (3.5mm plug to crocodile clip)

SIBOR-II has two additional sprites that manage the connection to the accumulator and count the quantity of energy accumulated. When the accumulator panel is touched, Makey Makey GO sends a ‘space’ key signal to SIBOR, which is detected by the Accmltr sprite that responds by donning a costume to show the charge is happening, and setting its active variable to ‘true’. That variable is sensed by the ChrgMtr sprite, who increases its own chargePercent variable by the chargeRate variable so long as ((active) of (Accmltr)) = (true). You can increase or decrease the time required to fully charge SIBOR by editing the chargeRate variable prior to running the program.

SIBOR Mk II Charging

Accumulator Construction

The accumulator I made is essentially just an aluminum shingle connected to Makey Makey through a wire, but there is no need to get fancy. You could do similarly with a cardboard box and aluminum foil or copper tape. Here is a list of materials I used:

First I drilled a starter hole for the nail in the center of the 6″ × 8″ panel; a hole in the side of the panel for the jack to fit into; eight holes in the underside of the panel, to attach the feet with screws; and then I taped the shingle to the panel and drilled small holes through both to nail the escutcheon pins into. I sanded the panel then stained and painted it. I affixed the copper tape around the edge, and then attached all the hardware.

Typically with a DC-power or mono-audio connector, you must wire a positive (“live”) wire to the tip and a ground wire to the sleeve, but in this case I just need all the metal parts to touch each other and make a conductive path to the Makey Makey GO, so I wired the crocodile clip’s lead to both the tip and sleeve of the plug, and added some hot glue to keep it in place before attaching the housing.

SIBOR accumulator thread

To make the path from the jack to the nail I just used a length of conductive thread (and taped the excess to the inside of the panel in case I need it for anything later), but wire or any other conductive medium would have sufficed. The complete path of electrical conductivity is hand → aluminum shingle → nail → thread → mono jack → mono plug → wire → crocodile clip → Makey Makey GO → computer running Scratch.

SIBOR accumulator plug

Make It Better

There are countless ways you could improve on SIBOR’s basic design, even using techniques from other Technomancy 101 projects. Following are a few suggestions.

  • Make SIBOR’s sigil in conductive paint and edit the program so it only runs when the sigil is connected to the computer.
  • Add a metal panel or coil to use as a magical link input.
  • Make a physical body for SIBOR using an LED and a globe of frosted glass (to diffuse the LED’s light).
  • Expand the range of divination responses.
  • Store SIBOR’s energy level as cloud data. Edit the program so that enchanting and divining deplete SIBOR’s energy.
  • Use the Scratch Twitter experimental extension to send commands or data to SIBOR from another machine via Twitter. E.g., you might send SIBOR statements that it automatically sigilizes and enchants using techniques similar to those implemented in SigilPen.