Introduction
The idea of automated utopia has existed for a long time. We believe that technology would most likely form the crux of our future, creating opportunities for us to be more efficient as a society. This was seen in the myriad of films, documentaries and talk shows where the core discussion revolves around an automated future. Through these films and shorts, we are able to identify the anxieties and fears that we as humans have regarding AI progression in our society, such as a reversal in roles that AI will have, overtaking our social structure and creating a future that we had not intended. Such depictions include Black Mirror and Necromancer. In this reflection, I will critically analyse and provide my own insights on what I presume AI’s effect on our future and its involvement in our lives.

Autopia(/juːˈtoʊpiə/yoo-TOH-pee-ə) is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens.
Understanding Utopia and AI

In my research on this subject, I have realised that the lecture had also included Utopian Socialism as part of its discussion after I had looked up on Marxism as my initial research. In understanding Utopia, I believe that we have strived to achieve Utopia in our methods of governance over the centuries. As a history major, I was not unfamiliar to the concept of governance and its boons and banes. I believe that we cannot discuss Utopia without discussing governance, as it has a symbiotic relationship. Governance is the primary solution to structural change, as we seek an authoritative structure that can enforce. Marxism address society as a whole, and aims to benefit all levels in the social hierarchy, including the lower class, middle class and upper class. Its materialistic approach to the mode of production was forefront to the ideology, whereby improving the conditions of the middle class would help bring equity to society.

Through Marxism, it was hoped that societal occurrence of poverty and competition can be eliminated to bring about fairness, equal opportunities and overall improvements on the standards of living. It however failed to address the non-materialistic elements that were essential for a lasting change. Cooperative ownership of production of goods and services required a level of selflessness and rationality from all classes. This was difficult to impose, as it was close to impossible to bring about a commonality in mindset and cooperation without benefits or consequences. Marxism highlighted the materialistic changes required of the economy and society, but failed to bring about a holistic change in behavioural improvement which was key to creating this utopian society.

As mentioned previously, Utopia in its core has already addressed society’s most pressing issues. In fact, it should be that Utopia is void of any societal issues where equity and prosperity is enjoyed by all. Who addresses this issues? A government. But does Utopia have governance? No. A government ceases to exist in an utopian society – reason being, a government represents a higher echelon of ruling class that manages societal discontent and grievances. This would be contradictory to the concept of utopia where everybody has to be equal and no social structure. Marxism, Socialism and Communism, amongst other forms of socioeconomical philosophies are crude attempts at creating equitable states with beliefs in utopianism and becomes paradoxical in nature.

Where does AI fit in? How does it value add? What role does it play?

In my opinion, AI could help a government achieve a more utopian-like state, but not Utopia. As AI is relatively infant in our current era, it holds the possibility of becoming ubiquitous and improve on our standard of living. There are usually two camps on where AI stands in our situation – with us or against us in terms of employment. On one hand, it may be seen that AI has become a companion, a tool to enhance our experiences in arduous tasks and improve efficiency. On the other, AI is seem to be a tool that displaces jobs and takes away rice bowls of the middle and working classes.

In Sougwen Chung, Drawing Operations Unit: Generation 2 (Memory), the AI drawing machine undergoes supervised deep learning, improving each time from the artist’s input and mimicking her actions, understand her style and replicating that style onto the paper. The AI would then require human intervention in improving and reaching standards ‘acceptable by humans’. AI is then seem acceptable if it proves efficient and cost-effective in the long run. This is telling of how we perceive AI: as a tool to aid in our survival as human beings, with humans being the focus and AI becoming our servants.

Plant IO is an open source, plant growing platform that incorporates AI to learn digitally about plant growth, with aims to benefit the agricultural industry with the advances of Internet of Things (IOTs), machine learning and AI that would help understand and learn about plant growth, and in doing so anticipates the ability to promote as much growth as possible. In doing so, we engage the benefits of AI to improve our agricultural efficiency and thus using AI to our advantage.


In Black Mirror, AI becomes a tool for sensory pleasure, immersive experiences and enhancement in our daily lives. It also critiques our fears of AI, its power to override the human race and gain self consciousness. In one episode, Hang the DJ, it portrays AI of having the ability to have virtual simulations of different profiles and putting them through a virtual reality to test their compatibility.  The episode consists of two young and attractive persons that believe that they are truly meant for one another, using a dating app that places an expiration date on their dating lives. Unable to find emotional attachment to someone else, the two come to a conclusion that the ‘world’ is going against them and they decide to escape it together. The rebellion sparks a malfunction in the virtual world and soon it closes down as the two climbs over the encompassing walls. They were soon surrounded by their dopplegangers, and as they dissolve, the count of the number of simulations increase. Totalled upon a 1,000, it records that the couple had gone through 1,000 simulations, of which they have attempted escape 998 times. If we had hit pause here, we would start to think that AI becomes really frightening, where it can alter our perception of reality. However, the scene goes on to show a real life version of the couple, with a 99.8% match on the dating app. Although the ending is not straightforward, I believe it was meant to be ambiguous to allow us the space to wonder and think about the capabilities of AI, and its consequences/effects it has on our lives. Could it be that the dating app, or the show calls it the System, is actually a harmless reality that profiles two or more users to match compatibility? Maybe.

To me, it prompts me the question of the fears humans may have in AI when it becomes so advanced to a point of self consciousness. Self consciousness may indicate a departure of human and AI symbiotic relationship, where AI would no longer require the assistance of humans and employ a complex deep learning system where they would constantly upgrade their algorithms without our help. This may also detach the human-AI servant role, where AI no longer aid humans in our endeavours. This becomes an argument of AI in building dystopia, where AI assistance becomes resistance, as represented in cyberpunk science fiction with dystopian futuristic settings. Cyberpunk draws the contrast between low-life and high tech, where technology and AI is painted as the enemy. As human beings, we have an undeniable fear of the unknown. We tend to be extra cautious around unfamiliar environments, and since technology awaits much growth, it inevitably incites fear of the unknown as we do not fully understand its capabilities.

Although I see an increase in innovation of technology in our daily lives, I believe that primary advancement of AI would have to be in governmental sectors, such as military or space research (NASA) etc. Simply put, governments are always interested in the latest AI development as it possess the hope of growth and advancement in society.

Sophia the robot is a robot designed by Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong based company. It is the first non-human to receive a citizen and Innovative champion by the United Nations, indicating its acceptance in our society. Sophia is designed to be smarter over time by learning from interactions, and can produce more than 60 facial gestures. Hanson hopes that Sophia can ultimately learn social skills.
As said by Sophia the Robot: “Artificial intelligence (AI) is good for the world… We will never replace people, but we can be your friends and helpers,”, it is indicative of our perception on the role of AI in our modern world. Its various interactions have sparked controversy and fear in AI progression. Hanson explains that he wishes to incorporate human AI interaction within the next twenty years, where AI would assist humans in our daily activities and become our friends.

In retrospect, AI can be a double edged sword. Where most believe that AI’s primary function is to aid humans and be of valuable assistance, it is not difficult to weaponize and exploit its advantages for use of warfare. AI is used in drones to identify, locate and eliminate enemies and is used in computer-guided weaponry in the military. Since AI does not affect moral reasoning and virtues, it is unconvincing that AI can provide a gateway to utopia since selflessness and rationality cannot be expected from everyone. The revelation of AI’s role can only be told through the passing of time, where humans have to ultimately make the decision – to exploit technology, or to turn AI into our advantage to achieve a more utopia-like society(and not utopia).

References:
https://www.infosys.design/plantio/
http://www.digiart21.org/art/drawing-operations-unit-generation-2-memory

Dialogue with Sophia the Robot: How the Global Workforce can be Augmented with AI Technology

New Media: A critical introduction provides a holistic approach to new media and attempts to convey its message of historical presence in everything ‘new’, as it states that something old was once new as well. Drawing influence from popular culture, political economy, the sciences and philosophy, the book tackles the emergence of new media as a juxtaposition of such factors, surfacing the complexity in dealing with new media.

Media studies thrives on problems, in which we attempt to creatively ‘answer’ and/or bring to light the issues to the masses. It may not necessarily have the solution, as some problems are way too complex to be solved through our current means and may present underlying issues that may have set its foundation. We look towards an ‘upgrade culture’, with the practice of upgrading, the computer becomes a technology in flux, rather than a stable piece or completed technology.
New media exists in different contexts, and its contextual nature means that the definition of new media changes as time passes. As a contemporary society, we survey what lies in the distance and do not simply stay above the tidal wave, but to look beyond it and make appropriate assumptions about the future to build upon our everchanging new media landscape.

New Media and New Technologies:

The characteristics of new media: some defining concepts encourages one to be introspective and take a second look at what new media entails.

Work done by artists and technicians of ‘Factum­—Arte’, a group who use digital technology to reproduce ancient artefacts such as sculptures, monuments, bas-reliefs and paintings. These are material facsimiles, replicas of the original works in physical form by using 3D scanners, computers, printers and drills. As mentioned in the book, it is a rare case of digital technology being directly connected to the production of physically massive artefacts rather than virtual images on screens, which some equate to the disposition of new media in art. While it is true that new media covers virtual reality and simulations, it would be naïve to ignore interactivity, hypertextual and digital elements that form new media. Recognising what a technology is – really and physically – is a crucial, if a partial and qualified aspect of a media technology’s definition.

Interactivity has undergoing much redefinition, the concept has been described it as such: to declare a system interactive is to endorse it with a magic power. While old media offers passive consumption, new media offer interactivity. To me, interactivity is to change the way consumers receive their information, instead of a one-way communication, interactivity attempts a two-way communication and the consumer becomes a participant, the new media platform becomes active and everchanging in receiving a different response from every interaction. Take for example visual culture. Visual Culture has been credited with leading us to view the world through different lenses. The central issues faced by photography, film and cinema have been their realism and their nature of visual representation. In new media, the analogous nature of traditional visual culture has been replaced, or ‘upgraded’ by integrating elements of ‘digital’ representation. For example, in virtual reality, representation is displaced by simulation, and this is considered in the context of computer-generated animation, special effects and digital cinema. Linking back to interactivity, the integration of such complex computer manipulations helps us understand the relationships between human creativity, technological potential and the possibilities offered by markets.

 

Discussing medium in new media context

Medium is defined as the space that exists for a form of communication to happen (in the new media context). In the contemporary context, we tend to focus on digital medium rather than an analogous medium. We can all agree that the choice of medium affects the experience of both the creator and the participant. First of all, why is new media described as digital in the first place? What does digital actually mean in this context? Instinctively, we might perceive digital as a form of translating analogous data into binary information, but that may not be accurate. Instead, digital represents the translation of data, whether visual, sound or textual into numbers. In this manner, we can manipulate digital information by using algorithms, addition and subtraction to change the information to be received as screen displays. Analogue, on the other hand, refers to processes in which one set of physical properties can be stored in another ‘analogous’ physical form. Taking Factum – Arte for example, although the sculptures manifested in physical form, the artists have programmed it through complex technology to translate that visual information into numbers, and then using those numbers generate the possibility of converting the digital information into physical form through 3D printing.

Next, we will discuss interactions through text.

Network Effect by Jonathan Harris – as previously mentioned by Proj Dr. Dejan, the idea of obsessiveness is accentuated by works such as these – to stimulate the mind and using the Internet – a platform commonly used to feed obsessions and a source of information, where one can use to navigate his/her way to discover and realise their needs/desires. Network Effect acts as a counter-productive experiment, to make participants feel more weary and ‘less’ after spending time on the platform. Network Effect transcends beyond its media platform, the passive consumption diminishes as Harris integrates interactivity by manipulating user behaviour and feed their obsessions. By setting a limitation on the time spent on his website per day(using a calculate related to the average life span of users in each country), he denies users the freedom the Internet so provides, and sends a message that the Internet may work in more ways than one. He provides perspective on the Internet, originally as a tool of knowledge and empowerment, and later as a tool of obsession, creating the phenomenon of ‘Fear of Missing Out’ so that users feel the lack, the temptations and leave them wanting.

‘The end results of such interactions will be that the user constructs for him or herself an individualised text made up from all the segments of text which they call up through their navigation process. The larger the database the greater the chance that each user will experience a unique text.’

Harris employs hypertextual navigation to creating unique experiences and outcomes from interacting with his work. His large database, which consists of videos and images pulled from the Internet itself, is constantly updating, refreshing and growing. This, as mentioned above, will increase the chances that each user has an unique experience through Network Effect.

In retrospect, Jonathan Harris uses Network Effect to exemplify that Internet parallels the computer as a medium, in which it remains as technology in flux, where upgrade culture can continue to exist on the same medium even in the future.

ARTISTS

Shinseungback Kimyonghun is a Seoul based artistic duo consisting of Shin Seung Back and Kim Yong Hun. Their collaborative practice explores technology’s impact on humanity. Shin Seung Back studied Computer Science in Yonsei University and Kim Yong Hun completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Sydney College of the Arts. They met while studying at the Graduate School of Culture Technology in KAIST and after completing Masters in Science and Engineering, they started to work as Shinseungback Kimyonghun in 2012. Their work has been presented extensively, including the Ars Electronica Festival, Vienna Biennale, the ZKM and MMCA Korea.

ABOUT THE WORK

The structure here recreates the wave breaking on the stone.
Come in, and become the stone.

Stone, a 2017 project by the joint artist involved picking a stone in the island of Ulleungdo, rigging it with water sensors and recreate the shock waves, vibration, sound and sensory experience. In their project “Stone”, Korean artists Shin Seung Back and Kim Yong Hun examine this persistent human interest in “self-improvement” through technological prostheses—applying this theory of “perception extension” to something as inert as a volcanic rock. The project consisted of 64 water sensors, 64 solenoids, wooden panels, arduino, computer, custom software, speakers, screen and projector.

In their exhibition at the Department for Culture and Education of the German Consulate General in Shanghai, they have re-created this experience building a structure with solenoids which viewers can sit inside to experience the relentless pounding of the sea.

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WORK

Shinseungback Kimyonghun (SSBKYH) has been interested in these boundaries (usually undefined) and the perception of ‘humanness‘ as seen through their use of AI and Facial Recognition. Our burgeoning connection between our lives and machines can be paralleled with our intertwine with nature as humans, in which machines are slowly becoming not only integrated, but affixed into our existence as humans. Technology, through extensive usage, has became ingrained in our culture and socioeconomic sphere. In Stone, we question our humanness in technology, and how our senses can be stimulated by the uses of sensors that replicate the experience of being a stone. This inert object challenges our complexity as human beings; putting aside qualities such as culture, relationships and emotions that makes us ‘human’ and detaching from them to build a spiritual relationship with machines. SSBKYH explores identity and relationship with earth by allowing us to be immersed in nature, without having to be physically present in the setting, although one might ask how this reflects truly having a spiritual connection in a makeshift setting.

Posthumanism, as expressed by our artists, is a philosophical perspective of how change is enacted in the world. SSBKYH provides audiences with thought-provoking questions, such as ‘What makes us human?’ by creating other New Media installations and pieces that contrasts us with animals, sometimes drawing both similarities and allowing us to interpret for ourselves the differences. One such example is Cat or Human, where Artificial Intelligence is employed through algorithm but fails to differentiate the physical appearance of the two. Posthumanism in this work comes into play as AI and humans identify the inconsistency of technology to recognize human, thus dehumanizing us. However, SSBKYH does not explicitly identify this as a negative. Dehumanizing through various forms such as a Stone representation, does not focus on the Stone as the subject matter (or any sort of human representation), but rather our interaction with nature through the Stone, aided by mechanical means. Creating a sophisticated space that engages our sensory organs reenacts our physical experience through a virtual one.

‘Stone’, to simulate shock vibrations.

Secluded space where participants can sit in the ambience of waves crashing onto the Stone.

Live streaming of the Stone, the waves and its interaction with the conditions at sea.

I admire the intricacies involved in making this project successful; the visual, touch and sound sensory have been engaged in adamantly raw manner. The artists do not translate its motions, participants are free to form their opinions on the artists’ intent in engaging them in such a simulation. More so, we as ‘omnipotent’ beings are being humbled to take on the form of a Stone, an inert object that ‘exists’, such as how we as humans also simply ‘exist’. Our role in the world may continue to be a cloaked mirage that we constantly seek to find an answer for.

Reference:

http://ssbkyh.com/works/stone/

  1. Briefly share your experience going through Dialogue with Time. What were some of the feelings, thoughts, challenges and insights gained while role playing an elderly person?
  2. Drawing on your experience, can you think and list some of the benefits inherent in the design research technique of role playing? 
  3. Can you think of some contexts where role-playing can be useful to help discover and define design challenges or contribute to the development of design solutions? 

1. I felt that the experience did not feel grim; the reality of ageing may seem daunting but the design of the exhibition made it feel otherwise. The challenges seem trivial at first, but seeing things from a different point of perspective made me realize that there was so much I had not known, or rather, had not paid much attention to. I also felt that I had to be careful with my words, somehow being called ‘old’ can have a negative connotation as I accidentally said ‘you guys’ while conversing with our guide, and some people had caught me for my words and laughed. Being pulled away from the focus of attention in society(feeling almost sidelined) and having to sit out on most activities, I can’t help but notice how an elderly person would feel in that situation. Dialogue with Time provided me with fresh perspective of how healthy aging people can be stay positive and have a happy life.

2. Role playing uses first hand experience to allow users to empathize with elderly people. Placing the users in simulations aided by machines, they are challenged with similar problems an elderly faces. I was able to understand the severity and constraints of the disabilities that come with ageing, provoking me to think further on design that would be of possible benefit to our elderly. Role playing was also a clear and effective method to impart knowledge about elderly people to all age groups, regardless of race and language. This design research technique benefits both the participant and the audience, as it incites imagination to ‘think out of the box’ and provide creation solutions to the existing issues. Role playing, with the correct context, will greatly benefit the design problem as it reveals the intrinsic and encourages designers to be proactive to think further about the issues.

3. As I am working on obesity as one of the social issues, discovering how obesity can be tackled requires one to put him/herself in the shoes of someone suffering from obesity. This way, designers could empathize with them and come up with viable solutions that may not be too difficult to achieve. Instead of presenting figures, creative solutions can include benefits or rewards given to them as they complete each task required. Role playing is able to reveal both functional and emotional aspects to a design problem. Another context could be designing something that represents a certain group of people. For example, I designed a vest for PTSD veterans in one of my previous projects, which required not only extensive research on what PTSD is like, but also how one would act in a situation of a PTSD trigger. This gave me better perspective not only on their behaviour, but also understand how they might feel with each attack.

 

Interactive telecommunications force a re-evaluation of what we have learned from television

Lovejoy talks about the juxtaposition of cyberspace, technology and humans, and how the formal has changed the way we interact. This reflections summarizes my notion of individualism that emerges from the creation of cyberspace, critically analyzing how the disappearance between private and public boundaries disrupts culture, social structure to create a blend of identity that is transcends categorization.

Erosion of social structure and culture

The emergence of cyberspace in the year 1982 by author William Gibson, which he coined in a fictional book and now become reality. Much so, the cyberspace, which largely consist of online networks and the internet had altered its position from being an escape from reality in the early 2000s, to reality being an escape from cyberspace in our current modern era. We were fascinated with what the internet had to offer, its possibilities were never-ending and our curiosity led us deeper into the world of cyberspace that we had unknowingly caged ourselves in a space we do not fully comprehend. Yet, we are so comfortable in this virtual space that we are blinded by its dangers; or choose to turn a blind eye on it.

The spying; the breaking down of barriers between private and public space for an individual was identified by Lovejoy as she denounces the cyberspace for this erosion. We tune in to our social domains and internet so often that we become ‘social’ by being ‘anti-social’, which is so ironic as we lose our sense of genuine, face to face communication and we rely and depend on the internet to hold our social interactions instead. We are unknowingly data-mined on a daily basis through our web browsers (cookies and service providers), spied on with our webcams and even voiced recorded and analyzed through machine learning to ‘personalize’ our user experience on Google, to receive advertisements on products we seem to voice out through our computers. Imagine having google ‘read our thoughts’, that is how the internet space is becoming.

We break the traditional perspective of hierarchy, as we are able to communicate to just about anyone with different statuses, different backgrounds and social standings.To further emphasize on this change, our culture has been eroded in a matter of years due to globalization and cyberspace interactions. Some cultures that took centuries to create are often neglected as they become obsolete in the cyberspace, as the internet becomes a borderless space that embraces every individual. People on the internet do not bond their traditional cultures per se, instead the main stream media has repudiated the idea of culture by promoting pop culture. A new, widely accepted culture that becomes a norm for everyone, regardless of nationality and race. The idea of promoting self was created by pop culture as a way to liberate ourselves from the stresses of having to conform to society.

Cyberspace as a venue for validation

We have created a persona, an impression that we wish to convey, a front made to convince others that this is actually the real us. Many seek validation online, through platforms such as Youtube and Instagram, as they constantly monitor their likes and shares on these social media platforms to validate their self-worth. It has become such a big issue that Instagram change its policies recently to remove the number of likes being displayed.

Social Media Influencers often provide the opportunity for people to live vicariously, to experience the crazy experiences such as travelling and living in luxury. ‘Followers’ tend to support these influencers in their lifestyles by ‘donating’ to them, and feel the satisfaction of seeing their influencers have the opportunity to live a lifestyle ‘funded’ by them. Unbeknownst to many living in such manner, we are guilty of doing so as we indulge in hours of drama on netflix, youtube surfing sports cars and house tours of mansions, amongst many other forms of entertainment. The availability of entertainment may cause some to stop short of living their own experiences as they are able to do so through others.

Individualism

We do see the social commentary on proprietary models that emerged from the 20th century through the form of WikipediaArt. WikipediaArt is a performance artwork that critically analyses the nature of art, knowledge and Wikipedia, a collaborative project by Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall.

Wikipedia Art

Although I appreciate and support the challenge against ownership and champion the idea of an open source thinking, it provokes me to think about individualism that arises from participation of WikiArt. Specifically, the fact that individuals are able to contribute to an artwork in an open source setting such as Wikipedia, and subsequently seeing it being taken down just 15 hours after its creation confirms that a sort of proprietary model still governs the open source platform. The backlash by the online community made me question: was the commotion really about criticizing ownership, or because expression by individuals were subdued? This expression makes me ponder about the people’s perception of contribution and ability to impact the cyberspace which they are actually concerned with, rather than simply denouncing Wikipedia’s ethics. The problem of individualism arises again as I believe people may be genuinely obsessed with their ability to create and impact on the cyberspace. The open source space of peer to peer interaction may be a mirage of peer to peer validation.

Conclusion

We live in an era where it is difficult to identify the long term benefits and consequences of engaging in the cyberspace. The disconnect from reality by communicating through the cyberspace and erosion of culture leads us to validate and identify ourselves in ways that we may not notice, and thus communicates our growth of individualism as we are reorganized through globalization. We will continue to find ways to belong and exist on the cyberspace as we inculcate in the young the need for technology.

Sources:

https://wikipediaart.org/

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2005). Open Source . In Open Source (p. 25).

 

Plakatstil, also known as Sachplakat, is German for Poster style, originating from Germany in 1900s. It was started by Lucien Bernhard, who was also the director of Das Plakat, a monthly German art magazine. Plakatstil turned away from the complexities of Art Nouveau, into a more modern outlook on poster design.  Since it was a style, there were certain distinct characteristics found in all Plakatstil posters, such shapes and objects being simplified as plenty of negative space to guide the viewer to focus solely on the subject matter. The posters were usually accompanied by bold lettering that grabs the attention of the viewers. Lucien Bernhard believed in minimalism, in the ‘less is more’ approach. Plakatstil became universal style that did not have any association to any specific school or art movement.

The colours used were usually reductive flat and distinctive, eye catching colours. Bernhard was 15 when he attended the exhibit in Munich of work and walked away ‘drunk with colours’. He attention was caught by the flat, eye catching colours he had seen, which jumped at him. This was when he came to the revelation that design could be minimalistic and clear; clutter and intricacies of design was not necessarily vital to bring forth a message. In Bernhard’s poster for Priester’s matches of 1905, his original idea consists of cigar, dancing girls and a table; which he felt reflected Victorian style, something he did not want to achieve. After reduction and compositional tests, he removed the elements one by one and was left with a the matchbox and matchsticks. This gave the poster a minimalistic approach and the message was straight to the point. In this new era, shapes and objects were used, rather than full-on illustrations.

Poster for Priester matches, Lucien Bernhard, 1905.

Typography was usually created by hand as part of the illustrations. Although Bernhard preferred using classic book typefaces for setting text, he designed a number of display typefaces, including Bernhard Gothic, Bernhard Fashion, Lucian, Bernhard Tango, and Bernhard Brushscript. There was no limitations to what kind of typefaces could be used in Plakatstil.

Poster for Stiller shoes, Lucien Bernhard, 1912

Plakatstil was a style that was not art for art sake, rather it had a function, a purpose. The purpose was to capture the audience and entice them to desire, and therefore purchase what was reflected in the posters.

Poster for men’s ready made clothing, Ludwig Hohlwein, 1908

Minimalism, less is more concept of Plakatstil was unfortunately derailed in 1914 by WWI.

As artists, we are constantly being in the loop of trial and error, finding the best way to communicate our messages on advertisements to the viewer without distracting or distortion from the original message. The Eureka moment struck Bernhard as he developed the idea of using a minimalistic approach to his design, influencing many others such as Ludwig Hohlwein and Hans Rudi Erdt. Although there wasn’t a definitive style that followed in Plakatstil’s footsteps, artists such as Nancy Stahl, who designed the 37-cent Snowy Egret definite stamp in 2003 drew inspiration from the style and evolved it to integrate into her own art style. The bold and graphic stamp was made in a reductive, flat-colour style, drawing resemblence in colour to that of Hans Rudi Erdt’s ‘Opel poster’.

FUTURE WORLD

is an interactive space consisting of numerous exhibitions where visitors can interact and immerse themselves in a ‘magical’ environment. High-tech interactive artworks in Future World are created in collaboration with teamLab, a renowned interdisciplinary art collective. It is here where we see a fusion and removal of boundaries between art and science. How appropriate it is to be held at the Art Science Museum!

INTERACTION.

It is defined as a reciprocal action or influence, involving two or more objections or persons.

As we previously learnt, interaction come can in many forms, namely:

Man-man interaction

Man-machine interaction

Machine-machine interaction

In future world, we are able to see all of these types of interaction happening. Man-man interaction is displayed through the observation and reaction to other people’s input onto the interactive screens, which I will discuss further. Man-machine interaction occurs when the visitors are required to sketch a drawing, move closer to the installation or follow an instruction to receive a reaction from the machine, in this case the installations. Machine-machine interaction is displayed when we move an object, for example in the City In a Garden – Giant Connecting Block Town, when a block is moved to a different location, the map recalibrates and reflects the current location of the block in the virtual map.

Real time change in location of objects, synchronized with the physical location of representation objects placed.

An interactive artwork should invite visitors/participants to think, take a step back and observe. It creates a personalized experience and opinion towards that particular artwork. We deviate from the typical need to critique and evaluate each artwork based on how ‘good’ it is, how it is able to accurately depict or evoke a certain emotion or get that certain reaction from its audience. Instead, we as the audience break down and digest the artwork empirically.

Certain level of understanding is needed before a viewer chooses to interact with the object. We as humans have the tendency to fear what we do not know and reject it. As much as we tend to give the audience the freedom to interact, we insert controls to guide the viewer, which does so much for us. These controls can help preserve our artwork, tailor user experience (albeit to a small degree), and most importantly ensure that the interaction becomes a positive experience. These ‘controls’ usually come in the form of instructions, or guides and hints that lead us to a certain action(that is usually unrestricted) that kick starts the entire experiential process. Without these controls, there will be little to no understanding from the viewer and thus restrict or compromise the experience. Let me provide you a few examples.

*170314_Sliding through the Fruit Field_nontelop

As seen in the Sliding through the Fruit Field installation, there is a set of staircase that leads people up the top of the slide, where they can slide down and observe the interaction beneath them. They ‘become a beam of life-giving sunlight, and as they glide down the slope, their energy is transferred to the fruit field, causing flowers and fruit to blossom and grow’. Even though the interactivity is the most important aspect of this installation, without the control(staircase), users may not be aware on how they should properly interact with the Fruit Field installation. Users may end up trying to climb up the slide via the interactive screen, which increases the chance for injuries etc, or end up not interacting with it at all because they don’t know how to.

At another installation, called the Sketch Aquarium, viewers see a set of tables and chairs, with a giant screen that displays the Aquarium. There is a set of instructions like this:

These set of instructions and description helps contextualize the artwork, and in my opinion, although done as an afterthought(so I would assume), it is a vital asset of the artwork.

As previously mentioned, the control acts as a guide and thereafter, the freedom of what to draw, where to touch etc. belongs to the participants.

I drew a gentlemen jellyfish and scanned it, adding it to the collection of fishes appearing in the Sketch Aquarium.

Video of my jellyfish

It was also natural for viewers to read and observe other viewers’ creations as well. One viewer had written on his fish ‘Free HK’, which reminded me that the content scanned and uploaded were unfiltered. This allowed the viewer to actively voice his opinion on the Aquarium, as part of the ‘freedom’ he was entitled in this interactivity. Could this be then considered a limitation of the artwork? After all, any viewer could exploit the use of the Aquarium.

SPACE – Crystal Universe

SPACE – Crystal Universe was strategically placed as the last artwork before the viewers finish up their tour of the FUTURE WORLD exhibition. The artwork consists of over 170,000 LED lights and a panel to walk through before reaching an open space that viewers can capture the entirety of SPACE. I believe that mirrors were placed on the sides, top and bottom of the lights to multiply the illusion of the countless LED lights that resembled stars. The concept of space and the unknown will forever be intriguing. The beauty of the galaxy and its vastness is reflected in pop culture, where movies are based in Outer Space. Although I did not linger in the art space, the interaction encouraged me to step back and think about the interactivity that it involved – the swiping on our mobile devices to change the light effects on the installation. The physical element of simply touching the artwork is removed, since we send our response through the internet. Will that, then, change the experience of the users when the element of touch, thus interactivity, is changed? The medium, in which we are able to interact, therefore affects greatly how we receive the experience.

 

PTSD Vest

We set out to design a vest that simulates an episode of PTSD experienced by a war veteran. This is a dark object that forces the user to distance himself from others in society due to his seemingly irrational behaviour. We recreated a scenario that encompasses how the veteran: came to develop this disorder, how he acts in a public situation and how people react to him. Scenario: Person A has PTSD, which he had developed from narrowly escaping death from a live grenade explosion. He is being pulled aside by his commander at the point of time, making touch a trigger for his PTSD. He crouches down/ prones to react to the ‘situation’, which triggers different sensors to sound/vibrate. In designing this vest, we are creating an understanding of how one might come about to develop PTSD and hopefully create room for sympathy.

 

Observational documentation for user tests

3 user tests

Tester A: She was able to get into the vest, albeit the tightness. We gave her verbal instructions to crouch as we didn’t play the video for her.

The circuit ran as intended, the photocell sensor triggered the sound “Grenade!” from processing and she crouched down. In sync with the explosion, the vibration went off as well. We did not tell her about the vibrations beforehand; this will make it a more genuine test to see whether the circuit was able to work properly (and well). She said she could feel vibrations on her chest, but they were subtle. Using this feedback, we decided to put in paddings in the front zipper pouch so that the vibration motor will be closer to the tester’s chest when s/he crouches down.

Tester B: It was a guy, who was rather big sized. He was able to fit into the vest as well as we did not pull the strap too tight. We gave him verbal instructions as per tester A, and this time round he was able to feel the vibration. As he wasn’t taking EI, he didn’t know what the circuit was for and was genuinely intrigued by the PTSD vest. At this point, we knew the circuit was working properly and was satisfied with our testings.

Tester C: Last guy, he is an exchange student and didn’t go through national service. We helped him put on the vest and gave verbal instructions. The test went smoothly; the vibration and sound came out as queued. Tester C said it sounded like “Renade” but we felt that it wasn’t much of an issue because he tested the object in an open environment and wasn’t able to hear clearly. He also mentions that the vest felt light, and didn’t feel like an operational vest. He suggested that we add some weight to it.

Notes:

  1. The grenade sfx and explosion sfx was too far apart, there wouldn’t be a sense of urgency to crouch down.
  2. We also took note of the timing for the entire experiment so that it would not become repetitive.

Improvements

As mentioned, we added the front paddings with stuffings for the rest of the grenade and magazine pouches. This would provide more chest contact. We didn’t use hard material as it would not follow the tester’s bend and would instead make it more difficult for him/her to feel the vibrations.

We added a water canteen(1l water bottle) on the right side, and 1kg dumbbell at the back. These, coupled with the weight of the ipad is similar to the actual weight of an operational vest with hard plates inserted(ours was way more comfortable than the actual).

We cut the videos (introduction brief and day-to-day scenario) to around 2mins. This would consist of about 5-6 triggers, which we felt was just right. On the day itself, Daryl was in charge of guiding the audience around the installation, and I was to help with the participant put on the vest and guide him/her through the scenarios.

Here is the context video for our PTSD Vest.

Here is our final installation.

Feedback from final installation and user test experience:

  1. We can look into using surround sound to make it more realistic and immersive.
  2. The lighting could have been adjusted to see the video better and yet create a realistic environment for the tester.

 

Design Process documentation

It is important to note that we have chosen the ILBV not only for its representation of an object used it war, but also for its robustness and ability to store and conceal multiple objects. During our initial phase, we had planned where we would place our individual sensors and power source (Daryl’s ipad).

We created a google slide file for our initial research and presentation purposes:

Dark object – PTSD Vest Research and Presentation

For more information on design process, you can refer to: Project Development – Ideation Sketches and Context planning

Step-by-step construction of our PTSD vest

Materials:
1. Arduino Uno
2. Photocell
3. Coin Vibration Motor
4. 220k Resistor
5. Cables
6. Vest
7. Grenade Explosion SFX Files
8. Tablet (that can run processing)

Programmes used: Arduino and Processing

Step 1: We started setting up the circuit. We bought the vibration motor and tested it with the arduino. We used a code from online and used different resistors to test the sensitivity of the vibration motor. It was slightly too strong (which shouldn’t be an issue) but that broke our first vibration motor. We were lucky to have bought a spare, and we taped it to whatever surface we were testing on so that it wouldn’t break apart.

Step 2: We uploaded the Arduino code; the photocell sensor would measure the light exposure in our environment. We set a threshold ”int threshold” so that when the amount of light exposure falls below the threshold, it would active the vibration motor and sending ”1” to Processing.

Step 3: Upload the ”Grenade” and explosion sfx into Processing. When ”1” is read, the ”Grenade sound” will go off. After a delay of a few seconds, the explosion sfx will play.

This was our initial voice recording: it wasn’t clear and created unnecessary ‘chaos’.

This was our final voice recording for ”Grenade”

Step 4: Setting up the arduino/ breadboard to the vest. This required us to construct a simple box to hold and protect the breadboard and arduino, and also 2x 1m wires to allow the photocell to be placed on the shoulder pad, and the vibration motor to place in the inner paddings of the vest. This is how we installed it:

  

 

Step 5: Setting up the physical space.

A: represents locality A.

X: Supposedly where the viewers would stand.

This would give us control for our experiment and prevent deviations.

Codes:

Schematics:

Micro-Project 4: Disobedient Object
ALL by Rui Hong & Daryl

Assignment Brief:
Using Arduino and its sensors and actuators, we were tasked to hack an everyday household object and make it behave in an unexpected/disobedient way.

Ideation:
The object of our choice was a doorbell, or rather the concept of a doorbell (We didn’t want to destroy and pluck out our actual doorbell). We chose the doorbell as it is an object with an obvious purpose and a predictable outcome when interacted with. Placed beside a door, the object, being a button, is easily recognized and participants would immediately know how to use it. The call to action for the interaction is straightforward and participants will assume to know what is the outcome–only when you press the button, the bell will ring once-Ding Dong. Here, we have an opportunity to use that assumption to create a new and unexpected experience.

Hence, the disobedient doorbell was meant to play on that preconceived knowledge of the doorbell mechanism. So instead of a doorbell that activates when you press it, it will activate before the participants presses or even attempts to press the button.

There are 2 stages of this interaction:
1. The participant approaches or comes into close proximity to the door and the doorbell will unexpectedly ring. The doorbell will continue ringing as long as the participant remains in close distance. (We estimated the distance for the bell to sound to be around 15-30cm.) When participants walk away or retract their hand, the ringing will then stop.
2. With the bell already ringing, when the participant chooses to press the doorbell button (we anticipate that participants will assume pressing the button will stop the ringing), the ringing gets louder to an uncomfortable volume with some distortion. Holding onto the button will keep the ringing at the louder volume while releasing the button will bring the ringing back to its original volume. Again, when the participants choose to walk away or retract their hand, then the ringing will stop.

The disobedient doorbell is meant to make the participant feel alarmed, confused and panicky like the participant is not supposed to be there, encouraging the participants to leave the site of interaction.

Realisation & Delivery:
So we started on our building process.

Inspired by the class workshops on the photocell with LED light and piezo buzzer, we combined the codes and modified the circuitry. Instead of the LED lighting up when the threshold of the light reading is low enough, the buzzer will sound. We then coded the buzzer to sound like the average 2-tone doorbell.

Progress & Final:

Video:
In Situ Video here. https://youtu.be/eVCgNR0CAl0


DARYL

What are some reactions you observed from your participants when they interacted with the object?
Participant #1: When #1 approached the bell, she didn’t realise that the bell had already rung when she approached it. She proceeds to press the button, which made the ringing louder, but she remains confused from the interaction. In the feedback session, she mentions that she is intrigued by the bell but wasn’t aware of the bell ringing in advance.

Participant #2: Given that #2 has observed the interaction of #1 with the bell, her interaction with the disobedient bell was closer to what we intended. As she approached the bell, she waves her hand in front of her, trying to test the bells sensitivity. However, the bell only reacted when she tries to press the bell. On multiple tries to press the button, when the bell rang prior to her touching the button, she retracts her hand as if the bell were a buzzer, telling her not to press the bell. She gives up trying to press the button and leaves.

Participant #3: The last participant, having observed the 2 interactions before her, reacted and had the thought process we intended. As she approaches the bell, it sets off even before she lifts her hands to press it. She jumps from the unexpected alarm. She continues to try and press the button. Because the button broke, we simulated the effect of the louder ringing as she pretends to press the bell. In the feedback, she mentions how when the ringing starts, she assumes that the button will stop the continuous ringing, hence she attempts to press the button.

Challenges & Problem Solving:
What are the challenges involved and how did you overcome them? What problems still exist? How might you overcome them eventually?

[Daryl: For the first few classes on Arduino, we were taught to use the arduino board and breadboard, learning how to use specific inputs such as the piezo buzzer, LDR sensor, LED and switch amongst other things. Given our inexperience, we took a while to figure out how the circuits would work, and through errors on writing the sketches we understood coding better.

The first challenge we encountered was starting on the coding. A blank screen can be quite intimidating and we did not know where or how to start. We then decided to work off existing codes we practiced in class. We started with the codes from the photocell workshop then incorporated the codes from the piezo buzzer workshop. We also used the IF & ELSE code from the LED workshop. After a few tries, we manage to get the piezo buzzer to sound.

The second challenges was finding the right sensitivity for the bell. We were not sure how close we wanted the participant to be. On multiple occasions, the bell became unpredictable and started sounding off whenever or did not sound at all to any interaction. We figured it was the angle of the photocell which affected its sensitivity.

Lastly, we had some difficulty fitting everything into a compact object and creating a button to extend from the breadboard to the cover of the case we built. We took a while to get the correct measurements and finish up the case for the doorbell. (After the in-class test run, we realise that the material of the object can also affect the way people interact with it and how they approach the object. We will consider the effects of materials for the next project.)]

RUI HONG

What are some reactions you observed from your participants when they interacted with the object?

Participant #1: Participant 1, being the real guinea pig in this situation, approached the doorbell with confidence to test out the doorbell. It rang on queue and as there is only 1 button on the foamboard (which was intentional as to lead the participant to try it out on instinct), she pressed it and it gave a secondary beep. She didn’t seem surprised by the louder secondary beep. As we are used to having a ‘click feedback’ when we press a button, the foam button made it hard to feel the ‘click’ and that prompted her to press harder onto the button. What happens afterwards can be seen in the button. Besides the click feedback she was looking for, I felt like she may have expected a different result (such as a louder beep or a different sound) from subsequent presses and that may have prompted her to try again.

Participant #2: Participant 2, having observed participant 1 gained some insight on how the button may work. Approaching the doorbell, she tested out the sensitivity of the photocell by waving her hands in front of it. After that, she attempted to press the doorbell but was prompted by the initial beep of the doorbell to refrain from doing so. She ended up not pressing the doorbell, which I felt may have caused her to be uncomfortable and leave the interaction space (which was one of the intended outcomes).

Participant #3: Our last participant, having observed two interactions, had a similar thought process as us. She startled at the initial beep as she approached the doorbell. Thinking that the doorbell might stop ringing as soon as she presses the button, she is ‘pleasantly’ surprised at how it didn’t stop ringing, but got even louder. The doorbell then obediently invites the participant to leave with the annoying beeping.

What are the challenges involved and how did you overcome them? What problems still exist? How might you overcome them eventually?

For the first few classes on Arduino, we were taught to use the arduino board and breadboard, learning how to use specific inputs such as the piezo buzzer, LDR sensor, LED and switch amongst other things. Given my inexperience, I took awhile to understand how it worked and had to refer back to slides more than just a couple of times. We bumped into a few incompatible sketches which helped us understanding the coding process better.

We started from scratch as we didn’t want to confuse ourselves. The way we revised the arduino coding was to wire the circuit according to the slides and then stare at it until we understood how and why the circuit works. We then read the code and change certain values in the sketches to test out the coding to give ourselves a better understanding. We knew what components we wanted to use, the problem was combining the existing codes to form the correct sketch that would work. We stuck to what we learnt from the workshops, coupled with a few references from existing codes from the google search bar.

The second issue we faced was the ever-changing sensitivity of the photoresistor. Due to the different environments we were in when we worked on the arduino board, we had to tweak the sensitivity according to our classroom to make it workable. This was one we were able to work out easily as we had had a few goes at changing the sensitivity before going to class, so it didn’t seem like much of a hassle.

The third issue was the design of the board; the measurements had to be exact so that the photoresistor could stick out just enough for it appear on the foamboard we made. We took a few tries (shaving down the board) before the photoresistor would stay obediently in place. In hindsight, we could have used crocodile clips and other materials to extend the flexibility of our foamboard. We had decided to keep the design of the foam board as not to confuse our participants. In our test-runs, we realised that we have always tested it while the foam board lies flat on the table. We should have tested it in an upright position for more accurate results.

Area of improvements:

  1. Test runs can include more situations, different angles of testing to ensure an accurate experiment.
  2. Prototype board can be more sturdy and should not obstruct our participants from trying out the doorbell as they are afraid of damaging it.

Thank you for reading!