Issuu on Google+

Digital Aesthetics 路 BDIE-E2011 IT University 路 14 December 2011

Lighting up nature - Initiative for bike riders in urban spaces

Group 5

Authors: Alexander Almegaard, 020890, alea Nana S酶, 290489, nsoe Signe Harring Hansen, 290690, sihh Sophie M酶rch, 050887, sboe Vanja Cosic, 251291, vcos Victoria Rahbek Nielsen, 270589, vrah Supervisor: Kjell Yngve Petersen Characters: 24,589


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

Abstract This paper reflects on different parts of a project conducted within the course Digital Aesthetics during fall 2011. The scope of our project is lighting up nature to make it more attractive for bike riders in certain areas of Copenhagen, more specifically Amager FÌlled. As part of the process, we also made a prototype in order to illustrate our vision with this project. Besides describing the project’s intent and outcome, this paper also reflects upon the different phases of the project to give an impression of the group processes and general work flow. Keywords: Light; Nature; Bike riders; Aesthetics; Processes

1 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

Table of contents

1. Introduction!......................................................................................................3 1.2 Motivation ........................................................................................................3 1.3 Study field ........................................................................................................4 1.4 Problem area ...................................................................................................4 1.5 Exploratory question ........................................................................................4 2. Researching how people are affected by lighting!........................................5 3. Inspiration!.........................................................................................................7 4. Process – observations and reflections!........................................................8 4.1 From one idea to another ................................................................................8 4.2 Materials ..........................................................................................................9 4.3 Colours ............................................................................................................9 4.4 Placement ......................................................................................................10 4.5 Different experiments and our limitations ......................................................10 4.6 Light and space .............................................................................................11 5. Concept!..........................................................................................................12 6. Group process!...............................................................................................13 6.1 Kill your darlings ............................................................................................13 6.2 What we could have done better ...................................................................13 6.3 Collaboration .................................................................................................14 6.4 Delegation and work-sharing ........................................................................14 References!.........................................................................................................15

2 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

1. Introduction During the course ‘Digital Aesthetics’ we have gained knowledge to understand different aesthetic parameters, and in this paper we distinguish between pragmatic aesthetic and analytic aesthetic. The analytic form of aesthetic is about the visual form, where the pragmatic aesthetic is more about the sensuous experience of art (Dewey, 1934). One could say that pragmatic aesthetic is an experience as a result of interaction between human beings and an object, a situation, other people, etc.

In this paper we deal with how light affects us as humans, but also how interactions with

light can create an experience of the pragmatic aesthetic. By playing with and reflecting upon digital solutions with sensors, solar cells and digital light we try to create this feeling of aesthetic interaction.

This paper contains our motivation for our final problem area, our inspiration sources and

describes our process from the very beginning to our final design idea, including the group process.

1.2 Motivation Our motivation for choosing this subject is that we are all avid bike riders and have a vested interest in creating a better atmosphere for bike riders in areas around Copenhagen. We have a belief that lighting has a great impact on human beings and can change people’s attitude and relation to a specific area.

At first we were inspired by the way lights are used in traffic to avoid road accidents. We

looked at different concepts in urban spaces and talked about how lights in general had an affection on human beings. This lead us to our interest in working with lights in a more creative and aesthetic way. We were interested in exploring if and how lights could have an effect on bike riders in urban spaces without existing artificial lighting. We wanted to explore a dark, desolate area, where we could work with different light possibilities and explore how we could transform a gloomy area into a more inviting place and more attractive for bike riders, while still staying true to the natural surroundings.

3 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

1.3 Study field Amager Fælled is a preserved natural resort in Copenhagen located in the north-west part of Amager (KK; Vej & Park, 2002). It is located in Ørestad – a part of town that once was meant to be an industrial area, before plans of new house building projects would transform Ørestad into a modern neighborhood. Because Amager Fælled is such a large area, its location – between the island Amager and the inner city of Copenhagen – gives pedestrians and bike riders a green alternative to the otherwise rather trafficked detour around the resort. Many urbanites of Copenhagen also use the area of Amager Fælled as a placid passage to bike through, on their way to school or work without the presence of cars and traffic – or simply as a great space for running, biking, horseback riding or other kinds of sports.

Amager Fælled has kept an original nature and because of this the resort exudes a rough

and unkempt atmosphere. We believe this particular area is attractive to many people because of the sense of authenticity its preservation has lead to. Amager Fælled provides a certain wilderness; the animal life is rich on all kinds of animals from birds to roe deer to horses, which makes the area ideal for family picnics and scout excursions (KK; Vej & Park, 2002).

1.4 Problem area In opposite to other green areas in Copenhagen lighting is not present in Amager Fælled. As it is dark during both morning and evening rush hours in the Danish winter term, we find it to be a problem when paths going through Amager Fælled are not lit up; not only can bike riders and pedestrians not see where they are going, it can be both incredibly uninspiring and tedious – while not to mention frightening – when riding alone through a resort like Amager Fælled surrounded by darkness. In brief, our hypothesis is that lack of lights make bike riders avoid going through the area at night.

We have chosen to work with Amager Fælled because of the exploratory advantages this

untouched ground gives us. Because the area is preserved we wish not to intrude upon or destroy the atmosphere of nature, while creating a possibility of light.

1.5 Exploratory question “How can we use light installations to aesthetically create a more comfortable and appealing atmosphere in Amager Fælled when it is dark?”

4 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

2. Researching how people are affected by lighting What is the best, aesthetic way to light a path for bike riders? Which colour and temperature should the light be? And how are people affected by the different colours and light temperatures? The following chapter is primarily based on a report by Philips, regarding white light, aesthetics, safety and security. The report contains different experiments related to the way people react to the colour and temperature of different light sources, which is why we find it relevant for our research.

Daylight is an essential part of our lives. Back in the earlier days, candles were used to

light up the street when the darkness arrived. Now, after the invention of light powered by gas, oil and electricity, the amount of light in the cities have increased massively. The evolution leads to the integration of high-pressure natrium-powered street lights, known from their very characteristic yellow and orange light. It is now clear that the natrium-powered lights, changes our perception of the colour the illuminated things have (Philips, 2008, p. 5).

We have become accustomed to a more unnatural glow, a yellow or orange glow, caused

by the light temperature from natrium lights, but in opposition to the yellow or orange light, the new and white light has a lot of advantages. The temperature of the white light causes the surrounding to appear brighter, more natural and experiments have shown that people find it more comfortable, which is the aim of our project. By improving the colour recognition with the white light, the recognition of a persons face is also improved (Philips, 2008, p. 6). Therefore, there is a chance that people who would normally fear for their own safety in a specific area, would feel a lot safer if the area is lit with a whiter light. The white light will also increase the visibility of the bike riders, the drivers and the pedestrians and therefore make the roads a lot safer than they are with the yellow or orange lighting.

Besides the increased safety and more comfortable surroundings, the white light can also

improve a specific area in an aesthetic way. The white light is a better match when it comes to materials of modern buildings. It makes green areas look healthier and fertile, which is relevant regarding our experiments carried out in Amager FĂŚlled. Another study shows that almost 90 percent of the participants experienced the white light as a more authentic lighting (Philips, 2008, p. 9).

5 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

A different study conducted in China regarding two different streets, shows that the imminent majority prefer the street to be lit by the white light. (Table 1)

Table 1 – Street light in China (Philips, 2008, p. 17)

The mentioned studies gives an insight in how people are affected by light, and in which way. Light creates a feeling of safety and security, also shown from the following study conducted in Warszaw, Poland in 2006.

The experiment deals with participants and their relation to safety on the street when it is

dark outside. It shows that 42% fear for their safety when being in an area that is not lit up. The question the participants were asked was: Do you fear for you safety when being in an area that is not lit up?

Illustration 1 – Safety in Poland (Philips, 2008, p. 19)

From the findings and results of the experiments it is possible to conclude that cold light (light with a lower colour temperature) affects people to be less frightened and feel safer when staying or travelling in dark surroundings.

6 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

3. Inspiration In order to reflect upon how to incorporate lights in an urban space we have studied and drawn inspiration from other light installations and light projects. In a park in Ă˜restad we experienced how a track of blue lights illuminated a walking path. This way of working with light gave us an idea of which colours we could work with in our own project, because of the positive impact the blue colour had on us. Later we found that the aim of the project is to create an artistic lighting in this park.

It is the light and media gallery Illumenarts (Illumenarts, URL), who works with lights in

urban spaces and buildings, who is responsible for this project. They see the colours green and blue as calm and beautiful and believe that they are able to create a poetic light that can blend into the elements of nature. We have furthermore studied other projects by Illumenarts, and they have been a big inspiration to our process.

The way they are using lights in areas around the city are very motivating, as well as the

way they are incorporating light into the nature. We were also inspired by other light projects. In the beginning of our process we looked at the light project in the intersection at Tivoli, which is one out of more creative initiatives in Copenhagen. A project that works with road safety of bike riders in the city by new forms of lighting. The way the lights are integrated into the bike path inspired us in our following exploratory study on lights and human beings.

7 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

4. Process – observations and reflections 4.1 From one idea to another From the beginning of the process we wanted to work with bike riding in urban spaces. We wanted to explore how digital technology could make bike rides in the city more interesting, while also making them safer. We talked about combining observations and inspiration from other initiatives for bike riders to be able to reflect upon the ability of digital technology to change social behavior. As we got closer to a more specific concept, we realised that we had been too focused on problems, and we had ended up with a goal of trying to solve a problem for bike riders in urban space.

In this process focusing on design in urban spaces we also touched the subject, right turn

accidents and was inspired by an, earlier mentioned, installation with lights in the road at Tivoli in Copenhagen. Adopting an iterative approach through the inspiration, we began to think of other solutions to prevent right turn accidents but at the same time we discussed how signs can, at some point, reduce us to the state of stupidity, instead of making us think ourselves. With that in mind, we were slowly moving towards a solution that we wanted to be economical, ecological, and practical – while still being aesthetically pleasing, safe and safety conducive.

After further reflections we found that we wanted to have a more exploratory and playful

approach to our project. By already working with a light aspect, our thoughts moved towards a solution where we were able to aesthetically bring light to an otherwise dark place, as well as incorporating elements and theory from the course. A quick brainstorm including solar cells, light emitting diodes and movement sensors triggering the light, inspired us to find a place where it was possible to experiment with different light sources.

In order to explore how to aesthetically incorporate light into the scenery of the dark

pathways in Amager FĂŚlled, we arranged a field work session one evening in the abovementioned area. We wanted to get a sense of how different kinds of light would affect us in the dark, and how they would affect the bike riders in the area, if sensors were incorporated to react on movements. To imagine what it would be like with sensors, we tried triggering the light sources ourselves, and letting the light flash itself.

8 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

4.2 Materials We all brought the materials we thought would be interesting, such as small LED-lights (normally used for bikes), a large camera flash, a flashlight and different colours of silk paper. We started our experiments by putting several LED-lights at the foot of the bushes alongside the path, each light a few meters apart. Each function of the LED-lights was tested – that is the light flashing slowly, flashing quickly and the light being constant.

The flashing light has the advantage of attracting attention to the light installation, but we

experienced that the quick flashes – almost like a stroboscope – were too disturbing and actually a bit scary in the dark. But when the lights gleamed or flashed in a more slowly pulsating way it actually added something to the surroundings instead of just making it less natural. Our purpose with the project is to blend in the lights with nature while trying to avoid disturbing the natural surroundings.

4.3 Colours Instead of only using the original blueish light from the LED-lights, we also tried wrapping silk paper around the lights and with that we created these little shining ‘bulbs’ or ‘balls’ in different colours. We had brought the three primary colours and by laying them on top of each other before putting them around the LED-light we could create the colours we wanted in our experiment.

We thought the red light would turn out to be the most comfortable and cosy colour

because of it’s warmth, but it actually turned out to be the most unnatural and unnerving light. Our reasoning for red being an unnerving colour is that it is deeply integrated into our culture and upbringing that red acts as a warning signal and symbolises potential danger. This goes very much against the feelings of comfort and appeal we wanted to evoke in the bike riders. The blue light was soft and delightful but felt a little too cold, while the green light, when we mixed the yellow and the blue silk paper, really blended in with the nature and created an aesthetic and pleasant atmosphere.

9 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

4.4 Placement We concentrated our research around the paths going through Amager Fælled and did not go too far into bushes or thickets. This was a practical decision as our lights would not be visible to pedestrians or bike riders if they were not close enough to the paths. Towards the end of our session we changed the location of our small LED-lights from the foot of the bushes to hanging at eye level.

We felt it was more aesthetic and true to the nature to place the light near the ground

headed up to illuminate the upper branches. In this way a part of the ground was lighted up as well as the bushes. When we hang the lights at eye level it gave a bit more light on the pathway, and it was still creating a pleasant atmosphere, but somehow it seemed more like creating an illuminated space when we placed the lights on the ground.

4.5 Different experiments and our limitations As far as the candles were concerned, we never got around to using them as much as the LED-lights or the camera flash. This was mainly due to the unpractical aspect of lighting candles outside, with the enclosed considerations to wind and weather. Even though we never actually tested the candles in Amager Fælled, we have been reflecting on different emotions connected to the practice of lighting candles. The flickering of a flame caused by wind is what makes a candle natural. Generally this is an effect loved by many i Denmark where candles represent cosiness, whereas candles have a different meaning – and are sending different signals – in other cultures. In some cultures candles represent poverty, because some individuals cannot afford electricity.

We also tried using a camera flash to create a more powerful, exploding effect which we

could not get from the little LED-lights. The flash was at one point used amongst some rushes, in order not to apply a too glaring light in the dark. Something between the power of the camera flash and the LED-light’s steadiness would be preferable since the LED-lights were too faint and the camera flash way too explosive and stroboscope like. This was constantly a dilemma during the session in Amager Fælled, because we had limitations trying out the different lights. Even though we had brought various types of light, we did not have access to any kind of electricity, which would have made our installations much more efficient – we could rarely light up the bushes and not at all the pathways.

During our experiments with different light sources in Amager Fælled we talked with both

bike riders as well as pedestrians passing by. They had different but very positive opinions on how the lights affected them. Some overall comments were that the lights made them delighted and made the area more welcoming and enjoyable. One reaction was that it was cosy and a pedestrian passing by asked if the light would be found further inside the park. 10 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

These comments together with our own findings, interpretations and imagination, we had a better underlying basis to be able to analyse and discuss how these lights would affect the atmosphere in the park area.

4.6 Light and space We experience the physical world around us through our senses. The sense of vision is made possible by the existence of light. Light enables us to orientate and navigate in a threedimensional world. When passing through Amager Fælled in the afternoon in wintertime, people are not able to see anything and without lights people effectively become blind. Just by creating a little light on the side of the road, we experienced that a whole new ‘space’ appeared. Ordinary street lights create spaces as well, but the cones of light are creating a hard lined space that is in too big a contrast to the rest of the darkness. When passing under one of these light cones, reentering the darkness can make you temporarily blinded because of the light differences. This is the case at ‘the green route for cyclists’ (Den Grønne Cykelrute, URL) in Copenhagen. We wanted to make the lighting a lot more natural and try to blur the sharp lines between darkness and light.

With our field work we searched to create a more natural space instead of just lighting up

the road and by illuminating leaves and branches instead of pointing cones of light on the road, ‘the space’ was defined by the nature itself. By creating a vision of a space with light we seemed to improve the sense of comfort and improve the appeal of the wilderness.

11 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

5. Concept For the prototyping phase of the process, we had to think about how we could express the concept in a way that was easy to understand. With inspiration from Amager FĂŚlled and how bike riders do not ride there because of the lack of streetlights, we made a model of a bike riding on a path with trees along the side of it. The idea of this prototype is to simulate how light sources hidden in the ground will light up the tree trunks as the bike rider approaches each tree. Our model also shows that we have not disturbed the scenery of the natural surroundings.

While we were still discussing details and improving upon the concept, we made a scaled

down version of a bike path in cardboard and integrated LED lights along the side of it. Because of the small scale of the model it would be impractical to integrate actual sensors to sense the model bikes we had created. Therefore we opted to use dial controls to fake the sensation that the lights were actually reacting to the small bikes riding on the cardboard bike lanes.

Playing with the prototype lead us to further reflections upon the affect of different kinds of

light, and especially the faked sensors and how the lights would follow the bike riders and pedestrians, caught our attention. Instead of integrating static lights in the nature, we were thrilled about the idea of dynamic lights, that would react to sensors. By letting the light follow the bikes we unite the people and the light installations, and in this way we create an interaction between these two. Doing this, we believe we may reach a level of aesthetic interaction because this kind of pragmatic aesthetic is all about the experience between human and objects and the feeling it relieves.

By incorporating lights, for instance at the roots of trees lighting up the trunks, we wish to contribute to the area’s original nature, and this way the lights will serve as an alternative to street lights but in a natural, aesthetic way. 12 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

6. Group process 6.1 Kill your darlings When first brainstorming on an exciting topic for this course we were all very interested in light installations in urban spaces. As explained earlier, we focused mainly on bike riders and safety as the scope of our project. We began working towards solutions for the “right-turn-accidents” and got stuck on this focus. At some point, we had to realise that this was not the purpose of the course outcomes, even though it was an interesting subject. We had to take a step back and get a new perspective on the project. So we tried to think away from solutions and think more exploratory, aesthetically, and creatively about bike riders and light installations. Our brainstorming process was long an iterative. We constantly moved between ideas, but still with the focus on lights and bike riders.

6.2 What we could have done better When planning our field work session we decided to bring ‘whatever we had at home’ that could simulate different light experiences. What we could have done better here was the planning of the event. We could have thought about what kind of light sources we wanted to experience with, meaning we could have investigated the different opportunities; for example bringing power supplies so we could have experimented with other light sources such as lamps.

Another way we could have improved the experiment is by incorporating users. We only

experimented on ourselves (by biking towards the different light installations and feel the effect), but we could have made an effort to ask passing bike riders to elaborate on their experience with the light installations. This was hard though, because the amount of passing bike riders was limited. But then again, we could have planned it, and asked some people to help us with the field work – it is all in the planning, and we might have been too enthusiastic and jumped right into it without sufficient preparations.

13 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

6.3 Collaboration We are six group members and it can sometimes be difficult to collaborate about every decision. Besides it being difficult to be many members in a group, it also has its benefits. Each person has different qualities and competencies to contribute with. Some of us were more technical advanced when it came to prototyping; others good at reflecting on the process and taking notes; but all good at listening to each other’s inputs, learning from each other, and accepting that we are good at diverse things. We have a lot of other projects going on at once – and for some – within different groups. So we had to plan some meetings in good time and find a good way to keep everyone up to date on the process, when not being able to meet up.

Basically, we have only had one mandatory group meeting; the field work session we did

in Amager Fælled. We found it very important to have everybody there to contribute with ideas. Besides this, we have shared thoughts, documents, media files and so on in a shared Dropbox and in Google Documents. So even though we did not have a many meetings with everybody gathered, we still made the collaboration work with phone calls, Skype sessions, and writing in shared Google documents.

6.4 Delegation and work-sharing Idea process As described above we had a long, iterative idea process. We have had some extensive discussions in the process of throwing away the original idea and moving on to the more exploratory one, but it was an equally shared process and discussion, where every voice was heard. At last we engaged in a dialogue with our supervisor, which helped us decide on a final focus. Writing process When beginning the writing of the group report we already had a lot of Google documents with reflections and thoughts about the different ideas. We created a new document with a clean outline and delegated different parts to each group member. The delegation was made randomly, because it would not really matter who wrote what – everybody has been a part of the whole process, or at least had rich opportunities to follow it.

We started the writing with a Skype session and in the Google document. First, we did a

common brainstorm where everyone would add notes, comments, and ideas to each section in the outline. Next, we gave a week for each member to write their part and comment on the other sections. Lastly, this led to a writing day where we together finished the report.

14 of 15


Lighting up nature - Digital Aesthetics

References Den Grønne Cykelrute URL: http://www.kk.dk/Borger/ByOgTrafik/CyklernesBy/KonkreteProjekter/ OevrigeProjekter/GroenneCykelruter.aspx Dewey, John (1934). Art as Experience. Perigee Trade. Illuminarts URL: http://www.illumenarts.dk KK; Vej og Park (2002). Amager Fælled. URL: http://kk.sites.itera.dk/apps/kk_publikationer/pdf/301_AmagerFaelled.pdf Philips Electronics (2008). Hvidt lys: Forvandler Byen om Natten. Holland.

15 of 15


Digital Aesthetics