.motion .bodies .communities .technologies

Constraining through fabric

Academia, Art, Dance, Movement, New Media, Performance, The body, Thesis journal

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Some very well-known examples of changing dancerly ways of moving come from the work of Loie Fuller and Martha Graham through their use of fabric.

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Our bodies our changing because of the things we’ve created

Academia, Dance, Movement, Performance, Somatics, Technology, The body, Thesis journal

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That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it. But I suppose that by “bodies”, I mean the way we carry our bodies: the way we move, the way we hold ourselves, our posture, our movement abilities, our movement qualities. Our body’s sense of well-being. The invention of the chair has changed forever the way our back and hip flexors are configured.

And by “things we create”, I mean specifically computational technologies and concepts. Computers and the configuration of the desktop keyboard and monitor are changing the way our spine, fingers, arms, scapulae, clavicles, heads, etc. etc. work together. Lyn Bartram has pointed out (and I need to ask her for a reference) that the one thing that has been proven to have changed with younger generations as a result of technology isn’t their ability to concentrate: it’s their ability to use their thumbs. Thumbing dexterity has increased! New interfaces such as touchpads have changed (to a certain extent) the way we generate written text, although there is to some extent a kind of a return to more analog strategies for text input. (I just ordered a set of 5 stylii for my iPad from eBay.)

So that’s the general area I place my research on: the way technology has changed our bodies, and specifically the way digital technologies have changed the way we move.

The one aspect of human movement that seems to be understudied is in its most expressive, creative way: dance. I’ve come across one paper by dance scholar Naomi M. Jackson, “Rethinking Humanness: The Place of Automata, Puppets and Cyborgs in Dance”, delivered in 2001 at the Society of Dance History Scholars, which has touched on this. Of course, the work of choreographers such as Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe have done much to explore the use of technology in expressive human motion, but what I’m curious is about is popular, grassroots explorations of the same.

I am also interested in these genres because they (and particularly liquid) signals a departure from the angular, hard computation of Cunningham technique. There’s an organic-ness to the aesthetics of the genres that had been missing from Cunningham. Both explore space, absolutely, and yet there’s something more complex and, well, liquid about Liquid.

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Where are investigations and narratives around the actual dancing “electronic dance music culture”?

Academia, Dance, Movement, The body, Thesis journal

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I’m currently scouring academic references about the dancing that happens as part of electronic dance music, and I’m pretty shocked at how little has been written up about it. There’s tons that have been written up about the music, but so far nada on the actual dance. This is incredible. I am hoping to run into more soon, but for the moment, primary and “non-academic” secondary sources online sources (Wikipedia, Youtube, community discussion forums, blogs, etc.) are really all that there is available.

There’s been tons written up about hip hop, of course, about four decades’ worth of literature, and a lot of it concentrates on issues of race, culture, gender, otherness.

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Designing Dance: Engineering and Provoking Audience Experience

Blog, Dance, Movement, Performance, The body, Vancouver

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In this post, I would like touch on two different themes related to experiencing dance, both in its making and its viewing:

  • anticipating (or not) audiences’ states of receptiveness, and crafting (or not) a choreographic response based on prior knowledge of such states; and
  • deciding to what end that choreographic response should be crafted–for instance, whether we want to fulfill “what audiences think they want” versus “what audiences actually need”.

Many of the ideas in this essay came after watching shows from the 2011 Dancing on the Edge festival, and I mention some of them in this post.

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Stuff to see in Vancouver

Advocacy, Art, Blog, Communities, Dance, Food, Movement, New Media, Performance, Technology, Vancouver

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As the social events coordinator at the GSA SIAT, it’s my job to organize events for the grad students. It also give me a chance to advertise cool things being put on by friends and colleagues. Here’s a few of them.

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Wiremap/Lumarca construction update 3

Blog, Dance, Learning, Movement, New Media, Performance, Technology, The body

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(Background: I’ve been building a half-sized version of Lumarca/Wiremap, an open source, low-cost, low-resolution volumetric display, and hooking it up to motion recognition systems as part of the research that I’m doing at SIAT. I posted an update a while back. Here’s the latest one.)

I’ve been able to get an older project (a Wiimote hack) to integrate with my implementation of Lumarca. I can control the size of a “3d diamond” in the display using the distance between my thumb and middle finger, and control its color based on the speed of my fingers/hand. It’s still pretty simple right now, but I’m excited to have finally gotten it to work. I’m beginning to appreciate the need for a lot of forethought in designing Wiremap visualizations (as I outlined in a previous post), because in a dark room, it can be hard to really appreciate the 3D-ness of the visualizations.

Much thanks for helping me understand some of the more technical parts of designing the display and coding against it goes to Albert Hwang, who managed to come out to Vancouver last week. I showed him around SIAT and I got a chance to introduce him to some of the grad students, who talked about their research here. It turns out that Albert is also a dancer (in a different genre than mine), and we spent a lot of time showing each other YouTube videos and websites. I hope he enjoyed his short trip here!

Anyway, here’s a (rather poor quality) clip that explains where I’m at!

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A tool for 3d, real-time visuals for live and interactive performance

Blog, Dance, Learning, Movement, New Media, Performance, Somatics, Technology, The body, Underground

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For my class in Computational Poetics, I’m looking into how somatic-based and phenomenological knowledge of human movement (I studied dance and computing science in my undergrad) can be used to inform the creation of new media-based live performance. As part of this research, I’m investigating the use of Lumarca—an open source, low-cost volumetric display created by Matt Parker and Albert Hwang at ITP—for use in theatre and dance performance. I was totally fascinated with what they had done, and I was thinking how cool it would be use Lumarca as the basis for a complex, custom-made theatrical set piece. Like equipping the strings with flex sensors so that physical interactions with the strings could be detected (for example, the strings could be regarded as vibratory bodies which could then be used for making and visualizing music). Or using different kinds of materials to create a very different look and feel, such as using beautifully-grained, polished wood (something we had discussed in my previous project, Biomodd [LBA2]).  Or even eventually creating a theatre-sized version of the Lumarca/Wire Map so that dancers could be moving through and interacting with a sea of strings.

Basically, I’m tired of seeing 2D displays in dance performance, where they are projected on the floor, or on the ground, or rounded surface. I want to see/make something that surrounds the performer more!

What I especially love about Lumarca is how new media artists in resource-restricted contexts (such as in the third world; I normally live and teach at a university in the Philippines) can use it to create interesting work.

Construction on the Lumarca-based volumetric display is going well, though slow. I showed a super early version of it in a previous post, but I’ve come a long way from that. I’ve become recently become obsessed with making it as stable as possible. Not a bad obsession, and I justify it by thinking about how much I can save when I actually get around to positioning the strings. At any rate, this photo shows where I’m at with the construction.

I also have to write a paper around this project. So first I need to identify as many performances as I can that come close to what I want to do. For example, Improvisational Tools and Synchronous Objects come somewhat close, except that the viewer doesn’t actually get to experience these things live, in 3D space. I’ll look through the dance-tech maillist, my Delicious bookmarks, and YouTube for this.

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On Free Flow

Blog, Movement, Somatics

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Today I discovered something very interesting. We have been studying Laban Effort in the movement analysis class that I’ve been auditing (I already took the class as an undergrad several years back), and one of the components of Effort-based analysis is Flow. Flow is related to the feeling of continuity (or lack thereof). Bound flow is halting, tense, tentative, stopping; there is a feeling of thickness in the sensation, in my experience. Free flow is continuous, ever-moving, like stream. Flow is related to muscular tension. It is easy to confuse Flow with Weight, which is about how you activate your strength, the way you assert yourself in the world. (Of course, a lot of these terms seem to be dependent on the available English words that could be used to sort and group experiences. But ignore this for now.)

Today after class, I couldn’t leave the classroom. I know some of the reasons why, but still, there was something that compelled me to stay in the studio. So I played around on the floor, did some choreography (for the first time in ages), played the piano a lot. What I was doing would be what I usually do when I procrastinate, so I felt like maybe I was procrastinating. This meant that I was sure to feel guilty when I finally decided to stop fucking about and leave. Suddenly, as I was thinking about trying to attempt to leave, I was seized with a thought: What if when I decide to leave, I do it in one fluid gesture? From the moment I stop playing the piano (I experienced the impulse/thought right in the middle of improvising on the piano), I would pack up everything in one fluid motion, not hesitating, not allowing myself to come to a petrifying kind of stillness, but not necessarily in a frantic kind of way.

And suddenly, it was happening. I closed the piano lid, made my way to my bag, turned off my laptop and tucked into its padded case, smushed my yoga ball and my notebook, put my clothes on, put my cap on, put my shoes on, turned of the lights, allowed the door to shut behind me, actively shut the second outside door behind me, took a drink of water, said goodbye to a former prof and a woman he  was talking with, walked down the hallway, opened the door leading to the stairwell, climbed down the five flight of stairs, exited the building, headed towards Cordova Street, passed by the Cambie and ignored a panhandler, was met with green pedestrian crossing lights at nearly every corner, ignored two more panhandlers along the way, realized the consequence of following my free flow might be a complete insensitivity to the concerns of other human beings, made it to the Skytrain station, found the train waiting at the platform, got in, walked to the nearly the very end, sat down, realized that I didn’t really want to sit down there, made my way to the very very end, sat down, opened my bag, took out my lapop, revived it from power-saving mode, opened my HTML editor, opened a new file, named it “freeflow”, and started typing, beginning with the following:

Today I discovered something very interesting. We have been studying Laban Efforts in the movement analysis class that I’ve been auditing…
Image credits: Attribution Some rights reserved by frumbert

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The human body is a holonomic, redundant system?

Academia, Blog, Movement, New Media, Somatics, The body

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Robert Full’s 2002 TED talk on modeling complex motion behavior by building in the “intelligence” into the structure of a robot had a slide with the equations representing the mathematics that supported the robot’s behavior. which was titled, “Piecewise holonomic energy conserving system,” which led me to look up holonomicity on Wikipedia. Holononocity, it turns out, “refers to the relationship between the controllable and total degrees of freedom of a given robot.” Furthermore,

[a] human arm [...] is a holonomic, redundant system because it has seven degrees of freedom (three in the shoulder – rotations about each axis, two in the elbow – bending and rotation about the lower arm axis, and two in the wrist, bending up and down (i.e. pitch), and left and right (i.e. yaw)) and there are only six physical degrees of freedom in the task of placing the hand (x, y, z, roll, pitch and yaw), while fixing the seven degrees of freedom fixes the hand.

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Tangibilizing space

Blog, Learning, Movement, New Media, Technology, The body

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It’s funny how much work I do for grad school, and yet when it comes time for me to share something with the world, there’s so little of it right now that I feel like is actually worth mentioning! For instance, I recently spent a lot of time writing a project proposal for my tangible computing class. I think it’s a not bad proposal, given how quickly I put it together, but what I want to do, it turns out, is not exactly the best example of truly tangible computing. I mean, like all terms applied to emerging fields (and it’s funny how long it can take for a field to emerge), “tangible computing” has been contested by the academic and design communities; but even then, I’ve had to stretch things a bit in my proposal in order to make it seem palatable.

At any rate, what I want to do is to be able to tell stories in real time using 3d visualizations. That’s basically what I want to do. I want to be able to annotate my stories with blobs and lines and things that move about in 3D space. I want, essentially, to use a volumetric display for storytelling, but I want it cheap and I want it now. Fortunately, I came across Lumarca, a Creative Commons-licensed volumetric display. Woohoo! So now I want to interface it with a hand gesture recognizer that can respond to me as I tell stories. I have a particular narrative that I have in mind.

Ok, that’s it for now. I have to go back to developing a course for UPOU: MMS 143 (Introduction to Multimedia Computing). I’m actually getting pretty excited about that one, too!

Image credits: Attribution Some rights reserved by yoggy0

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