Place Interfaces – upcoming lunchtime talk at the Pervasive Media Studio

On Friday the 23rd of November I’ll be back at the Pervasive Media Studio again for a lunchtime talk. This time though, I’ll be stood at the front of the room…

Colony Prototyping

I’ll be talking about recent/current projects Colony, Dust and Waggle and their interactions, interfaces and materials. The full title of the talk is Place interfaces – thoughts on bubblewrap, bees and lumps of clay.

Further details are available on the pm studio website

Initial results from the Chin Up Chapeau

Having made a hat to measure my posture as I walk around different parts of the city, I’ve spent the last few days testing it and getting a feel for what sort of results it produces.

Chin Up Chapeau - initial results.

Diagram showing position, direction I'm facing and the angle of my head. Click for a much larger version...

Pretty much exactly as I was expecting really, which is probably a good reason to avoid drawing any sweeping conclusions from it – at least until I’ve got to the stage where I collect data without being aware that I’m doing so…

On the plus side, it does reveal lots of unexpected things – posing yet more questions in the process – and that, I believe, is the sign of a good tool!

For these renderings, green represents a neutral head position, with the pointer getting redder as my gaze is lowered. Here are some noticings:

The lower, horizontal section shows me walking along a fairly busy road: eyes front, head direction and angle reasonably constant. The upper section is along a footpath next to a river: my interest is drawn in all sorts of directions and this is shown by the inconsistency in pointer direction and colour

Close-up of a high interest area - head angle changes a lot, as does the direction I'm facing

Head angle decreases slowly as I approach the High Street, but returns to a neutral position a lot quicker as I leave it behind me

High Street Mode gets switched off as soon as I go into the Post Office, on another day it fades slowly as I walk away.

It’s becoming apparent that I need to include some sort of calibration so that I can more reasonably compare tracks from different walks. Currently, differences in how I’m wearing the hat are too easily read as differences in head angle when I put all the traces on the same diagram.

I’ve also expanded the arduino code so that I log date, time, latitude, longitude, altitude, course, speed, bearing, pitch and roll. I think there are some very interesting potential correlations to investigate (for example: when my head angle decreases, do I also walk faster?) and, whilst I may not be investigating them right now, I want to make sure I’ve got the data when I do!

Introducing the Chin Up Chapeau

[or the Shin Up Shapeau. Or the Chin Up Chap! Oh!]

The Chin Up Chapeau

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my posture changes in relation to whereabouts I am as I walk around Birmingham.

As I approach what I perceive to be high risk areas I believe I adopt a significantly more defensive stance: lowering my gaze and stooping slightly. Of course, there are hunches and there are hunches…

I made the Chin Up Chapeau to measure the angle of my head and log it along with locational data so I can see exactly how my posture relates to space. Do I really stoop, or is it, y’know, all in my head? Where are the danger zones? Are the boundaries clearly defined?

The Chin Up Chapeau sports a gps receiver [EM 406a], a tilt-compensated compass[CMPS10], a logging device [OpenLog] and an arduino clone microcontroller [RBBB] along with a few other accoutrements like a soft switch and an indicator LED.

There are still a few niceties to be sorted out, but here’s a visualisation of a quick walk last night:

Head angle, bearing, location ...and a loaf of bread from the Co-op

I’m going to log data as I walk around the city, but I’m very aware of how easy it would be to ‘fake’ the outcomes to match what I think they should be.

Or perhaps I’ll be concious that I’m watching myself and instead make an effort to keep my chin up at all times…

At the very least I now have an electrically heated hat to keep me cosy!

Create locative art

Create Locative art

I’ve been working with the effects caused by the landscape on GPS data to generate line drawings/maps of the terrain for a while now and am feeling the need to push at a few edges and see how else I can apply this phenomenon.

Over the last few days I’ve made the first steps towards making a system that allows the data to be compared and expressed in real time, rather than requiring me to wait until I get back to a (larger) computer to process and visualise the output.

The whole world in my hand - an eye opener to see a stripped-down GPS module and a bit of a brain-bender to try and comprehend what it's capable of doing - so easy to take it for granted when it's hidden away in a satnav or phone...

I’m now the proud owner of a GPS module and a logging shield for Arduino, both of which I’ve managed to get set up and working together to record position.

Testing: GPS module (on the windowsill) sending data by serial to the laptop

The next step is to research – and then make happen! – how to get the Arduino to read from two modules at the same time. Wish me luck.

The making of Location Aware

Last Friday I was in Nottingham making a new piece of work as part of the Territorial Play event organised by Trampoline.

Using the same dual-GPS process as for Uncertain Eastside, I selected a route that took me through a variety of different urban environments including narrow streets, open wasteland, alongside large buildings and around the foot of the castle.

Wasteland with desire lines

Wasteland with desire lines

Each circuit of the route (2.2 miles) took approximately 45 minutes to complete and started and finished at the Broadway Media Centre where the event was hosted.

We had a ‘project room’ that we were using as a base for various tech + mapping activities. After each circuit I returned here, processed the data and turned it into a .pdf file that my glamorous assistant Russell would take to the printers whilst I set out walking again.

By the time I returned there would be a new print put up on the wall combining all the traces from all the previous walks.

Cumulative prints of the GPS traces

Cumulative prints of the GPS traces

I only had time for 3 circuits, but my shoes seemed to think that was plenty.

I’m really pleased with the results and had some great feedback and conversations with the other people at the event.

To share a little something of the resultant drawing – and how it relates to the landscape – I’ve added some details from the drawing to the Google Map of my route. Click on the yellow placemarkers to see the image and read the associated text.

Overview of the final route

Overview of the final route

Detail from the resultant drawing referenced to the part of the route it came from.

Detail from the resultant drawing referenced to the part of the route it came from.

So, head on over to the map: zoom in, zoom out, change views, click on things and have an explore!

Walking Route for Location Aware

I’m currently working on the route I will walk for my piece Location Aware at this Friday’s Territorial Play platform event in Nottingham.

The problem is, I don’t know Nottingham, so I’m crowd-sourcing some input on a route I’ve put together from Google Maps.

If you know Nottingham at all, then I’d be grateful for any feedback on this route (larger version here, or click though for zoom-able version on Google Maps):

My first proposed walking route - what do you think?

My first proposed walking route - what do you think?

I’m looking for the following qualities in the final route:

  • Safe for me to walk with a PDA visible in each hand.
  • Total walking length of about 45 mins (I think the current one is about an hour).
  • Passing through a range of different built environments and open spaces.
  • Starting and finishing at the Broadway Media Centre.
  • Some interesting places to see on the way. Several times during the course of the day!

I’ll be going to Nottingham on Thursday afternoon and will hopefully get a chance to investigate the route ahead of the first scheduled walk at 11am on Friday.

Prior to that though, if you can suggest any changes to make the route safer, more interesting or maybe just different, then I’d love to hear from you!

Location Aware at Territorial Play event in Nottingham

I’ll be in Nottingham this coming Friday and Saturday for the Territorial Play platform event and symposium as part of Tracing Mobility.

Detail from Uncertain Eastside - I will be using the same technique to explore Nottingham

Detail from Uncertain Eastside - I will be using the same technique to explore Nottingham

For Territorial play, Pugh will conduct a series of walks whilst carrying a satellite navigation device in each hand. Glitches in the technology and interference from the physical landscape result in anomalies in the data recorded by each device. As the journey is repeated and the resulting data overlaid, unique generative drawings are produced that reveal relationships between the fabric of the city and the behaviour of the technology.

My first walk will start at 11am and you are welcome to join me (free, there is a sign-up list at, you can also join me on subsequent walks, through until the early evening, however these will be unscheduled.

The generated drawings will be on display at the Broadway Media Centre [Google map] and added to throughout the day as new layers of data are collected.

Almost Perfect: the redux

Andrew pointed out that the video from the Almost Perfect residency I was a part of last year has made its way onto YouTube:

Hopefully this will shed a little light on the “what is locative media?” question for some of you!

Almost Perfect; almost possible

As I outlined in yesterday’s post, Emergent Game is going great guns at the moment with us going to Japan to do workshops as part of Dislocate08 and alongside project space hanare. These then feed into a weekend of intercontinental play and exploration as part of igfest.

And that’s only the stuff that’s happening next month…

Meanwhile, I’ve been approached by the Banff New Media Institute, Canada to apply for their Almost Perfect co-production residency that runs throughout November.

Apart from the obvious excitement of potentially being able to develop work at the Banff Centre, I’m regarding this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the timing within the evolution of the Emergent Game series being spot-on and the peer advisers guiding the residency being incredibly relevant to my practice.

I’ve submitted a proposal to develop prototype hardware/software that can be placed in the game area that allows your average mobile phone to start interfacing with protocols such as Twitter, Flickr and GPS.

Our experience with Emergent Game so far has shown us a) that it’s a great framework for motivating groups of people to interact creatively but also that b) the extent to which people can use methods of engagement that are technically possible are limited by what features are available with their mobile phone. In the first iteration of Emergent Game we noticed a completely different style of play from a Ludens with an iPhone compared to the majority of participants using older, mid-range phones.

Using GPS and being able to access the internet whilst on the move are towards one end of spectrum that even has something like MMS at the other. Picture messaging may be possible, but cost often makes it prohibitively expensive. We need to overcome some of these hurdles in order to open up the accessibility and make Emergent Game more viable for larger-scale projects.

Before I can get to tackling these projects though, there’s another hurdle to get over: finding the funding to get me to Canada.

Coming so soon after the activities in Japan (I’ll be there for 4 weeks in total) it’s not going to be possible for me to self-fund the trip to Banff. I estimate I need about £3000 to cover airfare, accommodation, food etc.

Arts Council
have generously contributed to the funding of mine and Ana’s work in Japan, so for various, entirely understandable reasons they’re reluctant for me to simply put in another application to them. However, we’ve negotiated that I can put in a second application, but this could really only be for a maximum of half of the total budget and I need to match that with cash contributions from elsewhere (NB cash rather than support in kind).

The timing is incredibly tight, so logistically I need to submit any Arts Council application by the start of next week. That means I also need some ideas of where to get the match funding over the next few days.

So, this is a crowd-sourcing post: has anyone any suggestions for sourcing about £1500?

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