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HSS8121: Media Archaeology

 What is Media Archaeology

According to Jussi Parikka and Erkki Huhtamo,

It investigates “alternate histories of suppressed, neglected, and forgotten media that do not point teleologically to the present media-cultural condition…” (Huhtamo & Parikka,Media Archaeology, 2011 ).

And Geert Lovink says,

‘Media archaeology is first and foremost a methodology, a hermeneutic reading of the “new” against the grain of the past, rather than a telling of the history of technologies from past to present. No comprehensive overview of the media archaeology approach is yet available, but we could mention a few scholars, such as Friedrich Kittler, Siegfried Zielinski, Werner Nekes, Jona- than Crary, Katherine Hayles, Werner Künzel, Avital Ronell, Christoph Asendorf, Erkki Huhtamo, Paul Virilio and others.’
(Lovink, My First Recession – Critical Internet Culture in Transition, 2003)

’In his Archaeology of the Cinema C. W. Ceram states: “What matters history is not whether certain chance discov- eries take place, but whether they take effect.”4 When Hertz experimented with electromagnetic waves he meant to prove Maxwell’s mathematical calcu- lations of the electromagnetic field; almost by accident he thereby practically invented radio transmission technology.5 How can we write media history when media systems create their Eigenzeit?’ (Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, 2013, p57)

We can say that Media Archaeology is not a single methodology, but an orientation – a direction which is common to a loose group of researchers (a lot of whom are German and related to a particular kind of german media theory and philosophy) and a particular flavour of research. If methodology is ‘a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity’ (OED) then really Media Archaeology exists at a level of abstraction above this. It is an associated set of theories, methods, methodologies and skills which emphasise a close reading of technology itself, not just in its ability to be a cultural phenomenon. As Friedrich Kittler says:

‘History is not a list of, “directors, stars, studios and celebrities, which in the end remains organised around a series of titles” ‘ (Kittler, Optical Media, p. 26).

As Ernst summarises,

‘Equally close to disciplines that analyze material (hard- ware) culture and to the Foucauldian notion of the “archive” as the set of rules governing the range of what can be verbally, audiovisually, or alphanumeri- cally expressed at all, media archaeology is both a method and an aesthetics of practicing media criticism, a kind of epistemological reverse engineering, and an awareness of moments when media themselves, not exclusively humans anymore, become active “archaeologists” of knowledge.’ (Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, 2013, p55)

In practice

Although he is not usually referred to in the ‘canon’ of MA, we could look at Matthew Kirschenbaum’s archival practice with electronic literature as an example of MA in practice.

Meanwhile Wolfgang Ernst frequently uses the spatial and temporal specifics of technological kinds of writing to discuss and problematise the way we understand time and in particular historical narrative.

‘…the historical mode of describing temporal processes has been confronted with alternative modelings of time, When it comes to describing media in time, this aporia becomes crucial, since one can no longer simply subject media processes to a literary narrative without fundamentally misreading and misrepresenting their Eigenzeit. Historical media narratives take place in imaginary time. Storage technologies, on the other hand, take place in the symbolic temporal order…’ (Ernst, Huhtamo and Parikka, Media Archaeology, 2011, p. 242)

‘But is radio, when playing, ever in a historical state? Is it not in fact always in a present state? The medium only appears to conform to the logic of historical epochal concepts; in actuality, it undermines this logic and sets a different temporal economy. For example, an original record- ing resonating today from an old tube radio, provided it can still run on 220 volts, hardly makes history audible. A tube radio thus practices compressed time with respect to our sensory perception, as long as this is not overlaid with “historical meaning,” which corresponds not to the actual media work- ings of radio but rather to the logic of inscribed historiography.’ (Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, 2013, p159)

Ernst makes the point that our language and methods of discussing, and modelling time in terms of historical narratives just aren’t up to the task of considering what technological (particularly electronic and computational) media actually do.

He also has a lot of interesting things to say about counting,

‘The numerical order, the basis of digital technologies, has always already been performed as a cultural practice before becoming technically materialized.’ (Telling vs Counting in, Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, 2013, p147)

To tell, we learn, as a transitive verb, means not only “to give a live account in speech or writing of events or facts” (that is, to tell a story) but also “to count things” (to tell a rosary, for example). The very nature of digital operations and telling thus coincide.’ (Telling vs Counting in, Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, 2013, p147-8)

The conjunction between telling stories and counting time is more than just a word game: verbs like conter, contar, raccontare, erzählen, and to tell are testimonies to a way of perceiving realities that oscillates between narrative and statistics.’ (Telling vs Counting in, Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, 2013, p149)

I found this work (actually earlier published versions of this work) extremely compelling during the early stages of making this piece, Mark Inscriber.

Ernst also maintains the Medienarchäologischer ‘fundus‘.

In Art Practice

Often this work takes the past as a point for a future imaginary.

Jamie Allen’s ‘The Lie Machine

Pablo Garcia’s ‘Profilography

Imaginary Magnitude, By Stanislaw Lem

And (though he doesn’t use this term himself) we could think of our own Diego Trujillo-Pisanty’s most excellent ‘This Tape Will Self-destruct‘.

In Pedagogy

We’ve previously talked about Julian Oliver’s work. He and Danja Vasiliev have a series of workshops around understanding network fundamentals. Jussi Parka points out that,

‘We can speculate that such ideas and practices as Weise7- group’s are an indirect response to what Geert Lovink (2012: 22) has called the need for ‘materialist (read: hardware- and software- focused) and affect-related theory.’ In this case, theory is not executed only in the normal written format but as engineered situations: the other material infrastructures and modes of expression in which power operates, from code to networks.’ Parikka (critically engineered wireless politics, 2013)

He notes that,

‘In real time computing systems, however, the collection, organization and storage of information leads directly to action, to integrated surveillance and control over the object environment. This dynamic marriage of information and control in real time systems is a fusion of knowledge and action, and, through directed action in real time, information is expressed as power. (Sackman, 1968: 1492) (in Parikka,critically engineered wireless politics, 2013)

These workshops (and others like them) are oriented towards a kind of techno-politics based on hacking intervention and self-enablement (however genuine this ends up being). There’s a like-spirited endeavour in this paper which I saw present in Xcoax – a symposium you should all make yourselves aware of.


What does the Sack piece tell us about the way that memory has been conceived of in the history of computer science?

Warren Sack in: Fuller, Matthew. Software studies: A lexicon. Mit Press, 2008.

Electronic Memory in Practice

In this section we are going to have an archaeological look, a dig in fact, at electronic memory. To do this properly there are a certain number of things we need to understand first.


how does binary work?

1 bit – 2 possible states
2 bit – 4 possible states
3 bit – 8 possible states
4 bit – 16 possible states
5 bit – 32 possible states
6 bit – 64 possible states
7 bit – 128 possible states
8 bit (a byte) – 256 possible states

Here’s a way of working out the value:

(image cc wikivisual 2015)

(then add the results : 32+8+2=42)

And here’s another way:

how to read binary

(image cc wikivisual 2015)

(then, again, add the results : 32+8+2=42)

This is how we combine single bits to create more and more memory. But what we are interested in is how, on a the level of both logic and components, this works.

Latches and Flip flops

Latches and flip flops (we can talk about the difference – it depends who you ask) are an essential part of computer memory. Some version of this circuit is inside the most fundamental aspects of computer memory. They are therefore massively significant in thinking about what we mean when we say ‘computer memory’. We are going to build a state saving circuit ( a flip flop) and use it to explore what we do and don’t know about digital memory and how we can use that as part of a research and creative methodology.

History and archaeology of the flip flop.

Here’s the original patent, designed with vacuum tubes.

And what do vacuum tubes do?

How does it work?

Let’s hear a nice (rather slow) explanation.  To understand what flipflops are and why they are important we first need to know a few things.

Like what is boolean logic?

How can we combine two NOR gates into an OR gate? Simple (ish)! We invert it! See a bunch of examples here. Take one and explain it to your partner!

Step one: Building a NOR gate

This circuit uses transistors

Transistors are manufactured in different shapes but they have three leads (legs).
The BASE – which is the lead responsible for activating the transistor.
The COLLECTOR – which is the positive lead.
The EMITTER – which is the negative lead.



Here’s our circuit diagram. (and below obviously)

Step Two: Combine two NOR gates into a flip flop.

Look at the diagram below. How should we wire up our NORs to make a flip flop?

2 NORs making a flip flop. CC wikimedia


It works, what next?

A flip flop gives us a single bit, held in memory (as long as there is power). Here are somethings I want us to discuss:

  • what is the significance of holding one piece of memory – what can that memory mean? What can it do? Wittgenstein asks of a man given a piece of paper which asks for 5 apples, the following ‘But how does he know where and how he is to look up the word ‘red’ and what he is to do with the word ‘five’?” Well, I assume that he acts as I have described. Explanations come to an end somewhere.—But what is the meaning of the word ‘five’? No such thing was in question here, only how the word ‘five’ is used.’ What do we mean when we say a bit ‘means’?
  • Now imagine we have an encoding system for that bit. e.g. 0 = ‘apple’, 1=’pear’. How does that affect the above?
  • Stepping outside this question for a moment – how many real-world applications for the storage of one bit of information can you think of? How about for 2 or 3 bits?
  • If we all combined our individual bits into a large register – what could we store? How could we act?

But Why? Let’s talk about that

  • What elements of media archaeology (if any) do you identify in your work?
  • What would be the impact of this method?
  • Returning to our project, how could you take this exploration of digital memory further, how would you develop it?


Suggested readings

What is Media Archaeology? Parikka, 2012, Polity

Media Archaeology, Huhtamo & Parikka (eds), 2010

Digital Memory and the Archive, Ernst, 2012, University of Minnesota Press

Deep Time of the Media, Zielinkski, 2008, MIT Press


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The Recording Process of Research Proposal

This is link of the recording process of research proposal, which contains some notes that i write on.

Research Proposal thinking process:

The research area I am interesting in is visual communication. And a lot of scholars claim that visual communication is an essential term in the culture and meaning transmission….

There are some literature that could show that why visual communication is important in the process of culture and s development.

Culture and society: (the important of visualization)

“Beginning in the 1970s, the social sciences experienced a significant change in their understanding of social life. While this change depended on a number of longer traditions of society and cultural analysis – especially the Marxist critique of mass culture offered by Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, and the development of ‘cultural studies’.  The change often described as the ‘cultural turn’. That is, ‘cultural’ become a crucial means by which social scientists understood social processes, social identities, and social; change and conflict. Culture is a complex concept, but, in very broad terms, the result of its deployment has been that many social scientists are now very often interested in the ways in which social life is constructed through the ideas that people have about it, and the practices that flow from those ideas. To quote one of major contributors to this shift, Stuart Hall:

‘Culture, it is argued, is not so much a set of things – novels and paintings or TV programs or comics – as a process, a set of practices. Primarily, culture is concerned with the production and exchange of meanings – the ‘giving and taking of meaning’ – between the numbers of a society or group… Thus culture depends on its participants interpreting meaning – fully what is around them, and ‘making sense’ of the world, in broadly similar ways.’

Those meaning may be explicit or implicit, conscious or unconscious, they may be felt as truth or as fantasy, science or common-sense; and they may be conveyed through everyday speech, elaborate rhetoric, high art, TV soap operas, dreams, movies or muzak; and different groups in a society will make sense of the world in different ways. Whatever form they take, these made meanings, or representations, structure the way people behave – the way you and I behave – in our everyday lives.

This sort of argument can take very diverse forms. But many writers addressing these issues argued that the visual is central to the cultural conscious of social life in contemporary western societies. We are, of course, almost constantly surrounded by different sorts of technologies – photography, film, video, digital graphics, television, acrylics, for example – and the images they show us – TV programs, advertisement, snapshots, Facebook page, public sculpture, movies, closed circuit television footage, newspaper pictures, painting. All these different sort of technologies and image offer views of the world; they render the world in visual terms. But this rendering, even by photography, is never innocent. These images are never transparent windows onto the world; they interpret the world; they display it in very particularly way; they represent it. Thus a distinction is sometimes made between vision and visuality. Vision is what the human eye is physiologically capable of seeing. Visuality, on the other hand, refers to how vision is constructed in various ways: ‘how we see this seeing and the unseeing therein’. Another phrase with very similar connotations to visuality is scopic regime. Both terms refer to the ways in which both what is seen and how it is seen are culturally constructed. 

For some writers, the visual is the most fundamental of all senses. Gordon Fyfe and John Law (1988:2), For example, claim that ‘depiction, picturing and seeing are ubiquitous features of the process by which most human beings come to know the world as it really is from them’, and John Berger (1972:7) suggests that this is because ‘seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak’. Other writers, however, prefer to historicise the important of the visual, tracing what they see as the increasing saturation of western society by visual images. Many claim that this process has reached unprecedented levels, so that westerners now interact with the world mainly through how we see it. Martin Jay (1993) has used the term ocularcentrism to describe the apparent centrality of the visual to contemporary western life.

Barbara Maria Stafford (1991), a historian of images used in the sciences, has argued that, in a process beginning in the eighteenth century, the construction of scientific knowledge about the world has become more and more based on images rather than written texts. –p3

The use of the term visual culture refers to this plethora of ways in which the visual is part of social life. – p4 VM”

In literature research, I write down the useful arguments and information for lining the arguments of my research proposal. Also, recoding the name of book and page number for further use.

According to those perspective, it is clear to see that visual communication is very important. In addition, there are some arguments talk about the visual aesthetic in visual communication. Also, those claims points out some discussion about the relationship between the visual aesthetic and human’s cognitive and affective. There are some literature could illustrate that:

A central dilemma of aesthetic visual communication is whether visual images can provide reliable evidence of important human cognitive activity and potentially meaningful affective responses or whether an image’s communication value is wholly dependent on what can be said about it; this could include discursive logic, applied subjective, by each individual viewers.

Is there communication if you cannot seem to ‘put it into words’? Does the nature of visual information transmission, its accurate interpretation, and the meaningful important of an image reside only in the subjective (inside the subjunctive’s head) processes of each individual viewers? Can there be a base of objective (based in a physical object) information on which multiple viewers can agree? Both the image-maker and all subsequent viewers must somehow have confidence in their ability to understand a level of meaning embedded in the image. If, as the subjective view holds, all interpretation is only a fanciful construction in the mind of each individual, how can any viewers judge the quality, precise meaning, and utility of the communication?” P23 – Handbook of visual communication.

“One of the most important pieces of visual communication puzzle is aesthetics. The nature of beauty and why it affects us so deeply is mysterious. Why do qualities so elusive to define (like a sunset or a half-opened rose) affect us do powerful? This is an important question to consider in visual communication. It is suggested that, because of the essentially nonverbal nature of aesthetics, what can be written is only speculation ‘about’ the nature of visual aesthetics and cannot therefore be ‘of’ visual aesthetics itself.

The aesthetic aspects of communication are (a) visible, structural, and configurational in nature; (b) largely implicit in apprehension; (c) holistic in conveying meaning (not wholly translatable into parsed, discursive form); and (d) cognitive in a generative sense, based on a unique type of visual logic.

Three disciplines – philosophy, art, and science – have been used historically to study issues about visual understanding. The sciences increasingly can, however offer factual evidence for defining how aesthetic qualities play a foundational role in human communications. – p3 HV

Noting that the aesthetic experience consists of people’s reactions to objects as opposed to aesthetics that are inherent in the object per se (Hassenzahi et al., 2008).”

And with the development of technology, there are massive technical product into people’s life. Actually, people would interact with technical product in every daily life, and the first step of interaction is visual term. Also this article  point out that the important relationship between the visual aesthetic and HCI (Human – Computer Interaction)/Interaction design which becomes an important subject in the contemporary.

Based on those perspective, the centre concept of my research proposal is that exploring the possible elements in visual aesthetic could influence human’s cognitive and affective, which might use in interaction design that could improve the use experience.

In addition, I also did research about the methods of this research, which around the Ethnography, Media Archaeology and Walking Field Recording. Having more deep understand about these three research approach to plan the particular and suit research way in this research.

Structure of my research proposal:

  1. Introduction – visual communication in the information technology era.
  2. Background – the important of visual communication (culture & society).
  3. The relationship between visual aesthetic and human’s cognitive & affective.
  4. My motivation.
  5. Aim of this proposal.
  6. Methodology – based on the approach of Ethnography, Media Archaeology and Walking Field Recording.
  7. The research questions.
  8. The possibility output.
  9. Reference list.

There are some notes about this research process, which also contain fragmentary idea in my thinking process… (the images post in their is not clear, so i upload on website. Please open the link that i post first)

The Proposal of Late Show

This is link of the Late Show’s recording process, which contains some pictures and notes that i write on.

Seven Stories Proposal:

Seven Stories is the national home of children’s books. Everything they do celebrate children’s books, their creator and reader. Many of the best loved books for children and writer by British authors and illustrators. Changing the lives of those who read and enjoy them. They select original artwork and manuscripts form first scribbles to finished books to create their innovative exhibitions and popular events. Seven Stories’ unique exhibitions, lively events and playful activities bring children’s book to life – every day for everyone – making it a place to remember.

In the studio space, curator of Seven Stories give us some introduction about this space and Seven Stories. And different floors have different story topic, which using creative way to display the process of writing story, also engaging different type of audience with different activities and events.

As for the proposal of the Late Show, which should be inspired form one place of Seven Stories with creative thinking to make project that could connect and response to children’s book .

1. Idea discussion.

The idea discussion about the Late show. The idea of the Late Show which around some key words, such as interactively and creative experience. According to different exhibition topics of Seven Stories, we got a lot of ideas. The most I interest in is the story about bear which always are written in story and described as human’s friend. In terms of the idea about bear, which has ‘Teddy Bear as a boundary creature: not a fucked up doll’, ‘disserting Teddy Bears’, ‘Teddy Gets An Operation’, ‘Teddy Bear anatomy’, ‘the movie Teddy’, ‘Teddy talks: a proper Ted Talk’, ‘Teddy Talks’, ‘Teddy Bear support groups, group therapy’, ‘Teddy Bear Picnic At Hanging Rock’, ‘Teddy Bear night out in Big Market’……

The original idea I had that around ‘Teddy Talks’ with anthropomorphic way that teddy bear can talk about some story about itself to engage different type visitors……

However, I realized that ‘Teddy Talk’ just base on the talk and listen, which I think that this kind of activity not interesting enough and might not that could response the ethos of Seven Stories. Although Teddy Bear be a ‘Talk Person’ is interesting to audience, it is important to note that the way of audience get story still with normal way. Therefore, continue with the topic of Teddy Bear, I try to come up with some ideas that could involve audience in show and response Seven Stories’ ethos…

2. Puzzle Game.

The inspiration of this idea is adventure. Also some stories star with adventure. Because, adventure is mysterious and challenging for the ‘hero’ of story and reader, such as “Peter Pan”. In addition, in some degree I think that the process of writing a story also an adventure for every writer. Therefore I plan to use the idea of adventure in this projects – puzzle game. Comparing with the traditional puzzle game, this one is different. For the traditional puzzle game, the segments of puzzle could be provide, the player just need to think about the segments place in puzzle. As for this puzzle game, it needs player find the segments in Seven Stories by themselves first. And the process of finding segments is more likely an adventure game that lead audience go and explore something unknown. It might stimulate their curiosity and make them involve into activity actively.

However, there are two points I remind myself when in design this game. Firstly, the process of find segment could not too complex, which might influence participants’ enthusiasm. Secondly, there need an outcome (Bear’s pictures and stories) after participant found segments and finished puzzle, which as an aim for participants that could promote them.

The idea about putting the segments into box, which is inspired from the ‘treasure box’. It is a metaphor segments are treasure that participants could get after they find box and open it, which also a part of adventure could attract visitors.

The place consideration is Studio Space where Seven Stories suggest a participatory work that visitors can interact with….

Reflection of HSS8121

This is link of reflection, which contains pictures and notes that i write on.


To be honest, I had confusion about this module in the early. Every lecture of this module, there was a guest speaker presented their project and research area. But some subject area is very new to me, although I felt it very meaningful and interesting, I had no idea how can those things useful to me. Such as the practice we did with Serena Korda. We put device and receive signal form Jupiter. Then we recorded the voice form this signal. It is amazing and I am very excited. However, the follow practice is that using different ways to edit the recording sound. Actually, in that time, I was not sure what should I did, what I would get and what for.

After that, I try to not just think about the content of those research, but think about the research its. Then, I realized that it is a question I should be addressed by myself, also it is the thing that I could learn from this module – research and exploring.

For myself, I might ignore the important and meaning about research. Early, research for me is more likely to seek something I need. Also, design is the thing about how to response the demands of customers when I did interior and landscape design. And in graphic design, I more likely to seek a beautiful visual effects. Although visual effect is an important part of design, sometimes I will lose the value and meaning of design. That is the limitation of my thinking.

From this module, it reminds me the important of research. And I realized the meaning of research in our creative project. In the process of research, it not only about to seek the things that we need, but it more focus on finding new things and relationship between them with exploring and wild thinking. Such as the creative project which called Yossarian, it is a search program and attempt to find the possibility relationship between every key words. And the concept of this project is that developing ideas. According to this, I realized that every idea not just on side, and try to stand in different position to think about it and find the different possibilities.

What more, research not only happen in the academic area, but it also needs us to concern in everyday life. When you walking on the street, try to listen and observe the environment around you, or when an ice cube melt in your mouth and hand, concerning about your reflecting, thinking deeply and research deeply. And I believe that I could explore more possibilities.

HSS8121 Interface Critique

Since I ended up learning a lot about interaction design in a short space of time, I figured it might be interesting to take a look at some of the programs and websites I use a lot and see how they measure up to some of those criteria for good design. Let’s see which ones come out on top!
Warning: may contain frivolous misapplication of design criteria and bad comparisons.

1. Adobe InDesign
Professional desktop publishing software
The number of clicks required to achieve any goal is usually very few, generally 1-2 to find the tool you need and 1-2 more to apply it. Considering the sheer volume of things you can do, does this make it a ‘generous interface‘? You can accomplish a ridiculous number of things in very fine detail, using only the buttons available on the main screen, but considering how tiny they are and how very few of them can be used intuitively without going through a lengthy tutorial or spending 20 minutes googling them first.  InDesign does its job perfectly, but you really have to work for it. Which I suppose isn’t that bad a verdict, for a piece of professional design software.

Pros: mediates a lot of content simultaneously, good on both big picture and fine detail
Cons: interface must be courted with caviar and roses before it will consider helping you
Final Score: 7 out of 10

2. Runescape
Online MMORPG I’ve been playing too much of lately

I know MMOs are complicated, but seriously, how many different menu tabs do you need? How many different kinds of menus do you need? Zoom in on this screenshot and you’ll see icons for combat styles, daily tasks, skills, quests, armour, inventory, 9 different kinds of chat settings, friends, groups, contacts, settings, emotes, music, health, money… it just goes on.

I suppose it gets credit for having that many things onscreen without the game becoming unusable. I like this game, but considering that I’m already paying to play it I don’t enjoy the nagging suspiciousthat its much better at showing me the content that encourages me to spend more money than how best to experience what I’ve already paid for.

Pros: provides the comforting illusion of setting yourself goals and then achieving them
 the interface and the mechanics feel like they’re getting in the way
Final Score: 5 out of 10

3. Youtube

Video browsing website

A bit more alike in form to the digital archive/collection interfaces I’ve been studying, because it mediates content in a more linear way. Following this train of logic, I suppose Youtube is a pretty strong interface, given how easily and enjoyably you can get sucked into browsing material for extended periods of time, which includes discovering things you didn’t intend to search for. Pretty good on the ‘big picture -> subsection -> individual piece of content’ front too. Shame about the algorithms that recommend new content though; for my money they present you with videos that are too narrowly similar to the ones I’ve already been watching.

Making a channel, uploading videos and making playlists is much worse though, partly because the things you do as a browser and the things you do as a content creator are needlessly entangled. The screenshot above represents my channel, but only about a quarter of the visible screen deals with uploading and posting videos at all.

Pros: easy and intuitive to start browsing, and keep browsing for ages
you’ll mostly find more of the same, and managing a channel is much less intuitive
Final Score:
 8 out of 10 for browsing, 4 for uploading


4. Steam
Digital storefront and library for PC video games

I’ve always thought of Steam as the iTunes of video games, and I’ve generally liked it a lot more than iTunes and the other musical equivalents like Google Play that I’ve tried. Those always try harder to show me new things I might buy than to make it easy to navigate the songs I already have. On the other hand, Steam divides the storefront and the things I’ve bought from the storefront into two categories (and does a better job of handling dual purposes than Youtube).

As far as the storefront goes, its easy to search specifically and browse generally. The presentation of the library is lacklustre, but then again, it only has to represent a list of things you’ve already paid for, so chances are you know the contents pretty well already.

Pros: looks nice, handles the store/library distinction well
recommendation algorithms have the opposite issue, casting the net a bit too wide
Final Score:
 8 out of 10

And the winner is… 
hard to say really. As much as they could all stand to do certain things more intuitively, is it really in their best interests to do so? Arguably they are all generous, browseable & aesthetically pleasing to the extent they need to be, and no more. This was probably a doomed enterprise from the outset, but its been interesting to think about the interfaces I unthinkingly use in a more critical way, even if I mostly just ended up venting.

Seven Stories – The Late Shows

As part of the Enterprise and Research methods module the CAP team made an appearance at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Stories as part of Newcastles and Gateshead’s famed culture crawl. Mike Hurst and Lewis Brown equally brought an interesting, entertaining and engaging range of demonstrative and thought provoking performances and installations.

During the night I helped document activities in Seven Stories (yes that’s a lot of stairs) and tried to capture the engagement of those around me. In this post i’ll attach some photographs taken on the night:




DMS8013 Log#2; Study Buddy

The first and perhaps most difficult of the three artifacts asked for as part of DMS8013, was the ‘Study Buddy.’ A arduino device that was fairly simple on the outside, but the interior of which took some wrangling to get work.

Study Buddy, ver.1

The basic idea behind the Study Buddy was a small device that could be kept on a desk or bedside which would provide uplifiting and perhaps even helpful phrases to those struggling and stressing over exams, assessments, and general university life. This would be achieved with a simple interface and LCD screen linked to a pair of breadboards and arduino.

The first issue to overcome was a matter of flickering encountered on the LCD screen. As it turns out, rather than having a set contrast, the LCD instead dedicates one of its pins to controlling it. This pin, if simply provided with nothing but voltage, creates negative feedback that causes a distorted and constantly flickering screen. Usually this can be controlled using a potentiometer, however I simply wanted it set to maximum contrast at all times. There was no need in the design for it to be alterable. This problem was soon overcome through the use of a voltage divider gate, using a set of 10k and 220 resistors. This not only ensured the voltage and display was constant, but also stopped the feedback and eliminated any flicker.

Next, an interface was needed. In the original design I opted to use a potentiometer that would allow users to “point” to a green, yellow, or red LED to signify whether things were going good, fair, or badly respectively. By setting up an analog read with the potentiometer, and then mapping that result to one of three integers, it was possible to selectively make the LCD display different messages depending on which LED was being pointed at. The LED itself would, naturally, light up when pointed at to signify which choice had been made. The next step was to create a bank of responses which would be randomly chosen so as to not create a stale experience that would quickly lose its effectiveness. However, aspects of the interface designed bothered me. It was difficult to tell exactly where the potentiometer was being pointed, there was no default or ‘resting’ position, and overall it did not feel very intuitive to use. Testers would look at it, and dial the potentiometer too much, causing a smattering of messages that lost their effect when being so jumbled up.

Study Buddy, ver.2

Aside from changing up the orientation of the LCD in relation to the rest of the device, it now also uses a series of three buttons instead of a single potentiometer. These buttons do not require any sort of read feature in the code, but did instead need a larger array of integers to track whether they had been pushed or not, and to cycle through responses. These additional integers (what digital pin on the arduino they were connected to, the current switch state, previous switch state, and reply) form the bulk difference in code between versions 1 and 2 of the study buddy. Happy enough with the design, it was time to create an actual bank of responses.

The bank required use of the switch/case function which allows for a variety of different code to be executed depending on the pre-set conditions. In this case, when one of the three buttons is pressed. To actually randomise the result, the function of the same name would be used to select a random number, inserted that into the reply integer and pick a response based on that reply. Each button ended with three different responses, and though each one was longer than the 32 characters the LCD screen can display at any one time, through the use of delay functions and resetting the screen, it was possible to have a sort of scrolling message. After the message was done, the LCD would revert back to its default screen, asking how the user and presenting them with three options that lined up with the buttons and LEDs. Much like with the first version, the LED would light up when its respective button was pushed.

The responses themselves needed to be a mixture of encouragement and hopeful messages. It felt only proper to make the red and yellow (the ‘bad’ and ‘fair’ choices) the longest and most detailed, since it would be those that were struggling and stressing the most that would have the most use for the study buddy. However, praise for a job well done is also very important to encourage continued good work. It was for this reason that a ‘good’ response was included at all.

A brief musical interlude

In a welcome brake practice (i.e. writing things on my laptop and occasionally going to poetry gigs) I actually went outside today and made some music in the sun, helping my old buddy from Newcastle Allstars Steel Orchestra host a musical workshop at Harambee Pasadia Afro Fusion Music & Dance Festival today.

Aaaand just to prove I was actually there and teaching music, some photos:



DMS8012: Performing my _hackedKeyboard$^/colourNEON;


So last Saturday I performed on the hacked keyboard that I made for the Live Electronic Performance module, at one of the Newcastle Late Shows’ events here in the Culture Lab ballroom. I’m pretty happy with my performance- I found my instrument to be dynamic enough to improvise with and produce a captivating sound. Though, there are several things I would change if given the opportunity again.

First off, I spent a good deal of time painting my device and making it look all nice, and then when it came to performing, I was plonked high up on a stage where it was above any of the audience’s view. A solution to this problem would be to perform in a more inclusive space, perhaps down lower on the ground with the audience all around me. I might also solve this issue by performing with a camera projecting a bird’s eye view of my set up behind me. Linking on to this tangent- if I were to use projections I might also be able to make it so that pressing keys on my device not only played a sound, but also manipulated the display (like in patatap) as an additional visual stimulus.

Also ‘like patatap,’ I do think it’d be better to have a second bank of sounds as opposed to only one as it is mapped now. I felt my performance was a little short, and this may have been because I was overly concerned at my limited resources getting stale. I think this could be overcame by creating a second mapping of the capital letters, and re-attaching the ‘CAPS LOCK’ key as a sort of toggle between the two banks. There would even be a light to indicate which mode the keyboard is in if I were to pursue this.

There is a lot of un-used space on my device in the void created by all the unnecessary keys I removed. I could potentially envisage these spaces being filled up with touch sliders controlling master parameters such as pitch, volume and effects. Again, this would give my device more range and playability. I had some real issues getting Arduino boards to work with my operating system during the course of this project, though connecting these sensors to Pure Data as sensors via Arduino would be one means of accomplishing this.

I get the feeling that I’m only just dipping my toes into this world, but with that said I am confident in my understanding of it. I believe that even with my meagre abilities I could find my way to realising an idea. There is an open-source culture of sharing one’s experiments in this realm, and as such, it is conducive to working beyond your means- which is always a desirable space for an artist.


MUS8161: Studio Improvisation

For the ‘Free Music Practice’ module we were given a wide array of choice with what we could submit. This was a hard choice, particularly considering I have a number of active improvisation practice projects as it is. I chose to pursue writing an album for mine and Alexei Crawley’s metal band, ‘k//hORdE’.
This project didn’t begin with improv in mind, it sort of happened by accident. It started with a talk by Prof. Will Edmondes (who is also the head of the Free Music Practice module) on ‘Black Metal, Gnosticism and The Body’. Above all we left this talk feeling inspired to create something horrible sounding in the studio, calling on our backgrounds in metal/hardcore that neither of us were utilising at the time. The first song we recorded was ‘semi-planned’ and by that I mean we had a couple of riffs and some lyrics in mind before we entered the studio, but that was it. We realised that the spontaneity of this method served really well for the project, and also made it stick out from other extreme metal acts. After several more studio sessions, producing as many new songs and leading to a performance (as part of the Contemporary Music Practice module in my Undergraduate Degree), I have been desperate to record/create something on a larger scale (i.e. an album).
I knew I wanted this album to epotimise the urgent, sporadic nature of the k//hORdE creative process, so I only booked 12 hours of studio time (of which we only used 8). Nothing was planned prior to these sessions, creating a tense atmosphere, which I think is great for creating intense music (seems a little obvious after writing it down). If I were to say we had a system it would be something like: decide mood, decide tempo, decide starting instrument (usually guitar or synth, sometimes bass), improvise the ‘song’ in parts. I realise that because we record the instruments separately that the drums and vocal aren’t 100% improvised as we’ve had time to listen to the initial instrumental tracks. However, these parts are still created in the same spirit, entailing one or two listens to the guitar/synth, followed by a one take ‘improvisation’ of the new part (sometimes two takes if there’s a really big ‘mistake’). These tracks are then treated ‘traditionally’ and produced (sometimes quite heavily), with added effects and layers. The quick nature of the process has led to a really mixed album (in style and lyrical content), inspiring me to name it ‘sPOrAdICA’.

Whilst I am very happy with the end result from this project, there are maybe a few things I would change. The inconsistent tone is a slight niggle for me. Although it’s indicative of the album’s process and our attitudes at the time of recordings, I feel an urge to separate the jokey songs from the more serious ones. Maybe this is something for future projects though. I think to tear the album apart would detract from the process with which we made it. This is a frequent dilemma that stems from the very nature of improvisation. When recording improvised music the outcome is (almost) always a surprise, and therefore can lead to personal problems with it on closer inspection. The tendency as a ‘conventional’ musician and producer is to alter something and make it perfect, but so often the charm lies within imperfection and that’s how I feel about this album.

I also created some artwork for this album, in a similarly urgent approach to the music. It is made of a picture of myself dancing to Kanye West’s ‘Freestyle 4’ with a mouthful of Wasabi Popping Candy… This was then edited using pixlr, by messing around with distortions, colour, hue/saturation and opacity filters. It’s then layered with some logo work I produced last year in a similar manner.

You can listen to the album here:


Please do NOT share publicly, this is a private link and we do plan to release the album through our label, Real Sesh Records.

Reflections on HSS8121


I must confess there were several occasions which I forgot that this module even existed given how infrequently we met for it, though in reflection it’s completely changed my perspective. Previously I have always resented having to participate in research a little here at university. Before I ever made my choice to come to Newcastle I always said: “if I ever go to university it will be to study music.” I think at the time, I didn’t really understand how ‘research’ might have fitted into that picture- and my attitude has probably reflected that ever since, until I began to see it under a new light.

There’s something about the dry academicness of the term that is a real turn off for me. Though it has implications of trawling through mountains of literature and drawing complicated histograms, neither of which interest me particularly- “research” is just a word describing the process of ‘finding out things you don’t already know,’ and I love doing that. I suppose that realisation defines my outtake from this module really.

One of the aims of this module was to encourage us to find our own ways in which research relates to our practice. For me I think it’s about inspiration. Doing ethnography exercises around town allowed me to observe the usually unseen; highlighting some potentially interesting artistic directions. Sampling sounds broadcast from Jupiter with Serena Korda made me realise the scale of all the un-tapped resources yet to be explored. These were both examples of research, and contrary to my prior opinions, it was exciting.

Thanks to this course, I am now less inclined to think of myself as a musician, than an ‘artist.’ I’d posit that’s probably due to the prevalent attitude towards ‘research through design’ here in Culture Lab. It’s strange how doing something that at first appears unrelated can show you something new about your own stuff. I’ve already began planning how I might incorporate this thinking into my work: me and Garry are thinking holistically about this entire album that we’re wanting to make this Summer (for the first time ever really). I had the idea of doing a spin on one of those chart things that artists do in the studio where they tick off when the guitar is recorded, and then vocals, and so on… except for our one, we could have more abstract criteria like ‘atmosphere’ or ‘edginess’ to push us to think more laterally about the project; perhaps leading to provoking results.

Speaking of lateral thinking, one of the more notable occurrences for me during this module was discovering the Yossarian ‘creative‘ search engine. I’ve already used it to come with ideas for my Research Proposal, and that commissioned opportunity at Seven Stories. I also found the talk about meeting with potential investors interesting that week, though unfortunately I felt that much of the entrepreneurial material offered to us on this module didn’t really pertain to my idea of what I’m going to be up to when this is all said and done. I appreciate it must be hard to cater to everyone’s position though, and the tailored advice we’ve been receiving from Generator these last few months has left me feeling anything but lacklustre.