Janet Cardiff Sound Art


Just a quick note on some material in this hard-to-find catalogue resume of Janet Cardiff‘s work.

It’s called Janet Cardiff: A Survey of Works, with George Bures Miller

Cardiff is well-known for her early-days “sound walks” where participants were given a Walkman or similar device to listen to as they walked about. Stories were told or experiences recounted in the audio track. The idea is simple, but from what I understand (never had the pleasure..) it was the story that made the experience engaging.

I first came across Cardiff’s work while doing sort of informal background research for the PDPal project where we were trying to understand interaction in the wild — away from desks and keyboard and all that.

What I find curious about her work is the way it augments reality before people even really thought about all this augmented reality stuff — but, it does not fetishize little tiny screens and orientation sensing and GPS and all that. It uses our earballs rather than our eyeballs — and somehow that makes it all much less fiddly. Although — if you look carefully at the bottom image you’ll see an image from a project in which one does use a screen — from a small DV camera which is playing a movie for you as you go along.

Janet Cardiff

Parenthetically, I think Cardiff had one of the best augmented reality projects with her telescopes. I’ve only seen this as documentation when I saw Cardiff talk in Berlin at Transmediale 08. There should be more documentation of this somewhere, but the effect was to look through the telescope and see a scene in a back alley that was the back alley — only with a suspicious set of activities being committed — perhaps a crime. The illusion was in the registration but the story was in the sequence of events that one saw, effectively the story. So much augmented reality augments nothing except coupons and crap like that. There is no compelling story in much augmented reality, but I don’t follow it closely so maybe things have changed.


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Grafikdemo by Niklas Roy


While in Basel a few weeks ago, Nicolas and Cris and I stole off for a few moments to check out this typically expensive art and technology exhibition in the docks region of the city. I forget the name of it, and also did not have any paper money so I didn’t get an exhibition catalog. Nicolas has a more complete description of the project on his recent post about Grafikdemo by Niklas Roy.

I just wanted to share a thought I had about the project which is the curious way it was manufactured. Interior to the display cabinet of this lovely old Commodore is a physical object — a lattice frame colored in a green florescent paint of some kind that made it look like it was the old fashioned style of CAD rendering where everything was green basically (I think) because people were using green CRTs (for those too young to remember — that’s cathode *ray tube, which now sounds quite archaic). The object can turn and tumble across the x, y and z axis by using the keys on the number pad of the CBM. It’s quite nice. It’s both an homage to an earlier day and a joke, of course, in a way. Nice project.
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Stuart's *Fragments of Possible Worlds* / Reperceiving The Future

Saturday October 03, 17.27.54

Just a fragment of a post — something that’s been sitting in drafts for a few months now for some reason. I guess I was trying to find something to put alongside of it, but it sits well by itself.

It’s from a post by Laboratory cousin Stuart Candy and its got some suggestive little nuggets — particularly appealing to me is “reperceiving.” This is the way he is describing what artists and futurists do as their vocations — “enabling new perceptions.”

Stuart Candy Reperceiving Detroit

" Called “Fragments of Possible Worlds: The Art and Design of Experiential Scenarios”, my presentation encouraged the audience, mostly Cranbrook students and faculty, to consider the resemblance between the role of the artist and that of the futurist. What the two have in common, as I see it, is the vocation of enabling new perceptions. Compared to the artist, whose self-understanding frequently seems to include a studied refusal of the constraints to which many other kinds of work are subject (viz. “artistic licence”), the futurist’s role may be somewhat more circumscribed, especially in a consulting setting, by the client’s needs. But the general role is fundamentally similar. And, while there is a conscious turn towards public and political engagement in my recent work, compared to the more narrowly targeted, strategic use of foresight as used in organisational settings, this common ground shared by art and futures is well captured by the elegant phrase of Royal Dutch/Shell scenario planning pioneer Pierre Wack: “the gentle art of reperceiving”."

Why do I blog this? I like this way of describing the work of creating new visions of possible worlds as reperceiving, or helping people to reimagine what the world could be like. Finding new ways of describing the work we do here in the Laboratory is quite helpful. Related is this diagram by James Auger that I recently came across on Nicolas’ blog in which he describes Auger’s diagram showing how paths to the future can be mapped out in a specific way. This might be a side, side project — to create a visualization that describes this action of re-imagining and reperceiving.

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The Design, Art, Technology & History of Arduino


That little guy up above has finally got its own academically written *History. The Arduino is historical! That means something. It means that it is significant enough to warrant a retrospective look back on its when and where and who kinds of questions. I’m glad that’s been done. There are good stories swirling around about Arduino — cafe-bar style stories and anecdotes that you’ll get from the Arduino Wizards like Massimo and Tom and Casey and Golan and Tod. Now Alicia Gibbs has written her masters thesis called New Media Art Design and the Arduino Microcontroller. It’s all about the history and why-for of the Arduino.

The Arduino microcontroller is a malleable tool used in art and design. Started as an educational prototyping tool it contiues to expand due to the thriving community and open source nature. Because open source initiatives allow for modification, derivatives, and sharing of intellectual property, artists and designers can evolve new Arduino-based microcontrollers specified to their work.

Why do I blog this? Alicia sent this to me a couple of months back and I keep trying to find it in my bottomless email database and everytime I do, I forget to blog it so I can have an easy place to find it when I need it. Now — here it is.
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Textual Landscapes at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery

It’s the “how’s it work?” gesture — one of the Top 15 Criteria of Interactive Media Art — so it must be interactive media. Jim Campbell’s work of low-res video illuminations. Again. These are of Grand Central Station looking unusually pacific.

Seen at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in Manhattan on way-west 24th Street, a group show consisting of some favorites — Marina Zurkow especially, with whom I have had the great pleasure of collaborating in the past.

The show was in two rooms separated by this long hallway. In the first entrance room is Alan Rath’s “Flying Eyeballs” IV”. It’s are sort of the canonical retro cathode ray tubes peering at you with blinking eyeballs. The log line: Nam June Paik-envy seasoned with 12 Monkeys production design aesthetic. (I have no photo, but the gallery website will subject you to a medieval-style torture of web navigation if you should like to navigate to the artists’ exhibition photos/videos.)

In the main room I enjoyed Marina’s “Slurb”, seen above on the left. On the right is Airan King’s “109 Lighting Books” (indeed..) which is curious sort of literate, didactic sculpture. As a light source in the space, you draw to it like a moth and maybe feel some empathy because of the titles, or maybe some distance because of the titles. I don’t know.

Then there was Ben Rubin’s “Shakespeare Machine Study No 4” (on the left) and “Lolita 6” (on the right), two word-y sculptures from the guy who brought us the crucial internet sculpture “Listening Post” — the thing that collapsed the simultaneity of networks-conversations into physical form.

Why do I blog this? Just a bookmark to myself about an intriguing show using instruments, aesthetics and the setting of an art gallery. I also liked this gesture of someone looking behind a sculpture to see if they can figure out how it works — one of the “Fat 15” criteria that define “interactive media art.”
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Call for Artists — Locative Cinema Commission

Saturday March 28, 11.25.39

The curious architectural articulations of Pann’s Diner in Inglewood, Los Angeles. Allegedly the last original diner in town — original, as in the original structure, not a redo to mimic/hide/erase the old stylings. Recommended. Bring your own Lipitor and have a seat at the counter or the “hot house.”

From the Passing Useful Things Through Division, this one came from curatorial chum Steve Dietz:

The Locative Cinema Commission is a joint project of ZER01: The Art and Technology Network, The Banff New Media Institute, and the New Frontier program at the Sundance Institute We are soliciting proposals that can generalize the platform of specific places such as San Jose, California, Banff, Canada, or Park City, Utah to describe the world that you want people to see. We understand the notion of ‘locative cinema’ as an apparatus through which you can share your vision using place in ways that are both specific and generic or at least transferable. All variations on how to present your work will be considered, from cell phones to the black box of the cinema, from mixed reality to street theatre, from GPS to handhelds, from distributed to ambient. Proposals will be evaluated on their ability to engage people using place as a key element of the experience.

Note bene the impending deadline: Proposal deadline: Monday August 3, 2009. That Is Less Than A Month.

Here is the Locative Cinema Commission.
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Chalkbot Versus GraffitiWriter…Round One! Ready….FIGHT!


From the Laboratory’s Bureau of Historical Precedence comes this dispatch: A colleague here in the studio, in a thread about Jeremy Wood’s GPS Drawing mentioned this ChalkBot robot that Nike has deployed to help promote, well — cancer awareness with the Lance Armstrong tie-in and itself by extension — at the Tour de France road race. When he started describing it, my mind immediately jumped to Josh Kinberg’s “Bikes Against Bush” project in which he used a bicycle-drawn rig to spray chalk on the pavement, in precisely the fashion of the ChalkBot — and Josh got tossed in the Pokey in the bargain! I wrote a note to Josh, curious if he was involved (if only to track and admire the activities of friends, etc) and he reminded me of the Institute for Applied Autonomy‘s GraffitiWriter and StreetWriter projects, which were his inspiration. (The data fragmentation in my human algorithm started clearing a bit.) An hour or two later, this press release appeared on the wonderfully dyspeptic, exceptionally over-sensitive, super grouse-y nettime from one of the IAA’s agents: read on
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Many Facets

Saturday January 24 18:10

There are many facets to art-technology and its exhibition. This was seen at the splendid “Future Imaginaries” exhibition at the Ben Maltz gallery at Otis College of Art and Design. I eagerly await Norman Klein (pictured gesturing to Lev Manovich who is assessing an audio focus rig) and Andreas Kratky’s forthcoming DVD that was featured at the exhibition/ There was also a collection of curious, carnivalesque assemblages that are all simultaneously forward and backward into the future. Tom Jennings’ peculiar recording, mapping instruments from the future past or somewhere were my favorite.

Saturday January 24 18:16

Saturday January 24 18:17

Here are some other pieces from the exhibition:

Saturday January 24 18:15

Saturday January 24 18:07

Saturday January 24 18:19

As to my Top-15 list of criteria for interactive art / art-technology, I generally don’t assume its necessary to ask “what’s it do?” about such things as shown in an exhibition like this. That’s a little weird to me. It’d be like asking Goya what “Saturn Devouring His Son” does, or how it works or something. So, I only know what these objects do in my own mind. That’s all I mean. So, like..if you ask? And I tell you? That is my basis for knowing — I didn’t ask any of the artists to explain their art to me, like a bunch of other people did. Which is weird to see happen.

A few more photographs are here.

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Near Future Laboratory Top 15 Criteria That Define Interactive or New Media Art


The Julianipedia entry for “New/Interactive Media Art” has been finalized by the guys and gals on the editorial floor here at the Near Future Laboratory officeplex. After several years of review, discussions with leading experts and practitioners we’re finally ready to release our conclusions. And what better place to release them — here, in Linz Austria, and after a 3 year hiatus from Ars Electronica while I was teaching at an interactive media program where I would get in trouble for missing boring faculty meetings and a class or two because I thought it’d be useful to my pedagogy to go to the world’s pre-eminent interactive media exhibition (but no one ever got the business for going to the Game Developers’ Conference, so..there’s that.)

Here at Ars Electronica is where we did an unscientific qualitative test of the criteria devised to define New/Interactive Media Art. Now we deliver to you the conclusive results, and do so in the spirit of the David Letterman Top-10 Countdown, only with a Top-15 rather than 10, cause we found 15 things.

Forget all the New Media “Theory”; we’ve got your empirically derived criteria right here.

The Near Future Laboratory Top-15 Criteria for New or Interactive Media Art are…

15. It doesn’t work

14. It doesn’t work because you couldn’t get a hold of a 220-to-110 volt converter/110-to-220 volt converter/PAL-to-NTSC/NTSC-to-PAL scan converter/serial-to-usb adapter/”dongle” of any sort..and the town you’re in is simply not the kind of place that has/cares about such things

13. Your audience looks under/behind your table/pedestal/false wall/drop ceiling or follows wires to find out “where the camera is”

12. Someone either on their blog or across the room is prattling on about the shifting relations between producers and consumers..and mentions your project

11. Your audience “interacts” by clapping/hooting/making bird calls/flapping their arms like a duck or waving their arms wildly while standing in front of a wall onto which is projected squiggly lines

10. Your audience asks amongst themselves, “how does it work?”

9. The exhibition curators insist that you spend hours standing by your own wall text so that you can explain to attendees “how it works”

8. It’s just like using your own normal, human, perfectly good eyeballs, only the resolution sucks and the colors are really lousy..plus the heat from the CPU fan is blowing on your forehead which makes you really uncomfortable and schvitz-y

7. Someone in your audience wearing a Crumpler bag, slinging a fancy digital SLR and/or standing with their arms folded smugly says, “Yeah..yeah, I could’ve done that too..c’mon dude..some Perlin Noise? And Processing/Ruby-on-Rails/AJAX/Blue LEDs/MaxMSP/An Infrared Camera/Lots of Free Time/etc.? Pfft..It’s so easy…”

6. Someone in your audience, maybe the same guy with the Crumpler bag and digital SLR excitedly says, “Oh, dude. That should totally be a Facebook app!”

5. It’s called a “project” and not a “piece of art”

4. You saw the "project" years ago…and here it is again…now with multi-touch interaction and other fancy digital bells and Web 2.0-y whistles

3. Your audience cups their hands over various proturbances/orifices at or nearby your project attempting to confuse/interact with the camera/sensor/laser beam, even if it uses no such technology

2. There’s a noticeable preponderance of smoothly shifting red, green and blue lighting effects

1. People wonder if it wasn’t all really done in Photoshop, anyway

3 Bonus Criteria!

0. There are instructions on how to experience the damn thing

-1. You can’t “collect” or buy it. Heck, if you did, you’d need to get AppleCare or hire an IT guy in the bargain

-2. Crumpler guy says, “Oh, I thought of that already..”

There it is. The Near Future Laboratory Top-15+3 Criteria Defining New/Interactive Media Art!
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Approaches To Practice

Sunday March 29, 13.18.40

Professional Statement

My professional goal as an academic is to create wider, public understanding as to the meaning of, and possibilities for, an invigorated, livable technoculture. For the last several years, through scholarship, writing and art-technology projects, I have been primarily focused on the ways that networked digital cultures operate, exist and create meaning. More recently, I have developed a commitment to revealing a deeper sense of the possibilities for actively shaping what that digitally networked world looks like, how it is co-habited by many different kinds of social beings, and how we may co-exist as social beings within it. My goals, in other words, are to make sense of the “new networked age” episteme in such a way as to create a sense that it is possible to shape our world, to “hack it”, into some place that we can inhabit in a life-affirming, sustainable way.

I believe that the world is at a crucial intersection, as always, but this one really matters. There has long been a recognition that digital networks might likely be enablers for worldly change of the most profound and impactful kind. The arguments that undergird this point of view are familiar. The fluency and literacy that a consequential number of people have with its technical underpinnings matters because fluency and literacy amongst a diversity of social formations can yield “new things.” The capacity of individuals to acquire the material skills to create their own technologies that facilitate these social formations is unprecedented. The networks continue to pervade many touch points within the social lives of a diversity of peoples, and pervade many touch points within the physical, geographic world. Such arguments continue, often based upon access, skill, the economics of digital transmission, and so forth. Succinctly, there are far-reaching implications for digital networked publics. The portents for worldly change are provocative.
While the possibility for change is latent within these enabling conditions, the direction that change takes is not entirely clear: knowledge, literacy, techno-savvy DIY-skills may yield a variety of possible worlds, not all of which, on an ethically normative register, are palatable. On the one hand, it is presently conceivable that the new networked age could provide us with a mechanism to make a world that is more habitable, more sustainable and more accepting of cultural and political difference. On the other hand, it is well within the power of the informed imagination to conceive of a digitally networked world that is precisely the opposite.

In sum, it is my professional goal to turn my creative and intellectual energy toward ways to achieve the more life-affirming social world.

My Approach To Scholarship
I hope I can distinguish my scholarship as an interdisciplinary hybrid that knits together my engineering and social sciences background, training and passions. As an engineer, I am fascinated by technology and actively develop such, but I am less interested in doing traditional engineering, such as creating more efficient data storage software, or making faster computer processors. As a social scientist, I like the idea of revealing the complex, imbricated relationship between technology and culture, but I also like to make culture through my technology projects.

The challenge for me in doing interdisciplinary work is that I embody interdisciplinarity. I want to make technology and culture at the same time. I want to do such so as to understand how culture and technology are actually two sides of the same coin, something that social theory reveals fairly well through science and technology studies, and cultural anthropology, and other disciplines as well. While also doing this kind of social theory, I want to make — design, code, build, test, release — the kinds of manifest contributions to new networked worlds that technology, absent social theory, is able to do through traditional engineering practice.

This approach to scholarship is perhaps best encapsulated in what Tara McPherson describes as a “theory object” — an instantiated “thing” that is able to “do” theory in its design, construction and use. Theory objects are embodiments of social theory and social practice, where the “social” is part of the design and construction of the “thing.” In my case, the “theory objects” I would like to construct are instantiations of the research questions my scholarship addresses.

This approach reveals social theory through the creation of technical instrumentalities, or framing theory through the creation of technological systems, or answering questions as to how meaning and social interactions can become embodied within or made possible by a device, software program or engineering practices. For instance, a component of my current book project is an investigation of more serene environments for networked digital social communication. Email, for example, and instant messaging, are seen in some contexts to be persistently nagging utilities that can be disruptive and distracting. Here, the question is around finding livable usage scenarios for IM or email. I am developing a software application that attempts to answer this question, by recasting the way in which we engage our email or interact with our IM buddies. As a “theory object”, this software may succeed or may fail or, more likely it will both succeed and fail, as all technologies and all social theories do. But, through the construction of this software object, it is my intention to both address this research question — what are less disruptive ways to engage digital communications practices. At the same time, by showing the step-by-step design and construction of the object, I can reveal the way that practice gets built into software.