The Art of Environmental Data.
An interview with Stanza via email for Jack Stewart studying at the Manchester School of Architecture operating under the umbrella of the Remap Unit, which focus upon mapping and data collection to expose the latent and invisible qualities of the city.
The Art of Environmental Data.
1. The Sensity Projects aim to record data in the emerging city environment; how do you feel the use of such data could be useful for architects and designers in informing their designs?
This is an area seems to be springing into the mainstream, led I believe by the notion of “the internet of things” and the business spin off potential. It is surprising that urban designers and architects haven’t embraced this work more quickly or recognised that at the very least there is opportunity here to integrate the space around us using these novel ad hoc sensor technologies. Some engineering firms have and are looking into this like ARUP and obviously wireless sensing tech is now big business. I have been trying for some time to get on board with an architect with the idea of doing something like Façade (see below)
Sensity and its sister projects have gone along way to not only illuminating possible uses but and to demonstrate multiple scenarios.
Anyway to be specific, other scenarios that could be questioned from the data sets include, noise monitoring across spatial environments and how this is affected by a real time input. More specifically focused sensors could give data that can lead to conclusions about what types of material are best suited for a site, or even a “consciousness” of the space, as well as all the bio chemical possibilities.
Most of these types of systems themselves can also be “building management systems”. The data can not only be adapted for security and monitoring the social welfare of the space can be nurtured; it could feed back into a system designed to self regulate depending on the variables and properties imposed.
2. How do you feel that Sensity and Soundcities re-innovate and enrich the urban systems we currently operate in?
This has to be taken as two questions because of the underlying structure and objectives of these two separate projects.
Sensity for sure allows us to see or at least make more tangible the invisible in the world around us. Sensity supports this premise by producing new information that is changing real time. This information is being also affected by out default interactions with the space and the environment. The Sensity project allows us to speculate on the city itself as a living breathing space with its own DNA that evolves and mutates. This metaphorical approach allows a freedom to speculate that the spaces we design are in fact emergent entities and that various properties and variables can be monitored; ie the stresses of the space and “emotional” conditions are what make a space enjoyable habitable or even dangerous. Sensity can up pick on this.
Soundcities, because it works in a different way addresses issues that I describe as being more of the modernist age. However as noise and sound involve field recording (we are also presenting the art of environmental monitoring). However now we are taking about the sound we literally hear as we walk out of the door. Not just as noise (data) or as noise pollution but also as an appreciation of sound and how this not only affects the space but is the space.
The noise is the city, the noise is the music, the city is the orchestra and we are just conductors whose interactive actions compose this music as we walk around. What Soundcities does is create an open source archive, a resource where better speculative questions could be addressed. The unique XML feed system also allows other to make user interactions both software and hardware that can control the sounds or to make spatialisation and sonfications of the environment based on the analogue recorded sounds.
3. Why do you feel the recording of emergent or changing data of the city is important?
It was my research as an artist that has led me here from fixed object and linear works about the city and urban design (i.e. paintings drawing) I then made interactive systems and closed generative systems.
I concluded that the next model was to adopt and create a real time system. My feeling for this is primarily based on my inquiry into how to work with “time” itself. These works are not archived. In Sensity the data is not recording; the works, the experience, ever exists in the present. It’s that moment that I am interested in making more of. I want to somehow get inside the idea of present time.
This present tense we all share with one another in a very equal way does not discriminate. The present second as it shifts to the next is the moment that I want to understand. So the question is slightly skewed as there is no “recording” in the Sensity process (I have yet to build in an archival set of data results as I haven’t been funded to take this further and this would be most useful i.e. to study a space over a longer time.
This is why the research is needed. To answer the why question?
4. Soundcities takes similar concepts from your previous work, but provides a platform for anybody with access to the net to add to. Do you feel this has richer content and why?
The soundcities content is different. Instead of being data sets and numbers that relate to the environment in real time the soundcities takes snapshots of the environment as sound that is recorded then placed online. The interesting thing now is the project is opened up for others allowing a re mixing or mash up. It allows these “others” to do with the “material” other things for example concerts and art installations. Using the XML feed other applications are created ie phone apps merged with you PS position or visualisation of noise across a space…all sorts of things are possible.
5. If architects were to inform their designs through data from Soundcities do you think there would be a social exclusion issue for those without access to the internet and why?
I think the sensors in Sensity project would be better for this sort of thing. However the issue becomes about the network, borders of control, and issues to do with sharing and protection. In my view it will get really interesting when dozens of spaces and buildings all link up in virtual space. To create what I term ”The Third Space”. (This was a funding proposal rejected by the AHRC and The tech Strategy Board.
I suggest there are over lapping areas of the city which can only be found online ie merged cities online Madrid, London Paris can overlap. I will go intio more details. below.
6. How would you consider to further develop your projects
I have many ideas for this but no money as I am not funded.
However is a summary of The Third Space. The project seeks via practise based research to create novel artistic interfaces using environmental data. Outputs from the research include sonifications, visualizations, and sculptural objects.
This work focused on data as a medium for artistic creativity and how meaningful and well as poetic experiences of space / environments may result from quantitative analysis of the results. The aim is to speculate on new ways of comparing, conceptualizing and then visualizing environmental data and real space.
I proposed in a recent interview for The Internet of Things Council (http://tinyurl.com/3trotzq) that future cities will be merged into real time connected up data cities. Not just one space, but a connection of networks and of real time information flows. I am now interested in developing deeper research over three years to question how this shared dataspace can overlap, creating a new space in between, which multiple nodes can share.
The methodology involves collecting data from sensor networks, disseminating the computer techniques developed, and making artistic prototypes. The aim here is to give tangible form to this new space, the space where the cities overlap, presenting an alternative urban virtual environment and creating new artworks and installations.
Within “The Third Space”, the initial focus is on the data sets of noise, pollution, light, and temperature. In other words the sensors will initially monitor urban environments.
To achieve this I will connect up multiple spaces (cities / environments) using motes sensors and this will be published online via XML feeds. These new online spaces will in turn lead to newly created online bespoke interfaces. I then aim to demonstrate that there is a new and unique online avatar where the data overlaps creating the Third Space. I will speculate how the flow of the data can be set to affect the behaviour of the output environment.
I would network at least three cities spaces in real time for this project using custom sensing technology. Initial outputs will include a musical system / interface powered by the merged data to create a real time sonification of the Third Space
7. What would you say are the challenges we face in further developing and integrating data collection like Sensity into the urban realm?
The questions I pursue to answer this include:-
- How can this information be meaningfully represented to new audiences?
- How can this data be displayed (visualisation and sonifications) in new and original ways and do the results create new ways of understanding the environment?
- What are wider social implications of opening up real time networks; who owns this space and what are the ethical implications of real time information systems for artworks?
Underpinning this work, are a whole series of potential problems about observation, surveillance, and the ethics of the control space. I research current surveillance systems and wireless sensor networks to come to an understanding about the social and ethical implications of such technologies both in artworks as well as public domain space.
By building my own art systems and tools, (which support my research questions); I also aim to raise further questions about the ethics of the control space and surveillance culture.
8. How do you feel that artworks such as your own could shape a ‘future city’?
Future cities will be merged into real time connected up data cities. I believe there is a new social space that exists in between independent virtual data networks, a new avatar space. The Third Space and the work I have done before have becomes a series of artistic prototypes that offer new insights into networked spaces.
9. All of your projects are open source; what is your reasoning for this decision?
I don’t like the term open source or but my work endeavours to collapse the borders created by networks so there is a free flow and exchange through the system both for input and outputs of ideas and latterly resources which I call assets (the data and the information.
10. How do you feel projects such as your own pave the way for empowering and liberating the city dweller?
The aim in my work is to develop a more socially engaged practise, to embed a deeper context based on critical reflection regarding notions of privacy, surveillance space, control space and meaning of newly created real time spaces.
11. Your data visualizations are stunning; what do you feel the importance is for translating the data your gather into something people can visualize and understand?
The objectives is both to create new artistic experiences questioning the notion of realtime environments while using of data as a medium and delivering creative outputs.
And also create work that reflects upon issues of privacy, and surveillance space.
I think I would get sidetracked here but maybe I could just say the objective is to create a new way of seeing and the experiencing the space/ environment. work ls around us.
By doing it this was not only do we see how we affect the systems but and most important the use ie users (us the people) are by default embedded in the interactive and responsive process. In other words we become part of the work.
I am interested in making systems where by default the users are the work, the artwork. Its a feedback loop, every actions we have has a reaction, every reaction causes change, this change happens over time and its reflected back in front of us either as the changing world we experience and now as art.
12. How do you feel your projects impact the ownership of the spaces they are deployed in?
This question needs an essay in its own right and goes off in another direction that’s interested me for some time. I made called Public Domain where I tackled this question head on. Public Domain uses live CCTV across the city to extend space and invoke impressions of transparency with architectural space. . Public Domain is an experimental approach to ownership in information in networks. Instead of the linear tree like system with the one central viewer, all the cameras and views (resulting data) are given away and all the views can be seen online by all. The data is mixed into an online collage, using specially created software viewable by all.
Another work “Visitors to a Gallery- referential self, embedded” uses the live CCTV system inside an art gallery to create a responsive mediated architecture. This artwork is responsive to the body in the data space. The visitors act as an intervention in the gallery space and become embedded in the artwork. The idea of using the information inside the space is also to make the space transparent and extend the gallery space outwards. The gallery space is also extended virtually onto the internet as the feeds from the installations images are broadcast live. The visitors to the gallery thus become embedded in the artwork and this permeates the larger system of data and information over the internet.