- To talk about what Physical Computing is and why that matters
- To provide some historical contextual background in and out of art practice
- To make a start with learning some physical computing
How many computers did you touch today?
Which computer has the strongest claim to be the first?
What is Physical Computing? Tally sticks to abascus to difference engine to Von Neuman architecture
- A recognition that computers are ‘out there’ or ‘in there’
- A way of thinking about relationships between people (and particularly bodies) and computers
- A means of getting away from screens
Some History and Context
Ubiquitous Computing (UBICOMP)
- Mark Weiser and ‘Calm Technology’
- Adam Greenfield, ‘Everyware’
“Everywhere produces a wide belt of circumstance where human agency, judgement, and will are progressively supplanted by compliance with external, frequently algorithmically-applied standards and norms” Greenfield, Adam. Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing. New Riders, 2010.
Tangible and Embedded Interaction
“Long before the invention of personal computers, our ancestors developed a variety of specialized physical artifacts to measure the passage of time, to predict the movement of planets, to draw geometric shapes, and to compute . We can find these beautiful artifacts made of oak and brass in museums such as the Collection of Historic Scientific Instruments at Harvard University.
We were inspired by the aesthetics and rich affordances of these historical scientific instruments, most of which have disappeared from schools, laboratories, and design studios and have been replaced with the most general of appliances: personal computers. Through grasping and manipulating these instruments, users of the past must have developed rich languages and cultures which valued haptic interaction with real physical objects. Alas, much of this richness has been lost to the rapid flood of digital technologies.” Ishii, Hiroshi, and Brygg Ullmer. “Tangible bits: towards seamless interfaces between people, bits and atoms.” Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human factors in computing systems. ACM, 1997.
Tatsuo Miyajima, Clock for 300 Thousand Years, 1987
Jenny Holzer, Truisms, 1984
Which of the two works above has the stronger claim to be ‘physical computing’? In what ways do they embody different ideas of
relationships to technology
role of the artist
‘Wearables’ and performance
Atsuko Tanaka, Electric Dress, 1957
New forms of Interactivity
Daniel Rozin, Wooden Mirror, 1999 (this version)
Exploring the Materiality of Computers
Addie Wagenknech, xxxx.xxx, 2014
Is this affordance?
Why are we talking about affordance? One of the interesting things about physical computing is the way it can make us think about the way that we ‘fit in’ to the world and how we understand action.
Let’s contrast Norman’s view of ‘perceived affordance’ with Suchman’s ideas below. Norman asks,
“When you first see something you have never seen before, how do you know what to do? The answer, I decided, was that the required information was in the world: the appearance of the device could provide the critical clues required for its proper operation.”
But what does he mean by ‘something you have never seen before’. Norman seems to believe that there is an underlying schema to the way the world works. A set of rules that people follow. Suchman however proposes that,
“…the contingency of action on a complex world of objects, artifacts, and other actors, located in space and time, is no longer treated as an extraneous problem with which the individual actor must contend but rather is seen as the essential resource that makes knowledge possible and gives action its sense. […] A basic research goal for studies of situated action, therefore, is to explicate the relationship between structures of action and the resources and constraints afforded by material and social circumstances.” (Suchman, L. 2007, Human Machine Reconfigurations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 177)
Doing Physical Computing