Reflection: Automated Utopia by Bin Ong Kian Peng

On 20 March, designer Bin Ong Kian Peng gave a lecture on artificial intelligence and how it has integrated with art – thus thinning the boundaries that separate art and science.

Artificial Intelligence is very prominent in today’s digitally advanced society, and it definitely has played an essential role in research, projects and everyday life. It has come to a point where all of us rely very heavily on artificial intelligence (robots, facial recognition etc.). It is very interesting how this concept, that is created by science and maths, can be integrated into the visual arts scene as well, especially for interactive installations.

Bin Ong Kian Peng mentioned artist Refik Anadol, whose works I have actually been admiring quite a lot on social media. He creates visually pleasing riveting data installations. He uses the illusion of depth as he always makes the main substance look like it is encased in a box.

Refik Anadol is a Turkish media artist who is currently a lecturer and visiting researcher in UCLA’s Department of Design Media Arts. He works with site-specific public art with parametric data sculpture approach and live audio/visual performance with immersive installation approach.

His Melting Memories exhibition is quite iconic as it translates the elusive process of memory retrieval into data collections, which is then displayed in the installation. American philosopher John Dewey said ‘Science states meanings; art expresses them’. Refik Anadol’s work helps to blend these 2 together to support what he sees as the principal modes of communication in both disciplines. The movements in the artwork is generated through the person’s brainwaves when certain memories are triggered, which activates unique algorithms for the artist to use.

Artificial Intelligence comes in at the communication between the brainwaves and the movement of the work. The usage of cutting edge technology and algorithms help his audience to better understand the power of artificial intelligence when it comes to visual feedback, and also better link them to more foreign topics such as memory collection and the brainwave patterns.

All in all, Bin Ong Kian Peng’s lecture on this topic and also using this artist’s work as an example is a very effective way of showing the strengths of artificial intelligence in the art scene, thus allowing us to better understand the artist’s intentions and techniques.

Reflection: New Media: A Critical Introduction, New York, NY: Routledge, 2009, Lister, Martin, Jon Dovey, Seth Giddings, Iain Grant and Kieran Kelly, eds.

New Media: A Critical Introduction gives a very in-depth analysis of new media. I will be doing a reflection on Chapter 2 which introduces the notion of VR and how it has created a culture among its users.

Chapter 2 addressed the popularity of VR in the early 2000s but also gave some space to consider the future of virtual reality, especially when integrated with the art scene. They also considered opinions as to whether VR can be considered as a medium, and whether it is able to integrate into social and cultural situations. VR which is something that is initially meant for gaming and entertainment is now considered for being used for something more serious and relevant.

Stone mentioned that immersive or simulational VR will fuse with online forms at a future time to become a medium of a new and dramatic kind. Online forms with VR would definitely help with boosting the whole concept of the online application, as well as creating higher immersion within the user. However, there are its drawbacks, such as technological capacity, and whether the user would be able to embrace this technology.

There is also the fact that the physical components for the user to experience VR is pretty inconvenient to bring around, and thus gives VR some mobility limitations. But these limitations are balanced by the quality of the content that uses VR to deliver their message. The fact that VR itself makes the user have a kind of experience that raises questions about the nature of reality, perception, embodiment, representation and simulation, paired with the content that people are interested in (such as games, movies, etc), thus still making VR prominent in today’s technologically advanced society.

Progressing from the popularity of VR, developers are also trying to make VR a visual culture by experimenting with human-computer interface design. The researchers used the phrase ‘break the glass and go inside the machine’, VR has already fulfilled that by literally putting the user into the technology (through the physical components). However, I feel that only having a physical representation of breaking the barrier between human and computer is not enough to create the visual culture that the chapter mentioned. There is still the narrative stage that increases the interaction between the user and the database within the computer, and also the method of showing information on the computer, and how accessible this database is. VR definitely helps to amplify the immersive effects between human and computer, but I still feel that there are more layers that actually build this culture.

All in all, this chapter has given me a good insight into the debates and perspectives on VR, and that has let me better understand it as a whole.

Project concept and development

Project Proposal

The subject of the proposal: Platform game about Jurong’s nature and industrial aspects

The space that your project will explore: Jurong Industrial Estate/ Shipyard and Jurong Lake Gardens/Chinese garden

The form that your project will take: A platform game of our character going through the timeline of Jurong, but the same time we will have an implementation of portals for players to explore more about each aspect that we will be focusing on (nature and industrial)

Project Concept

An interactive scrolling game that increases the players knowledge on the nature and industrial sides of Jurong

Consult notes from 16 Feb 2020
  • The easter eggs will give the player a bigger payoff
  • The drive towards development, and building more in Jurong, has its drawbacks. But taking time to view the overall scene can better benefit society.
  • Creating hyperlinks may break the immersion of the players, so how can we integrate the archival/ interesting info within the game itself? We can make the facts within each popup short and simple so the player does not need to divert to other websites.
  • Try alternatives of portals/ alternatives to parallel 
  • Scrolling backwards/ letting the character navigate upside down
  • What is the function of the chatterbox in relation to the game? Creating a visual summary of the interactions the player makes in the game 
  • What is the takeaway that we are giving to the viewer? Probably interesting facts about the nature and industrial aspects of jurong that is summarised in pictorial form

Aspects to consider

  1. What kind of info do we want to give the players?
  2. How long is each round?
  3. How many options do we have per round?
Moodboard / Colour scheme

Click here

Rough idea of graphics

Game layout progress

https://vimeo.com/user91827123/review/393638637/a098bd64af

So far the jumping action for the character has been created on a single platform.

Thoughts on ‘The Society of the Spectacle’

Amongst this very informative reading, I found one point to be more relatable to me than the rest:

“The reigning economic system is founded on isolation; at the same time it is a circular process designed to produce isolation. Isolation underpins technology, and technology isolates in its turn; all goods proposed by the spectacular system, from cars to televisions, also serve as weapons for that system as it strives to reinforce the isolation of “the lonely crowd”. “

I just felt that our lifestyles are pretty ironic, after reading this particular part of the reading, that we are all slaves to this economic system, in chase of technological items that provide us entertainment and a sense of belonging. We tend to find a manmade item, and through that we watch interactions of other humans, to diminish that sense of loneliness that we feel at times, instead of going out to find people that we can interact with. And yet, we still are too dependent on these items to find solace, to immerse ourselves in an imaginary world of happiness and comfort.

Thoughts on Jurong My Love by Dan Koh

Jurong My Love is a book written by Dan Koh describing his journey along Jurong on a public bus. The book narrates the different changes within Jurong and how it has developed into a bustling heartland, while intermingling with certain memories of the author.

I found this reading quite interesting as I have not explored much of Jurong, let alone know the different aspects of Jurong. By putting the book in the perspective of the author, who has lived in Jurong for a long time, I can better understand how Jurong was like in the past and learn more about its culture through storytelling. The author pointed out some very interesting landmarks in Jurong that are not known to many Singaporeans, and this can better help me with my research for the project.

Inspiring piece of Interactive Art

Led by design team Rombout Frieling lab, Station of Being is an experimental bus station, which transforms the waiting experience through interactive light feedback and pods to lean on while waiting for the bus.

About Rombout Frieling lab

Rombout Frieling Lab is an architecture studio that focuses on design, engineering and innovation. They create environments that seduce us to behave more intelligently by resonating with our deeper needs and by using the potential of the natural world and bodies in particular. They lead complex projects from insight to implementation, with the motto of making matter move.

Concept of Station of Being

 

With electric buses starting to function reliably, cities worldwide aim to boost the public transportation experience in order to reduce car usage. However, in Sweden, bus stops are usually open-air, and people have a hard time waiting during winter as it is too cold. And a normal bus stop would not make taking public transportation seem very attractive.

Station of Being takes on a naturalistic and clean design, while being able to reflect real-time information on buses, and react to different people and buses. When the bus approaches, a subtle spectacle of light and sounds in the roof is triggered. Every bus line has a distinct signature: buses going to an old glass factory sound glassy; when voices sound the bus goes to the city center.

Hanging pods provide comfortable leaning possibilities. These ‘pods’ also keep the wind away, providing comfort in averse conditions, whilst not needing any power. By turning the Pods around, one could either create various social settings, or enjoy the surrounding nature – a need which was clearly expressed by travelers in the design process and kept the designers away from making an enclosed space.

“In this work we found, for instance, that one of the reasons why people prefer their car above the bus, is the need for privacy and the need to zone off,” 

“This is one of the reason why we invented the wooden pods that hang from the ceiling of the station – the pods allow people to lean comfortably in their own ‘cocoon’, while they can also be rotated to create different settings: social or private.”

The bus stop shows how technology, people and environment can interact to decrease the environmental impact and carbon dioxide emissions. The bus stop is designed in collaboration with RISE Interactive Umeå and will make rapid boarding possible and will also be equipped with smart solutions, free WIFI and other technological data solutions. The design work has included creating a balance between efficiency and functionality and the design itself contributes to transforming the wait for the bus into a positive experience.

Thoughts

I thought that this work is a very good example of integrating Interactive Media into everyday life. Using lights and sounds to represent the arrival of each type of bus allows people to have a more efficient and pleasant experience while doing something mundane such as waiting for a bus. The lights and pods provide good visual aesthetics, which would attract people to come and wait for buses, and good product design of the pods help to block people from strong winds, rain and snow while waiting. Not only is this bus stop an artwork, but it also plays an important role in pushing for increased public transportation, and lesser carbon footprint, as the lights in the bus stop use renewable energy.

A similar work in Singapore would be the air-conditioned bus stop at Plaza Singapura. The bus stop is sealed and there are fans blowing inside the bus stop to keep people cool while they wait for a bus. The difference of that bus stop would attract people to come and take public transportation, rather than their own cars.

All in all, the dual purpose of portraying Interactive Art and lower carbon footprint through redesigning an everyday amenity can attract many people to try it out and gradually learn about its message. Hopefully Singapore can also create projects that deal with our everyday life or change certain environments and amenities for a better cause.

Sources

https://northswedencleantech.se/en/news/umea-gets-a-climate-smart-bus-stop/

http://www.rombout.design/station-of-being.html

Station of Being is an interactive Arctic bus stop

http://www.rombout.design/

Thoughts on Lev Manovich’s “The Database” from The Language of New Media

The evolution of information storage and how it affects people interaction with databases is very eminent in today’s world. I do agree with the reading that the rise of technology and the invention of computer databases increase the efficiency of storing different types of information, and it is also more convenient for people to access specific information, rather than heading to a specific location to find the information.

The computer database and the 3D computer based virtual space have become the true cultural forms – general ways used by the culture to represent human experience, the world, and human experience in this world

The usage of new media to store information opens up many doors for artists to coney their artworks digitally and allow the audience to directly access different databases that relates to the message of the artwork. One example that is very relatable for me is the use of websites and hyperlinks to connect databases and interactive works to create a narrative on its own. A small online game that i used to play which uses hyperlinks is a game called Poptropica, where one plays a character that travels to different realms to complete certain missions and solve mysteries. The game also encourages the player to learn the historical knowledge of certain events and items while playing, which is where a historical database comes into play. Instead of them needing to find information themselves in a physical database such as a library, they can get these information easily through a game with a digital database.

 

Database and Interactive Narratives

Storytelling is a very essential aspect of bringing concepts to people without losing their interest, and this is all the more relevant in the art scene, where artists input storytelling to their artworks to enhance a serious concept and increase understanding within the audience. This post explores a few examples of projects that address the notion of interactive and database narratives in an interesting and thought-provoking way.

Games are a prominent example of interactive narratives. Whether it is computer games or simple board games, people are hooked to playing them because of the interesting plot that each game holds. The desire to find out more at each stage allows the player to spend more time and attention to think about the game. Both physical and emotional interaction is attained when players interact with these games, especially now when devices have advanced to provide a more immersive experience to the players (with the creation of Kinect, Oculus, AR, etc.).  Indie game developer Rusty Lake created a series of interactive narrative games, called Cube Escape, which instructs the players to navigate themselves around a trapped space and solve mysteries which contribute to the overall storyline. I played one of their episodes – Cube Escape: Paradox, and I found the gameplay and storyline very interesting. The game uses simple visuals that are flat, and the player has to fully explore the space by clicking on items and using them to unlock other items in other rooms. Sound also plays an important part in the game. The main soundtrack gives an eerie atmosphere to the game, and there are some clues that were said verbally. These qualities allowed me to be fully immersed in the game, and eager to find more clues to contribute to the full story.

Interactive narratives also include documentaries and movies, such as Terminal Time. Terminal Time is an interactive documentary generator first shown in 1999, and it asks the audience several questions about their views of historical issues. Based on the responses (measured as the volume of clapping for each choice), it custom creates a story of the last millennium that matches and increasingly exaggerates, those particular ideas. This is extremely thought-provoking as this documentary involves both interactivity and database narratives, as different reactions from different audience groups lead to different types of historical events related to the topic. It also shows a combination of deep technical knowledge with clear artistic goals and an understanding of the ways events are selected, connected and portrayed in ideologically biased documentaries.

All in all, these two examples show how narratives can be portrayed in different platforms, but are very effective in conveying information to the audience. They allow us to reflect and think about the artist’s message in a different perspective and thus leaves a stronger impression in the audience.

Sources

http://theconversation.com/the-future-is-in-interactive-storytelling-76772

https://medium.com/@chelseacariota/3-interactive-story-games-that-will-change-how-you-think-about-storytelling-fb4530feaec7

http://www.cubeescape.com/

 

Marsha Kinder, “Designing a Database Cinema”: Thoughts

In Marsha Kinder’s “Designing a Database Cinema”, the use of database narratives was explained through the analysis of The Labyrinth Project. Database narratives are very essential in providing accurate knowledge of historical events through storytelling. The Labyrinth Project combines new technologies with old events and concepts, such as Tracing the Decay of Fiction, where an interactive game is created to explore Hotel Ambassador and the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Viewers can navigate the space and click hotspots within the hotel to reveal videos and newspaper articles regarding the history and incident.

I feel that database narratives are a very effective way of getting people to learn about the histories of certain sites through the use of storytelling. People love stories, and interesting ways of telling a certain story will maintain the attention spans of the audience. Putting it into a historical context makes information that was initially boring when said in a very factual way, to something interesting, that has a start and an end. Thus database narratives serve as an important tool for educating the masses about their history, their culture, or of about certain monumental events.

In addition, the advancement of technology in present-day paved the way for interactivity to be incorporated within these data narratives. Adding interactivity within a database narrative can allow for a better understanding of the storyline and historic information, by activating the other senses of the audience, rather than just viewing the narrative. By building the storyline through personal effort, the audience is able to see that in a much broader cognitive and ideological sense narrative is also a means of patterning and interpreting the meaning of all sensory input and objects of knowledge.

In a nutshell, database narratives help to boost interest in historical information and also acts as a modern archive, which allows people to learn through storytelling and be able to convey the information in a more efficient way.