POPULAR KNOWLEDGE

by Marcos P. Dias - m.dias(at)pgrad.unimelb.edu.au


FIGURE2 FIGURE 2

PROJECT ABSTRACT

This project seeks inspiration in popular sayings (following examples refer to brazilian culture-they don't make much sense in English!): market vendors (beautiful women don't need to pay but also don't bring it home!), stickers near the bakery cash register (buying without paying, only tomorrow...), carnival theme lyrics (if you kneel down, you need to pray!...) and truck bumpers (if horseshoes gave luck, an ass wouldn't pull a carriage). The Brazilian Tropicalist movement inspired the visual theme of the project and the installations of Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer served as inspiration in the search for participant's engagement, without which the proposed installation wouldn't make sense. The project seeks to develop an online collaborative database of popular sayings with content entirely created by participants, who might be either in the physical space of the installation or accessing it online. At the same time, the project's intention is to create a physical interactive space in which participants can choose their level of participation: producing new popular sayings, voting on them or simply observing. Popular Knowledge seeks to reappropriate electronic technologies through a simple and dynamic interface to facilitate and encourage participation during all phases of the project, independently of technical knowledge.

PROJECT KEYWORDS

Knowledge popular interactive art electronic

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The installation consists of two parts: a website with a database controlled by PHP and a physical installation. The website is divided in four parts (or windows). (figure 4) The first window allows the visitor to add a popular saying and add his/her name and location (city or country) and personalise the background images displayed in the two LCD monitors in the physical installation. The website visitor can also choose the language they want to use for the popular saying, and they are automatically translated into portuguese (with upredictable and sometimes comic results...) and added to the database in the two languages (original and portuguese). The second window contains a live video feed of the installation.


FIGURE 4 FIGURE 4

A third window contains a list of all the popular sayings including name and city (or country) of who sent them, votes against, votes in favour and a link that opens an image (in JPEG format) taken of the physical installation on the wall at the time that the participant sent his/her popular saying. When the visitor clicks on the image link, it is displayed in the fourth (and last) window. The physical installation is divided into two parts. The first part consists of a wall decorated with Tropicalist motifs containing two LCD monitors (behind golden frames) situated at different heights, a speaker and two small panels with LEDs. (figures 1 and 2)


FIGURE 1 FIGURE 1

The second part consists of an area for user's participation, containing a wooden box with a laptop inside (laptop webcam pointing towards the wall), and on top of the table there is a computer keyboard connected to a small 2-line LCD monitor (type used in cash registers), a microphone, a webcam and another wooden box with three controls (two controls to change the background of the monitors and one control to take a snapshot of the video feed). In front of the bigger wooden box (containing the laptop inside), there is an upside down plastic tub with a cushion on top with a Tropicalist pattern which serves as a chair for the participant. Beside the big wooden box there are three more upside down plastic tubs with cushions on top. (figure 3) In front of these plastic tubs there are six small 2-line LCD monitor (type used in cash registers) hanging from a clothes line structure (allowing them to be freely manipulated)-three of them are situated 80 cm from the ground and the other three are 150 cm from the ground. In each monitor, two buttons allow other participants to vote against or in favour of the popular sayings displayed on the monitors.


FIGURE 3 FIGURE 3

When a participant sits on the improvised chair in front of the big wooden box, the installation initiates the information capturing process. The webcam captures the image of the participant and transmits it to the LCD monitor located at a higher position on the wall as a live video feed. As the participant types in his/her popular saying on the small 2-line LCD monitor, the sound of keyboard typing is amplified by the speaker attached to the wall and the popular saying appears on the LCD monitor located at a lower position on the wall. Using the two rotating buttons (linked to potentiometer sensors), the participant can choose the background images for the two monitors on the wall. By pressing the third button, a snapshot of the live video is taken and placed on the top monitor on the wall.When the participant leaves the improvised chair, the image of his popular saying and his/her snapshot are displayed on the screens for a further fiteen seconds (reference to Andy Warhol's "fifteen minutes of fame") and the popular saying is added to the database alongside a JPEG image taken by the laptop webcam. During those fifteen seconds, other participants can vote in favour or against the popular saying displayed by using the six small 2-line LCD monitors hanging from the clothes line, or they can also vote online. After that (or when no one is participating in the public space of the installation), other popular sayings from the online database are displayed randomly on the LCD monitors placed on the wall and the small 2-line LCD monitors also display random sayings, allowing visitors to vote on them. The votes are added to the online database.

EXHIBITION FORMAT

The exposition format consists of two parts: a website with a PHP-controlled database and a physical installation in an indoors space with a 5 metre wide by 2.5 metre high wall and an open area (in front of wall) of 15 square metres (approximately 5 by 3 metres). Two LCD monitors will be attached to the wall and connected to a laptop with Internet connection capable of controlling both monitors simultaneously through USB cables. There will also be a speaker attached to the wall and connected to the laptop. The laptop is placed inside a wooden box located three metres away from the wall, and the embedded webcam on the laptop will point towards the wall. The wooden box will also serve as a table that contains a computer keyboard connected to a small 2-line LCD monitor (type used in cash registers) and also to the laptop. On top of the table there will also be a standalone webcam facing the participant (sitting behind the box) and a microphone that captures the sound of the keyboard (both are connected to the laptop through USB cables). An Arduino Duemilanove microcontroller board connected to the laptop through a USB cable controls four sensors: two potentiometer sensors (rotation buttons) controlling the selection of background images for both monitors, and a button sensor controlling the snapshot-taking function of the webcam pointing towards the participant. The fourth sensor (capturing pressure) is embedded in the cushion positioned on top of a plastic tub that serves as a seat for the participant. Beside the wooden box there are three more plastic tubs with cushions. In front of these, there are six small 2-line LCD monitors (three of them are situated 80 cm from the ground and the other three are 150 cm from the ground) connected in sequence to the Arduino board. Each monitor has two buttons: the first button is used to vote in favour of the popular saying displayed on the monitor, and the second button to vote against. The six 2-line small LCD monitors are hanging loosely from a clothes line structure (either built with wood or an outdoor clothes line), so that they can be freely manipulated. The Arduino board is also connected to two panels made of LEDs and attached to the wall, one with green LEDs indicating an approval vote and one with red LEDs indicating a vote against.

IMAGINED OUTCOMES FOR THE PROJECT

This project seeks to encourage a collaborative process between online participants and participants at the physical installation through "high end low tech", allowing users to participate directly or indirectly, or simply observe. The informal and playful aesthetics seek to encourage the creative and free engagement of participants during both the process of assemblage and the exhibition. The project seeks collaborations in the areas of webdesign, electronics, carpentry, graphic design, painting and weaving (optional). The project's aim is that the website with the database of popular sayings stays active after the exhibition. The physical part of the installation can be disassembled and repositioned in other exhibition venues, and in this case it can be reconnected to the website to use the database previously collected during the Interactivos? '10 BH. This allows the website to become a form of democratic repository for popular sayings and also allow participants to see their collaboration online and share the popular sayings with their friends. Using translation software, the website can "defy" language barriers, allowing other countries to access popular sayings from around the world, although with unpredictable results. somewhat akin to a Babel Tower. For example, the famous popular Brazilian saying: "A cobra vai fumar", when translated to english ("The snake will smoke"), makes no sense at all, but can serve as inspiration or just as a funny remark, exploring the limits of translation in a creative way. Through simple electronic commands and controls, such as buttons and computer keyboards, the installation seeks to reach an eclectic audience and to avoid complicated interfaces. The placement of the six small 2-line LCD monitors at different heights attached to the clothes line structure through flexible wires seeks to facilitate access for everyone. The website allows participants all around the world to view the physical installation through a webcam and also to add their favourite popular sayings that, when translated into portuguese, defy the capacity of translation software and confirm the fact that us humans still have a (slight) advantage when pitted against computers.

TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION AND BUDGET

IMPORTANT: the estimated cost was quoted by considering the buying of brand new equipment, including two 22" LCD monitors (with USB video connection) and a laptop, which combined account for more than half of the cost. The substitution of these (especially electronic hardware but also everything else) by recycled material and the assemblage and production in loco of certain components (such as the bookcase, painting the wall instead of using wall paper, etc.) can reduce significantly the cost(this being the preferred alternative, although it isn't possible to determine beforehand which components can be replaced)!

TOTAL ESTIMATED COST (WITHOUT FREIGHT COSTS): R$3660,18
FREIGHT COST ESTIMATE (20%): R$732,03
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TOTAL ESTIMATED COST: R$4392,21

DESIRED COLLABORATOR'S PROFILES

I seek collaborators in diverse areas such as webdesign, electronics, carpentry, graphic design, painting and weaving (optional). Webdesign: collaborators with experience in creating and maintaining websites with databases using Javascript, PHP or similar programming languages. Electronics and programming: collaborators with experience in OpenFrameworks, C++, Arduino, Pure Data, hacking, LEDs. Carpentry: production of simple artifacts such as bookcases and boxes. Graphic design, painting and weaving: collaborators to create the "retro tropicalist" look. This can involve painting of walls, production of bookcases, boxes, plastic tubs and cushion weaving. I also would like to collaborate with anyone that doesn't necessarily fit into the categories above but that have an interest in the project and are willing to "get their hands dirty!"

CRONOGRAMA DE TRABALHO

The project dynamics suit a multitasking approach. Estimate of work hours (done by one person) for each task:

I hope that these tasks can be executed simultaneously with coordination (by one or more persons) so that any problems encountered can be solved during the 14-day period without altering the schedule.

BIO

Marcos Pereira Dias is a PhD candidate in the School of Culture and Communications of the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research investigates new experiences of social interaction through artistic and educational digital installations in public places. His work is supported by the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES). Marcos obtained a bachelors in Architecture and City Planning from the University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil, a bachelors degree in Digital Media Design and Production from the Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT), Ireland, and in 2009 he was awarded a Masters with Distinction in Interactive Digital Media from Trinity College, Ireland. Marcos has worked in the areas of webdesign and video production and has participated in collaborative design projects, including the production of the CUBE interface (http://www.museumbuilding.org/cube.html), on which he wrote a paper for the Parsons Journal of Information Mapping (http://piim.newschool.edu/journal/issues/2009/04/) and Designing Dublin (http://www.designingdublin.com/). His work is catalogued at http://www.lightartworks.com

MOTIVATION AND EXPECTATIONS

During my Masters course in Trinity College I developed a strong interest in interactive and collaborative digital installations. My interest is partly explained by my background in architecture and webdesign, but I am especially inspired by projects that involve public participation and generate unpredictable and unusual results, including the collaboration between strangers, such as in Uncle Roy All Around You, by Blast Theory and Body Movies, by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. I believe that technology should be simple and sustainable, so I am very enthusiastic about the main theme of Interactivos? '10 BH, which inspired me to sketch ideas I've been dreaming about for a long time based on these principles. In previous works (http://www.museumbuilding.org/cube.html and http://www.designingdublin.com/) I had the pleasure of participating in collaborative design projects with very positive results, and the Interactivos platform of research and production is perfect for these types of initiative. My research project in the University of Melbourne seeks to understand new experiences of social interaction produced by artistic and educational digital installations, and I see my project Popular Knowledge as a way of developing a collaborative design project in loco during the Interactivos workshop and exhibition. I hope to be able to collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds and inspire in them the same enthusiasm I have for my project.

TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE

I have considerable experience creating websites in HTML and CSS (recent work: http://www.culture-communication.unimelb.edu.au/platform/), in video filming, production and editing using Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro and in photography using Photoshop and DSLR cameras. I have also developed graphic design projects using Adobe Illustrator, Indesign and Flash. I have basic knowledge in developing projects involving the use of sensors and LEDs controlled by Arduino and Pure Data, and basic programming knowledge using Processing, Javascript and PHP (all acquired during my Masters). I have previously used CAD design software, and during my Architecture degree I designed and produced a chair in real scale size (1:1) using basic carpentry knowledge and tools.