Weird: Manchester University has a “Pray-o-mat” booth

This one is just weird and for a whole host of reasons utterly pointless and completely dysfunctional, and yet also quite amusing as well.

Manchester University have installed a Pray-O-Mat” booth as part of a three-year research project on multi-faith spaces in the UK … as reported in the Guardian

The “pray-o-mat” – which was a photo-booth until it was converted by German artist Oliver Sturm – offers over 300 pre-recorded prayers and incantations in 65 languages via a touch screen.

The machine is free to use and aims to provide a space for students to pray at their convenience.

Choices include Our Father in German and English, Buddhist and Islamic benedictions, Aborigine devotional songs and even the solemn chanting of an orthodox Jewish congregation.

I also note that they say “…the booth is a bit tongue-in-cheek..” … a BIT!! … I think you can strike the word “Bit”.

OK, lets pop a few different hats on and see how well this can fly.

  • (non-belief) – talking to an imaginary friend is pointless
  • (born-again Christian) – pre-canned electronic prayers are pointless, it needs to be personal.
  • (Muslim) – this booth dispenses blasphemy, burn it.
  • (Hindu) – hopeless, I have nowhere to place my devotional offerings

The problem is that for the folks that really truly and deeply believe, or have no belief, it is pure nonsense and utterly spherically daft, in other words no matter what angle you view it from, it remains daft. One also cannot help but ponder a thought regarding the elimination of humans – can we set it to automatically recite prayers to various random deities, and also have intervals of non-prayer to accommodate non-believers as well.

I have some questions

  • Since this is for “all” faiths, will the Christians and the muslims be OK sharing the pray-o-mat with Satanists, Jedis and Wiccans?
  • Is it really a good idea to have an institution dedicated to higher learning and education provide a little box for deluded people to sit in and pretend they are talking to their invisible friend, it sort of conflicts with the very reason for the university to exist?
  • If you select a Muslim prayer, does the box automatically rotate towards Mecca?
  • It this actually a rather clever troll that targets religious folks?
  • How many different gods are on offer here?
  • If you are not sure about which god to opt for, does it have an option that suggests one for you?

OK, slightly more seriously, here is a link to the chap behind all this where he attempts to explain and justify it. He describes it as “A piece of art that just happens to have some practical value“. His background is that he is an author and director of radio dramas and theatre and opera productions, so the intent here is clearly not religious, but rather artistic. Here is a clip of him explaining …

It is perhaps understandable as a parody of belief inspiring art, but not as a truly religious utility, or for that matter non-religious art icon.

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