RE: Streaming Nature, by Miu Ling Lam

Notes from Your Presentation:
proposal: streaming nature is an interactive installation that connects audiences to nature environments in real-time by sound (weather, water bodies, animal activities, silence).
precedents: bill fontana, kunstradio, locus sonus
Telematic Art: breaking the barriers of time and space. (E. Shanken)
perception: vision is optical perception, audio is mechanical (air vibrations and mechanical waves). listening is experiencing the “simultaneous mechanical activities.”
installation description: 1) in each site, an outdoor microphone is set up and streams the soundscape through the internet to the computer located in the exhibition hall; 2) physical objects represent sounds in nature. viewer trigger the sounds by picking up the objects.

My Comments:

– Your concept is interesting, but can be taken further. I am not sure what the sounds of nature would do for people within the white box exhibition space. Will you be exploring the entire space to support your concept of integrating “nature” (rural sounds) in urban contexts? The white box is not an urban context. It is context-specific. It puts you in a setting of contemplation. You are THERE to contemplate. Nothing is really poignant or especially unusual about hearing birds whistle through an artificial object. I would comment on your use of “nature” that you use, here, to mean a number of different things. Perhaps it would be useful for you to redefine “nature” and only use that term when it really refers back to your definition. It is important.

– you also write of telematic art and I see that you have good references for that, I suggest you also take a look at the philosophy of dromology (Paul Virilio), which is the theory of speed specifically in terms of telecommunications as it relates to time and space. It might be helpful in defining your goal with this installation and the kinds of emotional responses you would like to receive from every sound and the kind of shapes you choose for your interactive objects and the sounds corresponding to them should be informed by your emotional response requirements/target.

– Also look at different theories of color, optical illusions, simulations, etc.  I would be curious to hear how children respond to your proposed installation. Look at therapeutic art… explore motion as well, why not? How can you extend the interaction and give additional meaning to sound, shape, space and time? Give meaning to action. Otherwise your audience is simply listening to separate pieces of “nature” sounds. How interactive and meaningful is that? How can viewers interact with remote locations?

– What is your ultimate message?

Suggested Reading:

(on illusions)
– “Eric Mead: The magic of the placebo.”
– “Golan Levin makes art that looks back at you.”

(on simulation/reality and the spectacular)
– Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser. University of Michigan Press: 1995.

(on space and time)
– Virilio, Paul. Open Sky. First Published as La vitesse de liberation, by Editions Galilee: 1995. Translated by Julie Rose. Verso, London: 1997.


RE: Memory Retriever, by Jackie Bucher (Biology)

Notes from Your Presentation:
– a memory storage device as an effort to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s
– the electrical impulses transported by the optic nerve will be stored within the body and a remote will be installed in the arm so that the user can simply rewind to a certain day and time and the electrical impulses will be reintroduced into the nerve and sent to the brain to be processed as images
– this is a system of memory retrieval, not a cure for memory loss
– contexts of usage: medical, legal court system, no liars, spread awareness (educational tool)

My Comments:

– Why should this device have so many contexts of usage? It seems a bit random unjustified at this early stage.

– I think your concept would be a much stronger one if you focused on one specific context of interest or situation that you can simulate and describe.

– Also, your proposal raises questions of privacy and user-control: by suggesting that it could be used in a public form, this device becomes an invasion of one’s privacy. Do users really want their “memories” to be readily accessed? If you did want to go in this direction, perhaps you would need to develop a more customizable storage system wherein users could browse through their memory and decide what is worth keeping and what memories or instances are worth letting go of. Another point here is that, again, if the content is to be publicized, then users will want to tailor their memories to what they want others to see (as opposed to what they want to see themselves). This becomes a lot more complex and might defeat your initial purpose for the device. One way of managing the privacy concern is to enable many devices to communicate with one another: you proposed that the devices could be connected to and accessed via the internet, perhaps users would have the option of filtering and organizing their memories in batches that correspond to the different groups of intent; in other words, users could have one view that is accessible to their friends, one to their family, and perhaps they could filter out the people they don’t know.

– Why would I want people I didn’t know view memories of what I ate last night, of me blowing my nose, etc. (hopefully, you see where I’m going with this). So here’s a new consideration: What types of memories are being recorded? At what rate would memories need to be recorded in order to be useful? What is the storage capacity of your device? What would be an appropriate time-frame for each recorded memory? how much can a user process? Perhaps, then, you would want to reconsider the purpose of your device.

-How intimate is the memory retrieval? It becomes important at this point that your user can have a control on both the security settings of his/her memories (privacy), and the content or type of memories s/he would want to store and retrieve (preference settings).

– Now, your device suspiciously acts like a camera, but inside your body, and serves the purpose of memory loss, but only to a certain degree. You propose that it would have several purposes and users. You will want to have a specific target audience in order to develop your device. Your memory retrieval will be very different if it is designed: 1) for an audience with special needs, 2) convicted felons, or 3) the general public.

1) special needs (i.e. Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Amnesia patients). This is a very interesting area to go into. I would argue that there might be no recognition that those images were in fact seen by the patient; that is, the patient might retrieve those images and see them for the first time, every time. If this is true, then your device will be unknowingly introduced into the patient’s body on a routine examination or surgical procedure and its content will be useful for people around him/her. Your user then is others: family members, doctors, etc.

2) convicted felons. How ethical is this?

3) the general public. This becomes a type of social networking tool that is worth exploring. How old are your users? What types of lives do they lead? and What purposes would they have for their devices?

– Start developing a persona that you would design for and whose needs coincide with your goals for recovering the “sins of omission.” Interview some people you think represent or sample your target users. This will help you focus on the desirability and the needs for such a device.

Suggested Reading:

– Findlay, John M.; and Gilchrist, Iain D. (Eds.). Active Vision: The Psychology of Looking and Seeing. Oxford University Press Inc., New York, NY: 2003.

– Greenfield, Adam. Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing. New Riders: 2006.

– Pullin, Graham. Design Meets Disability. The MIT Press: 2009.

Sci/Art: Sachiko Kodama

On March 12, 2010, Sachiko Kodama, a Japanese media artist and professor in electro-communications in Tokyo, presented her work, and what led to her most recent and on-going exploration of Ferrofluid, which she names Protrude Flow.

Kodama’s influences for her work include: Kinetic Art, which she learned while studying Physics at Hokaido University; the history of Japanese CraftArt and its modern technical developments; and the interactive work of Yoichiro Kawaguchi that uses colourdul computer graphics and 3D prototyping tools.

Protrude Flow (2000-present) is an interactive installation comprised of Ferrofluid matter –a spacesuit material developed by NASA in the 1960s–, a magnetic field, a dynamic sculpture, and a combination of sensors susceptible to sound, light, and finger motions, present in the environment. (see: Protrude Flow explores the dichotomy of the virtual/real in interactive art through dynamic textures, light, shapes, colours, space, and movement. She explores gravity, magnetism, and nature as the natural power to create dynamic and unusual realities. In this way, her work is a vision of a new kind of reality expressed in the dynamic properties of Ferrofluid.

Source: Kodama, Sachiko. Streaming Culture Lecture Series. Parsons, The New School for Design. Date: March 12, 2010.

Designer/Artist + Co-Creation

It is hard (yet, obvious) to conceive that the concerns of yesterday were the same as the ones of today. One of the comments raised in class (thanks Myriam!) was that artists and designers are still trying to respond to a similar set of questions concerning society, spirituality, the environment, and so forth. With the advent of new technologies and the rapid dissemination and accessibility of information, artists and designers develop increasingly sophisticated ways of thinking about the world in visual forms and of approaching open-ended questions or specific problems in new and exciting ways. It seems that design and art now represent blurred categorizations: artists and designers grow more apt at interchanging roles and are increasingly willing to collaborate and co-create.

For many reasons, a designer’s job is to turn complex data-sets into a simple and understandable language that responds to an audience’s characteristic requirements. An artist (today) has somewhat a similar job (it seems to me at least); in that s/he gives meaning to ideas and objects that might have been overshadowed, and often-times creates new meaning and new incentives for knowledge. Artists may be addressing issues that are somewhat utopic; for instance, “What is the meaning of life?” or an even more uncanny form would be “What does purple smell or sound like?” Philosophers, in their own expressive language have long dealt (and still) with the same challenges by tackling open-ended questions that can only require multi-variable responses and perspectives, and often leave questions unanswered (and might at times leave readers perplexed).

ID/Entity: Portraits in the 21st Century (DVD) presented a number of collaborative projects from the MIT media lab, showing the value of co-creation in media art and design for the development of new ideas, perspectives and practices. Co-creation, or co-design, transcends the boundaries of specialized languages and enables both communication between different expert fields and the rise of new hybrid practices.

“Biomimicry in Action” : designing with nature’s technology

Janine Benyus is a writer and innovation expert when it comes to looking at design and the natural sciences. Her talk (Jul.2009) is based on a book she wrote Innovation Inspired by Nature. Biomimicry: Inside the revolutionary new science that is rediscovering life’s best ideas — and changing the world.

She gives quite a good number of examples of biomimicry currently being used to solve problems and save energy and material (i.e. growing food, gathering energy, finding cures, etc.). Her advice is to look at nature for new ways of approaching design problems and finding sustainable solutions.

Meaning of Participation: Outlaw Biology? – outlaw symposium

According to the symposium, “Outlaw Biology” is when non-scientists participate in the world of science by experimenting, questioning, reevaluating, re-designing, and modifying preconceived ideas and established laws/standards in scientific practices. This, it is maintained, has at times provided additional incentives for research and has dramatically altered the ways in which scientists operate.

Public participation, here, refers to the DIY (do-it-yourself) model being today increasingly applied in scientific research amongst scientists and science-enthusiasts alike. They (the symposium) proposed three types of participants that are increasingly changing the meaning of public participation as we know it: Outlaws, Hackers, and Victorian Gentlemen.

Outlaws: are independent experimenters of science. They look at the world from the outside, seeing what is there and what could be, and propose somewhat unprecedented hybrids. Hackers: are collective innovators and work in group. They are a kind of subculture that together find ways of re-purposing, skewing, and modifying initial ideas and functions of systems. They think of new types of engineering processes for new solutions. Victorian Gentlemen: hold the knowledge that is needed to switch perspectives of preconceived ideas in science.

This paper outlines three prevailing characteristics: Outlaw Biology is “before the law” and therefore cannot be illegal, but instead provokes, impresses, and frightens; Outlaw Biology is the result of Big Bio (or its child); and Outlaw Biology is changing the notion of “public participation” — it is an inclusive view of scientific practices wherein the public is engaged in the process of discovery and innovation.

“An Outlaw Biology?”

The fear in DIY Bio is that non-specialized practitioners may either discover something plausible or negatively affect biological research. Here comes the ethical question of what counts as innovation in science? and who holds the rights to innovate? Who is considered legitimate? “A lot of people got into the business to do good. […] But everyone wants a piece of the life sciences, and that has transformed the institutions of science and engineering.”

The paper maintains that Outlaws are not only a kind of public participation, but participation for the public (“populism”). Outlaws are pro-active; they question science and act through a moral understanding of what is ethically necessary to investigate, demystify and reconfigure. In addition, Outlaws have a certain independence (individualization), which emphasizes the potential being and the ability to outsmart science and innovate individually. For Gaymon Bennet, Outlaws influence a powerful individualism, as opposed to social activism; in this sense they can be egotistic visionaries.

“Which public, whose participation?”

Participation has a number of connotations attached to it: buying, doing, engaging, using, making, etc. The question posed in this paper is: Why are people eager to participate in science and engineering endeavors? And what are the consequences of their participation on social, ethical, and moral standards? “Do we need a new language for new hybrid forms of science-making?” Clearly this draws a re-definition of what was once understood as public participation and what those words now connote.

“Creativity breeds creativity.”

The symposium defines Big Bio as “a land of promises and revenues” for outlaws, hackers, and Victorian gentlemen, within which “cheap […] DNA synthesis” exist, making scientific ventures increasingly open-sourced (DIY Bio). Their final notice is that the meaning of public participation, when it comes to citizens engaging in science and engineering, proves that “creativity breeds creativity”; which is to say that when one innovates, new fields of research are born and new discoveries amount from there on.