Session 1: My Soundwalk experience

Soundwalk: Her Long Black Hair @ Central Park

It was my first time to experience soundwalk in my life. I was impressed by Janet Cardiff’s Her Long Black Hair which set in Central Park. I completely dissolved into the Cardiff’s guidance and the sound remix that blurred the border line of the soundtrack and outside noise. Although the artist and I exist in the same space at different times, this soundwalk made me feel that I live then. Even if I can’t see anything from the soundtrack, the soundtrack made my brain to generate scenes. In my view, I think there are two reasons made the whole experience so vicarious. First of all, the binaural technology precisely demonstrated the perception of three-dimensional space. The speaker’s footsteps sounded so realistic that made my footsteps synchronize with her’s. More importantly, the sound balance among every object was perfectly integrated. Although the ambient noise, music, poetry were all merged, I can easily recognize every object’s sound and what the speaker wanted to emphasize at that time. Secondly, the speaker interacted with listeners. Not only did she give the route guidance, but also pause and pull out of the storyline to let the listeners get involved in the physical surroundings. By doing so, this arrangement made the rhythm smoothly and made the experience more like wandering around in the Central Park. All in all, It was an incredible sound walk journey which was beyond my imagination.

Brief Response: Jonathan Lethem’s The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism

Jonathan Lethem’s article gave me an introspection of intellectual property and originality. What is the real purpose of copyright? Ideally, it should be a method to protect the creators. However, it could also be mean to monopolize the market. The Walt Disney Company utilized common culture and fairy tale, which are all the work of others. Disney used them to create animation, toys, and Disneyland. They moved all these common cultures into their protected territory and trademarked them, labeled them copyright symbols to claim that these common culture and fairy tales are all their private property. Ironically, if someone wants to use the image of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it is very likely to be rejected or asked for a high premium by the company. Does the law of intellectual property protect the originality in this case? In my view, No. What’s more, this circumstance could also be the impediment when others want to use these common cultures to create.

Brief Response: Kirby Ferguson’s Embrace the Remix

Kirby’s talk gave me a new definition of  “Invention” and “originality”, which are both the word deified by media because deification could lead to significant marketing and business triumph. Take iPhone for instance, all the technology the first iPhone used had already existed before it launched in 2007. The origins of multi-touch began at many prestigious technology institutes and universities, and it was in use as early as 1985. Before Apple popularized the term “smartphone”, PDA(Personal Digital Assistant), also known as handheld PC, had already include most of the smartphone features like web browsing, touchscreen, portable media player and so on. In my perspective, iPhone is a significant landmark in human technology history, but I disagreed with people called Apple an inventor of the smartphone. I think Apple only “remixed” the current technology at a perfect time. As Henry Ford said, ”Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable.” However, Apple asserted that other competitors were all followers who stole their idea but neglected the truth that iPhone is also a collage from others’ discoveries.

Session 1: What is interaction?

My interpretation of Chris Crawford’s definition is that interactivity is a reciprocal, continuous process among individuals, which consists of meaningful feedbacks. The outcome of interactivity is not curated, it’s evolutionary. Let me thoroughly illustrate every word I used. First of all, interactivity is a reciprocal process, not a one-way task. For example, when you drag your chair out of your desk, you are not interacting with your chair. Instead, it’s simply a physical contact, not a physical interaction. Secondly, interactivity consists of meaningful feedbacks. Take kicking soccer for instance, kicking a soccer ball towards a wall, and the ball bounces back to you. Is it an interactivity among you, the ball and the wall? In my opinion, the answer is no. You are right exemplifying Newton’s third law. You might believe we can control the force you give. However, the wall wouldn’t actively give you any “meaningful” feedbacks. The outcomes are predetermined in your brain. Based on this, I want to move on to explain why interactivity is not curated; it’s evolutionary. I would like to use the same example Mr. Crawford used in Chapter 1. Dancing, which is commonly regarded as an interactivity between the dancers and music, is merely a participation, no matter how deep the dancer gets involved with the music. Conversely, if the music could receive the dancer’s emotion and reaction and start to react and compose, this would be a great example to represent interactivity.

From my perspective, Chris Crawford’s definition of interactivity deeply resonates me. However, Chris’s description only described the general concept of interactivity and how to roughly scale it by his definition. As for “physical” aspect, the book didn’t mention much in the first and second chapter. Fortunately, Bret Victor’s rant popped up at a perfect time. Bret’s article gave me an enlightenment regarding what makes good for the physical characteristic in interactivity, although some of the “interact” Bret’s used in his article didn’t align with Chris’s definition of interactivity. The most important factor of a sound physical interaction is to understand human capabilities thoroughly. It looks like a straightforward answer, but we often neglect it. Nowadays, many technology products put too much emphasis on technology development rather than human beings. However, technology can be invented and controlled; human nature is something we can’t change in a short time. Real physical interaction has to be an extension of our organism and five senses, not to sacrifice our human capability to fit in fancy technology. According to Bret’s article, there are two things we should focus on. How we feel, and what can people do. For instance, hands can feel the texture, weight, temperature and so on. Also, hands are the organism with the best dexterity of manipulating. Eyes are not just a visual sensor in our body. We can also use eyes to convey our feeling like winking and crying.

Beyonce Billboard Awards Performance 2011 is an example of digital technology that is not interactive. In her performance, she sang and danced in sync with a digital video presentation behind her. There were virtual drums, giant wings and background dancers following Beyonce’s movement. This performance was seemingly a great example of an interaction between technology and dancers. However, according to Chris’s definition, this is not interactive. Regardless of excellent visual and sound effect, unusual staging design, all the plot was perfectly predetermined and set. The dancers couldn’t provide feedback and interact with the video and sound. What’s more, the audience was in awe, watching this fancy cutting edge digital-assisted performance. Nonetheless, all the things on the stage couldn’t catch the reaction from the public, nor did they think about what the audience may be thinking. In a nutshell, it’s a fabulous example of using digital technology in performance, but it’s very low on the Crawford Scale of Interactivity.