HSS8121: Public Art

Slides from Gabi Arrigoni’s introductory lecture on public art

Public Art for CAP

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Current Students

Students currently studying Master in Creative Arts Practice

Ryan Boyle

Nick Cooke

Xuan Du

India Fleming

Pete Haughie

Sijia He

Yaxi Jin

Katharine Oswell

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Benazir Syarifuddin

Niall Calderon

Kypros Kyprianou

Jasmine Padgett


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Ares Rabe Shawn MaChloe Manyue Yu Chrissy Shou Yu ChenBen WoolseyMegan WilsonJade MallaboneGarry LydonMichael HirstSarah DavyAlexei CrawleyLewis BrownDaniel BradwellAshley Bowes


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Meena DaneshyarMaria Clemente – AlbaceteSean Cotterill

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MeteorEdmund Nesveda

Clive WrightChilly Rain

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Yousif AbdulghaniTan

BartiZhang Wei



Yinzhen BaoTatiana Fujimori
Jaejun HwangSaksit Knunkitti
Wenchang LinClare Robertson
Tunc Karkutoglu

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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)


DMS8013: 3. Communication: What hath God wrought?



  • To experience and discuss aspects of the history of communications technology
  • To think about what we mean by communication
  • To understand (a little) more about how networks work

Communicating Information vs How to do Things with Words (a contrast)

Lets consider the history of optical communication 

Beacons and Smoke Signals

Precursors to The Chappe Optical Telegraph



How wonderful it was that these various signs should be made to cleave the air with such precision as to convey to the distance of three hundred leagues the ideas and wishes of a man sitting at a table at one end of the line to another man similarly placed at the opposite extremity, and all this affected by a simple act of volition. Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

Early Experiments of the Chappe Brothers

Lets recreate one of these experiments using this online clock, and a small bell.

Standage (1998, p. 9) describes how the Chappe brothers, before arriving at the solution of semaphore arms as the most efficient way of encoding and relaying messages, experimented with a combination of synchronized timing devices and color-coded discs. The recipient of the message would watch for the change between black and white and take a note of the precise position of the stop-watch, translating this number via a pre-arranged code. What is historically significant about this process, is that by tying the change of a physical state to a regular time interval, the brothers introduced two completely new spatio-temporal arrangements of materiality, which are exercised, two hundred years later, by the iPhone which forms the basis for NBM. First the regulation of information by time interval, effectively prefigured the notion of bandwidth (without which, Shannon’s seminal (2001 [1948]) work, for instance, would not have been possible). Second the notion of a regulating clock signal to manage information processing was effectively born with this invention. In integrated circuits, different chips must be able to communicate with one another at the right time and for this purpose, a clock signal is referred to. It is no exaggeration to say that without the notion of a clock signal, there would be no microprocessors and hence, no digital computers. However, I do not claim that the Chappe brothers version of serial ‘genealogically’ lead to the development of the signal clock. Instead I suggest that this material arrangement of physicality and time can be traced back to this historical moment. Schofield, Tom, Materiality and Making in Experiential Ecologies (PhD Thesis).


Claude (Elwood!) Shannon

Information Theory. Signal vs Noise. The abstraction that Shannon brought to the notion of information was exactly that which made it computable. His work with boolean logic and encryption was made possible by a particular (and instrumental) vision of information. It is not Shannon’s fault that the specialised use of the word ‘communication’ described in his work has unproblematically expanded out of its home in (the foundations) of computer science.

So far we’ve talked about the history of optical ‘communication’. To what degree do you think we are actually talking about ‘communication’. To what degree are talking about transmission / reception? What is/could be the difference?


Performativity and doing things with words (and media)

If we wish to think seriously about the media of communication, particularly in the age of computational media we need to think about what we mean when we say ‘communication’.

‘Performative utterances:
a. do not ‘describe’ or ‘report’ or constate anything at all, are not ‘true or false’
b. the uttering of the sentence is, or is a part of, the doing of an action, which again would not normally be described as ‘just’ saying something.’(adapted from) 1962 Austin, John L. “How to Do Things with Words.” Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962. p6


‘…if gender is instituted through acts which are internally discontinuous, then the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief. If the ground of gender identity is the stylised repetition of acts through time, and not a seemingly seamless identity, then the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between such acts in the possibility of a different sort of repeating, in the breaking of subversive repetition of that style.’ Butler, Judith. “Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory.” Theatre journal 40.4 (1988): 519-531. p520

Task: Re-read the quote above –
1. what are examples of the way that gender is constituted and re-consituted through speech acts?
2. what does Butler mean when she says that ‘gender is instituted through acts which are internally discontinuous’?
3. what kind of acts might produce the possibility of a different sort of repeating?

If language is performative may not other forms of communication be so? In answer, we might also look to some recent DH work

‘In a model of materiality as fundamentally performative, we can show how forensic, evidentiary materiality and formal organization serve as a provocation for the creation of a reading as a constitutive interpretative act. The specific structures and forms, substrates and organizational features, are probability conditions for production of an interpretation. Knowledge creates the objects of its discourses, it does not “discover” them. Constructivist epistemology shifts our attention from knowledge to knowing, from objects that are observer-independent to the recognition of observer-dependent process, or events.’ Drucker, J. “Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface”, Digital Humanities Quarterly 7.1, 2013. (emphasis added)


Doing Communication

Optional Pre-task:

Download the Processing library ‘OscP5‘. Follow the installation instructions and have a play with the examples.

For extra brownie points you may want to have a look at this. An overview of how the internet is structure in terms of its backbone, ISP etc.

If you have an android mobile phone, download this free app or for iPhone this one. We are going to play with it in class.

All sketches for today’s class are here 3.

HSS8121: Theoretical approaches to the public. Foundations


In this session we will:

  • Examine some ways that different societies at different periods in history have described the role, function or nature of the public
  • Think about some of our preconceptions about what does and does not constitute a public
  • Look at some contemporary theories about publics have been influential in research practice
  • Reflect on the above as it relates to our role of putting creative work in to the world

Key vocabulary

All the definitions below are from the OED (which btw you have full access to as an ncl student here) unless otherwise stated.

Dialectics, ‘Logic, reasoning; critical investigation of truth through reasoned argument, often spec. by means of dialogue or discussion.’

Sophistry, ‘Specious but fallacious reasoning; employment of arguments which are intentionally deceptive.’

Publicity, ‘The quality of being public; the condition or fact of being open to public observation or knowledge’

The Public Sphere. There are many definitions but broadly we mean a discursive space where political concerns are developed. Habermas used the term ‘Öffentlichkeit’

politische Öffentlichkeit: “political public sphere” (or sometimes the more cumbersome “public sphere in the political realm”)

literarische~Öffentlichkeit:”literary public sphere” (or “public sphere in the world of letters”)

repräsentative Öffentlichkeit: “representative publicness” (i.e,.,the display of inherent spiritual power or dignity before audience)

(Translators foreword to Habermas, J. (1991 [1962]). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. (T. (trans) Burger, Ed.). Cambridge MA: MIT Press pxiv)

Conjoint action, ‘..the agency behind the emergence of a public.’ Bennett, Jane. Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Duke University Press, 2009. p100. The forces or factors that make people and things come and act together (my addition)

Agency and actants/actors, Agency is the capacity of someone, something or some other phenomenon to effect change. Actors/actants are those who have agency (my notes)

Interessement, In Actor Network Theory, Interessement is the process by which actors become enrolled in a network. (my notes)


Philosophy of the public in 8 images

Print the seventeenth century, Leviathan Hobbes, vintage engraved illustration. Magasin Pittoresque 1852.

Classical Publics and later

Plato and the role of dialectic in articulating and creating public knowledge, justice, politics and philosophy.

The Body Politic

Hobbes in Leviathan (first published 1651) dismisses the use of such arguments (and strategies, techniques etc derived from Socrates) as sophistry. Coming from experience of the civil war Hobbes wanted public life to be founded in certainties which he rooted in the monarchy. Influenced by Galileo he attempted to apply deductive reasoning to a political philosophy. The role of a governing body with whom we form part of a social contract is to decide upon first principles from which we can derive everything else. Those include the fact that we are cast into a material world of chaos, violence and fear and it is the task of humans to achieve peace through social contact. He establishes first principles of mind and matter and deductively infers from them what a just and proper society should be. Because humans’ experience of nature varies from person to person an objective account fo nature is impossible. In his words, there is no “right Reason constituted by Nature,” His response is to setup an arbiter of truth in response.


The Public Sphere

It is no exaggeration to say that much of what we take for granted as to the basis of our rights and participation in publics derives from Jürgen Habermas’ work on the public sphere. Habermas was influenced by Kant, Hegel and the Frankfurt school (marxist literary theory). Interestingly what Habermas shared with the Frankfurt school (and Adorno in particular) was the idea that the masses had become corrupted and were no longer capable of revolutionary thought or action. What’s particular to Habermas is his framing of that corruption as an impoverishment of the public sphere.

In ‘The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere’ Habermas makes a distinction between early forms of publicity (p7) in feudal societies (for instance through courtly displays, etiquette and practices) and those which arose post-enlightenment. In feudal societies on the King or Queen was a public person, and indeed the public and private realms were not separated.

‘The bourgeois is distinguished from the courtly mentality by the fact that in the bourgeois home even the ballroom is still homey, whereas in the palace even the living quarters are still festive. And actually, beginning with Versailles, the royal bedroom develops into the palace’s second center. If one finds here the bed set up like a stage, placed on a platform, a throne for lying down, separated by a barrier from the area for the spectator, this is so because in fact this room is the scene of the daily ceremonies of lever and voucher, where what is most intimate is raised to public importance.’ Habermas, J. (1991 [1962]). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. (T. (trans) Burger, Ed.). Cambridge MA: MIT Press. p10

Meanwhile with the rise of commercialism and the mercantile class forums arose in which particular kinds of public discourse came to be.

‘The “town” was the life center of civil society not only economically; in cultural-political contrast to the court, it designated especially an early public sphere in the world of letters whose institutions were the coffee houses, the salons, and the Tisclgesellschaften (table societies). The heirs of the humanistic- aristocratic society, in their encounter with the bourgeois intellectuals (through sociable discussions that quickly developed into public criticism), built a bridge between the remains of a collapsing form of publicity (the courtly one) and the precursor of a new one: the bourgeois public sphere…’ ibid p30

From the end of the 17th and through the 18th Centuries, the rise of coffee houses or public salons centralised the public sphere in towns (rather than palaces) and brought about a special place for the artist and writer in public life. Here the middle classes could be exposed to new literary, philosophical or artistic ideas. Aristocrats, bourgeois and intellectuals would meet if not on the same terms than at least in the same places. For our purposes it would be as if Slavoj Zizek, Kate Middleton and Tim Martin (owner of the Weatherspoon pub chain) would regularly hangout in our local branch of Costa.

The final stage for Habermas (and here is where his work has the strongest connections to Adorno) is in what he sees as an impoverishment of the public sphere through the press and later, mass media. Habermas contends that the function of the press shifted from being a transmitter of public opinion (which was created elsewhere by intellectuals) to being a creator of it. The influence of money, through advertising, shifted the role of wealth holders (particularly property owners) to being the dominant directors of public opinion. Habermas concludes by saying that the manipulation of the public through a kind of uncommitted friendly engagement comes to be mimicked by the state, precluding the possibility for real political action.

‘As soon as the press developed from a business in pure news reporting to one involving ideologies and viewpoints, however, and the com- piling of items of information encountered the competition of literary journalism, a new element-political in the broader sense-was joined to the economic one. Biicher captures the trend succinctly: “From mere institutions for the publication of news, the papers became also carriers and leaders of public opinion, and instruments in the arsenal of party politics. For the internal organization of the newspaper enterprise this had the consequence that a new function was inserted between the gathering and the publication of news: the editorial function. For the newspaper’s publisher, however, this meant that he changed from being a merchant of news to being a dealer in public opinion.”‘ ibid p182

‘Paris in the year 1789 every marginally prominent politician formed his club, and every other founded his journal; between February and May alone 450 clubs and over 200 journals sprang up. As long as the mere existence of a press that critically-rationally debates political matters remained problematic, it was compelled to engage in continuous self-thematization: before the permanent legalization of the political public sphere, the appearance of a political journal and its survival was equivalent to involvement in the struggle over the range of freedom to be granted to public opinion and over publicity as a principle.’ ibid p184

‘Thus the original basis of the publicist institutions, at least in their most advanced sectors, became practically reversed. According to the liberal model of the public sphere, the insti- tutions of the public engaged in rational-critical debate were protected from interference by public authority by virtue of their being in the hands of private people. To the extent that they were commercialized and underwent economic, technological, and organizational concentration, however, they have turned during the last hundred years into complexes of societal power, so that precisely their remaining in private hands in many ways threatened the critical functions of publicist institutions. In comparison with the press of the liberal era, the mass media have on the one hand attained an incomparably greater range and effectiveness-the sphere of the public realm itself has expanded correspondingly. On the other hand they have been moved ever further out of this sphere and reentered the once private sphere of commodity exchange. The more their effectiveness in terms of publicity increased, the more they became accessible to the pressure of certain private interests, whether individual or collective.’ ibid p188

‘in the measure that the public sphere became a field for business advertising, private people as own- ers of private property had a direct effect on private people as the public.’ p189

DISCUSSION POINT:  Dean, Jodi. “Why the Net is not a Public Sphere.” Constellations 10.1 (2003): 95-112.


‘There are three features of the public sphere and of the sphere of politics in general that are central to Arendt’s conception of citizenship. These are, first, its artificial or constructed quality; second, its spatial quality; and, third, the distinction between public and private interests.’ https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/#CitPubSph

As regards the first feature, Arendt always stressed the artificiality of public life and of political activities in general, the fact that they are man-made and constructed rather than natural or given. She regarded this artificiality as something to be celebrated rather than deplored. Politics for her was not the result of some natural predisposition, or the realization of the inherent traits of human nature. Rather, it was a cultural achievement of the first order, enabling individuals to transcend the necessities of life and to fashion a world within which free political action and discourse could flourish.’ https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/#CitPubSph

‘The second feature stressed by Arendt has to do with the spatial quality of public life, with the fact that political activities are located in a public space where citizens are able to meet one another, exchange their opinions and debate their differences, and search for some collective solution to their problems. Politics, for Arendt, is a matter of people sharing a common world and a common space of appearance so that public concerns can emerge and be articulated from different perspectives. In her view, it is not enough to have a collection of private individuals voting separately and anonymously according to their private opinions. Rather, these individuals must be able to see and talk to one another in public, to meet in a public-political space, so that their differences as well as their commonalities can emerge and become the subject of democratic debate.’ https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/#CitPubSph

Pragmatist Publics

‘Those indirectly and seriously affected for good or for evil form a group distinctive enough to require recognition and a name. The name selected is The Public’. Dewey, John, The public and its problems: An essay in political inquiry. Penn State Press, 2012. p. 35

‘In The Public and Its Problems specifically, Dewey rejects as false the assertion advanced principally by journalist and social critic Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) that democratic life can simply be managed by experts without any costs to collective governance, and, indeed, freedom itself. This obscures, Dewey maintains, two important aspect of political life. First, how we come to understand political problems and respond implies a kind of local knowledge and communal vision that is beyond the purview of experts. Lippmann’s approach, he further argues, “ignores [the] forces which have to be composed and resolved before technical and specialized action can come into play” (NN). Second, and perhaps more importantly, a vision of democracy grounded in governance by experts misses the very reasons for democracy’s emergency – namely, to “counteract the forces that have so largely determined the possession of rule by accidental and irrelevant factors, and in the second place an effort to counteract the tendency to employ political power to serve private instead of public ends” (NN). A failure to have the public constitutively involved in decision making will inevitably be unable to remain attentive to public ends. This will leave the public at the mercy of political power rather than in control of directing that power toward beneficial ends.’ Rogers, Melvin L. “Introduction: Revisiting The Public and Its Problems.” Contemporary Pragmatism 7.1 (2010). pp3-4

‘In The Public and Its Problems, Dewey presents a public as a confedera­ tion of bodies, bodies pulled together not so much by choice (a public is not exactly a voluntary association) as by a shared experience of harm that, over time, coalesces into a “problem.” Dewey makes it clear that a public does not preexist its particular problem but emerges in response to it. A public is a contingent and temporary formation existing alongside many other publics, protopublics, and residual or postpublics. Prob­lems come and go, and so, too, do publics: at any given moment, many different publics are in the process of crystallizing and dissolving.’ Bennett, Jane. Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Duke University Press, 2009. p100

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, The Effects of the Good Government,1338-39

See this discussed by Bruno Latour 96-MTP-DING

Non-Human Publics

Jane Bennett

Here we will look at some more contemporary theorisations of publicity.

Jane Bennett’s work Vibrant Matter (2009) fits, broadly, into a canon of contemporary scholarship that emphasises a ‘flatter’ ontological perspective on agency in the world. Her work is of particular interest to us here though because of her re-application of ideas from John Dewey’s work which she extends significantly to reconsider publics which might include non-human actors in the form of, for instance, animal and plant life, infrastructure, machines and software or other factors. Her main contribution in this space is to observe that Dewey’s idea of ‘conjoint action’ is not dependent on acts of independent will, as perpetrated by solely humans.

What is conjoint action?

‘Like the conjoint action of Darwin’s worms, the conjoint action of Dewey’s citizens is not under control of any rational plan or deliberate intention. No efficient cause  of the problems it generates can really be pinpointed. What is more, there is no action that is not conjoint, that does not, in other words, immediately become enmeshed in a web of connections.’ Bennett, Jane. Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Duke University Press, 2009. p100


making things public exhibition – parliament of things

Michel Callon and Bruno Latour

‘Interessement is the group of actions by which an entity (here the three researchers) attempts to impose and stabilize the other actors it defines through its problematization. Different devices are used to implement these actions. Why talk of interessement? The etymology of this word justifies its choice. To be interested is to be in between (inter-esse), to be interposed. But between what? Let us return to the three researchers. During their problematization they join forces with the scallops the fishermen, and their colleagues in order to attain a certain goal. In so doing they carefully define the identity, the goals or the inclinations of their allies. But these allies are tentatively implicated in the problematizations of the actors. Their identities are consequently defined in other competitive ways. It is in this sense that one should understand interessement.’ Callon, Michel. “Some elements of a sociology of translation: domestication of the scallops and the fishermen of St Brieuc Bay.” The Sociological Review 32.1_suppl (1984): 196-233. pp62-63

 Publics in Practice

In Critical Heritage (e.g. Sharon MacDonald and Rodney Harrison)

‘What would it mean for us to consider the futures which are arranged or assembled across a series of different fields of practice—in the decision making processes involved in nuclear waste disposal, in the processes of conserving endangered languages, in global seed banks, in the care and management of local parks, and in household practices of curating heirlooms collectively? How could this new comparative perspective, which considers not only formal heritage prac- tices but also a range of alternative forms of caring for the future, help us remap the field of heritage?’ Rodney Harrison (2015) Beyond “Natural” and “Cultural” Heritage: Toward an Ontological Politics of Heritage in the Age of Anthropocene, Heritage & Society, 8:1, 24-42, DOI: 10.1179/2159032X15Z.00000000036 p35

‘The aim of the collaborative research program Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage is to understand the practices by which futures are assembled in a range of different domains, and to consider how those practices, and the forms of value that they produce, might be creatively redeployed to produce innovation within new con- texts. Accordingly, this research program will explore the processes and material and discursive practices by which heritage is “assembled” within a broad range of domains, which have typically not been considering comparatively, to consider the ways in which the forms of value and alternative practices and processes of future-making involved in each might inform one another.’ ibid p36

In Design (Infrastructuring)

‘The relevance of Dewey’s perspective springs precisely from its tie to issues. It is the dynamic and contin- gent nature of a public, its fluid qualities as an entity, that allows a public to form and unform in concert with the evolving social conditions, and it is the manner in which diverse individuals are enlisted to contend with the effects of particular issues that make a public a useful perspective for design.’ Dantec, C. A. Le, & DiSalvo, C. (2013). Infrastructuring and the formation of publics in participatory design. Social Studies of Science, 43(2), 241–264. http://doi.org/10.1177/0306312712471581

‘The idea of infrastructuring through design employs the distinction between PD concerned primarily with design-for-use, centered on useful systems, and PD focused on design-for-future-use, structured to create fertile ground to sustain a community of participants.’ ibid p247

In a project which provided new ways of accessing networks of resources for the homeless,

‘The design and deployment of the technology intervention, called the Community Resource Messenger (CRM), was located at a local emergency shelter for single-mother families. Given the context, the resources captured and presented by the system focused on employment opportunities, programs, and locations where these families could find permanent housing, information about schools and childcare, and general information about health care and local community news.’ ibid p248

‘This shift, instigated by the case manager’s use of the CRM, exposed the attachments the staff had to issues around sharing information and effectively managing limited resources. It prompted the staff to renegotiate how they coordinated their activities and integrated their case management work with the technology. This was, in our view, the work of infrastructuring, where the staff, as a public, recognized that their attachment to issues of sharing informa- tion (how widely? to whom? when?) was changing as a result of an intervention that provided new capabilities. In other words, a new socio-material relationship had emerged.’ ibid p249

Activity Resources

Get WiFi analyser here for android and here for iPhone

Next Week’s reading

Jane Bennet’s Vibrant Matter (excerpt)

Pete: What is the value of anthropomorphism?

Nick (Ning An): What can we learn from worms?

Liam: What does a public look like and what are its problems?

DMS8012: Live Electronic Performance


Session 1: Audio playback in PureData

Session 2: Granular Synth, Addictive Synth, Scrubber with Control from Teensy and Sequences session2

HSS8123: Minimal Resources for Electric Sound

Notes from todays session


and the sound file from our in class performance

HSS8121: Public Art

Slides from Gabi Arrigoni’s introductory lecture on public art

Public Art for CAP

DMS8013: Creating an Annotated Portfolio


  • To discuss assessment for the module
  • To gain familiarity with recent research from Research Through Design advocating Annotated Portfolios as a documentation and writing practice
  • To practice annotation!


Last semester you were introduced to some foundational questions about the nature of artefacts, knowledge and making as they have been expressed in literature on Research though Design. In particular I want to think about the problem that Annotated portfolios are cast against. Those include:

  • That there is a creeping ‘scientism’ in some kinds of approach to design in HCI literature
  • That rationalising discourse about design undermines its value
  • That writing about objects ignores embedded and embodied knowledges

Annotated portfolios are not the only response to these problems. Some conferences (including ACM DIS and RtD) are developing alternative publication and presentation models which also speak to the same issues.


  • How do the idea of an ‘annotated portfolio’  differ from other ways you’ve seen of writing about objects.
  • What do you think these ideas emphasise that other writing practices (for instance curatorial texts) don’t?
  • What are the drawbacks of an annotated portfolio approach? Does this have to be a purely summative activity?

Activity: Annotating your work

You have brought some documentation of work you have made. With a partner discuss some of the points of interest of this work. What does it do? How did people talk about it? What were you thinking about as it was made?

The programme

Over the course of the module we will construct a portfolio based around three provocations. Together your responses to these provocations will constitute your assessment. A sneak preview is included below.

Portfolio item 1
Making things talk

You have been introduced to a number of local and remote ways of making technologies communicate with one another. At the same time we’ve looked at some of the history, politics and theory of network communication exploring crossovers between each. For your portfolio you should make an artefact or artefacts under the theme/provocation of ‘Making things talk.’  You’ll need to think about what it means to talk, converse, communicate and how that merges with issues of machine conversation.

Portfolio item 2
Boxes that do things

We have worked over the past two weeks with physical interactivity and some forms of rapid prototyping or digital making. Our provocation this time is called simply ‘boxes that do things.’ The humble laser cut box has found its way into a cult of digital prototyping as a housing for musical controllers, a place where other skills such as carpentry come into contact with electronics, or a thing in its own right with its own set of boxy affordances. Your box will exhibit not only a novel interaction but will also be concerned with its own ‘boxiness.’ How can you connect the physicality of a box with some foundational problems for interaction? As before you may build on examples we’ve made together but should extend them significantly treating your work as an independent art/design study which engages aesthetically as well as technologically with our sessions and your own interests.

Portfolio item 2
A waste of good data

Our colleague and friend Sean Cotterill once described a particular kind of overblown data sonification practice (for example making orchestral music out of large hadron collider data) as ‘a waste of good data.’ for me this phrase captures a host of interesting thoughts about the way we encounter, interpret, conceptualise or use data. Your challenge is to identify a ‘good’ data source and create an artefact (in software, hardware or both) that provocatively ‘wastes’ it. In annotating this work you can draw out what you feel are some of the ideas about what data is or can be that your work provokes. What makes quality data and how do you waste it?


In all of the above you may build on examples we’ve made together but should extend them significantly treating your work as an independent art/design study which engages aesthetically as well as technologically with our sessions and your own interests.

 Today’s sketches

Are here

Further Reading

  1. Boehner, K., Vertesi, J., Sengers, P., & Dourish, P. (2007). How HCI interprets the probes. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems  – CHI ’07 (p. 1077). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. http://doi.org/10.1145/1240624.1240789

  2. Chris Elsden, David Chatting, Abigail C. Durrant, Andrew Garbett, Bettina Nissen, John Vines, and David S. Kirk. 2017. On Speculative Enactments. Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: 5386–5399. https://doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025503

  3. William Gaver. 2011. Making Spaces: How Design Workbooks Work. In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems – CHI ’11, 1551–1560. https://doi.org/10.1145/1978942.1979169
  4. William Gaver. 2012. What Should We Expect From Research Through Design? In Proc. CHI 2012, 937–946.
  5. Bill Gaver and John Bowers. 2012. Annotated Portfolios. interactions 19, 4: 40–49. https://doi.org/10.1145/2212877.2212889
  6. Höök, K., Bardzell, J., Bowen, S., Dalsgaard, P., Reeves, S., & Waern, A. (2015). Framing IxD knowledge. Interactions, 22(6), 32–36. http://doi.org/10.1145/2824892
  7. Jarvis, N., Cameron, D., & Boucher, A. (2012). Attention to detail. In Proceedings of the 7th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction Making Sense Through Design – NordiCHI ’12 (p. 11). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. http://doi.org/10.1145/2399016.2399019

  8. Jenkins, T., Andersen, K., Gaver, W., Odom, W., Pierce, J., & Vallgårda, A. (2016). Attending to Objects as Outcomes of Design Research. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI EA ’16 (pp. 3423–3430). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. http://doi.org/10.1145/2851581.2856508

  9. James Pierce. 2014. On the presentation and production of design research artifacts in HCI. In Proceedings of the 2014 conference on Designing interactive systems – DIS ’14, 735–744. https://doi.org/10.1145/2598510.2598525
  10. Mads Hobye. 2014. Designing for Homo Explorens: open social play in performative frames. Faculty of Culture and Society Malmö University, http://muep.mau.se/handle/2043/16510

HSS8120 Writing Reflective Essays

reflective essays

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)

And for example Lori Emmerson says,

‘my sense is that as you use a machine like the Altair, your contemporary laptop gradually loses its aura of magic or mystery and you start to palpably experience the ways in which your laptop consists of layer upon layer of interfaces that remove you ever more from the way your computer actually works. For another thing, more often than not, using the Altair opens up the possibility for reseeing the past—what if the computer industry took a slightly different turn and we ended up with Altair-like devices without screens or mice? And therefore using this obsolete machine also opens up the possibility of reseeing the present and the future’ “As if, or, Using Media Archaeology to Reimagine Past, Present, and Future: An Interview with Lori Emerson,” International Journal of Communication Vol. 10 (June 2016)

Also worth looking in to is Lisa Gitelman Raw Data is an Oxymoron

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, in 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.

Zoe Bellof A World Redrawn

Jamie Allen’s ‘The Lie Machine

Aura Satz ‘Spiral Sound Coil

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), all credits to HyperPhysics

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


HSS8123 Creative Practice Project – The Contexts

Romance of the Three Kindoms (1385)



The author of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Luo Guanzhong, lived in the chaos of the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. At that time social unrest grew and peasant uprisings came one after another. After many years of war, Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan Dynasty and established the Ming dynasty. During this period, many people were homeless, including Luo Guanzhong who wrote Zaju and scripts for story-telling. Because he lived at the bottom of society, he understood and was familiar with what people were suffering. Hoping for social stability and people living and working in peace and contentment, he created this historical novel using the historical facts of the late Eastern Han Dynasty.




Journey to the West (1558)



The author Wu Cheng’en lived in the late Ming dynasty. At that time, the social situation was very different from that at the beginning of the founding period. Political contradictions, national contradictions and the internal contradictions of the ruling class were intensified and sharpened. After the ideological and cultural enlightenment thought expanded and the liberation of human nature increasingly flourished, and fiction and opera creation entered a period of full prosperity. In terms of the economy, capitalist started to bud.

“Journey to the West” has a pantheon of gods and demons: One of the gods in the pantheon is lead by the Jade Emperor. This hierarchical system, which is in fact a political system that reflects the reality of the Ming dynasty. In this system, the ruler living a privileged life, and their status is tenured and hereditary.

The demons in the book are a reflection of the common people, who can be divided into three categories: The first one is from within the ruling group, who made a mistake and were relegated to the lower realms. The second one is the good citizens and the third category is composed of purely bad people. This series of characters mirrors ‘a good deed begets good and an evil deed yields evil’, which reflects the author’s notion of the boundary of good and evil which can not be blurred.




Romeo and Juliet (1595)



‘Romeo and Juliet’ is the first mature tragedy that Shakespeare created. Because the work is filled with a “spring and youth” atmosphere, it is a called romantic love tragedy. This work was written in the late 16th century, when the Renaissance began to sprout. At that time the United Kingdom was in the heyday of Queen Elizabeth’s rule, the regnum was steady, the economy was prosperous. Shakespeare was full of confidence in the achievement of the ideal of humanism in society. Thus the work is filled with optimistic mood. The emerging bourgeoisie as a new social force on the stage of history not only meant that the economic base, class structure changed, but also the superstructure changed.

The bourgeoisie brought its own outlook on the world into history, and during this period it focused on humanism. Humanists advocated the “people” as the center, strongly opposed to the dictatorship of theocracy and the authority of the church, and demanded human rights and dignity. The basic conflict in the book is not only the contradiction between the two feudal families, but also the contradictory struggle between the two social forces, which were the social roots of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.




Hamlet (1601)



At the turn of the seventeenth century, Britain was in the transitional period of the feudal system to the capitalist system, which was a great turning point in British history. During the boom of Elizabeth’s rule, the bourgeoisie supported the monarchy, and the monarchy used the bourgeoisie. As the political situation was relatively stable, social productivity saw rapid development. Although the development of these emerging capitalist relations of production accelerated the collapse of the feudal society, it still relied on the brutal exploitation of the peasantry. During the reign of James I, the autocratic monarchy was further pursued, and the resistance of the bourgeoisie and the working people was vigorously suppressed. Social contradictions further intensified, it fundamentally shook the feudal order, and the prepared conditions for 17th century British bourgeois revolution.

‘Hamlet’ is the ‘epitome’ of this era. The struggle between Hamlet and Claudius is a symbol of the struggle of the emerging bourgeois humanists and the reactionary feudal kingship.

The Renaissance movement brought Europe into the awakening of the ‘people’, and belief in God began to waver. This is the great liberation of thought which promoted the great development of social civilization; the other hand, especially to the late Renaissance, followed by the spread of desires and social confusion. Faced with such a chaotic era, the middle-aged Shakespeare, wanted to show the hidden trouble behind the ideal and development.




The Outlaws of the Marsh (1630)



The Outlaws of the Marsh is the first book in the history of Chinese literature that directly describe the main contradiction of the feudal society – the peasant class and the landlord class contradictions on a large scale. The work depicts a vigorous peasant revolutionary struggle, showing a magnificent scene of struggle for life. The novel exposes the darkness of the feudal society, the evil of the ruling class, and reveals that the social roots of the peasant uprising are cruel feudal oppression and exploitation, praising the justice of the peasant revolutionary struggle. The novel describes the representatives of the ruling class from the Gao Qiu to Zhenf Zhu, they formed a dark ruling network, which brought great disaster to people. The novel also shapes the heroic image of Li Kui, Lu Zhishen, Wu Song and Lin Chong, and praises the rebellious spirit of the peasant uprising heroes.




Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1690)



Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio is a series of classical short stories which is unique and artistic. Most of the stories are tell of ghosts and monsters, but the content is deeply rooted in real life, and euphemistically reflect the social contradictions of that time. The stories can be classified into 5 categories. The first one is the stories which reflect the social darkness, expose and oppose the feudal ruling class oppression. The second one is against the feudal marriage, criticises feudal ethical education, and praises young men and women pursue pure love and fight for freedom and happiness. The third category is to expose and criticize the corruption of the imperial examination system. The fourth one is to praise the oppressed people with the spirit of the struggle against authority. The last one is the stories which educate people to be honest, helpful, hardworking, etc..

An interesting phenomenon is that in the Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, there are many female roles. Even though the female images is shaped from the perspective of maleism, not completely divorced from feudal thought, it gives the female image new connotations.




Gulliver’s Travels (1726)



The author of Gulliver’s Travels is Jonathan Swift. During the period of 1710 to 1714, he was appointed as a public relations officer of Robert Harry and Henry St John’s Tory Party. But later, the parties alternated, the Whigs came to power. Swift wrote the book in order to reflect the social contradictions of England in the first half of the 18th century, criticize the decadence of the British ruling group, expose the exploitation of the bourgeoisie at that time, and sharply refute all attempts to defend the social system at that time and oppose the wars of aggression and colonialism. Later, the author also went to Ireland to teach. Ireland was subject to the high pressure of England rule, so that the author reflected the decline of Irish agriculture through the third island travels in the book.




A Dream of Red Mansions (1791)



‘A Dream of Red Mansions’ describes Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu’s love tragedy, and the declining process of four big families, reflecting the feudal society brutal class oppression, exposing the darkness and decay of the feudal system, showing the inevitable trend of collapse of feudal society and proposing the ideals with the hazy democratic thinking. Besides, the praise for the girls and the sympathy and respect for the weak in the book laid the foundation for the later liberation of the women, marriage autonomy and today’s feminist movement.




Pride and prejudice (1813)



Austin was unmarried and lived in a relatively wealthy family in a rural town. So that in her work, there are no major social contradictions, just a peaceful life of landlords, pastors and other people. From the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century, ‘sentimental novels’ and ‘Gothic novels’ filled the British literary world. However, Pride and Prejudice was anomalous and shows the daily life of the British middle class in a country who’s life had not yet been hit by the capitalist industrial revolution.

The work is perhaps one of the greatest love novels in the world, and it ‘tells you that women have the right to live better, and should not think of what the women should take.’




Wuthering Heights (1847)



Emilie Bronte lived in thirty years of social turbulence in Britain. Capitalism was developing and increasingly exposed to its inherent flaws. There were sharp contradictions between labor and capital and the unemployed workers were poor. Besides, a large number of child laborers were cruelly tortured to death and the British government restricted the democratic reform struggle and the workers’ movement. People’s spirits suffered from the intense oppression. Humanity as twisted without mercy. Another feature of the time was patriarchy. At that time, the Victorian period, the noble class were enormously proud of their success. Status is first, money is god and women’s marriage, to a large extent, determines their fate.

The work is mainly carried out to explore human nature for people to realize that if there is no humanity, the world will become ugly, shrill and painful. The grotesque love story exposes the evil of patriarchal society and criticisms toward disrespect of the female.

HSS8123 Creative Practice Project – Making Process

Step 1: print out the pie charts

Step 2: cut them into pieces

Step 3: make ten cone-shaped bases

Step 4: stick the pieces on the bases respectively

Step 5: stick stamen on each 3D flower-shaped object

 Step 6: paint the plinths

 Step 7: Finished