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.
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.
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.
The one work that has piqued my interest from our trip to ArtScience Museum was the first work – Universe of water particles, Transcending Boundaries.
The work features a digital projection of a waterfall that extends from the wall to the floor. When one steps into the space, he/she can interact with the waterfall by either going up to the wall and standing infront of the waterfall to create a space between the waterfalls, or changing the flow of water on the floor by just standing at the same spot for a prolonged period of time.
What piqued my interest was the fact that the work was able to cater for a large group of people, in the way that even if there are many people, they are still able to detect the specific ones that stay in the same spot, so that the water can part. Using the sensors to identify these specific parties is very impressive, and also the fact that it can work simultaneously and smoothly. In addition, the feedback to the work is very positive, especially since the work is displayed in a very aesthetically pleasing manner.
Improvements that can be made would be smoother transitions when the water is parted, and maybe crowd control can be implicated so that more focus can be put on the animation and not on catering to sensing a big group of people.
On 22 and 23 August, collaborative INTER-MISSION showcased their artwork: Life Circuit: I/O, which incorporated Lee Kang-so’s Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery (1973) at National Gallery Singapore. The work showcased 2 parts, which lasted throughout the 2 days.
The first part showcased one of the artists wearing a headgear that covered his whole face, and wherever he moved, the device would send sound feedback which acts as a recording of his movements.
The second part showcased the artists and 4 dancers. One of the dancers was wearing a contraption that recorded himself and also projected that exact recording in real-time. The other dancers all had phones with them that were on a video call, and they danced around the scene, with the phone recording their actions as well. These videos were then combined and put onto 1 projector screen at the front of the exhibition. One of the artists (the one who was wearing the headgear on the first day) played the sound recordings that were received on the first day. After a while, the dancer passed the contraption to the audience to let them try out the projection. The performance ended when the artist wore the contraption and stood in front of the artist who did the sound feedback.
They adapted Lee Kang-so’s Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery (1973) by making the performance venue seem like an olden food stall, with wooden benches and tables set-up. The audience could buy food and drinks while enjoying the performance.
The concept behind Life Circuit was to provide an alternative reality to which the audience observes the artist record his movement and perception of the exact space that the audience is sitting in. The use of technological products highlights their experiments and explorations of intersections between video art, music and performance.
There is consistency within the Life Circuit works that are done by INTER-MISSION, in terms of the materials that they use – reconstructed industrial headgear, such as welding goggles, gas mask, and earmuffs, as video and audio wearable gadgets. Also in how they conduct their experiments, having one performance that is the input of the space, and the other performance being the output. However, the difference is the interaction between the artists and the audience, and how responsive the audience is to the artists’ feedback. The second performance involves the audience’s reactions and participation, giving the work more personalization where the audience’s perception of the space is recorded on the big screen.
Using Lee Kang-so’s Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery (1973) emphasized on the warped reality that the space provided to the audience. When I stepped into the performance space, it was no longer an open space in a gallery, but a small cafe setting and the artist’s mapping the space using their devices was a mapping of the cafe setting and not the gallery. It brought the audience to experience a certain memory that the artists had, even though it may be personal but still resonated within the audience. The atmosphere was less tense, with the presence of benches and tables, for the audience to sit around and interact.
The first day showcased the artist’s impression of the space and his impression of the reality seen through his goggles, which were 2 smaller screens that showcased what he ‘sees’, even though he could not see anything. The sound feedback was then used as a recording of his perception of the space later in the second performance, which was played as a contrast to the current group of people who were recording their perception of the same performance space through a video call. In addition, pure impressions from the audience were also recorded when they walked around with the contraption and it varied depending on how long they wore the contraption.
This work showcased the impressions of different people about the same space, while each person who were in this performance, audience included had a different reality and impression of the performance etched on their mind. Contrast was shown through the live video feedback of the dancers and the participants, with the sound feedback that was the artist’s impression. The reality differs where in the first performance the artist was not able to see or sense his surroundings and just walked around blindly, using sound as the feedback, while in the second round the audience and dancers could see what they were doing, or where they were going, thus they had more control over which direction they wanted to step towards, or the obstacles that were in front of them. The audience who sat around also had a different perspective as they had a view of the whole scene and what was happening to each party, they also had the choice to leave whenever they want or to stay throughout the whole duration.
It was interesting to watch the different perspectives that different people could provide about the same scene and the same performance. Although all of us were at the same scene at the same time, the different impressions created during that span of time was extremely unexpected (from the artists who knew what they were doing, and from the audience who had no idea what was going on). It also showed how technology can be used to show the tangibility of something psychological.
One piece of interactive art that has caught my attention is the “Face Instrument”, “Face Visualiser”, by Japanese artist Daito Manabe. Inspired by the work of French researcher Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne and Australian artist Stelarc, Daito Manabe decided to play with the interaction between electronics and the muscular structure of the human face, and by sending different electronic signals to wires taped to different parts of the human face, he could control the facial expressions of the participants. In addition, he added music tones to different wires and created a musical piece with the facial features of the participants.
The experiment works 2 ways, either Daito Manabe could send electronic signals to the participants and control their facial expressions (thus giving the participants no opinion/ control whatsoever), or the participants could move their facial features and send music feedback to Daito Manabe. It is interesting as there are different combinations and feedback depending on who is the main controller of the work. Also, I feel that this work is a prime example of using scientific elements (the human anatomy and electronic knowledge) to create a work of art that is light-hearted and can be appreciated by different types of people.
Concept wise, Daito Manabe was trying to highlight how eternally influenced expressions stand in contrast to a human smile caused by real emotions (everythingvisual.net) and to create music out of the human nervous system.
I feel that this work does highlight the manipulation of expression physically, and how external influence can change your exterior appearance, but not your internal emotions. In addition, with the usage of this device, the human expression can be cloned from one person to another, diminishing the uniqueness of the human expression. It highlights how technology can advance to the stage where even humanistic expressions can be manipulated, and the fact that true emotion may not be portrayed physically anymore.
On another viewpoint, this work can also highlight the importance of human emotion, as Daito Manabe’s collaborator said “we can make fake smile with sending electric stimulation signals from computer to face, but no one can make real smile without humans emotion.” Ultimately, no matter how much electronic signals can manipulate the human expression, the most natural expression on the human face can only come from true emotion.
Musically, this artwork has opened up many paths for musical exploration, as the human face was not thought of as a contraption for music expression. If the contraption was used in the format where the participant created expressions which produced different sounds, this work could be used to show how natural expression produced different sound feedback. It also provides a closer connection between the participant and the music they have created.
All in all, this work is a good way of portraying the importance of true emotion and the manipulation of human expression through electronic signals and it has inspired me to think of how much the human structure can be manipulated by different types of contraptions and devices, while exploring many more facial expressions the human face can make.