DEAF04 - Affective Turbulance

V2_: DEAF04 - Affective Turbulance


Short introduction on the context and background of the seminar series - Anne Nigten

9 Nov 2004 , essay

"It's true that in science fiction robots can usually do everything — except make jokes",... "but one of the aims of AI is to model what humans do and to replicate it." (J. Burne, citing Dr Kim Binsted in The Times Oct. 30, 2004)

In the fields of knowledge representation, we can (in retrospect) trace an evolution from the old school, machine-oriented, artificial intelligence visions to, more recently, human-centred approaches. The old school vision, promoting the super computer brain, and modelled after the human brain with the intention to replace it, has been increasingly criticized over the last decades. N. Katherine Hayles, one of the most influential authors in the cultural sector, stated in her conclusion of How We became Post-Human (1998) that we don't have a choice whether or not we want to participate in our technology-dominated society, we are already part of it. Hayles reminds us that we became post-human ages ago. Consequently the question we're confronted with now is: are we happy with the technical aspects of post-human design and its visions that are imposed upon us? In the seminar series you are about to attend, we'll  discuss the most interesting, controversial, daring and appealing approaches in technology and experience design for us, post-humans in the early 21st century.

Current consumer devices or trendy gadgets often lack the space or openness for the D-I-Y variant, or other challenges to use  ones creativity. For creative purposes, these shortcomings of assumed functionality often mean the avoidance of real ‘personalization' or empowerment of the end-user or operator.  In the experimental electronic arts, we witness experiments with non-task oriented applications and devices where the operator or participant is provided a considerable amount of freedom to (co-)create her own experience and interact with other persons and machines. Here, social aspects come into play, and the roles in the human-machine interaction diagram are changing drastically. When the user becomes a participant, technology becomes less dominant; this demands a revision of our present interaction models and new critical interaction approaches.
These technology design issues include research in, among others, the fields of interfaces, system design and perception, which were taken as the points of departure for three seminars which relate and connect to each other in many ways, though each of them approaches the research topics from a slightly different perspective.


Recently in the news, we were informed that VeriChips were implanted in regular patrons of Baja Beach Club in Barcelona and Rotterdam, venues that want to dispense with traditional identification and credit cards. Smart systems suggest what to eat, responsive environments tell us where to go out and agents lead us to the right person to date. And personal assistants know what we want and what we should do. It's the 21st century and we are living the techno-utopian dream; we've became post-human -  what more could we want?   The Wearable Turbulence seminar aims to contribute to this discussion about power and control structures in technology and experience design from the operator's perspective. As it is clear that the end-user / operator is of major importance for establishing the experience, it is more than relevant to investigate the role of the operator in the design process. This seminar investigates different notions of control, personalization and empowerment of the user. It also touches upon the consequences of the mediated shifts in public and personal zones of experiences. Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau (JP) will elaborate on the effects of sharing personal (biometric) information with anonymous receivers in their work Mobile Feelings (also shown in the DEAF04 exhibition). Tom Donaldson (UK) will discuss the vulnerability and continual observation the wearer experiences in Medulla Intimata, a project he developed in collaboration with Tina Gonsalves. Dr. Bradley Rhodes (US) will invite the audience to share his daily lived experiences as a cyborg and will elaborate on his ideas for future applications in the fields of wearables and augmented reality. Kristina Andersen (DK / NL)  will speak about critical design issues in social interaction, and how we can investigate these with little or no technology. And based on his involvement in a range of technical and artistic projects, Sha Xin Wei (US) will be instrumental in guiding the discussion along this slippery trajectory between utopianism and criticism.

System design

The measurement, calculation and mapping of emotions for an affective experience into a language the computer can understand (in terms of formal or symbolic representations) is a major research and developmental challenge especially because current computers are primarily designed to work with formal languages or symbols. In Affective Systems, Angelika Oei and Rene Verouden (NL) will present their half technical, half non-technical  approach in establishing a ‘health spa for the mind'. They have experimented with mapping non-linguistic communication elements , such as gesture, movement and expression, inspired by Joseph Weizenbaum's system Eliza, running the psychotherapeutic Doctor script. In the same Affective Systems seminar, Phoebe Sengers (US) will elaborate on approaches and (cognitive) models, and their relevance in enabling affective experiences. From a very different perspective, Dr. Owen Holland (UK) will present state of the art examples of conscious machines and related research. And finally, Michelle Terran and Jeff Mann (CDN / NL) will present other (non-linguistic) layers in our communication systems by orchestrating a robot-mediated network communication system.  Gerd Ruebenstrunk (DE) will conduct the seminar. He will also refresh our memory by outlining the main developments in the artificial intelligence and artificial life landscape over the last years.  


The interface functions as a membrane between the two (physical and synthetic) realties; full immersion can be achieved in situations where the interface layer becomes thinner or almost disappears. In The Art of Immersive Spaces, we investigate the receiver's side and look at immersion from a perceptive and cognitive point of view. In line with Brian Massumi who uses the term affect to point to simultaneous participation in synthetic and physical worlds, we'll debate the perceptual effects experienced when operating in both worlds simultaneously or while immersed. An almost transparent or fluid transition between our physical reality and virtual reality is, according to Prof. Dr Anneke Smelik (NL), often represented in analogy with the pre-natal phase. She'll discuss the dream and paradise-like effects  and the embedded gender issues in the representation of cyberspace in science fiction films. In this seminar we will engage in a debate about the effects generated by a ‘god-like' third person or first person perspective and its consequences on immersion. Experiments in interactive immersive artworks teach us about the amplification of multi-modal experiences caused by the alternation of realities, as we find in the works of Marnix de Nijs (NL). He will present the immersive elements of his work RMR (see also DEAF exhibition).  His approach is complemented by Maurice Benayoun (FR), a leading artist in virtual reality, who has taken different approaches to physically engage the audience in his artworks. Wijnand Ijsselsteijn (NL) will bring us back to augmentation and immersion in real life applications and discuss the phenomenology of presence (or the experience of ‘being there') from a neuropsychological perspective. Our guide and moderator for this seminar is Dr. Oliver Grau (US / DE), author of the widely distributed book: Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion and specialist in immersive art and cultural experiences.

Each of the seminars held during DEAF04 Affective Turbulence - the art of open systems - deals with a specific set of issues in the fields of emotional computing, critical interaction design and system design. I consider each of these of crucial importance as they will all play a major role in our near future lives as well as in interdisciplinary collaborations between experts from artistic, design and scientific backgrounds. The seminars will show us that it is almost impossible to attach one single disciplinary term to each single research and development issue. The research topics are intertwined and this is where the different disciplines meet. It is anticipated that each seminar will have its own unique outcomes, and thus will provide us with the next pieces of the critical interdisciplinary research and development puzzle. However, the approaches and the visions of the researchers / makers and end users / participants sometimes seem miles apart. I hope you, as the audience of this event, will actively participate in the discussions during the seminars regardless of your background - whether you are rooted in the artistic, design, or scientific field or someone who is simply intrigued by the outlined topics.

I would like to extend my special thanks to all of the speakers and the V2_Lab team for their input and work to realize these seminars!

Anne Nigten
Manager V2_Lab
Coordinator workshops, seminars, expert meetings at DEAF04

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