DMS8013: Sessions Overview

Below is a list of session titles and the dates they’ll happen. Excited?

1 – Physical Computing, 2nd February

2 – Communication 1 local devices, 9th February

3 – Communication 2 networks, 23rd February

4 – Algorithms and Generatively, 1st March

5 – Working in 3D, 12th April

6 – Hacks and collaborating, 19th April

7 - Terrible interactivity, 3rd May

8 – Data wrangling, 10th May

Current Students

Students currently studying Master in Creative Arts Practice

 

Meena Daneshyar

Maria Clemente – Albacete

Sean Cotterill

Xiyuan Tan

Yue Wang

Riar Rizaldi

Daniel Parry

 

Previous Students

CAP

2014-2015

MeteorEdmund Nesveda

Clive WrightChilly Rain

Wenya ChenTrong Cuong Dao

Yousif AbdulghaniTan

BartiZhang Wei

 

2013-2014

Yinzhen BaoTatiana Fujimori
Jaejun HwangSaksit Knunkitti
Wenchang LinClare Robertson
Tunc Karkutoglu

Mres Digital Media
Adrian ParkBen HoldenIsobel Taylor
James DavollNina LimardoXue Yan
Aaron SmilesAlessandro AltavillaAndrew Nixon
Andrzwej WojtasBen FreethBen Thompson
Helen CollardJane DudmanJoseph Pochciol
Pengfei ZhangSanjay Mortimer
Ewelina Aleksandrowicz (Tikul)

 

HSS8121 – Video Analysis as Research Method

I use video as part of my research method in every work I produced. Video is part of my process for self-analysis and as well work as a medium for designing an idea. After a lecture on Video Analysis by John Bowers I found video could also used as a qualitative and interpretative analysis. Video is used as a tool for formative research on my work. I used to record every process I make in video and analysing it afterwards. Using a static shot on tripod and static angle technique with multiple cameras, I could clearly analyse the video in raw and unedited format. Video is also used as a medium for me to look for phenomena of interest. It also opens a possibility for me to analyse how activities are socially organized through body movement, gesture, engagement with objects, and surrounding.

I realised that video analysis is always part of my process without even realise that this could be work as a research method.

Here is an example of video I took several years ago and use it to analyse my performance and my body movement:

Click here to view the embedded video.

HSS8121 – Post-Disciplinarity

The themes of post-disciplinarity that Gabriella Arrigoni explored in her other lecture became another fundamental part of my proposed piece.

In her lecture, Arrigoni discussed a number of agencies that draw on creative practitioners in work that extends beyond art. For example, the Wellcome Trust (http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/) commission artists to produce works and aid in research that is related to health. These agencies tend to have a holistic view on practice, rather than a target-based one that an arts organisation might; they value the overarching contribution to the field that creative practitioners provide, and are confident that the research outcomes of this contribution will become clear over time rather than being immediately obvious.

This post-disciplinary approach encouraged me to think outside the immediately relevant areas of my practice such as open-source digital technologies, which is a subject I return to time and time again. During Transmediale I attended a number of talks, workshops and conversations about the subject of privacy and surveillance in the digital space, which was exemplified by their Anxious to Secure stream. I have a long-standing interest in the subject of surveillance in the digital space, having followed groups such as the EFF (https://www.eff.org/) and the Open Rights Group (https://www.openrightsgroup.org/) for some time. While artistic responses to surveillance culture are absolutely nothing new, in the spirit of post-disciplinary practice I chose to explore themes of surveillance in my final work through looking at facial capture technology. Facial capture technology by government agencies have been investigated by artists looking to subvert this technology, for example URME (http://www.urmesurveillance.com/), a ‘generic face mask’ designed to thwart surveillance cameras linked to massive facial recognition databases by transforming your face into that of Leo Salvaggio, the founder of URME.

Arrigoni’s presentation stressed the importance of working outside of your discipline, and this is something I will carry forward to my final piece, which will touch on the subject of surveillance by employing some techniques not uncommon to ethical hackers and private investigators.

HSS8121 – Final Proposal and Failure

Based on a session we did for DMS8013 on computer vision and face detection, my proposal to respond to the open call for this module involved a system designed to capture faces of members of the public in a gallery space and use them to create an ‘average face’ of gallery-goers in real time. However, I noticed early on in using openCV-based facial recognition software that it was very prone to error, recognising a number of background features of an image as faces and registering them in the program as such.

While this was initially a cause for concern, as this meant the program would have a number of false positive results that would have to be filtered out by another part of the program in order to produce ‘good’ results, I remembered the kinds of ‘errors’ that had been shown to us by Alexia. Alexia’s presentation of error was one of humour, with a number of her video examples in particular being presented with an almost sardonic attitude towards her former self. It was for this reason that I chose to incorporate these computer vision errors into the fabric of my work. Rather than design a system specifically to exclude these errors, which would potentially introduce more failures, and attempt to brush over the fact that the system I would build would be ‘incomplete’, I chose in the proposal to show the misrecognised faces as part of the ‘average face’, incorporating incidental background materials.

Incorporating error in this manner also allowed me to use humour as an artistic device. My intention was that audiences seeing their faces mashed up with random mis-recognised faces, as well as some very poorly lit faces and people who did not realise they were having their faces captured, would lead to quite a few laughs, but also to draw attention to the work itself. As the work I planned is fundamentally about surveillance, the levity the topics raised should not be downplayed by the work with humour, but the integration of the kinds of failures Alexia discussed in her presentation have become a major part of the proposal I submitted for this module.

HSS8121 – Practice Based Research

Gabriella Arrigoni’s session on Practice Based Research was particularly interesting for me as a creative practitioner who currently focuses most of their time on the creation of works, with relatively little time invested in theoretical writing around those works. To me, this approach to research as practice based is very much in the same vein as the themes of Research through Design that John introduced during his lectures. Culture Lab has a strong emphasis on a practice-based approach to conducting research more broadly too, and Gabriella’s session served to underline the key concepts of this type of research.

The production of prototypes and artefacts as research is something I was involved in as part of Unbound, a work that evolved over the course of a week and was passed between a number of practitioners at Culture Lab. Each practitioner was given a working day and a set of resources with which they could interact to form the work. When I took part in the work (about halfway through the process), there were already a number of disciplines involved in the work, including databending, painting, coding in processing, video work, physical sculpture and audio work. During the day I worked on Unbound, I filtered the work that previously existed through my own sets of practices, and then at the end of the day offered up the resulting artwork (and documentation) for the next person. This resulted in a shifting prototype which exhibited the individual hallmarks of each practitioner that had come into contact with it.

Importantly, Gabriella documented the process at a number of stages and conducted an interview with me during my work day about the kinds of processes that the work had undergone and the reasons for my selection of those processes. This was then formulated for showing at the Loops Layers Lines show at Culture Lab. This practice based research used actual practice as a basis upon which to explore themes of cross-disciplinary collaboration, and it was a very enjoyable piece to take part in. The prospect of conducting research not by reading but by doing is something that has always excited me; as a creative practitioner I thrive on the act of creation, and Gabriella’s explanation of using this AS research is something I will be taking forward into my final piece.

HSS8121 – Video Analysis

John’s session on Video Analysis was particularly useful to me, especially as I am beginning to have far too much documentation of old gigs etc. to do anything meaningful with.

For his session, John detailed a number of useful features of video analysis, as well as the kinds of established codes that operate around the field. Video analysis involves the observation of naturally occurring phenomena on a broad scale (ideally a camera that can apprehend the whole environment), much like Ethnography. This observation can be transcribed play-by-play, or simply observed to note any phenomena that become apparent only when the situation is viewed in this way. This can be used as a way to analyse in minute detail the situation that unfolded, picking out emergent characteristics that can inform your understanding of these events.

This is not something I had ever considered doing to my existing documentation. As I often perform for events that are video recorded for funding and research purposes (such as Algoraves for AHRC-funded TOPLAP) I often see video documentation of my performances without having any explicit use for it. From this session, John explained how these features could enhance understanding of the documentation I have available, and formulate it as a valid research concern.

The exercise portion of John’s session involved examining some raw documentation we had of our own work. I examined a static video taken from the back of a live coding set I performed at Power Lunches, as well as the documentation of my undergraduate final recital at culture lab (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcwS6x4KRIU). The class then dissected the video of the session, noting when the audience performed certain actions (dancing, chatting, paying/not paying attention) and when I performed certain actions (executing lines of code, nodding my head, using body language). While I was tacitly aware of these features of my performances, I had never considered taking an analytic approach to the minutiae of performing for the public, and this has the potential to become a broader research concern.

I am aware that these techniques have been performed by Alex McLean, particularly on his video performing with duo Canute at Jubez Karlsruhe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAq4BAbvRS4), so video analysis of live coding concerts is evidently an established research concern among academics in the field.

I’d like to do some further research into the kinds of software I can use to do video analysis on existing documentation, one example I found was atlas.ti (http://atlasti.com/); however i’d like to keep my commitment to using free and open source technologies, so I am currently searching for an open alternative.

HSS8121: Reflective log

As this module is actually divided in two parts I think it makes sense to reflect about it in two parts as well.

RESEARCH METHODS

I think the module Enterprise and Research Methods didn’t start the 4th of February as the handbook says; it actually started the first session of the module HSS8123 when Tom and John asked us what kind of methods we used to use for our practice. When they asked that question in class, I would dare to say that most of us didn’t know what to answer. In my case, I didn’t know what to answer because I never thought about it. I guess it has to do with the fact that I never saw myself as an artist (like John and Tom have always treated us in class) and therefore I never thought of my work methods as an artist either. I still don’t consider myself to be an artist, but since that day I have been more aware of the range of methods I use for my practice and they range of methods that exist and I know I can use them some day.

 I guess the method that I have used in many projects throughout my past has been something close to ethnography, the interview and survey. However, I have never considered it as ethnography, although it is a part of it. As a result of this module, I have now a better understanding of what ethnography is and how I can use it. In fact, I am using it for my final project. Furthermore, I consider it a good starting point for a project when you don’t know how to start working on it. Observing people is a very rich source of information where you can extract many good insights from to get started. The exercise we did with John that day opened my eyes to realise how useful this method can be.

Another method that I’ve found it useful was Practice-based Research Methodologies explained by Gabi Arrigoni. Indeed, I have realised that with all the projects I have been doing throughout the year, I put in practice this concept of “thinking through making”, which is what Arrigoni mentioned in class: getting knowledge through ‘action’ (Schön, D. 1983).

ENTERPRISE

From the sessions that belong to the Enterprise part of the module I have learned something that I find very important for my formation but it has always been a missing piece in the previous university education that I have received so far: how to make a living of your work.

Although my conclusion is not very positive but a confirmation of what I already knew (it’s hard to make a living as an artist), I still find very useful what I learned thanks to the speakers we have had the pleasure to listen to.

As I have mentioned before I don’t see myself as an artist exhibiting my work on a gallery, museum, etc. Therefore I don’t think I will ever apply for any calling for artists in museum, institutions etc. (I should never say never though). However, when I say that have found this module useful it is because if I end up again working on the adverting industry again or running my own studio, I will apply the knowledge I’ve got in this module. When I said before that none has taught me how to sell my work, I think it’s the one of the biggest flaws of the university education I have received so far. I have the impression that the university system (at least in my country) just teaches you how to become an artist (the knowledge, the techniques etc.) but no one teaches you how to become a businessperson. Liked or not, that’s part of being an artist, it’s a though one that no ones likes it but it is still part of the job. So I appreciate that in this course we have got the chance to learn that, to see what’s after education from real testimonials. It was hard to listen that it’s difficult to make a living from art, that’s why some artists are also PhD students, like the speaker Tess Denman-Cleaver, but at least we heard the truth, and we all know that sometimes the truth hurts.

As a result of this module, I learned how to apply for funding, at least what things I should consider when I am trying to get a funding. For example: if the project is feasible (perhaps the most important point to highlight in an application), if it’s something that I am capable of doing it, if it is has social impact, think about the aimed audience…

This is probably the highlight of what I learned from the speakers Tess Denman-Cleaver and John O’Shea. Alexia Mellor, on the contrary, made me realised how important is to analyse failures from a constructive way. Because everything is an on-going process, and perhaps a failure that you had in the past could be the starting point of something good coming. I guess I have been always analysing my works, but very briefly, without spending too much time on it. Now I will be aware that I need to analyse my work deeply in order to improve. To finish, I would like to say that Gabi Arrigoni made me realise that they are order places rather organisations or institutions directly related to art (like the Arts Council) where artists could find opportunities such as Welcome Trust and Future Everything.

HSS8121: Research Proposal

As part of the assessment we also had to submit a document explaining what kinds of research we would propose to carry out for the given project proposal. As I had already started this in order to create a plausible proposal, choosing the types of research was not too difficult.

When looking over my notes from the different sessions we had I could also see how the different methods could be used at different stages of the development of a project and could help with different aspects so I chose to carry out research involving many of the methods spoken about in the module.

I knew I wanted to collect contextual data to help guide the social aspects of my project so I chose ethnographic research as well video analysis as I had the hope of shooting some video footage as part of my ethnographic research. I had also already undertaken research exploring different disciplines such as engineering in order to create a design for my project. With regards to the design I also knew that I would have to carry out different trials to find the best way to make the piece work how I wanted, which would require a lot of set up fails to find a successful outcome. As I was planning and making the initial research into this project I also kept in mind the setting of the museum and the audience it would be open to in order to create something appropriate which is a topic we explored in our last session with the guest speaker John O’Shea who has curated many pieces in his career.

This is all explored in more detail in my proposal and I show more of my findings from my initial research in my presentation for the following week.

HSS8121: Creative Project Proposal

pin toy

For our assessment we were given a brief to respond to, which was a commissioned piece for the National Media Museum’s LATES programme, co-inciding with the “In Your Face” exhibition. In the call for this they state four exhibition themes, so I chose ‘Reading Faces’ as the theme to base my proposed project on. The reason for this was because after our last session where we were given the brief I found myself really interested in the different ways a person can perceive faces (not just with our eyes) as many of the quick fire responses we came up with in class were all to do with visuals, photographs, illustrations etc. This got me thinking about the different sensory tools we use, and the way we reply on touch as a secondary enhancer to sight and that this is all that people are left with who are blind. So I wanted to create a project that gave the public the opportunity to try and read faces through touch.

The assessment is on the way we propose the project not the idea itself and so the simpler the project the easier it would be however I was so fixated on this concept I took a long time trying to make this a possibility (as the obvious use of making castes of peoples faces would not be suitable for this brief). Unfortunately this spiraled into what can be seen as a complicated project but I just went with it anyway!

My project idea is to have a station where an audience member can choose to participate and have a 3D scan taken of their face. Through a computer I will then, using specific points which are determined as the most important features of a face (obtained through my research), compare this to a representation of a “generic face”. For this I would use a blank face mask which is commonly sold in costume shops. Then using an Arduino microcontroller board and a series of linear servos I will move the feature points in the mask to the same depth as that of the audience. This is then used to make an impression in layers of material to show a resemblance to the audience’s face which they are able to go up to and touch. One of my main inspirations for this design is the toys you can get where you press your hand/face/body into a mass of pins and see the impressions left on the other side.
If you are not sure what I mean here is a photo of one:

To help visual it I made a diagram to show how the physical object itself would work:

HSS8121 – On Failure – Alexia Mellor’s Presentation

For her HSS8121 presentation, Alexia Mellor gave an account of her encounters with failure in producing artworks. Showing a number of picture and (sometimes excruciating) video examples, Mellor detailed examples where projects had not come off as intended, some with hilarious results. While Mellor’s talk about failure could have been a pessimistic one about damage control and how to manage failure that she considered a bad thing, Mellor’s talk focused on productive uses of failure, and how best to approach failure as a creative exercise.

The (as is a custom in HSS8121 sessions) task Mellor gave us in actively trying to create a failure was very useful. While a number of tasks focused on producing bespoke briefs for potential clients, this session encouraged out of the box playing around the explicit notion that nothing useful was to come out of the session. While I didn’t necessarily learn any new skills per se, this emphasis on play for play’s sake as a creative process (or indeed anti-process) opened up a number of avenues to explore I had not previously considered as valid options!

This session was on similar themes to the sentiment of a group residency I did at Access Space in Sheffield in November (https://seancotterill.com/2015/11/26/sonic-pattern-residency-access-space/), where the emphasis was on general process of creativity, rather than on producing a specific outcome. While this residency did end in a public performance specifically because we had chosen to produce work through it, there was on emphasis on the production of this work specifically.

From this residency I produced a system to perform live sonification on the movement of an embroiderer, and other projects included Cat++ by Nora O’ Murchú (http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_uk/blog/cat-visual-coding-language)

I went on to use the types of techniques Mellor described in her presentation for my final research proposal for this module, which I will detail in a later post.

HSS8121: ‘Fail’ method by Alexia Mellor

In one of our sessions we had a guest speaker Alexia Mellor who spoke to use about the importance of failure and how you can use it as a tool within your creative practice.

I found this session really relate-able as there have been many times throughout my time at university where I have done what I perceived as a failure and let it stop/discourage any for of creative thinking or development. Alexia explored her own past perceived failures and told us what she learned from them and how as part of her practice now she actively seeks to create a failure in order to help spark ideas to reach what would be seen as a ‘success’. I hope to apply this way of thinking when I am developing my summer project as I struggle with making decisions and committing to a set final outcome, where if I could just apply myself to try out something no matter how silly it sounds, I then could kick start a new way of thinking to inspire my creative work and hopefully create a successful final project.(fingers crossed!)

In Alexia’s presentation she also showed us a collection of questions she asks herself when she is about to take part in a creative project. I thought this was a really good idea as a form of self reflection on the decisions we make in our own personal creative practice development. Here are a few she had which I feel I could apply myself.

  • To regularly question art’s role
  • To create meaningful links between people and between disciplines
  • To remain curious
  • To allow myself the freedom to fail