There are some presentations over here at TEI 2013 that kind of touch on craft. One is Movement Crafter
The movement crafter attempts to reconcile the pace of new technologies with traditional crafting activities that are performed as pastimes. The project explores concepts of quiet communication and technology hybrids and attempts to support crafting without making the craftsperson overly selfconscious of their practice.
What it does is tracking the movements of two pairs of knitting needles and visualizing it. When I tried it only one of the two stations worked and it was not too precise. But it kind of relates to the handiwork concept from Ashton.
Another art project deals with the special ink that changes visibility under changing heat.
Transience is the Japanese calligraphy work with dynamic color changes. The scene where the letter colors are changing from moment to moment can give af”uent dynamism and feeling of vitality of calligraphy to viewers, and at the same time, it can express stream of time. Calligraphy is integrated with technology and materials seamlessly and Transience is produced to show ever-changing aesthetics fermented in Japan. In order to change letter colors on paper, we developed our original chromogenic mechanism from functional inks and conductive materials. For producing the chromogenic technology suitable for paper, we examined ink materials repeatedly, and as a result we realized the expression where calligraphy harmonizes with computer.
It was beautiful to see the change of the ink over time – but mainly because the lettering looked so good. Paint Pulse was definitely more ambitious.
Sam pointed me to that – and some of us might not be aware of this trend:
Their spearhead project is the Global Village Construction Kit. As we drift into crafting and social context, it might be a good touching point for where digital media stand.
While considering creative coding as a digital craft, I think the most striking and emotional part is the realization you know what to do and now you just have to do it.
The notion of the dots getting finally connected is mesmerizing : among all the possibilities a path gets drawn, and the object you want to build exists in the virtual space of your mind. In the Keller and Keller theoretical framework, it would be close to the moment when the umbrella plan gets finally assembled.
Seeing the code as the material this is the moment when you feel how to shape it, assemble it, which parts are going to be thrown away and which are the ones that are going to stay.
I want to share this idea of connecting the dots in a playful way, while having multiple viable solutions.
To implement this idea, I suggest creating a game using a variation on the theme of exquisite corpse.
One person, the “language master” will write down a short sentence. Then for each of the word of the sentence, he will choose 4 other words (similar or not).
Other people, the “language wannabees” will then have to try to reconstruct the original sentence. You can choose to collaborate, and help each others (share knowledge about the language master to increase the chance of success), or on the other hand try to sabotage other’s work (giving crappy advice) to simulate the competitive environment creative coders are living in.
The first one to find the right solution becomes the brand new language master and pick up a new sentence and a set of words.
During the process you might write down unsecessful sentences for further reference.
This can be implemented using a sheet of paper but as we’re trying to live in a digitial era, I did it using sifteo cubes.
The choice of only one solution valid among all the possibilities is arbitrary, and could be extented to any solution the language master likes (or the group if you’re prefer democracy).
Crocheting is technically just a series of knots looped through previous knots in the yarn. It “builds up” through different sequences of actions. The actions include looping yarn around a hook, pushing the hook through existing loops, and pulling the hook through again. The process is mechanically simple. However, skill and practice is required to achieve an even series of knots with the right tension on the yarn. Too loose and the work shows unsightly holes. Too tight, and the fabric buckles, or worse, the needle does not easily slip through the loop on the next row.
The two hands work together to crochet. One hand maneuvers the hook and loops the yarn. The other hand holds the work and feeds the yarn to the hook that’s looping it. This hand holding the work is responsible for maintaining an even tension. It does so by pulling the work down while the hook in the other hand tries to pick up the work as it pulls the yarn through existing loops.
A crochet piece achieves visual complexity when stitches are made in different combinations. This requires the crocheter to count silently while they work and maintain an even tension. Some rows are repetitive and induce a meditative state. At this point, the count is internalized as movement. The crocheter actually feels the rhythm of the pattern as they carry out manual tasks with the needles and yarn. The actions result in a tempo that internalized to relieve the need to count for long periods of time.
To communicate this tacit feeling of this work, this intervention simulates a repetitive double crochet chain. A Processing application visualizes the ideal sequence of operations, the passage of time, and input from the sensors attached to the hook and the work.
The left hand holds the work. The work is a crocheted pouch with a force sensing resistor inside. The user grips the work firmly when pulling new yarn through existing loops. This additional force counters any pull from the hook and maintains even tension. Since the hand holding the work also feeds yarn to the hook, it should otherwise relax to prevent stitches from being worked too tight.
The hook has a photocell attached to its tip. The hook slips in and out of an semi-opaque tube. When the photocell registers a transition from lighter to darker environments, the stitch has “passed through” a loop and a new knot has been made. A double crochet consists of three knots in one loop. So, the user will repeats this for a total of three times before starting again.
Users should attempt to match their tension to the tension levels illustrated at different points on the action pattern. Likewise, knots registered by the photocell should be completed at the three specified times. As users’ actions converge on the pattern, they start to understand the feel of tempoed action. Crocheters maintain this tempo between tool and hands to sustain peace of mind and achieve an even tension for their material.
Practice holding the fabric with the correct tension. A photocell on the end of the crochet hook detects a “stitch” when it enters the dark tunnel. A force sensing resistor measures the grip of the hand holding the work.
The absolute most time consuming/frustrating/dangerous part of making a sweet potato clay ocarina is the voicing hole. Tuning the instrument can be difficult, but with enough time and the right techniques and tools, it’s much more of a precise science than the voicing box.
To make the box, one must cut out a small hole that matches where the air stream is coming from the mouthpiece and then cut a wedge, so it divides the air stream (somewhat) perfectly. This must be done while the clay is still malleable, the ocarina is in two pieces (so structurally unsound) and often must be done and redone several times throughout the whole process.
In order to test if it’s working, one must put the tools down, make a temporary seal (place the two halves together) then blow. Sometimes one can manipulate the mouthpiece, other times the ocarina is too delicate, and will break.
If I were to move completely away from actually doing this, I would propose two plastic shells be used, one with a hole for a mouthpiece like part. This must be rectangular. The user would try to put the mouthpiece in alignment with the voicing wedge as perfectly as possible.
The user can test how good the connection is by putting the mouthpiece hole in front of an LED that is turned on. The light transmits through the hole to a photo resistor on the underside of the wedge that is calibrated for the room. The photoresistor will make a second LED brighter or darker based on the amount of light it receives.
Too much or too little light make the light go out (just like if it were the ocarina, it would make no sound). Because there’s not a definite “you did it right” feedback in the actual process, the led getting slightly brighter and softer is the perfect analogy. A user can only tell if they’ve gotten it right by a subjective sense. It’s very obvious when it’s making sound, but whether the sound is getting better with each adjustment is a skill that takes a trained ear and many hours to determine.
The “feel” for stenciling is best exemplified through the cutting process. While the design is certainly an important part of the craft (and experience helps determine what is “cut-able” and what isn’t), the act of slicing the plastic with an Exacto knife is what requires some real manual dexterity. It’s the part you really need to just “do” for awhile until you figure out the best approach. You learn what kind of curves you can do in one stroke, which areas to tackle first, and how to create corners.
To recreate this experience, I thought about other activities that involve some kind of tracing or complicated line following. I was inspired by our trip to the craft center. Rolling out the clay reminded me of rolling out cookie dough. I thought about what it would be like to freehand cut sugar cookies (rather than using a cookie cutter to stamp them out). I think there are some similarities to plastic (hard plastic/hard dough cracks more easily, soft plastic/dough cuts too easy, doesn’t keep shape).
I wanted to experiment with different cutting tools to find the right level of difficulty. It shouldn’t be too easy to cut the dough. It should be very difficult to turn sharp corners. Pulling the cut dough away from the rest should also be slightly challenging.
Overall, much like cutting a stencil, it seemed like any of these tools could have worked if I spent the time to practice. Like stenciling, the sharpest implements cut best, but also allowed me to make mistakes more easily.
Preparing the dough and tools:
Attempting cuts with various tools:
What is your sound?
Last week I wrote about the craft of reed making for an oboe. One aspect in the process of reed making which is important is the thickness of the reed. The thickness of the reed has a lot of influence on how it will be used, how the oboe with reed will sound and play. So somebody making a reed has to experience this, it is very personal. What kind of reed do you want, how do you want to play?
To experience this I propose to create a device that measures air pressure and based on the air pressure makes a specific sound. The idea is that you have to blow into a device and the way you blow and the strength of it will be measured using air pressure sensor (as shown in the image above).
You could conceal this device in something made by clay, and shape it to afford blowing into it. It could look like this:
The goal is not to create the most ‘pure’ sound, no sound coming out of the device will be wrong. The idea is that you find your own sound. What sounds good to you and how do you need to blow to achieve this sound? In the end the data is stored together with a recording of all the sounds you created. In visualization you can see the way you blew and you can hear the sound that is related to the way you blew.
Today we finally played with some pottery at the craft center. And DWIG became the proud owner of its own storage shelf.
Now that you have documented a practice as a logical action and planning breakdown we turn to the experiential parts of it. Look at the breakdown of the practice, identify a key moment that exemplifies the “feel” for this practice. It should answer the question of what is the most experience-based (including sensual, illogical, personal, joyful, painful) part of this practice? Design something that recreates the experiential quality of this moment.
It does not have to use the practice (e.g. if you want to describe the feeling of wood fibers you might do that with woolen threads) but should reflect the chosen key moment.
One day at around three in the morning I decided I’d learn how to make an ocarina. After spending a few hours reading about how to make one, I went to the Georgia Tech craft center. Since then I’ve made several, but have only fired and tuned a few, due to the enormous amount of time it takes to tune them.
An ocarina is a wind instrument that uses both hands and a fingering system to play different notes. Hand-made ocarinas are typically made out of clay or wood, and machine made ones are typically made with plastic. Wooden ocarinas are typically shapped in a rectangular fashion, whereas the clay one I made are typically shaped like an egg with an attached mouthpiece.
I know the general shape of a clay ocarina, and I’ve made a couple before. I learned this from watching youtube videos, reading tutorials, and learning about the (very) basic physics of the voicing hole. Additionally I’ve played wind instruments for the last 13 years, and know how to work a tuner. Despite the videos and tutorials, the first time I tried to make an ocarina, I had no skills in using clay. Fortunately, the people at the craft center when I went were kind enough to explain some of the basics of working with clay.
I’m making this for myself, but want to try to make a smaller ocarina. I’ve typically made much larger ones which I’ve found are somewhat less finicky to get to make a sound.
- Finances: All the blocks of clay at the student center are about 15$. Everything else involved in the craft is free.
- Materials: I went with a more grey type of clay. They had several to choose from and I didn’t have great experiences with the brown or reddish clays, but had used the grey successfully before.
- Skills: I know how to use the tools that are below, as I’ve used them at the craft center for this specific purpose. I know how to tune an ocarina basically, and very well with a tuner present. I don’t really know how to make a wooden ocarina, so I’m going to be working on a clay one.
First I need to decide what tools I’ll use. I pick out some of the clay tools, then decide upon which pre-made mould ( an egg shaped lump of hardened clay that will form the inside of the ocarina) I want to use.
The clay is cut from the block, then kneaded to get rid of the bubbles and flattened with a rolling pin. Then I cut the clay and form it around the mould I’ve made. If the clay doesn’t feel even around the mould, I’ll add more. Next is shaving off more clay to make it less lumpy. It’s always difficult to determine when to stop–the more I shave off, the less structurally sound the end product will be (and the harder the next steps will be) the less I shave off, the more uneven the ocarina is, which can cause problems in firing.
Once I’ve got a basic mould set up, I cut the ocarina in two, and decide upon a “bottom” half. I construct and attach the mouthpiece. If the hole for the mouthpiece isn’t big enough, I have to make it bigger and recut. If the hole cut for the mouthpiece is too big I have to add more clay. A small square hole is cut where the popsicle stick meets the shell.
The hardest part comes in making the wedge that splits the air from the mouthpiece to create the sound. This often takes at least half an hour of evaluating, making decisions about how to fix it, and proceeding from there. Often the sides will not be straight enough, or the actual wedge will need to be reformed, or realigned.
The last bit is putting the two halves together, sealing it, smoothing out the edges with more clay, and then cutting the finger holes. During this whole step the wedge will need to be realigned, reshaped, and sometimes the entire ocarina is unsalvageable.
Since this is just a simple ocarina for myself, whether or not it played was my final analysis. I wasn’t too interested in tuning it this time, as I’ll do that later once it’s hardened more.
Making oboe reeds
When I was younger I played the oboe (I still can by the way) and an important part of the oboe is the reed. A good reed can be the difference between a nice sound coming out of your oboe or a bad one. It can also make a difference in what way you need to play the oboe. A thick reed requires more blowing strength from the player then a thinner reed. However, the thickness of the reed has an influence on the sound but also the lifespan of the reed. One can say that a reed is therefore a very personal part of the musical instrument and that is also why many oboe players make their own reed. Truth be told, I haven’t done this in a very very long time but that is also the reason why I want to focus on this for my design challenge, to hopefully regain some of the knowledge I lost. I will analyze this practice using the Keller & Keller text. Keller and Keller quote Wertsch saying the following:
Our research focuses primarily on the interrelations of knowledge and action as individual phenomena, although the inclusion of individual action within a larger activity system requires that we can draw on both social and routine elements. From this perspective neither the human organism nor the external world is solely responsible for developing knowledge about the world (Wertsch, 1981, p. 38).
In a different publication by Janice E. Fournier called How a Creative “System” Learns: The Distributed Activity of Choreography, the author goes into Keller and Keller also implicitly referring to the quote above. Fournier states that most studies investigate how individuals or groups of individuals coordinate their activities in accomplishing routine tasks or solving well-defined problems. Keller and Keller however, as can be read in the quote, see practitioners engage in iterative processes of visualizing goals, planning a means for creating those goals in form and acting on the plan with a mind open to alterations and new ideas as the form evolves. In this creative system, activity is distributed across the practitioner and specific tools and structures in his environment (Fournier, 2012).
Thus, to discuss how a reed is being made, how I have made reeds is to discuss and analyze the creative system. So we need to know how activity is distributed across the practitioner and specific tools and structures in my environment. Knowledge is simultaneously a prerequisite and a consequence of action and action is like a prerequisite and a consequence of knowledge (Keller & Keller, 1994). One leading statement for me to get a grip of this analysis will be from Leont’ev stating that the internal mental order is continually transformed by external actions and their material constituents and results.
To make an oboe reed prior knowledge is necessary. The first time I made a reed was during a workshop. The workshop lasted several weeks and was being taught by an oboe teacher and reed maker. The prior knowledge you need is not only about reed making but also about oboe. For one, this is because the reed has a specific function, it is necessary to play the oboe. Two, the reed needs to be personalized. Person A prefers a different reed than person B and thus you need knowledge about the instrument but also about the client. Usually you are your own client. Reeds are not made on a large scale and usually not for others. When you are a beginner at oboe playing you can buy reeds from your teacher. He or she has made the reeds, and luckily also knows you a bit so the reed is somewhat personalized to your needs.
During the workshop however I was confronted with a set of tools and materials I did not know well. Scrapers, specific kinds of wood, lines etc. I had years of playing the oboe though and also of using reeds so I had a mental image of what a reed was supposed to be like. Not only how it was supposed to look like, but also function and feel like. However, now I had to bend the wood, and make the cork. How far can I bend it? When does it break? These are especially points where material constituents and external actions (such as by my oboe teacher) interrelate with my internal mental order. A workshop is of course the perfect place for this. In a way a workshop is the place to question the internal and external, it is a place to experiment and learn.
A big part of making a reed is scraping. You need to scrape the cork but also the reed itself. Scrape too much and the cork might not fit and/or the reed becomes too weak. But scrape too little and it becomes too hard to play (and the cork still does not fit!). So here we have a constant evaluation in progress. A reciprocal process between crystallization and finalizing. My teacher would of course advice on what to do, but the teacher can only do so much. It almost becomes like an actor network, where all these actors play a role; the material, the teacher, the tool, you yourself. Human and non-human actors all playing their part in the ongoing process. Already we see a creative system where activity is distributed across the practitioner and specific tools (like the scraper, the wood etc.) and structures in his environment (such as the teacher).
For a period of a few years in the mid-2000s, I made and sold craft clothing items. I wanted to learn about screen printing, but the need for emulsion and other chemicals seemed too complicated, so I started making my own stencils.
The look of stencils is usually a bit rougher and more “amateur”-looking than screen prints. There are also some connotations with homemade activist clothing (i.e. the ubiquitous Che Guevara shirts) and posters, as well as graffiti. It’s a craft for people who don’t want their final object to look clean and professional and who want the ability to make a series of prints.
Although I learned the basics of screen printing in a high school art class, I taught myself how to make stencil prints by using internet tutorials and trial and error. I’ve never personally seen another person perform this process. People new to this process will inevitably make errors when designing the stencil because all of your “negative” space must be connected (in each single color process). Because I’ve done this many times, I’ve learned to carefully analyze my design before I start cutting because repairs are difficult.
Since I no longer sell my crafts, my current goal would be to make myself a print or clothing item. I could choose my subject based on my personal likes or to express an opinion. If I don’t have to sell a print, the standards will be a bit lower, as I am probably more accepting of imperfections and mistakes if I’m not charging money.
Finances: Finances are rarely a consideration, since stenciling is a very inexpensive craft, costing only a few dollars per item.
Materials: Paint (varies based on what is being printed), plastic, a good Exacto knife. These are supplies I keep on hand and are easily obtained.
Skills: The most important skill in this process is the design (considering positive and negative space) and the ability to make fine cuts through the plastic with the knife. The paint application requires almost no skill.
Standards: Although my own standards are probably not as high as the “craft community,” I would still attempt to create something that looked good enough to post/share online. Looking at the work of others and comments from the community would inform my perception of quality.
Decisions: There isn’t a lot of room to change decisions once you start cutting, so the design process is critical.
The first step is decide on an image that will lend itself to a high-contrast (black and white) conversion. Because of applications like Photoshop, it’s easy to test out different images. I need to analyze if there are “floating” negative spaces that I would need to connect in my stencil. If I’ve chosen a good image and made the necessary alterations, the stenciling process will be much easier.
Next, I print my image and begin cutting out the black areas with my knife. This part of the process requires the most manual dexterity, but not much decision-making. I’ll need to make decisions if I’ve made a mistake in the design process (or if I’ve made a mistake with the knife). If there’s a “floating” area that I’ve missed or a weak connection, I’ll need to figure out and attempt a fix. I might need to start over with the design process.
There are usually two points of evaluation:
1. After the image has been printed (does it look right in black/white contrast? Is it still identifiable? Will it be too difficult to cut?)
2. After I’ve applied paint and removed the stencil. This is the last step of the process, so if I’m not happy with the way it looks, I need to determine if it’s a design flaw, a poorly cut stencil (i.e. jagged edges), or the paint seeping under the stencil. In this case I would use the “academic standards” to determine whether I will need to start again (from the beginning or from a later step in the process).
Once I’ve completed the process until I’ve “passed” the evaluation, I’ll have a stenciled item (and a stencil that can be used many more times).
Google, Wikipedia, Instructables… We tend to use our computer as a magic oracle that knows everything. By doing so, we may tend to give
it too much trust, while loosing a part of our critical thinking, and passively accetping its all mighty knowledge.
I propose to redesign a random electronic kit, but pretty badly prepared : no instruction, missing resistors or too many of them. To
counterbalance these complications, I suggest a radical approach : to empower even more the computer. It knows the instructions to build
the kit, but you need to convince it you’re worthy enough to get the next instruction by showing your technical skills, their improvement
and by building your intuitive understanding of the materials you are using.
Various levels of complexity / difficulty / degree of interaction can be used depending on the user, its level, etc.
- A good part of the componenets required for the kit
- “Useless” extra components
- Prebuild arduino board for measuring resitance/capacitance/inductance
Technical implementation / Interaction description
The prebuild arduino board should be used as a cheap multimeter that can be interfaced with the custom software.
The custom software will first prompt the user with some clear instructions on how to start soldering the kit.
Quickly, the user will reach a point where a component needed is not present as if, or even worse, the computer wont ask for a precise
component, but instead will only give hints of what is needed : a bigger resistance, a smaller inductance … The user will have then to
“build” the component himself by assembling parts from the “useless” extra components, and use the arduino board to ask the computer if
he’s getting closer of what’s needed.
The user is free to use part from outside the kit to achieve the goal. He might try with everyday life objects : piece of copper,
graphite, conductive ink, aluminum.
I can see a couple of interesting reasons of building the kit this way. First, the user will gain an intuitive and informal knowledge of
the material he can use. Not only he can assmemble new pieces in a creative way, but there is also a new learning curve, for using various
parts (electronic, or not) in an unconventional manner. This idea is closer to the intimate knowledge of the material used by the craftman
versus a cold and mathematical count of colorful stripes on a resistor.
There are other learning paths for the user who doesn’t want to follow blindly the all-mighty computer : you can either improve your
knowledge of the inner working of the kit you’re building, so that you break free from the instructions all-together, or on the opposite
side of the spectrum, improve your knowledge of the inner working of the arduino/softaware tool we propose, and defeat it by building a new
tool that would go through all the expected values and therefore to unlock all the instructions.
In any case, the user must be more creative than if he were following a classical instruction manual, and learn from this experience,
which was the intended goal of the kit.
Inspiration and possible examples
Here is the Instructable for last term’s Sand Tones project – now aptly titled Craft Cymatics.
The purpose of this kit is to allow for maximum creative control, while using the affordances of computer software to aid in the design process. Making the top of a patchwork quilt with squares of fabric requires little sewing skill. Essentially, the quiltmaker simply sews a series of straight line to join each square in a row, and then join the rows together. For that reason, I have not made alterations to the actual construction process.
The real craft of making a patchwork quilt is the design process: selecting fabrics and creating a pattern (simple or complex) to complement the color and print. The pattern making process includes determining the sequence, size and shape of the fabric squares. For this reason, this kit would include more fabric squares (in a wide variety of colors and prints) than necessary. Since the creation of the pattern is what I consider to be the critical skill in quilting, it would not be provided to the user. Simple directions would be provided to explain the construction process, but not a specific sequence of squares.
The digital component in this kit is provided by a software program that assists the user in the creation and alteration of the pattern. The analog design method would be to use graph paper and colored pencils. It’s a fine method, but difficult to make changes, experiment, and get a good sense of the finished product with simple markings. With the computer, the quilter could scan or photograph fabric swatches, creating digital fabric squares that are true to life. The program could use algorithms to generate symmetrical designs based on several rows designed by the user. With a few simple clicks, multiple squares can be swapped and changed, making the design process much faster.
3D Wooden Puzzle Craft Kit
Kit components (what we get from store):
wooden pieces, sand paper, instruction, glue
1. take wooden pieces out
2. make the wooden pieces smooth with sand paper
3. follow the instruction to assemble the pieces
4. fix it with glue
3D Wooden Puzzle Craft Kit Redesign
unfinished wooden pieces, sand paper, instruction, glue
And new components
saw, sanding sealer (a lacquer or other coating formulated to give better filling than the topcoat products), digital paint gun, paint (colors), rubbing compound, swirl mark remover, polishing compound
Rubbing Compound and Polishing Compound
Digital Paint Gun
Digital Paint Gun
Digital paint gun can do color mixing and teach people how to paint on wood. The gun contains a couple of different paint colors inside and it will mix them to give the color that people want. The proportion of the colors will be shown on the screen of the gun so people learn how to match such color. As people painting, the camera on the gun will monitor their work and give people suggestion if some paint problem is detected. Mixed reality technology will be used here to point the problem spot to people so they can get it in an easy way.
1. cut the wooden pieces with saw
2. make the wood pieces smooth with sand paper
3. make the wood pieces smoother with sanding sealer
4. paint with digital paint gun and let the color settle down
5. put rubbing compound and swirl mark remover
6. use polishing compound
7. follow the instruction to assemble the pieces
8. fix it with glue
By playing with new craft kit, people learn the basic procedures and skills to make wooden craft.
Below our scribbles from the Keller and Keller text – to guide your practice analysis for next week:
Based on our breakdown of the Keller & Keller text.
Find one practice you feel comfortable with and analyze it using Keller&Keller. What are the actions? What is the actions’ “emergent quality” that evolves from the activity system you are looking at? What knowledge is applied and altered in the process? At what stage is an “umbrella plan” defined? On what grounds is that plan made? What are the ingredients of that plan?
I would suggest to use the outline and key words we discussed in class to guide your analysis. This is meant to let us develop the method which we will apply to our analysis of an existing craft practice in the foreseeable future. So if you find a problem in the Keller & Keller approach and can provide an improvement – by all means.
Makers have more opportunities than ever before to put together almost anything they can dream of from a kit of parts. They assemble these pre-fabricated parts and components from directions, and ultimately have a working product. But is it a craft?
This project works in the tradition of such kits, providing directions and parts for the maker to assemble. The goal is to whittle an egg from a piece of wood. Wiring electrical components creates the feedback mechanism that steers whittlers toward an outcome. But unlike kits ordered from Sparkfun, Maker:Shed and other DIY supply shops, assembling the electrical components does not itself constitute a finished product.The maker must exercise patience and manual skill manipulating wooden materials with a knife.
The hope here is that digital components mentor amateur crafters toward a tacit understanding of the raw materials they manipulate with tools. Whittling is a simple handicraft amenable to this sort of digital intervention. Newcomers to whittling usually undertake this simple project first: fashion an egg from a block of wood. The task reveals the responsiveness of wood to the force of a knife. The wood grain, the choice between a push or a pull stroke, and the wood’s hardness all have to be negotiated in this beginner’s project. The use of specialized tools is a contentious point among whittlers. Purists consider a sharp pocket knife the only suitable option since anything specialized reconstitute the practice as carving. They also reject the use of stainless steel knives, since they cannot be suitably sharpened.
Whittling is undertaken by individuals slowly passing time. As such it resists ever being subsumed by mechanization since this would remove whittling’s essential context. Master whittlers who find faces in fallen branches will never be “workers” in Rissati’s sense, since the spontaneous discovery of form with natural materials is never “simply labor produced by the non-creative hand.” Craftsmanship “depends on the judgement, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works.” This kit helps the amateur acquire a sensitivity to the relationship between material, tool and form, so that better judgement, dexterity and care can be applied to more ambitious projects in the future.
A block of balsa wood has a hollow core. Into this core we’ll insert a dowel with 3 notches on three facets, for a total of 9 notches. Into these notches, the maker will affix small and inexpensive hall effect sensors. These sensors act as proximity sensors for ferrous materials. When the steel (an iron alloy) knife comes within a calibrated distance to the sensor from outside the wood, the sensor will trigger a small vibration actuator that shakes the egg. This tells the whittler that the cut in this particular area is deep enough, and that it is time to move on to another area to shape the egg. Once the egg has been fashioned on all sides, the core can be removed. The end product contains no electronic parts. The wiring acts as tutor, and provides feedback to guide the amateur’s exploration.
Design challenge: This assignment builds on a combination of Dormer, Risatti, and McCullough. McCullough particularly calls for a “defense of skill” and Dormer (and others) discuss the difference between assembly and craft in a comparable way. Between following rules, which could be done by a machine, vs creative making, which depends on the personal investment and skill.
Your design challenge is in-between these poles: present a kit of prepared items and simple to follow rules toward a specific object, but (re)design this kit in such a way that one specific skill is not replaced by the materials and manuals at hand. Include a digital component in that kit.
The Project that I would like to pitch for our midterm builds off my previous design challenge for the Sean Curran Dance Company. I want to suggest explorations of the Disney Research Touche system for applications beyond HCI gesture-detection. I wish to examine this technology in areas of human and animal performance and in conjunction with feedback systems from other technologies like computer vision or actuation. The proposal consists of three parts:
- Building our own Touche system with Arduinos
- Testing Touche directly with alternative applications
- Experimenting with Touche feedback systems
Build a system
First we would build a couple of systems with the instructable about the Touche system: http://www.instructables.com/id/Singing-plant-Make-your-plant-sing-with-Arduino-/
Then we would thrash the system to determine its responsiveness, robustness, and noisyness. We would probably reimplment a lot of their gestural examples to see how it actually functions minus all the hype.
Once we have a better, tacit understand of how the device can work, we can try experimenting! Here are some suggestions I have thought of.
It will be interesting to incorporate feedback into the system. This can be done directly, as with the proposed puppetry idea where actuators would manipulate a plant to make the Touche sensor recognize a particular gesture. It can also be indirectly, where a performative system (like a human or animal) recieves the feedback from the sensor (like in sonification) and the system alters itself accordingly.
Two interesting technologies to tie in would be, actuation and computer vision. The CV and Touche system could readily augment each other since they collect complementary data.
This performance explores the interplay of weight and lightness to reimagine the construction of heavenly bodies as products of collaborative movement on earth. As dancers perform a set piece involving their interactions with each other on stage, a digital intervention captures traces of their position and saves them above the stage as astral objects with subtle movements of their own.
Stars are composed of the same material components as our bodies: carbon, oxygen, and metallic elements. The idea that mysterious elements of outer space arise from dancers’ movement on earth is something the audience can ponder while watching the performance unfold.
Modern dance embraces a dancer’s contact with the floor, liberated from ballet’s formal restrictions of ascension into space. Thus, contact with the earth that generates ascending digital forms is made more salient through a juxtaposition of process and product.
Dancers are outfitted in form-fitting costumes featuring spots of color at five different points on their body: on the feet/ankles, hands and pelvis. Each dancer sports a different color.
Using computer vision, a camera tracks the movement of these color groups as dancers move through space. When the dancer makes a swift upward movement, the acceleration of these points will cross a computational threshold and trigger the generation of digital forms: A projection mapped to the stage appears to throw these five points into the sky from these points on the dancer’s body.
This action generates a digital form with physical properties, allows it to move gently about the space as if it were a constellation in the night sky. Existing constellations can fade as new ones are generated from movements below.
This framework is extensible. Sound can play when constellations are generated, becoming gradually less intense as they fade. Dancers are able to generate the set for their performance as a result of set movements. Exploiting the inaccuracies of computer vision tracking, the resulting night sky appears different with every performance no matter how consistently the phrases of movement persist.
On our call, Elizabeth Giron emphasized the importance of problem solving in the choreography process. She referred to it as a “verbal problem turned into a movement problem.”
Two components of “Force of Circumstance” inspired this proposal:
- making movement accumulate (as Elizabeth demonstrated with her S phrase).
- The accumulation aspect reminded me of a looper, a device usually used for music and sound design. Loopers have been adapted to video for use in dance performances (Movement Looper at MIT or Dance Loops at Utah Valley University)
- spatial counterpoint
- Sean Curran’s emphasis on clean lines, body shape and linearity reminded me of an animation made for Issey Miyake’s APOC collection in 2007 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4_mK9CebB4). The animation is a loop of 3D tracking data from a walking model. Her joints are represented by white dots on a black background, with lines occasionally joining the dots in a variety of patterns, some resembling shapes of the body and Issey’s clothing, some more abstract.
This digital intervention would combine looping with minimalist skeleton tracking.
Kinect and Laptop with skeleton tracking application that can map at least 13 points/joints
Wireless device (worn by dancer to start and stop recording a loop)
The dancers’ movements are tracked with dots, using the tracking application:
The dancers can start and stop recording a loop with a wireless device. Using the laptop, lines can be drawn, connecting dots within one dancers “skeleton,” or the lines can connect the same joint on multiple dancers.
Since Sean is “a hawk for detail” and gives much consideration to line and shape, I wanted to give him and his dancers a platform to highlight his choreography. By turning the dancers’ bodies in points and lines that can be reshaped and manipulated, the technology provides thousands of relationships between parts of one body and parts of many bodies. It’s a new kind of exploration of body shape and movement.
1. Set up Processing application that maps sound pitch, volume, pan, and timing to motion detection (video camera delta will work for this).
2. Point the camera at the performance.
3. Start the Processing application.
4. Offer the resulting real-time audio as a new way to experience the show’s fast and slow bursts, follow shifts of energy locations on-stage, and types of movements by dancers.
Iteration would be required to achieve the types of tones and timings desired by the team. The present pre-alpha version of the software is for demonstration purposes only, and at this time mostly reflects that tone, pitch, and amplitude can be made a function of total motion detected (frame differences) within different areas of the camera.
Experimentation with how to “play” any given motion-to-audio mapping could promote different types of exploratory movements. In addition to providing an optional audio dimension to the movements, conceivably with enough improvement this design could provide a way for visitors with severe vision disabilities to enjoy the pacing and stage action of the performance – roughly similar in principle to the aquarium research across the hall from DWIG.
For my design concerning our visit with the Sean Curran Dance Company, I propose a simple system for identifying and responding to the individual poses of the dancers. As described by Elizabeth Giron, their company focuses on experimental grammars of movement but within a highly formalistic setting. There is minimal stage design or additional props, and the focus always seems to be on the synthesis of the music and the ritualized actions of the participants. I sought to design a system for recognizing full body gestures without interfering with the dancers’ movements.
The first concept to spring to mind, was to use a computer vision system. In a highly controlled environment, like the standard sized theater on which they typically perform, several different types of computer vision systems could be calibrated to perform quite well. A generic 2D system could segment the background and foreground, and try to infer dance poses based upon matching the profiles of the dancers to pre-determined models. This could function in a somewhat responsive way, but the granularity of its detections would be poor. More sophisticated setups could synthesize the input from multiple camera arrays to capture 3 dimensional data, but this also significantly increases the cost of the setup, the complexity of the processing, and its sensitivity to the original calibration. Cheap devices like the kinect could be used, which also help automate the process of skeleton finding and pose estimation for humans. The sensing range of the kinect, however is quite limited, and it is also designed to estimate poses for only 1-2 humans at a time. In all the mentioned computer vision concepts, you also run into lots of problems when one dancer occludes the other from the camera’s visual range, or when they intertwine or connect bodies. Moving props will also interfere with the vision. Another problem with the computer vision approach is scalability. Most systems that work with 1-2 people well, (like the kinect) will not transfer this ability to larger crowds. If the spatial dimensions of the performance area change, this will also result in a needed recalibration, or recoding of the processing.
Haptic Gestural Recognition
We could also outfit our dancers in specially designed clothing, which detected the kinestetic movements of the wearers. Many ideas, like power-glove style concepts, have been implemented in the past. This method ties the performative device to the user’s particular outfit however, and thus is poorly scalable, and requires re-implementation for different clothing. Also the coverage of the sensors determines the effectiveness of the device. Thus you have a trade-off between expense, sensor density, full body coverage, and freedom of movement and dress.
Swept Frequency Capacitance
Disney Research recently released an impressive demo describing a relatively new method for identifying poses. Whereas most systems (like the computer vision) always first attempt to track the position individual segments of a target object (like a body, or hand), and use this tracking data to determine the current pose, Disney’s new Touché system determines gestures and poses without regard to spatial positioning. Instead they send an array of small currents through the human body at several different frequencies. The different frequencies penetrate the body in different ways when the body is in different poses. Thus you can build a profile for each individual pose, and when this specific profile is reached you know that the body is assuming this particular pose. The best part about this product is that the only interface between the human and the machine are two simple electrodes taped to parts of his or her body. The small microprocessor needs to be carried with the performer, but its apportage is not fixed to a specific spot on the body. The data can also be sent wirelessly from this device to the master computer.
The main problem with this approach was that due to its novelty, few people knew how to implment such a device. Luckily, a clever hacker posted a series of instructables illustrating how to enact the Touche system with an arduino and a few additional components! http://www.instructables.com/id/Touche-for-Arduino-Advanced-touch-sensing/
Thus I propose that we build some wireless, Touche systems of our own, connect them to dancers and begin to play. Interesting points to consider will be:
- For full body gesture detection, where are the optimal locations for attaching the electrodes? Wrist and opposing ankle?
- How sensitive is the device to these gestures, what kind of fine granulatiry of pose and movement can be achieved?
- What intelligent, expressive ways can we attach the two other elements featured in the dance, light and sound, to this device?
- What happens when two performers contact each other? Presumably this would scramble the gesture recognition, but could also lead to quite interesting results.
Also as a bonus, this final application in the video is where you can see a glimpse into the sad, overworked lives of the creators (embedded video below queued up to the correct time):
The ecosystem I am studing is the DM Program at Georgia Tech.
The system is characterized by asymetry in terms of interest between different types of actors. The following proposels are performative interventions that aim to amplify communication between the actor types and to provide a better work together atmosphere:
1. DM Message Cleaner
A modified Intelligent Robot Cleaning device is not only constantly cleaning offices, classrooms and the hallways in the DM program, but also delivers Messages via a Text-to-speech generator, which Actors of the DM Program uploaded anonymously via a online portal.
2. DM Symposium
The DM Symposium is a collaborative project of everyone in the DM Project. The goal of the project is to develop within a year a transdisciplinary event that utilizes all core strengths of all actors in one big event, that last over 3 days and is open to the public. The overarching theme is the mergence of theory and practice.
3. DM Carnival
The DM Carnival is a yearly event of two weeks where all actors in the DM program which there roles for two weeks. The role selections happens by random, a computer makes the selection. The actors have to run a diary of their experience for the whole two weeks online (video, text, audio, etc.), which makes sure that nothing is going to be edited afterwards.
After the DM Carnival is over the data gets presented on a permanent Installation at the entrance of the 3rd Floor office area to remind everyone about the different perspectives inscribed in the system. The goal of the annual tradition is to provide the actors with a sensibility for their different roles. This is an entirely internal event, which contributes to the inner psychological stability and balance of the system. Additionally the carnival is a wonderful opportunity to do things the way they think they are supposed to be done.
The supermarket brings together a vast and different variety of different products and life which is prepared for human consumption in a way which has become a complex system of codes and conventions. These conventions are rarely considered by the consumer unless the delivery method is slightly changed. This is heightened by trying to purchase different products in different countries. For example, in Spain: fruit is weighted and measured by the consumer whom then organises the price tag from a ticket machine. This makes someone from a country where the convention is different to that experience the purchase in a whole new light.
Supermarket Sweep attempts to take the environment of the supermarket and push this concept one step further. Key elements that can be changed are the different products, the staff and the customers themselves. Products can be changed by turning dead produce into live produce: In the eggs section, there will be a thousand live chickens, all running around inside a fridge display cabinet. In the vegetable section the veg will be still subterranean or live on trees, potatoes in the ground and grapes still on the vine. People would have to pick what they want as if they were farming it.
The key environmental components to be explored in this study are the customers and the staff which are substituted by actors, turing the supermarket into both a playground and theatre. Staff declaring undying love for each other on the public address system and asking other customers to find colleges for them to ask them to marry them. Customers having fights, arguments and general drama in the isles. People performing magic tricks in different food sections… like turning the eggs into chickens. Trolly races being declared on the public address that will be coming down certain isles and around certain corners. Juggling acts with tins of food.
Performers will then gather at the exit and hold out contribution boxes and thanking customers for attending the show, all in an attempt to change perception of the environment from that of a supermarket to anything but a supermarket.
For my ecosystem I chose (big suprise) an ant hill. The target I had for my performances was to create interactions that manipulated the creatures’ environment and individual roles on a daily basis. The inspiration was partially from the film “Dark City” where a group of mysterious others experiments on a city of humans by reshaping the lives, memories, and environment while the humans sleep.
The other half of inspiration came from a part in Niko Tinbergen’s book, “Curious Naturalists,” where he re-arranges the local environment of some insects to deceive their homing capabilities.
Therefore, I wanted human/digital/ and ant interactions which were split between day and night. During the day, at the height of ant-interaction, the digital “other” should primarily observe and sense. Then, when the ants return at night to their colony, the digital and human components re-arrange the outside world based on their earlier observations.
I came up with 3 performance ideas based on this concept.
- 1) The ants’ trails around the entrance are recorded and tracked during the day. This input generates a new route for the human on her daily commute.
- 2) The ants’ trails around the entrance are recorded and tracked during the day. The observing/tracking digital device then squirts a viscous liquid which hardens into ant-height cylinders over all the trails. The movements of the ants during the day, are recreated as walls during the night, forcing the ants to constantly re-think new, optimal paths. This could be accomplished with a peristaltic pump: http://vimeo.com/13532728#at=0
- 2 alt) Instead of squirting out walls, the ants are surrounded by a mesh of actuated dowels forming a grid. The dowels raise or lower depending on the day’s interactions. The more movement in an area, the higher the dowel. This also forms the walls mentioned before, but he daily routes do not accumulate.
- 3) Tiny cheap robots (linked bristlebots with sensors), are scattered around the ants’ nest. They record proximity in 3 directions. High proximity is mapped semantically to high levels of ant-interaction. At night, bots with low interaction, re-arrange themselves, while high-ones freeze.
For do-ability reasons in a short time-scale, I decided to elaborate on the 3rd option.
The Robot City
Our robot obstacles are based off the cheaply locomotable “bristle bots”
A power source is connected to a vibrating motor (a motor with an offset weight), and motion goes into the phalanges triggering movement. Here are the additions to create interactive, shifting buildings for the ants in the project. Three bristlebots will be tied together for semi-directable motion. Each bristlebot will be connected to a cheap proximity sensor. The bristlebot’s amount of movement will be regulated by the amount of interactions it receives during the day through close-proximity to ants. Areas of high-interaction will move less, than those of low interaction. This will result in dramatic interruptions to whatever the ant’s optimized routes for the previous day were. The bots will be housed in small building facades to reinforce the “shifting city” concept to outside human observers.
The bots could be optionally made by attaching the vibrator to a pinecone or other natural element in the ants’ world.