An award-winning director, designer, strategist and educator, Chris Do wears many hats (both literally and figuratively). As the Co-founder and Chief Strategist at his own design consultancy Blind, he develops effective strategies and powerful identities to help brands connect with their audience. On the other hand, he is also CEO of theFutur an online education platform that aims to disrupt the private design education industry by leveraging on media platforms, social networks and capitalising distance-based learning tools.
This is especially timely in this time and age where content is king and we are bombarded by myriads of digital content on a daily basis, yet in this sea of information, Chris Do is able to identify existing gaps and carve out a niche market for himself within TheFutur. He establishes his credibility based on the work he has done, and as a disruptive thinker that reshapes the creative industry (such as his value-based pricing model for creatives). He is also able to further scale his platform by spinning off to alternate channels such as TheFutur academy with a focus on design technical skills.
What I admire about Chris is his ability to reinvent himself as a creative by leveraging his position as a designer and educator in the industry. And he does so by effectively combining his passion for teaching and love of his craft to create new platforms that help him to further cement his position as a thought leader and allows him to build his audience. Effective personal branding in a nutshell.
As I prepare to graduate and enter the working world, the videos and content produced have been deeply insightful in nudging me to think further and beyond the field of design but to also consider the business of the industry and my own personal branding.
Sensorium questions the interstices between our senses that we often take for granted through the sensory phenomenon known as “Synesthesia” – a condition where a stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic and involuntary experiences by other senses. In short, an experience of a single sense is now simultaneously perceived by other senses resulting in confusing outcomes for the individual with this condition.
In this installation, we aimed to make this gap more aware by recreating this condition by allowing visitors to experience a similar disassociation between their senses by creating a sense of unfamiliarity with objects that they are familiar with interacting. This “sensory overload” is created through the unfamiliar and different sounds heard and coloured “ink-drops” seen dripping into the tank when interacting with the objects on the stools.
Concept – artist references
We were also inspired with artworks that engaged different senses and emitted sounds. Through interaction some of our references are as follows:
Lenses by Hush
A installation that converts light sensors and refractions to sound.
Another installation that plays on the idea of engaging different senses in the form of Synesthesia.
In our initial ideas, we were focused on using lights and sounds to create the experience of Synesthesia but a closer study into the condition, and consultation with Lei, we decided to go with something more tactile and allow the installation to be more object-driven. Settling on the sense of touch, sight and sound.
Objects used and sounds that corresponded:
Box with Lid (with flowers on the inside) – Thunder
Chair – Cat meowing
Light switch – Toilet flushing
As for the sounds we chose, we followed what Lei suggested about considering the “textures of the sound”. To further elaborate, it was like how for the box with lid (with flowers inside), the expected sound would be something very soft and soothing. Whereas for that we used the sound of thunder, which sound texture wise was very loud and harsh to further juxtapose for dramatic effect. For the sitting on the chair, it is expected to be associated with feelings comfort, yet we used a cat meowing sound which sound texture wise was very sharp, to throw the audience off and bring a certain element of shock and discomfort to them. As for the light switch and the toilet flushing, we felt that the “click, click” sound of the light switch turning on and off felt very rhythmic and repetitive, as such threw in the sound of toilet flushing as the texture of the sound felt very random and the swooshing sounds felt like a good contrast.
Characteristics of interface
As Sensorium is ultimately a participatory-driven installation, the viewers are in integral aspect to this installation. Thus on the continuums of interactivity, we would place “Sensorium” close to the zone or High Interactivity, where the viewer’s actions and feedback will ultimately determine the outcome of their experience with the installation.
Also, based on the characteristics of interface, we would view Sensorium as having its interface “parallel real world experience”. The nature of Sensorium plays on the disassociation between what viewers think they know and what is actually presented to them. As such our interface would be one that is very much based on real world items and objects. For example, in Sensorium a box with a lid, a chair and a light switch are selected as our main objects that viewers would interact with. These are common everyday objects that the viewers are familiar with its function and working. We then based the activation of the feedback loop based on these interactions. Thus, the sounds and ink drop will only appear as the viewer opens the lid, sits on the chair and flicks on the light switch . Thus we feel that Sensorium’s interface is one that parallels the real world in order for viewers to be intuitive in the way they interact with this installation.
We were also intentional to do our best to hide the LDR systems within the interface so as to not lose the “magic” created for the viewers.
For each object, we had to instruct our code differently based on the values read from the LDR (SensorValue). For instance, for the sitting on the chair, our requirement was that only if SensorValue <= 50 would the condition be true and hence turn the solenoid and sounds on. This meant that only when someone sits on our chair and the light value dips below 50 will the condition be true. For the other two like opening the box and flipping the light switch, our condition was if SensorValue >= 100 because only if the LDR senses light, i.e box opening and also light turning on, will the condition be true, and the solenoid and sounds turn on.
We used what Lei thought us about Serial.println( ) in our code! Each object had different integers for Serial.println(_), as a form of communication between Processing and Arduino. Basically if for an object sensorValue>=100, Serial.println(L) is true. This integer “L” is then sent over to Processing and plays the chosen sound. We used Processing instead of an MP3 Shield because Processing could simultaneously take in three codes from Arduino and yet play all three different sounds at the same time. We made use of the minim library on Processing to play the sounds easily!
some challenges and how we overcame them
To add on, we also ended up choosing objects that were more dynamic (opening box and flicking light switch), rather than just purely the action of picking up and putting down.
INDIVIDUAL ROLES AND REFLECTIONS
Jonathan – Head of Setup, Logistics and Concept
I think there weren’t huge challenges faced in this project but rather many small glitches and problems that occured throughout the process such as the technical aspect of getting the sounds to work. I was initially supposed to handle that area and we resolved to using a MP3 shield to play the sounds provided for the installation. However, the MP3 shield did not work alas due to some faults in the hardware and software. We decided to use processing to solve the issue in the end as Nasya had found a method to utilise it for our project.
There were many hiccups in the set ups as well. From the parts of getting the LDR to work during the set ups and how the droppers would actually run out of ink quite often.. but generally I think we were able to work around the limitations and created a very interesting and fun experience for our viewers. We were cracking our heads to come up with a strong disassociation between the objects and sounds but realised that an association could always be created regardless and that is actually a human condition as well – the tendency to draw connections and create associations. The experience created by the objects and sounds added a dimension of humour that we didn’t think it would bring and I thought that was quite interesting. 🙂
Daryl – Head Hardware, Arduino Technician, Aesthetic Advisor
When we first started the project, we were bent on created a big and extraordinary auditory visual experience in relation to synesthesia. However as we progressed through the project, we learn that synesthesia is more of a day to day experience which synesthetes have. Thus we worked towards the idea of giving everyday objects a different response in dissonance to the objects in question which we finally chose, the chair, a box and a light switch.
We encountered many little hiccups during the conceptualisation of Sensorium. Problems such as circuitry issues (we almost fried Nasya’s Macbook), programming issues, and also a lot of debugging be it in the software (Arduino, processing) or hardware (droppers, solenoids, mechanisms, we had to find the correct inks to use too).
We completed the project in the nick of time, and we were so happy that it all came together at the end. When our audience were testing and playing with Sensorium, creating the sounds and Ink clouds simultaneously it almost blew our minds. It actually turned out better than we expected. I feel that Sensorium has fulfilled its purpose: to create dissonance in everyday objects and their expected responses and thus portraying what a synesthete could potentially experience in his or her daily life.
Nasya – Head Programming, Processing Maestro, Arduino Extraordinaire
Overall the project felt like one very smooth journey! Each member owned their role and as such Sensorium was pieced together very nicely. I was quite amazed at how far 13 weeks got us, from knowing nothing about Arduino to being able to code according to what our project required. I remember initially it was very hard to code stuff due to just unfamiliarity, but as the weeks passed, it was easy to grow more accustomed to the coding language and be able to get Arduino and even Processing done. Here’s some work-in-progress! Could really see the improvements coding wise 🙂 A lot of the final codes were adapted, improvised to suit our needs and based on earlier codes that we learnt from class and from the Arduino Project Book!
Started off very simply with just the LDR being the input and having the buzzer as the output. (and we were very excited at that point that it was working)
Here’s our code from the initial buzzer and LDR adapted to fit the solenoid!
Here’s towards the end when we realised we needed a way to play the sound together with the solenoid movement thereby replacing the buzzer. Managed to get it to work with processing and we were ultra excited!
It was great that there was a progression, a growth toward our code, in that we did not suddenly write out a code overnight but rather it was based on looking through our code weekly and tweaking them to suit our project needs. Overall because of consistent work we managed to do the project well!
Lastly as a bonus, here’s the behind-the-scenes/ inside-the-box of Sensorium.
Rain roomis an interactive, experiential art installation created by Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass for Random International. A collaborative studio for experimental practice within contemporary art founded by the two in 2005. It was first shown at the Barbican in London (2012). The installation allows visitors to experience navigating through rain without ever getting wet. A dichotomy that greatly intrigues me. In this essay, I will provide an analysis of the installation including the mechanism of how it functions as well as the concept behind the work by the artists, in its relation to topics of Interactivity as well as Immersion.
Watch the above video to see how Rain Room works!
In order to create this experience, motion sensors are placed around the space to detect the movements of the human body. Over 2500 litres of self-cleaning recycled water is controlled using a computerised system automatically. When sensors in the cameras detect a person’s movement, they signal one of the many water nozzles in the ceiling and the water stops in a rough six-foot radius around the person. Allowing visitors to navigate through the “rain” without getting wet. Due to the nature and size of the work, it is site specific and carries certain limitations in the viewing experience. For example, viewers are only allowed to enter the space for a limited period of 15 minutes and no more than 6 visitors are allowed in the room at the same time. (according to the Sharjah Art Foundation where the work is permanently exhibited)
Like all Interactive Artworks, Koch and Ortkrass has created a feedback and responsive system within Rain Room where visitors are afforded a certain level of agency in the control and creation of the artwork. As what was highlighted in Roy Ascott’s Behaviorist Art and the Cybernatic Vision, Rain room is intended to “draw the spectator into active participation in the act of creation” as well as provide “the opportunity to become involved in creative behavior on all levels of experience – physical, emotional and conceptual.” This is also in line with Random International’s aim in “questioning aspects of identity and autonomy in the post digital age”. The Artists “aim to explore the human condition in an increasingly mechanized world through emotional and physically intense experiences.
Rain room can be understood as a representation of human intervention in the natural environment where human presence prevents rain from falling. It is the artists’ exploration of how human relationships to each other and to nature are increasingly mediated through and filtered through technology. It is my understanding that the message and meaning behind Modern Interactive Art is felt and understood more tangibly than traditional, classical art because of the collaborative nature of the work and ‘control’ given to the viewers to explore the space that also initiates a conversation between the viewer and the artist through the installation. In an interview, Koch and Ortkrass describes the visitor experience that they have intended. “We don’t really have set ideas. I think that the whole point of setting it up to see how (and) what they experience they have, and how they perceive it respond it and interact with. This variety of stuff that you cannot plan or predict or anticipate.” This relates to Nobert Weiner’s Cybernetics and History and his discussion of communication and control in entropy. The system created for Rain Room allows for a large amount of variability despite it’s “prearranged behaviour” and a large part of the viewing experience leverages on the control being given to the viewer’s feedback and response albeit in a manner that disassociates from reality. What I find interesting is that despite having crafted an experience and a message behind the work, what Koch and Ortkrass were truly interested in was not if the viewers were able to catch the intended message but to observe and question how would they behave and participate in the given space. How we perceive this type of work is no longer a question of what does It mean? but rather what would you do?
Watch the Interview that Random International gave explaining Rain Room:
Another aspect of Rain Room is how it plays on the environment to create an immersive almost trance-like experience with concepts that are not realizable in the physical world. The idea of walking in rain without being wet defies the law of the physical world yet we are able to experience it physically in a pseudo-reality created by Rain Room. This is largely due to the physical interface of the space created that engages all the human sensory organs, enhancing the disparity of what is familiar and what this pseudo-reality. Upon entering the installation, visitors are simultaneously exposed to and protected from the rain falling all around. Although the sound and smell of the rain are intense, the touch of rain remains absent leaving visitors dry within a continual downpour as they navigate through the space. It is similar to the concept of Virtual Reality (VR) where a pseudo, life-like reality is created by engaging the senses and making use of an “interactive” screen to allow viewers to experience, similar to Osmose by Char Davies. Yet for Rain Room, this “Virtual” reality becomes part of the actual physical interface and the “ultimate display” mentioned by Ivan Sutherland are our eyes which causes us to question the reality of the space.
Rain Room creates a new experience that we would never be able to experience in a physical reality, but unlike other interactive art the dissonance introduced in Rain Room becomes more apparent because of the familiarity of the content of the work which is based off a natural phenomenon that, through computerization, is modified to create a man-made natural environment that reacts differently to how we perceive it to be. The system created by the artists also allows for an immersion into the space that as you interact with the work, new realities are perceived by the viewer and this is how the art communicates in this feedback loop.
In conclusion, Rain Room provides an interesting perspective in which I am able to perceive the concepts of Interactivity and Immersion in new ways other than what was taught or explained in concepts. And through this analysis I have realised that while we may learn a concept, we must be open to how it can also evolve as we study it’s application. Similarly, I believe that the concepts touched on are simply the bedrock of interactive Art and interactive art of the future will continually push these ideas and concepts to new limits in search of fresh perspective and meanings.
Inspired by Ken Garland’s 1964 call to action on the prioritising of design’s role and purpose in the age of consumerism, First Things Second looks at the priorities of Designers today, comfortable with status quo as merely vendors for Design. How far we have fallen to allow ourselves to be merely silent spectators. Yet, the creative call is much more. It is therefore time for a reshuffle of our priorities.
We are not (just) designers, but active shapers and movers of culture.
Random International was founded in 2005 by Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass as a collaborative studio for experimental practice within contemporary art.
I first heard of them when I chanced upon their well-known interactive art installation done titled “Rain Room”. In which participants are invited into a space, to experience what it would be like to be in the rain but not get wet. I was immediately intrigued by the dichotomy presented in the work and decided to read more about the work itself as well as the artists behind it.
“Questioning aspects of identity and autonomy in the post-digital age, the group’s work invites active participation. RANDOM INTERNATIONAL explores the human condition in an increasingly mechanised world through emotional yet physically intense experiences. The artists aim to prototype possible behavioural environments by experimenting with different notions of consciousness, perception, and instinct.”
– excerpt taken from Random International biography from website here
As a designer, I am deeply passionate about how design and art is able to explore tensions and gaps in the human experience and manipulate these gaps to create new environments for us to inhabit both physically and emotionally. Why I chose Random International as an artist is their continual exploration of the human condition, and they express their discovery through creating innovative and thought-provoking work that stirs up dialogues between people and within ourselves which I feel is the very core value of an interactive media art piece.
In his book “The Language of New Media”, Lev Manovich attempts to contextualise and analyse the new media revolution and the “shift of all culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution, and communication.” Which has had an immense impact on all stages of communication, and it causes us to rethink of our definitions and values when comprehending the media of today as compared to that of old.
Under the chapter of “Principles of New Media” he reduces all principles of new media to these fundamental to five — numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability and cultural transcoding. As so aptly summarised, these principles “should be considered not as absolute laws but rather as general tendencies of a culture undergoing computerization”
Manovich’s principles offer us some handles in helping us analyse the function and systems of our projects and how it relates to the topic of new media, which I will elaborate further on. But before that, I would like to elaborate more on the concept and mechanism of Sensorium.
Sensorium explores the sensoral phenomenon known as “Synesthesia” in which a stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In short, when an individual’s particular sense is stimulated, the individual may experience multiple or an alternate sensory experience. For example, indivuals may sometimes “see” a certain colour in response to a certain letter or word.
This is achieved by allowing viewers to experience a “sensory” overload and a disconnection with common objects and behaviour much similar to Synesthetes. Viewers would hear certain sounds, and see ink-drops (of a particular colour) when they interact with the work. This is done through setting up light-sensors beneath the object that would respond to the changes in the object placement and provide a feedback accordingly.
Now back to Manovich’s principles and how does it relate to Sensorium?
1. Numerical Representation
Manovich describes that all new media objects are composed of digital code and thus can be subject to algorithmic manipulation. In short, media becomes programmable.
Similarly, Sensorium utilises Arduino system that are programmable as the brain of the art work. In addition, the use of LDR sensors also mean these readings are being actively translated into binary data script for the Arduino system to process.
New media objects are ‘object-oriented’ composed of parts made up of smaller parts reminiscent of a “fractal structure”. These elements are assembled into a larger scale object but continue to maintain their separate identities. This also allows for augmentation of the smaller areas and portion of independent parts.
The different mechanism of Sensorium is modular and is made up of smaller parts. This includes the code, the software, the hardware or even the way the installation is experienced.
For example, in terms of hardware, the receiver is modular in that the use of an LDR results in a particular experience for the viewer. (The selection of this component by us as the main receiver) By changing the receiver, such as using a different sensor it would alter and augment the set up of the work.
However, what is unique about our project is that this would not ultimate affect the outcome of the experience as the output (the colour dropper and sensor) remains the same.
The modularity allows us to control and decide on the type of experience and objects that we want to create for our viewers.
Another characteristic of New Media is its ability for automation as a result of the modular structure and numerical coding where the computer now takes over the role of operations.
Sensorium uses an Arduino system to allow for Automatic feedback and responses to be generated for the user. This allows for the system to run with the absence of a human to physically change the system accordingly.
This automation is limited however, due to certain contraints in the system in Sensorium created. Such as, the need to top up ink fluid in the dropper and also replace the water in the tank once it becomes too murky and cloudy.
Manovich mentions how “a new media object is not fixed once and for all, but something that can exist in different, potentially infinite versions”
In this principle, Sensorium allows for a diverse range of variability despite its simple output. The system of Sensorium is fairly direct. In short, it invites viewers to move and interact with certain objects. For example, should a viewer lift a box, this would trigger the light sensor and cause the ink dropper to release ink drops (coloured) into the tank. A sound would also be heard. Regardless of how high you lift up the object, or interact with, the output remains the same. However, certain factors that would affect the variability in the experience of the work includes:
– Duration of the object being held. The longer it is lifted up, the more times the ink drop would occur and the longer the corresponding sound would be heard.
– Prior participants. The presence of other viewers would mean that the ink in the tank would be visible to the viewer and thus affect the experience of the viewer.
– An amalgamation. Due to the nature of the system, all 3 inputs can be happening at the same time and would allow for trigger of multiple drops to happen at once. The way in which the ink drop clouds drops and forms also is another variability of the project.
A digitisation of what we define as ‘culture’. Manovich talks about the interplay between both the “computer layer” and the “cultural layer” of this digitisation. And the combination of the two results in new experiences created.
When computerised, the experience is changed when the reaction creates a disassociation, of what is known and replacing it with something that detaches them from the space.
Sensorium plays on these experience, through a similar disassociation. There is a disconnection experienced (between the object seen, touched as well as sound heard and the colour ink seen). The physical is being digitised through the sensors and is being read as data and the subsequent result or feedback is converted again to a physical experience to be felt. As such, what we come to know or think, through a disassociation, creates new meanings.
Other Works that inspired Sensorium:
Lenses by Hush
A installation that converts light sensors and refractions to sound.
A Synesthesia Installation
A tactile installation that uses motion and touch to create light, colour and sounds as outputs.
The Industrial Revolution during the period of 1760 to 1840 marked a huge turning point in human history as it ushered in a period of radical technological, social and economic change. Some of its most notable changes included the transition from hand to machine productions, creation of new manufacturing processes through developments of machine tools as well as the rise of factory system.
Artistic movements prior was in stark contrast to the Industrial Revolution. Art movements such as Baroque (1590-1725), Rococo (1700-1785), Neo-classicism (Late 18th century – Early 19th century) were classified as Historicism where patrons of the arts were mostly monarchs or people rich enough to consume such art. Both the Baroque and Rococo period placed emphasise on “Beauty to the eyes” and the works produced featured heavy ornamentation and looked very extravagant. Since it was designed and built by craftsman for the rich to reflect their status. There was a shift brought by Neo- Classicism as they viewed previous styles to be too overly “cheesy” and began to rationalise beauty through the use of geometric shapes and platonic forms with minimal use of colours with the emphasis of “Beauty to the mind”.
The combination of several factors resulted in a favourable climate for the revolution in Britain. The Agricultural Revolution in 18th century resulted in an increase in food production, which meant lower prices for food and thus an increase in consumption for manufactured products. Abundance of natural resources also meant that Britain was able to utilise their minerals to run industrial machines. British Colonialism during this period provided a vast consumer market ready to purchase its manufactured good. This is also aided by the construction of vast Transportation Networks which reduced transportation costs and increased efficacy. Most importantly, Technological developments such as the Steam Engine (James Watt,1785), the Spinning Jenny (James Hargreaves, 1764) and Power Loom (Edmund Cartwright 1785) shaped the manufacturing landscape by allowing greater quantities for production and increased production speed.
The changes brought by the industrial revolution included the following:
1) The use of new basic materials, mainly iron and steel
2) New energy sources (steam power, fossil fuels, electricty)
3) Invention of new machines (and tools)
4) New forms of organisation of work
5) Developments in transportation and communications
Driven by increase in consumer demand, and technological developments and breakthroughs, Industrial revolution focused on the mechanisation of processes to improve efficacy. Invention of New machines and new organisation of work (factory systems) allowed for an increased production with smaller expenditure of human energy as well as mass production of manufactured goods. This resulted in increased job opportunities which increased the overall amount and of wealth and its distribution, enlarging the middle class, lower costs and prices for goods and a shifting role of workers from craftsmen to specialised workers, albeit terrible working conditions and social issues such as child-labour.
The shift in the roles of worker meant that labourers at factory systems would acquire new and distinctive skills, instead of being a craftsman working with hand tools as were the case in prior years, the craftsman now became a machine operator, subject to factory discipline. These new machines and systems replaced the craftsmen system with faster and cheaper production but often greatly inferior results as the critical eye and artistry of the craftsman was sacrificed for speed where the machine now determines the final product. This also meant that the works created were largely similar and not unique. With minimal ornamentation and simpler forms that made it easier to be produced in large quantities at faster speeds. One example would be Chair No. 14 by Michael Thonet in which the different components can be dismantled and put together and thus was able to be flat-packed. This was in contrast to French Rococo chairs by Louis Delanois which were bulky, had curvy forms and featured much ornamentation. This also marked the stylistic difference between Industrial Revolution produced works and the period before. Where the focus was on efficacy and function.
Industrial furniture was simple, practical, easy to mass produce and made to withstand harsh conditions. It was merely for daily work and not considered to be stylish.
At the height of the Industrial Revolution, Sir Henry Cole (1808-1882) a British Art educator and Prince Albert (1819-1861), Husband and consort of Queen Victoria pushed for the organization of The Great Exhibition of 1851, it was the world’s first World Exposition to showcase the industrial and cultural products of the world. Its purpose was to address the problems of taste, design and production in modern society ands also to showcase Britain’s success in innovation science, arts and engineering, establishing itself as a leader in the world’s first industrial leader. The main exhibit included over 100,000 objects from 15,000 contributors and included a range if products and items from modern machinery, cultural objects, jewellery and ornate furniture.
The exhibition took place from 1 May 1851 to 15 October. By the time it closed, the Great Exhibition was seen as a popular success as it had garnered over 6 million visitors, with the international nature of the exhibition giving visitors a powerful sense of a newly wide world. It had gained sufficient profit for the organisers to channel the resources to create the South Kensington Museum (also known as the Victoria and Albert Museum) subsequently. However, the critical reception for the exhibition was not as positive as critics panned the works that were created by industrialised methods to be shoddy and poorly designed. Owen Jones, an English architect and designer said in a journal of the Great Exhibition, “After wondering through the halls of this most wonderful assemblage of the world’s industry, the artist who passes down the nave from east to west will see on either side but a fruitless struggle to produce in art novelty without beauty – beauty without intelligence; all work without faith.” Jones’ comments seems to suggest of the works produced to have been over-decorated with unrelated styles, as though it was art for art’s sake. Jones’ use of the word “faith” in his description also speaks of a spiritual concept in design which is absent in the industrial based works produced during this period.
In conclusion, the distinct characteristic of the industrial revolution is its pursuit of mechanisation automation processes, the result is higher production quantities and lower costs of production however, critics have raised issue on how this had ultimately affected the quality of works produced as it no longer carried the spirit of the craftsman but rather simply machine determined. The values presented in the industrial revolution also set the background for Design Reformation Movements as critics of the period John Ruskin and William Morris decided to respond to such mechanised methods of production.