Information Arts: Intersection of Art, Science and Technology

This encyclopedia-like book by Stephen Wilson investigates the relationship between art, technology, research, and science to discover that they are interconnected in many ways.

A brief introduction

Technology is always associated with science, and science is always associated with the frontiers of technological advancements. But this notion of the specialisation of roles in science and art is a idea that only started since the Renaissance. Art making and scientific research actually goes through similar methodologies, as well as pushes the boundaries of technology. For the longest time, people have always been creating and inventing, figuring out how something works before knowing why it does. This intuitiveness and creativity generate new ways of using technology, while a deeper understanding of its mechanisms further pushes it; all in all improving and generating new technology. In this manner, art and science worked hand-in-hand in the creation of technology. Are we able to break away from the notion of art being “creative” and science being “technical”? This book aims to address that issue and see how art and science is coming together in the information age.

The book

Included in the book are some of the best research-inspired artworks that Wilson believes to be thought-provoking and revolutionary, in hopes to challenges our notion of art and science.

Wilson explains the relevant ideas in understandable chunks in the introduction, followed by a categorisation of works based on a group of topics (eg. “Biology: Microbiology, Animals and Plants, Ecology, and Medicine and the Body”). Within the categories, Wilson further explains information that is relevant to the topics and lists a few artists that uses such ideas.

Example, in the Biology category, Wilson explains Bionics and stated examples like a nerve chip that Stanford researchers created which reads nerve signals, decodes them, and operate prosthetics. Wilson then goes further in depth to look at individual artists what delves in different aspects of biology. For example, in the “Medicine and the Body” subcategory, he lists down notable artists like Stelarc, Antunez Roca, ORLAN, and their notable works with a brief description and other relevant information.

In “Third Hand”, A manipulable robotic arm is attached to the body activated by the host via EMG (sometimes from other body areas) or tele-operated by others. Images taken from

Personal thoughts

I had no time to read through everything, but I was really interested in many of the examples and ideas he listed, especially under the “Medicine and the Body” section as that is within my current interest. It is a very comprehensive and informative book which talks about a really relevant topic in our current time.

I am also interested to learn more about what he said about science, art, and technology. I guess I find it relatable as pop-science (despite its bad reputation as being too watered down) really inspires me. Video channels like VSauce and Kurzgesagt shaped my ideas and thoughts to where I am now, and I love to base my project and works around these ideas.


Wilson, Stephen. Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science and Technology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.

Reading: Critical Vehicles

There are 2 main ideas I pulled out from this reading that I find reflect a lot in Krzysztof Wodiczko’s work. The first is the idea of “Interrogative Design” (which I like!), which is how design should reflect the real world and not work around it.

Screenshot from the reading

In schools, we always are required to work around a problem instead of directly solve it due to us being just the ‘designer’ and not an engineer that is capable of solving problems with complex solutions. This is especially relevant in product design where we have to imagine new ways to use a product while bypassing a problem faced by an existing product. Now thinking back, that is what fuels our creativity, and I would say it is still a somewhat legitimate way to work towards a solution if designing for trivial objects. However, his point is that design should be real and confrontational, rather than avoidant. This is an interesting and relevant thought for my works.

The second main idea is on the need to add meaning and function to public art.

screenshot from the reading

In this passage, the artist basically mentions that public art is useless. I half agree with this as I think commission spoils the artistic freedom of artists, turning the artwork into an awkward blend of artist intention and corporate influence. Its lack of practical function (other than to beautify the space and assert their dominance through richness) also makes it a redundant creation. However, I think that the best kind of art should really be public, perhaps not commissioned, but public. I mean, other forms of art is already non-functional (practically speaking). I find public art to be one of the least intimidating forms of art as they are all very approachable, or perhaps, designed to be approachable. The lack of symbolic meaning frees the work from all the “deep” meaning that artists like to inject in their work, which not just makes their work intimidating and difficult to understand but also not adding important information for the artwork to be at least functional in doing what it needs to do.

I think I understand his sentiments, and I think there are many ways artists can improve on in their works to make it more ‘useful’. This is the same as us designers trying to make the world a better place through solutions and not just “raise awareness“.

I find that the artist’s work “City Hall Tower Projection” in Krakow, 1996 embodied these 2 ideas. The artist’s use of projection and sound onto an exist ‘permanent’ structure also reminds me of previous week’s reading about ‘relational architecture’ that temporarily changes the narrative and meaning of a space through the use of media and technology. 

screenshot from the reading

The idea goes further into transforming the bell tower into a confrontational figure that discusses the unspoken or taboo topics in the country like homophobia and domestic abuse. The belltower acts as a middle person between victims recounting their narratives of said topics and the general public, essentially becoming the voice of the minority.

screenshot from the reading

This turns the architecture not just into a confrontational work, but also a functional one in terms of speaking out the unspoken, providing perspectives of the people’s humanity while also calls for people to reflect upon themselves.


I think the artist have very valid points and I have some similar sentiments with the artists in his view on art and design. I think we all can be a lot more thoughtful in our works in making it serve an objective function.

Reading: Illuminating Embodiment Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Relational Architectures

To Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, permanent architecture don’t connect with people as much as an installation does, even though they are places people visit all the time. Architecture should be a space for day-to-day interactions as well and not just a static entity. He calls this idea ‘Relational Architecture‘, which is the transformation of existing architecture and moulding it into new experiences using projection, sound, visuals, etc. As this ‘Temporary Architecture’ always change with different technologies, the experience will always be different and is much more interactive even though it uses the same space.

I think it is a revolutionary idea that the form of the building itself should also have an interactive function other than just something for us to look at or use (internally). Relational Architecture is something that we take for granted today after seeing the incredible projection mappings on the National Museum and many other transformative projections around open spaces.

Reading: Peter Zumthor – Atmospheres

Peter Zumthor – Atmospheres

“Atmosphere is an aesthetic category to Peter Zumthor. “

The author finds that the quality in Architecture is not about the academic studies, but rather on whether the building is able to touch people. What makes it touching is a complex blend of many properties that requires an amount of work and thought in it. The reading breaks down on what makes an architecture moving.

“We perceive atmosphere through our emotional sensibility”

I think it’s true that we sense a space with out emotional sensibility at the first instance we step into a space. We can sense the eeriness in a dark street unlike the romantic candlelit room; despite both being dimly lit spaces. There are special properties in each spaces that needs to be broken down for us to understand how certain properties can create different feelings.

  • the physical body of architecture — architecture collects different things in the world, different materials combined to create a space. kind of anatomy
  • Material compatibility — different possibilities of material usage. Objects / materials in reference to one another. complimentary, can cause a change in spatial
  • The Sound of a Space — sound transmission within a space needs to be considered. Personality.
  • The Temperature of a Space — how warm or cold the space feels, which can be altered by the materials used
  • Surrounding Objects — people, their objects, and things placed around.
  • Between Composure and Seduction — people move through space. Bring separate parts together, people form their own attachments. Some spaces make some feel that they can stay, some is just passing through.
  • Tension between interior and exterior — exterior is to be shown to everyone while interior is private. What do i want to see me or someone else using the building later.
  • Levels of Intimacy — proximity and distance. Size, latches and connecting bits, doors. Interior can be intimate even when exterior is intimidating
  • The Light on Things — lighting in a room and shadows. Think about the lighting in a room while designing it. Daylight vs artificial light.

A few takeaway I can find in relation to our course is that the atmosphere of the space should be considered deeply in order for us to setup a successful interactive space. Using the properties above, we are able to (at least) understand the properties and apply it in our considerations when designing an interactive space.

Reading 2 – Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller (by Marjory Jacobson)

What I understood from the reading is that technology can create an immersive experience, used as a way to enhance our senses, imagine a scene that does not exist, even though we thought it exists. It also allow us to share experiences with one another, creating new ways for us to see the world. In a sense, technology can fuel our imaginations, which blends into the real world and thus is able to create a different experience in the same space.

My questions for this understanding are:

  • Is the inclusion of technology an enhancement or a lie? how should we make sense of our altered senses?
  • Is the experience still genuine or a fabrication? Does it matter?

Reading 1: Space and Place (by Yi Fu Tuan)

What I can summarise from the reading  is that space relates to us through its direction, front-ness or back-ness, distances., and eventually languages, which became a major catalyst for cultures to evolve upon.

What I find interesting in this chapter is the realisation that we are so directional-focused in our everyday life. Since the oldest of time, we are so intertwined with 3-dimensional spaces that we based our daily life upon it without thinking about it. Almost everything in our lives are associated with directions, like our sense of time or like our sense of what’s positive or negative.

It is interesting how we can translate physical properties of space into something abstract in language, and we are so able to understand it through associations of its respective physical experiences.