Posts Tagged ‘Technology’
What Phil and I were trying to achieve with this (a rhizomatic encounter with memory, looking at the intertextuality of memory in the form of oral history, and the materiality of place, and the spaces in which these encounters occur to create a continuous narrative of place. More or less.) proved to be tricky to communicate in the St Ives September Festival programme. We didn’t want to scare anyone off by describing it too loftily as piece of sonic art, which it wasn’t really, as it was a test project to see how people responded. But neither is it an historical audio tour. I wrote this for the programme, with Phil’s help:
Put on some headphones. Take a walk around town. Encounter memories of St. Ives as you wander the streets. Fragments of memory, swept up from cobbles and beaches, tidied away into the archive, are pieced back together to again litter spaces around town. Archive voices entwined with original material create a rich soundscape to find stories of creative community.
Devised by composer Philip Reeder and St. Ives Archive Research Fellow Jeanie Sinclair, UCF
Wednesday 14th - Sunday 25th September, Mariners’ Church Crypt, Daily from 10 am until 4 pm. Free.
We were hoping that would get the balance about right.
It didn’t. The first day was somewhat disparaging, and I began to wonder why I’d thought this would be a good idea at all. The first people to do the walk, an older couple on holiday, came back after an hour or so. That seemed positive to me. I asked them how they’d got on. They were somewhat hesitant, so I encouraged them to be honest as it was a research project and I wanted their opinion so I could make improvements. “It was quite nice, but we wanted to know more about the history of The Digey.”
So, lesson number one, explain things better.
It went on a bit like that for the rest of the morning, and I probably wasn’t doing a great job of selling as I ended up being a bit apologetic; I didn’t want to disappoint anyone else. I should probably mention that the demographic at the festival does tend to be older people and those with very young families. I realised that explaining that the HP ipaq PDAs that we were using work like satnav made more sense to people unfamiliar with smartphones.
One person actually said he wasn’t interested once I’d explained it, and left. Feeling very downhearted, I started to wonder if it was impossible to create something that would be accessible to everyone at all. The one person that I knew from the archive that came to have a go was foxed by the technology as a previous user had somehow managed to turn on the standby after three minutes button.
I realised that Phil’s sound track wasn’t going to work for anyone with tinnitus, as two sufferers reported back negatively.
I learned to stop talking about the project in terms of the negative, of what it isn’t, after one very nice local man came in and interrupted my weary apologia by saying yes, he understood what it it was thanks, and was very interested, and could he come back with a friend on Sunday? I felt then like a prize chump for patronising the only person to come to the Crypt Gallery that day who understood what we were trying to do.
So, be more explicit. It’s easy to get caught up in the detail and fail to summarise what is essentially a simple idea.
On day two, one of the ipaqs stopped working, so I only had two that worked.
I started being a bit more upbeat, and a few more people came. I’m glad, actually, that I didn’t have any more people come, as there wouldn’t have been enough equipment.
I got more positive feedback. Some people would, they said, rather be told where to go, and be given more direction. Others liked the idea of just wandering. There were some really lovely comments about Phil’s music, and in particular the way in which it enhanced a sense of presentness in time and place, making people look at things in new ways. I think in some ways that it worked better for those who were locals, or knew their way around the town better; existing knowledge and memories of place woven together with the sound walk created the kind of thoughtful intertextual experience I’d hoped for. At least it did while the technology was working.
The GPS drift seemed to be a bit of a problem. Areas I’d tested thoroughly didn’t deliver any content for some users. It’s very hard to get things in the right place using a pixellated map image when you need things to stay in a street that’s only a metre and a half wide. Using live maps in Appfurnace should solve this.
So, things to do for the next iterations: concentrate on specific places more, or specific themes to create micro-narratives of place, and join them together. Use more programming to improve functionality. Keeping it simple made sense, as it’s not about the technology, but the topography of place necessitates more careful thinking. Consider using narrative; the rhizomatic wandering can be retained, but perhaps reassure and guide without actually making a linear walk. Make some more recordings. Extend the stories, or at least identify them – possibly QR codes, possibly using good old paper, or possibly just a tumblr or similar. I still don’t want to interrupt the experience with material other than sound and place, as this disrupts the intertextual of the feeling of being both outside of the everyday and present in place.
On the Craft vs. Digital debate, this is my exhibition catalogue essay for Craft Code 011 – New Ways of Making, currently showing at The Wills Lane Gallery in St. Ives.
Ultimately the computer is a means for combining the skilful hand with the reasoning mind. Our use of computers ought not to be so much for automating tasks as for abstracting craft.
Malcolm McCullough, Abstracting Craft 1996
The more we forbid ourselves to conceive of hybrids, the more possible their interbreeding becomes […]
It is perhaps ironic that the digital and the analogue are so often discussed in binary opposition to one another. The more present that digital becomes, the louder the discourse becomes in its pros and cons relative to analogue, when quietly, hybrid practices are developing. The present moment signifies a point of change, a desire for discourse on craft that does not simply create dichotomies that prevent understanding of processes and of making.
CRAFT – CODE 011 – NEW WAYS OF MAKING explores the potential for experimentation and reappropriation, using digital technologies with traditional skills to create hybrid processes that create new contexts for craft production. These designer-makers reflect the move towards the postdigital in the hybridity of processes, playfully subverting expectations of ‘digital’ and ‘handmade’, but always remain connected to materiality.
These hybrid processes of making have emerged in part from the Autonomatic research cluster at University College Falmouth, where human-machine interaction, experimentation and innovative thinking produce diverse work connected by the discourse around craft and digital technologies. Combined with traditional skills and materials, these digital tools can create new modes of sustainable practice which seek to give the designer-maker greater autonomy.
In the 1970s, industrial CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machines were developed that allowed the production of 3D things by entering numerical co-ordinates defining height, width and depth. From the 1980s onwards, computing technology evolved and democratised, allowing complex 3D objects to be designed on a 2D computer screen, but few had access to ways of making these objects real. Now, a new conceptualisation of tools and process is emerging. The physicalization of the digital is produced by challenging and interrogating these tools, and reflects a wider movement towards this reification of digital technologies as a natural progression from on-screen to real life from other kinds of digital media. What would have previously only been possible in 3D digital design on a 2D computer screen, developments in Rapid Prototyping and CNC allow objects to break out of the frame of the computer screen, creating new possibilities in making 3D objects that were previously only conceivable in 2D. Ultimately, as McCullough suggests, using digital technology is not about automation, or an anonymous computerised aesthetic, it is about intellectual investigation and creative manipulation, using hand and head to develop tools that give a new context to modes of production.
The autonomous hand of the maker is both visible and invisible in these new ways of making. A playful relationship between ideas of hand-made and digital connects these makers. A looping transformation between handmade and digital, blurs through an iterative process of making and remaking. Katie Bunnell’s Bunny Beakers started as a desire to create a narrative on a drinking vessel. Hand-drawings are scanned to create a digital image that is used to create a silicon mould, wrapped to create a beaker shape, and slip cast in porcelain. Concealing the mould’s join by hand-stitching the silicone reveals the hand in the beakers’ making, hand-made imperfections and continuous touch inscribed by hybrid process.
This hybrid processing of information to produce different contexts of making is integral to the circularity of process in collaboration between Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson. Ismini’s hand-woven textiles made using traditional fan reed techniques are not flat. Tension in the weave produces a 3D object that is digitally scanned, then output digitally in different materials. When drawn on to paper with a CNC milling machine using pen or brush, they appear to be exquisitely hand-drawn. Using three sets of co-ordinates, a 3D drawing becomes 2D image, demonstrating a sensitive hand-drawn aesthetic that playfully refutes any preconceived notions of digital craft. The CNC milling machine then inscribes the textile weave into Cornish oak. The tactile surfaces of the woven wood are both impossible textile and miniature landscapes.
Drummond Masterton’s work in metal is influenced by his refusal to accept the limitations of digital technology’s aesthetics. The triangulation of points in space in 3D digital production tends to create a triangulated aesthetic, the process self-evident in the craft object. By understanding this triangulation he is able to break out of it, using triangulation to escape the triangular. Three-dimensional co-ordinates of making machines relate to co-ordinates in real space; fingers travel over the object’s surface and continue moving over an imaginary landscape. Drummond talks of the essential hidden haptic element of the hand’s intervention of the digital making process, the stopping and starting of the machine, the touching or blowing required that reveal the autonomous maker in the seemingly automated machine.
Points in space are materialised further in Tavs Jorgensen’s work exploring the possibilities of ‘Pin-Point’, ‘an array of pins placed in a set of perforated screens in which impressions made from one side are reflected as positive shapes on the other’, allowing infinite shapes to be reproduced in kiln-formed glass. This experimental tool allows for different modes of production, that allow, like the others used here, the intervention of the hand of the maker according to desire, to adjust the digital design by hand. The process of making is visible, and integral to the materiality of the object, creating layers of meaning beyond the aesthetic. Tavs’ investigations are iterations of process that express a need to find ways for makers to gain more flexibility and sustainability in contemporary craft.
Connected by points in space, place, inversions of process, playful and practical interventions of the hand, a love of traditional skills and the ultimate materiality of production, CRAFT – CODE 011 – NEW WAYS OF MAKING is a reconsideration of contemporary practice.
So, in moving towards the idea of a post-digital world, what exactly does that mean? The reification of digital technologies seems to be a natural progression from on-screen to real life from other kinds of digital media.
The physicalization of the digital, like 3D cinema and TV, is a way of breaking out of the frame of the screen into the outside world. Examples of this can be seen in everything from craft practice, where 3D tools used on computers in 2D are being made physical to produce 3D objects (e.g Makerbot; Autonomatic’s 3D drawing machines at UCF); or in the transformation of the computer game from 2D/on-screen/inside to playing games like Slingshot’s city-wide zombie chase game 2.8 Hours later; to the gamification of social networking. The computer game, it appears, has somehow come to permit us to play again socially as adults.
Augmented Reality and pervasive media allow the internet to exist in physical spaces, creating hybrid spaces where invisible information creates another dimension, where we no longer need to dwell in virtual realms that are separated from our physical bodies but create spaces that are neither one or the other. Real life and digital lives are the same thing. Just living.
Museums, galleries and archives are no longer confined to their institutions but history litters the streets to be discovered. But also advertisers will also occupy these spaces, and this space will be as contested as much as any other.
The physicalization of the digital in craft making is produced by challenging and interrogating digital tools. What would have previously only been possible in 3D digital design on a 2D computer screen, developments in Rapid Prototyping and CNC allow objects to break out of the frame of the computer screen, creating new possibilities in making 3D objects that were previously only conceivable in 2D. Ultimately, as McCullough suggests, using digital technology is not about automation, or an anonymous computerised aesthetic, it is about intellectual investigation and creative manipulation, using hand and head to develop tools that give a new context to modes of production.
The Theatre Sandbox Showcase came out of a series of workshops, which around 275 people attended. From this, a competitive process selected six different project proposals to participate in the Theatre Sandbox, funded by the Arts Council and supported by Watershed, iShed, Pervasive Media Studio.
What’s really struck me is that Bristol really seems to be a centre for all things pervasive. I’ve yet to find another central point, or network hub, that has creative links as extensive as those of the Pervasive Media Studio or Watershed. London is just too big and disparate, and few other places are lucky enough to have the facilities, investment, and most importantly, people and ways of connecting through place. UWE are obviously a big part of this too, and play a major part in both attracting and keeping a creative technology community in Bristol.
Interesting thing that Melanie Wilson pointed out: Children aren’t amazed by technology. Grown-ups might think that pervasive media is really interesting, but the kids are only really interested in the unicorns.
The technology is just a tool.
Local children participated in the design of this theatre project, which took place both inside and outside of the theatre, in the local High Street. The children learn that a unicorn has been caught in a huge storm, accidentally transporting it to this world. The children create a narrative through a journey, the aim of which is to send the unicorn back home.
Melanie described the project as challenging, mainly owing to finding ways of making pervasive media technologies achieve the desired effects. Tom Melamed of Calvium collaborated with Melanie and Ed to create the narrative, where bits of story are triggered when a child steps into a WiFi or GPS point in a specific location. A combination of methods was used in order for the parts of the story, like an enormous shadowy projection of a unicorn on a wall, to trigger at exactly the right time. In order for the experience to be truly immersive, the children were given minimal equipment, just headphones. All content was broadcast from a laptop in order for this to work.
Mind the Gap/Contact Manchester/Phil Stenton, Calvium/Theatre Sandbox Advisor
This project used relatively simple technology to achieve its aims, but was incredibly effective. Mid the Gap is a theatre company that gives people with physical and mental disabilities a chance to perform.
The company, with Phil’s help, created a sonic maze using mediascapes. Using the space outside the theatre, groups of five people all had headphones attached to one iPaq. Moving awkwardly and hesitantly, they shuffled about the car park, following audio instructions to move around. For instance, a wrong turn might mean hitting a sonic ‘wall’, and the reactions of the participants to and observer to this is really very funny, as if they had hit a real wall. The real genius of this piece is the emphasis on collaboration according to strengths and weaknesses within the group. Certain obstacles were on the frequency of 15-16 Hz, which meant that anyone over 25 was unable to hear (also, as an aside, a nice two fingers to the idea of the persecution of the young from the Mosquito). Other parts of the Sonic Maze could only be accessed through a sonic loop, requiring a hearing aid user to solve that part of the problem.
Interestingly, the issues in production concerned creativity that came out of misunderstanding. Theatre producers misunderstood the technology, and therefore created things that required Phil to find creative ways of using the technology creatively to achieve these goals.
Give Me Back My Broken Night
Speakman ventures away from the purely audio experience to add a visual dimension to his work in collaboration with Univited Guests. Where UG had previously worked with the Soho Theatre, this was a new experience for Speakman, who finally feels now that perhaps he really definitely actually is a producer of theatre.
The experience is small and intimate, with only a few players participating at any one time. Players are called on their mobiles, and given instructions. They carry tiny projectors around their necks, which project a map of Soho onto a piece of paper in front of them. In a departure from previous works, Speakman and UG are looking towards the future, rather than the past in their urban imaginary, asking their players to imagine what might be on this building site in twenty years time. What would it look like? What else would be there? What has changed?
In response to their descriptions, an artist is listening in on these conversations, drawing according to the players’ ideas. What he draws is visible on the projected map as the player is speaking, a vision of the future city.
The challenges faced during this project were mainly technological. The map idea, according to Speakman, started as a mistaken belief that a very new, thin, flexible material could be experimented with. However, as this was only available to the military, the paper/projection method was suggested instead.
Theatre Sandbox is produced by iShed http://www.ished.net in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic http://www.bristololdvic.org.uk , Soho Theatre http://www.sohotheatre.com , Lyric, Hammersmith http://www.lyric.co.uk, mac http://macarts.co.uk, Contact http://www.contact-theatre.org and The Junction http://junction.co.uk. It is funded by the National Lottery, through Arts Council, England.
These guys are my heros. They create audio-visual narratives projected on to 3D objects, using mapping.
The talk they gave on their work was really interesting. They showcased a piece created for a chateau in Nantes, as well as their up and coming indoor work that will be shown as part of One Dot Zero at the South Bank in London on the 13th November.
The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games. … Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. … A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding. (Neuromancer, Gibson 1984 p.69)
Cyberspace is the abstract collective imaginary of humans, or cyborgs. The cyborg body is augmented with digital devices that collapse time and space, linked across the spatial and temporal through the imagined space. This is now normal, usual, expected. How can the cyborg body link to others not only through cyberspace, but by reconstructing the spatial and temporal, experiencing the real and the imaginary simultaneously? By linking real spaces and imagined spaces of memory and virtuality to augment space, and revealing layers of space, is it possible to reveal the complex networks that exist in space?
Tom and Dan gave a really useful and informative talk about indoor positioning at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, as part of their series of Friday lunchtime talks.
GPS devices need to be able to ‘see’ the sky, and at least three satellites, in order to be able to accurately co-ordinate their location. So it’s pretty inaccurate indoors.
There is no perfect way of solving this problem, but as Tom demonstrated, there are several different methods that can be employed inside a building, such as RFID and WiFi packet sniffing, as well as proprietary device software such as Skyhook.