Principles of New Media

One of the most undeniable statements is that of these principles being “general tendencies” than “absolute laws”. Where our project has limited functionality (and/or may not require it), these principles do not always manifest entirely.

The use of a computerised system in itself mandates the numerical representation. This is seen most clearly in how serial printing is possible (and crucial!) to the project. Where the project relies on sound, the numerical values of amplitude (volume) and frequency (pitch) are necessary. Furthermore, the output of LED relies on a code which identifies colour thorugh numberical values, e.g. rgb(255, 255, 255).

As shown in the video, almost all of the inputs and outputs must be reduced to numbers, to allow for analysis and conversion.

This is also relevant to the book’s claim that factory-based standardisation is a reason for, and consequence of, the tendency towards discrete representation. Evidently, the same kind of sound inputs will lead to the same kind of light outputs. I think it raises an intriguing question, on if it is truly right that our project reduces the subjective human experience to something so objective.

The book also addresses various ways in which modularity manifests, such as in the use of artificial intelligence and media access & organisation. Our system does indeed have a foundation based on modularity, in having separable output components like brightness, red, blue, green, time. However, this reading has made me wonder if this flexibility is something we ought to highlight. Currently, brightness and RGB values are all combined into a single LED pixel: Would it be better to separate said values into multiple pixels, such that colour shifts can be seen both individually and collectively? Or would it be better to keep them all in the same pixel, and only have the collective colour seen both as individual slices of time, or a collective temporal space?

Example. The left separates only by time, putting RGB all together. The right separates time and RGB, which may be more suited if red, blue and green were each correlated with different variables, like red = frequency, blue = musical pitch.

Automation is another segment which our project engages by default. The only necessitated action is that of providing input (creating noise, moving around to find noises): the algorithm does everything else, from receiving the input, converting it to numbers, associating it with other numbers, registering the time of capture, creating outputs. Unlike the previous principle, though, I see no means through which increased automation can improve our project.

Where our output resembles that of Pulse Index (2010), little seems necessary beyond the direct display of what was inputted (i.e. translation than extension) to transmit the message.

It is less clear if the principle of variability is sufficiently engaged. Our project obviously displays this, where the brightness and hues can vary based on the amplitude and frequency. This extent of display, however, still seems rather limited to me. After all, those alone are insufficient inputs and outputs to adequately represent the variances of a soundscape. The inclusion of timbre or directionally-based inputs and outputs might provide even more relevant variances to bring out the message clearer.

An example of variance of light as based on variance of sound.

Another interesting comment regards the customisation to user. While our project does regard the active user, a large portion regards the passive “users” (environment), such that variance is not tied only to the main participant. I wonder if this would be considered a negative point for variability in our case?

The last principle of transcoding is very debatable, in my opinion. Claiming that there are two layers, Manovich suggests that the computer layer and cultural layer influences each other in terms of systems of organisation. For example, our association of red with strength might lead us to code lower pitch = more strength = more red. The cultural layer is clear.

A conversion table for numbers to binary. The cultural layer is very clear: you can see how our human ideas of even / odd / multiples of 2 influence the foundations of the computer layer.

On a personal level, however, I’m confused about the computer layer. After all, humans made computers. If we built computers in a way comprehensible to us, wouldn’t the computer layer be but a somewhat specialised part of the cultural layer? The only defense I can really suggest for the computer layer is that it encourages a culture of efficiency, where the computer has much better syntax and organisation than us.

External Sources

The Galaxy Reconfigured, otherwise known as I May Have Gone Over the Word Limit

Born in 1911, Marshall McLuhan was well-placed to comment on technological developments in a post-industrial, pre-digital revolution era.

A Summary of the Galaxy Reconfigured

The eponymous galaxy of The Galaxy Reconfigured refers to McLuhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy concept: a world in which new technologies reinvent the ways we think and perceive, through affecting our sense ratios. By sensing objective matters with our 5 senses, we form subjective thoughts and perceptions (as such, emotional interaction is seen as a byproduct of tangible interaction).

McLuhan elaborates further on the unveiling developments of mass media as the herald of an electronic age. Where society was previously constrained by single vision and Newton’s sleep, recent developments have triggered an awareness of simultaneity in perspective. In essence, there is a newfound appreciation for the collective consciousness as a subject and audience, than the individual point of view. This directly affects the arts through redirecting emphasis towards the impersonal audience experience than the personal artist opinion.

My Opinions

This reading resonates very much with me, since I’m studying philosophy and researching mythology. Thus I will respond as a student of both, and as a human.

Where my research is an experiment in crafting a false myth, I find his reference to the myth accurate: there is a tension between individuality and collectivism. It is extremely difficult, as an individual with unhinged desires and feelings, to successfully imagine myself as the consciousness of humanity. Creators today certainly still struggle to balance these: we cannot help but rely on our own experience, and we need to pander to audiences to avoid starving on a street.

A summary of my research project involving mythology. One of the hardest decisions was the inclusion of my bias towards feminism, transience and multiculturalism, which I still fear compromised how well it represents the society.
An example of a video game which poorly navigated the divide between individuality and the collective. While there was an attempt to appeal to a mass audience familiar with feelings of isolation and lack of direction, the excessive presence of the creators’ own opinions and interests distanced players from much of the narrative.

As a philosophy student, though, I find that McLuhan seems to give insufficient attention to the individual. Though he remains (admirably) fairly impartial, I feel that his comments are skewed towards holism. That is fundamentally at odds with how we perceive the world, where we consider ourselves individual agents than nodes in a system. This individuality is often demonstrated even today, such that I find it difficult to believe that we can ever fully embrace our existence as insignificant parts.

Was everyone else really as alive as she was? ..If the answer was yes, then the world, the social world, was unbearably complicated, with two billion voices, and everyone’s thoughts striving in equal importance and everyone’s claim on life as intense, and everyone thinking they were unique, when no one was. One could drown in irrelevance. But if the answer was no, then Briony was surrounded by machines, intelligent and pleasant enough on the outside, but lacking the bright and private inside feeling she had. This was sinister and lonely, as well as unlikely. For, though it offended her sense of order, she knew it was overwhelmingly probably that everyone else had thoughts like hers. (From Atonement, by Ian McEwan)

Objects from an exhibition on the Super Normal movement. This is an design movement which encourages the eradication of personality, to create intuitive products as defined by the culmination of human experience. However, are these truly lacking in personality? All these items must have been invented by certain personalities, who certainly had their own preconceptions. The perception that these are “nameless” objects comes only with our consumption.

Lastly, as a human of the modern era, I wonder how his comments will fare from now on. I personally feel that his claim about how technology affects perception is an unquestionable truth. If so, where is this current world heading? Might we see the resurgence of the individual as a backlash to the collective? Will the rise of technologies like VR/AR push us towards aural/tactile predominance? Are we stagnating in assuming that the visual should be our main form of information dissemination?

An example of an interactive design using sound to encourage people to throw trash. Personally, interactive art is a brilliant representation of that exploration of sense ratios and audience experience, where many artworks today experiment with various sense detectors and a reliance on the participant.

A final pertinent claim McLuhan made is the acute weakness of lacking experience. “A few decades hence it will be easy to describe the revolution in human perception that resulted from beholding the new mosaic mesh of the TV image,” he states. “Today, it is futile to discuss it all.” I think that we, too, can only wait and see how humanity transforms.

References

  • McLuhan, M. (1969). The Galaxy Reconfigured or the Plight of Mass Man in an Individualist Society. In The New Media Reader. (link).
  • Featured image (link)
  • Marshall McLuhan hyperlink (link)
  • Newtons Sleep hyperlink (link)
  • YIIK image (link)
  • Holism hyperlink (link)
  • Digital Narcissism hyperlink (link)
  • Atonement quote (link)
  • Super Normal image (link)
  • Critical Regionalism hyperlink (link)
  • Volkswagen Bin video (link)

Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala, and its Relation to Interactivity

What a familiar smell, I think, as I drift towards its source. Pillars which arch inwards, unite over an unfilled space. Something about that emptiness beckons me to come hither.

Titled Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala, this piece is heavily associated with ideas like death and illness. A Thai artist, Boonma himself stated that the purpose of this piece was “to cleanse and cure the mind in order to experience the condition of relaxation and mindfulness“. There is an evident relation to his affinity with spiritual healing and religion as a means of coping with his wife’s terminal illness.

Image from Wall Street Journal. Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala, by Montien Boonma. 1995. Metal, herbs. 256 × 215 cm.

What I find most impressive is the use of scent as a form of interaction. There’s something intriguing (and also philosophical!) about the idea of interactivity which relies on a connection between extant knowledge and sensory cues. Through the act of breathing, one becomes conscious of a herbal aroma which evokes ideas of traditional healing, even before the artwork is seen.

Image from myself. Note the form, which curves inwards and appears dusted in earthly colours, evoking a sense of the natural. Additionally, the lungs in the center, a clear indicator of his interest in breath.

An interaction through visual cues is also evident, as with the lungs and the symmetrical dome, which resembles places of meditation. I am hesitant to suggest it resembles a stupa, simply because those are places not made to be entered, unlike this piece.

Regardless, I can see ways in which this piece might fail to engage its audience.

  1. Without context, an audience unfamiliar with Buddhism (or, at least, a basic understanding of Southeast Asia) might not find the form familiar, nor the scent appealing.
  2. The ordained inability to touch, to enter, creates a distance between the perceiving and the perceived, which is at odds with the sensory cues (which suggest intimacy).

In essence, awareness of your target audience is crucial to interactivity, as are rules which work in tandem with intuitive/inherent knowledge.

References

  • Buddhist Temples and Buildings. On Facts and Details. (link).
  • (Excerpt) In Search of Lost Time. (link).
  • Montien Boonma: Temple of the Mind. On National Gallery of Australia. (link).
  • Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala. On Asia Society. (link).
  • Weight of History: The Collector’s Show. On ArtAsiaPacific. (link).

don’t mind me while i eavesdrop

We decided to explore both options which we considered in class, where Elizabeth will make a post for the talking door, and I will make a post for the conversing billboard!

The original sketch.

While we didn’t determine the exact output, the possibilities are mainly narrowed down to light, sound and/or text:

The item in mind (a carried display screen vs wearable accessory) and exact output is unconfirmed (lights, sound, or text).
Example of various wearables and how it might be set up. All components needed are roughly the same, and can be hidden fairly easily due to its small size. Except for the speakers, of which one of the smallest, the Fostex Subwoofer, appears to be 13cm in height.

An even more complex possibility is of using speech-to-text code to create a direct replication than processed translation, for example:

Speech-to-text: Display various strings of text

Non-speech-to-text: Display various rgb values of light

An example of how it might work, which would be especially great in crowded places (assuming speech-to-text):

 

 

 

It may be possible that we will need a Raspberry Pi (for the wifi) or Circuit Playground (it’s easier for wearables).

Possible reference(s):

iLight Singapore, with two projection-based works

Somebody once told me that humans are biologically engineered to instinctively look out for moving images and flashing lights. Seeing how easily we were distracted at i Light Singapore, he was probably right.

SHADES OF TEMPORALITY

Image of installation as shown on official website.

Shades of Temporality is easily one of the more interesting works presented. An homage to street art, it invites the audience to participate by painting onto the wall. The digital twist is that said paint is a video which only reveals itself when the roller detects that it is currently in the process of “painting”.

Interestingly, SWEATSHOPPE sees a much more philosophical meaning to their artwork. As the name suggests, it addresses the issue of temporality, where they are attempting to consider multiple layers of time: the experienced time of a participant’s creation of a canvas, and the edited time of a canvas moving separately from the painter.

An ordered list of how it works might be like this:

  1. Set video to play, but do not call in a command to project it
  2. Camera tracks presence of green LED (or lack thereof)
  3. If green LED is true,
    1. Detect X-Y coordinates of LED positions
    2. Store said coordinates in an array (to remember past coordinates)
    3. Send projector the list of coordinates
    4. Call a command to project the video at listed pixel coordinates
  4. If green LED is false, do nothing
  5. Somewhere, there is a button which resets the array to null whenever they switch participants
Diagram 3: Example of database system

This is a conclusion supported by both related articles and visible limitations, as evidenced by when we tried it out ourselves:

As can be seen in the video,

  • Lack of Z-axis detection: no matter how far from the wall, as long as the green LED is detected within the projection range, it will be registered as true. Their attempt to counter this is the button to activate it, which is affected by grip strength
  • Obstructions: putting the camera right behind evidently will make it impossible to write directly in front of yourself (an obstacle). In their defense, this is the best possible design, where the camera and projector must have minimal parallax error, and the roller is designed to make you subconsciously write above yourself than in front (it’s hard to wield a long item)
  • At 0:07, Christine and my lines intersect. I’m not sure why this happened; my only hypothesis is that there is some sort of supplementary background code which tries to account for fast movements/accidental turning off, perhaps something like this
    • If distance between green LED at time 1 & time 2 is small,
    • Assume that camera failed to track this movement, and
    • Fill in all coordinates in between with a linear function

Something much lower down the continuum of interactivity might be Shadow Exposed, which lacks both a feedback and database system.

SHADOW EXPOSED

Image of installation as shown on official website.

Like Shades of Temporality, Shadow Exposed is verily concerned with the nature of projection, though the focus is more on its relation with movement and light. There is an added layer of artist interest in attempting to let video “interact with the physical world”: in this case, by letting participants project their shadows against a backdrop of light and historical architecture.

An ordered list of how it works might be like this:

  1. Make canvas with light-coloured materials in the shapes of architecture, which shows up better with darker backgrounds
  2. Project video onto canvas
  3. If projector is blocked,
    1. Light does not shine in that area
  4. Background is dark, thus image is clearer

Already, deviations from the sensor-based interactive artwork are evident.

My only conclusion is that the fundamental issue lay with that, while technology was involved, the interactive segment took on a fairly traditional form. If I were to make a comparison, it would be with the way a primary schooler might do shadow puppetry with a classroom projector.

While the description might lead one to believe that the video feed changes when it detects your presence, it was a constant image which varied only in terms of shadow and light, which requires no programs whatsoever as opposed to sheer physics. Is this an issue in relation to the ultimate message? Perhaps not, but it does compromise the interactivity, where this is a comparatively passive piece.

https://cdn.greatdeals.com.sg/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/19130947/i-light-singapore-art-installations-17.jpg
Another issue may simply be insufficient contrast between shadow and light areas, where contents in light areas were still very clearly visible, and thus the presence of shadow didn’t “reveal” as opposed to “highlight”. For example, this sample image works well since it is truly only within the shadow that the buildings can be seen.

OTHER THOUGHTS THAT ARE NOT QUITE RELEVANT TO THE RESEARCH CRITIQUE BUT ARE HERE REGARDLESS

It is here that I wish to make a declaration, that a more precise lexicon may need to be established when speaking about interactive media. The term ‘interactive’ was used liberally to mean anything from emotional connection to talking with each other. Which isn’t necessarily wrong, but makes things rather difficult, if we wish to discuss certain types, such as sensor-based interactivity.

The question of how to identify interactive art also seems relevant here, where it is in hindsight that I realise that we had walked by this installation. (In my defense, there were many actual buoys with lights on. That is a very ordinary function of buoys. There was no reason to think otherwise.)

Then again, there is something rather endearing about a world in which interactive media has been assimilated into everyday life.

Going together with Elizabeth and Christine also led to an epiphany I might never have had otherwise: All the works were exceedingly founded on the assumption of being alone. That is not to say that it was required to only have 1 participant, of course, but that the involvement of additional participants was rarely, if ever, necessary. I find that to be a rather dismal state of affairs, considering that a majority of people would likely be coming in groups as tourists, families, colleagues… In other words, it may be worthwhile to have more interactive artworks which are founded on the assumption of companionship.

Also, surprise! DUNE, which I previously wrote about, landed here.

LINKS

All other media was taken personally, with the exclusion of ones in which I appear, which are taken by staff member(s).

[Manifesto] Individualistic Design (all that matters is what you want)

[TEXT ONLY]

Good design is the ambition of modern progression: disdain the obsolete, favour the futuristic! Good design is the prioritisation of utilitarian consumers: disdain the unwieldy, favour the industrial! Good design is the simplicity of intuitive subconscious: disdain the excessive, favour the minimal!

Design movements ebb and flow, wavering between expansion and compression as environments and beliefs change. Even now, we scheme to eliminate the monopolistic artist, and involve the audience.

But, really, why should any of this matter? Shouldn’t the happiness of the designer come first?

We often revile the self-serving designer, shame them for their selfishness. If you want to be a designer, give up on what you want, we say. Focus only on the desires of your audience!

No.

Let your design come from personal choice, untainted by societal, moral, and philosophical pressures!

There is no world in which you are worth less than everyone else, but there is one in which selfishness has another name, and that is individualism. To assert yourself is not shameful.

If you want flamboyance, irrationality, simplicity, order, or even to give up control, so be it.

Don’t be afraid. All that matters is what you want!

[IM Hyperessay] E I G H T H S E N S E

A medium which spans across several disciplines, clothing simultaneously engages the visual senses of others and the tactile sense of the wearer. In more recent times, technology and fashion have converged to form “wearable technology”, ranging from new design techniques to new textiles.

As a fashion design house, The Unseen is no different. Certainly, their designs are tailored towards essentials like visual pleasantry or tactile comfort. As a material innovation house, however, founder Lauren Bowker argues that it goes beyond that. They are “creating items that allow us to explore more about our lives and the environment in which we live,” she claims.

LAUREN BOWKER, THE UNSEEN AND THEIR KEY FEATURES

A self-proclaimed material alchemist, Bowker is a prime example of the convergence of art and technology. Her expertise in the fields of chemistry and textiles allows her to meld the two to create new textiles supported by chemical reactions. Through The Unseen, she has also begun to delve into digital software to detect said factor and create reactions, than just chemical compounds.

In 2012, Bowker founded The Unseen to further pursue her interest in interactive textiles. A famous story is of how she fell sick while studying textiles, and had the epiphany that she desired the creation of textiles with “more meaning“. In simpler terms, textiles which can provide insights into issues like the physical and mental wellbeing of the wearer, or the characteristics of the surrounding environment (heat, wind, pollution, among others).

INTEREST IN THE PARTICIPANT, AND ITS EFFECT ON THE EXISTENCE OF EIGHTHSENSE AS INTERACTIVE ART

We see the culmination of this interest in the wearer’s condition in the interactivity of EIGHTHSENSE. Developed by The Unseen, it received assistance from partners Holition and Innovate UK.

The piece in question. It is made of flexible ceramic, which in turn is made of innumerable pixels. Said pixels are hand-painted with colour-changing inks developed through Bowker’s expertise in chemistry.

Described as a “coded couture” piece, EighthSense is, simply put, a wearable ceramic sculpture which changes patterns of colour based on the emotional aura of the wearer.

While “couture” refers to its existence as an exclusive fashion piece, “coded” refers to the way in which the design functions: the smart textile is coded to analyse electromagnetic waves generated naturally by the wearer. This will later be essential in understanding EighthSense’s status as an interactive artwork.

Graphic 1. Click to zoom in, or on images below to see each segment one by one. An explanation of how the system works to change the colour of the piece.

As established in Cybernetics in History and Behavioural Art and the Cybernetic Vision, interactivity is mainly determined by the presence of complex actions and behavioural art.

In EighthSense, there is a desire to understand more about the emotional status of the wearer, and reflect that through the garments they are wearing. Consequently, the piece takes on the qualities of behavioural art, where the artwork is something defined by the behaviour of the wearer than the assertion of the designer.The behaviour in question here is the emotional state of the wearer, such that the artwork can change form depending on that aura. The designer takes a supplementary role, simply providing the canvas and means through which the participant engages with the artwork. As the artwork must have an emotional status to reflect, it is necessary to directly engage the participant, lest the artwork cease to exist.

Furthermore, this reflection of emotional status can only occur through the use of something to execute complex actions, where that something is the use of technology in art. A complex action is defined as the action system by which the input will lead to an output, often through deliberately routing than direct causation. As shown through the video, without input, the artwork is static and grey. With varying inputs in the form of biological signals, then, comes varying patterns of colour.

Referring to the graphic again, we see that the headset provides raw electro-physiological data. The Holition application then modifies the raw data as per necessary, and sends to the artwork as inputs for processing. After which, the sculpture creates outputs based on those inputs, allowing the electro-physiological data to be visualised as colour on the garment.

This provides structure through the existence of algorithms which continuously receives biological signals as feedback from the wearer. Since the objective is to reflect the wearer’s emotional status, the garment will constantly check said data, and change colour accordingly. By extension, this structure assists in staving off entropy, where entropy is defined as the possibility of “disorganisation in [information] transit”. As long as you have some knowledge of what inputs lead to what outputs, the awareness of the antecedent (emotional status) will allow you to deduce the consequent (garment colour), and vice versa.

CONVERGENCE OF TECHNOLOGY AND DESIGN, AND ITS EFFECT ON THE EXISTENCE OF EIGHTHSENSE AS IMMERSIVE & INTERACTIVE HYPERMEDIA

On the more technical side, a semblance of entropy can, regardless, still be maintained due to how the technology allows for infinite possibilities as to the form of the artwork. This is due to 1) the tessellation of pixels to build up the sculpture, and 2) the existence of multiple hues and tones, such that the colour culmination will never be exactly the same.

Graphic 2. Exact specifications, and a graphical example of how colours are culminated. Associated emotions are as per claimed by Bowker.

From this graphic, we can also see that EighthSense has inadvertently crossed into the realm of hypermedia, according to As We May Think, where the criteria primarily revolves around non-linearity and multimedia.

EighthSense is able to have a non-linear method of information organisation because of its dedication to tackling emotion in relation to colour. In this artwork, emotion and colour are linked not by artificial and linear methods like alphabetical order, but by a non-linear method: colour psychology. This is a distinctly human construct which relies entirely on how the human brain creates association. For example, one might categorise ‘fury’ and ‘irritation’ together as subsets of ‘anger’, than have them all on the same hierarchy level. It is not improbable, though, that it is simply that they generate similar electro-physiological data, and thus generate similar colours as outputs.

Furthermore, the medium of and technology behind EighthSense causes it to be considered interactive multimedia as well. The garment exists in the domains of many types of media: the visual image of the wearable, the animation of the ever-changing colour and the interactivity of the emotional input.

Many of its features also provide EighthSense with a reasonable amount of immersive quality. Immersion, as per Sutherland’s The Ultimate Display, involves the usage of appropriate input systems and interfaces to increase familiarity of control. Virtual Environments expands on Sutherland’s ideas, in suggesting engagement of some, if not all, senses, as a way to duplicate and extend reality.

Once again, the medium of and technology behind the garment allows it to cater to various senses. The wearable itself engages the tactile sense of experiencing the flexible ceramic against skin. The form of the wearable engages the visual sense of experiencing what the artwork looks like. In addition, there is emotional engagement in the form of emotions directing the outcome of the garment, which increases the level of immersion.

However, the headset is a somewhat disappointing input system, where it is neither intuitive nor immersive: should it not come from the garment, instead of an external factor? Would it not have been better to design a hat instead of having to wear extra items?

However, it is also important to note that EighthSense is incredibly successful at extending reality through technology in a way plausible enough for us to suspend belief: the manifestation of emotions on clothes. As intangible emotion is closely tied to tangible colour, we see that the notion of colour changing to match emotion can be smoothly integrated into textile design. Thus, it is able to be immersive enough to prevent disassociation.

CONCLUSION

It is not a travesty to assert that Bowker’s claim of exploring the wearer and their surroundings is true. Certainly, The Unseen has accomplished that in an astounding manner, where the garment’s interactivity elegantly detects, analyses and visualises the wearer’s aura.

The Unseen’s signature style of combining design and technology also shines, and unintentionally brings the artwork into the realm of hypermedia through the natural information categorisation and multimedia form. Of course, the immersion level could be better: it is simply bizarre to think that it is not necessary to wear the garment at all, since the input comes from elsewhere.

Regardless, EighthSense and The Unseen represent a positive step towards assimilating interactive technology in everyday life, and I am confident that this can and will be a future trend in fashion.

(Word Count: 1365 words)

Please note that hyperlinks have been included in the hyperessay for definitions and quotes.

Additionally, image sources can be found by clicking on each image, which will redirect you to the original website. (Images for Graphic 1 from here and here, and featured image from here)

REFERENCES

Chung, B. (2015). Now You Can Wear Your Aura on Your Sleeve. For VICE. (link).

Howarth, D. (2013). The Unseen creates “coded couture” to read wearers’ auras. For dezeen. (link).

Mower, S. (2015). Meet Lauren Bowker, London’s First Fashion-Channeling Witch. For VOGUE. (link).

The dress that changes colour with your emotions. On BBC News. (link).

THEUNSEEN EighthSense. On Holition. (link).

The Unseen Essence. (link).

WIRED. (2018). The Unseen uses chemistry to create reactive fashion. For WIRED. (link).

 

 

Key Work Selection, and relations to Hypermedia

While The Unseen dabbles in various things, I chose the key work based on what I believed 1) was related to fashion, and only fashion, design, 2) had the potential to be “normalised” as an integral part of design, and 3) had some form of official recognition.

Thus, the Eighthsense collection.

  • Colour and pattern changing ceramic wearable sculpture
  • Collaboration with Holition and Innovate UK
    • Holition is a company which collaborates with companies dabbling in upcoming technologies
    • Innovate UK is a government-associated board which supports innovation in technology
      • Interestingly, The Unseen is its only fashion technology awardee so far. “When I applied for the award, it was the first one I had seen for fashion technology.” (Bowker, 2015)
  • Manifesting the wearer’s aura through colour changes and pattern shifts
    • Through recording the generated electromagnetic energy (human magnetism and “electroencephalogram”)
    • Which thus gives insight into the emotional state of the wearer
    • e.g. Turns red for anger, blue for serenity
  • Supported by the British Fashion Council
    • Received an award from Innovation UK’s Technology Strategy Board

Personally, I feel that this has the potential to be “normalised”, where it seems fairly plausible to have fashion designs which deal with reflecting the wearer or the wearer’s surroundings. While technology and fashion have already converged, such as with UNIQLO’s advanced fibers to absorb moisture or retain heat, interactive technology is much newer, from the earliest renditions in the 1980s, to The Unseen, of the 2000s.

Now, to hypermedia.

The key words of hypermedia might be “non-linearity” and “multimedia”. In essence, this means:

  1. Information is organised as per how the human brain does, as opposed to how a machine might organise information
    • Feelings are organised as anger {fury, rage, irritation} and sadness {melancholy, despair} rather than alphabetically
  2. This information can take many forms, perhaps simultaneously as well
    • Rather than just audio or text, the use of both simultaneously. May also include movement and interactivity, where the dynamic, shifting form is considered as multimedia

The link is perhaps not as clear as for interactivity, but this work loosely relates to hypermedia, where the consequent colours and patterns are grouped by types than ordered lists (although this may be because the electromagnetic waves are also similar within each set of feelings). Of course, it falls under multimedia: while it relies on visual and ignores things like texture or sound, the interactivity makes it such that there is movement, and as such, it serves as an “animation” of sorts.

  • Announcements on GOV.UK. (link).
  • Arthur, R. (2015). Material Science Hits Selfridges With The Unseen’s Color – Change Accessories Line. For Forbes. (link).
  • Chung, B. (2015). Now You Can Wear Your Aura on Your Sleeve. For VICE. (link).
  • THEUNSEEN EighthSense. On Holition. (link).
  • The Unseen Essence. (link).
  • Same featured image again ha

Artist Selection, and Ponderings on Interactivity

But, what if our clothes became more than a basic covering? Creates a dress code that acts as an extension of you and adapts to the environment on your behalf? That’s the question fashion designers are starting to toy with, be it in the pre-prototype, prototype, or ready for market phase. (Kimani, 2016)

As one of the most ambiguous and cross-disciplinary forms, fashion could be anything from a product, to a visual communication, to avant-garde, to a commodity, to a new form of self-expression. This uncertainty fascinates me immensely, and as such I will be choosing an artist who dabbles in interactive fashion: Lauren Bowker, founder of The Unseen.

(Images from here. Example of a way clothing might be traditionally interactive, through responding to your movements. Arguably, fashion is also interactive, as a whole, in that you get to choose, customise and coordinate whichever pieces you want to create different outfits, such that it involves both the “artist” and the active participant.)

Due to the convergence of disciplines, it is difficult to describe her, but here are the two main descriptors:

  1. Convergence of science and art: Though she does hold a design degree, Lauren Bowker is also primarily a material alchemist. Thus, her works are defined by the materials she personally developed through chemical experimentation.
  2. Interest in the human condition: A famous story is of how she fell sick while studying, and discovered that she wished to “produce material that could speak for you“. Thus, her works are often dynamic and dependent on derivable information.

Combining her self-developed materials and her desire to accurately reflect the self would then lead to fashion pieces which provide visual feedback through said materials based on the collected data. For example, a jacket which turns from yellow to black through the use of a colour-change ink based on the pollution levels.

Examples of works:

  • A I R collection: changes colour based on the environment, from heat and sound to moisture levels

  • PHNX collection: Collaboration with Peachoo + Krejberg, ripples based on movement

  • F I R E hair dye: Changes colour based on surrounding temperature

Ponderings on Interactivity

Out of curiosity, I looked up existing essays from other classes, and was vaguely intrigued to see that many works somehow tended to… Look similar. It is not a phenomenon I can explain, but many of them have similar vibes, in terms of visual style.

(For example, the usage of colourful lights arranged in wide areas, or the emphasis on the organic form reflected in digitally-rendered interactive pieces.)

Which brings to mind a few questions:

1) Why are there so many similar traits among interactive art pieces?

The foremost answer is likely that we all happened to choose fairly similar pieces because our preconceived notions of interactive art tends to be of installments and sculptures. Also, that perhaps it’s harder to choose things which don’t have defined forms, like games.

Entropy, active participation, process than product. Though these factors create an infinite number of artworks, many similarities are retained.

In terms of input, humanity is ultimately fairly homogeneous. Physically, we all perceive the world in a fairly similar way. As such, interactive art can only use what humanity is capable of, such as visual or auditory sensors. Even if technology expands to be able to cover “thoughts”, it is difficult to cater to program a different reaction to every single input, where we need to place them within sets, like “anger” to comprise any emotion from rage to irritation.

In terms of means, interactive art pieces are often severely limited by available technology, where there are limits to what can be done in the field of interactive art. For example, it is only possible to generate a feedback loop based on physical factors, like motion or voice frequency. Even pieces which claim to “tune into psychological state” can only determine it by things like pulse rate. If we were able to, for example, devise a technology that can detect your political standing from your thoughts than through your words, there might be a larger scope for interactive art to work in.

In terms of output, it may be that interactive art is a fairly new concept. We have not yet explored the various ways in which it can be incorporated, where mediums such as LED lights are one of the most explored ways. The rise of new media also means the expanding of possible platforms, from a physical form, to a digital form, such that things like the internet can be used for art.

2) What is the difference between interactive art in new media and interactive everything else?

If we compare new media versus old media, the difference is evident (two-way versus one-way and thus lack of an immediate feedback loop).

If we compare to things which can be interacted with, the difference is also evident. Just being able to perceive something (through sight, touch, etc) does not make it interactive art, which needs to involve an element of a fluid form shaped by your input. Think a wall at JCube, versus the photo wall at JCube.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-I_2UcXXTMWo/VCVr5Q6IioI/AAAAAAAAHjA/N8cfHO9sOUA/s1600/DSC01673.JPG
Photo wall at JCube. Click on image for link.

The rest is unclear. Where is the line between “art” and “non-art” drawn? If we justify interactive art as having to involve the element of dynamically changing in response to feedback from the participant(s), would something like a lie detector be considered interactive art?

The only criteria I can come up with is “functionality” versus lack thereof, but it would be full of loopholes.

3) Where will interactive art go in the future and/or how do we integrate interactive art into society

Interactive art is, in a way, already integrated into society. Things like the elevator coming to you when you press a button, where the pressing indicates that you want an elevator (input leads to output) (albeit not very dynamic outputs).

The problem lies in that society is built to be homogeneous. The elevator may not come to you immediately, because it needs to cater to other people first. Or, the button might be too high to reach, or the elevator too small for you to enter. Currently, interactive art is also limited by said homogeneity, where technology has not reached a stage where we can create 100% individualised outputs for every single input.

I suppose the path forward for interactive art would thus involve 1) more time to delve into the subject, to explore more ways in which we can engage interactivity, and 2) further developments in technology as to be able to create even less homogeneity.

If both of these were to come, it would mean that we would be able to revolutionise society, from something which marginalises minorities, into something which can cater to everyone. It would not solve the issue that we still have to share physical resources though (you can’t just build an elevator per person), so interactive art may also be helpful in, at least, making better compromises such that everyone can be somewhat satisfied.

  • Caula, R. (2014). THE UNSEEN develops wind reactive ink that changes color upon contact with air. For designboom. (link).
  • Howarth, D. (2013). Clothes that change colour according to climate by Lauren Bowker. For dezeen. (link).
  • Kimani, N. (2016). Interactive Clothing: The future of fashion is all for connectivity. For The Designers Studio. (link).
  • The Unseen. (link).
  • WIRED. (2018). The Unseen uses chemistry to create reactive fashion. For WIRED. (link).
  • Cover image from here