The Interactive Paradigm – Journal 7, 10.12.16

Class Readings

Link to Short Summary of the Readings

Link to Interactivity Reader: Section 1, Section 2, Section 3, Section4

Interactivity Questions

Link to Prepared Questions meant for 10.05.16

Class Overview

I met with Owen before class and talked to him about my struggles. I explained that I did E mail Nate on 09.11.16 and asked a question. Nate’s response was to simply present what I had. Owen and I talked about my ideas and I explained that I had written significantly in order to be ready to discuss with the class even if I did not have a formal presentation.

I was unaware that the presentation needed to be done in a formal manner. That has not been the pattern in previous classes so I didn’t think about it much. However, the syllabus does specify formality. My bad.

I spoke with Nate before class and told him what I had done. I said I was ready to present based on the brainstorming.

During class, Alicia and Steve presented.  Jim presented but was told to redo it. By the time it was my turn, class was over.


Class Conversation about Projects

Steve’s Project

Is this an Interactive Work, Discuss

Cans on strings with a feedback, loop because sound is layered

Brian Eno – Discrete Music is a music system like Steve’s Tin Cans

Aesthetic input in the discrete music system

Steve is talking about semantic input

Telephonic is about collapsing space and allowing conversations over long spaces

Metaphor of telephonic is important


Alicia’s Project

Perception is fluid

The fluid nature of perception is such that we are constantly renegotiating the terns by which we acknowledge, understand and communicate our experiences

Language relies upon a complex of both positive and negative feedback loops which characterize a constant renegotiation of what is meaningful

Not only in art also in our perception of the rational world

This project is mean to ask a communities about the ways in which the members perceive and apply feedback loops

I would like to build a small experimental environment that is able to demonstrably introduce a controlling feedback mechanism

The degree to which this mechanism is able to facilitate and demonstrate a community-mediated change in the perceivable environment will depend on its ability to identify the small variations in human response to the system and illustrate them in an amplified and meaningful way

MaxMSP will likely provide the tools by which the system will perceive itself, determine the appropriate responses to itself and ultimately adjust itself

Using sensor based data inputs generated by HCi feedback loops can be designed to express the state of the system through sensory outputs such as light sound movement, perceptible things

Will prompt alterations in the range of possible interactions

How do people perceive and apply feedback mechanism


Jim’s Project

10 x 10 stories and photos of others

Vote on method of disposal

Labeled Earth

Patrick Killoran shadow collection

Luc Ferrari CD tree

Matt Shultz cardboard

Music with a cardboard box?

Feedback loop with the box?


Random Thoughts

Questions about “What is life”

Does it hurt when you kill it?

Can you kill it?

Can you build a successful ecosystem?

Even in a very limited way?

Exploring god like powers in A-volve. You can decide to protect or feed or redirect the creatures.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to illustrate how much we mess things up when we get involved?

But also to figure out what kind of criteria allow us to make good decisions that help the ecosystem to survive. Ethical decisions. Do you save the pretty creatures? Do you introduce predators even if the best creature that you feel attached to will die?

Interactive art is an interesting way of exploring ethical dilemmas

Speculative fiction, speculative art


Notes & Research

Feldman’s Method of Art Criticism

Not sure why my search turned this up, but I used it with my students so I thought I would save the link in case I want to consult it later.

Astrobiology Article: Defining Life

Scientific America: Why Life Doesn’t Really Exist

Random Brainstorming about Interactivity

First… my questions did not really get answered. I feel like I don’t know enough to make an informed judgment. Therefore, everything I am about to write is suspect. I guess everything is always suspect. I could change my mind at any time. That is normal. But there is a difference in making an informed judgment upon which I feel even reasonably confident and making a judgment which feels uninformed and in which I am not confident.

A starting place: What do I like about Interactive Art? What speaks to me?

First, I simply do not agree with the idea presented in class that mutuality must somehow be physical. I don’t even think it is supported by the readings. Even Manovich seems to disagree. He says ” when “interactive media” is exclusive to computers, then we interpret “interaction” literally and only physical.” Psychology gets dismissed.

I like what he says when he states that, “interactive media asks us to identify with somebody else’s mental structure.” This is carried further in the Buckner article when she talks about interactivity allowing access to the artists subconscious through co-creation.

This relates to my opinions regarding Amy Stacy Curtis. We talked about her very early in the class before we had studied all the readings. (Reading all the readings is NOT the same as studying them). My impression was that we were supposed to discount her work as not interactive. This goes back to early descriptions of the class when we were told that lots of artists say “interactive” but don’t define the word. My understandings that Nate doesn’t think “participatory” art is interactive. Sometimes I think that is true. If everyone works together to paint a mural, I don’t think that would be interactive. It would be collaborative because it took a group, but there is no access to the artists subconscious.

“Access to the Artists Subconscious” may be a characteristic of interactive art. It is an imprecise way to put it. I could probably think of better words and Alicia could probably think of even better “better” words, but for now, I know what I mean and this si a brainstorm so Ill live with it.

I think “co-creation” is another important characteristic. That separates interactivity from simple collaboration.

Mutuality? Well, yes… if and only if you refrain from limiting it to physical reactions.

If you have Mutuality and Co-creation then you eliminate the pesky idea that purely psychological interaction is still “Interactive Art.” So something like a book that changes your mind would probably not qualify because you are not working with the author to create anything. Except maybe you are…. in your head…. but there is no product. So maybe a “co-created product” would work? What about music? is music a “product?” Semantic arguments are difficult.

I feel like I am creating this argument in an illogical order. I am operating on the idea that I have some kind of instinctive understanding of what interactivity is and isn’t. I don’t like that. It isn’t a good method. I feel like I am limiting my possible outcomes and dismissing things without cause. I can say “Well, books are not interactive” and then use that as a fact to define interactivity, but it seems like very shaky logic.

Ok, I am getting tense and that is not a good state of mind for brainstorming. Lets go back to the questions I asked. What do I like? What feels good? What speaks to me? This is art. I think I should give a damn. What makes me give a damn?

Artificial Life!


Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau: A-Volve, 1994-97

Why? Well… it is beautiful. That is easy. It is aesthetically pleasing. But it is more than that, I like it for the same reason I liked the Sphere World Nate made. I like the idea that you can create something that is alive. I like the re-imagining, and redefining of life.

I think that human beings made god because they didn’t have any other way of conceptualizing the power of creation. They couldn’t imagine that they could do what they attributed to god. There must have been a time when the idea of that kind of power was terrifying. But I don’t think it should be. I think it should be our goal. We should want to create.

We all know I love Sci-Fi, but it isn’t just entertainment. It links back to the same reasons. It reflects a worldview, that for reasons I don’t fully understand myself, is overwhelmingly optimistic.

I am aware of the destruction in the history of the world. I am aware of the danger we live in today. I am not an idiot. I know just how much things could go wrong. And my own life has had more than its share of darkness and tragedy. There are so so many terrible things. I know. But somehow, I just can’t work myself up to so much negativity.

So many people seem to be afraid of learning. Afraid of Technology. Afraid of globalization. AFRAID AFRAID AFRAID.

Everyone will be brown.

We will live in a uniculture.

Technology will change us.

We won’t be human any more.

Computers will take over the world.

There will be no more trees

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot!

Soylent Green is people!

Beware Cyberdyne!


Everyone will be brown.

Unlikely, but if it were true, so what? What possible harm could there be?

 We will live in a uniculture.

Also seems unlikely, but if it is true, I don’t think its necessarily bad. Diversity is nice, but it is not my highest value. Culture is supposed to change. It is not a concrete thing. I hope we maintain good records so we can see what it once was but I don’t feel a pressing need to preserve all aspects of culture. Keep the good. Let the bad go. Longevity does not mean that something is good. It just means that it is powerful. I think that just as science develops, so do our conceptions of ethics and morality. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen in perfect tandem, but when you look at the long view, it works out. It may take a long, long time, but I do believe we will ultimately reach a higher state. If the varied cultures of humanity also follow that path, then yes, there will be some unification of culture and that is perfectly ok!  

Technology will change us.

Well. Good. Technology changed  me. I couldn’t see shit and now I can. Yippie! If someone offered me a pill that would let me fly or breath under water, or live 200 years, I would take it. Why not? How would that be any different than fixing my eyes. Its just -more-

We won’t be human any more.

That’s a semantic argument. We can define humanity any way we want to. It is out right to do it. We are conscious beings with a right to self-determination.

Computers will take over the world.

I seriously doubt it. I am sure there will be accidents. I am sure there will be tragedies. I hope they are not terrible but if they are we learn. Tragedy is part of existing. Shit happens. Learn. Grow. Change. I think that the more work we can give to computers, the more collective power we have to direct at better things. People are afraid of created intelligence. One of our readings talked about this. It mentioned the fear of becoming god-like. God created man in his own image and thus imbued himself with power. Who are we to be gods? I don’t believe in god. I believe we are the consciousness of our world. Why shouldn’t we create?

There will be no more trees.

We need trees to live. We know that we need trees to live. Obviously people are idiots and cut down more trees than we should, but we are learning. We will figure it out. Hopefully we will figure it out before there is too much suffering.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot!

Soylent Green is people!

Beware Cyberdyne!


So the short version is: I like technology.

So… I like the technology aspects of Interactive Art. I like the idea that you can create a world and define the rules and then watch and see what happens.

I like the idea that you can extend your body and mind to be part of your art. The “Very Nervous System” thing appeals to me, not because its musical. I don’t care much about that. It appeals to me because he made something he could manipulate and that could manipulate him. I think that’s interesting. I think it is part of the general idea that creation of new life is awesome.

We have not talked much about something else I like, what I think of as interactive. I like the idea of a collective mind. When people can come together and create something that no single person could do alone, that is more than collaboration. I think it must be interactive. It goes back to the mural thing. A mural that is directed by one person is not interactive BUT… something like the Poetry Garden that my students made, -is-.

Those kids created something together. They fused their ideas. They reacted to each other. They adapted. They built something. It was really amazing to see.

I wouldn’t mind doing a project like that, but that was a 3 year project. I am the first to admit that it took quite a long time to really achieve that level of interaction. They had to know each other. They had to understand the system. They had to feel safe enough to explore it. It was hard. It wasn’t just some fun, spontaneous thing that happened. We worked for it.

What else do I like?

I like hypertext. Which is to say, I really like the way new technology manages information. I wish I could be a kid growing up and learning with today’s technology. There is so much information at our fingertips. I understand the downside. Kids don’t spend enough time problem solving. They don’t play outside. They live too much through representative reality. All those things suck, but the grandness of the extent of information is pretty amazing.

I was an extremely socially inept kid. I suffered a lot in school. I would have been so much happier if I could have simply learned from the computer. All those things that I loved would have been so much more accessible. Of course, I would probably have used it as escapism too. So maybe it’s a bad idea to look backwards at “what ifs.”

That’s not the only thing I like about hypertext.

I didn’t really think about it much until this class. We used story building stuff in school. I went to a big workshop on it at a conference in Atlanta. It was fun but I guess I didn’t grasp everything it could do. It is a new kind of literature and it opens doors to a new way of thinking about words and stories. That is probably a really good thing. technology is changing the way we think. We need literature that can reflect that. the Traditional narrative just isn’t enough anymore. Its great and all, but we need more. I think hypertext might be the way.

Many years ago, I liked website design. I remember some of what I knew but the scripting languages have changed so much that it isn’t reliable anymore. At any rate, I remember how much I enjoyed making my pages change. I used to have it set up so that the viewer could change the theme to fit their mood. They could pop little balloons to look at links, change the images, give themselves funny little cartoon characters for pointers, etc etc etc. I liked to write essays and blog posts and link it all together. I think I had a script that created links to words I entered into it, but I don’t remember. I know I did a lot of it by hand with anchor links, but I think I had other methods. I also wrote a chat room script that logged conversations. Then I could set it to respond to people when they said specific phrases. That was funny. We used to play games with it. Then we wrote stories together as an online role play. That was fun. It was in the mid 90s. It was new. It was exciting. I enjoyed it but I didn’t think about the potential of it.

Now I realize there is a lot of potential. I am not sure I know enough to use it. I might consider learning again. The idea is exciting. I am not sure I can learn fast enough to put together a graduate school level project and I am not sure it would be suitable anyway.

Hypertext poetry would be nice. I imagine you could write programs that connected words so that the user could build a poem based on responses. It would take a lot of psychological research to do anything more than entertainment, but I think Barbara Buckner is right about healing power. I can envision images that produce words linked to emotional responses so that the user could perhaps, select images that suit their mood to generate poetry. Maybe heavy handed, but perhaps the poem could then be analyzed to help therapists. It seems like a wide open area.

If psychologists can have kids draw pictures to test them, I am sure something like that could work with hypertext.

I also like the very simple idea of creating text books that interact with students. There was a double sided tablet that was supposed to be made around the time Ipads were made. I wish I remembered what it was called. I did a web search but I couldn’t find it again. It ended up going back to the drawing board and becoming a program without hardware, but I watched the videos they made of the test versions. It was great. You could read a text book and flip through pages like a book. Then the student could take notes directly in it and have them compiled at the end. They could view videos and read definitions, and move through the program like a hard copy notebook. I remember reading their research page and it talked about how they studied college students studying to see what methods they used to incorporate them into a digital version. I think that great.

The things I talked about when I applied to the program fit in here as well. I love my postcards, but I know that we are moving away from handwritten mail. I really think there is a way to take some of the things that are good about writing postcards or letters, and incorporate them into their digital counterparts. I don’t know how that would work yet, but I would like to find out.

AHA! I remembered the name and I found it.

It was called the “Kno” tablet.

2,547 words of brainstorming and I still don’t have a project. I am going for a walk.

And… I’m back.

I reread my notes on my studio plan. I tried taking a concept first approach, which I know is preferable but my problem isn’t concepts. I can think of cool concepts.

So… chatted with Virginia on Face book. Kinda helped.

I could do something with old-school technology. Use an old-fashioned projector and project onto a screen. Allow the crowd to interact. Problem occurs because I don’t know if I can get people involved. Also, I do not feel at all comfortable with a performance piece because I do not feel knowledgeable enough  or connected enough to anything. It isn’t about being shy. I am not afraid to say what I think when I think something, but I deeply, DEEPLY resent being pushed to do something that I don’t feel qualified to do. That is just not ok. I did not come here for that. I came here to learn. Learning means taking the time to digest, understand and apply. It do not like being asked to commit to something I am not ready to commit to. I like to be sure of my own thoughts. I don’t know why I am that way. They are just thoughts and subject to change at any time. I don’t mind changing my mind. In fact, I like it. I dont mind being asked to learn more or work harder. I like the challenge. It is just the committing that I don’t like. I think committing when I don’t feel confident of my thoughts makes me feel guilty. I feel like I am lying. Since I tend to be sort of overly concerned with honor, that bothers me. On a deeper level, it probably offends my rather rigid personality. There is some part of me that is certain of things. I trust myself. I always have. I know who I am and I know what I think. I like that in myself. I am not comfortable challenging it.

Could try some kind of response to other people, but I have -0- interest in doing anything musical. I am not a valid subject for that. All I am likely to get, is mad, if I have to listen to disorganized chaotic sounds. I do have an amusing mental picture of myself being chased around the presentation room with shiny brass instruments, trying to grab my earplugs and then cowering in a corner while a brass band plays around my head and some crazy person smacks symbols in my ears. No No No and NOPE.

I originally wanted to ask Adam about some kind of interactive literary project. I wrote it down on the first day of class. I could do that. I understand literature. I am not a great writer but I am reasonably competent and capable of being more than competent with enough effort. I thought it might be cool to do a visual book review. He could write and I could respond with abstractions of color and shape.

I thought about it because I was thinking about how hard it is to convey the emotional impact of a text. I could write ten thousand words and never really explain Robinson Crusoe. I know, I gave it a good sharp as a Twyla Tharp, Creative Habit activity! When writers write, sometimes they are expressing things subconsciously, without meaning too. They are giving you a peak at their inner self that can be quite separate from the subject they are writing about. I thought it might be interesting to try and respond to the emotion between words by using colors and shapes and textures. It would also be good for the writer because it is so hard to put your work out there for criticism. Visual feedback might feel safer. People react better to criticism when they feel safe,

When we studied poetry in school, I used to make my students paint with marshmallows. I did it because it forced them to abstract their ideas. You can’t draw anything realistic with a marshmallow. I put them on the floor and played music (Selected by someone  else) and flashed images onto a projector screen for only a few seconds at a time. I flashed lights on and off and banged buckets and pots and pans to make weird sounds. Every so often I blew a whistle and made them move on to another spot on the paper. When we were done, we cut the papers up and put them on the wall and analyzed them.

Kids are tough. They have loads of emotion. That’s the strength. They have all these crazy adolescent emotions rushing through them. Everything is new and for the first time and the impact is just gigantic. I think adults forget what it was like the first time. How important it all seems. But those emotions can also make them very self-centered. It’s like all that intensity blocks them from connecting to other people. How do you get them to understand that poets from 100 years ago felt the same things they feel now? You find a way to get their emotions out. Then you make it safe enough to present to a group.

The marshmallow paint activity created a collective product. It took away the proprietary idea that an idea could only belong to one person. It extended feelings outward. Once kids could look at the images and analyze them (a nice link to the art program since we used art criticism), they could talk about what they felt, why, what the shapes and colors meant. Then we could read some poetry and find \the poems that reflected the same thing. Way way more fun than scansion. Of course, then I made them learn scansion but by then they were somewhat more interested!

I wonder if it would work to use some of those general ideas. I don’t mean to explore poetry exact ally. In my studio pan I talked about examining my own creative process. Maybe I could look at how groups interact creatively. I guess it isn’t a powerful concept, but it’s a start.

It occurs to me that my intense dislike of chaotic sounds is important.

I am thinking about something from the Twyla Tharp book. She talks about the need to eliminate distractions. Turn off the music. I thought that was very important but I am super bias because I don’t even like to hear the sounds of the air conditioner running at school. I like silence when I work.

Could I create a space with purely visual stimulation? No sounds.

Could people interact with each other without noise? what about without touch or noise? Just colors? It would be cool if I had theatre lights. You can make amazing colors with theatre lights. You can do a whole light show. I even, kinda, know how! Well, I did. I don’t know how all equipment works, just the single light system I learned.

Can people speak to each other in images?

That’s a thing for sure. Thinking in pictures got lots of attention with autism studies. However, I am thinking a bit more abstractly I think. I was thinking of something like color theory. Do we create moods with colors, etc etc etc

What is the interaction? It isn’t the colors. It is the individual response to each other through colors. So in that case, you maybe don’t need colored lights. Maybe you just need to communicate with each other somehow.

Virginia says: “it sounds absurd enough that it could work. think of the transcendental. How can you transcend people into reaching something they wouldn’t have been able to do without your art?”

Which made me think of what Amanda wanted to do by creating a ritual. I wrote some note sfor her during the last set of interactivity readings, That is an idea worth exploring.

Also, I wish my house were less cold because its making it hard to type.

3,744 Words, time to add some more research

MET Museum Page on Symbolism Movement

“This philosophy, which would incorporate the poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s conviction that reality was best expressed through poetry because it paralleled nature rather than replicating it, became a central tenet of the movement. In Mallarmé’s words, ‘To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the enjoyment to be found in the poem… suggestion, that is the dream.'”

“In painting, Symbolism represents a synthesis of form and feeling, of reality and the artist’s inner subjectivity”

The Art Story, Overview of Symbolism Movement

Subjectivity over realism

interest in fantastical elements such as dreams or occult

indirect, “obscured” meaning

transition from Romanticism towards modernism


opposite of impressionism in many ways, not the impression of the real world. The representation of the imagined

“Synthetism, in particular, is necessary for an understanding of Symbolist aesthetics. Artists that practiced Synthetism combined elements from the real world or borrowed from other works of art or forms of art to create new realities. For example, among the tendencies of the Symbolists was the interest in assimilating music into art; this idea was influenced by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who conceived of music as an art form that communicated its meaning directly.”

This makes  me think of the students responding to music in the paint.

I am looking up color symbolism by I am being overwhelmed by cheesy pop science stuff. I need an academic database.

A Little About Color Symbols

I am not sure what else to research. Ritual? Transcendence? Solitude? Quiet? Initially I was just thinking about visual stimulation and communication, but the idea of creating a ritual is also very worthwhile.

In a lot of ways, that is what the painting activity did for the students. It helped them transcend their own confusion. Maybe that’s worth more than simple communication?

A ritual is kind of interactive. The participants interact with each other, but the ritual itself is not really acted upon. That is kind of the point of a ritual. It is a repetitive act, enduring, continuous. Of course it changes, but slowly, over time, in response to many actions. Ritual connects us, not only to each other, but to all the people past and future that we know have participated or will participate in the ritual.

nd again I need an academic database. Too much pop science and religious stuff that isn’t trustworthy.

It is almost 10:00 pm. I have written at least ten thousand words today.  I hope this is good enough. I have a few ideas at least. I will review them again after I have slept and be ready to present them for criticism.