Completing my individual research project in the frameworks of the Graduate Certificate in Digital Technologies in Design Art Practice at Concordia was an enriching, exciting and at certain times overwhelming one year process. In the first stage, I explored ideas related to emergence of form in regards to physical structure having an organization similar to that of living systems. This broad research in the fields of architecture, cognitive science and cellular biology led me to the structural principle known as tensegrity which was originally developed by Kenneth Snelson and later popularized by Buckminster Fuller. While trying to reproduce these types of modular compositions, I noticed that by actuating these structures, a deformable objects can be made. This discovery coupled with my desire to evoke the concept of dynamic equilibrium in closed interconnected systems capable of translating and adapting to contextual change, encouraged me to attempt to construct a prototype of a responsive tensegral network. At the beginning of the development phase, given my complete lack of expertise in electro mechanical engineering, I was audacious enough to decide to purchase different kinds of linear actuators and electronic components that I thought will be useful to activate the structure which I wanted to be reactive to light. For the most part, I had made the wrong assumptions except for one particular product called Biometal Helix 150 which contracts when a current is fed through it and in opposition, if the passage of current is stopped; it extends to its original length. Excited to obtain a silent organic motion attributable to the intrinsic qualities of shape memory alloy actuators, I ignored the repeated warnings from my advisors in regards to the difficulties of working with this type of material and I went ahead with my plan. Luckily, towards the end of the semester, I met Christian Pelletier, ( www.waveface.ca ) who’s input, insight and electro-mechanical expertise was most appreciated. Together, we built several prototypes using different materials and configurations before arriving at some conclusive results. About two week before the beginning of the final presentation, based on previous experimentations and the available resources, we decided to make the final model out of aluminum tubes and silver coated cords attached with special crimps that ended up being of the upmost importance in the processes of erecting the structure.  Next, we replaced the top three tensional components by the thin hair like actuator and we weaved the electric cables through the aluminum tubes in order to power the structure in the correct locations. Following some successful try outs intended to verify whether the structure transforms, we proceeded with programming the Ardoino microcontroller.  After numerous tests and experimentations with different pulse width modulated current values we arrived at a satisfactory code capable of generating multiple sequences of movements relative to the ambient light condition which were continuously measured by four independent photocell sensors. For the final exhibition, we integrated the mixture of digital and analog circuitry into a white wooden platform onto which the structure slowly moved in reaction to the projected black and white animation. In conclusion, I would like to thank the Design and Computation Arts faculty at Concordia and more particularly Chris Saulter, Chriss Moore, Pk Longshaw, Ying Gao, Johanna Berzowska and Christian Pelletier for the information and advice that they have provided, and the contacts they have shared with me. Their assistance as well as that of my colleagues at the Graduate Certificate in Digital Technologies in Design Art Practice has been invaluable.

This was helpfull and very cute  !

SUMMARY

During a lecture for the Networks of Design, on the September 3rd 2008, Bruno Latour presents a fascinating comparative analysis of the postmodern and modern concept of Design.  His lecture evokes an insightful new philosophical approach towards sustainable development. Following a logical succession of ideas, meant to question the perfectly ordered and determinist vision of modern science, the author introduces the notion of “complexity”. By bringing into light the thought of confusion and uncertainty, he raises a timeless question: “Are we able to be the God of intelligent design?”

By considering the significance of this question and by stating that the founding principles of science led to the building of unsustainable structures, the author acknowledges the difficulty of seeing Progress under an optimistic light. Nevertheless, by saying that we have never been modern, Bruno Latour hopes for a new kind of revolution; a cautious revolution charged with the extraordinary task of fixing and rethinking everything that modernity has ever built. In conclusion, the author beliefs that this revolution will only begin if the classical scientific method of analyzing is effectively complemented by new technologically advanced tools, capable of explaining complexity without reducing and isolating cognitive difficulties from one another.

MY THOUGHTS

So what is this magical tool all about and how is this technology going to bring back certainty in progress when the future is completely uncertain an obscure? As Latour points out, it is not a matter of fact; it is a matter of concern. The concern is explanation and unveiling, which in turn leads to discovery and insight.  But what is the purpose of discovery and insight? The purpose is to make choices; complicated choices which are the result of answers to questions with infinite dynamic relations. These everyday choices lead us to thought out actions; actions that trigger a set of intended interactions. In effect, by intending we are exercising restraint. It is about control. Not an Orwellian-like centralised control, but a self-exercised control. It is about a self-organisational process where we are the organiser, the organised and even the organisation. To me this tool is about the balancing act of freedom and responsibility. It is about the ultimate solution.

What is the ultimate solution and foremost what is a solution. Is it the process of of determining the answer to a problem or the answer itself? I think it is both at the same time.  It is a harmonious mixture of everything and everyone’s concern, but it is never a final state. It is a constant dynamic process driven by our principles of action based on our fundamental understanding of life. Instead of saying form follows function, I would say that form follows beliefs. So is this tool shaping beliefs? I suppose so:  a technology capable of letting us see life as an irreducible system of relations between its parts and the whole evokes a new possibility; the possibility of constructing a new ethical self able to bring into being an entirely different solution. William Wordsworth once said, “A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” Indeed, prevailing holistic visualisations have the power to inspire. Therefore, complex information visualisation is not exclusively about rational meaning-making, it is also about inspiring feelings of connectedness and empathy that can fuel the creative process of imagining a new sustainable solution; one that is animated by complementary antagonisms ( autonomy-dependence, fear-love, belong–differentiate, local-global, etc… ) . It is not a Star Trek-like perfect solution; it is the optimal solution, the best one that we can come up with at any given time in accordance to the interdependent nature of human and non-human life. It is not rigid, it is composed of parts that move freely but do not tend toward indefinite vaporous expansion. It is not an extreme solution, it is a LIQUID SOLUTION.  It cannot be imposed nor branded and mass communicated.  It is a solution based on deep-seated self-transformation. It is a practical solution that is contingent on the use of augmented awareness tools and methods resulting in deepened and emotional understanding of life. It is a consciousness shift. It is the NEW AGE OF AQUARIUS🙂

SUMMARY

The MANIFESTO of January 3, 2000, declares a flamboyant plan of action through which Bruce Sterling expects to achieve a sustainable consumer society.  In a nut shell, the road map consists of a propaganda campaign that seeks to build support for glorified sustainable innovations by instilling anxieties and panic in the general population with particular focus on the potential consequences of GLOBAL WARMING.

Following a short analysis in regards to the capacity of Government, Industry and other competing NGOs to respond to the environmental threat, Bruce Sterling lays out a persuasive scheme. The TECHNO-CULTURAL avant-garde elite is to be implored and motivated to focus not on economic and political operation of society, but on developing practical solutions that provide prosperity in an ecologically sustainable way through the use of new technologies and improved design. The concept of DEMATERIALIZATION, which refers to the absolute or relative reduction in the quantity of materials required, serving an economic function is repeatedly assumed and inferred.  The obstacle of limited natural resources is   triumphed over by the amplification of the post-modern cultural, service, and tourism industry, while shifting away from the consumption of material goods.  The ability of technological advancement to do more with less is hyped, illustrated in practical examples, and finally branded under a VIRIDIAN DESIGN MOVEMENT focused on replacing natural resources with information that is both cheap and glamorous.  The challenge of swindling the higher classes into seeing luxury under this different light is presented as one of the main hindrances to the proliferation of Bruce Sterling’s social engineering plan.  To overcome a potential resistance to the emergence of a new GREEN fashion, sustainable products must generate symbolic value useful to the newly altered and distinguished upper classes. However, just in case the carrot would not be enough, in an “inevitable-victory” tone, the author concludes by presenting only two choices:  join in or else you will have to face the consequences of global warming and ultimately the ENVIRONMENTAL Crime tribunals.

SHORT CRITIQUE

To counter the unprecedented environmental challenge we need radical measures. Is Bruce Sterling manifesto really radical?

RADICAL implies fundamental, even revolutionary societal change.[1] The author’s modernist facelift campaign coupled with a sophisticated sustainability market adoption theory falls short in regards to this understanding of deep-seated and far-reaching transformation .In fact, building a sustainable society on the modernist principal of human supremacy[2] represents not only a superficial shift, but a futile strategy towards maintaining a dynamic equilibrium of the ecosystem.[3]

We need to think deeper than that. Branding sustainability as COOL will only lead us to the inevitable emergence of cooler commodities and social attitudes that could be very well unsustainable. In addition, Bruce Sterling’s scheme is highly dependable on a spiralling fear campaign that could perhaps result in undesirable forms of radicalisation.[4] In effect, I desperately hope that the social catalysis occasioned by new TECHNOLOGIES goes beyond Bruce Sterling’s aesthetic revolution.  According to Foucault, technologies “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality.”[5] In this respect, Bruce Sterling only superficially approaches a major practical issue, our capacity to perceive.  By writing “Make the invisible visible. Don’t sell warnings. Sell awareness.” he evokes technological augmentation of our perception capacity. Being capable of defining and producing a new ethical self-understanding through augmentation of our senses is INSPIRING.  However, reducing the role of art and design to simply steering the consumption habits of   “A global population where the vast majority spend their time sitting still and staring into screens…”, is not the constructive and radical metamorphosis  that I expect from the  NEW MILLENNIUM.

PS. Design conference ( Bruce Sterling )

Bruce Sterling from Innovationsforum on Vimeo.


[1] Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Copyright © 1994-2008 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

[2] Bender, F. L. 2003. The Culture of Extinction: Toward a Philosophy of Deep Ecology Amherst, New York: Humanity Books

[3] Cuddington, K. 2001. “The ‘Balance of Nature’ Metaphor and Equilibrium in Population Ecology.” Biology and Philosophy 16: 463-479.

[4] Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media.

[5] Foucault, MIchel. Technologies of the self. The University of Massachusetts Press, 1998, p.18.

In the month of February, I visited an exhibition of the work practice of 22 international architectural offices. The event was organised by   Elke Krasny and Céline Poisson in collaboration with the Université de Québec à Montréal ( UQAM).   By exhibiting prototypes, sketches and tools used by the architects the event truly captured the process of birth of an idea and its transformation into a material form.  I particularly appreciated the way George Labrecque, responsible of the design layout of the university exhibition center, presented the tools used in architectural  practice. In the form of thesaurus, modern and ancient tools were beautifully displayed in a way to engage the visitors in learning how architecture works.

Récréation (Report 1 )

April 17, 2010

The 17th of March I had the pleasure to assist a non traditional runway show titles Récréation. The designers,Ying Gao and Karl Latraverse presented augmented garments through analogue and digital wearable technologies that interact with light or air. It was poetic, surprising, artsy and very different from an usual fashion show. Models of all ages played Ping-Pong, while wearing minimalistic futuristic outfits crafted with special attention to quality and durability in opposition today’s era of fast and disposable fashion. Besides the element of interactive technology I was equally impressed by the fabrications and the modular aspect of the collection.

Recent developments such as dielectric elastomers and piezoelectric elements inspire the prospect of human-generated renewable energy. Of course, when we account for all the effort that goes into providing our fuel (food), power from the people is a very inefficient way to produce electricity. However, if we can generate power from activities that we would normally do anyways, like walking or moving in our clothes then the concept of “parasitic power” represents a promising direction towards a sustainable future.

In this academic design research project, I hope to promote the concept of human powered electronics and wearable technology by presenting an illuminating clothing outfit that will appeal to the fashion forward media community known for popularising forthcoming ideas and trends.

The technical design of the power mechanism will be based on existing methods of power generation through human motion. I will use a recycled dynamo motor activated by walking that is connected to a “power module” attached to the user’s legs. By walking the wearer will generate enough electricity to light up a series of LEDs. These LEDs will be incorporated onto a conductive knitted garment worn on top of a dress designed to conceal the necessary electronic components. The hand knitted shrug, illustrated bellow, will be made out of ¾” organza piping filled with polyester filling and conductive cable. To express the concepts of “Parasitic Power” and “Second Skin” I will use a color palette of skin tones and textured fabrics that evoke human tissues. By doing so, I hope to provoke a discussion on the subject of organisms that rely on both artificial and natural systems. The project will be presented in front of the class where hopefully the knitted garment will illuminate while the model is walking.

In conclusion, this project will allow me to acquire the necessary technical skills to integrate electronic circuits and component to textile garments and accessories. In particular, I will learn how build an electric system which convert s Ac power to DC in order to change a battery.   I addition, I hope that my project will inspire other fashion designers, trend setters and journalist to discuss  and investigate  the possibilities of body generated energy, an idea that has the potential to revolutionize the wearable computer industry.

Starner, T., & Paradiso, J.A. (2004). Human-Generated Power for Mobile Electronics. In C.Piguet (Ed.), Low-Power Electronics Design (pp. 1-35). CRC Press.

My second skin

March 21, 2010

My Second Skin

In the class that I am taking at Concordia University, we were asked to write an essay entitle “ My Second Skin” based on Skin: Surface, Substance, and Design by Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Tobias, Alicia Imperiale, Grace Jeffers published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2002  (download PDF ).  The authors focus on popular designs, technologies and various resources that mimic the functions as well as the material properties of our skin. In this, post I will reflect on digitally augmented second skins with particular attention to their potential protective capabilities.

The concept of augmented reality is one promising direction towards interactive surface design capable of reacting to subtle and subjective changes in our immediate environments. The notion of mixing the real and the virtual world coupled with the increasing capabilities mobile rendering technologies represent an opportunity to enhance any cultural object with an interactive and highly customizable virtual skin. If the technology improves even further we can speculate that in the future we will have the possibility to customize everything that surrounds us while also allowing us to share these preferences with others.  In this case, everyone and everything in our natural and the urban environments will be revealing superimposed digital data that will take the form of an aura view through aura recognition and rendering systems.  These systems, that we can qualify as second skin generators will obviously have the capabilities to allow us to express our individuality in a very interactive way. However in this post, on the subject of second skin, I would like to focus on the protective properties of these so called aura systems.  Human skin is a natural anatomical barrier from pathogens and damage between the internal and external environment in bodily defense. In addition, the skin has adaptive immune capabilities. The same way, while the augmented reality systems permit to experience and feel the outside world, it is important that they also provide the necessary protection from it. My digital second skin will play the role of an intelligent filter that learns my preferences by analyzing my behavior.  For example, if my digital aura system detects meta-data to be revealed, the application installed on my wearable device will prompt me if I am interested in allowing this content to be viewed.  Depending on my action, the filter will already know what action to take in the future in regards to this superimposed data.  In a way, we need to have an immune system or in other terms an anti virus protection software that will manage our user experience.

In conclusion, I believe that augmented reality technologies will allow us to experience the real world in totally different way. We will be able to emit and receive visual information that is overlaid onto reality in real time.  It is important to shift attention from gimmicky mobile devices applications and consider the broader implications of these ideas. “The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.” .Claude Monet:

Material and Design Research:

Power from Body Heat

An article discussing body power generation through the use of silicon nanowires synthesized via a technique developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley. The authors suggest we can harvest power from just about any situation in which heat is being given off, heat that is currently being wasted. For example,  if it is cold outside and you are wearing a jacket made of material embedded with thermoelectric modules, you could recharge mobile electronic devices off the heat of your body.

An article discussing the technology used in Seiko Thermic, the worlds first watch driven by body heat. Given all the limitations of this technology , thermally body-worn system enables this wristwatch to generate sufficient power to run its mechanical clock movement from the small thermal gradient provided by body heat over ambient temperature.

German scientists have développed a circuits that work on 200 millivolts. This discovery evokes that using body heat instead of batteries to power various devices is no longer a dream.

Power from Respiration

  • www54.homepage.villanova.edu/michael.erwin/…/BSOTA(final).doc

This research proposal focuses on different materials used to body-generate electricity. As we read the paper we learn that one materials to be considered for upper body energy generation includes electro active materials and dielectric elastomers. The way to generate power from breathing is to fasten a tight band (dielectric elastomers)  around the chest of the user. There is a 2.5 cm change in chest circumference when breathing normally and 5cm when breathing deeply.

Shaking It Up

  • S.R. Vetorino, J.V. Platt, and D.A. Springer. 6,220,719: Renewable energy flashlight. US Patent, April 24 2001.

A renewable energy flashlight comprises a housing and a barrel located within the housing. A wire coil wraps around the barrel, between the barrel and the housing. A magnet oscillates within the barrel when the flashlight is shaken, generating an alternating current in the coil.

Pressing buttons

  • K. Pistor and F. Schmidt. WO 10/91315 A2: Energy self-sufficient high frequency transmitter. German Patent,November 29 2001.

A piezoelectric element with resonantly-matched transformer and conditioning electronics that, when struck by abutton, generates approximately 0.5 mJ. This innovation enables compact digital controllers (for example, a light switch) to be placed freely, without needing any wiring or batteries and their associated maintenance. a self-powered piezoelectric radio button has recently been marketed in Germany by a company called EnOcean, an affiliate of Siemens  which uses a bistable piezoelectric cantilever that snaps when pressed and released, conditioned by a switching regulator.

Power from Arm Motion

  • C. Kenneally. Power from the people breaks the hold of batteries and plugs. New York Times, page G9, August 3 2000
  • C.J. Bader and R.P. Branco. 3,657,113: System for the generation of electrical power having a spring powered prime
    mover responsive to output voltage. US Patent, November 24 1972.

The above article/patent discus windup  chargers. Using a wind-up system, the mobile user can spend some directed effort at generating and storing power for a mobile computer or phone followed by a period of use of the device, either eliminating the battery (by storing energy in a spring) or charging it.

“AladdinPower” is a handheld electromagnetic generator with a lever that one cranks
by squeezing; it produces 1.6 watts of power when the handle is squeezed at 90 times per minute, and was built for general applications that include charging cell phones or running flashlights.

  • T. Bartczak and C. Aimone. Around-The-World Music. Popular Science, page 28, January 2004.

This “ReGen” design study explores embedding a wireless MP3 player and magnetic generator into a yo-yo, claiming that a dozen vigorous tosses can provide up to an hour of continuous music play.

Power from Walking

A technical report by John Kymissis, Clyde Kendall, Joseph Paradiso and Neil Gershenfeld.Parasitic on the subject of  Power Harvesting in Shoes. The paper examines three different devices that can be built into a shoe, (where excess energy is readily harvested) and used for generating electrical power “parasitically” while walking. Two of these are piezoelectric in nature: a
unimorph strip made from piezoceramic composite material and a stave made from a multilayer laminate of PVDF foil. The third is a shoe-mounted rotary magnetic generator.


Theory and  Criticism Research:

Self sufficiency and the culture of Narcissism

This paper is an attempt to show that the modern person is in the grip of a new
psychological consciousness – one that is extremely pre-occupied with the self and tha our society has become a culture of Narcissism.

According to this article  mobile technology,  such as cell phones, social networks and mobile software, may be interfering with the natural process of growing up — of learning to evolve beyond adolescent narcissism.

  • Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations, W. W. Norton & Company, New York,1979

This publication, discusses New Age spirituality and classifie it  as no less than technological utopianism wich is rooted in primary narcissism according to the author.

Against Reality

March 8, 2010

Exemples of marker based Augmented Reality applied to fashion design.

Concept for marker-less tracking Augmented Reality platform for self-expression.