Mid-term Critique Dry Run

This image involves the core concept of my thesis. As “embodied information” takes on the form of a musical “interface”, the opportunity for “embodied interaction” arises. As a participatory network is formed, communities are created revolving around music listening and participation in real-time composition. As communities grow, a sense of place is then established.
Each term is related to a specific case-study, a literature reference, and quote pulled out of that reference which describes the term it is connected to. For example, Community can be described by Atau Tanaka in “Malleable Mobile Music” by, “Users of the current system constitute a community contributing to the creation of a single musical stream in real time.” The project “Reactable” by Jorda, Kaltenbrunner, Geiger, and Alonso is a specific case study which can easily be described by Tanaka’s definition.

The following studies are looking specifically at “interface” and “embodied interaction.” They can be seen as a response to Pallasma’s “The Eyes of the Skin,” Blesser & Salter’s “Spaces Speak: Are you listening?” Bull’s “Sounding Out the City,” Gaye’s “Sonic City,” Raffle, Merrill, & Aimi’s “Sound of Touch” and Wilson & Keladis’ “Otto.”

This wearable began as a study of the hand and its superficial Ulner and Median nerves as well as acupuncture points on the palm. By attaching contact microphones to the hand, while simultaneously exposing the skin to direct touch with the external environment, a phenomenological experience of space was hopeful. As a person directly feels materiality, internal resonances are also heard direclty in the ear through headphones.

The initial study began as a series of cut-outs from a glove. This was done in order to expose certain areas of sensitivity to directly touching a material. The goal of heightened sensitivity was the expected outcome of nerve isolation.
What became apparent was the need for the entire hand to be exposed rather than areas isolated since touch a material was as important as hearing the internal vibrations. So maximizing touch became the next step, which obviously introduced different aesthetics.

Rather than a glove, latex was chosen because of its material similarities to skin. The form of this “glove” was to be more organic and flesh-like, with the idea that it could be developed into an implant possibly with conductive tattoos.

As the prototype was being built, an aesthetic similar to torture or polygraph devices became apparent into the hacked together wiring and circuitry. This became one example of how to construct this wearable.

In traditional chinese medicine, reading ones pulse is the first step in any diagnosis. In western medicine, pulse oximetry allows for a non-invasive method for monitoring one’s pulse and the oxygenation of hemoglobin. Therefore pulse was decidedly one of the most important features of one’s health and well-being. Looking at a pulse oximeter as a precedent, the wearable began to take on the form of a medical device.

While the above studies were concerned with “interface” and “embodied interaction” of a single user, the idea of pulse and health were pushed further to encompass “participation” and “community.” Rather than focusing solely on a wearable which picks up material resonances, what if those resonances were generated and influenced by a person’s pulse? In this situation, one hand would wear a device that would sense pulse and cause vibrations at that rhythm of the pulses. When placed on a surface or object, these vibrations would cause internal resonances in the material at the same heart rate of the participant. These vibrations could be listened to directly by the same person, or they could be recorded and sent to a network of resonances generated by a collective of participants. These pulses and their corresponding resonances could be averaged and mixed together to create a community of pulse rate that is heard and in essence “felt” by everyone participating. This begins to pick up ideas of Animism in that the non-human material world begins to breath life through user participation creating very physical material vibrations and audible resonances.

Rather than a wearable, how could an object be designed to create an experience of place and community through embodied interaction and participation? The “ball” idea relies on the participation of a game which aids in the realtime generation of music. Participants throw around a ball where their actions directly influence a realtime musical score.

Moving into a larger scale, what if the interaction with a surface, rather than object, created this communal experience. Here a wall constructed of an elastic fabric, proximity sensors, tension strings, and servo motors. As participants interact with the wall, their actions influence the spinning of the servo motors, generating an underlating surface condition. These metrics are read by a computer as a matrix of parameters for a generative musical score. This score is made audible by speakers in the space as well as stream to users who have “subscribed” to that specific wall.

Relating a few quotes and posing a new way of looking at things:
- Pallasmaa – “We stare alone at the suspense of a circus, but the burst of applause after the relaxation of suspense unites us to the crowd.” (pg. 35)
- Bull – “Personal stereos tend to be non-interactive in the sense that users construct fantasies and maintain feelings of security precisely by not interacting with others or the environment.” (pg. 25)
Bull makes the claim that this is the desire of the person wearing the headphones.
But is social space more than just public space mediated through technology.
- Shepard – “One way urbanists might become more involved is to focus on developing new technologies and infrastructures that reconnect people in ways that strike a balance between providing privacy and facilitating openness throughout the social space (which is not always “public” space) of everyday life.”

What if the burst of applause in Pallasmaa’s case is not the external sounds of the crowd, but the participation in a realtime musical score. Then the isolated sonic arena in Bull’s case becomes a technologically mediated private social space like in the case of Shepard. The outcome is community participation of privately experienced socially and technologically mediated space.

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