[-empyre-] closing comments and my response to questions of magic, inciting interest and learning

danielle wilde d at daniellewilde.com
Thu Jun 2 11:18:59 EST 2011

hi all,
my apologies for my absence these past few days - a tumble slowed me down
considerably (one should never run for trains :/ )

First I would like to reflect upon my experience in this month's
conversation, including my perspectives on why it feels like it
stalled/never quite got off the ground. Then I will respond, if I can, to
Johannes question about  *the magic of "bringing us back into contact with
our most visceral freedoms"? and how you distributed it or incited interest
**in body worn technologies as learning tools?*

This is the first online networked conversation I have been involved with so
my reflections may be coloured with assumptions that others find irrelevant
or misplaced. Nonetheless I hope that my comments can contribute to some
kind of growth in the system.

Firstly, "wearable technology" is a beast of a subject. these days arguably
as vast, if not more vast than art & technology (more vast because it does
not have the delimitation of being restricted to artistic contexts). This is
an enormous hurdle to overcome when trying to shape a conversation.

Added to this, the range of discussants was quite vast (from a
discipline/context perspective) and it seems that quite a few of us were not
fully available for the time we committed to. This will always be an issue
as things come up. If we try to think beyond the inevitable unexpected
interferences, we can think a little about the roles we discussants did or
did not play. (I include myself in these comments): Many of us posted a
small introduction without trying to engage the list in a specific
conversation. Many of us did not continue to push when threads offered were
not pursued. when opportunities came up to connect things and support a
conversation, no matter how tenuous, those opportunities were also not taken
- for example my attempt to raise a discussion about processes may have been
able to have been bridged to sarah's desire to discuss methodologies. I'm
not sure if Sarah considered this and rejected the idea, but even if she had
I think it's a nice example to support some reflection around how we might
better support the coming together and conversing of divergent practices and
modes of expression. A difference in vocabulary does not necessarily reflect
a difference in subject matter or interest, but even if it does it can
provide opportunities to bridge and to weave our thoughts together in
provocative ways. I did not do this. Neither did anyone else, for the most
part, throughout. I think this is basically where we fell down (or why we
never actually got off the ground)

I think, particularly with a subject as vast as "wearable technologies",
with discussants from such a broad range of divergent contexts, this kind of
discussion can only be coherent through chance, with pointed effort from
those involved, or with strong guidance. I think we failed on the first two,
which is why I believe this conversation desperately needed a chair. (not
the kind you sit on :) unless your relationship is quite relaxed and

I have been working with body-worn technologies for almost 15 years now.
Ours is not a coherent or cohesive community for many reasons, not least
that the contexts that we work within are broad and divergent. Despite the
difficulty of finding some kind of flow in this conversation I believe that
we should continue to try to do such things as community is important - no
matter how lumpy (and sometimes the lumpier the better, dare I say - so long
as people are willing to engage)

now, to Johannes question about  *the magic of "bringing us back into
contact with our most visceral freedoms"? and how you distributed it or how
you incited interest **in body worn technologies as learning tools?*

I will try to keep my response brief, but the subject is enormous (it's
basically my entire phd). To facilitate my story I will point to some
projects (I'm a practice-based researcher after all).

my doctoral research, Swing That Thing: moving to
move<http://www.daniellewilde.com/dw/SwingThatThing.html> began
with the aim of better understanding:

•   how to incite people to move and extend themselves physically
•   the value of a direct consideration of the body's tendencies and
affordances when pairing technology with the body
•   the value of visceral experience and full-body, or 'beyond limb- and
digit-triggered' interaction
•   the idiosyncratic nature of relationships to the body, and the body and
•   how to provoke, incite or inspire reflection about these relationships
through the creation, presentation, observation and use of wearable,
interactive elements and systems.

it has evolved since then (I started in may 2007 and will complete in august
this year), nonetheless the above points have remained important drivers.

The first project I did provides an apt example of how I deal with both
visceral experience and learning.
hipDisk<http://www.daniellewilde.com/dw/hipdisk.html> was
created with the sole intent to encourage people to explore and extend the
range of movement in the hip area, because moving from the core feels good,
it bears little relation to moving the limbs or digits, and we don't have
enough contexts in which it is encouraged. The result was,
hipDisk<http://www.daniellewilde.com/dw/hipdisk.html>, an
augmentation that gave the body musical capabilities ~ a most ungainly
musical instrument. I've written about it

A logical extension of this system was to move from a single user (1
movement = 1 note) to a group of users (many times 1 movement = many times 1
note). Thus, the
formed. A group of performers could make more complex sound and
rhythmic output and explore the choreographic as well as compositional
aspects of the work. Unfortunately 4 highly skilled performers undertaking
extensive rehearsals were unable to master "the girl from ipanema"
especially arranged for 4 hipDisks. what they did do though was demonstrate
divergent approaches to learning in, through and about the body. I write
about this here<http://www.daniellewilde.com/dw/publications_files/Wilde_OZCHI_hipdiskettes_Learning-through-Wearables.pdf>.
If I had wanted to create an interface to encourage learning it is highly
unlikely that I ever would have conceived of the hipDIsk, yet it has proven
to be an incredibly rich and powerful interface through which to both
understand and support body-centric learning.

when I presented the "failure" of the hipdiskettes at an HCI conference (
ozchi <http://ozchi.org/> 2008), the girls' pathetic attempts at mastery
(shown on video) were met with a standing ovation. what I understood from
this is that the humanity of their struggle was incredibly touching. so many
people wanted to try for themselves. I now make the hipDisks available for
use as a set of 4 with different musical scales (chromatic, pentatonic,
minor and major), so I can continue to learn about how people undertake
embodied learning by observing their use.

related work being undertaken at the csiro (australia's national scientific
research organisation) supports these outcomes with hard data. The team I
work alongside at csiro looks specifically at how music can be used to
encourage body-based learning. They examine these ideas working with elite
athletes, including olympic and paralympic athletes, as well as with novices
- schoolkids learning sports and also learning music. this has been written
about here<http://www.daniellewilde.com/dw/publications_files/helmer%20et%20al%20-%20physiological%20tracking%20and%20interactive.pdf>

as I mentioned before, if we engage the body through the imagination and the
imagination through the body we can support and incite interest in embodied
learning. I discuss applications in abilitation
and go into it in further (far more nuanced) detail in my upcoming exegesis
(the written part of my practice-based thesis).

My work crosses many discipline boundaries, I am therefore able to reach a
broad public.

at csiro I work alongside engineers and scientists, at Monash University I
work in a Faculty of Art and Design, in the department of Fine Art (I do my
PhD at both institutions). At Tokyo last year I was in the faculty of
engineering, in the
that combines research into human-computer
interaction, media arts, physiology, and ethics (I was based there for a
year). I also work a lot in different communities, as well as communities of
practice. An integral part of my development process and the contexts I work
in is cross disciplinary dialogical exchange.

My research outcomes include developments in technical textiles and soft
electronics, performance, body-worn technologies for use in re- and other
forms of (h)abilitation (eg the light
with Alvaro Cassinelli <http://alvarocassinelli.com>), as well as
performative odd things (such as hipDisk, and
hipDrawing<http://www.daniellewilde.com/dw/hipDrawing.html>- a human
hip-controlled etch-a-sketch system), and exploratory devices that
emerge from co-creation and collaborative imagining (eg the OWL

My work is often novel (even strange) - it sits outside of many things that
are familiar. It is also often fun (aka Caillois and Huizinga). It thereby
intrigues and is attractive to people.

In addition, I use clumsiness as a direct design material, and a focus on a
DIY aesthetic to democratise engagement. You do not have to be highly
skilled to use the things I create. You also do not need to fear looking
silly - everyone looks silly, but clearly seems to be having lots of fun.
And it doesn't look like you can easily break my devices, or if you do they
don't seem expensive to replace. as a result the usual excuses or
reluctances to engage don't apply

with regard the question of magic. the OWL
project<http://www.daniellewilde.com/dw/OWL.html> demonstrates
this most clearly:

Arthur C. Clarke posits that "any sufficiently advanced technology is
indistinguishable from magic".(1984) I am interested in trying to address
how we might support the conception, development and evaluation of such
'magical' advanced technologies – technologies that we can't quite imagine.
I want to work out how to leap beyond the adjacent possible, to move beyond
constraints related to technological limitations and commercial imperatives,
so that we might move towards a future we dream of rather than one based on
what we know.* *
*The OWL project *is a collaboration with Kristina
of STEIM <http://steim.org>, Amsterdam. Our approach mixes up art,
ethnography and magic. *The OWL project* has two parts. (1) *OWL
interviews* explore
the emergent body-technology desires of participants. They are conducted
with exploratory body-props, and are designed to support embodied cognitive
reflection. (outcomes are here <http://magictechnologies.blogspot.com/>).
the bodyprops emerged from an embodied investigation of affordances
conducted by kristina and myself; and (2) *OWL circles*: structured
gatherings in which participants create their own exploratory device by
examining, through the making process, a relationship their body has to
desire. (outcomes from the Tokyo workshops are
Sydney workshops were discipline specific and haven't been uploaded yet).
the project has been written about

*T**he OWL PROJECT *asks such questions as: Where do desires live in our
bodies? How might our desires be supported by yet to be imagined
technologies? And also: How might such technologies be conceived of and
developed - sufficiently that they may be evaluated – if we do not yet know
what they are? It is too early for us to draw conclusions about whether or
not we are creating a process for the emergence of 'sufficiently advanced
technology', but there are clear indications that we have created a system
for engaging users in strongly engaged moments of co-creation and
collaborative imagining of that which does not yet exist, filling the void
of imaginary technology's functionality with magic.

people I have interviewed, and participants in the *circles* all say it's
not like anything they've experienced before and it has had a profound
impact. I started doing the interviews in 2009, and have done them in
Europe, Australia, North America and Japan with people from wildly divergent
backgrounds, ages and social circumstances. The project continues to evolve
and I'm not sure yet where it will take us.

    With regard my ongoing research, my field of concerns includes:

·       enchantment and ambiguity as resources for design

·       encouraging 'magical thinking' and 'making strange'

·       physical, gestural and sensorial extension

·       co-creation and collaborative imagining

·       emergent performativity

·       poetics and play

    Some thoughts that I have about technology in relation *with* the
moving, feeling, emoting body include:

·       what is possible?

·       what & how can existing technologies be re-framed,
re-contextualised, re-imagined?

·       how might technologies help us to dream?

·       textural engagement

·       complex, abstract, subtle and nuanced

·       designing for, with and through embodied engagement

·       a poetics of synaesthesia

these thoughts, concerns and drivers continue to inspire me as I search for
answers to questions about how technology might be paired with the body to
poeticise experience, and what this might even mean.

   I hope this is useful.
kind regards and many thanks for the invitation to participate.
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