Informatics: reading out loud

This morning I gave my first public reading from my residency novel-in-progress, Prototype, at the P{e/a}r{i/a}meter CIRCLE research symposium. I started off feeling like a slight fraud as I’m writing about fictional technology from a traditional writing viewpoint (not quite quill and parchment, but not far off) rather than developing new technology, or work which relies on co-production with developers in order to be exhibited. However, as the day of talks progressed and I had the opportunity to chat to people in the breaks I realised that there was a real openness to different approaches and investigations with technology, with science and the arts, with interdisciplinarity in general. I read an extract from the first chapter, spoke a little about the work in general, and finished with an extract from chapter six. A particular thank you to everyone who said nice things about it- constructive criticism is always useful to develop the work, but positive feedback makes me feel good on a personal level too. So a lovely start to the week. Plus, any day which starts with me getting to play with any kind of interactive art game/installation (in this case Simon Biggs’ latest splicing of the Kinect visual-sonar system with a live video feed to produce a real-time rendering of 3d-motion without a separate ‘MoCap’ system) is a day worth experiencing.

There were eleven talks in total, ranging from perceptions of medical conditions in art history to layering memory in geo-located literary apps. I was particularly interested in the various motion-sensor based projects being presented since I love watching dance performances. Seeing how they can be transformed – through haptic interfaces for non-sighted audiences, drawing inspiration from computer-game ‘glitches’ to create interactive installations, responding to memory and space in collaborative filmmaking, combing different softwares to open up new possibilities in real-time 3D tracking and projection –  is a bit like going through the wardrobe into Narnia; a familiar world full of unexpected twists. I made a lot of notes and I think the vocabulary being used to express the projects is going to feed directly into the writing I’m producing at the moment: ‘dynamic capacity of the embodied eye’, ‘the Lazy Web’, ‘‘fluorescence microscopy’. There was also an interesting themes of intentional vs unintentional; the majority of the presenters spoke about the importance of incorporating unexpected developments into their work, or of building projects which allowed for that kind of interaction with both material process and audience feedback. Amy Guy from the Palimpsest (literary app of Edinburgh) project spoke about expecting innovative use of the user-upload function in the app and of being excited to find out how other people would bring it forward as a project once it was up and running. Beverley Hood’s work is itself founded on unintentionality: the imperfections or  ‘glitching’ that occurs in representations of human movement in computer games. Sophia Lycouris explained her choreo-haptic experiments as being scoping studies, seeing how existing technology can be used and seeing what kind of experience visually impaired audiences can develop, resulting in a movement away from the visual manifestation of dance performances to an attempt to use the technology to convey the emotional experience of the performance. Maria Grade Godinho gave us excellent examples of how the chance encounters produced by interdisciplinary networks and discussion had not only helped her in her past work, but how it had led to a recent career change, investigating the intervention role of interdisciplinary working itself. Bringing a scientists perspective on collaboration with artists, she showed how co-production of separate projects can produce a variety of insights into the human relationship with encountering science. Mel Wood’s SerenA project- which I’d seen her present on back in February – is literally a project about enhancing chance encounters.

Two of the most beautiful presentations came towards the end of the day – Sue Hawksley’s ‘Traces of Places’ which took the form of a short film about embodied memories, expressed in dance. It was a perfect example, in my opinion, or a co-produced artwork: the piece could not have existed without the input of all three members, each bringing their own area of expertise and allowing the others the grace and space to use theirs. Brigitta Zics’ ‘Mind Cupola’ looks amazing: an immersive environment created by and responding to perception-based data aesthetics. It’ll be on display in Culture Lab in June, apparantly, so I’m glad I’ll be around to drop in and see how it looks. The photo at the top of this blog is from Brigitta’s presentation.

I’m sad to announce that the Facebook status-updates on the cyber war have finally drawn to a close. Well, naturally I’m glad my friend is not longer being hassled, but I’m sad for those of us who were enjoying following the (true) story. Here are the last three updates, in order:

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