Lecture 05: CrossTalk

We’ll talk in six rounds. In any round you’re either:

  • presenting your group’s work (informally – just talk around your blog content, plans for the project)
  • listening to another group, asking questions, giving feedback
  • talking to me (sorry, there’s an odd number of groups)

Combinations for each round below. Groups on the left are presenting (unless you’re talking to me) .

Round 1
Complex Adaptive Sound Deadline Music
Developing Multidimensional Objects Invisible Cities
Exploring Entropy Echo Locus
Field Poetics Illuminating the Imperceptible
Immersive Audio-Vision Dogme95
Private and Confidential Interlinking Cultures
Vlogging DMSP Owen
Round 2
Deadline Music Developing Multidimensional Objects
Dogme95 Private and Confidential
Echo Locus Complex Adaptive Sound
Illuminating the Imperceptible Immersive Audio-Vision
Interlinking Cultures Exploring Entropy
Invisible Cities Vlogging DMSP
Owen Field Poetics
Round 3
Complex Adaptive Sound Dogme95
Developing Multidimensional Objects Interlinking Cultures
Exploring Entropy Illuminating the Imperceptible
Field Poetics Deadline Music
Immersive Audio-Vision Invisible Cities
Private and Confidential Owen
Vlogging DMSP Echo Locus
Round 4
Deadline Music Private and Confidential
Dogme95 Vlogging DMSP
Echo Locus Immersive Audio-Vision
Illuminating the Imperceptible Developing Multidimensional Objects
Interlinking Cultures Field Poetics
Invisible Cities Exploring Entropy
Owen Complex Adaptive Sound
Round 5
Complex Adaptive Sound Invisible Cities
Developing Multidimensional Objects Owen
Exploring Entropy Deadline Music
Field Poetics Dogme95
Immersive Audio-Vision Interlinking Cultures
Private and Confidential Echo Locus
Vlogging DMSP Illuminating the Imperceptible
Round 6
Deadline Music Vlogging DMSP
Dogme95 Exploring Entropy
Echo Locus Developing Multidimensional Objects
Illuminating the Imperceptible Private and Confidential
Interlinking Cultures Complex Adaptive Sound
Invisible Cities Field Poetics
Owen Immersive Audio-Vision

In this session groups have ‘speed dated’ and had a chance to present their work and vision to other groups, and to give / receive feedback.

A couple of points to make about the process:

  1. Much of the process of presenting your work is about telling a story. By having gone over this story a couple of times today you’ll start to notice what changed between successive tellings: what got discarded as perhaps unimportant? What got emphasised. These are helpful cues both for presenting and for focusing your work.
  2. The process of telling will also alert you to aspects that aren’t as obvious as you thought, such as concepts that colleagues hadn’t encountered before, and so can alert you to how to present work to a general audience.
  3. In giving feedback you’ll have started to get an insight to where your peers are in their own work as well as the kinds of things that can get occluded or overlooked. Again, this provides a useful basis for reflecting on your own work.

Lecture 04 – Submission 1 Preparation

In the first part, we’ll look over the general submission requirements for the course. However, the main part of the session is about the groups working together to develop a clear(er) idea of what they need to do for submission 1 (and for the project more generally).

Submission 1

  • Submission requirements from DMSP course description
  • What we tell tutors
  • Peer assessment on WebPA

Group Activity: Where are you?

A sheep in a field
Taking the wool based analogies back to their, um, roots. Photo from www.flickr.com/photos/taylar/4523008984 (accessed 4/2/16) by Ingrid Taylar CC-Attibution license

The first activity is to allow the groups some space to step back and look at where things are. Is there consensus about what the submission will be? Is there a common understanding of what the supervisor is looking for?

Go over the following questions as a group:
  • What have you discussed with your tutors about submission 1?
  • Is this documented? If not, make a blog post now reflecting the group’s understanding, e.g.
    • General type of thing? (Installation etc.)
    • List of deliverables for submission? (Different blog posts covering different areas?)
  • If nothing has been discussed yet, then it’s your chance to get started. Document the following:
    • How many different ideas are there in the group?
    • Are they compatible?
    • How different are they?

Adding Detail, Gathering Materials

A sheep being sheared
Here I advance a tenuous analogy between sheep shearing and doing art. Photo from www.flickr.com/photos/shinyredtype/5750768916 (accessed 4/2/16) by Kat Selvocki, CC-Attribution-Noncommercial license.

The vision needs fleshing out. No, really, it does.

The more detail you have, the more able to anticipate the work remaining to be done; what might be challenging; what might be unachievable; what might be surprising / delightful.

Also, it’s part of working out your collective and individual relationships to the work, so you can be concious of what you want to get out of it and put in to it.

Let’s re-visit something we did in Week 2:

  1. What kind(s) of modality (e.g. hearing, seeing, touching) do you want to engage your audience with in your project?
  2. What kind(s) of technique (e.g. hacking, programming, modelling, recording) do you want to direct your energies at?
  3. What kind(s) of space (e.g. web, installation, stage, gallery, VR) will your project be experienced in?
  4. What kind(s) of time (e.g. fast/slow, static/dynamic, ephemeral/enduring) do you imagine your project articulating?

Group Activity

Add Detail:
  • Document the group’s responses to the above. It doesn’t matter if there are points of disagreement. Be as specific as possible.
  • Brainstorm what it is that you think these specific responses are offering to the project. For example: why sound-based work? Why is modelling going to be helpful?
  • Given your ideas so far: how are recipients / audiences of your work going to experience it? Will they be still or moving? Will they be silent or noisy? Will they be passive or active?
  • Do you have a rough list of equipment requirements yet? Have you documented it? If not, do so now! (e.g cameras, loudspeakers, cables etc.: at what points and for how long do you need them? Where do you need to use them?)
  • From your practical experiments so far, what research questions have emerged? Document these. I’d expect a minimum of one per group member.

Planning for Integration

Three women spinning wool.
I promise to stop with the wool-based analogies soon. Photo from commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_women_spinning_wool_to_knit_socks_for_soldiers_during_World_War_I_-_Tenterfield,_NSW,_ca._1915.jpg (accessed 4/2/16), public domain

Is the project going to be one intricate whole? An assemblage of different parts?

This is the trickiest aspect: DMSP projects can often stumble on this point if the challenges of bringing different strands of work together are underestimated (or not considered!) until too late!

The moment where all the work comes together for the first time is the start of the piece in earnest, not the completion.

As a variation of the 80-20 principle, it’s worth planning on the basis that the last 20% of work might take 80% of the effort…

Group Activity

Practical Work and Integration
  • Discuss whether your project seems to be formed of easily identifiable parts or seems more like a single thing.
  • Discuss a strategy for bringing things together: what kinds of collective practical work are possible for your project? Do you need rehearsals? Building sessions? Field trips? Discussion sessions? Code sprints?  Document these with estimates for
    • the amount of time they might need
    • how often you might want to do them
    • what resources (e.g. equipment) you’ll need
  • If there are different bodies of work feeding in to the project, how will they be joined? Do you need to investigate bridging technologies? What uncertainties are there?

Finally (perhaps after class)

  1. prepare a list of what will be submitted (different blog posts, what they’re for)
  2. agree on what’s left to do
  3. agree on who’s going to do what
  4. document what resources (time, materials) will be needed to make this happen
  5. set up some pre-submission deadlines that give the group time to revise and polish the work before it’s examined

 

Lecture 03 – documentation

Lecture notes for this session take the form of a downloadable pdf file. DocumentationAndProjectManagement

We also looked at some examples of documentation by established artists, these included:

Golan Levin Robotagger:GML www.flong.com/projects/gml-experiments/

Rafael Lozon Hemmer’s 2001 project Body Movies

www.lozano-hemmer.com/body_movies.php

Janet Cardiff’s Her Long Black Hair

www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/longhair.html

Headphone HUD – dmsp.digital.eca.ed.ac.uk/blog/headphonehud2012/

Situated Media – LifeHouse – dmsp.digital.eca.ed.ac.uk/blog/situatedmedia2012/

Lecture 02 – Gathering Together

This session will be a mixture of me talking (progressively less) and you working (progressively more).

Get some paper and something to write with.

The idea is to help you make a start on figuring out where you stand with your project; what you want to bring to it; and how, as groups, you can work together to produce something that everyone’s excited about.

Where are you now?

The start of any project is a very complex time, especially in collaborations, and especially when the terms of the brief are open.

You will already have a lot of different, possibly contradictory ideas about how you’d like to see your project take shape. You will also have started to forget some of those ideas, without even realising it!

However, these first ideas – the ones that come almost unbidden – can be the most valuable, and the most exciting. We have these ideas before we’ve started to tell ourselves they’re impossible.

Part of what we’re going to do today is to capture some of these ideas, before they vanish, and develop them so that you have some concrete you can refer to (even if it changes).

Question: Why might this be a useful thing?

30-Second Exercise

Without Thinking, write down:

1
Two visions that came in to your head when you signed up for this course (e.g. “A virtual reality baboon / a electro-mechanical trombone  / the colour orange”)
2
Two visions that came in to your head when you selected your first choice project
3
Two visions that came in to your head when you fount out what project you were on

 

I’m abusing the word ‘visions’ to be a catch-all for any sort of idea / ambition / glimpse of a better world.

I’d be really surprised if any of these were the same. Keep them to yourself for now.

Where are we going?

A woven Thing. (Image credit Laurence Martin, www.flickr.com/photos/75405980@N04/8445958654 (last access 20/1/160), licensed CC-Attribution

 

See what I did there? Aren’t analogies great? (Consider: why did I go for an image of something hand-woven and not done on a loom?)

In general terms, what distinguishes a tangle of threads from a woven thing, other than the obvious fact of being woven? How does one turn in to the other?

Without getting at all technical, what very general processes must you do to get from a tangle to a woven thing?

Here's a couple of thoughts
  • Gathering
  • Selecting
  • Organising
  • Imagining
  • Handling
  • Sketching
  • Patterning
  • Forming

 

More broadly, there’s going to be an exploratory phase, whilst you sort through stuff and start to see possibilities. Then, somewhere at the other end there’s a delivery phase, where you’re implementing, polishing, presenting and so forth.

Right?

The troublesome part is the bit in-between exploring and delivering. Here you need to be able to focus, decide what to throw away and what to develop, discover what’s essential to the project. That’s what this first phase of the course is about: the transition between exploring and focused development. It’s implicit in the way the submissions are structured.

Question: When's the first submission?
February 20! In three and a bit weeks! Arggh!

The point of the first submission – for all the groups – is to show that, as a team, a focused idea has emerged with a clear plan for implementation in the remaining weeks of the course. That’s not long.

This focusing involves, obviously, the whole group forming a consensus on how to respond to the brief but also you, as individuals, being able to develop and focus the raw ideas and ambitions that you have now in to something that can tessellate with the overall effort and still be rewarding to work on. The better you are able to do that, the better you will feel about the project and, in all likelihood, the better the project will be.

So, the lofty ambition of this session is to help you all with gathering some of your threads before you lose them.

60 Second Exercise

Write down very quick (like, instant) responses to the following. Again, no thinking, just respond.
  1. What kind(s) of modality (e.g. hearing, seeing, touching) do you want to engage your audience with in DMSP?
  2. What kind(s) of technique (e.g. hacking, programming, modelling, recording) do you want to direct your energies at?
  3. What kind(s) of space (e.g. web, installation, stage, gallery, VR) do you imagine your project being experienced in?
  4. What kind(s) of time (e.g. fast/slow, static/dynamic, ephemeral/enduring) do you imagine your project articulating?

Notice how I didn’t ask what sort of equipment you wanted to be using? That’s because it’s much less helpful for revealing your own ideas to yourself than being able disregard that until you’ve got some idea of what it is you actually want to be doing.

Why?
Because equipment is distracting, especially computers. Consider the adage “when all you have is a hammer, all you see is nails”. The tendency in equipment-led approaches to projects is to results that are foreshortened by what the equipment in question seems to make possible, rather than pushing at the edges of the equipment to try and enact some ambition that is independent of what you ‘know’ (i.e. suspect) to be possible.

Whilst we’re about it:

Why do you keep saying 'equipment' rather than 'technology'?
Because, in English, we’ve impoverished the word ‘technology’ by making it synonymous with ‘equipment’, and I’m doing my small part for humankind by resisting that. Technology comes from the word technē  (via Greek) which, along with the Latin ars, had a broad synonymity as meaning ‘skilled practice’: ‘technology’ was originally the study (-logos, kind of) of skilled practices. What makes that concept richer is that there’s a skilled (human?) organism in the frame as well as the equipment, so if I do use the word ‘technology’, generally I take it to stand for someone doing something with equipment.

60 Second Exercise

How do the responses about modality, technique and space correlate with the ‘visions’ from the first exercise? How many visions seem to match up with one of the modalities / techniques / spaces? How many with two? How many with three? How many with more?

Do some of the visions feel more substantial?

So, about these projects?

That’s you, that is. Public domain image www.reusableart.com/miwp/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/colored-cats-04.jpg (last accessed 20/1/16)

You’re quite right, I’ve not made you really consider your ideas in relation to your specific project yet. Some of you may have, albeit unconsciously.

All of you have ended up in groups that reflected one of your top three choices. As such, I expect you to be pretty enthusiastic. As I said last week, we’d expect each of these three to be things you think you can really get in to.

Put another way, if you think you were really only bothered about your top project – we don’t believe you, or at least we don’t believe you’ve yet grasped the potential of this course:

With very little exception, any of these briefs can have brought to them precisely whatever it is that you imagined yourself bringing to your No. 1 project (that you might not be on), so long as you are able to advocate for it such that it persuades your group-mates and forms part of  a convincing response to the brief. Doing that is much easier if you’re able to have a clear idea of what it is you imagined yourself brining to your project, because you’ll be able to express it more clearly.

We always hear the following: “I need to be on Project X because I want to work with <whatever>”. Fine. Work with <whatever>, but you don’t need to be on Project X to do it. Moreover, <whatever> is normally far more complex than it might appear and, in fact, you discover working with it involves also first getting to grips with a load of <sub-whatevers>, some of which turn out to be less interesting, some of which turn out to be more interesting. This is all part of good ol’ slippage, and forms part of the fun of the exploratory phase.

Again, this is a good reason to have your modalities, techniques, spaces firmly in mind, because it’ll help you give a much clearer impression of what it is you can do with each other. People are, universally, much, much more interesting than <whatever>.

Five Minute Exercise

Arm yourself with a computer / mobile device and...
Find, on YouTube someone else’s project that seems to closely relate to / represent your most concrete vision, given what we’ve done so far. Post the URL in a comment to this page, but don’t give any explanation

Let’s have a look at what you came up with…

So, why have I made you do that?
Well, for one thing, finding other people’s work helps solidify your own ideas, as well as giving you something to push against. It also marks the first step in your project research, from where you can start to branch out. If you just found something that appears to be exactly (or nearly exactly) what you were imagining, this is great, not a cause for despair! Someone’s done some ground work for you, and you can build upon / mutate / respond to that as part of developing your own work

Did I say that you’d just done some research? Why, yes. So what’s the logical next step? To document this research so you can find it again. I’d recommend your blog if you’ve been set up on it by your supervisor yet. Remember not to blog things without comment, but to include a few thoughts on what drew you to it, why it’s interesting etc. (more on this next week).

Five Minute Exercise

Go on, do it now, while I demonstrate the ‘Press This’ bookmarklet as a way of really quickly posting things that you find. If you don’t have blog access yet use paper, or textedit, whatever, to develop some comments on this clip and how it relates to your thoughts.

Developing Research Questions

Somehow you need to be able to convert your vision in to a manageable set of questions.

Why?
So you know what you need to do, so you can work out what’s feasible, so you can draw sensibly on prior work, and so you can work out what’s important

A place to start is by working out what you don’t know yet, but need to know in order to make your thing.

Two Minute Exercise

Sketch answers to the following
  • What techniques do you need to learn?
  • What spaces do you need to use?
  • What ideas do you need to understand?

Five Minute Exercise

Open a web browser...
Go to scholar.google.com. Find three likely looking academic papers / books that look helpful. If they’re available for download, then get them. Check discovered.ed.ac.uk to see if there’s access through the library for pay-walled stuff

Life skill – learn how to skim read

Don’t read these things now, but you’ll need to after class and you’ll need to be able to make quick decisions about whether these things are useful.

Question: How do we skim read effectively?
Well written scholarly material should support skim-reading. Some help here: www.docs.hss.ed.ac.uk/iad/Postgraduate/Masters_taught/Read_efficiently.pdf

Cartoon version:

  • Check the abstract: is it relevant? If not, set aside
  • Read the introduction and conclusion, scan the the references? Still looking good?
  • Check the opening and closing paragraphs of sections, make rough notes
  • If still looking useful, then read in greater detail. Look for connections with other writing / ideas / artworks

Carrying On

So, we’ve generated a short reading list off the back of some ideas. It’s important not to get too attached to all this though because we still don’t know what the fit is going to be like with the other ideas in your group.

What’s essential is that in this first week the group is able to develop together a sense of what it is that they need to be getting on with, and that you’re able to see your supervisor next with some provisional research questions that are helping the project move from exploration to focus.

As such, it’s worthwhile having more than one idea in your pocket. So, go back to one of your other visions and do the same: find some related work on YouTube (or Vimeo, or where ever); develop some general questions; find some reading.

Handling and Sketching

Perhaps the thing that distinguishes arts / design research is the degree to which questions are generated from actually handling our materials (rather than performing experiments to investigate an extant question.

What follows from this is that you need to go and get your hands dirty now in order to develop your idea and lines of inquiry.

  • What’s the quickest thing you can do to answer some questions about your idea?
  • What’s easier than it seemed like it would be?
  • What’s more difficult?
  • What do you need help with? From whom / what? Colleagues? Research materials? Teachers?

Try and think in terms of having something to bring to your meetings, even if only a report of what you’ve been doing. Don’t defer practical experimentation until you think you know all your requirements / plans. Do it the other way round: let your collective vision coalesce by playing with your materials.

Now…

You need to talk to each other. So, let’s get out of this room. Have a brief meeting with your group and compare notes on what’s come out of this. What’s the fit of ideas like? Which bits of what you want to do look like they’ll be useful for the project? Which do you need to set aside for later (final project perhaps)?

New proto-research questions should start to emerge at this point, of the form ‘how do I get my thing, x, to interface with my colleague’s idea, y?’. Again: what techniques are needed? Do these different ideas seem to exist in the same kind of space? If not, can they be bridged? Look at the different modalities involved: can they be integrated?

Lecture 01 – DMSP welcome pack

Welcome to the Digital Media Studio Project (DMSP)

This course is a busy one so please subscribe to the online calendar and make a note of the site URL, it will be useful to you.

As Bjork makes apps for iPhones instead of albums (Biophilia, 2011), Ridley Scott
makes films from crowd-sourced material (Life in a day, 2011). Orchestras arrange flash mobs to protest against government cut-backs (Copenhagen Philharmonic, 2011) and social injustice can be reported worldwide with computer software (Ushahidi, 2011). At the University of Edinburgh, projects involving RFID tags are used to develop an Internet of Things (Chris Speed, 2011), and the DMSP’s Unwanted Orchestra gets a write up in a fashion magazine (Toys by Eleni Konteisiou, 2011).
It is an important time for digital media, whilst the mainstream moved in on it, claiming the once quirky and unstable for themselves, other movements have taken off offering masses of people a voice powerful enough to intimidate the authorities.

Where do we go from here…?

Attitudes

  • Independent thinking
  • Technically skilled
  • Expressive with technology
  • Imaginative departures from mainstream or bringing ideas from the periphery towards the mainstream
  • Experimental

Contexts

  • The City
  • Hacking
  • Beyond the desktop
  • Performance and Improvisation
  • Installation
  • The body
  • The Internet
  • Animation and 3D technologies
  • Protectionism
  • Dataspace

Your Immediate Tasks

  • Submit your project preferences by 1600 Friday 20th January (tomorrow…)
  • When deciding on your preferred projects, make some notes about what excites you, what you imagine could happen: these will be needed next week
  • Project groups announced Monday: make contact with each other as soon as you can
  • Arrange to meet your project supervisor next week