Principles of New Media

In Lev Manovich’s ‘The Language of New Media’, Manovich identified 5 different principles of new media. They are:

  1. Numerical Representation
  2. Modularity
  3. Automation
  4. Variability
  5. Transcoding

According to Manovich, works that uses new media would follow these principles. Would our artwork, Inter-macy (WIP name), be considered a new media work?

Inter-macy converts analog, continuous data like heart rates and light intensity into digital / discrete data, digitising a supposed spectrum of inputs into a sample and quantified into a value from 0 to 1024. The computer is able to run these discrete data in the digital code in the Arduino software, which uses algorithms and mathematical functions to run. Through this analog-to-digital conversion and programmability of Arduino, the work is considered to have numerical representation.

pulse sensor converting analog ‘continuous’ data into digital ‘discrete’ data. Image taken from

Inter-macy contains parts that are Modular, in terms of the different circuit paths that connects to different components that collects discrete data, which can always be removed or added. This is also true for the code that is used to run the components, where sections or lines of codes can be edited. Individual components, wirings, resistors, and objects like gloves or the LED strip can be replaced whenever needed, and it does not have to be a 1 for 1 replacement, meaning that a flex sensor can be replaced directly with a photocell sensor. At a larger scale, all the components lead to an output that gives feedback to the participant as they interact with the artwork and with other participants. The participants are also considered to be part of the modularity of the work. All these modular pieces work individually, but on a macro scale, works like a fractal structure that performs a bigger function as a whole. 

Wires and components that are just plugged in and can be changed any time

Inter-macy also use many low-level Automation, mostly in terms of how the code runs in a loop with different settings when different input is present. The LED light is coded to glow on its own when the artwork is idle, and then does a variety of things when there is an input. The detection of pulse and light is also automatic through the component itself, as they are created to do so. Through the code, the inputs and outputs run on its own, and that is where human interaction is enhanced as the automation makes it easy for the participants to focus on the interaction. Another form of automation in the work is media access, which is in the code itself as they are taken from examples in Arduino thanks to the internet.

Automation in loop codes
Automation in the examples given

Inter-macy has Variability as the modular parts can be recreated and changed into an infinite number of possibilities through adding or subtracting of components to scale it up or down, modifying the code to do different functions from a tiny colour change to making the entire LED light up differently. Even, through the different kinds of interaction that different people will have with the artwork or the different locations, spaces, and uses for the artwork, in which its interfaces will vary even from the same sets of data.

video: As can be seen here, there are a few variabilities here with the components. This is still a prototype, so there are still many possibilities.

Variability also reminded me of John Cage’s Variation series where he sets up a stage made of motion sensors that a dancer can move around in, creating music composed by the dancer’s body as the dancer move about.

I can also draw many similarities from this example, particularly how modular it is and how variable it can be, in the way that the parts can be disassembled, reassembled, and moved from place to place.

Finally, Inter-macy has some elements of Transcoding, as the Arduino code file is written in computer language and its information is organised in its own ways, represented in the what ‘human culture’ could understand through the code itself which we can read and write, and through tangible outputs on the LED. The code can possibly be transferred into another format, like if it were to be on another program and component like Python and Raspberry Pi, although I don’t know how to do so. This principle works because in the computer culture, these codes have similar usage and can be understood in the different programs.

Thus, with all these principles applied to our artwork, Inter-macy can be considered as a new media work.

Edit: after presenting, I realised how I misunderstood variability, as I had interpreted it as that there is always potential for variability versus what variability actually means which is variability that is achievable within the work itself. As such, I would say, there is still variability in my project as there are different heart rates and different kinds of interactions between the two participants, creating different outputs.

I was quite enlightened when I was told that the book was written 20+ years ago. Back then, these principles were probably something so new to many people, yet now we take them for granted. Although the reading feels outdated, there’s still some kind of respect I could have given to the book while reading it and not just dismiss it as ‘common sense’.

Research Critique I

Artwork 1

Image taken from

Daniel Rozin – ‘Wooden Mirror’, 1999
830 square pieces of wood, 830 servo motors, control electronics, video camera, computer, wood frame.
170cm , 203cm, 25cm

The Wooden Mirror is an interactive installation made of 830 wood pieces and motors that moves according to an image captured by the camera which tilts the wood pieces in a certain angle, creating the illusion of depth and therefore the illusion of a ‘reflection’.

“Mechanical mirrors are a platform in which Rozin investigates the borderline and contrasts between digital and analog worlds, virtual and physical experience, or order versus chaos. The first of this series, Rozin’s Wooden Mirror explores the inner workings of image creation and human visual perception.”

Q: Why do you find this artwork or project intriguing?
A: I stumbled upon this artwork on Facebook around last year and was fascinated by how the artist managed to show depth using just wood plates and the shadows they cast, which seems pretty impossible. I find it really interesting as I tried to figure out how technology allows us to make what appears to be impossible, which is to make a mirror out of a non reflective material. I was even more fascinated after thinking through the process of making this installation work the way it does.

Q: What is the situation or interaction created for the viewer?
A: The Wooden Mirror appears counter-intuitive to viewers at first, when a reflection casts on a non-reflective ‘mirror’ is made. Through instilling curiosity within viewers, the viewers would be made to look into the Wooden Mirror and interact with it by moving about and observing how the wooden plates move in relation to their own body movement.

Q: What is the intention of this interaction?
A: Other than the testing and application of a crazy but successful idea, the artwork has allowed people
 to question the potentials of materials, such as using a non reflective surface to create properties of a reflective surface. It also suggests to us the wonders of technology, in how each plate can be intricately programmed to display a certain shade to create a big image as a whole.

Q: What is the role of the viewer?
A: The role of the viewer is perhaps just an observer of the artwork’s effects, despite being actively engaged in the artwork when a viewer happen to walk in front of it. The viewer interacts through the act of just moving around and looking at the artwork. This generates a feedback to the artwork, allowing the artwork to keep changing.

Q: Who has control over the outcome of the artwork or project? Is it the creator / artist or the viewer/audience?
A: The creator has the primary control, ultimately, in terms of how he set the stage to make the wooden plates move in response to viewers (eg. he could have made it hard for viewers to discern their own image). However, the creator decided to make the artwork as it is now, and as such, the audience has more control over the outcome in term of how they directly affect the images portrayed on the Wooden Mirror.


Artwork 2

Image taken from

Institute for Media Innovation (IMI) Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore – ‘Nadine’, 2013

Nadine is a social robot modelled after Professor Nadia Magnenat Thalman. She is considered the ‘most realistic female humanoid social robots in the world’ at that time. She was created to assist people with special needs, and she can read stories, show images, and communicate with her user. She is also able to answer questions in different languages, simulate emotions in her gestures and her expressions, make eye contact with users, and can remember all the conversations she had with people.

Q: Why do you find this artwork or project intriguing?
A: My first encounter with Nadine was during the Human+ exhibition some years ago and was deeply intrigued by it. It was fascinating to me how technology is so advanced for a robot to exhibit (or simulate) social behaviours. 

Q: What is the situation or interaction created for the viewer?
A: The viewers can ask Nadine questions and respond to it, creating a flow of conversation. This back to back conversations creates feedback loop between Nadine and viewers. The viewers can talk about many different things like the weather, ask about Nadine, etc.

Q: What is the intention of this interaction?
A: The main purpose of the interactivity with Nadine is to assist people in different ways. She can be a receptionist, or an assistance to people with special needs. But within the Human+ exhibition, the interaction is perhaps to awe viewers in how smart a robot can be and imagine the future where quality and advancedness of robotics can be useful to humanity. 

Q: What is the role of the viewer?
A: The role is to just ask Nadine questions and talk to Nadine and reply. The viewer is also perhaps made to  think about what to say, and think about pushing the limits of the robot.

Q: Who has control over the outcome of the artwork or project? Is it the creator / artist or the viewer/audience?
A: In this case, I’m quite uncertain as Nadine is programmed to learn. As such I think perhaps both the project (Nadine) and the viewers have control over the outcome of the artwork, which is their conversations, while the creator only have the parameters for the interaction set beforehand (like gestures, things Nadine will talk about, etc).



Q: Come up with 2 thoughtful questions in your essay that will benefit the class with regards to this week’s topic on interactivity.

  1. Interactive art can be something that can respond to our actions. In this case, would you think that an interactive artwork could one day kill someone? Do we need regulations in interactive art in future?


  2. Imagine a future where robots co-exist with us. Would an interaction between a viewer and an advanced robot similar to Nadine be considered as a performance? A normal conversation? Or something else?

Research Critique 3: Glitch & The Art of Destruction

“For me this approach to noise or noisiness, or dirt, or dirtiness, is a way to foreground as you say, an aberrance or perversion of normative message or what we might perceive to be logical reasoning. Because there is a poetics to that obviously and people who inspired me most directly in that matter would be Netochka Nezvanova, who did this comingling of functional code with highly politicized and poetic language.” – Glitch Expectations: A Conversation with Jon Cates

The idea of noise as aberrance is obvious but at the same time, poetic in a sense. Noise, defined as a disturbance of the norm, can be compared to glitch and destruction. We deconstruct a subject through destruction; and through this abstraction, our minds go through a different thought process to create a whole new meaning to the subject. Rather than seeing destruction as vandalism or something offensive, we see through the eyes of the artist and realise that destruction is a statement.

The iconic Mona Lisa, masterpiece by Da Vinci, was chosen as a symbol of traditional art form, representing not just all the paintings that exists in history, but also and the rules and properties tied to it. We printed an image of it on paper in black-and-white pieces before being assembled together into one image.  Stripped from its colours, texture, and proper medium, this artwork is glitched intentionally. Devoid of its original meaning, the artwork is recreated as a symbol rather than to replicate the original.

In our iconoclastic performance of burning the Mona Lisa, we do not only reject traditional art rules and forms, but also releases “art” from its static medium, freeing itself from its own rigidity into a formless, seamless entity that is ever present. The resulting corpse, its ashes, is now a soulless and empty shell that flakes away. This corpse bears no resemblance to the original at all and is now just a relic of what it used to be.

The entire process of destruction — from the careful handling of the image of the Mona Lisa, to it being engulfed in flames, to the ashes it left behind — is captured in a video. By watching the video, the audience can get the idea that we are trying to convey. The new meaning of art that we have created have left the image that we burnt and enter the medium that we have recorded it in!


We see a similarity in Ant Farm’s Media Burn (1975), a performance that made an impactful statement against the influence of television and the American lifestyle. By smashing the car and television together, Ant Farm demonstrated, through destruction, the clash of the two core subjects that Americans were obsessed with at that time. The spectacle of the performance, rather than the destroyed meaningless pieces left behind, have caused awe and mass media attention which amplified its intended meaning as it have made use of the very medium that is is trying to address.

“Here noise exists within the void opposite to what (already) has a meaning. Whichever way noise is defined, the negative definition also has a positive consequence: it helps by (re)defining its opposite (the world of meaning, the norm, regulation, goodness, beauty and so on).” – Glitch Studies Manifesto

The idea of what brings meaning and what does not is in the matter of perspective. One can see positive in something negative, and thus, by shifting our perspectives to align to that of the artist, we are able to find a new meaning defined by the artwork. Similarly, the lack of imagery in the new Mona Lisa, although meaningless and ephemeral, is the product of a process that represents the new icon for art. The “corpse’s” lack of meaning is the very definition of its meaning, which is that art is finally freed, and its meaning can be everywhere.

Research Critique II: Third Space is Participation

I find an age old philosophical question relevant to our attempt at trying to understand the third space. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Similarly, if a device that can connect people across a distance is active but no one participates, is there a third space?

I would say that the answer to that question is: no. I believe a third space is a non-physical space that forms once people interact with each other between space and time, and its very essence is that its inhabitants are its participants, deliberate actors within the space that keeps it alive.

As what Randall Packer described,

“The laws of the known world have been all but abandoned in the third space: it is a space of invention and possibility, like lucid dreaming, where participants might assume their avatar identities, engage in post-human, cyborgian manifestations, or perhaps reinvent the world in the image of their own making.”

Posted by Bryan Leow on Wednesday, 31 January 2018

In our telematic performance, Samantha and I reached out to each other using our Cup Noodle Telephone. Our telephones are not connected physically, which will be necessary for it to work physically. In this third space, we are not just able to talk to each other in spite of our disconnection from the physical space, but also play our roles to ensure maximum realism in this alternate world, despite being stripped away from realism. In this case, we try to talk into the cup, and listen out from the cup even though we could just talk to each other directly. Our engrossment with this performance detached us from the physical space, and therefore created a sense of intimacy and connection between us. The very act of participating in the third space creates the third space.

Role playing to fit our own reality




We can see our performance as a reflection of Telematic Dreaming by Paul Sermon (1993), where the act of pretending to interact with one another as though the other person is physically there creates an alternate and intimate world that exists only between the two person.

Maria Chatzichristodoulou made a comment about Telematic Dreaming, “The ability to exist outside of the users own space and time is created by an alarmingly real sense of touch that is enhanced by the context of the bed and caused by an acute shift of senses in the telematic space.”

Interrupted space

The intimacy-enhancing bed is an example that physical reality will still affect us and the third space. Unlike what happened in Telematic Dreaming where the physical world enhanced the telematic experience, we were interrupted by a passerby towards the end of our performance which broke our third space. Despite the detachment from reality, our physical reality still shapes our third space. Perhaps the reason for such a phenomenon is due to the physical world altering the way we participate, and therefore altering the third space.