Tag: Sentient Spaces


Feel-o-Meter Feels for a Whole City

In cities across Germany, Big Brother looks like a smiley face. The Fühlometer, a piece by Julius von Bismarck, Benjamin Maus, and Richard Wilhelmer, uses security cameras and sophisticated software to ‘read’ the faces of pedestrians, and then categorize them according to their emotions. The giant robot mirrors the mood of the city’s inhabitants, and perhaps encourages them to put on a happy face… or else.

Via Io9


Sympathy for the Device

Tweenbots are small robots that depend on the kindness of strangers. They are only able to move straight forward and do this constantly. Once they get stuck in a hole or at a curb, surrounding people have to move, turn or tilt them to have them reach their destination. Every Tweenbot arrived sooner or later at the address on its label. This implies that people were eager to help this little fellah with its big smiling face. But why are people doing this? Be it due to the instincts to help and protect inferior beings, politeness or empathy – these are all behavioral patterns seen in human relationships rather than interactions with objects.

On the contrary, users freak out if their high-end laptop is not working instantaneously, but have understanding for this dull cardboard robot. Passers-by turn away if another human needs help, but advising this robot “you can’t go this way, it’s toward the road” or walk it with their umbrella to protect it from rain. This experimental device unveils deeply rooted behavioral patterns, which are normally overruled by culture. It is amazing to see how this little piece of technology breaks through that wall and naturalizes our culture for the blink of an eye – welcome to next nature, Neanderthals.

Manufactured Animals

Augmented Cat beats Dog

Normally a house cat would not stand a chance against a dangerous pit-bull dog. But with a little help of an electric vacuum cleaning robot, supersmart cat Max-Arthur emancipates himself from its presumed fate. Don’t you just love it when old nature and nextnature come together?!

Nextnature Event

Who Watches the Watchers?

In The Watchers, the creative geniuses at Studio Smack picture a world where surveillance systems don’t just watch us – they actively judge.  Are you a green-coded Conformist or a red-alert Intellectual? The tone is paranoid, but it’s a vivid reminder that our technological systems make us as much as we make them. Autonomous algorithms already control our economy, our internet, and our vacuum cleaners. It’s not a stretch to imagine that autonomous cameras will control our security and social spaces. Make sure to wait for the twist ending.

Studio Smack has previously been featured here for Pimp My Planet, Transparency Suit and the utterly eerie Kapitaal. Check out more of their work at the Next Nature Power Show on Saturday.

scarf 1 small

Information Decoration Scarf

Remember the Information Decoration essay which argued our so-called information society barely employs our human bandwidth, as most of the data in our lives is presented in square, electronic screens – rather than using the richness of patterns in our environment as information carrier?

Over time, Information Decoration grew into a design methodology that is applied in numerous times and places. As it would be against its own argument to read the original essay on a computer screen, the text is now also available on an elegant 100% silk scarf. Designed by Mieke Gerritzen.

Run click to the store and toast your neck with it for 69 euro.

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Sentient Spaces

Trading Humans for Trading Algorithms

The economic system and profit motive has been a driving force that steers and even dictates social change. Investors and stockbrokers have been a major influence to these social changes, as they decide where money is allocated to serve a specific function. The reason why money is invested in some rather than other businesses isn’t always related to evidence that any given company will do better than the other. Rumors and trading floor gossip sometimes fuel speculations that reap major profits for some and painful losses for others. Losses that could mean the termination of jobs. Of course investment and successive financial gains can also lead to job losses, mostly due to automation where machines replace human workers.

Now in a strange yet somewhat satisfactory twist of irony, the people who have been making money out of money, have a growing chance of being replaced by faster and cheaper algorithms that can do their jobs better.

“The Foresight Project” by the “Government Office for Science” of the United Kingdom produced a report called “The Future of Computer Trading in Financial Markets” which investigates the trends of computer trading and its effects on financial markets. One of these effects is the replacement of human speculators by algorithms. Thus far about a third of UK trading is done by computers compared to three quarters in the United States.

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elephant noosphere

The Non-Human Noosphere

The definition of the noosphere as “the sphere of human thought on earth” is woefully anthropocentric. It ignores that fact that our fellow sentient organisms have noospheres of their own. Elephants have their own social networks, maintaining close friendships and extended tribes, and keeping touch over long distances through subsonic rumbles.

If the noosphere can loosely be defined as the interaction and interconnection of conscious minds, then clearly cetaceans, wolves, great apes, elephants, and many species of birds have their own forms of a noosphere. Granted, these noospheres are not as large and complex as ours. Humans have telecommunications, the biggest brain-to-body ratio on earth, and the force of numbers – 7 billion of us, versus a few tens of thousands for African elephants, and a few hundred thousand for chimpanzees.

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Theriomorphous Cyborg

The Animal Architecture Awards have just announced the winners of their 2011 contest. Taking first place is Simone Ferracina’s Theriomorphous Cyborg, a (speculative) augmented reality game inspired by Jacob von Uexküll’s notion of the animal umwelt. Not truly architectural, Theriomorphous Cyborg instead shifts how a human participant relates to space and the landscape. Each level in the free-form game takes the player through different modes that relate to the sensory capacities of various animals. Ferracina writes:

“Inspired by migratory birds and their ability to perceive the Earth’s magnetism, LEVEL 1 superimposes the participant’s field of vision with an additional signal consisting of directional color patterns. The gamer learns to navigate space according to his/her own magnetic compass.”

Once the participant has mastered one form of perception, she advances to more outlandish experiments with vision and navigation. Level 3 essentially blinds the player, and replaces his vision with the feed from a series of hacked CCTV cameras. Level 6 covers up billboards with images of bee-friendly flowers. A mouthpiece morphs the user’s words into animal noises, robbing her of the ability to communicate with language. By imagining an animalistic version of future devices, Theriomorphous Cyborg presents a trippy, compelling alternative to the assumption that all technology must be anthropocentric.

Back to the Tribe

Dead Drops

Wikileaks gone physical? Aram Bartholl’s Dead Drops is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessible to anybody in public space. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data.


Let the Algorithms Roam Free

In this TED talk, Kevin Slavin explains how computer algorithms are breaking free of their virtual habitats and changing the physical world to their liking. Through algorithms, humans are starting to understand the physics of culture. Can we use that knowledge to our advantage, or are we just spectators of a game we don’t quite know the rules of?