Advanced Multimedia Authoring – Week 02

Classwork

Getting my hands on a Wii remote (Wiimote) in the studio was a surprisingly inspiring experience. What was essentially a class of playing Wii games, gave me a taste of what this controller is capable of outputting. It is clearly more sensitive than I expected, with the ability to send parameters from subtle movements, through to sweeping gestures. With my earlier look into OSCulator for Sound Media, it wasn’t long before I stole one of the controllers away from the Wii console and connected it up to my MacBook.

OSCulator makes it obscenely simple to get data from the Wiimote. It’s just a few short steps from first connecting the MacBook and Wiimote via Bluetooth, to getting OSCulator to change the Wiimote data into MIDI and sending it on to Ableton. Whilst my setup is still clearly unrefined, it was just a matter of minutes before I was using the Wiimotes as drumsticks to trigger Ableton’s inbuilt drum machine, Impulse.

OSCulator sending Wiimote data to Live as MIDI

(My apologies for the following video – the quality is poor (a pocket HD camera is on the shopping list) and the drumming is equally terrible. It’s just here to show the rudimentary nature of where the OSCulator/Live connectivity process is at right now..)

I was clearly giddy with excitement. OSCulator can act as a router for the data being sent from the Wiimote and move it to multiple programs for different purposes. For instance, Processing for visuals and Ableton for sound. In fact, I’m now starting to lean toward using Ableton instead of Pure Data for the audio side of my project, because OSCulator will make it so easy to gather interactive data.

Research

My concept has shifted after spending time with the Wiimotes also. Instead of creating an interactive work, which will essentially play with one gesture (think Wii Sports), I am now interested in doing some research into the feasibility of a performance work. This is an entirely foreign world to me and because it will add the stress of reliance on other people, it may be a difficult choice.

Echo by United Visual Artists is a work that I keep coming back to when coming up with a concept, and I’ve returned to it again when thinking about my project for Multimedia Authoring. It’s a stunning combination of the physical and virtual, and whilst they are using a 3D camera to capture the movement of the performers in this work, it’s not a huge leap between that idea and capturing the movement of dancers with Wiimotes.

Echo by United Visual Artsists. Performed at Teatro Sociale di Como, Italy.

Echo by United Visual Artsists. Performed at Teatro Sociale di Como, Italy.

It was also the performance of Somaya Langley at Liquid Architecture last month that led me to consider a different tack. Langley presented a work that used sensors within her clothing to create an AV experience. It was quite engaging to watch physical movements have an auditory effect (as an aside, there is an interesting article on CDMusic discussing some of the issues surrounding electronic performance). With a growing focus on performance at my night, Concrete, I think it makes a lot of sense to continue combining my interests and develop something greater than the sum of its parts.

The reading for this week was A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century (Haraway, Donna). The problem I have with the limited amount of feminist and socialist literature that I have read, is that it seems determined to focus on the negative – almost bent on perpetuating itself, by not moving forward (regardless of the rhetoric). I don’t doubt that there is value in many of these ideas, but I often have a difficult time wading through the language used within this writing, so that I’m able to find these concepts. The repetition of stereotypes and catch-phrases distracts me from seeing the positive message. Having said that though, there were certainly nuggets of gold to be found within this wordy piece of writing.

Haraway’s primary idea (before disappearing into well-trod socialist territory) was that of a cyborg future, where the male-defined roles of women would be erased, almost completely. The cyborg would remove the distinction of sex, thus freeing women from these roles, including sexual reproduction.

“The actual situation of women is their integration/exploitation into a world system of production/reproduction and communication called the informatics of domination… The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists must code.” (p. 163)

These are actually quite interesting points in a time where the cyborg is no longer science fiction. When much of the media surrounding the cyborg cites ‘loss of humanity’ as an ultimate evil, Haraway seems to encourage it, for this very reason. Removing boundaries like race and gender, the cyborg introduces a new and interesting question of identity.

Although we may not yet have computer chips implanted into our brains, we are in fact not far short of becoming Haraway’s vision of the cyborg right now. Our connectivity to the computer and internet has already begun a process of breaking down the traditional white, male constructed definitions which border us. My immediate response to Haraway’s idea is: once these barriers have been broken down, what will take its place?

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