Wednesday, May 26, 2010

...Geeky Girls...

Today I went to the first Limerick GeekGirl Dinner taking place in La Cucina. Well... actually, due to other events happening at the same time, Marion, Sophia and myself arrived for the after-dinner-coffee. Still, it was very nice. I find this kind of meetings inspiring.

The fact that it was 'girls dinner' was also nice. OK, I know that 'boys' can also be invited, and I'm far from bringing up gender issues here but I do believe there is a different dynamic of such women's groups. (I think I'm still influenced by Clarissa Pinkola Estes's book ) There is also something nice in the name of the event - Geek Girls Dinner. It is not 'techno women' or 'geeky ladies' - it is 'Girls'! As if we are not really serious people with jobs, companies, diplomas etc. It implies fun! It declares that we can sit there together, laugh, joke and feel that we belong... Oh yes we do! We are 'Girls'! :-)

Looking forward to the next meeting!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

...presentation on my project - part II...

...then I moved on to describing what previous research I have found:

Friday, April 23, 2010

...presentation on my project - part I ...

Today most of people from my class had presentations about their final projects: ideas behind, inspirations, users, plans, difficulties, literature... basically - everything! I was the first one to go at 9 a.m. :-) I'll describe here more details of my presentation:

Yes, I am going to work on a piece of equipment that was created more than ten years ago. I think it is good to have some reference point while working on my dissertation (taking into account the time constraints). Also, I felt it is a pity that a piece of equipment that could be in use is standing somewhere in the dusty corner of the workshop.
Here is the plan of my presentation:

I surprised a small all-morning-birds-audience with a short exercise borrowed from a choreographer Gideon Obarzanek - shaking parts of your body! two minutes of shaking and we all seemed to be more awake :-)

I moved to explaining what LiteFoot actually is:

LiteFoot is an interactive floor developed at University of Limerick as a result of collaboration between Interaction Design Centre, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems (Mikael Fernstrom, Niall Griffith and Liam Bannon) and Irish World Music Centre. It was designed as a tool supporting dance research and training, as well as facilitating choreographic experimentation. It was designed according to requirements expressed by dance researchers and practitioners, in particular, with the user input from traditional Irish dancer Catherine Foley.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

...diving in sound...

This week was also a time of demonstrating Final Year Projects by Undergraduate Students of Digital Media Design and Music, Media and Performance Technology. Due to our own duties, I couldn't see many projects. However, together with Sophia, we took an evening walk to PESS building at UL for a unique experience of Maeve Garvan's interactive Audio Aquatic Installation.

I think they started earlier then it was planned but we managed to come before the end. I have to say, it was a very nice piece of art. Both visual and audio experience were satisfying my personal aesthetic. It was only after the Performance, when I managed to get to the poster and read the concept behind. Therefore, while watching/listening I could concentrate purely on emotions evoked in me, not the technicalities. However, after having read description, I could also appreciate attempt to engage audience and incorporate them into creation of the piece by the use of infrared sensors. One pity - the access to the visual part of the piece was quite limited, due to the construction of diving tank in PESS building and only few windows :-(

It was one of those experiences that make time slow down. It calmed me down and left me with positive, reflective mood for the rest of the night. Thank you Maeve and congratulations!
Thanks Sophia, for taking me there!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

...Lighthouse eleMENTAL...

Yesterday joined forces of Master Students in Music Technology and Interactive Media at UL presented their outdoor projection on Plassey House building at UL: Lighthouse eleMENTAL!

This was one of the assignments for Contemporary Art in the Public Realm module. A huge challenge for us as we did not have much experience in outdoor projections before. There was not much time for preparations because up till Easter we worked on IWAMD installations project. Also, the big projector we planned to use had to be repaired over Easter break. For the last week, all five groups worked very hard and managed to create five short video-animation clips which formed the content of projection. The general theme was 5 elements, agreed to be:

1. Earth

2. Wind

3. Fire

4. Water

5. Spirit/Heart

(check out other Lette's photos!)

Creative Process:
I was working within Earth-group: Louisa Donnelly, Alan Gleeson, Colette Keely and Peng Lu.
More than a month ago, we started from brainstorming and sketching ideas.

Meanwhile, the choice was made about the venue of our projection:

The white facade of Plassey House at UL. It seems to be an excellent location, as people can watch the show both from the Living Bridge and from the lawn in front of the building.
Our group decided to go along with the idea of the tree composed of bits of technology growing from the ground. All groups got a photo of Plassey's facade from Aladdin. It served as a template for creating graphics, animations and effects that would later match the shape of the building.
On Monday, we went out to test rough versions of clips, projector and MaxMSP patch (kindly provided by Oisin Lavery from Tricycle Interactive). We had to measure distance between projector and Plassey House, check settings etc. Results were promising, what motivated us to work even harder towards the final results :-)


On the night of the show we were really concentrated. One could feel some tension in our lab during last hours before projection. MusTech guys did not have much time to complete music and sound fx but they did a brilliant job! Finally, the time came...

everything went fine! Apart from some technical problems with projector, just before the credits :-) A lot of our friends came - lecturers, families, colleagues etc. - we got a very positive feedback. It is always a rewarding experience!

What a relief!!! :-)

First, quickly put together videos available:
- thanks to Sophie -> here
- thanks to Lette -> here
(this one also contains credits sequence starting at 18:13)

More videos on the way!!! :-)

Friday, March 26, 2010 vs. design...

Today Eanna gave a presentation on The relation between Art & Design. We had a bit of a discussion later. It seems difficult to draw ultimate conclusions in this subject.

I have a weird, not really defined attitude to art. I have been called artist before in my life, yet I'm still not sure if I like this 'tag'. Art seems to be something that I aspire to and, at the same time, laugh at :-)

I think design needs to be more user aware. Art is often allowed to be ignorant towards audience. Whether it should be like this? I have no idea.

One thing I know for sure: design can be art! Just look at this, this, this or this :-) Pretty, aren't they?

As I like to show what smarter then me people have to say, I recommend watching TED talk by Paolla Antonelli. Enjoy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

...give power to patients...

I like to have my cup coffee in the morning. Quite often I switch on my laptop and watch one of TED or PopTech talks enjoying both the drink and inspiring ideas. Some time ago, I watched Jamie Heywood's talk on TED and Haiad Sindi's PopTech talk. Both made me think, once more, about the scope and complexity of healthcare issues we face in nowadays world, also from the interaction design perspective.

Today, Cristiano Storni from IDC gave us a talk on healthcare, technology and the role of participative design. It was a nice supplementary to what girls presented a week before.
Cristiano explained some issues of mobile technology used by patients and briefly explained research he carries out as part of FutureComm. The main focus of that research were patients with diabetes. It was of a particular interest to me, as my mother has type 2 diabetes. Some time ago, her and myself were discussing the functionality and form of those devices she uses every day to monitor glucose level in blood. Here they are:

Glucose meter:

Piece of paper:

My Mom developed this condition only in recent years so her experience cannot be compared to patients who live their whole life with diabetes. If it comes to various health problems among older generation, one may be tempted to assume that certain inconveniences in everyday life are simply part and parcel of aging. That is exactly how a vast number of people, including those experiencing those inconveniences, think. They accept the status quo.
We - designers, who are more aware of opportunities created by technology - shouldn't.

What I liked the most about Cristiano's talk, was emphasis on understanding the patient and involving them in the design process. He introduced the concept of 'reductionism' which means reducing the role of patient in the healthcare system. Cristiano explained, starting from the beginnings of modern healthcare, through its current state, how patients are treated as 'less important'. Of course, it was not a critique of particular doctors - rather a reflection upon mental models underlying the structure of hospitals, clinics, even the design of stethoscope - a doctor gets to know/hear something about your own body that you don't know . He stressed the need for more holistic approach to the patient, who is not only another case of particular illness but a very different subject, with different everyday life, different needs etc. than fellow patients. He also mentioned that 'empowering patient' is a common postulate these days. However, as good as the phrase sounds, this 'empowerment' should be defined and explained. I now slightly simplify what Cristiano said but I hope message conveyed remains the same.

I found the talk inspiring. I am aware that healthcare is one of the most developing domains as companies can foresee future profits from current research. For me advances in healthcare are interesting for more naive reason - if something can help reduce the discomfort of an ill person, help in therapy, give a hope for more 'normal' life, it is more interesting than another amazing game console etc. Simple thinking, I know.

When brainstorming on my FYP, I had an idea of adjusting LiteFoot for therapeutic purposes e.g. to facilitate autistic children therapy. However, the scope of research necessary for such a project seemed too big for me to afford it within our masters. Although I decided to go a different path, this idea is still at the back of my head and I keep an eye on related to this issue research e.g. I've read about interactive floors' application for hearing impaired children with a cochlear implant.

While exploring the subject, I have found other inspiring talks related to healthcare e.g.:
Josh Nesbits on Mobile Healthcare

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

...what does it mean to be a designer...

A few days ago, Triona, Lucy and Fionn gave a very thought provoking talk about 'design sensibility'. We were asked by Gabriela to describe what 'being a designer' means to us, personally?

It is not a new question to me. I believe that everyone who attempts to pursue a career in any field of design, whether it is graphic design, product design, fashion, interaction etc., has to ask themselves at some stage: who I really want to become and what role I am going to play in society?

Whenever I try to understand something, I start from the very basic descriptions, simple explanations that, surprisingly many times, capture the gist. Those can be often found among children. Kids have this amazing skill of simplifying complexity in a way which one forgets while growing up. Although their 'definitions' may seem infantile, they frequently manage to encapsulate true nature of things. This time I also decided to use 'child's brains' and go back to my own innocent childhood days.

I remember knowing word 'designer' quite early in my life. I suppose I first got it to know while watching fashion shows on TV. Next, interior designers entered the world of my vocabulary. This word always sounded a bit mysterious - like 'magician' but slightly different one. I clearly remember that I had this picture in my mind of a person who knows/has a power to give the right shape to things. I was convinced, that for example, if designer is given a simple table, they know how to carve its legs, what colour of paint use etc. As a result, the table was given a proper 'shape' - looked nicer, fitted better into the room etc.
To summarize, me-child thought: designer is a person who gives the right shape.

After all the years of my education, also design oriented, I have to admit that I agree with me-child. The same definition still works for me! Of course, now I would expand 'giving shape' also to shaping experiences, shaping interactions etc. I am also aware that designer's knowledge what the desired shape is, results rather from being a diligent student of the world around, not from magical powers.

Another explanation of who designer is, comes from my fascination with languages. I love to play with words, find hidden meanings, unusual collocations etc. Let's look at design.
'To sign', apart from putting down ones own signature, means to write a name on something, possibly explaining what the object is. Using Apple Widget Dictionary, such a note may be ' publicly displayed giving information or instructions in a written or symbolic form'. Quoting the same source, a sign may be a 'gesture or action used to convey information or instructions'.
Having checked a meaning of the prefix 'de-', we discover that it usually indicates some change in minus, getting rid of something or signifies the 'opposite' object/concept to the one following this prefix, e.g.: de-gradation, de-motivation.
What do we get, if we analyze 'design' using this knowledge? 'Design' seems something opposite to sign! 'Designer' so, would be a person who - by performing their work - eliminates the need for signs; 'removes' signs from objects by...
...I believe, it happens by giving them the right shape :-)

I know those two explanations above are rather playful then scientific. However, I have a feeling that they reflect a true nature of being a designer. Once we acknowledge these basics, we can proceed to thinking over nuances and complexities of designers' work.

One last thing:
I want to add one more idea to my childhood notion of a designer. I believe that designers have 'power' to shape the future...
I encourage to give this idea a thought and recommend watching PopTech talk on 'Pioneering Design' by Lorrie Vogel.

* * * mindmap on the subject coming up soon * * *

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

...Oh My Dear Computer, save me!...

...or my reflections on a conversation between Liam Bannon and Brian O'Donovan 'Confronting the Crisis: Can Technology Save Us?' held by Institute for the Study of Knowledge in Society.

coming up soon

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Two consecutive days of encounters with Fernando Orellana, made me think again about my relation to art... or rather to the concept of 'being an artist'.

I really enjoyed he day of workshop with Arduino board (to be honest, I was quite disappointed that we didn't have two more sessions of workshop as it was promised to us). As I'm not experienced in hacking, circuit bending, wireing, soldering etc. I didn't manage to build anythng spectacular. I had a lot of though and feel encouraged to experiment more. Also, the way Fernando was explaining technical things appealed to me. I butchered my robot R.V. to get to motors from his legs. It wasn't easy, emotionally.

In our group we managed to successfully go through blinking-LED-switching examples. Finally, using pulse modulation, we created pseudo-hypnotic spiral, that I really liked!

Fernando pointed out that Duchamp made a similar device in one of his motor based artworks. I looked it up online. Indeed, together with Man Ray, he did some optical experiments. I was glad that with our first experiments we get conceptually close to this class of artists - especially that I like a lot of Man Ray's photographs.

Today we attended Orellana's talk about his art. Some pieces presented by him were from the field of robotics, however, he also showed some paintings. Strangely enough for iMedia student, I was impressed especially by the latter. From mechanic instalations, I liked Extruder in particular: the whole Henry Ford concept behind the artwork and the prettiness of little Play-Doh cars. I believe, my perception of Fernando Orellana would be a lot poorer if I hadn't seen his drawings. The fact that today he mentioned his Fine Arts background made me feel more comfortable - 'oh he is not just a computer geek'.

As I took a lot of photos during Arduino workshop, I uploaded them and sent link to Fernando. In his reply he wrote that I "have a good eye" :-) I don't really know the guy but this opinion means quite a lot to me. I kind of know that I am not bad at photography. It was something I wanted to do since my childhood. Some of my friends really like my works. However, it is very different if my friends or my Mom admire my photos. It is uplifting when someone with artistic sensitivity and knowledge says a good word about your work.

All these made me re-think what art means to me.
When I was really young, I wanted to be an artist cause I thought it is realy 'cool'. I had this notion of beter people, gifted in some miraculous way by gods. A few years ago, I started thinking about 'art' and 'artists' as something hugely overrated. Many times it is just a label, not diffferent from the brand labels of popular clothing.

These days, I'm not sure what my position is...

I'm just hoping to finally get my T-shirt printed:

'I'm not an artist,
I'm a human being'

Saturday, February 27, 2010

...friends's support, private space and Unabomber ...

While doing her own research my friend Marion found a video which relates to my project's topic. It's here. I started e-digging and found their website. The piece, however it might look like one, is not a display on the floor. It is based on projection! Both camera tracking movement and the projector are hanging above. Those are connected to a PC computer running custom software for tracking peoples' movements and generating Vonroi diagram projected back on the floor.

This intriguing piece of art, called 'Boundary Functions', was created by Scott Snibbe, American interactive media artist, researcher and entrepreneur. It reflects on perception of one's personal space. By projecting the Vonroi diagram lines, it attempts to materialize the notion of intangible boundaries existing between people. What is particularly interesting for me, this installation is functional only with more than one person present. It is exactly the effect that I was hoping to achieve in the IV idea for final project! I wanted to encourage people to interact between each other in order to fully appreciate an interactive piece. The deeper meaning would be making a statement that these are in fact other human beings that matter in terms of interactions, not technology itself. It is, so far, my strong conviction :-)

One more reflection...
...I read the description of
'Boundary Functions' and, to my amazement, I found out that the piece was named after Theodore Kaczynski's 1967 Phd thesis at the University of Michigan. Yes, the last name sounds Polish, indeed. Kaczynski was born in a second generation of Polish-Americans, but it is not the most important part. To those who haven't come across his name so far - Theodore Kaczynski is better known as Unabomber and was responsible for sending over a dozen of bombs to targets including universities and airlines. In his 'Unabomber Manifesto' he argued that 'his bombings were extreme but necessary to attract attention to the erosion of human freedom necessitated by modern technologies requiring large-scale organization'.

The installation 'Boundary Functions' derives its message from the case of Kaczynski as an example of 'the conflict and compromise of engaging in society versus solitude and individuality uncompromised by the thoughts or presence of others'. Hmmm... the description of the piece took me to another level of understanding it. I have to admit, I like the message. However, I get to a point of a tiny conflict. On one hand, having worked with photography for a long time, I highly appreciate if the piece explains itself. On the other hand, although tend to explore deeper meanings in things around me, there was not a hope that I would 'guess' artist's concept behind 'Boundary Functions' without reading the piece's description! OK, Google does mention T.J.Kaczynski: Boundary Functions at the 3rd place for Boundary Functions search. So you say, if I investigated enough, I would find out the connection. I'm afraid, I still wouldn't. Kaczynski is quite popular Polish last name and I wouldn't guess immediatly that 'T.J.' stands for 'Theodore John'... and I wouldn't suspect Unabomber to have anything in common with an interactive installation! Am I not smart enough? Or maybe contemporary interactive pieces do require a bit of background explanation for audience, to fully appreciate the concept? I remember more in-gallery situations when my initial puzzlement disappeared thanks to even short explanation of the concept. Interesting issue...

Btw. Maybe I wasn't an intellectual child prodigy, but I had no major problems while learning; I am kind of 1st generation of Irish-Polish; I would love to do PhD; I did read Thoreau's 'Walden' ; I do like sending real letters; next week we have Arduino workshop and this is how my first attempts with Arduino during Tweak looked like:

Don't worry!!! I believe that smiling and talking to people can be more powerful that bombs... and I believe in satyagraha :-)

Oki doki... does anyone know by any chance, where is LiteFoot in this post?!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

...meeting people helps...

I had a lovely pizza-making evening with some of the MusTech guys :-) I also met there a really nice girl that is currently doing Master course in dance!!! I talked to her a bit about my project and got a positive response. Hopefully, I'll be able to cooperate with one of the dancers towards completion of my project.

This proves how important socializing is! :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

...what a coincience...

While working on video footage for artistic installation (for Contemporary Art In the Public Realm module) I found a very interesting piece of recording. In the pile of VHS tapes, DAT tapes and DVDs given to my group, there was a recording of... Catherine Foley dancing on a Litefoot! :-)

I believe it is a sign :-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Mobility is an interesting subject in design and computing. However, it is not particularly related to my Litefoot-based project. 1.76 meter square and 10 centimetres high piece of the interactive floor doesn't seem to fit well into the concept of 'mobility' but one thing that comes to my mind. If we imagine Litefoot floor as a part of equipment of performance centres, there could be a possibility of travelling just with software - designed to display e.g. particular visual effects. If we compare travelling with software to the situations where performers travel with their own decorations, it could be just another way of doing things. I am aware that it sounds like wishful futuristic predictions... but you never know.

Here is a mind map in which I tried to capture interesting for me aspects of mobility

Monday, February 15, 2010

...hopefully 'THE' FYP proposal...

I usually have hundreds ideas a minute, therefore all previous posts and sketches. I had a serious brainstorming going on in my head during the first semester.

After lecture regarding final projects I was inspired by the Litefoot. I had seen Litefoot video before and really enjoyed the idea. When I heard that technology within Litefoot may be updated and the develepoment of the prototype may be moved a step further, I felt it might be a very interesting project for me to continue.

The idea behind my project is resurgence of Litefoot interactive floor that was initially developed at the University of Limerick by M. Fernstrom and Niall Griffith in 1997 ( My project will involve reusing hardware in the existing LiteFoot sensor floor, replacing the old microcontroller with Arduino and designing new PD/GEM based object to capture/sonify/visualize the movement.
As another friend from my class is interested in working with LiteFoot, we could possibly work on the hardware together. However, we have different intentions of using LiteFoot armed in newer technology.

I would like to make it possible for a dancer to use LiteFoot as a tool enhancing audience‘s experience of the dance performance. I want to be able to get not only X and Y coordinates from the floor surface, but also Z coordinate of the vertical axis and map them to certain parameters of sound or graphics. I’m also considering using other sensors, which a dancer could wear, that would help them establish more direct link between their performance and visual or auditory display. My aim would be to find the balance between control allowed for a dancer and randomness of effects created by software.

As I do not have programming background it is difficult to for me to imagine, at this stage, the exact effect that I would like to achieve. I usually pick up new skills fairly easy so hopefully with a certain amount of guidance I can build up my programming ability.
As a final stage of my work I imagine setting up a contemporary dance performance. It will require collaboration with a dancer during development of the project and their participation in the final piece.

...FYP idea IV...

The fourth idea was dealing with changing interaction from human focusing on technology and isolating from other people to human interacting with other people to explore technology.

I was interested in constructing a half-transparent screen that would display fractal-like graphics only if touched in the same area from both sides. This device, displayed e.g. in the art gallery, would encourage people to interact and plan interaction with the screen to acquire the effect of graphical animation. Nowadays, technology so often isolates people from each other. This project would work towards facilitating communication between people in order to benefit from technology. It could be done using motion tracking equipment on both sides of the screen and e.g. Open Framework software.

...FYP idea III...

My third idea also involved generating some sounds. I was thinking of creating an area where a lot of ‚cables‘ would hang of the ceiling (or some construction above people’s heads). When one enters the area, different sounds would be generated depending on the way that person moves the cables .

...FYP idea I and II...

Initially I was thinking of developing a device facilitating some therapies e.g. helping in children development. I even contacted one specialist in pedagogy, who I could possibly consult in terms of the specialistic knowledge. Unfortunately, due to the distance in space and busy schedule of my friend, I had to give up that idea.

I started looking at my other interests and ways of combining them with sound. One was – humanities esp. issues of ethics. I had always been interested in the contept of truth, lies and reasons for the latter. I imagined a situation when a person is exposed to a number of questions, some of them touching very private issues, and has to give the answers ‚yes‘ or ‚no‘. No one is witnessing the answers, but at the same time, through a polygraph like device impulsed are being sent to the computer. Those could be then transformed, according to a certain key, into musical expression.

I was hoping to create some musical composition of the collection of data from various people – ‚symphony of liars‘.

I really like this idea, although I think it touches too delicate issues and might meet a lot of negative reactions. I gave up working on this as the final project, I might think about it in future, though.

Monday, February 8, 2010

...visual thinking: part I - mind mapping...

Today I had a presentation about Mind Maps, as the first part of the Visual Thinking presentation we prepared together with Rachel.

Mind mapping is a useful technique developed by Tony Buzan. It helps to activate ones brain and can be used for many different purposes: learning, self-reflection, brainstorming etc. Buzan wrote many books, not only on mind mapping but also speed reading, mnemonics etc. In this video on YouTube he describes basic rules behind mind mapping. I believe that by practicing drawing mind maps one can actually master this technique following Buzan's rules. However, as usually, I would like to adapt his concept slightly - 'one word per branch' rule does not always work for me... and I also like to limit the colours range a bit.

Here is my personal mind map on mind mapping :-)

We finished today's lecture with a little mind map drawing exercise: we formed pairs, went downstairs to the canteen and while enjoying tea, coffee and chitchat, each person created mind map about their assigned partner. I hope the group enjoyed the activity. Their created awesome mind maps which has been displayed on the back wall of iMedia Lab :-)

I encourage everyone to try and draw a few mind maps e.g. about themselves, their interests, their plans for following months etc. You can find plenty of online tutorials showing how to draw mind maps. I like this particular video explaining the basics. The most important piece of advice: do not be afraid of the white blank page in front of you! Those who are not keen on hand drawings might try one of the available mind mapping software :-) Good Luck!

More resources on Visual Thinking on our Wiki page.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

...three, two, one, GO!...

Two days ago I started new semester of my iMedia studies at University of Limerick. Before, I had great holidays in covered with thick layer of snow Poland. However, it feels good to be back, doing things that I enjoy so much :-)

I am a bit concerned if I can manage with my final project but I am also very enthusiastic :-) There are so many great people around, that it is definitely worth to be here for another couple of months (at least!).

From now on, this weblog will serve as my virtual diary. Initially, I planned to recycle one of the e-places that I had already inhabited some time ago. However, I gave it a second thought and decided to start from scratch - from some kind of virtual/mental tabula rasa - devoting this place especially to what happens in my brain while next moths (at least, some chunk of it). I want to learn being more systematic in my work as well as I am going to attempt being more precise in expressing my ideas and opinions.

Moreover, I believe that words, once they get out of one's head and materialise on paper or computer screen... become more real; they move from some meta-level towards tactile being.

Wish me luck!