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p-comp / week 01

On our first class of physical computing the class was introduced to some concepts and the general idea of how micro controllers work. Jeff proposed us to sketch a fantasy device and my group chose to think about a dream storage. To get familiar with our resources and shops, we were able to go around the floor and find material that we could “prototype” our device.

So me, Francesca and Jesse started brainstorming about this dream storage. We came up with a system of storage that would 1)recognize you started dreaming, 2)detect the brainwaves/connections your hippocampus is doing at that time, 3)transfer that information to a cloud storage and later on, when you wake up, you can 4) categorize/describe the dream. In this way, the system itself would evolute with your feedback; he’ll categorize your dreams, depending on the kind of nerve cell connection or brainwaves he received according to your dream history. When we decided to make this a on-going developing and accurate system we also thought the other way around could be possible – the system could detect a nightmare and send signal back to turn it into a good dream or maybe you can even restart a dream you had on storage from the point you woke up. This last part is a bit too much, right? And we thought this could be like a external hard drive close to your bed, accessible through your phone.

When we explained it to the class, Jeff questioned us about the choice of being on a smartphone, introducing us to a problematic that was also developed on Bret Victor’s article A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design: it just seems that screen is the ultimate answer to any future interactive experience. I think for the past two years I’ve been wondering the part of visual representation in experiences, on how they can help the public to imagine certain concepts, but also limit their freedom to experience something . It is good now that the screen got in this debate for me and also surprising how the limitation of format went unnoticed until last thursday.

And to complement this initial questioning about interaction, the first two chapters of The Art of Interactive Design tries to define and show what is interactivity and what is not. Crawford starts talking about misconceptions over the “interaction” definition and to clear the understanding he defines it as a “cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think and speak”. Interaction can happen between more than to actors (but at least two) and there’s only interaction when one of the actor’s actions are given as an input for the other actor’s action.

When he started to point out the reasons why i.e. films are not interactive, I recalled Oliver Grau’s Virtual Art: from Illusion to Immersion, on a part that he contest these kind of art that don’t “digest” the public reaction as limiting directional immersive experiences; whereas what he calls open immersion occurs in experiences that don’t have closed/predetermined formats. Grau is defending immersive experiences as situations in which the public is free to intervene and modify the experience, leading to a more intense and engaging participation. And this is a parallel thought to Crawford’s idea of interactivity: like he said on the text, only when we truly interact we can truly engage into the experience.

After reading these texts and associating with my past experiences, I can only this of physical interaction as the immersive experience of constant exchange between two or more actors if they are using the other’s present action as input to their future responses. A good physical interaction will get you involved/immersed in such a high level that you feel you are part of it, it is a sensorial experience and therefore you have a big engagement over the experience itself. Despite Janet Cardiff and Georgers Bures Miller’s The Murder of The Crows is a sound installation with a very immersive atmosphere, at any point it won’t use the audience responses to intervene on the piece. It will always be the same, despite the site in which is exhibited or the audience is experiencing it.

I’m looking forward to see how my colleagues define psychical interaction as well as see what will come from this debate!

Published in fall 2015 p-comp

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