In the age of the ubiquitous internet, 24hours is already a bit late to be posting a response to anything, but I had to be sure. There is rarely any time for reflection, and much of the content of our electronic media is reflex. These thoughts are on a recent opening and panel discussion at Eyebeam (Center for Art and Technology in Chelsea NY) concerning the topic of Augmented Reality.
At about 6:30 I arrived at the panel at which point the moderator, Laetitia Wolff was finishing her introductory remarks. I caught enough to hear her point out the existence of as many video cameras on the earth as there are neurons in the human brain, connecting with the idea that this constitutes a form of an artificial intelligence equivalent with a human brain, or the possibility of one. Though intriguing, admittedly it’s a bit disturbing to dream of the possibilities of an intelligence formed from the interconnection of electronic eyes. With the announcement that the handsomely designed Google Glass will be made available this year (2013), one can’t help but wonder what it all could mean in the context of a the emergence of a potentially new medium.
Augmented Reality (AR) serves to visually enhance objects, spaces or people with virtual content. It has the potential to dramatically change the relationship between the physical and digital worlds. (Henchoz)
The above excerpt from the “Is Augmented Reality the Next Medium” curatorial statement written by Nicolas Henchoz and provides a bit of context. A good part of the discussion was occupied by mentions of graphic overlays (projections and heads up displays), physical objects with embedded information, and our mobile devices providing windows into new content. Enough material to start any dreamer’s head spinning.
But it wasn’t that my imagination ran wild with possibilities that made it hard for me to follow the particulars of the conversation. I was left wanting deeper insights, thirsty for critical dialog. I found myself asking questions which were never fully addressed in the discussion. A moment of relief came when Christiane Paul cautioned us to question this desire for further mediation that AR entails, but there was no real follow-up to this call to investigate what is staged, and to unmask theatricality.
It would seem that perhaps the most obvious question to address would be our ideas of reality and its relationship with the virtual. A mention of Umberto Eco’s essay, “Travels in Hyperreality”, provided some insight. Though not directly quoted by any of the panelists, here’s the paragraph referenced:
Constructing a full-scale model of the Oval Office (using the same materials, the same colors, but with everything obviously more polished, shinier, protected against deterioration) means that for historical information to be absorbed, it has to assume the aspect of a reincarnation. To speak of things that one wants to connote as real, these things must seem real. The “completely real” becomes identified with the “completely fake.” Absolute unreality is offered as real presence. The aim of the reconstructed Oval Office is to supply a “sign” that will then be forgotten as such: The sign aims to be the thing, to abolish the distinction of the reference, the mechanism of replacement. Not the image of the thing, but its plaster cast. Its double, in other words. (Eco)
It was pointed out that this instance of the Oval Office model served to illustrate a possible mode by which a simulation or replica functions. The reproduction in the pursuit of realism becomes hyperreal, standing in for the thing itself. Well beyond evoking a connection to the real, this form of realistic simulation becomes its own reality, and as such operates in its own unique way as a modifier of the potential experience of the real thing. Despite this, however, further insight into what addition theoretical framework we have for approaching the notion of the Real, reality, and the virtual failed to surface.
In building Augmented Reality, there is a dynamic between the physical object or environment, its simulation through electronic media, the mediated experience of an overlay of virtual content, and the ways in which the experience of one spills over into the other. Perhaps I yearned for some connection to the Lacanian theory of the Mirror Stage, but without a clear idea of how we formulate or notion of what we take to be the Real and the operation of the virtual within it, we stand little chance of understanding how this new reality will be used to control or influence perception. Granted, not every new technology is evil, but they aren’t without their unintended consequences. There’s going to be influence of some kind or another and we have to be aware of how to look for it.
It’s incredible to imagine just how many computation devices are in the world, currently connected by various wireless networks, and how many of those have cameras of some sort. Though taken as a whole, can they possibly exhibit a human equivalent of intelligence? Are we able to formulate criteria by which we can asses the level of intelligence such a system might have? How does this equate to the level of intelligence of a single human, a small group, or the entire population?
When taken as a whole, the human species may be hardly more intelligent than slime mold. As we currently understand it, intelligence comes from the connectivity between elements and the plasticity of those connections. It’s not so much the structure itself, but the formation and revision of particular configurations. Sadly, the point missed by the panel is that our digitally mediated environment must be programmed, and until it can program itself, we must do it. The only information we can put into it will be limited by what we ourselves can input followed by the sophistication of the algorithms we write to automate that process. Here is where there are clear sources of structural bias and issues of access. Beyond that there are also the issues of interface and content filtering.
Jonathan Lee of Google UXA rightly lists inputs and outputs as chief technical challenges faced by designers of user interface (UI) frameworks for Augmented Reality. There are no shortage of sensors today, and haptic interfaces allow for a wide variety of user control over content. It seems that the problem is that there are almost too many inputs. The question then becomes a matter of managing the inputs, of extracting information from the input streams and storing them in a way that enhances virtual content and a user’s experience of navigating that content. Content and context aware algorithms solve this problem, but bring up other issues. Our experience of the internet is already highly mediated by content filtering algorithms. It can almost be argued that serendipity has been all but filtered out (they should make an app for that!) as individuals are catered to based on previously gathered information as interpreted by predictive algorithms (call for submissions: creative predictive algorithms). On the broader issue of adaptive algorithms and similar forms of artificial intelligence, one has to ask what are the models for such algorithms? They must be programmed at some point, based upon some body of data. How do we select or craft the template? Is a possible consequence of further refining the intelligence of our algorithms a normative model for intelligence?
Perhaps it might seem as though I’ve come unhinged, but these questions become important when we begin to approach the task of embedding objects with information. What information or virtual content do we embed in these objects? Who has the ability to do the embedding? What are the possible system architectures that would allow for the system to become a place where the experience of an environment is actually enhanced. What is the framework for approaching this issue of enhancement?
While you consider these, here’s some more of the curatorial statement:
The prospects of augmented reality are linked to a fundamental question: What makes the value of an object, its identity, our relationship with it? The answer lies in the physical properties of the object, but also in its immaterial qualities, such as the story it evokes, the references with which it is connected, the questions it brings up. For a long time, physical reality and immaterial values expressed themselves separately. But with digital technology an object can express its story, reveal information, interact with its context and users in real time. (Henchoz)
It’s important not to mistake the map for the terrain. Physical objects are already vessels of their own history as they are products of a particular sequence of events. Those events, though external and broad in scope, can be decoded, traced and ultimately placed within a larger context of processes (not only physical ones but those with linkage to various cultural practices). With digital technology, an object will not express its story, but always that of someone else. To which we much ask, why that particular story? How did it find its embodiment as embedded data in that particular object? Is it a special case? Why does this story come to us and not others? If we open the system up for anyone to leave their story with any object, what do we do with hundreds of unique stories each told through a single object? What of a world filled with such objects? How do we navigate this terrain of embedded content? The information revealed by an object through media will, on the surface, only be what is placed their by the one privileged with the ability to do so. The nature of interactions will be limited to those programmed by those privileged enough to do so and the awareness equally limited.
The pieces in the exhibition did little to elaborate these deeper questions, or complicate the view of reality that values the particular form of Augmented Reality as put forward by Nicolas Henchoz. The lack of imagination here comes off as almost tongue in cheek. A microphone is placed before a drum kit rigged with mallets and drum sticks attached to actuators. By making utterances of vocalizations into the microphone, the guests can use their voice to control the kit. Mediation is dealt with as a translation or mapping of one kind of sound through a chain of electronic and mechanical processes to the production of another. Elsewhere in the exhibition space there is a flat shallow museum display case without protective glass, in which various postcards, photos, notes, and objects have been placed. iPads are locked and tethered to the case, provided for guests to view the objects in the display with the camera in order to reveal additional virtual content in the form of animations or video, suggesting a sort of lived experience beyond the inert relics. In all there were seven pieces in the exhibition, of which two were not working after the panel discussion. Despite technological foundations of the works presented, the whole exhibition space is filled with wide sheets of paper, gently curved around large cardboard tubes, evoking the sensation one might have of inhabiting a paper factory or new paper printing facility.
There are two major paradigms within average digital, electronic and media art: “the funny mirror” and “demo mode”. The exhibition explored variations of these two paradigms to great effect, but with little affect. But it’s still unclear whether this was all to be taken seriously, or if the whole panel discussion and exhibition is actually intensely subtle critique of current developments of AR. The partners and funders list for the whole affair doesn’t do much to shed light on that matter, except to indicate that there are a group of respectable people taking this all very seriously, whether as an emerging new technology with radical potential as a profoundly transformative media or as a nuanced critique thereof.
For the next 3 Days, Glitch Textiles are available on Fab.com with sales prices discounted over 20%!
“Electronic media artist Phillip Stearns translates technical malfunctions onto blankets. Available through his Brooklyn-based venture, Glitch Textiles, the cotton creations exhibit psychedelic patterns made by corrupting the hardware of a digital camera, resulting in imagery that’s beautiful in its flaws.” -Fab.com
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3rd Ward, an awesome multi-disciplinary workspace and education center where I teach circuit classes, is hosting their annual Holiday Craft Fair.
12:00 – 6:00pm
195 Morgan Ave Brooklyn, NY 11237
I’ll have a selection of over 20 Glitch Blankets and will be offering prints as well as 5% discounts for members of 3rd Ward and followers of Year of the Glitch (if you’re both, take an additional 5% off the first 5% discount!). You must have proof of your 3rd Ward membership, or the Year of the Glitch code to receive either discount.
Not a follower of Year of the Glitch? Go here!
9 New Designs for the Jacquard Woven Glitch Blankets now available!
These and all other Glitch Textiles are on sale for $200 each +shipping.
Order by the end of the day on Friday, November 30th to receive yours before December 25th.
I’m in the process of updating each and every page, but ALL Glitch Textiles are available on sale for $200 each plus $15 flat rate shipping (FedEx Ground). Just click on the design you like, then click the “Buy Now” button to place your order via PayPal.
Loads of new Glitch Textiles designs just arrived as machine knit Glitch Blankets. These and all other Glitch Textiles are available for purchase again. Just in time for winter! $300 for 40×60″ knit blankets, $400 for 53×71″Jacquard woven blankets, and $250 for 36×24″ wall hangings. Simply head over to the Glitch Textiles project page, click on the design you’d wish to purchase, and click on the “Buy Now” link.
I’m very excited to announce that a fresh batch of all new machine knit Glitch Blankets for the Glitch Textiles project just arrived! I’ve developed a dozen new designs and am in the process of photographing them all. For the time being, enjoy the slideshow featuring photos of a handful of the new blanket designs offered as Kickstarter rewards (link).
These will become available for purchase starting November 1, 2012. Stay Tuned!
Listening to the Ocean on a Shore of Gypsum Sand is a collaborative project between Gene Kogan, Phillip Stearns, and Dan Tesene. Seashells are 3d printed from algorithmically generated forms for the sole purpose of listening to the “ocean”. The project questions the role of experience in the mediation of the virtual world to the real world and visa versa.
For those of us who have had the experience of listening to the sound of the ocean in actual seashells, it is a questions of lived experience shaping an approach, not only to the object (or world) at hand, but how it is perceived and acted upon. Are we to trust these shells? Do we seek out natural shells for comparison?
To those for whom their first experience of listening to the “ocean” through the digitally produced shell, the question becomes one of how the first encounter with a virtualized and simulated reality shapes the experience of lived space. This virtual shell is all I know of the real, until I encounter those found in nature—and when I see this natural shell, what then is my experience of? More broadly, how does mediated reality form our preconceptions of the world?
For some, these questions seem obvious—we may even have convinced ourselves that we have this all figured out. We are aware of the possibility that the virtual world and real world are two interacting identities, distinct ideas that maintain their individuality despite their mutual influence on one another. There is, however, a possibility that this distinction is fading with younger generations, as technologically mediated experiences permeate childhood. I wonder about the effect of this as they grown into the world.
This project will be on view at Soundwalk 2012, a sound art festival in Long Beach, CA on September 1st 6-10pm.
I’m offering these as rewards on the Glitch Textiles kickstarter campaign at the $225 level.
I was approached by Adam Ferriss, a Los Angeles based artist (check out his tumblr!), about some tips and tricks for circuit bending digital cameras. His work with algorithmic image processing produces images that bear a striking resemblance to those produced by my prepared digital cameras. The photography lab he runs at a college in LA was downsizing their inventory and getting rid of some antiquated FujiFilm FinePix s9000 cameras, and rather than throw them out, Adam decided to hang on to the lot and experiment with circuit bending them.
These things are beasts: fixed zoom point and shoot cameras with the look and feel of a DLSR but without any of the manual controls and flexibility. No wonder they were getting rid of these things!
In exchange for a couple of the less functional cameras, I agreed to help Adam by documenting my deconstruction process. Bonus for you since, now I’m publishing the documentation for public consumption.
Disclaimer: If you’re going to attempt to prepare/modify/circuit bend/disassemble any electronic device, be aware that you are placing yourself at risk of serious injury or death from electric shock; electronic devices may be irreversibly damaged or destroyed (for what it’s worth, it goes without saying that all warranties will be void); if any loss of property or injury occurs, it will be solely your responsibility.
Before opening up the camera, there are a few items we need to have on hand.
- Precision Screwdrivers
- Spare batteries or external power supply (the s9000 uses a 5V supply or 4x AA batteries)
- A bag or containers to place screws and other bits in
- A note book and camera for documenting
- Anti-static wrist band
You’ll also need to do the following to prepare your camera.
- Remove batteries
- Remove the memory card(s)
- Put on and ground the anti static wristband
Now we can begin.
Removing the Screws:
Remove all exterior screws. Like all devices, there are screws in places you wouldn’t think to look. Start with the bottoms, then move to the sides, open all compartments and look for those hidden ones.
Once these are out of the way, you should be able to remove the assembly with the shutter release button and the power and other operation mode switches. Be careful not to pull too hard, like I did, and pull the ribbon connector out of its socket. Fortunately, mine didn’t tear, but you may not be so lucky!
There are still a few screws to be removed before you can open the back panel of the camera. Both of these were revealed by removing the shutter release assembly. One is right next to the strap loop, and the other is just below the flash assembly.
With these two screws out of the way, you should be able to gently coax the back panel off until you encounter some resistance from a couple of pairs of wires. The red and black wires running from the hot shoe attach to a board on the main body via a connector. There’s a speaker on two black wires that attaches to another part of the circuit board via a similar connector. Disconnect these two and the back panel should open like an oven door.
Now that we’ve partially disassembled the camera, and exposed some nice looking innards, we need to figure out if it still works. You can either use the AA batteries or a 5V power supply with a 4.0mm x 1.7mm connector. I used to do a lot of testing for Voltaic Systems and have one of their solar rechargeable V60 batteries around for powering my small electronics projects. Make sure that the main ribbon connectors from the back panel and the shutter release assembly are in place (the speaker and hot shoe wires don’t matter), then power up your camera and turn it on. (hint: check that the battery and memory card doors are closed!)
What’s Inside: Poking About
Now that we have the camera partially disassembled and still working, we can have a look at some of the components inside to see where a good place to start bending would be. Upon first glance, you’ll notice that all the parts are SUPER tiny smd. This is quite a let down, but exactly what you can expect with more contemporary devices. In fact, if you’re opening up cameras released today, you’ll probably find that most all the connections on the integrated circuits are actually underneath the chips and not via pins as with older style ICs!
So what can we mess with? There’s an Analog Devices chip (AD9996) that I can’t seem to locate the datasheet for. There’s something similar to it, the AD9995, which is a 12-bit CCD signal processor. You’ll notice too that there’s a thick connector with lots of contacts. This is the CCD connection (go figure it’s so close to the signal processor).
I actually went a few steps further in deconstructing this camera and found that further disassembling made the system unstable. So, for now, you shouldn’t have to take the camera apart any further to tweek its brains.
How do I mess with it?
Since the pins and connections on this board are so tiny, I am hesitant to solder anything to it. One technique I always go to first is using a saliva moistened finger to poke the sensitive parts and see if anything happens. For capturing, you have two choices: movie or still. You can set the quality settings however you like. If you haven’t already inserted a memory card, now would be a good time.
Other strategies for altering the image is to use a small probe to short circuit adjacent pins on the CCD connector. I found that the right hand side of the connector worked best, and that the series of little smd ICs to the left of the AD9996 gave similar results. When I get in there with a soldering iron to draw out some of those points, I’ll be starting with the ICs and using very fine magnet wire.
So here are a few preliminary images.
I’ll be sharing more of my findings on my year-long glitch-a-day project,Year of the Glitch.
Just uploaded 100+ new images to the DCP Series. This series is still well underway and is branching out into other cameras. Updates to the Olympus PIC series will be ready soon.
Be sure to check out the new additions to the Glitch Textiles project as well. There are currently nine blankets in the collection so far, each featuring a pattern woven directly from an image generated with the prepared cameras of the DCP Series and Year of the Glitch project.
Last weekend I participated in LUMEN 2012, a light art festival which took place this year at the Atlantic Salt Co. on Staten Island. Yes, it is a uniquely Staten Island event and experience, and quite possibly the most diverse and simultaneously cohesive show I take part in. The crowd ranges from Williamsburg hipsters to Staten Island families, and the art represents every discipline from action painting, performance, video, audio-visual and more abstract light based forms (projections into clouds of smoke!).
My contribution to the event was a simplified version of a project I submitted to BAM’s Public Art Project towards the end of last year. You can find video documentation of Impact Study No. 1 here.
“Selected by blog network and social media platform Tumblr, in conjunction with Paddy Johnson, founding editor of Art Fag City, Hrag Vartanian, founder of Hyperallergic, Dave Harper, curator at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Jenny Moore, assistant curator at New Museum, and David Goerk gallery dealer at The Pace Gallery.” –Artists Wanted Website
My work will be displayed on LCD billboards in Times Square on Monday June 18th from 7-11pm. If you’re in NYC, come join the celebration at Broadway between 42nd St & 44th St!
“free103point9 hosts, “Transmittal,” a transmission arts exhibition of local New York artists and international radio artists, in Catskill, New York this spring. “Transmittal” is curated by Galen Joseph-Hunter, free103point9’s Executive Director and author of “Transmission Arts: Artists and Airwaves” (PAJ Publications: 2011.) Works include video, sound, radio, installation, performance, and work-on-paper. An opening for “Transmittal” will be held Saturday, April 28 from 5-7 p.m., and the exhibition is open from Apr. 27 through June 1 at the Greene County Council on the Arts Gallery at 398 Main St. in Catskill.” – free103point9.org
I’ll be showing Deluge, a light and sound sculpture consists of 35 hand made modules, each containing a transistor receiver that generates white noise, an amplifier w/ speaker, and 12 LEDs. Static from a broad spectrum of unused radio frequencies is gently amplified through a small speaker, and visualized by a string of LEDs. Together the cloud of individual modules create the impression of rain.
Plus, three new blankets just arrived! The images DCP 02802 and DCP 02803 are from Year of the Glitch post #66 from March 7th. The third was created from an image made with a prepared Olympus C-840L digital camera, a gift from artist notendo (Jeff Donaldson).
Currently wrapping up construction of Deluge. This project will be exhibited as part of the Transmittal group show curated by Galen Joseph-Hunter for Free103Point9 at Greene County Council on the Arts Gallery in Catskill, NY. Opening is April 28th, 2012 at 5-7pm.
Phillip Stearns. Click “Collect Me” to help me win $10,000 and a show in the most immense exhibition of art in New York City : Art Takes Times Square.
Images and information about three cameras used in recent Year of the Glitch posts and the DCP Series are now public. The Kodak DC280, DC215, and DC200/210, have played a key role in my exploration of hardware and software based image generation/corruption. In the near future, these pages will be updated with more detailed information about specific techniques and circuits involved in creating the variety of images found in both the YOTG project and DCP Series.
Kodak DC 280
Kodak DC 200/210
Kodak DC 215
Selections from Almost White by Bernhard Garnicnig (source: flickr – images taken between 29 Mar 2006 & 04 Aug 2010)
Photographs taken to set a camera’s white balance.
“Almost all cameras allow the user to set the photographic white point manually. To make this setting on some cameras, you have to shoot a picture of a usually white surface and set it as the white point reference.
These pictures, usually deleted right after confirming the setting, question the concept of subjective realities in the photographic process and document the photographers surroundings from his part unconscious, part mechanic eye. This is one of the last kinds of photography where no post processing is applied by a human while it shows how much the camera is manipulating the image already.
Its one of the last snapshots of photographic truth in the digital imaging age.” — B. Garnicnig
So much of the world is left on the cutting room floor. This is a necessary part of relating experience, whether in the transmission of factual information or the telling of story based on fact. Not every detail is needed in order to give a general picture or to convey the essence of an idea or experience, nor can every detail be captured, recalled, or communicated. Exactly what is omitted reveals the circumstances (bias) around and through which the material aspects of an experience are transformed by the process of relating and crafted into media.
Where lived subjective experience is often filled or obscured by the mediated experience of information displayed or rendered through electronics, today those scraps are increasingly difficult to find. Our culture of digitally mediated exchanges has been carefully structured to remove the perception of the framework through which we conduct our daily activities. The unwanted bits are tucked away on our hard-drives or tossed in the recycling bin—in some cases, deleted in-camera. Everything is curated, edited, cleaned and polished (even the raw webcam feed is a considered choice to convey honesty).
It’s not so much an issue of noise—the din of cellphone rings, tinny ear buds cranked way too high, the drone of our air handling systems and refrigeration units, the screeching, grinding and rumbling of our transportation machines is certainly something we will not easily rid ourselves of—the dust that imposed itself on the grooves of a record, the grain of a piece of paper and the pen-in-hand overcoming it to scrawl a letter, the grit of static and dead air between the stations, are all disappearing.
It is not so much a sense of nostalgia but a reflection, looking back on where we were but a few years ago, while understanding that today digital media strives for higher levels of fidelity (which ironically force television personalities to pursue more extreme methods to alter their physical appearance; this in addition to the artificial sharpening and saturation applied to just about every image these days) in an attempt to look forward into the potential media of the future where everything is so radically fabricated and manipulated that there is no honesty, no substance, no reality left but a simulated phantom of what once was.
What is striking to me about Bernhard’s Almost White series is that it brings to the surface issues of the photographic medium, how its digitization has been quietly accepted as Photography wholesale. The question of what makes photography different than digital imaging has been unearthed. By using these artifacts as evidence of the manipulation nearly every digital image undergoes, Bernard opens the door to questioning the honesty behind every media image. Even tempting us to ask exactly how staged are these white balance calibration shots? Has “fidelity” in the digital (dark) age become a matter of passing off artificially enhanced hyper-realism as reality? Or has it becomes something more subtle, staging reality in such a way that the extraordinary seems mundane?
Going forward, I’ll be looking into patterning some textiles from my own Dither Study series of works inspired by Daniel Temkin’s Dither Studies and featured on Year of the Glitch. If you’re not already following Year of the Glitch, do so today! The project is only 4 followers shy of 1000 and it would be really awesome to make the 1000 follower milestone on Leap Day.