Applied Design Research: Sensibility Space

Can architecture react to your feelings?

I really enjoyed the way this project was demonstrated–amazing to see a physical structure react to your presence and in such a way that reflects how ‘it’ feels that you are feeling. This is yet another example of ‘slow’ technology that calls for engagement and learning with its use. Affective computing is a relatively new area of focus in ubiquitous computing that caters to users’ feelings and attitudes while relaying to them that computers have feelings too or at least the capacity to understand theirs. Sensibility Space is a large physical structure that talks to a computer to which assesses facial expression for emotion. Once the computer identifies the facial expression of an emotion in its database, it rearranges the architecture to respond directly to the users’ affect with colour and movement as visual indicators. The piece is still under development but what is interesting to question is whether a truly affective machine would respond to us or simply reproduce or identify our feelings. What would this response have the capacity to tell us …

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Applied Design Research: Autopoiesis

Ken Rinaldo’s ‘Autopoiesis’ work is an interactive piece that reacts to user participation and evolving as a result. The work is comprised of a group of large robotic arms suspended from the ceiling. The move and make sound in unison so as to suggest the performance of a symphony by members of an orchestra. Each robotic arm is equipped with a camera and has a wide viewing angle that detects human proximity to the machine–this leads to a change in the affected arms’ performance and this also changes the audio soundtrack of the piece. User participation is learned by the piece and it augments itself accordingly. Because the piece reacts and evolves on its own it is considered ‘autopoietic’, which is a buzz word for my thesis project.

I had been interested in the term and its presence in new technology because I believe it brings to light certain questions about our concept of what posthuman life entails. I feel that Hayles’ idea of the cyborg was one that involved autopoietic technologies that were associated with the human but not …

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Applied Design Research: Hylozoic Soil

One of my favourite projects which is a great example of research, theory, and provocation that meets technology includes the ‘Hylozoic Soil’ by Philip Beesley.

In this project Beesley presents a technological structure that is intended to ‘live’ and behave as though it were an organism. The many features of the piece mimic those within our own body; the reef is aware of the presence of people in a space and reacts accordingly, wet chemistry mimics our lymphatic system–in this case used as analogous to a filtration processes, microprocessors and memory serve as the life centre of the structure, allowing it to move, react and conform as it remembers and learns its environment. Overall the piece is reflective of a living material that responds as though it were living in relation to its context–this is the epitome of living architecture that adapts to its environment.

This project offers inspiration to the thesis project because it is working piece of technology that is both crude and refined and so, appears as an ideal blend of technology and nature while evoking responses …

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Design Process: How will I get there?

Literature and academic research are good sources of background information that have helped me draw connections between points of convergence for my thesis, however design methodologies will be key in the development of the interactive thesis project.

My first year in the Digital Futures program at OCAD U has given me the opportunity to build and experiment lots of interactive pieces, using sensors and visual displays. The process of this creation had always been grounded in research–for me my interest in emotion and psychological expression and of course, nature always found incorporation into my projects. I feel this approach will serve me well in developing my thesis project, I have broken down the iterative design process below:

RESEARCH [consulting valid sources of interest that have conducted thorough investigation]

BRAINSTORMING [connecting research with ideas for application, focus on aesthetics and functionality, bringing a creative project to life out of research]

MAKING [building, coding]

LUDIC ENGAGEMENT [experimenting, evaluation, play]



Where design methodologies are concerned I feel that it is important to acknowledge the multidisciplinary approach I will be taking in …

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Applying thesis research

The previous post I made includes a report I had written to refine my motivation for the area of investigation for my thesis.

In treating a heightened sense of self as synonymous with wellbeing, I feel that not only does my thesis progress towards a more specific solution but I feel that my understanding of one’s relationship between communication technology and his or her identity has broadened. In addressing the complex issue of recovering one’s sense of self (or perhaps preventing its loss) I seek inspiration from technologies that have appropriated the medium overall, a deviation from practices that promote productivity and information exchange. Of course, digital/technological art projects come to mind as examples of provocative and ‘unproductive’ (in the context of human capital) experience pieces but what I have maintained interest in and would like to incorporate into my thesis is the role of nature in helping us recover a sense of balance, calm, and self-reflection. Just as there is literature and research on the self being inadvertently consumed by technology, there has been a vast amount of psychology …

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Refocusing Wellbeing: The Importance of Sense of Self

The following is a report I wrote to refine the motivation for my thesis and to articulate on the concept of wellbeing that I have discussed in regards to my thesis project:

Refocusing Wellbeing: The Importance of Sense of Self

by Harjot Bal

1.         Introduction

In an effort to refine the wide scope of research on the problem area conducted in writing the thesis foundation research paper, this report will specify insights from exemplary texts and draw threads across the literature in order to highlight points of interest, further directing the thesis project. In the foundation research there was a general interest in the convergence of technology and wellbeing. Factors that were investigated during the foundation research include self-reflection, emotion and cognition, human-nature interaction, and design practices for technology that serve wellbeing. In refining previous research to give the thesis project a narrower focus, this report will revisit the initial problem area or motivation for the thesis and redefine wellbeing and the relevant role it plays today in relation to the self. Wellbeing will be considered synonymous with heightened sense …

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