The environment around us is a mass of sensory information, some of it easy to detect, playing on our visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory and tactile senses, while others are less perceptible – electro-magnetic radiation, hi-lo sound frequencies, infra-red light etc – and yet these imperceptible streams interact with us regularly as we go about our everyday lives.
Back in September 2008 Proboscis devised a one day workshop for Dislocate08 in Yokohama, Japan to “engage artists, urbanists, designers, technologists, musicians and dancers in an active investigation into the sensorial patterns and rhythms to be found in our environment”. The workshop was one of our first research activities for Sensory Threads, which we hoped would inspire some critical reflection on the project’s aim to create a playful instrument for exploring imperceptible phenomena in the world around – translating them into sound and touch.
The ‘foreigness’ of Japan to the team of 3 who went to run the workshop (Giles Lane, Karen Martin & Frederik Lesage) was an important consideration in deciding its location. We felt that such an unfamiliar place, people, culture and language might present interesting challenges that would mean we would have to be keenly aware of the environment all the time. Once there it reminded us how easily we become de-sensitised to our surroundings through habit and familiarity: the smells of places, air pressure, humidity etc. Those things which pervade us constantly so that we rarely notice them, except when they change or are absent. In Japan we noticed the extraordinary cultural emphasis on paying attention to the details, the small pleasures and experiences of everyday life, which appears to be preserved in mainstream culture and society there through rituals, practice and patience at so many levels, from seasonal food to street decorations.
Returning to London and discussing the event and our experiences in Japan with the rest of the Sensory Threads team it helped shape our conception of the soundscape that the wearables would create – that it would be designed to act as a means of alerting the wearers to subtle changes in ourselves and the environment so that they could experience a sensitivity to their relationship with it. The choice of sensors would be ones that could be tuned just beyond or at the fringes of human perception, giving us a new means of ‘listening’ to the world and how we are part of it – acting with and acted on. The Rumbler too was shaped by these considerations – making imperceptible phenomena tangible through the media of touch, translating sensor data into vibration as well as sound.
Taking the project forward after our prototype demo at the Dana Centre last month, we plan to explore new levels of participatory and collective sensing, richer sonification and making tangible souvenirs for participants more seamless with the experience.
NOW & UPCOMING
New Website & Twitter
Proboscis is pleased to announce that we have a new website where we will be posting much more regular updates on projects as well as our creative process. We will continue sending occasional email newsletters, but in future we recommend bookmarking the news page or subscribing to the RSS feed.
Proboscis has been working this spring and summer in Sutton-in-the-Isle on Sutton Grapevine, a story sharing project which will be shown at Sutton Feast Week from the 1st – 5th July at St Andrews Church and around the village. We’ve been exploring various different on and offline processes around local storytelling. We roved around the village gathering and recording stories – both past, present and future; hanging out at the community shop, visiting local clubs and individuals, hosting a storytelling barbecue and a workshop with young people.
Sensory Threads : demo at Dana Centre 23/06/09 & National Physical Lab 02/07/09
We will be giving the first public demo of our Sensory Threads prototype at the Dana Centre on Tuesday June 23rd. The event, Surface Tension, is free to attend (no booking required). Sensory Threads is a new experiment in mobile participatory sensing and sonification – making imperceptible things in our environments tangible and tactile.
We will also be demoing ST at the National Physical Laboratory on Tuesday July 2nd as part of the Wireless Sensing Showcase 2009:
Artemov, Mobilefest and Arteleku
Proboscis has been invited to participate in several festivals and workshops this year – from Mobilefest in Sao Paolo (Brasil) and at the ‘Your Map is Not My Map’ workshop at Arteleku, San Sebastian (Spain) in September, to the Artemov festival in Belo Horizonte (Brasil) in November.
New Cultural Snapshot: Cultivating Research
Sarah Thelwall’s Troubadour Study for the Creator Research Cluster, “Cultivating Research : articulating value in arts and academic collaborations” is now available to download:
Jump In Workshop, The Rookery, London
Proboscis, Sarah Thelwall and Tim Jon (Solar Associates) hosted a one day workshop with about 20 participants from small arts organisations exploring possible routes to, and reasons for, acquiring Independent Research Organisation status. The workshop was the final activity of the Creator Research Cluster (funded by the EPSRC as part of the Digital Economy programme), of which Proboscis was a founder member
Being in Common : Catalogue of Ideas
Proboscis has published a special artists bookwork to accompany our Being in Common commission for Gunpowder Park. The catalogue, a deck of cards, is a playful exploration of ‘common space’ drawing together fragments and ideas from across the project, to be played with, read individually or assembled into narratives and stories making unexpected connections and perspectives. The catalogue is available to buy for £10 (inc. shipping) from our online shop.
StoryCube prices 25% lower than 2008
StoryCube packs are now an average 25% lower than in 2008 – making them an even more delectable a tool for workshops and storytelling projects:
Diffusion Generator – update on progress
As part of our Technology Strategy Board Feasibility Study, we have completely re-engineered the Diffusion Generator. Thanks to our development team (technical advisor Stefan Kueppers and coders Simon Whiteside & Yasir Assam) the new Generator supports offline content creation; landscape as well as portrait eBooks; both long and short edge version of the Diffusion eBook binding; double and single sided StoryCubes; multiple languages (including many non-Roman alphabets); right-to-left languages (Arabic etc); and can accept CSS-styled XHTML as content. We are building a new website to access it this summer and hope to invite individuals and organisations to test it out as the year progresses. Please contact us for more details.
Paralelo, Sao Paulo, Brasil
Proboscis took part in the Paralelo event hosted by the British Council Brasil, MIS-Museum of Image and Sound and Centro Cultural de Sao Paulo. We helped with the event facilitation, running two social mapping workshops and designing a special Paralelo Diffusion eNotebook for participants to capture and share ideas, reflections and information.
New Diffusion Titles
Dope smuggling, LSD, organised crime & the law in 1960s London by Stewart Home – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1205
The 36 Stratagems by anonymous – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1192
Would be Disciplined by Tony White – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1178
iStreetLab by mongrelStreet – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1148
Dodolab StoryCube by Giles Lane – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1118
Hard Hearted Hannah: Classics from Nowhere by Cartoon de Salvo – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1104
Hard Hearted Hannah: the world of the Strange and Bizarre by Cartoon de Salvo – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1107
On The Death Of Julia Callan-Thompson by Stewart Home – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1083
H2O by Alejandra Canales, Anne Ransquin and Juan F. Salazar – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1070
The Anatomy of the Horse by George Stubbs – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1062
Measure Once, Cut Twice : a case study of Snout by Frederik Lesage – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1054
Bourriaud’s ‘Altermodern’ – an eclectic mix of bullshit and bad taste by Stewart Home – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1049
Tweetomes : some epithets on practices of pithy exchange by Giles Lane – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1025
The minimal compact by Adam Greenfield – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1012
The Tongue Conceals Time by Shae Davidson – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1000
Click This? MySpace & the Pornography of Corporately Controlled Virtual Life by Stewart Home – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=993
Cultural Snapshots No. 16 June 2009
Cultivating Research : articulating value in arts and academic collaborations by Sarah Thelwall
Sensory Threads will get its first public demo at the London Science Museum’s Dana Centre on June 23rd 2009 as part of the Surface Tension event. We will be demonstrating the prototype Wearable Sensors and the Rumbler and inviting participants to test out the system during the day. The event is free and no booking is required.
Below are some photos from a recent test at our studio and in the surrounding streets of Clerkenwell.
As part of our contribution to the Creator Research Cluster, Giles Lane, Sarah Thelwall (mycake) and Tim Jones (Solar Associates) organised a 1 day workshop at The Rookery in Clerkenwell to explore how small arts organisations could explore working with research departments in universities, and develop the case for becoming Independent Research Organisations. The workshop brought together around 20 participants from a wide group of artists and creative professionals, many of whom are already in collaborations with universities, to share experiences and insights into collaborative practices.
The workshop was partly inspired by Sarah’s Troubadour study for the Creator Cluster (due to be published in June 2009 by Proboscis), the executive summary of which was circulated to all the participants. It drew on the experiences of Proboscis (already an IRO since 2005), Blast Theory and Scan who have all maintained long term partnerships and collaborations with universities stretching back a decade or more. The AHRC was also represented at the workshop and was helpful in identifying the probable routes needed to be taken to achieve IRO status in the current climate.
The participants agreed to set up an informal cluster of interested parties who wanted to take the process further.
Participants: Giles Lane (Proboscis); Sarah Thelwall (mycake); Tim Jones (Solar Associates); Ruth Catlow (Furtherfield); Helen Sloan (Scan); Julianne Pierce (Blast Theory); Rob La Frenais (Arts Catalyst); Tassos Stevens (Coney); Ruth & Bruno (Igloo); Glenn Davidson (Artstation); Rachel Jacob (Active Ingredient); Evelyn Wilson (LCACE); Gini Simpson (Queen Mary); Annamaria Wills (cida); Carien Meier (Drake); Ben Cook (LUX); Tim Harrison (ACE London); Isabel Lilly (Stream); Joanna Pollock (AHRC); Nick? (A Foundation).
Absent Friends: Bronac Ferran (boundaryobject); Julie Taylor (Goldsmiths); Lorraine Warren (Southampton); Ted Fuller (Lincoln)
Funded by the CREATOR Cluster, part of the EPSRC’s Digital Economy programme.
Sensory Threads combines sound, touch and electronic sensing to create shared soundscapes that reveal phenomena at the edges of human sensory perception. It uses music and vibration to ping our consciousness to barely perceptible changes in the environment, making tangible articulations of our relationships to each other and the environments we move through. It is a playful platform for exploring what happens when we overlap data from one place to another and brings a unique musical and group perspective to mobile participatory sensing.
A work-in-progress, Sensory Threads allows groups of four people to create a collective soundscape of their interactions with each other and the environment. Carrying wearable sensors which detect phenomena at the periphery of human perception as well as the location, movement and proximity of the wearers, they can explore their environment whilst listening to a soundscape generated from the sensor data. Variations in the soundscape reflect changes in the wearers’ interactions with each other and the environment around them.
The data is simultaneously fed to the Rumbler where it can be experienced remotely as vibration, sound and image. The Rumbler acts as a stand alone installation allowing people to playback the sonic/sensory explorations; a tactile interface to otherwise ephemeral and intangible experiences. Other Tangible Souvenirs are generated from these experiences in the form of the microprinter’s sensographs and Diffusion eBooks.
The Sensory Threads prototype will be demonstrated at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre in London 23rd June 2009.
View all content about Sensory Threads
A Sensory Threads Sensograph printed by the Rumbler
Team: Demetrios Airantzis, Alice Angus, Dia Batal, Nick Bryan-Kinns, Robin Fencott, Giles Lane, Joe Marshall, Karen Martin, George Roussos, Jenson Taylor, Lorraine Warren & Orlagh Woods.
Partners: Proboscis, Birkbeck College’s Pervasive Computing Lab, The Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary (University of London), Mixed Reality Lab (University of Nottingham) and the School of Management at University of Southampton.
Proboscis is collaborating with Sarah Thelwall to conduct a ‘troubadour’ study to investigate artistic & creative research models and the ways in which these interface between creative SMEs and organisations such as HE institutions and the Research Councils.
In the work which culminated in Capitalising Creativity, Sarah developed a model for defining those activities which are at the core of an artist or creative organisations activities versus those which exploit the intellectual capital created and leverage it into income streams and commercial collaborations. Whilst this model of ‘first ‘and ‘second order’ activities was a good fit for some SMEs, Proboscis concluded that the research focused approach which it pursues is not well suited to the development of second order activities in this manner. Instead Proboscis, and organisations with a similar outlook such as Blast Theory, have pursued an approach that increases connections and activities with research focused institutions.
It is these connections and methods that we would research in the Troubadour Study:
- what are the interactions between SMEs and research institutions?
- how does each side of a collaboration evaluate the partmnership and define ‘value’?
- how is this value communicated to funders and stakeholders?
- what are the limiting factors of such collaborations and why are there so few examples?
- what lessons can be learnt from the experiences of Cluster members Proboscis and Blast Theory and how might this contribute to influencing funding policies and frameworks?
Team : Sarah Thelwall and Giles Lane
Proboscis is leading a pilot project, Sensory Threads, funded by the CREATOR Research Cluster. The project builds upon our previous collaborations with Birkbeck College’s Pervasive Computing Lab on the Feral Robots and Snout environmental sensing projects and takes wearable sensing into new areas with new collaborations with the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary, University of London, the Mixed Reality Lab at University of Nottingham and Southampton University’s School of Management.
Sensory Threads is a work-in-progress to develop an instrument enabling a group of people to create a soundscape reflecting their collaborative experiences in the environment. For this interactive sensory experience, we are designing sensors for detecting environmental phenomena at the periphery of human perception as well as the movement and proximity of the wearers themselves. Possible targets for the sensors may be electro-magnetic radiation, hi/lo sound frequencies, heart rate etc). The sensors’ datastreams will feed into generative audio software, creating a multi-layered and multi-dimensional soundscape feeding back the players’ journey through their environment. Variations in the soundscape reflect changes in the wearers interactions with each other and the environment around them. We aim to premiere the work in 2009.
Team: Alice Angus, Giles Lane, Karen Martin and Orlagh Woods (Proboscis); Demetrios Airantzis, Dr George Roussos and Jenson Taylor (Birkbeck); Joe Marshall (MRL); Dr Nick Bryan-Kinns and Robin Fencott (Queen Mary) and Dr Lorraine Warren (Southampton).
Proboscis is a founder member of the CREATOR Research Cluster, funded by EPSRC as part of the “Connecting Communities for the Digital Economy” initiative. The cluster brings together practitioners from the creative industries with researchers from varied traditions that span ICT, the arts and humanities, the social sciences, and business studies.
The cluster seeks to establish a close connection between ICT researchers, those with an interest in business and innovation, and practising members of the creative industries and seeks to answer 4 main questions:
- What key challenges face the creative industries due to the emergence of a new generation of social, pervasive and affective ICT?
- And conversely, what long term challenges must be tackled by ICT research in order to support future creative industries?
- How can we better engage small creative companies in research and knowledge transfer?
- And especially, how can we establish new interdisciplinary approaches across ICT, the arts and humanities and the social sciences that support “practice-led” approaches to research?
Blast Theory, University of Reading, Storey Gallery, AmaK, University of Nottingham, University of Cambridge, Queen Mary, University of London, University of Technology, Sydney, University of Sheffield, University of Lincoln, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Exeter University, Decoda, The Creative Media Centre, Lancaster University, Brunel University, University Of Chichester, Birkbeck College, University of London, Proboscis, Newcastle University, University of Glasgow, iShed, Watershed, SCAN/Bournemouth University, University of Bath, University of Worcester, University of Southampton, University of Sussex.
A series of Pilot projects and ‘Troubadour’ studies will be conducted over the year 2008-09.