My first field module was interaction design, with our brief being to design an object with a computing element which you interact with without a screen. I found this to be a really interesting brief, although I was inexperienced with creating anything with computing functions I was looking forward to learning these skills. It quickly became evident that the focus of the exercise was much more focused on the design aspect and making a prototype, rather than a finished functional item. This gave me an interesting insight into the design process in terms of a product designer, looking at the target market, creating a video demonstrating it’s function, and looking at methods that can be used to trick a person into thinking that a prototype is fully functional when in fact it is being controlled manually behind the scenes. The video element especially was something I really enjoyed, and I found it really exciting to be able to go out and film my own video of a product and then sit and edit it together. I felt that I really gained a valuable skill that I wouldn’t have otherwise explored thanks to this project, and I think if I were to film a video again I would be far more confident and have a clearer idea of what I am doing. I also plan to go back and re edit my video, as I feel the original one was far longer than is necessary because I was under the impression the video had to be exactly 2:30 seconds long and so spent a lot of time laboriously making it fit that time, only to find that the time constraint was far looser. For my presentation at the end of the project, I was one of the only people in the group to have any form of physical prototype, let alone working, which it was by means of taking a mechanism out of a toy I already owned but which roughly demonstrated the function I wanted it to have. I feel like this has possibly caused me to have set myself a harder task in carrying the project forward, as most people will have just gone on to make a prototype whereas I now have to develop upon that prototype I have already made. My original plans for the project were quite ambitious, having internet connectivity, touch sensors, heaters, and all manner of things, despite having no experience in the area of arduino or knowing what components I would have to purchase. However, looking at things now and with the time I have left for the project, it is looking like I am going to have to narrow my goals and simplify it to just responding to touch with sound, which I feel is admirable enough in itself if I can achieve it. One of my main issues with this is not having the on hand technical tutoring to support me with my ambitious ideas, and I’ve found arduino a very difficult area to just jump into without first understanding the basics of components and coding.
Internet of things:
My second field project was the internet of things, which I was very much looking forward to as it is one of my tutor’s (Ingrid Murphy) main passions in her work, and I had heard a lot about it’s possibilities and was again interested at learning how to bring more technical computing skills into my work and hoping this subject would teach me them. However, unfortunately Ingrid herself had been booked very little time for tutoring this subject, and the majority of the tutoring was done by two different tutors, and I personally found very little of what they spoke about to be directly related to “The Internet of Things”. At no point during the project were we ever pushed into formulating ideas for an actual project, and instead it was largely us being shown different technologies such as 3D scanning and printing, Augmented Reality etc, all of which I had already been shown as a Maker student. Because of this, it wasn’t really an eye opening experience to a whole new world of possibilities for me, and even so I feel like a process isn’t a very good starting point for a project? In my opinion a process should be decided upon after having an idea, and while having a wide knowledge base affords you a better choice in options to best express your ideas, and may allow you to think in directions you wouldn’t have otherwise, I don’t think it’s good enough to just say “I’m going to do a project on 3D printing”. Because of having no clear end point to work towards, as well as the fact we had been shown little to no examples (other than by Ingrid) of these technologies and ideas being actually integrated into artistic works, I found it extremely difficult to come up with any ideas for this project at all as I simply had no context in which to work within. There was a strong focus on coding by the main tutor, however again having no end point to work towards I struggled to know what I was aiming to achieve with the coding and it all seemed like a difficult and fruitless effort. The Raspberry Pi was also something that was emphasised a lot, which was something I had heard of but had no personal experience with, and again not knowing what I could possibly purpose it for it seemed like a waste of time and money to purchase one, but then much of the teaching became redundant because it was based around programming a Raspberry Pi.
In all, while I think the idea of field is an admirable one and one that has the potential to work well, I feel like the execution on the whole is poor and uneven. There seems to be a great disparity between projects, with some having a very high workload and others having very little, some needing physical outcomes and others resulting only in an idea or a group experience. I think what I found most difficult about the field experience was the fact it was spaced out over many weeks, on a Tuesday and Thursday in the middle of the week. While I understand that we are meant to be simultaneously working on our Subject work over this time, I found that it was really impossible to be putting any real focus into more than one project at once. The modules either left me with no spare time at all as I was having to work on my field work over the rest of the week as I was with the Interaction Design project, or then having the opposite with the Internet of Things where I had no work to be getting on with, but the week was broken up so that I couldn’t get into the flow of focusing on my Subject work. I would much prefer if the project was given a dedicated block of time, say 3-4 weeks of time to be solely focused on the field project at hand with tutors available at least 3 out of 5 week days with work to be getting on with on the days without tutor contact. Not only this but I would like a more balanced standard of field subjects to choose from, each with roughly the same amount of work being asked for it so that everyone is working under the same time constraints and producing the same degree of work. I also struggle with the concept of having to be developing our final presentation for our field subject into an ongoing and improved project, as once you begin working seriously on Subject I then find that there is very little time to be revisiting field, and it is too much to be juggling all at once. If I had the choice, field would be condensed into entirely the first term, with each field module being self contained with a finished item being presented at the end of it. This then allows the ideas and experiences from field flow into the subject work more organically, as currently I’ve found field to be more of an interruption and an obstacle to my Subject work, as by the point you get to seriously start working on your Subject in the second term you have already at least settled on an idea which is then difficult to stray away from and incorporate elements of Field into .
After my week in France at La Perdrix and our collaborative project in making dinnerware, and I was specifically painting dead flies into bowls, I realised that I could use this as a basis to bring forward my internet of things project which I had previously been pretty stuck for ideas on.
The project in France originally planned to have an outcome involving Augmented Reality, although we didn’t manage to achieve that due to the very poor internet making us unable to be able to upload videos to Aurasma (an augmented reality program). However I thought that this was something I would be able to relate back to the Internet of Things, which was a bonus because I had been very much enjoying painting flies in bowls and wanted to continue.
Ideally I would like to be able to throw my own bowls and to paint the flies in with glaze, as I did in France (although I can’t take any credit for having thrown the bowls, they were all made by a ceramics student Jago Poynter in my group). However, with my very limited experience of throwing, the last time I did so being a year ago on my previous trip to La Perdrix I do not feel confident enough to be able to produce pieces of good standard in the amount of time we have left in university, especially given that time and resources are becoming increasingly more scarce towards the deadlines. But, after having spoken to my tutor Ingrid Murphy about this it was suggested that I could use ceramic decals, which would allow me to print an image onto the decal and then transfer it onto an already glazed bowl. This means that I can buy some bowls that suit my purposes, and then transfer drawings of flies and insects I have done onto the surface in order to get the effect I want. I then intend to link this to Aurasma, which will then overlay a video, perhaps of the bowl full of soup and then draining to find the fly at the bottom, or having real dead flies floating in the soup.
I like the idea of creating a piece of work with a humorous tone to it, which is not only functional but desirable because of it’s novelty (as well as hopefully skill with the illustrations). I think the augmented reality will then be able to enhance this novel and humorous element, reinforcing the joke of the disgusting idea of finding an insect at the bottom of your soup but in a safe environment where you can recognise it is not going to do you any harm.
Coming up to the end of this current Field module on “The Internet of Things”, I’ve found myself running into a few problems. My main issue is that there is no clear direction in the project brief, which while I appreciate this is to allow people to go in any creative direction that they wish, I think having no direction at all leaves me lost for any sense of purpose. The internet of things, and use of technology and coding within art and design is an upcoming field which is both exciting and interesting, yet all the examples and research I have looked at are all outside the realms of my capabilities, or of little to no consequence. Not only do many of these processes have a high barrier to entry in my opinion (coding especially), my main problem is not being able to see any useful outcome that I can work towards. While I can see that all of the things we have looked at are useful skills that can be applied in a variety of ways, I can’t necessarily visualise an artistic application that I can apply to my own practice. If I were thinking very ambitiously there are many ways in which technology could be used in my work, but I don’t think any of these ideas are feasible for someone of my knowledge level, and I don’t even necessarily know if my ideas are practical in real life.
However, the one area in which I feel I may be able to integrate the internet of things organically into my work is directly leading on from my last Field project, Interaction Design, and I can think of a variety of ways in which I could use technology in enhancing my “rumblebee” final outcome. I will have to consult with my tutors whether this will be allowed, to combine two field projects into one outcome or whether I will be expected to produce two separate objects, in which case I will have to start from square one.
Today we have started our new collaborative field project, my chosen subject being “The Internet of Things”, which looks at the interactivity in the modern world between humans and objects, as well as objects communicating between eachother. While this is widely known as the internet of things, this is evolving to become the “internet of everything” where almost all objects have intelligence and communication with the user and each other. This can have a variety of applications, from novelty and amusement to collection of data which allows companies to refine their services and resources. In terms of artistic application from what I have seen it seems to be leaning towards the direction of novelty, however it is important to remember that novelty has an important place in generating interaction and enjoyment from users with an item that is perceived as exciting and interesting. I think I personally would like to be able to create something which can communicate with the user and possibly other objects in order to create something with a sense of fun and personal connection, much as I have looked at in my previous projects.
Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos, one of the project leaders for this course showed us a live project that he was involved in by the REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub called the Objects Sandbox, which is a design competition related to the internet of things. One of the artifacts which has come out of this project is the “Breathing Stone”, which greatly interests me.
Unfortunately I cannot embedd the video into this blog, but I highly recommend you click here to watch it
The breathing stone itself is a handheld, screenless object which measures the user’s stress levels with a heartrate and breathing monitor, and responds accordingly with soothing glowing lights and ambient music. The music and lights adjusts dependant on the heart and breath rate, and aims to calm the user and reduce anxiety, which they will then be able to see a representation of with the stone. This very much relates to my previous Field project where I aimed to create an object without a screen, and this along a similar vein of what I aimed to achieve. While this object could very much stand on its own, the ambition is for it to have internet connectivity which allows it to communicate its data to chart levels of stress all around the world. However, I do have to question what exactly that achieves, and what the data is going to be used for. I find it difficult to believe that the makers of the breathing stone will be able to use the data in any productive manner in which they will be able to actively combat stress in a certain area of the world, and the ambition to fit each stone with 4G internet connectivity just seems like it will add complications and added price, without any real benefit to the users.
Another of these projects which is strikingly similar to things I have previously been looking at is “InTouch”
Again, I cannot embedd the video, but I recommend you watch it by clicking here
This also focuses on key ideas and themes which are of great interest to me and which I have been trying to express in my work, including in my previous Field project, especially looking at the use of haptic feedback in order to create an emotional response between people and objects, or in this case between two people through the use of objects. Unfortunately I am struggling to find more information on this project, other than the initial statement on the REACT website and various other sites, as I would like to know a bit more specifically how the object itself works in terms of how you interact with it and how it responds. I can only assume that the paired object produces haptic feedback of varying degrees mimicing the touch that the other person is making. However I would like to know how exactly it was then used, as it strikes me as being possibly quite a limiting tool of communication as it has only a small area to interact with, and how the two people are supposed to know to be using it at the same time without some sort of verbal or text based communication, which I feel might slightly defeat the point. But certainly very interesting nonetheless.
“Curpanion” is another project which I find interesting, although perhaps not quite so directly related to my practice, looking at enhancing the museum experience with added content through the use of RFID tags (radio frequency identification) embedded into physical objects.
If you’re interested in the video, click here to watch it
I think what I like most about this project is the desire to add extra content to museums, but without the use of tablets or smart phones which seems to be an increasing trend with augmented reality. Personally I have always found augmented reality to be slightly cumbersome, and not necessarily rewarding, as well as the problem of your focus being drawn away from the physical object and onto the screen, which begs the question why visit a museum at all? This system allows the user to unlock extra audio and visual content both inside the museum and at home, but with a physical object which is both functional as well as encouraging the user to appreciate the physicality of an object. I also think this system would be very rewarding for children who are interested in learning as they can “unlock rewards” online after a museum visit, giving them added reason to go and interact with the gallery objects.
Our lecturer (Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos)’s own project is called “The God Article”, looking at the Turkish instrument the “Ney”, which has much significance in the culture. While an important instrument, few can play it as it’s breath control is difficult, and Alexandros was looking to share and encourage learning through the internet of things.
By creating an open source, 3D printable Ney this allows anybody with access to a 3D printer to make their own. This will then be identical to the other Neys which are being played, allowing a fair comparison of data between them and more accurate teaching on how to use that instrument. This is a project I would like to be involved in, as I do have access to 3D printers in university, however my main barrier to entry is having to set up the data recording with arduinos and copper sensors which I wouldn’t know how to do without assistance and I cannot find an article showing me how I would do this. I suppose this might happen later in development, but even so I feel that would be the main barrier stopping most people becoming involved in this project. But perhaps I could talk to Alexandros himself and ask him for some assistance.
The other two projects don’t particularly interest me. “Fans on Foot” focuses on creating a wearable item for a fandom which guides them to significant areas of interest in the real world (such as Torchwood Tower from Doctor Who) and having the item look recognisable to the show. However it wasn’t made particularly clear exactly how this object would guide them to the area, and it strikes me that people who would be interested enough in the fandom to visit site specific areas would already have a good idea of where they are. There is also the question of how this object connects to the internet, and one of the posts from the makers reads “we could create a phone app and send out a pin badge to everyone who downloads the app. Functionally, this is entirely equivalent”, which seems to almost undermine their idea in the first place. Why not just have an app? While I certainly appreciate a physical object and merchandise related to a fandom, I feel like the functionality aspect of it is far more impractical than just having a smart phone app to guide you.
The last project “Reflector” is a learning tool which seems to be aimed primarily at schools in order to educate them further about objects that are on display and give them a wider background of knowledge before their visit to a museum. While I like this idea in principle, there’s something about it that just fails to grab my interest. Thinking about it, I struggle to see where the internet of things really relates, as it seems to come preloaded with the information related to the specific museum visit, and then prints out information in either a set or random order (this is unclear). The internet connectivity was mentioned at a point during the video, in relation to sending out information about ongoing dig sites and discoveries to reflectors all around the world, but that just seems to me to be an overcomplicated twitter stream. This also raises the question of whether these updates would be coming from a central source (one specific dig site or team), or whether everyone with a reflector could send out updates to every other reflector. This would result in a mix of information from lots of different sites, without the choice of what information you wanted to follow or not.
While all interesting projects I think my main issue is that some of them seem to have very little need for the internet or connectivity between objects and can stand on their own as independant items. I think going forward this certain has to be the focus of the artifact I create, rather than something that is shoehorned in as an afterthought.