Colony residency at the Pervasive Media Studio

I’m very happy indeed to be able to announce the start of a residency at the Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol, where I shall be developing my ongoing project Colony.

The residency will be for about a month – mostly taking part in July and August – and leads on from the Place Interfaces lunchtime talk I did for them a while back and conversations sprung from the GPS Orchestra workshop I ran.

An early prototype for a Colony creature

An early prototype for a Colony creature

There’s more information on the PM Studio’s project page, but in short I’m developing some landscape-reactive ‘creatures’ and am interested how use of these affects our experience of navigating cities.

I’ve just finished an introductory 3 days in the Studio which I used to suss out my approach for the main chunk of time next month. It was also a good chance to revisit my original aims for the project (first conceived back in 2011) with a few years’ more experience under my belt. This process involved a lot of post-it notes and a few push-puppets.

I’m not sure how the push-puppets felt about this.

Doing a bit of research into how pack animals signal to each other

Doing a bit of research into how pack animals signal to each other


A push-puppet robot about to reveal its secrets…


These limbs were a red herring


Now we know!


Reassembled components = more learning



Having successfully dissected and reconfigured one of the push puppets, I wanted to see if this approach to applying and releasing rigidity could be scaled up to the sort of size that the creatures I’m making will be. (I’m investigating body tension as a simple way of communicating distress.)

Drilling axial holes in dowel with a lathe


After a morning drilling and sanding dowel on a convenient lathe, I was able to experiment with much larger components and start to see how different surfaces and gravity start to play against each other.

I suspect dowel’s going to be too heavy for my purposes, so I think I’ll try beads next.

Meanwhile I’ve also started investigating use of XBee radios to network all the creatures within the colony so they exchange information with each other.

Lots of pages like this in my notebook as I think that through:

Lines of communication

Lines of communication




Here’s what my desk ended up looking like:

Traces of thinking, learning and doing


I think that’s as good a representation of the process as any!

A few more photos from the last few days can be found on Flickr.

Many thanks to the Pervasive Media Studio community who have already moved my thinking on a lot, and also to Arts Council England who are supporting this residency through their Grants for the Arts programme.