Starting off with an introduction by the artists and a brief overview of the actual tools (including body sensors, mini-motors, joysticks, LED lights etc.) participants started forming groups roughly based on shared interests and curiosities and then off we went to explore the creative world of building and programming. Around lunch time, first ideas and concepts started to materialise from the groups’ discussions and, after some well-deserved food intake, the afternoon was used to see how quickly these ideas could develop.
In my group, the focus was on the notion of sensory data (breath, heart-beat, sweat) being transformed into a device that would make other people ‘see how you feel’. The general idea being that data, while often exploited and misused, could also allow a person to relate to other human beings on a new level of communication; a visual level that could open up the possibility to share one of the most fundamental elements of the human psyche, namely our subjective emotions.
The set up: person A is connected to the measuring sensors and reacting to various lingual/visual/audio stimuli while person B, wearing an oculus-rift device, and without experiencing these stimuli, can only see the visualization of person A’s sensory data, created through computer programming. In other words, person A cannot see the visualization and person B cannot know the stimuli that person A is subjected to, yet they are connected, and person B is able to 'see' what person A feels. Whether both then share exactly the same emotions is besides the point - it is about enhancing the experience of ‘being in someone else's shoes’ in a new, challenging and stimulating way.
When creativity leads us to transform immaterial ideas into material objects, the main question always is how this transformation is supposed to take place. Everyone has had this experience: you have a clear image or idea in your mind but as soon as you try to draw it, paint it, or build it, the result never matches completely matches the original mental image.
This difficulty has existed ever since humans started drawing pictures on cave walls. What is new, however, is the use of digital data and sensory technology to be involved in this process. Subjective experiences like fear, joy, nervousness, exaltation are not just transformed into numbers but into engaging and fascinating objects that are not created for a productive or commercial use, but for the pleasure we can find in allowing machines to give us an insight into what it is to be human. It is an exciting perspective to take on board. More workshops like this, please!
To find out about other workshops coming u this summer in FACTLab, click here.