Authenticity and data-driven or interactive artworks

Thoughts from my class “Recent Methods and Approaches” in the Digital Arts and New Media program.

A response to Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and Anne Collins Goodyear’s “From Technophilia to Technophobia: The Impact of the Vietnam War on the Reception of ‘Art and Technology’“, LEONARDO, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 169-173, 2008.


The concept of “aura” as a feature of authentic artworks, as discussed by Benjamin in “The work of art in the age of mechanical reproducibility” seems to inhere in the object and therefore privileges the object as a

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Proposal: Neutrino flux

Note: This is a modified version of “Walking with neutrinos


Visitors will experience the ephemeral and mysterious nature of the subatomic particle called the neutrino as they move through this work, interacting with it occasionally and briefly. In the process, they will see the effects of their localized interactions spreading beyond their reach, with the ability to influence others.

The work will consist of 12 six-foot-tall ¼” acrylic tubes suspended with the bottom end about 2 feet from the floor. Each will be illuminated by an RGB LED so can glow any color desired. In the “quiet” state, each tube

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Physical programming

Physical programming is an overlap between algorithm implementation, science discovery, and performance art using groups of people as calculational tools. The first iteration of physical programming involves four potential projects:

1. Calculating pi: Buffon’s needle

Have people lie flat and straight at random positions in a room and video from above. Superimpose parallel lines on the video and use Buffon’s needle technique to calculate pi.

Expected result: A numerical estimate of pi.

2. Showing interference of waves

Have a set of ropes coming from two poles. The ropes are all integer multiples of some “wavelength” in length. Each person chooses a rope at random from

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Pi with people

A performance piece that calculates the value of pi by having people lie at random in a room and superimposing a set of parallel lines on it so that the Buffon’s needle experiment can be conducted. By having a set of people repeatedly lie at random, or having a large set of people lie at random, a value for pi can be calculated.

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Science Hack Day 2014

I’ll be participating in Science Hack Day San Francisco again this year with a cool bunch of colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. Proposed projects run the gamut of topics and fields and there will always be many more projects that don’t make it onto the proposal wiki page. One of the great things about Science Hack Day is that you can go along without a proposal in mind, find some people to work with and just get started on something. Many successful projects start without a team at the beginning but have amazing outcomes just 24 hours later.

As for

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Proposal: Cyclohexane chair/boat


A physical object that exists in two conformations–the chair and the boat–that seats one person. The shape is dictated by the conformations of cyclohexane. (Cyclohexane is a ring of six single-bonded carbon atoms, unlike benzene which has alternating single and double bounds. It has one of a few specific three-dimensional configurations, again unlike benzene, which is planar.)

By manipulating the object, it can be changed from chair to boat, and the object should work as both a chair and a boat. An inflatable frame makes up the cyclohexane backbone and a stretchable waterproof fabric is attached to the frame. Lockable

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Proposal: Self-portrait with telescope (via the moon)

The concept

An image taken through a telescope pointed at the retroreflectors on the moon. The image in principle then consists of a photograph in a mirror of the photographer with the telescope.

Whether this makes a compelling image is in the eye of the beholder, but it is only of significance if the technique for taking the photograph is known.

Simulated image below (yes, it just looks like one pixel)


The science

Retroreflectors bounce light back along the incident path so act like a plane mirror but from all angles and with the image

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Proposal: Walking with neutrinos


What would it look like to see the flux of neutrinos passing through us at all times? What if a representation were able to show the real data of a neutrino detector that is impossible for most people to visit or get a sense of because it is buried deep under Antarctic ice?

A set of 86 colored-light stations would be arrayed on the surface of the Earth in the same configuration as the strings in the IceCube neutrino detector in Antarctica. Each station will light up with a particular color corresponding to the energy of the neutrinos passing

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Project: Isodrag typeface

Originating at Science Hack Day, San Francisco 2011, this project is ready to move to the next stage. The original project measured the drag on thin cardboard uppercase Helvetica letters in a homemade wind tunnel in a fairly rudimentary fashion. The letters were then rescaled to all have approximately the same drag. The results seem likely to be valid but not particularly precise. The final typeface was then built out of six different weights of Helvetica after sorting the letters into six gradations of drag.

Home made wind tunnel testing the drag of the upper </a></p>	
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Proposal: The spine tingler


What if the scary book you were reading could really shock you?

This piece of biofeedback-based experimental book art detects the rising fear or excitement in a reader and then amplifies it, by causing tingling in the hands through to mild electric shocks. This effect is created by a wrap-around book cover that can sense the physiological changes that occur when a person sustains fear or other arousal, and then responds by injecting a small electric current through the book jacket and into the hands. Alternatively, for safety, the book could contain a vibration motor that buzzes when activated.

The science

In essence,

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