Weeknote 4.0

Now, after having spent some weeks thinking about biological displays, I've had several moments of apophenia, noticing how others grapple with representing the immaterial—the digital—in the material—the physical world.

For class, Thesis Presentation, we invited thesis advisors to listen to Purpose Statements delivered by students. It was significant for its firsts: it was the first time I formally shared the new direction my thesis was heading in—biological displays—, it introduced my thesis advisor—Jackie Steck—to my department, and it introduced peers and their theses to Steck.

When Steck and I met at IDEO this summer whilst I was an intern, I knew, as an advisor, her background in fine art and prototyping would allow me to explore the edges of interaction design. Since she agreed to advise me in September of last year, she witnessed my area of interest leapfrog from spimes, to avatars and sensor networks, to biological displays. In many ways, the most difficult thesis challenge, for any designer, is to identify an appropriate domain for which to author content for. It is a process that demands patience from advisors, of which, Steck has in spades.

Now, after having spent some weeks thinking about biological displays, I’ve had several moments of apophenia, noticing how others grapple with representing the immaterial—the digital—in the material—the physical world.

Through filmmaking and special effects, the Unlimited iPhone ad by Sprint creates the illusion of app icons inhabiting the physical world: massive glass chiclets floating benignly above urban and suburban landscapes.

Massive glass chiclets

(An opposing visual: the alien spacecraft of District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s science fiction film released in 2009, hovering above Johannesburg with menace.)

A menacing hover

The 2012 Interaction Awards winner, Plug-In-Play, is a massive site-specific interactive display created by the Rockwell Group. In reaction to input gathered by a sensor network, projected light transforms the surface of a downtown San Jose building, creating a “[…] physical link to the virtual world […].”

A transduced display

Thinking about the difference between a projection display—the transformation of bits to electricity; the transduction of electricity to light—and a biological display—the transformation of bits to electricity; the transduction of electricity to valve actuation; the creation of an ethylene-rich atmosphere as to artificially ripen a tomato—led to the externalization of this mental model:

The difference between projection- (transduced) and biological-displays of data is how far into the physical world the data penetrates.

One final moment apophenia this week: Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDG BLOG speculates upon turning “whole surface landscapes into an unexpected new kind of data visualization program.”

Manaugh's imagined landscape

What I love about Manaugh’s imagined landscape is how it re-contextualizes our relationship to natural systems, where we control, or have the illusion of controlling, systems that “by definition are multiparametered, unwieldy, uncontrolled, and contingent.” (Bratton and Jeremijenko 2008)

  1. Bratton, Benjamin., and Natalie Jeremijenko. 2008. Suspicious Images, Latent Interfaces. New York: The Architectural League of New York.

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