The Toilet: A Space to Think About.


The most profound thoughts and ideas always seem to come to me when I have consumed a few beers; The invention that will make me a million dollars. The ultimate comeback to win that argument that I lost. The plan to hatch to win someone’s heart. My speech win I win an Academy Award.

This epiphany’s come to me when I have downed a few beers.

“Why can’t I get these ideas when I am stone cold sober? I need to have these epiphanies when I am not buzzing”.

“Its not an epiphany. Its an Episs-apee”


My mate Tom went on and explained to me his theory. When you have had a few glasses of wine, or a few beers, and you take a moment in the bathroom, and as the pee flows- the metaphorical seas part, the sunshine burst through, the lightening bolt strikes- and the world is your oyster. (note to self- avoid clichés like the plague, They’re old hat.)

In other words, an Epissapee is the epiphany one has when they have consumed one two many.

If this has happened to you: You my friend, have experienced an Epissapee. Of all the epiphany’s to have, I think Tom is actually on to something with this term he has coined.

Unlike most Epissapees, which after the alcohol haze has dissipated they have faded off to another world- this one stayed floating around my brain. There must be something to it. And it can’t be just guzzling drinks that bring it about- there must be something to do with the element of the surroundings. It must be the space in which we are contemplating the great philosophical questions of our time that brings forth the clarity.

King of the Hill

King of the Hill

In the spirit of Lassiter, some collaborative ethnographic research will enlighten us and see if the spatial dimension has an effect on the Epissapee. I cannot claim the genius that is the term, but I do think it needs to be developed further.

It turned out that in the harsh light of the day, Tom had not given much thought to how he uses this space: “The room has a simple enough function. You get in, do what you have to do- then get out.”

I started to wonder- traditionally, what do we use this space for- other than No.1 and No.2? Tom was overlooking something he had not given much thought too- we are used to have media in the bathroom. A pile of magazines. A stack of newspapers. Soduku puzzkes or Readers Digest.

“But no one reads magazines anymore do they?”

Tom is right- no one does read magazines anymore- or at least the sales are dramatically dwindling. We all use our phones instead. So what are we doing in the bathroom with these devices?

The research suggests that we are in fact using our phones while sitting on the porcelain throne. Think about that the next time you read your email. Did you send me that while you did a poo? really!

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 3.08.08 pm

“Well I guess I just flick through my Facebook feed. Maybe check to see if I have an email. I don’t really think about it. It’s just passing time.”

mmmmmmm. a brick wall. How can Tom have a moment of genius in one second, then mindlessness in the same space?

(On initial thought- maybe it was just the drink.)

But in the spirit of Ethnographic Research I had to go back and listen to not only what Tom was saying- but what he was not saying as well. Thats where the information really is.

The space in the toilet is intimate. Not only intimate, but personal. We don’t speak about how we use this space- but we all do use this space. We don’t use the toilet with anyone else. Yet by taking our phone with us, and using it, in a way we are. But we don’t say “By the way, I’m posting this status on the toilet”. Yet we do post our statues. We do reply to our email. Exchange text messages.

To find out more and try and get some more information from people on how they use this space- I created a online poll, made sure you could vote or post comments anonymously. I created a QR code and posted links to the online poll on the back of toilet doors- at university, at my work, and at my local mall, as well as posting a link on twitter. The results were few.

Getting to the bottom of how we use media in this space was proving to be a little difficult in getting people to open up and reveal. Research shows that most of use DO use our phones while sitting on the lavatory.

Apps have even been developed to be used specifically in this space! Medical use has been found in creating an app that plays the sound of running water to help people who have trouble urinating (Qwon et al, 2015). Another app has been created to alert you as to when is the best time for you to use the bathroom (O’Callaghan, 2015). There really is an app for everything.

Advertisers see the area above the urinal and on the back of the cubicle door as prime real estate and a great way to reach an audience- and catch their attention without the background noise- the beauty of it is that it offers advertisers a isolated gender targeting and captivated audience. People are standing or sitting there for a period of time- without the ability to change the channel or turn the page. Jim Prior, a managing partner at UK creative agency ‘The Partners’ says, “People have taken the newspapers, which are full of advertising to the toilet for centuries. It would be far worse to have an ad that people thought was lame and boring.” Some media agencies boast of proven ability to deliver unprompted recall rates from audiences of minimum of 70%, and to as high as 95% from bathroom advertising. They are impressive numbers.

Clearly- it is not just me who thinks there is something in Tom’s theory of Epissapee. By not opening up and not sharing how and what we are doing online on the toilet, doesn’t mean that Tom is doing nothing while there. He is just keeping that space intimate.

And perhaps that is the answer to the clarity this space brings forth. The intimacy and personal space that is created seems to create a shell, and block out the rest of the world.










Kwon, W, Kim, S, Kim, S, Joung, J, Chung, J, Lee, K, Lee, S, & Seo, H 2015, ‘Changes in Urination According to the Sound of Running Water Using a Mobile Phone Application’, Plos ONE, 10, 5, pp. 1-7, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 20 October 2015.

O’Calahan, J 2015, ‘The device that tells you when to go to the TOILET: App gives you 10-minute warning and daily stats on your bathroom breaks’ The Daily Mail, 4th March, viewed 28th October, <>.


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