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VISUALIZING DATA / SUBJECTIVITY IN DIGITAL MEDIA PHILIP ANDREW MCCAUSLAND BFA DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY


A DILEMMA Part of our existence lives online – a data-driven landscape – a collective representation of the metaphysical world. We communicate, experience, and share in this space with visual symbolism. The more our society moves into this space, the more important it becomes for us to question and understand this transition from a phenomenological context. How does physical space translate into virtual, and how are non-physical entities made concrete? How are they represented? How can they be represented? How does a sensory experience in the real world vary amongst individuals? Does this variation translate to the digital realm? If not, how can it be?


A MIND MAP


RESEARCH: READINGS BOOK

WEB

Thompson, Evan. Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.

I Am A Handle || Giampietro, Rob. “http://servinglibrary.org/.” Dexter Sinister. 11 Aug 2011. http:// servinglibrary.org/read.html?id=7912 (accessed Oct 16, 2012).

This book is a comprehensive philosophical venture into the relationship between the human mind and the so perceived outside world. The book offers fresh ideas as well as review on topics which include phenomenology and consciousness.

This lecture discusses visual metaphors in a graphical interface (particularly Mac OS).

The Life & Death of Media || Sterling, Bruce. “http:// servinglibrary.org/.” Dexter Sinister. http://servinglibrary.org/read.html?id=10 (accessed Oct 16, 2012). This lecture discusses the nature of media in the digital world.

An Octopus in Plan View || Keefer, Angie. “http:// servinglibrary.org/.” Dexter Sinister. 2011. http:// servinglibrary.org/read.html?id=7 (accessed Oct 16, 2012). This lecture discusses metaphors and ambiguity in communication.

How Not To Be Objective; Collaborative Virtual Environments || Jää-Aro, Kai-Mikael and Dave Snowdon. “KTH Royal Institute of Technology.” Kungl Tekniska Högskolan. Aug 2011. http://cid.nada.kth. se/pdf/CID-155.pdf (accessed Oct 16, 2012). This research project discusses how and why sub-

jective implementations of abstract, discrete forms of data are implemented in 3-dimensional virtual environments.

The Virtual Reality Conjecture || Whitworth, Brian. “Cornell University Library.” Cornell University. 2011. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1110.3307.pdf (accessed Oct 16, 2012). A research project for the argument of whether or not the universe exists beyond the confines of one’s own perception of it.

Computational Subjectivity in Virtual World Avatars || Mateas, Michael. “Jack Baskin School of Engineering.” UC Santa Cruz. 1997. http://users.soe.ucsc. edu/~michaelm/publications/mateas-aaai-sympsia-1997.pdf (accessed Oct 16, 2012). A research project exploring subjective gameplay as it pertains to role-playing (with avatars) in virtual environments.

folkert. “Form follows data.” Space Collective. http:// spacecollective.org/folkert/1748/Form-follows-data (accessed October 16, 2012). This post presents the idea of visualizing data as a method for revealing aspects of reality, such as narratives.


RESEARCH: EXISTING WORKS Neuromancer || A William Gibson science-fiction cyberpunk classic. Purely inspiring, mostly because of the way the story is written - always a third-person POV, following the main character (Case), who uses “simstim” (simulated stimulation) to perceive from the body of another character, thus allowing the reader to experience the book through multiple characters simultaneously. At the end of the book, Case discovers that a copy of his consciousness exists in “the matrix”, and will manifest itself there long after he dies. I find this incredibly compelling because of its relevance to the way the world-wide-web is affecting our sense of permenance already, and Neuromancer in this way (as well as in many others) suggests that the technological society described by Gibson already exists in a sense.

Jon Rafman http://jonrafman.com/|| An artist who’s work explores the affects of technology on the human condition. In particular: Kool-Aid Man In Second Life http://koolaidmaninsecondlife.com/ || An interview of Rafman (as the Kool-Aid man) by artist Martin Kohout in the popular online virtual reality simulator Second Life.

Tabor Robak http://www.taborrobak.com/ || Another technology-oriented artist, but with less conceptmanifested work, and more practice-driven content. In particular:

Mansion http://www.taborrobak.com/site/2010/mansion/ || An interactive virtual environment. Carbon http://www.taborrobak.com/site/2010/carbon/ || Another interactive virtual environment.

A Rafman & Robak collaboration: BNPJ.exe http://eexxttrraa.com/bnpj.html || A downloadable exhibition. Fine art as object textures, in a game-like 3-dimensional environment in which the user navigates odd settings incidentally leading to others in first-person.

Ryoji Ikeda || A sound and visual artist who’s work holds a unique style of information-aesthetics of which I admire. In particular: Datamatics http://www.ryojiikeda.com/project/ datamatics/#datamatics || “Using pure data as a source for sound and visuals, datamatics combines abstract and mimetic presentations of matter, time and space... an art project that explores the potential to perceive the invisible multi-substance of data that permeates our world.”

Eva Schindling http://www.evsc.net/ || An interaction designer with really interesting ideas. In particular: Liquid Sound Collision http://www.evsc.net/projects/ liquid-sound-collision || Visualizing sound waves travelling through liquids and colliding from opposite directions as an interesting take on what a data visualization can be. The idea that the waves collide

and interact shows how data can be used to show something new.

Lust http://www.lust.nl/ || Graphic / interaction design firm based in the Netherlands. In particular: Digital Depot: Data Cloud http://www.lust. nl/#projects-8 || A traversable data visualization installation for an art gallery which acts as an archive, and as a way to view the 117,000 works in the gallery as a whole. Each work is a point in 3-dimensional space, with its coordinates depending on its “date of acquisition, date of manufacture and format of object”(http://www.lust.nl/#projects-8). This project is a great example of a data visualization as an installation piece, taking into account its spacial context, as well as being a highly functional tool.


FOR WHOM? These issues of our converging digital and physical worlds of which I would like to bring to light are directed toward individuals who find that they do in fact live, and find great importance in their daily being/ identity on/as a part of the world-wide-web. They are also to be considered by individuals within our globalizing society who are in any way affected by these changes and/or issues, or simply just interested and would like to better realize this current state of reality and what it means for the future.


HOW? How a representation of these issues can manifest itself is still unclear. For now, I have a proposal for a prototype to experiment with the practicalities that are central to realizing subjectivity in a digital, datadriven context: connecting individuals to each other, and exploring how a data visualization can express/ induce a subjective experience. Video Chat Manipuation || This prototype will essentially consist of a connection between two individuals through video and perhaps audio at their computers. It will be either hosted online or as a stand-alone app. The two individuals can interact/communicate as per usual, but with one controllable element of their interaction altering each others’ experiences. For example, the amount of noise input from one user would affect the resolution of the other user’s screen. This interaction allows for the users to create a smewhat subjective/unique visual experience.


REMAINING FALL 2O12 For the remainder of this semester I feel I must begin teaching myself methods for realizing this project. Some ideas so far include understanding HTML5, processing.js, Chrome’s webcam plugin, connecting an external dataset to Processing, and perhaps work more with Arduino, and begin understanding other methods for physical computing, like hacking an Xbox Kinect device, OpenFrameworks, etc. I hope to have finished several prototypes by December.


screencap from “Carbon”, by Tabor Robak


Data Visualization