.motion .bodies .communities .technologies

Kraftwerk Retrospective

New Media, Performance, Technology, The body, Thesis journal, Visualization

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I can’t stop watching.

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William Forsythe: Making visible hidden intentions

Academia, Dance, New Media, Somatics, Technology, The body, Thesis journal, Visualization

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The choreographer William Forsythe was very much influenced by Rudolf Laban in the way he treated the space around the dancer’s body. Working with a ballet company, he created a series of videos that used visuals to show some of the techniques he used to move in new ways. In these videos, he superimposes lines and shapes using  post-production editing to show how ballet dancers could think about the  space around them in a way that could help them break out of their  habitual patterns of moving. Those videos are part of a multimedia CD that was released in 2000, called Improvisation Technologies. I think that his ideas share many commonalities with the techniques that I’ve seen employed in EDM dance styles.

Someone posted many of his videos online. Here are a few of them:


Shearing space

Using lines to create organic movement

Axes and transforming/scaling axes

Following a curve to its logical conclusion

Rotating inscription with lines

Point-point extrusion

Transporting lines

Soft body part trajectories

And this is what some of his techniques, when ballet dancers apply them while freestyling, can look like:


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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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Loneliness, narcissism, and social media

New Media, Psychology, Social media

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I just read this article by Stephen Marche in the Atlantic about loneliness, narcissism, and social media. It’s wonderfully nuanced and reasonably well-referenced (I still wish that standards for journalistic writing about research would change and require columnists to include a full bibliography at the end of their articles!). One of the big takeaways here is that social media (surprise, surprise) often reproduces or magnifies what goes in our physical lives. We can’t place the blame solely on technology, although social media does expose and exaggerate existing phenomena–in this case the relationship between narcissism and loneliness, and how both have been on the rise for quite some time.

At least in North America. And there’s the rub. The studies quoted here–their underlying data and ontologies and cultural realities–are absolutely Anglo-Saxon in orientation. Marche cannot disentangle himself from the very American mythos of autonomy. And perhaps he doesn’t want to. The article begins as a criticism of how Facebook amplifies loneliness and concludes with a call for solitude. Solitude is not the same as loneliness, of course; in fact, Marche makes precisely this point near the beginning of the article. But one senses behind the writing a human being who seeks the pleasure of both. “We are lonely,” Marche observes, “because we want to be lonely.”

There are many quotable passages. I’ve highlighted my favourite ones in this Evernote clip:

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Making Toodledo look (a little) like 2Do

Design, Hacks, Productivity, Technology

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I’ve been using a lovely little program called 2Do on my iPad to keep on top of things. (I’m using a variant of the Getting Things Done system.) 2Do is a feast for the eyes.

But I don’t always want to be typing or thumbing on my iPad. And, sadly, it doesn’t look like there are any plans to create a 2Do web interface. However, 2Do syncs with a service called Toodledo, which does have a web interface. (A very clunky one..)

Fortunately, you can make any website (including Toodledo) look way better using an addon called Stylish. And so I set out trying to duplicate simulate evoke the 2Do interface.

Click here to install the style (and the Stylish addon if you don’t have it yet).

To fully evoke the 2Do look and feel, you should…

  • Use the latest version of Firefox (version 11 and above) or Chrome, or another browser that supports CSS 3 and the Stylish addon.
  • Purchase a pro version of Toodledo so that you can show subtasks. It was about 14 USD a year last time I checked.
  • Set Toodledo to display subtasks as Indented (Show > Subtasks : Indented)

It’s not perfect, but until an official 2Do web client is developed, this will keep me happy. Let me know if you find it useful!

Before styling

After styling

after stylish-ing

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Computation and embodied experience: Talk at Fete dela Wsk!

Art, Dance, New Media, Talks, Technology, The body

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I’m giving a talk at the new media art festival Fete dela Wsk! on my research on liquid dance and the research of the Art + Performance Research Group. I’m scheduled to talk at the Ayala Museum between 4pm and 7pm with Thierry Bernard Gotteland [FR], An Xiao Mina [US], Bong Ramilo [PH/AU], and Kai Lam [SG]. Tickets are 350 PHP.


Computation and embodied experience

In this talk, I discuss some of the research currently being done in the Art, Performance, and Technology Laboratory at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology. We deploy digital tools to investigate some of the hidden cognitive processes that performers and audiences rely on; we develop artificially intelligent systems that explores questions around cognition, consciousness, and creativity; we investigate how the embodied experiences can be used to design and evaluate digital technologies. Finally, I talk about my particular research, which focuses on liquid dance, a genre of dance that emerged from the North American underground electronic dance music scene in the 90s. Liquid dancers have been cultivating a particular approach to human movement that is sophisticated, expressive, conceptually and corporeally well-defined, and deeply theorized by many of its members. (Translation: they are incredible dancers and you should come to this talk just to see the videos I’m going to show.)

And if you’re wondering what wasak/wsk is, join the club. I see it as a contemporary, Filipino relative of Dada. Lourd de Veyra would probably disagree.

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Using Google Sites for project management; synching Google Sites lists with Google Calendar

Hacks, Productivity, Technology

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I’m a big fan of Google Sites, but it’s not very good for project management. In particular, I’d like to maintain a task list using the List page template, but have it synchronized (or at least uploaded to) a Google Calendar. I wrote my own script for doing just that and adapted Google’s Project Management Template.

This is the site. I’ve made a new version of the template. Here it is.

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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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An apple in a truck of tropical fruit: Some thoughts on Vancouver and new media art

Art, Blog, Communities, New Media, Technology, Vancouver

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My friend and dance colleague Melanie Kuxdorf recently filed a report on OpenFile.ca (a “collaborative local news site” which assigns reporters to stories that are suggested by the public) about the informal dance+theatre+technology meetup that I recently organized. The article accurately highlights my motivations for organizing the event, and I have nothing more to add to it that I haven’t mentioned elsewhere, but I did want to comment on one section from the article:

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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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