Interactive Digital Media

Unreal Tournament Art
Second Life Art

Ideas for trips …

piksel - December 4-7 2008 Bergen, Norway - Festival for free/libre & open source audiovisual software, hardware & art. There's nothing up yet about this years event, but have a look at the 2007 pages to get a flavour …

STRP - April 2-13 2009 (but main event over the first weekend) Eindhoven, Netherlands - Art & Technology - robotics / music / visuals / interactive art. (not much on the website yet)

Transmediale - 28 January – 1 February 2009 Berlin - digital arts & culture - also, Club Transmediale events - electronic music & visuals

WRO media art biennale - 5 - 10 May 2009 Wroklaw, Poland - video and computer art, installations, performances and multimedia presentations

bTween - 10 - 12 June 2009 Liverpool & Manchester - interactive media industry forum

DorkSnow - still in the planning stages. Likely to be at the end of January / beginning of February. This is a DIY event and will likely feature workshops in electronics and programming, and presentations.

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22 October 2008 - More Show and Tell

We looked at a few more things brought in by the group, including this really beautiful interactive installation which Jia showed us:

I am always very impressed when somebody manages to programme "stuff" (sand, water etc.) rather than objects. I'm not sure even how it's done, and would love to find out. My only tiny criticism of this piece is that "WaterBoard" is a slightly unfortunate name!

Jared said this was similar in some ways to a Microsoft physics simulation tool he had seen. I think, having googled around a bit, that this is what he was talking about …

which is very similar to this game which my son likes to play …

Ok, now I want that sun to make things sticky and melted, I want the wind to blow, and I want everything in the game to get grotty and dusty over time :-)

Somebody else (so sorry can't remember who it was) showed this physical interactive lightwork by United Visual Artists at the V&A …

Nosing around their website, I also found an evolution piece they had developed for a competition at the Natural History Museum:


"United Visual Artists (along with nine artists including Mark Wallinger, Rachel Whiteread and Mark Fairington) were shortlisted to create an artwork for the ceiling of the Natural History Museum, as part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. UVA’s proposal demonstrates Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection in action. A computer simulation of evolution covers the ceiling with an intricate forest of abstract “plants”, which are manufactured using rapid-prototyping technology, then fixed to the ceiling. In the center of the ceiling, a single light mimics the sun, towards which the complex ecosystem grows."

I was slightly disappointed that the piece doesn't evolve in real-time, but lovely, nonetheless.

15 October 2008: Show and Tell


In order to encourage a bit more group discussion, we each brought in a link to something we found interesting, inspiring or relevant to our projects. I showed SpectrumAtlas - an interactive map of the electromagnetic spectrum, charting the various bandwidths used by different services, coupled with embedded content on a range of artistic projects which make use of the EM spectrum. My initial reason for showing this was that I think web-based art doesn't generally get a very good press, and I think this is a nice example of web curation. I also think that the EM spectrum has a certain poetic quality to it, similar in a way to listening to the shipping forecast - I find it fascinating to find, among the bands dedicated to mobile phones and broadcasting, tiny narrow bands dedicated to space-to-earth communications, and amateur use.

I am still having difficulty with thinking about art in relation to design. Several of the group commented that as an EM map it wasn't particularly user-friendly, whereas I don't think this is really the point of the piece. If you wanted an easy-to-use map of the EM spectrum, you wouldn't use this, which is essentially an art piece.


SpectrumAtlas is not directly relevant to my project, however some of the embedded art projects are. In particular, I really like Usman Haque's Sky Ear - "a glowing "cloud" of mobile phones and helium balloons is released into the air so that people can dial into the cloud and listen to the sounds of the sky".


Another project, a prototype of which is featured in SpectrumAtlas, is Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Frequency and Volume, which is currently being shown at the Barbican's Curve Gallery. Visitors "tune in" to various EM frequencies by moving their bodies through the exhibition space. I like the physicality of this installation.

Catherine showed us a site of film archives which is relevant to what she wants to make. She wants to allow comments and discussion on her site, but to retain some control over moderation of comments so that discussion remains intelligent. This is always a thorny issue on open submission sites, whether in terms of content (Wikipedia, YouTube, IndyMedia) or just in terms of public commentary (BBC, newspaper websites).

Young showed us a project he likes for street-lighting which reacts to ambient light so that on bright moonlit nights the streetlighting will not blot out the moon and stars. I think this is a lovely idea but not really suitable for street-lighting, simply from a safety point of view (bright moons cast deep shadows). I think this idea would work very well for garden lighting or perhaps for camping trips.

8 October 2008: Technology into Art

- Tate Modern Triennale 2009 will focus on new media

- Into the Pixel (video game art) … exhib of concept drawings and screenshots for video games. We didn't think it worked as either art or design. Interesting discussion on art v's design - both must consider audience but have different agendas … design aims to make things (appear to be) simple, while art can be deliberately difficult.

- nano art - algorithmic web art … all presented as still images which is dissatisfying. Is it art or just pattern-making? I am interested in the later examples of 3d real-world sculptures - will look at how closely they stuck to proceedural algorithms and to what extent they were "interpreted" like the painting.

… actually, looking at these, they are not algorithmic art at all - they are pieces based on nanotechnological images, e.g. electron microscopy. Outside of an art context, these could have practical benefits in scientific settings.

- Wiz Kid at MOMA … animatronic screen-based interface, mimics user's emotion by copying head movements. tracks hand. made to look a bit "cute" (made me think a bit of "uncanny valley" phenomenon)

- Langlands & Bell: The House of Osama Bin Laden … 3D virtual model of last place he was known to be. Emptiness. Not many interactive elements, just a walk thru. I think this might have been the point … he's gone, there's nothing there and nothing you can do. Interested in why they went virtual for this piece as not their usual way of working.


Jared told us about a potential live project - don't know much yet, but it will involve sensors and light/projection. Sounds relevant to what I am doing. Difficult to know where to take it without knowing about the space and the projected material.

1 October 2008: Games … a new medium?

A slideshow lecture covering the use of new technologies in design and the arts over the centuries. Things which particularly interested me -

  • the process of abstraction in game visuals and in art. I think childrens drawings fit into this model as well - when they are very young and compose beautifully, using the space of the paper well, but drawing with symbols (stick men, house with chimney and smoke etc.), rather than trying to mimic reality, and that this phase is analogous to early 2D games with simple, symbolic landscapes and characters (e.g. pac-man)
  • "non-literal use of data" - this is a good description of what I try to do. I want to create a system made from parts which feed on an as yet undetermined source of data. The parts, and the system as a whole, could look like (or sound like etc.) absolutely anything, depending on how I use that data.

- Lego Digital Designer … build with virtual bricks then order the bricks you need for the model online. Set up for collaborative building.

- juvenile industry, less than 30 yrs old.
- sometimes ignores experience of older industries while trying to achieve similar goals.

- new media gain social acceptance by emulation of pre-existing media; e.g. theatre emulates painting (narrative informative purpose, window onto narrative, frame=stage, 1 way non-interactive); film emulates theatre (camera replaces audience); TV emulates film (more solitary experience, also TV set=picture frame); games emulate TV and Film (violence is instantly understandable visible reaction to user's actions … also, male dominated industry for largely male audience … boys like blowing stuff up!).

- new technologies emulate old ones but try to do it faster, better or cheaper.

- new technologies within painting … perspective in Renaissance allowed greater realism.
- new technologies within materials … early plastics used to cheaply emulate expensive materials … celluloid collars (linen), parkesine pool balls (ivory), bakelite coffins (wood).
- new technologies within games … greater processing power allows 3D modelling; dedicated graphics chips allow more complex geometries, bump mapping and normal mapping in real-time. Bump mapping "implies" greater detail. Bump mapping = 1 static light source, Normal mapping = multiple light sources, many layers of bump map info.

- commercial reality v's aesthetic idealism … film producers & software publishers are too aware of how to emulate old technologies, e.g. photoshop lens flare filter.
- huge financial investment leads to decrease in risk-taking.

- franchise v's originality
- franchise in films … good (Alien) or bad (Police Academy)
- Red & Blue … film/machinima - FPS characters turning into existential drama (ask about this)
- Creative thinking is only way to breathe life into franchises.

- how do new media & technologies establish a value beyond performance?
- by achieving things not viable in previous technologies
- abstraction/stylisation in video games … moving away from trying to mimic reality, e.g Vib Ribbon (PS1)
- similar path to abstraction in art.
- dissemination of creative thinking
- connecting things up, contextualising, rather than being expert in 1 particular technology.
- public perception of design … 80's Thatcherism … "designer" used as an adjective to denote expense, stopped talking about quality, started talking about cost.
- design as service industry
- named designers
- fashion business model … high concept + diffusion range

- creative thinking is vital for diversity of products and continued consumer interest
- creativity can come from a group with a shared vision as well as from a visionary individual.

- the way forward …
- abstraction v's naturalism
- non-literal uses of data
- new sensory stimulation … audio, touch, smell
- taking things beyond the screen, e.g. Philips ambilight, fans used to simulate wind.

- important to be selective and choose elements carefully.

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