Architectonic Studies of Radio
This is an experimental design research into the ways of organising archives on radio signals, using machine learning algorithms as operators of difference. Starting from radio signals as a natural and cultural phenomenon, the project challenges the persistent and foundational dualism in modern thinking (e.g. nature-culture) and proposes ‘digital observatories’: a method for working with abundant information and digital corporeality.
Within the project, we will develop ‘digital observatories’ for organizing and navigating abundant information in ways that are meaningful to the observer. The ‘digital observatories’ organize information based on similarities identified through machine learning processes. A digital archive on radio signals will be reorganized in two case studies. The first study focuses on images of signal spectrograms (visual representation of a signal’s frequency composition), aiming to facilitate speculation on the connection between signal representation and technical communication protocols. The second study establishes similarities between otherwise unrelated signals, all organized in a continuous exploration space – a sphere. Beyond simple ontological distinctions onto matter or information, subjects or objects, experiencing information in this way should enable thinking about phenomena, such as radio signals, in their own terms.
A Journey to Palmyra
A Journey to Palmyra is a critical aesthetic experience that seeks to disrupt our habits and rituals. The project involves two common elements that are embedded in everyday life but rarely questioned: on the one hand, media coverage of war, and on the other, navigation using Google. It represents a cunning way of questioning two things that have become commonplace. In a world of fake news, filter bubbles, and artificial intelligence, how prudent is reliance on a source of information?
Google Maps and directions are firmly embedded in our everyday lives. We use those services every day to find a location, route, or restaurant and navigate to our destination with the aid of a technological device. They suggest a world in which we are free in the selection and production of information, but how can we actually be certain that the information is objective or even correct?
Thinking Toys (or Games) for Commoning
The sustainable use and the organisation of common resources is highly complex. With the focus on alternative, utopia-inspired urban neighbourhood initiatives in Switzerland this research project proposes experimental design and inquiry into media-based thinking tools which will help to better illustrate, demonstrate and negotiate the complexity of these sharing processes.
Commons are sustainably and collectively managed resources, such as food, or communication infrastructures, such as Wi-Fi. Commoning, then, is the activity of sharing these resources. The aspiration formulated throughout numerous alternative, utopia-inspired projects that seeks to design infrastructural aspects of urban everyday life in an alternative and autonomous way, through commoning, raises several questions. Since, based on the high level of complexity that (occasionally) comes with the shared use of resources, for the individual community member it is often difficult to estimate his or her own action and consequences to the very last detail. Especially when it comes to unpredictable, complex adaptive processes, he or she can no longer completely grasp them intuitively nor follow them without the help of media-based thinking tools — such as computer-based models or scenarios — which make those processes not only visible but also comprehensible.
For this reason, a mobile software application will be developed and tested in close collaboration with the members of three Swiss urban neighborhood projects: NeNa1 in Zurich, LeNa in Basel and Warmbächli in Bern. We will create playful simulations and design new thought-spaces for commoning. Our aim is to enable alternative and engaging ways for future social participation and transformation processes.
The four-year project, which combines methods from humanities, social science and design inquires the following central question: How could an experimental and community-based approach to design and development of a digital game system stimulate reflection on the intuitively incomprehensible complexity of commoning, make it more understandable and negotiable through playing and gaming?
The project explores how museum exhibits and spaces can be augmented by interactive media to get visitors not only informed but also emotionally involved without the need for conventional supplemental interfaces. From the perspectives of engineering, scenography and museology the potential of ubiquitous computing for exhibition design, museum operations and knowledge transfer is considered and elaborated into a respective design toolkit.
Experimental Data Aesthetics
In empirical sciences the media aesthetics of the very own thinking tools are seldom explicitly considered in research projects. The fact, that research results are represented not only textual but especially by visual means and that at the same time, these forms of expression have a significant influence on the research process has already been recognized and elaborated strongly by media, cultural and design studies. The application of these insights back to the representational tools of the empirical sciences is one of the most relevant contributions of design research still due. Key subject of the application-oriented research project is the cultural technique of the explorative analysis of high-dimensional data, that has been researched in the field of computational sciences since the 1960s, but rarely exceeded modes of mere visualization of data. Based on a critique of the media aesthetics of these representational modalities, the project aims at a multi-sensory approach to data analysis by the synthesis of seeing and hearing. Guiding questions are, how the conventional, standardized methods of visualization in the field of explorative data analysis can be extended by means of sonification, and how such an approach can be elaborated by experimental as well as historico-theoretical informed methods of design research.
The project is conceived at the interface of practice-based design research, media studies and aesthetics, knowledge design, sound design, and computational sciences. In regard to methodology, it strives for a close interlocking of designing, programming and critical analysis. The challenge to represent big amounts of high-dimensional data in a way, that researchers can recognize and explore them productively appears to be an immanent design problem. For the filtering and extraction of significant differences in data sets numerous algorithmic techniques have been developed since the advent of the computer. Although algorithmic efficiency is increasing and screen sizes are growing visualization strategies still (or more then ever) seem to reach the limits of productivity and meaning making. Therefore, we are interested in the sensual extension of visual representation by acoustic means and the question, whether the “visual work” of the researcher and the “calculating work” of the computer can be complemented by “sonic work” to find novel solutions to the problems of representation.
The research is structured in three parallel and interrelated parts. In a speculative design process the space of possibilities and implications regarding a multi-sensory exploration of high-dimensional data is mapped out by narrative scenarios and artifacts. In an explorative design and programming part software modules are developed, that aim for exhibiting innovative approaches to the combination of visual and sonic data representations. For that purpose, high-dimensional data sets are provided by experts of the field of computational sciences from the University of Basel and the University for Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland. In the long term, we intend to scale these programming experiments to a kind of software toolbox. The research is complemented by a scientific study of the theory and history of data aesthetics.