Jenny imagines digital skin as a virtual overlay, providing a strange, biological anonymity, a morphing mask. In addition to some great research work she had a live demo at the show that used augmented reality to overlay visitors faces with strange, biological growths (see bottom picture).
"I designed a collection of virtual digital skins that was inspired by morphogenesis and mineral crystalisation processes. a series of radical non-human like aesthetics were fashioned, to engage the public to consider if we have the tools to-redesign ourselves, would we still look, feel and be human? I also worked in collaboration with a company called holition who deal with a range of 3d technologies in particular augmented reality. augmented reality technology blurs the boundaries between the real and the virtual worlds; it superimposes graphics, audio and other sense enhancements over a live view of the world. holition and I designed and developed new ways to utilise and implement the AR to enable a more tactile and tangible response to technology, bridging the gap between the immaterial and material worlds. we translated the digital skins into the technology, and developed face-tracking ar to create a virtual experience that would enable the public to interact and visualise the future technological impact on society and the self."
I’ve continued with the portrait of the day effort I mentioned earlier. This time I’m working from a book I found in Oxfam called Portrait of England by Sylvester Jacobs. Published in 1976 it has loads of photos of people from that period, mostly in black and white. I’m using it to focus a little more on light and dark, using graphite or watercolour. Here are the “best”. I’ll spare you from the REAL turkeys.
A new year, so time to go through the 4,400 shots I’ve taken this year to pick out my favorites. I was surprised to see that this is the 7th year I’ve done this. 44 images this year, which is pretty much in line with last year’s 42 images + 1 video. It’s a totally random process. I’ve felt a little flat about how focused I’ve been on this activity, despite the new camera I mentioned (and still love) last year. So I’m happy to find that I like the results. Lots more people than normal, and a few shots that are a little more “snappy” than I’d like, but I’m quite pleased.
I’ve started trying to draw a portrait a day. This is inspired partially by friends who’ve taken one photo, or even a self-portrait, every day with their cameras for a whole year. I’m hoping to do the same, but with an emphasis on allowing it to try and improve my drawing skills rather than my photography.
At the moment I’m on day 53, with no breaks. I’ve filled one Moleskine sketching notebook already. Who knows if I’ll make it to 365 pictures (or 7 sketchbooks). I’m enjoying trying, though.
Videos have just been posted for the six student presentations from this year’s Microsoft Design Expo. This is an international competition we’ve run for a decade, inviting various design colleges to do projects to a brief that we set. They pick their best student team and send them to Redmond to present their work at the Faculty Summit.
This is the third year that I’ve been a coordinator for a school in the UK. The firsttwo were with Dundee University, and because we try and mix up the schools regularly, this year I picked Central Saint Martins to participate. Slightly radically, we’ve been working with the Textile Futures course. This is an amazing department, combining technology with the craft of surfaces. Their work was really challenging and conceptual, and quite unlike anything that Microsoft employees tend to get exposed to. Well done to Natsai Chieza and Amy Congdon (from the team Social Pica) for inspiring the audience, and presenting so well. And well done to all the students on the course for some beautifully compelling work.
Here are the shots from our two crits (in March and May). They’re very random and anonymous, as was my photography, but compelling.
"Media Vintage is a series of interactive electronic textiles that contain memories. Alpha is a suitcase in which you can weave temporary secret messages in Morse code. Bravo is a tapestry that sings a song from long ago when your fingers read the embroidered Braille. Charlie is a trench-coat that reads fabric punchcards and tells you stories from an old man’s life."
Some quick notes from my visit to the Royal College of Art to see the Impact! exhibition. This presented a series of projects in which RCA-connected designers (linked primarily with the Design Interactions department) were put together with scientists working on projects funded by the EPSRC. The overarching goal, as with much of the work on Design Interactions students, is to draw attention to, and help the public imagine, the potential impact of new forms of science on our futures through the development of artefacts and stories that help us see forward.
In some cases, the projects seemed even more ambitious, namely to help further the actual science. There is a reflective thing going on here, of course, where this isn’t just about communicating outwards to the public. Much of the works looks inward, too, allowing scientists themselves to see the potential impact of their own work, enabling a deeper form of insight onto what it is they’re doing (for better or worst).
First, a gratuitous shot of my daughter enjoying the multi-media experience of Zoe Papadopoulou’s Nuclear Dialogues.
Fabulous Fabbers, from David Benque, really caught my attention. David imagines a radical shifting in the way we acquire our “things” brought on by new fabrication technologies (such as 3D printing), new ecological imperatives, new forms of technological crafting and so on. In his project he imagine nomadic factories that, like the big top circus, travel from town to town producing and replicating a communities needs on demand.
Pathogen Hunter by Susana Soares and Mikael Metthey. A beautiful and fictional set of tools for the budding microbe hunter.
Revital Cohen’s Phantom Recorder. A device for catching the electrical echoes of phantom limbs (the feeling that a limb is still there after it has been lost).
James Auger’s Happylife is exploring the use of thermal imaging technology as a security instrument that, through heat signatures of the body, can assess a person’s physiological state, and therefore potentially the subtle cues that might give away the mental state. Could imagery like this identify the guilty? This is a working system. As you stand in front of the camera (at the bottom-right of the first image) your face appears on the large screen, freezes for a few seconds, then the dials on the device in the second image start to turn. I like how James has left their meaning ambiguous. They’re not labelled. To some extent that speaks to the tension between the confidence we seem to have in technology by default, that it CAN do this sort of prediction accurately, and the reality that in the end we’re assigning deeply meaningful personal traits to the random changes in digits.
The 5th Dimensional Camera from Jon Ardern and Anab Jain. As usual, Anab’s work is beautifully supported by storytelling. This is a fictional camera that “sees” into 50 parallel dimensions at once, through the “power” of quantum mechanics. The work tells the story of 3 test subjects who live with the camera, each of which use it in quite different ways. The subject in the second shot below points the camera at themselves, writing messages daily of what they’re feeling. This doesn’t feel unlike the sort of public naval-gazing that takes place on sights like Flickaday, except the audience in this case is the subject herself. The camera shows her, and a myriad of different messages, across all these parallel dimensions at the same moment. Each life and message is subtly or wholy different from the “original” as it corresponds to a different branch in space-time.
Policing Genes by Thomas Thwaites. Thomas imagines a world that doesn’t seem at all implausible, even as it seems slightly ridiculous. Field trials for plants that are being genetically modified to produce vaccines are already taking place. This is the science that Thomas is focussed on. He assumes perfectly reasonably that, humans being humans, this is simply another technology ripe for hacking, and that suburbs the world over will soon be filled with little patches of English Country Gardens, hiding away narcotics and controlled pharmaceuticals in their greenery. Naturally, the Police will need a team of crack bees to sniff them out.
Lebbeus Woods, the architect, has started a series of posts on his notebooks. It sounds like this was a practice he went through and “finished” at some point, before moving on to other ways of working. That’s a little disappointing and goes against what I see as a lifetime practice. Still, I guess that depends on what activity replaced this form of sketching. Probably another form of sketching.
I loved this quote:
“Notebooks are portable. They can be kept secret, or published. Technically, they are simple to make. Pen and paper. The hand, eye, and thought. Freed from any sort of burdensome apparatus, thought becomes more agile in confronting itself.”