April 28, 2012
Descriptive Camera


The Descriptive Camera by Matthew Richardson at NYU’s Interactive Technology Program is another camera to add to the growing list of networked enabled cameras I’ve been posting about (see the Lens-less Camera and Buttons). Using it is the same as other cameras, simply point and click, however the output produced is very different. Instead of producing a photographic representation of the space in front of the lens, the camera produces (via a mechanical turk) a description of the scene printed to paper. The rationale for the work is as follows:

Modern digital cameras capture gobs of parsable metadata about photos such as the camera’s settings, the location of the photo, the date, and time, but they don’t output any information about the content of the photo. The Descriptive Camera only outputs the metadata about the content.

As we amass an incredible amount of photos, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our collections. Imagine if descriptive metadata about each photo could be appended to the image on the fly—information about who is in each photo, what they’re doing, and their environment could become incredibly useful in being able to search, filter, and cross-reference our photo collections. Of course, we don’t yet have the technology that makes this a practical proposition, but the Descriptive Camera explores these possibilities

The camera utilises some similar technologies to the cameras posted about previously however particular to this is the human element, an amusing use of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service:

The technology at the core of the Descriptive Camera is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk API. It allows a developer to submit Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) for workers on the internet to complete. The developer sets the guidelines for each task and designs the interface for the worker to submit their results. The developer also sets the price they’re willing to pay for the successful completion of each task. An approval and reputation system ensures that workers are incented to deliver acceptable results.

An example image converted to text description output is shown below.

Originally seen on Today and Tomorrow.

Posted by: Garrett @ 9:10 pm
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April 26, 2012
Pablo Bronstein’s Constantinople Kaleidoscope @ BMW Tate Live

Networked performance has now got the major arts institutions seal of approval with the series of online performances initiated by the Tate titled BMW Tate Live at Tate Modern. The first of these was on the 22nd of March and seemed to go largely unnoticed in many networked / new media art circles however the second Pablo Bronstein’s Constantinople Kaleidoscope (images above and below) broadcast tonight received a lot more publicity through a variety of mailing lists.

Tonight’s performance was pretty good, well worth watching. It consisted of a clever use of several mirrors choreographed movement by performers to reveal all points of view of the space the performance was occuring within. The mirrors allowed action from different parts of the space to be composited together within the broadcast screen space, sometimes creating optical effects and sometimes simply dividing the screen into parts similar to video split screen effects. What was particularly interesting for me was how the mirrors revealed the camera capturing the event, the result being the distance audience was effectively pulled into the space of the event as we were identified as having that initial point of view. In addition what would nomally have been off stage in a performance like this, prompters providing directions for sequences of movements, were also clearly visible and audible. All three spaces of performance, support and audience colapsing together. The simplicity of the performances execution enabled the clear concept of spaces, point of view and vision to be understood in the work.

What was unclear and not revealed through the question and answer session with the artist after the performance was how the subject matter of the performance, a heavily costumed sequence of dance like movements, related to those concepts. References such as 1920′s Russian performances were briefly mentioned (such as those developed by the Constructivists) however ideas of how optics were explored in those and perhaps related to this performance was unfortunately not developed any further during the Q&A.

If you missed the live event the full performance and Q&A is already online on YouTube (embedded above). Below is Jerome Bell’s performance of Shirtology, the first performance at BMW Tate Live.

Posted by: Garrett @ 9:55 pm
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April 21, 2012

Last day in Paris and the second network related work I’ve seen here (there probably was more to see but I’ve been ill for a few days) was Pangée by the collective MU today at the Musée du Quai Branly. Normally an unlikely location as it’s the museum of ethnography there has been a week of conferences, exhibitions and events around the subject of new media and how it can be used to present the museums collection. Pangée, a sound installation in the gardin of the museum essentially serves this purpose and reuses sounds of the instruments (and their musicians) in the museums collection. The following is translated from the works text:

In the gardin of the museum, a sonic territory in movement retraces the aesthetic of musical instruments of four continents: Africa, Asia, America, Oceania based on recordings from the museums media library…During the week “Digital Museum”, visitors are invited to explore the gardin and the musical collection of the Musée du Quai Branly provided with a headset and audio captors. The movement of the visitors, their position and direction activates the sonic sources of the work.

The sound installation closes tomorrow the 22nd. More details about it at the museum here.

Posted by: Garrett @ 9:04 pm
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April 15, 2012

I’m in Paris at the moment trying to see as many exhibitions and conferences as possible. The best work I’ve seen all week is Videodrones (image above), an audio-visual installation by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at the Collége des Bernardins.

The work uses live video feeds from five cameras placed in the street outside the gallery to generate constant drone audio within the space. The imagery is unmodfied however projections of the videos are placed out of order making it difficult to follow movement in the external space and in a sense abstracting it across all five projections. Movment / changes in light controls the audio, passers-by become unknowing participants in the work. The installation closes today the 15th of April so if you’re in Paris go see it without delay.

I wasn’t aware that I knew of this artist however Les Oiseaux de Céleste (video below) shown at the Barbican in 2010 does look very familiar.

Many thanks to Frédérique Santune for taking me to see this installation.

Posted by: Garrett @ 12:03 pm
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April 9, 2012
PCMs by Alan Sondheim

A very interesting text posted on the Nettime-l mailing list this Saturday by Alan Sondheim. The text is a reflection on old ideas and how they may be collapsing (or coalescing) into new ideas. I’m posting the text here in it’s entirety due to it’s relevance to the weblogs topic and as another location in the network to preserve it.


Years ago I designed a PCM, this was around 1970 maybe. PCM stands for Parameter Control Module; the idea was to create a unit which could connect and control other similar units. PCMs were digital but they didn’t need to be. There were any number of inputs and outputs. The idea was that anything could be connected to anything else. In other words, there were standardized simple protocols in terms of voltage and bandwidth; every-thing functioned like blood in the veins of some untoward ganglion. In order to enter the PCM array, translation was necessary from an outside world into the protocols; this was the job of an input interface which could be tailored for particular situations. The interface was divided into two sections: the outer section was tailored to the world, and the inner, to the emission of protocols. So the input interface was generous in its acceptance. At the other end of the array, there was a similar output interface, divided into two sections; the inner section was tailored to the protocols, sending the signal current to the outer section, which was tailored to the world, and generous. For example, an audio input interface might take microphone signals and standardize them, sending them to the array; an audio output interface might take the array protocols and send them simultaneously to audio amplifiers and a lighting board. What made the array of greater interest, of course, is that input and output signals could also be applied directly to any particular PCM, bypassing the standard interfaces. The array as a whole, as a ganglion, would be in effect a ganglion open to the world at any place or space, both for input and output. One might think of the PCMs as formal neurons. Internally, the components of the PCMs might be smoothly voltage-control-led, with the possibility of directly inputting different equations; one might begin with standard smooth trigonometric functions and replace them with discontinuities of all sorts, including chaotic behavior. I believe to this day that designing the PCMs would have been a relatively trivial matter. Although the project remained stillborn, the concept behind it remains of interest to me. I’ve begun to think of the arrays, inputs and outputs, as an affair in which anything might modify or influence any-thing, including, reflexively, itself. The arrays in fact might be virtual and one thinks only of empty, undefined, space or air, a distant model of the real and external world, where such things happen. Thus anything here and now has the potential for affecting anything else, and anything might seem to turn around and talk directly with you, listening, at the same time, to your innermost thoughts, whatever you choose to reveal: here are the input and output interfaces. What goes on in such virtual arrays is only the ideality of the world itself, the ability to take-for-granted that there are always relatively stable domains for communication or dwelling, for work or discourse, and so forth. Any dynamic action, any action which changes in time, might be considered to be modeled thus; any static action might be one which leaves the virtual array quiescent. The size and power of the virtual PCMs are also of interest; as they decrease, one might argue that the granularity of the world is increasingly differentiated, just as their increase transforms the granularity into rougher constructs handled by integration. In the middle lies everyday life, where processing of this sort is kept to a minimum. I can imagine in this fashion thinking of the world as a vast complex of fundamental operations on the ordering of everyday life, just as Aristotelian logic and its laws of distribution appear to deal well with the uncanny lack of transience of everyday objects. The edges of such modeling, however, are always limit-points which a different kind of roughness appears, for example quantum phenomena or color vision or even corrosion. To some extent, these rough processes, including unknown one, can be imagined within the virtual array which would have additional signals, alarm signals, that anomalies were working their way into or out of the array; there could be, in fact, virtual interfaces utterly open to the real, whose sole purpose would be the conversion of such anomalies. One process would be that of the name, beginning with the proper name, and working towards untoward generalizations; another would be that of radical smoothing, and a third might be the cessation of array activity altogether. I think of this as burrowing or death, depending on the degree of destruction or rearrangement encountered. Likewise, there would be inverse processes, those of birth or emerging, in which partial identity transformations would remain and perhaps even be backwards-traceable, backwards-compatible in terms of the protocols. The whole, virtual and real, is a form of metaphor ready to be implemented. I can only conclude that the same is already in the world, and perhaps always already in the world, it is there and here, it is operational or quiescent as you like. And such would be the world and its dynamics; it is only a question of looking over your shoulder, back into the space you have just left behind, forward into the space your are about to enter. If you have the time, of course, without catastrophe or disruption.

- Alan in Omaha

It’s worth noting how cutting edge the PCM discussed was through comparison with similar contempory ideas such as Gordon Pask’s Universal Constructor.

The full text can alternatively be read on the Nettime-l mailing list archive here.

Posted by: Garrett @ 4:27 pm
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