Workshop Day 4

Todays workshop kicked off with some physical and mental exercises, with Graham Cooper (L.S.M) getting participants up on their feet in a series of activities designed to highlight the strength of collaboration and positive thought, in addition to demonstrating how we use different sides of our brain for creative and rational thinking. Not only was this a bit of fun, it was also highly relevant to discussions we have been having about learning styles and approaches to creative thinking throughout the week.

 

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Next up we had Clive McCarthy from Interactive Design (A.A.D), who discussed an art installation / piece of critical design he was involved with a few years ago, which attempted to visualise popular ‘trending tweets’. The project attempted to turn Twitter into a pure visual trending engine by wiring an Phidget board to a series of L.E.D lights. The 6 bulbs each represented a particular subject which would ‘light-up’ each time a ‘tweet’ would be published regarding that subject. By juxtaposing more serious ‘newsworthy’ stories (such as the crisis in Syria, The Arab Spring, etc.) alongside ‘pop culture’ references (like Justin Bieber), the trending engine highlighted the absurdity of contemporary networked communications, as the pop culture references would generally receive a far higher amount of ‘trending’ activity. Clive was keen to underscore that student work should always set out to ‘question’ – that creative design should be informed by a critical research question.

 

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In line with the open and flexible approach to teaching that underpins the co_LAB ethos, throughout the week students have been asked to make suggestions for possible workshop content via a shared Google Doc. One of the most popular requests was for more information about application development and design. In response to this, James Field (L.S.M) presented a case study of an application he has recently designed (more information about concept development can be found on James’ brilliant blog), and gave some invaluable advice about the importance of market research for developing design concepts.

 

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James also gave some advice for designing team posters, which the teams will produce in tomorrows workshop. These posters will represent the output for all group concepts, and are due to be exhibited during the forthcoming ‘As Above, So Below’ event. The rest of the day focussed on further concept development, with lecturers ‘dropping-in’ on group discussions to deliver feedback and advice.

 

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.

 

Call for Participants

This is a call for student participants to be involved in an exciting interdisciplinary, transmedia project which seeks to explore and develop new approaches to collaborative teaching and learning. co_LAB represents a great opportunity to work on a project that blurs the boundaries of specialised skill and knowledge learning. This project will also offer you the chance to meet and collaborate with staff and students studying across a number of schools within the College of Arts.

co_LAB is an intensive programme taking place between 12-16 May, 2014, featuring additional online content and a number of practice and skills workshops. We are looking for enthusiastic participants made up from current Level 2 students from across Media Production, Audio Production, Film and Television, Contemporary Lens Media, and Interactive Design.

What’s in it for you:

  • Networking – discover other talented artists and practitioners
  • Shape the way you learn by having more autonomy in curriculum development
  • Develop a new outlook on your role within the education system
  • Discover new approaches to conceptual and practical production
  • Share your voice on challenging debates
  • Get your work exhibited at a public-facing event
  • Counts as extra-curricular activity for the ‘Lincoln Award’
  • So, you’re interested… what’s next?

If you would like to be considered please send a brief statement (about 500 words should do it) outlining why we should pick you, what your key skills are, what would you bring to the project and what you expect to get out of the experience.

We also require a short CV (max 1-page) highlighting any experience you have in collaborative working, any production skills you have, previous projects you have been involved with and any extra-curricular activities you have undertaken.

We will be holding an informal briefing on the project for all who may wish to take part but want to find out a little more information on Wednesday 19th March, 15.00 in room MC2113B (2nd floor MHT).