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Thoughts

This compilation of computer vision is really interesting to watch if you imagine seeing it without the source footage behind the computer graphics. I really like the description Kyle McDonald gives in the comments of the aesthetic qualities of computer vision graphics and will add to it myself:

“color choices tend toward high contrast saturated primaries (easy colors to code), almost no text (it’s never descriptive, only enumerative), trails are used to show history, ellipses and rectangle/bounding boxes are used as placeholders for complex shapes…”

 

Robot readable world from Timo on Vimeo.

“We have always been cyborgs, and the distinction between the natural and artificial is so blurred throughout history as to be meaningless—and drawing the distinction tends to be an instrument of domination anyway. Ever since we picked up sticks to aid us in catching food or otherwise manipulating our environments, we have been seamlessly extended by our tools. And this is ultimately a good thing.”

—Donna Haraway

 

This project explores the idea that distinguishing between humans and machines might become irrelevant. The combination of the drawings or animations with captions provides an ambiguous and vague yet intriguing jumping off point for my next experiments that I will develop over the break. Using the fuzzy logic of computer systems and applying it to human interactions is an idea that I intend to explore next. What does it feel and look like if a human is seeing like a machine but still has human emotional reactions? I will use this idea to generate more drawings and a set of short videos. I had been focusing on ideas relating to disembodiment and telepresence but realized through more research that these are no longer things I consider to be strange or interesting since they have already become part of daily life. The idea of projecting yourself elsewhere or speaking through a machine are things we are simply used to by now. I think re-framing the overall argument to address the idea that we are already cyborgs instead of speculating that we might be will be more fruitful. This allows me to exaggerate our current condition and speculate from there instead of creating a completely science fictional universe to design within in.

I met with Gideon Nave, a computer scientist working on his PhD at CalTech. He studies cognitive illusions and is specifically focusing his research on incorporating physiological sensors into financial transactions and negotiations in order to improve trust between the two parties. HIs work is about predicting human behavior in bargaining. He told me about physiological sensors, like reading pupil dilation, changes in heart rate, skin conductivity, and brain imaging and how they can be used to predict behavior, encourage trust, or make a story from very limited information. The abstraction of person into just a pupil on an interface in a bargaining transaction and the making decisions based on machine sensing were the most interesting takeaways in relation to my thesis.

According to Wikipedia, and plenty of other valid sources, cyborg anthropology is the discipline that studies the interaction between humanity and technology from an anthropological perspective. The discipline is relatively new compared to the broader field of anthropology, but offers novel insights on new technological advances and their effect on culture and society.

Cyborg anthropology studies humankind and its relations with the technological systems it has built, specifically modern technological systems that have reflexively shaped notions of what it means to be humans.

I finally came to the realization, and am not sure why I didn’t earlier, that the broader subject I have been investigating all along is cyborg anthropology. I think this term, while it is used for a completely different field, is useful to add to my discussion because does ground my work in a larger theoretical discussion that is already taking place.

 

File:Cyborg-venn-diagram-what-is-a-cyborg.jpg

 

When discussing the new book Collage Culture that he worked on with Chandler McWiliams, Brian Roettinger said that they realized the only way to make something devoid of reference is to use software to generate it. So the human maintains some control but the machine creates it. This relates to what I was I thinking about in terms of crafting a narrative automatically or in partnership with a machine. They used compositional rules as a starting point for generating an image and eliminated the selective input of the artist, but also brought the hand aesthetic into the machine aesthetic.

 

Love this. I’m not sure what to do with that love yet, but this video needs to be shared.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLEJbFKTyQI]

I meant to post this to the blog a couple weeks ago, and it has changed since then, but here is where my thinking was then about directions for the project.

Driving questions:

  • If our brains continue to be rewired by technological influence, how will we perceive ourselves? Will we lose our ability to trust our instincts and develop a mistrust of our machines? What role can design play in confirming or debunking suspicions and beliefs?
  • How can speculative technological devices be used to investigate the gray areas between human and machine senses?

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