Monthly Archives: May 2014

Workshop Day 3

Today we continued with concept development, with participants taking part in two exercises designed to encourage new creative approaches.

Martyn Thayne (L.S.M) kicked things off by screening this brilliant talk from Sir Ken Robinson, which suggested that creativity is being severely curtailed by an outdated education system. This is particularly relevant in regards to the University’s ‘Student as Producer’ initiative. In fact, co_LAB was specifically designed to experiment with new educational frameworks which might respond to this deficit within the Arts. Students are currently trained to prioritise an objective and rational outlook on a problem, which can be detrimental for creativity and group discussion. This can often lead to conflict and a decrease of efficiency within group work. With this in mind, Martyn introduced Ed De Bono’s notion of ‘parallel thinking’, asking the students to adopt the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ method to improve efficiency within their group discussions by thinking around their concepts in alternative ways. Students were also given the opportunity to evaluate this framework, with the majority of participants noting that it was a useful and novel method for organising and developing their ideas.

 

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We were then joined by Louise Lawler (L.S.M), who gave an inspiring talk about creative uses of ‘maps’. Louise noted that maps usually detach us from our surroundings, they provide set paths that limits exploration and engagement with our surroundings. Thinking creatively about how to use maps can help to reverse this, allowing interventions and interactivity with the environment. Louise presented a number examples of how contemporary artists have incorporated maps into their work, highlighting that combining maps and global mapping data can encourage users to interact, explore and think about social and geographic space in new ways. The groups were then set the task of thinking about how maps might be incorporated into their own projects. This resulted in some really lively discussion, with teams presenting their ideas to the rest of the groups.

 

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After a mammoth Dominoes marathon for lunch, students continued to develop their group concepts, with lecturers dropping in on discussions to provide advice, give feedback and offer suggestions where projects might be developed in alternative directions. Again, the teams presented their ideas, which enabled students to also offer feedback on each others projects.

 

 

Workshop Day 2

Today teams were set with two tasks, which were designed to develop group discussion:

1 – CONCEPTUAL DEVELOPMENT: Continue to discuss and develop your ideas within your groups.

2 – CREATIVE OUTPUT: how might your concepts be presented / exhibited through alternative interfaces (this is a chance to think speculatively about screenless / wearable / motion gesture technologies, augmented/immersive/virtual reality, etc).

 

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To support this task, participants were treated to a demo of the Virtual Reality/gaming platform ‘Oculus Rift’, in which Mark Aldridge (learning advisor for L.S.M) discussed the possibilities for using this technology as a means of presenting creative work. Students were also able to highlight and discuss any relevant research material, including streaming a number of videos relating to alternative interfaces/future tech. These have also been published via the Facebook ‘coffee room’ for all to view at a later date. It has been really great to see students fully engaging in this collaborative approach to learning.

 

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We then linked up with Chris Heydra from The Hague University of Applied Sciences via google hangouts. The talk focussed on how to approach creative projects within an intensive workshop setting (much like co_LAB). Chris discussed a multi-disciplinary project he recently ran, where he took a group of students to Lisbon and gave them a brief of creating something in response to the word ‘illusion’. He underscored that the project was a first and foremost a research project, which was initiated by a theme, rather than a specific brief (again, similar to co_LAB). This enabled students to explore a wide range of social issues, leading to innovative approaches to the creative process (for example, a robot that collected money for the homeless community of Lisbon). Chris advised students to start by developing an initial concept in a variety of ways – ‘come up with some sort of statement, something you want to approach and apply in the world, then let your ideas go wild!’ – The whole talk can be found on YouTube:

 

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THEN LUNCH HAPPENED! As you can see below, all the goujouns and quiche fuelled some really great team discussions over lunch!

 

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After lunch, Adam Verity from the School of Art and Design got the students to think creatively about issues of surveillance, setting the task of going out into the city to document anything that might be surveilling them. Armed with mobiles phones, the groups were let loose to find interesting examples of instances where they feel they are being ‘watched’ or ‘listened too’. Twitter was used as a tool to archive the group findings of this task, with the hashtag #EYESANDEARS used to pool this content.

 

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Some notes on the ‘D’ word…

I thought I would post a more detailed summary of Rob Coley’s talk from Monday, including an overview of the five statements/thesis that were suggested for thinking critically about ‘drone culture’.

Dr. Coley remarked on the weird visuality of the drone, which are at once omnipresent yet ‘hidden in plain sight’. Since a lot of uses of these technologies are fairly speculative and their operation highly confidential, they remain largely invisible or hidden from public consciousness. This is not simply because military U.A.V’s mostly operate at such high altitudes and in far-off lands, but because the political motivations for them remains obscure. As such, it is important not too get too hung about the technology itself, on the technological object of the U.A.V/drone. Instead, Rob suggested groups think creatively about the political and cultural operation and development of this contemporary phenomenon.

 

1 – There is nothing categorically new about drone culture.

Military uses of U.A.V’s has a long history of development, with Rob highlighting a number of examples from the interwar period and application of these during WW2. He also suggested that it is crucial to acknowledge the vast information network that underpins ‘drone culture’ itself, and all forms of society has become deeply embedded with systems of computation. As such, the (post)human condition is deeply threaded in technology, and so contemporary society is ‘always, already networked’. This approach might lead to a better understanding of the entangled relations of humans and the technical.

 

2 – Drone culture is vectoral. It collapses space, it transforms space

 

The development of technological networks allows information to travel faster than the speed of human movement, leading to a transformation of how we perceive the world. Rob discussed the ‘remote otherness’ reported by drone operators. Drone operators are ‘tapped-in’ to the network as they negotiate various flows of information and surveil geographical spaces from afar.

 

3 – The symptoms of drone culture are not simply detected ‘over there’ – but it also has a local impression

 

Rob also highlighted the significance of Lincolnshire in British ariel power, with the geography and agricultural history of the county long bound with military operation. In particular, the British fleet of Reaper Drones currently in action in Waziristan is controlled and operated from Waddington, a local R.A.F base.

 

4 – Drone culture requires us to do something – there is a need for aesthetic intervention

 

The visual representation of the drone provides a paradox: whilst we might recognise the image of the ‘drone’ object, it merely leaves a vague after impression that is hard to fully pin down. As a result a number of artists have attempted to ‘open up’ and intervene politically and aesthetically. Rob gave a number of great examples to provide inspiration for student work, which are designed to disrupt continuity of drone culture – making visible the contours of this mode of power.

 

5 – Operation of vectoral power imbedded in our own everyday lives. Operates not externally but on us and through us.

 

It is perhaps not news to hear that we live in surveillance culture where our everyday activities and communications are constantly monitored and quantified. Recent revelations from Edward Snowden has exposed the full extent of this, with revelations about N.S.A’s PRISM initiative highlighting how the N.S.A has been routinely aggregating data from commercial servers, monitoring and manipulating this to ‘visualise’ recognisable patterns. Ultimately this underscores that vectoral power operates through this ‘patterning of life’. Incidentally, this is how aerial drones operate – they scan the land for recognisable patterns, whilst information flows are scanned for recognisable relationships.

 

6 – Drone culture pulls the future into the present

Given the undetermined nature of drone culture, it largely remains speculative, imaginary and futuristic. Rob demonstrated how science fiction is becoming part of the aesthetic of the every day, and is used to transform and shape future activities and action. McKenzie Wark has claimed that is necessary to keep pace with these cultural and political transformations, to create interruptions to the smooth functioning of vectoral power. The work and discussions developed during co_LAB provides an opportunity for students to engage in aesthetic and politcial interventions, to imagine new futures.

Rob ended the talk by highlighting that as an individual drones are powerless, but together they create something powerful – that they exceed the sum of its individual parts. This was a greta point, and exemplifies the collaborative nature that co_LAB is aiming to encourage.

 

co_LAB – Workshop Day 1

So the wait is finally over, the workshop phase of co_LAB is upon us and we have a great schedule planned for the week. Yesterday saw the event kick off in style, with a brilliant introductory discussion from Dr. Rob Coley (L.S.M) about the aesthetic, cultural and political characteristics of the ‘drone’ – which will represent the focus of student concepts throughout the project. This talk revealed that drone culture goes far beyond military uses of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, drawing attention to a number of ways contemporary society is entangled in a vast, global techno-political network.

 

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Rob also provided some great inspiration for student work, discussing a number of contemporary artists and theorists who have attempted to intervene and engage in this cultural development, including Mckenzie Wark’s notion of ‘vectoral power’, and James Bridle’s recent project, Drone Shadows. By drawing full-scale outlines of a Predator drone in various city locations across the globe, Bridle directly addresses the paradox of invisibility within drone culture, drawing attention to the fact that the operation of drone culture is ‘hidden in plain sight.’

 

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We were also lucky enough to see some drones in action, with Dr. John Murray from School of Social Computing demonstrating a number of U.A.V’s he is involved in developing. He discussed the potential uses of drones, highlighting the ways in which these technologies are being incorporated into a whole range of agricultural and meteorological monitoring of the environment.

 

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After lunch, students were able to reflect on this information and discuss their potential concepts within their groups. Students were then tasked to present their initial ideas, which was a chance for other participants to offer some feedback to further develop these ideas.

Pre-workshop Day 9

Hello and welcome to the final Pre-workshop blog post!

That’s right, the daily blog update for this phase of the project has reached its final post. From now on, the blog will change its role, acting from Monday onwards as a summary of what has happened during each day of the workshop.

On Monday we are all meeting from 09.15 in/outside room MB3202. That’s on the 3rd floor of the main building. You can take the lift or use the stairs on the sides of the building. The stairs in the Atrium won’t take you all the way to the 3rd floor.

There’s just one update to inform you about regarding the exciting prospect of lunches… the plan is to have the University provide the catering for Monday & Tuesday, while the rest of the week we can decide (the day before) on some external catering. Some suggestions for this include Subway Platters and Dominoes Pizzas. We’re sure you can come up with others too. While we do have a budget for providing lunch, it’s not vast, so be realistic and, sadly, we can’t spend it on alcohol… so that rules out a group visit to Weatherspoon’s for a Beer & Burger!

On the Monday, lunch will be provided in MC2113B (the place we met on Tuesday before the pub) at 13.00 and will be a cold buffet. Tuesday’s lunch is an upgraded warm buffet (which is usually pretty decent) and will be served in MB3203 around 13.30.

We are going to provide kettles, coffee, tea, sugar and mugs so we can remain hydrated and focused. We will also try and provide fresh milk but if you have any special requirements (such as a dairy-free diet), could you please bring in your own substitutes.

Now that the important things have been sorted out, use this weekend to have a quick break before co_LAB start’s properly, but please take a few minutes to contribute to the task you were set on Wednesday. It’ll make Monday far more productive.

We’re all looking forward to getting started!

The co_LAB team