I am excited to be participating in the the NEH-funded Virtual and Augmented Reality Digital Humanities Institute — or V/AR-DHI — next month (July 23 – August 3, 2018) at Duke University. I am hoping to adapt “deformative” methods (as described by Mark Sample following a provocation from Lisa Samuels and Jerome McGann) as a means of transformatively interrogating audiovisual media such as film and digital video in the spaces opened up by virtual and augmented reality technologies. In preparation, I have been experimenting with photogrammetric methods to reconstruct the three-dimensional spaces depicted on two-dimensional screens. The results, so far, have been … modest — nothing yet in comparison to artist Claire Hentschker’s excellent Shining360 (2016) or Gregory Chatonsky’s The Kiss (2015). There is something interesting, though, about the dispersal of the character Neo’s body into an amorphous blob and the disappearance of bullet time’s eponymous bullet in this scene from The Matrix, and there’s something incredibly eerie about the hidden image behind the image in this famous scene from Frankenstein, where the monster’s face is first revealed and his head made virtually to protrude from the screen through a series of jump cuts. Certainly, these tests stand in an intriguing (if uncertain) deformative relation to these iconic moments. In any case, I look forward to seeing where (if anywhere) this leads, and to experimenting further at the Institute next month.
Check out the cool video Robert Emmons put together for the upcoming exhibition at Rutgers Camden’s Digital Studies Center, which will launch the new issue of Hyperrhiz. Both the journal and the exhibit — and now also the video — feature work done by members of the Duke S-1: Speculative Sensation Lab, in collaboration with Karin Denson. Very happy to see the data gnomes enjoying some sunshine up in New Jersey!
Today, Oct. 2, 2015, the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Wired! Lab, the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge, and HASTAC@Duke will be presenting “Conversations in the Digital Humanities,” the inaugural event of the new Digital Humanities Initiative at Duke University. More information about the event, in which I will be participating alongside colleagues from the S-1: Speculative Sensation Lab, can be found on the FHI website.
Also, all of the 10-minute “lightning talks” will be live-streamed. The first block of sessions, from 2:15-3:45pm EST, will be streamed here, and the second block, from 4:00-5:40pm, will be viewable here. (Apparently, the videos will be archived and available after the fact as well.)
Here is the complete schedule:
2:00 – 2:15
Welcome and Introduction to Digital Humanities Initiative
2:15 – 3:45
Session 1 (10 minutes per talk)
- Project Vox (Andrew Janiak, and Liz Milewicz)
- NC Jukebox (Trudi Abel, Victoria Szabo)
- Visualizing Cultures: The Shiseido Project (Gennifer Weisenfeld)
- Going Global in Mughal India (Sumathi Ramaswamy)
- Israel’s Occupation in the Digital Age (Rebecca Stein)
- Digital Athens: Archaeology meets ArcGIS (Tim Shea, Sheila Dillon)
- Early Medieval Networks (J. Clare Woods)
3:45 – 4:00
4:00 – 5:40
Session 2 (10 minutes per talk)
- Painting the Apostles – A Case Study in “The Lives of Things” (Mark Olson, Mariano Tepper, and Caroline Bruzelius)
- Digital Archaeology: From the Field to Virtual Reality (Maurizio Forte)
- The Memory Project (Luo Zhou)
- Veoveo, children at play (Raquel Salvatella de Prada)
- “Things to Think With”: Weird DH, Data, and Experimental Media Theory (S-1 Lab)
- s_traits, Generative Authorship and the Emergence Lab (Bill Seaman and John Supko)
- Found Objects and Fireflies (Scott Lindroth)
- Project Provoke (Mary Caton Lingold and others)
5:40 – 6:00
As a late addition to the program, the Duke S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab will be participating in “Conversations in the Digital Humanities” this coming Friday, October 2, 2015, at the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke. The event, which will consist of a series of brief “lightning talks” on a range of topics that run the gamut of current DH work, will take place from 2:00-6:00pm in the FHI Garage in Smith Warehouse, Bay 4. More info here: Conversations in the Digital Humanities.
Here is the abstract for the S-1 Lab’s presentation, which I will be participating in along with Lab co-director Mark Olson and our resident programmer Luke Caldwell:
“Things to Think With”: Weird DH, Data, and Experimental Media Theory
S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab
The S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab, co-directed by Mark Hansen and Mark Olson, experiments with biometric and environmental sensing technologies to expand our access to sensory experience beyond the five senses. Much of our work involves making “things to think with,” i.e. experimental “set-ups” designed to generate theoretical and aesthetic insight and to focus our mediated sensory apparatus on the conditions of mediation itself. Harnessing digital technologies for the work of media theory, this experimentation can rightly be classed, alongside such practices as “critical making,” in the broad space of the digital humanities. But due to their emphatically self-reflexive nature, these experiments challenge borders between theory and practice, scholarship and art, and must therefore be qualified, following Mark Sample, as decidedly “weird DH.”
In this presentation, we discuss a current project that utilizes consumer-grade EEG headsets, in conjunction with a custom Python script by lab member Luke Caldwell, to reflect on the contemporary shape of “attention,” as it is constructed and addressed in individual and networked forms across media ranging from early cinema to “post-cinema.”
I’m very proud to be a part of this art exhibition at the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University Camden, which opens October 14 and serves also to launch the issue 13 of Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures. Data gnomes, data portraits, and other physical and augmented elements of Manifest Data, a project of the Duke S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab in collaboration with Karin Denson, will be on display alongside other contributions to this special issue on “Kits, Plans, and Schematics.”
Above, some video documentation of the pieces included in Making Mining Networking, the exhibition that Karin and I have going on until September at Duke University. As I posted recently, the augmented reality platform we used to make the interactive components (Metaio) has been sold to Apple and will be going offline at the end of the year. All the more reason to document everything now — but until December 15 you can still try out the pieces yourself, either in person at the exhibition or on your own computer screen with a smart device (see the images here)!
The (generative, network-driven) music is from the project “Listen to Wikipedia,” by Hatnote — which seemed a perfect match for the theme of Making Mining Networking!
Making Mining Networking went on display on April 20, 2015 at Duke University’s The Edge digital workspace. The show was originally scheduled to run until mid May, but it was extended several times until September 2015. After that, a few of the pieces are slated to be shown in Fall 2015 in an exhibit organized by the online journal Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures and the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University Camden.
In the meantime, however, it was reported in late May that the augmented reality platform we used to build the interactive components of our pieces had been sold – effectively putting an expiration date on our artworks. Metaio GmbH, makers of the popular Junaio AR browser and the underlying engine that allowed us to augment our QR-based paintings with videos, 3D objects, and HTML hyperlinks, were acquired by one of the biggest corporations in the business: Apple.
Even before the buyout was confirmed, rumors had started circulating after Metaio abruptly closed their community forums, cancelled their annual developers’ convention, and stopped selling their software and services. An ominous message went up on the Metaio website (metaio.com):
Metaio products and subscriptions are no longer available for purchase.
Downloads of your previous purchases will be available until December 15th, 2015, and active cloud subscriptions will be continued until expiration. Email support will continue until June 30th, 2015.
(No, thank you!) Lacking any explanation, users of the Metaio/Junaio AR platform were left to speculate about the future of their advertising campaigns, educational applications, and (as in our case) artworks.
Shortly thereafter, after the acquisition by Apple came to light, our worst fears were confirmed in the FAQs section on junaio.com. There we read:
Channel publishing to Junaio is no longer available. All existing channels will continue to be available until December 15th, 2015.
In other words, the pieces included in Making Mining Networking will no longer be functional at the end of the year. The QR codes painted on these canvases will no longer work; the pieces will then be flattened from the interactive physical/virtual assemblages they were designed to be and rendered into … paintings. Or worse, they will retain an executable dimension, albeit a non-operational one, and it will be supplemented by a weirdly representational dimension: effectively, these will then be paintings of 404 error codes.
Like all of the pieces, “The Magical Marx-Markov Manifesto Maker” is therefore destined to lose its magic; the QR code, when scanned with a smartphone, will lead the user’s browser into virtual nothingness. On the other hand, though, pieces like “The Gold Standard” and “Gnomecrafting” might still have something to tell us – precisely because their non-operationality will render visible the inevitable entanglement of proprietary platforms and obsolescent objects that is the material heart and soul of digital capital.
Making Mining Networking is (or was?) about probing the borders between the virtual and the physical – boundaries that are inscribed in stone (e.g. rare earths) as much as they are written in code. With our works, we have sought to invite users to experiment with this interface, opting for a playful approach to a space that we know is about deadly serious transactions (in the realms of capital and of the environment, to begin with). We installed our data gnomes at the physical/virtual border where they stood as talismans to ward off the bad spirits of digital capital – but we were never so naïve as to believe that they could really protect us for long. We still believe that we regained something of personal value by reclaiming our data from corporate mining and making something weird and inscrutable with it, but now a corporate transaction is about to render our productions invisible.
Again, however, it is the seeming totality of such corporate power to make things invisible – to make all that’s solid melt into zeroes and ones – that is paradoxically made visible at this juncture, where links are inoperative, QR codes are non-functional, and paintings are not just paintings but paintings of such failure.
Following our initial disappointment, then, we now now eagerly await the appointed date, our “doomsday” of December 15, 2015 – when the truth of Making Mining Networking will be revealed. Will it be a simple 404 message, or can we hope for something else to make manifest the physical/virtual interface as it exists in our era of climate change, high-speed finance, and the biopolitical mining of all that breathes and lives? Only time will tell…
In the meantime, these works exist as reminders of the expiration date that is implicitly inscribed in all of our devices – and, potentially, our very planet – at the hands of global digital capital. Play with them, think with them, experience with them – and await with us their obsolescence…