During the past days, Pixel and Sander have been working a lot to be ready for their first presentation of the project that will happen this Sunday in front of the Biblioteca Mário de Andrade in São Paulo.
The recent massive spread of a Google concept-video announcing their augmented reality (AR) glasses, is a sign that people across the world are curious to experience the next step in augmented reality. Expectations are high – but there’s criticism too. Do we really want to immerse ourselves 24/7 in a commercially annotated semi-virtual world? No. And we don’t need to. First of all, we have the choice to switch off. Second, we will have a choice in content, hopefully. Let’s hope that beside an overload of commercial content, our virtual surroundings will be packed with an equal amount of inspiring, meaningful or artistic creations. Within this current context, it is a great opportunity to be involved in the ArteMov/NIMk residency working on exactly that: exploring opportunities of AR content creation, taking into account the unique characteristics of this expanding parallel universe.
Whatever the way AR is accessed, be it by the mass audience of smartphone owners or a minority of AR goggle spectators, the fundaments of our parallel hybrid world are already in effect. Content nowadays is geo-located. Data and stories are belonging to and existing at specific spots on earth. Immaterial layers of meaning integrate with and extend the physical environment. GPS-coordinates are the truths defining a reality which is multi-layered, as much as it is multi-purpose. Commercial virtual content will co-exist alongside grassroot coups of the virtual universe. Besides professional storywriters taking it to the virtual stage, so are the people formerly known as audience. Not any restraint, boundary or limitation will be applicable in this endless amount of alternate realities. Structuring and filtering of the virtual content surrounding us, will be equally relevant as the content these mechanisms relate to.
We took this as a point of departure, and combined it with our wish to facilitate the creation of stories tailored to be experienced in the mixed data-reality of today. Walking tours through virtual content closely related to the physical environment was a recurring thought, letting people’s choice of direction be of influence on the course of a narrative. During a week of brainstorming and talking to various experts in the field of experimental storytelling, we talked about ways to present fictional stories, documenting spots in the city ‘on the spot’, historic routes, data journalism, real-time live storytelling and Powerpoint walks. It made us realise that a one-size-fits-all format would be difficult to define. Nor did choosing seem a good option.
While drafting a concept for narrative navigation throughout the city we realised that a similar approach could be applied on the level of choosing which storytelling formats to support: -not- choosing. By transforming the streets as a mapping of choices, we could allow people to walk to the content type of their choice. Left for fiction, walk right for real-life stories. Left again for user-contributed stories, two times right to get into the area of the city to discover a cluster of suspense stories. While walking towards a story of choice, the directive structure could gradually morph into choices defining the course of the story itself. Content and meta level will be integrated into one uniform format.
Calling for stories and exploring the narrative qualities of this rigid but at the same time open structure, is what we’ll be doing next week during a series of tests and LabMov workshops. We envision to generate a dynamic mapping of perspectives on the city, to be experienced in the city. It will be a tree-like structure that will grow, because adhering to the open narratives format, anyone is allowed to extend or fork the structure. Not agreeing with the current state of the virtual narrative city? Change it as you like. With augmented reality, your environment is in read/write mode.
São Paulo, 8th of April, 2012
Julia Bac (Amsterdam) and Gisela Domschke (São Paulo) via e-mail.
J: How did you get involved with this project?
G: Annette Wolfsberger and Annet Dekker invited me to collaborate on a project for Central de Cultura 2012 . We wanted to develop a mobile media lab. In the Netherlands, we established a partnership with NIMk and its program for Planet M, its brand new mobile infrastructure and laboratory for media art and digital culture. Here in Brazil we established a partnership with arte.mov – mobile media arts festival – and we got funding from Fundação Telefônica.
J: What is your responsibility /tasks in this project?
G: I am the facilitator of the project here in Brazil. Together with Lucas Bambozzi from arte.mov, I’m coordinating all the strands of the program – from conceptual to practical decisions.
J: How many people are working in Brazil? How are you dividing your responsibilities?
G: We are a very small team. Lucas and I share the artistic coordination of the project. We have an executive producer, Andrea Armentano, a communication assistant, Carola Gonzalez, and Lucas Gervilla, who is in charge of the making-of. From now onwards we’ll also have the collaboration of a few media artists and technologists, who will offer workshops in our mobile lab. As I mentioned before, we applied for the support of Fundação Telefônica’s Art and Technology program to be able to build the mobile lab, and this allowed the project to have a bigger scope as well. Our mobile platform will not only host artistic residencies, but will also offer practical workshops and media events. This time we are focusing on São Paulo’s outskirts, but we are also aiming to put Lamovel on the road in the future – ideas that still need to be funded though.
J: Do you talk frequently with the Brazilian artist that is now in Amsterdam?
G: Our communication is reduced to the necessary matters. I appreciate how intense is the process of a residency abroad, where our references are confronted with local ones, so we want to leave him some space to enjoy/digest this. The main thing is the exchange of experiences and knowledge sharing Pixel is having there, and I’ve been following this through the video logs he has been posting.
J: What are your expectations for the second phase of the residency? when the Dutch artist will go to Brazil.
G: Pixel and Sander have spent those last three weeks discussing conceptually how to use AR technology in order to allow new forms of exchange with people in a public space. The local context clearly strongly determines this discussion. Not only culturally speaking, but also in terms of the available technology. So it is inevitable that this second phase will entail a deep reconfiguration in the creative process.
J: How are you planning his stay?
G: Sander will stay here for 20 days only, which is a quite a short period, so we need to give a strong focus to the production of the project. The first thing is to define in which area the artists will be willing to work. We have already proposed Luz or Freguesia do O. We have also suggested the possibility of working within a more defined context, such as a public library or public hospital, but the final decision is up to the artists themselves. We have purchased a Kombi Sabari, which we are adapting to work as a mobile media lab platform. It accommodates 4 people, and will have media production and diffusion equipments in it.
J: Is there something you would like to add?
G: I believe the collaborative aspect offers a quite unique dynamics to the programme, and this practice distinguishes it from the usual artistic residencies. Also, the displacement experience creates a new relation to time and the way we perceive space. Our main aim is to explore new ways of mediating the relationship of the artist and the public in the creative process itself. This is the relevance of our program.
Julia Bac and Sander Veenhof (Amsterdam)
J: You have been working with Pixel for 3 weeks already. How are you working together?
S: I think we are bringing our own backgrounds into the project. In this specific case is very helpful, we sort of swapped each other’s fascinations.
We usually meet up here (at the Nimk) and we had some Skype moments, we also installed a sketch board upstairs. It’s a very technical drawing, cause in one of the first discussions we discovered that it goes much faster if you just talk about the technical stuff. You can start at the other end, but sometimes is good to know what is the actual thing that you are creating. You have to know what it should be like. And we started this process as well.
J: What you mean is that the technique limits what you can do?
S: No, not really. But is good to know where there are choices to make. Sometimes choices arise from the technique. Some things we had in mind and we already think ahead what would be the consequences, how you can develop a user experience. In the end you have to create this technical thing and it doesn’t appear out of nowhere.
J: Is this how you usually work?
S: Yeah, there is this initial idea. You sort of envision it. Start sketching the scope, what do you want to do, and then you continue thinking on how to optimize it, how to change it a little. You develop a concept that includes a technical part and you have to jump back and forth between technique and concept.
J: In which “stage” do you see the project at this point?
S: I think it is defined. We have the basis now, except the implementation. Now comes the interesting part, which is proving that what we are creating could have impact and could be relevant and interesting enough. That’s what we have to prove right now.
J: What do you mean with the “basis”?
S: It’s the scope. We have the scope right now, which is what we want to achieve with all the requirements and the starting point. We have now something that we both feel confident that could be the right way, that in the end we’ll get to something interesting.
J: Why you decided to have two different projects?
S: I think that also has to do with the two countries and our personal different backgrounds, we kind of swapped our fascinations. I came in with a lot of experience with GPS based projects and I was inspired by Pixel’s work using marker-based AR. For Pixel, it was the other way around.
And makes sense because the QR codes projects would be really helpful in Brazil. The two countries are very different, so it makes sense to make something that its appropriate instead of making one project that can be quite a struggle to be relevant here and there, because the situation is quite different.
J: What was the most significant change that the project had since you started?
S: The most significant change was to decide to work in two things. Because the two locations are very different, makes sense to put all the ideas into two separate projects.
In the beginning we thought that maybe we could develop only one, but I think that doing two is better.
I think that the major brake through is going to come this week. You could ask the same question on Friday, because I hope we are going to have major change.
Meeting Jan Rothuizen on Wednesday will be helpful. We will have to tell him what we are doing and see if, someone that hears our idea for the first time, would understand what we are aiming.
J: You also have been discussing your project with the Nimk staff and Annet Dekker (the organizer). What was the most significant feedback you had so far?
S: I think they were all stressing the same point. We are in search of something that is not there, that doesn’t exist. But, we both strongly believe in it and we talk about it, as it already exists. With their questions they really force us to make what we are doing more precise, and ask ourselves: what is the special added value? Now we have to get the right showcases that also help us to understand what we are actually talking about.
My personal idea is that by this process we are learning a new tool. Then, getting use to the new possibilities of the things we are creating, I would also be able to take a step where we can create something that we cannot foresee yet. That’s what I hope. Because if it’s very predictable, you can ask: should you make it?
J: How could you achieve this situation? Would it come by experimenting?
S: You first do the obvious things and then in the end you get to something that is a perfect conceptual piece, I hope. But, it’s hard to get there in one go. Sometimes, you have this idea, that is brilliant from the beginning on, but sometimes you just shape the conditions by exploring further and then suddenly it’s like a puzzle, that all parts connect.
On the 19/03, there was another meeting at the Nimk. The artists showed to Annet Dekker the last discussions and developments they had. Time flies and this is the last week of Pixel’s stay…
The meeting was once more to make the concept more clear. This week Pixel and Sander will meet a writer, to see the possibility of cooperation in the project. Because of this appointment, Annet suggested that they should make a draft of their idea, concerning the following aspects:
- framework of the work, showing specific locations and target group;
- what kind of narrative they would like to use?
- what is the relevance of their project?
At WORM he had a meeting with Walter Langelaar, that showed him the facilities and the hackerspace Moddr (photo below). The phrase Pixel picked to describe his experience in Rotterdam: “feeling like home”
Julia Bac and Pixel (Amsterdam)
Do you believe that the fact of being here for already two weeks has influenced in the way that would normally work?
The project I am doing is together with Sander. I don’t think that the environment is influencing so much in my decision making process, but Sander’s way of work is different than mine. What is nice is that I want to experiment the way he works here and he wants to try the way we work over there. Because there is a different reality here related to the culture of mobility. Not only related to connection, but here people have effectively more access to technology. I have the impression that is more simple to target people with a project for mobile here than in Brazil.
The fact that I am visiting museums, visiting other spaces and the cultural activities that I am doing inspires me for new ideas. The experience of getting to know the city, having free time and thinking about the project in different environments, also influences the project. But, this will only be noticed ahead when we’ll have the software and when we start to add content to the software.
What is the current status of the project?
In general terms, what we want to do is already established. The basic lines of the project are ready. Now starts the phase of experimenting the project. Experimenting the possibilities of interaction, the development of a prototype.
We will see what it works and this would be kept in the first prototype of the project. I would say that this is the “prototyping experimental” phase of the project
You will develop two projects. What leaded you to do these two projects and not choose only one?
I wanted to experiment this online environment established here, develop something that would be good for this context and Sander wanted to develop something that would be good for Brazil. The first project is the “Powerpoint Walks” that is part of the proposal that Sander and me sent for the residency in Augmented Reality. The second is related to mobile technology, but is not an Augmented Reality. The second project will be developed if everything works well with the first one.
We want to present information that modifies the way people relate to the space, the information can be or not stories. We have been researching on open data, public data that we could use. But, so far we haven’t found anything that could be effectively relevant. Therefore, there is a challenge there… is something that we would like to try. But… well, Annet (one of the organizers) had already mentioned this back then, that it would be difficult to find data that would be interesting to trigger people to react with the system. We are just facing this aspect now.
Last Friday we have chosen the priorities of development. What should be done first and what comes afterwards. What are the initial priorities and what is accessory, than we continue following phase by phase.
And which are these phases?
The first phase would be to create a demo of the project. So, create a structure with the idea of the project. This demo would have the basics, the presentation of the content for the user, which in a way is an interaction. The first content would be still textual. From that point on we want to think about other types of content: graphic and with two or three dimensions, and also research more about open data. This is still experimentation. See what works and what doesn’t works. After this phase, we choose what should be kept in the project. And from that on we’ll build the content system management to enable people to collaborate in the project. After, think about how people will interact with each other using the system, create dialogs or making what is inside the system to dialogue. From stage of the development of the CSM, is already the implementation. After this we start doing the workshops.
The idea of gathering the public would be through these workshops?
Yes, in the beginning. In the workshops we would present the project and create content on the streets, we would walk around with the people on the streets. We wish to encourage people to continue to create content and spread the word about the project. From the moment of implementation of the CSM we already start to circulate and use content created by us, but this is parallel.
In Brazil you work with a team. How are you experiencing working with people from here? That you didn’t know before and also didn’t choose.
For the Jandig Project we did an open call. So, the experience of working with “strangers” happened already there, because I met people during the project. But Jandig was also an open process in which the participants were changing all the time. Some people would join and some would leave the project. In this project Sander and me have a commitment with the project. The idea of working together was a suggestion from the organizers, but me and Sander agreed to work together and share experiences, and I think both of us enjoyed this experience.
I like to work from home, and I have the impression that with Sander is the same. If we were working in different projects would be more difficult to have this exchange in the residency.
In the first interview you mentioned that you would like to disconnect a bit from Brazil, did you manage to do that?
Less than I would like to. I managed to disconnect a bit. Living in a different place is a way of disconnecting from Brazil and connecting in things here.
Do you think that you could plan and think on the proposal as much as you are doing if you were not here?
No. From there I wouldn’t have this residency experience. Also if I would have started the other way around would be much more difficult for me, having appointments and people trying to reach me. Is harder when you have an agenda. I planned this month to dedicate to the project and Sander planned for the next month, when he is going to Brazil.
In one of your videologs you mention about your process of creation…
I think that in the end I am working the way I am used to. Sander mentioned that he starts with the concept. But, the ideas are changing a lot, there is new ideas coming all the time. Some ideas we discover not to be so good and we look for what to prioritize. The work is changing, changing a lot, actually.
What would be a “not good” idea?
The idea of working with open data initially sounded a great idea and now we are facing the fact that might be not so good.
You mentioned that a few data you found were not so interesting. What would be the type of data that are not so interesting?
Show people how much the government spent building each public property, for example. How much was spent on building a bridge? This could even be part of the project, but doesn’t trigger people to interact with the project…there’s something missing. Actually, we are facing a difficulty on finding data. We talked to people working with open data in Brazil, we asked for information about which would be interesting data. But they didn’t reply. And if they didn’t reply probably is because they have difficulty in finding it. Because to make any sense, within the technological limitations existing, these data should be very specific. Related to specific areas of a city. This specificity is not easy to find and there is also a difficulty of dealing with these information.
Would you choose the same data in The Netherlands and in Brazil?
One of the things that, at least from my perspective is interesting, is a project that connects both countries. But, we still didn’t find something that would create this connection. One of the things we are considering to do is to show different perspectives of the city: I would show my perspective of Amsterdam and Sander would do the same in São Paulo. But this is our connection with the city and not of one city with the other, or one country to the other.
You presented the project to some people. What was the most interesting feedback that you had so far?
No one gave a feedback that changed completely the project. No one said: “why don’t you do it this way…”. I think they still need to see what will actually be, just explaining is not so simple. That is why we should work on the demo.
What is your goal for the last two weeks?
Develop the prototype. I think that at least have the prototype working the way we wanted. I would like to have this ready here, so we can modify the prototype there. So, the goal is to achieve a prototype in which I can have a walk through the city and put my experience in the system, but depending of the difficulties we will find during the process of work and what we will find out, we could finalize or not the prototype. Or maybe a great change would happen and we could decide to do something very different.
How this prototype would be like?
Would be to get the system to work, but fed only by Sander and me, without other people participating yet.
On Wednesday, the 7th of March, Sander and Pixel gave a informal presentation for the Nimk staff about their AR project.
Sander presented projects he developed with AR, starting by his first augmented reality project with QR codes on the ground and mentioning his project proposal about story telling. Then, Pixel also explained his initial proposal, that was to continue developing the Jandig project. He explained that he is interested on the reaction by the public towards technology or public space, for example.
They also talked about their ideas for the project. Such as the AR Power Point “walking through the city from slide to slide”.
The artists showed how the content would be presented by adding AR on the facade Museum of Art of São Paulo (Masp) as an example.
10 days of the first phase of this artistic residency. The major concern right now is to define the concept that will be expressed through AR, raising fundamental questions such as: Why the artists will develop this specific project? What is the significance? Who is the target group?
After Pixel told Sander that Internet access for smart phones in Brazil is not so common, they thought about exploring an offline project, based on Pixel’s developments in Brazil. Also, researching in the collection of the Nimk for “pre-internet” artists that made works related to communication. This idea changed towards targeting specifically the ones that have access to Internet.
The main areas of interest from both artists are related to the city and story telling. The use of images, videos or a “Power Point image like” are being considered, as well as statistic data.
After almost one week since Pixel’s arrival the concept is being developed throughout meetings accompanied by many teas, coffees and colas. Today, during their third meeting Pixel and Sander showed the first sketches of the developments of their ideas so far. The project will include story telling and information about the city, but the outcome is still not 100% agreed yet.