This week’s (or month’s) research – 11/07/18

Not done one of these for a while, but thought it would be useful to round-up some of the research I have been carrying out over the past few weeks.

Firstly, am looking at the work of Forensic Architecture, exploring their use of design as a process of archeology.

Exploring the language of objects and existing archetypes, reading Don Norman’s Emotional Design. I am investigating techniques to undermine or subvert the communication of messages by objects.

On the tech front, I am now looking into using the XBee RSSI (Received signal strength indicator) to produce the interactions between the four Space Rocks, using the distance and relative strength of the signal to change the light (colour / intensity) and sound parameters as the objects’ proximity to each other changes. See also Reading XBee RSSI with Arduino. I also need to dig out my copy of Making Things Talk.

Also looking into the concepts of:

  • Pattern recognitionHumans Are the World’s Best Pattern-Recognition Machines, But for How Long?
  • The overview effect –  refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, “hanging in the void”, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this “pale blue dot” becomes both obvious and imperative.
  • Bicameralism – the condition of being divided into “two-chambers” is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once operated in a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be “speaking”, and a second part which listens and obeys — a bicameral mind.

Attended an interesting talk at Futurefest, Speaking with Aliens. Triggered some very interesting ideas around communicating with extra-terrestrial life away from Earth with Clara Sousa-Silva (a Quantum Astrochemist at MIT tasked with finding alien life on a molecular level) and Jill A. Stuart (Space Law expert and director at METI international, working on different scenarios for encounters with intelligent life). I was most interested in Clara Sousa-Silva’s mentions of trying to communicate with light, as this can be seen everywhere, and white light can be split into infinite colours via a prism (for example). She also mentioned maths as a communication tool, but this seems too tied to human communication to fit the concept of a universal language. She also mentioned studying inter-species communication on Earth to inform communications with aliens.  The panel also discussed the idea of the Dark Forest, suggesting that perhaps we should not try to communicate with aliens at all.

This has also led me to researching Danielle Wood, Director of Space Enabled and the idea of space that has not been colonised by entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and business interests. This also reminded me of this article in the Guardian discussing attempts to map underground spaces,  which are generally less regulated than the space above ground.

A visit to The Future…

…Starts Here exhibition at the V&A. Some photos from a visit on Friday 25th May.

Was also fascinated by the data visualisation of Stamen Design’s Big Glass Microphone. Have long been interested in how to turn environmental data such as electronic / radio signals and sound / vibration levels into aesthetically appealing  visual or audio representations. This is an engaging interactive example of how to do that. The piece visualises fibre optic cables placed in a figure of eight around the Stanford University building. The cables pick up vibrations from the ground above (such as traffic) to create the visualisation.

The Quartet – a short story for an installation

This text was written as part of a workshop based on a series of five randomly-selected images that were originally sent into space as part of the Voyager Golden Record in 1977.

The Quartet. 19/03/2018

The quartet played in the parlour. They are interpreting the sounds they heard the evening before, when they watch the moon landing on their neighbours’ tiny black and white screen. They played from memory and the sound bounced around the small room repeatedly. For this reason, they played softly, sparsely, tenderly. The people stop outside of the cottage they are playing in stopped occasionally to listen to the sounds they made. Without the context of the screen and the flickering moon shots, the sound made little sense. But they found it beautiful, and intense, despite seemingly-random and scattered notes. 

Families gathered outside in the street. At the gate. Stopping for a while to take in the music. Many others also came to listen. Standing still. They wondered at the sound. They too had seen the moon landings. But it took some time to connect the sounds of the instruments to the pictures from the night before. The grainy capsule. The crackling voices beamed down, announcing the moment that would change us all. Or at least most of us.

 

Out in the Desert, a lonely figure wandered with this horse, scanning the horizon for signs of life. At his side was a small listening device. A radio, tuned to static, waiting to receive some sound. Occasionally the rider stops, tunes, looking for signals. As he tunes, he once again see scans the horizon. Once or twice he looks back at his trail. Where he came from. As he had little idea where he was going. Just had to find the end to this desert. He rode, stopped, tuned, rode again. He had food and water for a few days more.

 

Hopefully the signal would come before then. Another day passed. More static, more water, more food, some rest. And then, slowly, as he turned the dial of his receiver, he had it. The sound he had been searching for. The concert have begun. Sat on his horse, still, squinting against the Sun a little, he heard the sound of the violins, the cello and the bass. Being from another place, and sounding like another time.  An easier time. Before space was conquered. Before we landed on the moon. The sound was being beamed around the world. Into space and back again. It was his cue to ride towards home. He had found the signal and reported back to the city that the mission was complete. He is unsure of the purpose of the mission, but he knew the part he played.  Had to relay the message home, and the council would do the rest. 
There will be a fanfare. A celebration. A parade of vehicles of all kinds. Some riding horses. Some driving. Others on foot. But all happy that finally they could leave this place and fly to the stars.