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DMS8013: 1. Physical Computing: I wish to God these calculations had been made by steam!


Session Aims:

  1. To talk about what Physical Computing is and why that matters
  2. To provide some historical contextual background in and out of art practice
  3. 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 [10]. 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

  • the computer

  • physicality

  • relationships to technology

  • role of the artist


In Art

‘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,, 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


Post Post-truth and on a new quest to find another truth.

What is art?

Since the hand in of our project on post-truth I have had the time to reflect on my recent findings. My slow work process which demands, revision after revision after revision, like a painter applying a paintbrush to a canvas carefully repeating the same movement over and over again, demands more preparation. Art is much more inclusive and diverse than any other discipline due to its use of so many different mediums, way of thinking and demand in research and introspection.



What is art? I have been asking myself that question since I started this course. What is creativity? What is it I’m trying to make and create? What am I exploring? Who is this for? What is any of it for? Many questions remain unanswered hence the creation of this sort of project which aims to document my journey on understanding art, the way it affects me and other people.

I’m hoping that by using this blog and my other social media pages this documenting of my experiences, researches and findings will help me understand, develop and transform my art practice.

The best way I feel I can find my art style, is through experimentation and working with other people. I made the mistake on focusing too much on the idea without making anything for a while on the post-truth assignment and now more ideas are coming because I made the video, the song and the poems. Looking at other peoples work in the classroom during the presentation also gave me so much insight into what could’ve been done with my project and my presentation.

During the presentation of my work I mentioned that I didn’t feel it was the best work I had made but I still fill it is the most significant one. This was due to the process that went to create this piece. Reading articles on the truth, watching people talk about the post-truth era from different perspectives, the variety in which post-truth affected the world, from art to politics to sociology and academics astonished me. So many articles, reports and Ted talks was consumed I felt my brain was going to explode. “Digital Quest” (DQ) embodies that journey online looking for the truth on post-truth. I wanted to portray mass information and constructed narratives which are the main themes of post-truth. From reality to fiction the world fluctuates between the two in this post-truth era.

I never liked to call myself an artist because I thought it was pretentious and I’d say depending on the conversation “I’m a photographer. I’m a video editor. I’m a singer.” As if any of these sounded less pretentious. I really didn’t see myself as an artist but more as a philosopher (we now enter the mind of the egomaniac). I like to think, play with ideas, discuss those ideas with other people. I realise I did not see myself as an artist because I was not thinking like one. My photography skills were mainly used to make my subject look pretty or nice to look at and I used video editing to create narratives and musical clips.

Using artistic processes I want to create a more intimate but abstract narrative in my next work. I am currently in the process of making a set of artefacts as part of my module “Artwork and Audiences”.

The subjects explored are nature, civilisation, technology, power and control. Using various medium I want to expose the dichotomy between nature and technology. Civilisation constantly tries to control its environment but nature always takes back its rightful place eventually.  In “eco-system” I’m using organic plants and pieces of electronics and machinery to create a narrative. Where technology is used to protect nature and provide a safe environment for it grow and live with us in harmony. The grotesques pieces will provide a contrast view of what civilisation does instead.

Using the space at Hoults Yard I hope to create an interesting and interactive display for people to enjoy. On my next article I’ll show pictures and explain the process and thinking  for this piece in a bit more detail.



Object Of Distraction

Tools To Distract

Initially I intended on exhibiting the tat I have been creating of the course of the project. Mainly as a means to distract and confuse you about what the project is really about whilst I talk my way through it.

It seems that setting up an exhibition may logistically difficult, given that we are presenting in a different building from usual and also I feel presenting bits n bobs of crappy art may be underwhelming and I don’t want to let you get too close to my art-work, I feel you will see my lack of effort too easily. Best for work is seen from the perspective I choose.

My new plan is to distract and confuse you with something unrelated and mundane…I’m thinking of cutting my toenails whilst talking you through my project.We will see how that goes down…

The Manifesto – Explained

The points in the manifesto correlate directly with my understandings of post-truth from the research and rooting around I did at the beginning of the project.

Here is a little breakdown of each point-

no. 1 – Post Truth art uses the space between people as its medium

It’s clear from the definition of post-truth that the phrase relates to emotion, intuition and the psychology of belief. The invisible human forces.

no.2 – Post Truth art does not concern itself with the opinion of experts

Relating to the quote from Michael Gove, Conservative politician and former Secretary of State for Education, “people in this country have had enough of experts.”

no.3 – Post Truth art has the utmost conviction

To hoodwink 50% of a nation you must be good at lying or believe the lie yourself because you don’t know otherwise. This relates to, well all tales that have been told and later revoked in an attempt to gain votes. (Nigel Farages’ £350 million per week/NHS gaff being one of them)

no.4 – Post Truth art does not strive for perfection it strives for deception

To trick the public into a particular way of thinking by concealing information or publicly lying in order to sway opinion. A common tool used by our politicians. Also relating to journalism and colouring the truth in an attempt to sell papers or attract clicks.

no.5 – Post Truth art should excite yet leave the consumer and artist feeling empty, confused and mis-sold         

Post-truth news/media is designed to get the blood pumping, to appeal to our hopes and fears and nothing in between but it usually goes nowhere, a fleeting rumour, a sensationalised scoop that explodes all over social media and is then forgotten as quickly as it came around.

no.6 – Post Truth art is unconsidered

Post-truth politics, news and information is not concerned with offending people.

no.7 – Post Truth art works to a dinnertime deadline

The pace of news has increased rapidly thanks to its digital evolution and the rate of social media news sharing. Journalism has suffered under the growing pressure of getting seen in a sea of online news articles and the need for having the headline that deserves that sought after click. Reel the stories out quickly and often to keep the reader engaged seems to be the current business model…chasing down cheap clicks at the expense of accuracy.

no.8 – Post Truth art does not require skill to be successful just exposure

Post-truth news, celebrity and information is made credible by exposure. To be bombarded with the presence of a particular subject makes it prominent and hard to ignore. You are forced to have an opinion and it becomes irreversibly recognisable.

no.9 – Post Truth art does not stand for anything

Of the information and news that is changeable and favours the current mood.

no.10 – Post Truth art can and will contradict the points in this manifesto as often as possible

Relating to the unreliable information and news the is common in the journalistic landscape, predictably contradictory from one day to the next.

The Manifesto – Layout

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 16.28.13


One thing that must been mentioned is that I used 4 fonts!! Normally I live by the rule of never more than 3 fonts in a document. The f**king rule book has gone out the window!!

Essentially there is no true layout for the document. I’m normally a layout freak, everything in its right place, symmetrical, logical. I’ll move text a little to the right a little to the left…put it back where it started. It takes me long time. I started that process whilst putting the manifesto together then I remembered point number 5 of Post Truth Art A Manifesto – Post Truth art is unconsidered. After that I tried my best to be random..




Artist or Idiot

I’ve been having doubts.

I have told myself that I must have the utmost conviction in the project and just carry it on regardless but every now and the facade slips and I start having doubts about whether this project has any value.

The point is to deceive and one of the major things I have been having trouble with is my own doubt creeping in and telling me this whole thing is a load of rubbish…which it is. And I guess it is meant to be. But I do worry that I can’t present work that I knowingly feel is crap or executed badly. Lying is hard.

Also battling with the fact that I feel I’m not doing anything wholly productive, making a lot of things that have no meaning and trying to give them meaning. I’m still getting used to replacing the facts with my new post truth values…


Validate Me

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 15.21.24




One of my collections of Post Truth art entitled Void consist of randomly selecting people from the street, deleting them and sending them to an abyss where I never have to see them again!!

So I popped out on a lunch break and took some unconsidered photos. It was only when I uploaded them and had a look at what I had taken did I decide why they had to be deleted from existence.

According to my post-truth artist values of course.

Someone was eating a McDonalds, she had to go.

Someone shopped at Tesco, he had to go.

Someone else was peddling Virgin Media in the street, he had to go…


Who Am I.

Alien Face

In the response to an earlier post about investigating post-truth as a person I decided to have a go at creating some alter egos to perhaps figure out who I am as this new Post Truth artist, I’m interested in not recognising myself as this new character.. I am a hoarder of wigs so I donned a few, manipulated my face with tape and a bit of photoshop.

If You Shout It Loud Enough


If I shout loud enough will I be an artist?? I decided to take my ‘art’ to the streets as an attempt to self-validate my statement. I AM AN ARTIST and I want the world to know.

In keeping with idea of producing only quick, unconsidered work (and in this case inconsiderate) I hashed together a badly drawn stencil (my first attempts started off neat and measured but had to remind myself of the point ) and wandered the streets at midnight with a spray can.

Whilst painting I realised my stencil wasn’t shouting loud enough and looked minuscule on the expanse of a big wall. I went freehand. It felt good.