Readings; Rose Woodcock and Nishat Awan

Digital Narratives and Witnessing: The Ethics of Engaging with Places at a Distance and Instrumental Vision by Rose Woodcock

We had two reading this week; the common theme was how technology impacts on our perception of the world. In the first, we hear of the ethics of engaging with Places at a distance, in the second reading, with objects ‘closer up’ – in our heads, as part of virtual reality.

Nishat Awan describes how we in the developed world have a distorted view of our surroundings, particularly of distant locations. He proposes that this has been brought upon to a large extent by the technologies of social media and also with the warfare technology of drones. He describes vividly his own direct experience of a locality of Gwadar, Pakistan and how it presents itself through the lens of digital media. Gwadar, his example mediates as a place, through the term power topologies [1], where notion of distance is removed. The remote sensing of places, digital maps and even connections with people over great distances, best put: “Topology in this context highlights the intensive nature of the world that such technologies create because as power reaches across space it is not so much traversing across a fixed space and time, as it is composing its own space–time.”

In addition, he points out how little critical engagement there is with the ways in which they mediate our engagement with place. He expands this, using an urgent example of localities in crisis, as humanitarian or war, or both. Haiti, for example, where humanitarian aid can be accelerated through tech without the need to get too caught up in the crisis itself, thus keeping the aid agencies out of harm’s way. One side effect of this is to create the false impression of the distant locality is in constant crisis.

He recalls as to how a crisis is communicated; Michael Buerk reporting the Ethiopian crisis for the BBC in 1982 – his report on the news gave us an immediate emotional response. This was perhaps the best and one early example of how aid is stimulated, now with digital media, it is central to the methodology of calling for help, the example used by Awan was the virtual reality film of a girl in  Za’atri refugee camp, Jordan shot in 2015; Clouds over Sidra, presented to the World Economic forum in Davos. This presents the story in a different way; “There is an authenticity and immediacy associated with such images, but at the same time they are easily exploited, misinterpreted, and hijacked by powerful actors”

Dronestream, an artwork by James Bridle (Tate) uses publicly available Google Earth to show the after effects of drone strikes. Quote: “the politics of witnessing takes another twist. When difficult stories are being told by distant others, then the testimony of presence is suddenly rendered ineffective.”

We hear another example of how technology has changed, through citizen reporting; Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat, “tracking of missiles from Russia to parts of Ukraine under Russian control and of proving through this practice of tracking and location that a Russian-made missile was responsible for bringing down Malaysian Airways Flight MH17”… “what happens to the witness when the claims that are being made do not come from the testimony of individuals but are made through combining multiple narratives? Where do you locate the political subject in such an account and does it matter that witnessing can no longer be attributed to just one person? Are the multiple volunteers that contribute to Bellingcat the authors of this work or is it the various people from social media whose information has been used to piece together an account, or is it in actuality the figure of Higgins and his organization?”

These examples (and others in the paper) describe how spatial analysis with investigative journalism engage with places that are in conflict, where it is difficult to spend time in the field, however this perhaps oversimplifies the events that took place, despite their authenticity. The three emergent practices combine spatial analysis with investigative journalism to engage with places that are in conflict, where it is difficult to spend time in the field

They only tell part of the story; they lack the testimony of people on the ground, other types of seeing, as a feminist geopolitical viewpoint.

He describes at length the history of his chosen locality, Gwadar province, detailing its history and culminating in an earthquake disaster killing 800 people, largely ignored by the international media, how social media has played the greater part in healing from the disaster. However, this has not been without its down-side; ‘dirty linen’ has been aired as well.

Digital technologies have transformed how we engage with distant places, but these techniques have also come with their limitations, particularly with regard to witnessing events. However, the earthquake in Gwadar has shown how social media can ameliorate matters, where the broader lens of the international media misses it.

The second reading, Instrumental Vision by Rose Woodcock deals with another aspect of perceptual change through technology. She examines the ‘practice’ of vision and consider on what basis can vison have its own ‘materiality. She ask many questions; what comes first, pictures or the capacity to see things pictorially?

Woodcock describes the work of Gibson, a perceptual psychologist who worked on an instructional film for AAF Fighter pilots. He found that film was a far more effective means of training than any training manual- to “develop a theory of what a motion picture shot could do that nothing else could Gibson’s emphasis on how the animated display gives the observer a sense of “continuous covariation in time” and particularly, how it inserted the observer’s own view-point at the centre of the flow of images, is more like a description of a virtual reality display than of conventional cinema.”

She concludes that immersive stereoscopic VR is uniquely empowered to instantiate the lit environment, since it alone, as a system of visual representation, can array surfaces in three-dimensions; and it can illuminate itself. Virtual imaging technology is thus well fashioned as a fine tool for the creation, not of pictorial illusionistic space, but three-dimensional, corporeal “actual” space. She goes on to describe Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus, how the artist conveys the sense of space from 2D in oils with the use of reflective light, perspective and foreshort

“Realism” as opposed to “realness” thus marks a definitive difference between pictorial and real-world perception respectively. This difference is epistemological, rather than a matter of degree (for example, of detail or resolution), and corresponds to the way assumptions about what vision is for, find expression and manifest differentially within the enterprises of pictorial representation and the design of virtual worlds.


[1] Allen, J. 2011. Topological twists: Power’s shifting geographies. Dialogues in Human Geography 1 (3): 283–98.

Kinect Hack- doing without an adapter for connection to PC or Mac

Microsoft stopped making the adapter to join a Kinect to a PC or a Mac in October 2017. In the video I go through the steps to work around this proble. The second hand adapter now sells at about 18GBP on eBay. Originally they were free.

First – rip out the cable (plug) with a pair of pliers – it will be tough but it does come out! You are fighting with a square rubber grommet instde the case which can be removed later. The next step is to watch the video, its 35 ish minutes long.


You will need :

  • nylon tie wraps
  • female 2.1mm socket for connecting to 12V 1.5A power supply (you need that as well)
  • a USB type C “A to B cable” (as found wih some scanners or printers)
  • A set of torx security tools

Led 3 x 3 Matrix and Neopixel LED strip

Link to video of Challenge 1 and 2

The exercises started in Hatchlab with breadboards… I found it frustrating that the connections I made in the breadbord were rather fragile but I went ahead and got the two exercises underway.

I decided to take the homework home and solder up a mini board with my Nano to make a testbed for the matrix. It took a little longer than I would have liked but it was worth it. I drew a sketch of the connections (snapshot in the video) – rather than drawing on Fritzing, it was quicker and helped me figure out what I had to do.

I started with the 3 x 3 matrix then I added another row of 3 leds and converted my Arduino sketches accordingly. This is also shown in the video.

The Neopixel library had some good examples and I used them to help learn how to use my 17 pixel strip (I borrowed!)

I have ordered some more Neopixel type strip from China and will return to make a more elaborate display when that arrives. I am thinking of a 10 x 10 diaplay.


Walkthrough of Google Arts and Culture App

I used my Samsung Galaxy tablet to install Google’s Arts and Culture App.

Having mixed feelings about Google, I try not to use their services too much. This app however, did suprise me, despite the initial impression of art hangings in the hallways of an expensive hotel sor a modern hospitals; anodydne, avoiding any uncessesary or embarrasing subjects that cater for  well heeled international tourists or a bored business traveller who has already read the in-flight magazine twice already.

Digging deeper, it offered me the promise of notifications (weekly) – I had to trade in my privacy again, offering my location and almost certainly logging the items I choose to look at.

Lets get some of the screenshots as I  installed and ventured into the app:

The iconic Classic Greek with its cartoon, dumbed down aspect of the Golden mean, now reduced to a fast food logo.

1 million downloads! In Play Store, 3.8 approval rating from 17,862 people. Classified under Education – similar apps are all Google apps! Not very good classification in the Play store and quite a few negative comments. 3,713 one star and 10,271 five star.

“pretty disappointed because of the region lock and lack of proper communication about it. Have been checking every day hoping it would be unlocked, hopoefully soon. Also it would be cool if you could save articles you like to go back and download photos like so many other art/history museum archives are letting you do now days (sic).”

“region locking a feature like that makes no damn sense… “ etc

Looks like you need a VPN…

Also, what about taking screenshots, like I did??

`however, I was viewing features on art in Japan and the US…


The red greek temple logo shows collections you can open and visit in the app, the orange dots are venues with opening times and a Google map.

Allow Google to track your location??

Collections are grouped under subject or theme..

Zoom into a Google – approved artist

Who decides what to put there? Is this paid for by the exhibitior/curator, if it is how does this allow smaller more innovative galleries to show themselves. All very “gallery-system”

Korean artist, good, I have found some new material..

English heritage, very counter culture!

Fodder for the tourists…

I liked the experimental section, this already exists on anothe Google site. Good material buried under ‘tourist’. This was lumped in with the English Heritage material.

The nice feature I found in this app was that certain galleries provide a Google street view style walk through of the gallery interior, For example, the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum:

The Japanese text was in Kanji. Naturally Google offer G. translate…

Walk round the gallery…

and every nook and cranny

Intended audience, mostly visitors to a country – London has 52 collections located on the App’s Google map. This is a useful resource. However, as a means of exploring and researching foreign collections, it is somewhat limited.

The fairly mainstream and ‘establishment;’ slant does not go far enough to push any boundaries in the creative arts but it is not really desgned to do this. It is a glorified guide book.

In terms of ANT – the app will definitely inform the interested art hunter and perhaps alter their approach to exploring the gallery world. In turn another effect of the non human network effect is to facilitate sharing a users likes and islikes, like in so many other apps.

I am uncertain as to the extent that the app will alter its presentation to each user, as like in all apps, the internal workings are hidden. If the app knows the exact identity of each user then it would be more practical to achieve.

As to what the metadata generated might be used for, it is uncertain; there is no obligation to reveal your identity as such, requiring a password to enter etc. I am in no doubt that Google knows enough about you to identify you as you as a user almost certainly have provided login information identifying you with other sister Google apps.

The fairly mainstream and ‘establishment;’ slant does not go far enough to push any boundaries in the creative arts but it is not really designed to do this. It is a glorified guide book.

A few hidden treats offer the oportunity to roam around some of the collections, perhaps more could be provided.

The opportunity to share ‘liked’ items persists throughout, this is perhaps the only networked aspect of the app. The subject matter is not conducive to extend in this way much.

A couple more locations, first Thailand – the imagery really is repulsive, sorry!

I wonder how well these would sell at the Frieze? Art collectors? Oligarchs?

Another feature, zoom!

One of the few featured collections shown on the App in London, I love visiting here…

Moma, good

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The walkthrough method

We are asked to think on the following:

– What is the walkthrough method?

– What is the methodology of the walkthrough method?

– How would you carry out the walkthrough method?


We were introduced to the paper The walkthrough method: An approach to the study of apps by Ben Light, Jean Burgess and Stefanie Duguay [1].


The study of Apps and their sociocultural and economic effects is proposed and a formal methodology is described in this paper.


The environment of expected use and technical walkthrough are part of what is termed the Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA)  and includes forensically examining firstly, the environment of expected use.  This includes identifying the app’s vision, its operating model and its governance. The walkthrough process is to build a foundational corpus of data, starting with examining the app’s intended purpose, its cultural embedded meanings and to step through all the processes involved in registering the user to the app (if required). Further to this, the technical walkthrough would incorporate a data gathering procedure, not only registration but also everyday use of the app and how a user would go about leaving the app, closing an account if it has been opened and so on.

The walkthrough method uses interpretive techniques; Science and Technology Studies (STS) and cultural studies as a lens for app analysis. The walkthrough method as we use it is grounded in the principles of Actor-Network Theory (ANT), as a specific aspect of STS.

Within ANT, there are Intermediaries and Mediators – which in turn can be human or non-human. The intermediaries pass on meaning unchanged through a network of relations, while the mediators may transform meaning. An example in an app might take some information and suggest related things.. the example given in the paper was a dating app, having gathered certain like/dislikes – may suggest further likes to the user’s profile.

The way the app presents itself, its menu structure (in more playful apps this may frequently change) – the size of buttons, graphics, physical interaction gestures (e.g. swipe in Tinder), these all go towards a transformative action by the non-human mediator to affect change in the user.

What happens when the app is running (when removed from the user’s screen – or even, when machine is switched off)?

What happens when a user subverts the app by using it for a ‘non-intended’ use?

Consideration of affordances – again, is the app presenting itself to bias the user in their reactions?

What extra features/ changes occur over extended periods of use, not apparent in the initial walkthrough?

I am not clear on how best I would go about using the walkthrough method.

  1. The paper seems very anglo-centric, is it limited in its use? For example, how would this work in Japanese culture?
  2. Theory is presented well but the practice of the methods described need fleshing out




[1] The walkthrough method: An approach to the study of apps DOI: 10.1177/1461444816675438

Wrestling With Olga

Theo and I assembled Olga in my garage… we have our assignment in projection mapping to complete.  – Much coding to do, more on this to come!

Please use the images below (right click save as to grab them)


Readings: Computational Art and Ubiquity

why spoil things by the use of  this word in this context?

PigeonBlog’s birds had the potential to test these interpellation models.
a procedure in some legislative bodies of asking a government official to explain an act or policy, sometimes leading, in parliamentary government, to a vote of confidence or a change of government.”
Yes, this is an academic text but I have encountered too many of these ‘rare’ words that do nothing to help the reader. The first reading, Complex Ubiquity-Effects by Ulrik Ekman was even more densly packed with ‘difficult/unnecessary’ words.  How many times do you have to see the word “qua” – The ablative female? The formal style of writing is used to eliminate ambiguity in the meaning of the text, it is a pity the side-effect of this discipline is to increase the difficulty in deciphering and aiding comprehension.
This comes from our second reading this week, chapter 21 of

Tactical Biopolitics Art, Activism, and Technoscience, “Reaching the Limit When Art Becomes Science” by Beatriz da Costa ; much easier to ‘read’ and more accessible.

Not only the language she uses (apart from interpellation), but also the project “PigeonBlog” she describes was fascinating.

The use of pigeons carrying sensors at 300 ft (hard to access this altitude in any event): “The pigeon “backpack” developed for this project consisted of a combined GPS (latitude, longitude, altitude)/GSM (cell phone tower  communication) unit and corresponding antennas, a dual automotive CO/NOx pollution sensor, a temperature sensor, a subscribes identity module (SIM) card interface, a microcontroller, and standard supporting elec-tronic components.”

Da Costa reflects on the reaction to this project, which she states that it  became widely reported. What struck me as significant was her original strategic aim; “in situating itself between the academy and nonexpert participants” this pigeon project carries with it huge potential for other investigations, not confined to simply using pigeons with tech in order to survey pollution levels, but for many other projects, as signposted by the title of the book: Tactical Biopolitics Art, Activism, and Technoscience, “Reaching the Limit When Art Becomes Science.
The first reading, The introduction to Complex Ubiquity-Effects by Ulrik Ekman; very dense and powerful assembly of examples as to how the ‘third wave of computing’ is already underway – I have not read any of the essays in this book yet but Ekman has described the effects and change the explosion in use of RFIDs, multiple sensors, small portable devices, wearables, portable computing, data flows etc.. are changing how we experience the world. The lovely introduction I will include here… if only the text was more accessible!
  • Three tourists stop in front of a boom coming down at the entrance to a nature reserve, reading on the little display on the boom that the maximum number of people permitted in the reserve has been reached at this point in time, this close to the breeding season.
  • A series of digital signposts and the GPS in the car lead the driver and his family down a set of side streets due to road repair and construction.
  • A media art installation embedded in the city square has dynamic and interactive video portraits appear on the ground in front of busy passers-by and makes them stop, play, and wonder how they were followed and picked out beforehand.
  • Every once in a while a 17-year-old son gets irritated at having to use his mother’s computer on the Internet—because he is quite frequently asked to consider buying new candles, bathrobes, bras, and women’s magazines.
  • An academic who gets home after a long day at work only vaguely notices that the lighting in the smart home is subdued a bit, the vacuum cleaner stops, and a string quartet replaces the pop songs from yesterday.”

24th Nov, Reflections after our discussion “The Non Human Turn”


Walking home after seeing the last surviving (playing) member of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, 50 years after I bought ‘Safe as Milk’ – I pick up an Evening Standard and wait for my take away chips. I feel older still. The cover headline shrieks “ROBOTS SAVE 500 LIVES IN LONDON”

Ignoring for a moment perhaps the ideological motivatation to lull our fears of the privatization of the NHS, reading an old media ‘right wing’ and biased free sheet, I stop to think of the implications of the leader article; where does this fit into the absolute survival of the human race?

After the reading of Richard Grusin’s introduction I felt pessimistic. Does this give me cause for hope? I may have my cancerous prostate removed more accurately so I do not become impotent? It may be a concern for me. My discussion partner was optimistic, look how many improvements there are in the modern world.. healthier, longer lived lives… comfort, communication… etc. I reflected on this, I can only agree. BUT… At what cost? A minority of Londoners get freedom from impotence while 350 miles north of the capital, in Cumbria, hundreds are under water due to extreme weather events this week.

Ratko Mladić the war criminal gets his come uppance through better communication, coordination through our improved telecommunications and, Mugabe forced into resignation.

The Daily Mail spreads fake news of terrorist attack in Selfridges Oxford Street London. The guitarist of the Magic band is held up, nearly missing our concert.

But wait! Fake news spread by Daily Mail about Oxford Street – this very evening..

and –

Fake News by Daily Mail


I am left with thinking – the Non Humans – out-act, out-implement consequences, beyond our control or comprehension-  but will they be a tool for our survival or the noose that finishes us off?

I suspect the latter because the stupid and lazy people (humans) outnumber the proactive thoughtful people. OK, not stupid or lazy but possibly victims of the corrosive side effects of the non-human.

Maybe some of the Magic Band audience would benefit from robot surgery, many of us will need it soon. Then, maybe the alien Annunaki will save us 😉


Haque Burble

Open Burble. This dates back to 2007 but beautiful use of Sparkfun axis accelerometers in each balloon.