Sensing, Walking and Embodiment With and By Technologies: A Track Away From The Desk
Location 118
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 12:30
Sessions 1


  • Christopher Wood (Queen Mary University of London) email

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Short Abstract

A track interested in the complex relationship between location-aware technologies, the body and site. We propose experiments in presentation and discussion drawing on ideas of walking, embodiment and sensory methods. These will take place outside the venue. Critical art practices are also welcome.

Long Abstract

Location aware devices are becoming ever-present both through GPS-enabled smartphones and RFID chips. As this equipment becomes increasingly present and embedded in public space, the production of the body, sensors and ideas of location and presence becomes more complex and multi-layered. This emergent complexity raises challenges for ethnographic methods. This track seeks experimental presentations connected to the affordances, potentials and construction of a given site and the technologies which construct it. Following Tim Ingold in saying that "Locomotion, not cognition, must be the starting point for the study of perceptual activity (Ingold, 2000: 166)", we are particularly interested in walking and embodiment. This may contain, but not be limited to, sensory ethnographic methods (Pink 2015, Bull 2013). We may also consider how sensory approaches could be developed or reframed in relation to machine sensors operating across networks. Walking and discussion also has the potential to create new and rewarding spaces for the development and proliferation of knowledge (Wickson et al 2015). We especially value a process where the presentation and discussion of work takes place within a physical space relevant to its content. Critical art practices may also be a useful entry point into this discussion.

We propose a panel of experiments in presentation outside the conference venue. These could comprise of sound or smell walks, site-specific discussions, observations of the operation of technology in public space or interventions involving the movement and arrangement of bodies.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Reading and making space through performative mapping

Author: Naomi Bueno de Mesquita (KU Leuven)  email

Short Abstract

The capabilities of a location-based application is explored as a way to situate knowledge about a site specific public (space) issue. Participants are invited to take part in a collective and performative cartography, through which an array of story lines unfold and branch out to open-ended scenarios.

Long Abstract

This proposal sets off from Jacques Ranciére's skepticism of 'stultifying' knowledge and proposes a process- and affect-based way of acquiring knowledge through performative mapping with GPS technology. We assemble a number of story lines that present a controversy about a specific site. Each story line takes a different stance on the controversy. These stories become accessible to participants of the conference through the use of location-aware mobile technologies where the sound implicitly gives directions. Only by following the exact same route does the story unfold - when deviating from the track, the audio fades out. The public spaces that the participants pass through are the backdrop of the stories, a shared space between the guides and the participants. An intensive engagement with the story-teller is proposed through a performative cartography. Through taking the role of the story teller, at some point of the track, the participant is invited to continue his/her story line in dialogue with another participant; a personification of the storyteller becomes a strategy to follow on Ranciére's Emancipation of the Spectacle in defying "the opposition between viewing and acting". This experience can be repeated with other participants through following, listening, reenacting and contributing to the stories of the previous groups. Via a website it will be possible to keep track of the evolving stories over time through the performances of different map-readers/actors. So even after the day of the workshop the actors will be able to see their persona growing and being reenacted by different participants.

The Citizen Rotation Office: An immersive and speculative experience prototype.

Author: Luke Sturgeon (Royal College of Art)  email

Short Abstract

An immersive experience that explores a socio-political alternative Barcelona, through a combination of site-specific audio recordings, voice actors, a mobile GPS performance, and artefacts from a fictional government service.

Long Abstract

The planet's global population grew exponentially, enormous numbers of people migrated between countries, cities and territories. Evermore sophisticated algorithms were introduced to optimise the distribution of services, resources, transport, food and healthcare, and the sharing economy created more opportunity for access but parallel opportunity for capital. New behaviours from technology meant that citizens and their belongings were gradually being shared and distributed across the city. Meanwhile affordable housing disappeared, while vast areas of privately owned urban infrastructure sat unused and unavailable, the divide between wealth and poverty growing beyond imagination.

As global markets crashed, the state was forced to intervene, reclaiming the housing market and incorporating the most established sharing services within a new government policy. Temporary habitation of space became mandatory, as the city optimised the distribution of its citizens. The algorithm replaced the committee, providing real-time and immediate optimisation of invisible infrastructure, continually redefining the meaning between the spatial and temporal relationships of networked places, objects and people.

Mobile technologies were combined with ubiquitous networked devices, enabling the total sensing and recording of real-time citizen behaviour in public and private spaces. The Citizen Rotation Office was established and uses these technologies to predict, prevent, maintain and adjust the movement and location of all citizens.

This alternative version of Barcelona is experienced through a combination of site-specific audio recordings, voice actors, a mobile GPS performance, and artefacts from a fictional government service. This project investigates the changing value of the home, social inequality, and the socio-political implications of mobile technologies and cybernetics within this new landscape.

Traces of Waste - A Site-Specific Audio Walk

Authors: Flavia Caviezel (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland)  email
Yvonne Volkart (University of Applied Arts, Basel)  email
Adrian Demleitner  email
Anselm Caminada  email
Mirjam Bürgin  email

Short Abstract

The audio walk based on a GPS-enabled recycled smartphone is dealing with cleaning and disposal processes of ‚waste’ in the Swiss-German-French border area. Topics of the walk regarding aspects of a smartphone’s life cycle will be presented at appropriate site-specific places in Barcelona.

Long Abstract

The audio walk Traces of Waste looks at processes of cleaning and disposal in the trinational region of Basel/Switzerland, bordering Germany and France. Travel routes are observed for (an)organic matter, ‚waste', which is considered nowadays as well as dynamic and transformable, as a ‚new' resources.

The audio walk leading along the Rhine river offers a manifold access providing (future) scenarios ranging from science-fiction to ‚documentary' modes, from spoken word to noises creating closeness respectively irritation towards encountered situations or objects.

Using recycled smartphones the GPS-based audiowalk reflects with its technological requirement not only aspects as regards content (eg. problematics of raw material and recycling, re-use) but as well its medium. The own pace of exploration and passages without sound are important to enable a diverse perception of space. At best, visitors experience a kind of transformation through participation, merging the role of visitor and (empowered) actant.

The contribution for the conference panel is planned as follows:

A general introduction of the project (in or outside of the conference venue) will be followed by site-specific elements: We present topics of the audio walk - as re-use, repair of smartphones or (if possible) specific aspects of electronic waste collecting systems in Spain - at appropriate places in the city, as for instance mobile phone (repair) shops, e-waste collecting points etc. Correspondent parts of the audiowalk are presented there to show its character and atmosphere and to initiate further discussions about global aspects within a local focus.

Cartographies of Human Sensation

Authors: Jonathan Reus  email
Sissel Marie Tonn-Petersen  email

Short Abstract

Cartographies of Human Sensation proposes a set of instruments that attune the wearer to her environment through metasensory perception of biometric signals and reconfigurations of body-environment relationships through radical body extensions.

When we perceive nature we experience a whole sea of relations: the wind touching our skin, bright and vibrant colors, odors and sounds that weave into an impression of the place. Within this project we use our instrumental devices to drive speculative field research methods for collecting, categorizing and mapping sensation in natural environments, thus proposing a more temporally and physiologically conscious approach to cartography.

Long Abstract

Cartographies of Human Sensation proposes a series of instruments that attune the wearer to her environment through metasensory perception of biometric signals (translated through worn sound synthesizers) and radical body extensions.

While the extensions alter relationships between the body and its environment through estrangement, the instruments make the wearer more attuned to psychobiological responses of transitory events. The two together form a toolset for metasensation, self-reflexive sensing.

Why New Cartographies?: When we perceive a natural landscape we experience a whole sea of relation: of the wind touching our skin, of a multitude of sights, odors and sounds that weave into an impression of the place. We are culturally trained to be more sensitive to some events than others, which e.g. manifests in the way we map the world. Maps are seen as static objects in our part of the world, in other cultures maps and space representations are often interactive, tactile and temporary. The instruments developed afford an opportunity for ongoing/continuous mapping of the body-environment relation, thus perhaps gain a different understanding of space and time.

As the project unfolds we hope to develop a deeper understanding of how the body navigates through space and time, and gestalts for the subtle and unconscious processes that form our experience.

During the conference we aim to invite participants on prepared walks with the instruments. The walks are ongoing conversations with participants, evolving over time and in different locations. They are site-specific, and offer participants a unique opportunity to reflect upon the way they perceive the environment.

Narrative Journeys: Mapping the Self in Place as a (Re)Vision of Design

Authors: Sarah Hitt (Colorado School of Mines)  email
Toni Lefton (Colorado School of Mines)  email

Short Abstract

Understanding the self in place has profound implications for creating human-centered design that honors sociocultural journeys of the past while enabling today’s interactions with the built environment. This multidisciplinary activity involves an experiential journey and investigation of Poblenou.

Long Abstract

Before there were apps, there were maps. To be an effective designer of the tools we use to understand and move through places, one needs to understand more than simple direction, but the very multi-modal spaces we move through—and at the heart of it all, the people that call that place home. Building on work done through the City as Text™ pedagogy developed by the USA's National Collegiate Honors Council, this experiential exercise utilizes an inductive method which merges a cultural studies/ethnographic approach with a sociotechnical investigation that promotes new ways of coming to know the self, others, and the various actors upon a place. We will facilitate a "walkabout" through the Poblenou neighborhood near the 4S convention site, which is slated to convert from its industrial past into Barcelona's innovative future, in order to discover the stories that shape this area and the people who move through it. The exercise incorporates sensory observation, human interaction and engagement, listening, and viewing. This walkabout provides participants with the methodology for an exploration through a place, and a new, layered lens through which to look at it. We argue that the ability to "read" a place as a text has profound implications for scientists and engineers, and can bring more focus to the importance of human-centered design and user empathy. This multisensory, multidisciplinary activity focuses on knowing the self and the meaning of how the self locates in space, and helps us analyze, interpret, understand, and reflect on our surroundings.

Returning the Ear

Authors: Tim Shaw (Newcastle University)  email
Jacek Smolicki (Malmö University )  email

Short Abstract

This proposal questions the diverse natures of listening through a performance walk within Barcelona. Drawing on traditions of soundscape research, soundwalking, DIY technologies and experimental musical practices, we hope to engage with listening as a disruptive, attentive act within public space.

Long Abstract

In traditional media studies, questions regarding the nature of listening are often characterised in how someone has received some object which they have had no extended encounter with prior to the moment of reception. Ideas of listening within more recent sound studies literature argues that listening is an active process, not just something that decodes meaning but also generates it.

Considering these diverse and contrasting ideas of what listening is and does, we then ask how is it understood, appreciated and judged aesthetically. We argue that every act of listening is different. Similarly, despite the standardization imposed by technology every act of recording sound can be seen as highly idiosyncratic and unique. Listening and recording are not only about receiving, but also resounding and responding back.

As sound artists we will attend to this area of enquiry, not to develop a common framework for the experience of sound but rather to recognize how diverse the approaches and responses to listening can be. Through an intuitive process, we will develop a performance-walk to open up questions of received listening. We will gather sounds, create urban interventions, pitch site-specific musical acknowledgments and provide devices that extend sensory perceptions.

During and after the walk we will discuss our findings through revisiting the materials and memories collected. This activity will open up an observatory of responses (responsive listening) and allow an engaging conversation regarding our presence in public space, disruption, listening as an act of attentiveness and collective urban engagement.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.