Computational Arts MFA 2016/2017 Blog

This is the blog for the weekly sessions, to see the blog for my project go to:

Helen Pritchard Session 1 - 21/10/2016

1-2). During this week we introduced ourselves and discussed Lisa Nakamuras text "Indigenous Circuits" the following is my summary of a key theme from the text:

One key theme I was able to identify in the text was the capitalistic view of race/gender in the workplace and the way in which labor is viewed as a commodity or part of production in the workplace. Nakamara discusses the way in which race and gender are commodified and how this relates to the Fairchild semicondconductor plant that operated on Navajo land with a predominantly Navajo workforce. The management of Fairchild superconductor were in some ways pioneers in the area of outsourcing and moving production offshore as a way to maximise profits. The Navajo land is itself a semi-autonomous nation within the United States and thus had special tax arrangments and minimum wage regulations which was part of the reason they decided to move there. This was also then a reason for them to move away once they sourced cheaper labour in Asia and Mexico.

Race and gender were in a way commodified by the management of Fairchild Superconductor, they viewed the Navajo people as being well suited to the task of superconductor assembly due to their long tradition of weaving which used the same skills such as they used in their weaving such as the delicate assembly of the chips as well as the concentration needed to do this over long periods. They predominantly used women for this task who were traditionally the ones who would do the weaving in Navajo culture and were seen by fairchild management as having a docile demeanor which would make for a submissive and obedient workforce. Although Navajo locals were involved in different aspects of the running of the plant, the workforce was predominantly female which caused societal problems in the wider community. While Fairchild saw the transplanting of a traditional skill into something that was useful in the modern 20th-century economy as something that benefited both the Navajo and the Fairchild superconductor country it can be seen that this took the Navajo people further away from their traditional roots.

At the conclusion of the article the author sums up this idea of the commodification of labour with a quote from Baudrillard "theorists must imagine another political-economic based on more than just the human capacity to produce: they must find a realm beyond economic value.”"

3). Media Archaeology Analysis of one of the objects I use in my own work:

I use lasers a lot in my own practice so I decided to investigate the origins and uses of lasers. The theoretical foundations for lasers were outlined by Albert Einstein in his paper (On the Quantum Theory of Radiation" (Einsten, 1917). The first laser devices were created in the 1950s to amplify microwave and infrared transmission and were further developed throughout the 1950s and 1960s (Maiman, 1960).

The earliest use of Lasers for entertainment purposes was by The Who and Pink Floyd during the mid 1970s where they used lasers at their live shows. Probably the first commercial use of lasers for enternment was in November 1973 at the Griffith University in California where an audio visual show was performed with lasers providing visual feedback to a soundtrack consisting of artists such as Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and Johann Strauss (George, 2005).

There has always been a close association between music, performance and lasers. There is something mesmerising about watching the intense concentration of laser light cutting through the air in response to music or movement. This is something that I am continuing with my own work using light sources such as lasers.

Einstein, A, 1917. Physikalische Zeitschrift 18, 121.
Maiman, T, 1960. Stimulated optical radiation in ruby. nature, 187(4736), pp.493-494.
George, J. 2005. A 70s Duo Rocks On: Pink Floyd and Lasers, New York Times, New York. Accessed 18th October 2016.

Joel Lewis Session 1 - 28/10/2016

During this week we introduced ourselves and discussed themes around science and art, it seems this is the direction we are all going in. We also talked a lot about thinking about "blue sky" type projects, what we could do if we had lots of money.

An important part of this year for me will be making contacts within the science/art field to collaborate with, I want to find people/institutions that are based in England, it is important for me to be able to have some kind of physical collaboration, I don't want to do anything completely virtual over skype, email unless completely necessary. The following is a list of people I have identified within the fields of quantum/light based/unconvential computing

These are some people in my field of practice that I really like/have respect for but for each of them they are not perfect: Robert Henke: Laser Artist
Ralf Baecker: Artist working with speculative/theoretical computation
James Turrell: Light artist
Susan Stepney: Researcher working with slime mould
Ralf Baecker: Artist creating computing devices as art pieces
Vlatko Vedral: Theoretical Quantum Computing Engineer and Philosopher

See notes for week 3 entry for more info about how I am going to go about finding more contacts in my field

$1 Billion project
If I had a billion dollars I would love to make an installation that used several satellites orbiting the earth, in as low as orbit as technical possible. Each of these would have a massive green laser on them that is pointing back to earth. So as it flies over you can see beams of light from space pointng down. This kind of fulfills Regans star wars program idea. These satellites would hold large powerful lasers that would shine back down onto the earth. These lasers would be seen as giant beams of light that beam down from space if you were looking from the ground. I would have several of these and they could turn on and off in unison creating criss crossing lines of light that travel around the world and could go anywhere in the world.

Helen Pritchard Session 2 - 4/11/2016

1). Media Archaeology methods as discussed by Nakamura or on a key term of interest from the paper that relates to your own research we read eg. material computing culture, materiality, affective labor, layers, etc. You can use your initial summary of the Nakamura text within this post also.

2). blog post or short description by email on initial ideas for your research project (this is fine to be in-progress!)
I want to investigate quantum computing and to continue my work from last year where I built a light based computer which used a quantum algorithm to solve a problem. I want to forge links with some scientists working in this field to make a collaborative project. I would like to work with someone who is based in London or the south east of england so that I can have face to face meetings with them rather than doing everything remotely.
Initial ideas might be to represent the work of a quantum computing scientists using light, trying to visualise some of their work by making a physical installation.

1). These are places that seem to already be interested in speculative or just generally crazy ideas to do with computation:

International Center of Unconventional Computing
Oxford University Quantum Computing Departments New Frontiers Dept

Other research institutions/companies doing work with quantum computing in the UK:

Oxford University
Cambridge University Quantum Information
Cambridge University
Photon Institute (Uni Manchester)
York University QuoPal (business side of oxford univerities quantum computing work)

People who would be interesting to talk to:

Andy Adamatzky (Unconvential Computing Department)
Theresa Schubert, wrote this book which has some great bits in it: Experiencing the uncovential, I already know Theresa, have worked for her before on some of her projects
My project will be based around speculative computing, either through light based computation or by working with machine learning. Whichever path I go down I want to work with a scientist or researcher in that field and try to find some common ground on how art can help science. I had an interesting discussion with a friend last night who is doing his PHD in mixed media augmented reality, talked about how he doesn't make art anymore, his output is workshops etc. For me it is very important to make a physical installation at the end of the work but this is also something to think about.

Joel Lewis Session 2 - 11/11/2016
1. Find golden egg!
Many-body correlations Basically at the moment there is a gap between quantum physics which can explain the very small and relativity and classical physics which describe things at a larger scale. The many-body proposition is that the larger effects of physics such as the force of magnetism emerges from the quantum behaviour of particles. We cannot observe quantum behaviour such as entanglement at real world scales but many observable effects such as magnetism are caused by the overall entanglement of particles. One real example of this is that birds use the quantum entanglement of electrons in their eyes so that they can navigate over huge distances during migrations.

2. Identify someone in my field who is alive and contact them

I want to contact Ralf Baecker

Step 1: To do this I will first update my documentation and writings about my MA project from last year. Make the writing more succint and coherent and that it has a clear trajectory.

Step 2: Create a nice one paragraph explanation of my project and what I want to do
Step 3: Create a one paragraph explanation of why I am contacting Ralf

Helen Pritchard Session 3 - 18/11/2016

1. Please read the attached text by Lucy Suchman. I have attached 3 chapters from Lucy, as I think they are all relevant. However please feel free to read just 2 of them (you can choose which!).

See below

2. As well as drawing out the questions you might have about the text and its key themes. Summarise a key theme or concept from the text in further detail (around 500 words) to discuss with the group. This will be developed into a blog post the following week.

An important concept discussed in chapter 13 was that of adding emotive learning and social intelligence to machines. The author identifies three elements embodiment, emotion and sociality as means to add humanness to computers. Computers are very good at what would be called logical or reasoning based intelligence but at this stage completely lack in what we would call social or emotional intelligence. This is starting to change though, computer programs such as siri are an interface which has a primitive kind of social intelligence to it in that we interact with in a more natural way, asking it things in the way we would talk to a human. The film "her" expanded further on this with the protagonist falling in love with a siri like system that had a highly advanced social and emotional intelligence.

One thing the chapters didn't mention which I thought might be relevant is the concept of the uncanny valley. This is that the closer and more real we try to make robots or digital environments the more they create a kind of unease in us. The article mentioned the robotic project Kismet many times in the article which was an attempt to make a robot learn as a baby would. The project was highly successful and people felt an amazing connection to the robot, but the robot itself had a cartoonish look to it. Compare this with the project by Hiroshi Ishiguro in which he made a realistic robot that looked and sounded as much as it could like himself. People can also interact with it but while very technically and conceptually interesting the resulting robot he created is rather creepy to say the least.

If Hiroshis robot could develop its emotional and social intelligence to a level that we see in films such as "2001" and "Her" would this bridge the gap of the uncanny valley? And then would this remove the need for the artist/programmer to create a cartoonish embodiment of a robot to make it more palatable to us humans?

3. As discussed in the last session please email me your initial reading list for your research project (theory/practice) 4-6 books including at least one journal article. I will then suggest some additional books and journals. Alan Turing - On computable numbers (1936)

Norbert Weiner - Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948)

Konrad Zuse - Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space) (1969) (english version)

Maturana and Varela - Autopoiesis: A theory of the living organization (1981)

Susan Stepney et al - When does a physical system compute link
Baecker and Whitlaw (Irrational Computing, proto computing) 2015

There is a lot of stuff that could go between these papers but these are the most important ones, also I can go further and further back with people like lovelace,babbage etc.

Basically you can see that I am moving through this path
- The original definition of a computer was someone who computed numbers by hand hence their own brain is a computer
- Development of software to run on mechanical machines by turing, lovelace, babbage etc
- Concept of cybernetics developed by weiner which identified a common link between the mechanistic world of machines and software and biology, psychology by establishing the idea of self regulation
- Konrad Zuse talked about the universe as a computing machine
- Maturana and Varela's concept of autopoesis illustrates the self replicating and self reproducing nature of biological sytems
- Susan Stepney and others discusses at what point a physical system computes, discusses the representation relation between physics and maths, and how this relates to computing
- Baecker and Whitlaw's article talks about using non traditional materialss and techniques based on laws of physics to do computing. Most of their work talks about doing computing on a slower timescale through different physical processes
- My own work would fit in here and maybe integrate the ideas of using quantum processes for computing. These quantum processes are a kind of fusion between physics and the brain/conciousness for example the observer effect, schrodingers cat, also the idea of deep learning, neural networks etc. Could say that we have come full circle and that our conciousness and the physical universe are linked together as one giant computational machine, although lol can maybe mellow this assertion a little

Other relevant reading: Susan Stepney is trying to quantify or classify what is computation, which is quite interesting.
Need to find a copy of this book, have to go check it out at cambridge university library, from looking at the contents section pages 120-160 look very relevant and interesting to my own work

Roger Penrose. Shadows of the Mind, this talks about consciousness and computing

People I want to reach out to
Adam Adamatzky (UWE) unconvential computing lab
Oxford University Quantum Computing Departments New Frontiers Dept

These are the two places I want to start with because the seem like possibly the most Interesting bits
Susan Stepney: With traditional computing we are trying to torture silicon (or other substrates to work in a specific way) then we are trying to have our function be broken down into boolean logic, also another difficult step, using physical systems may be a better idea. (LAST 2 MINUTES)

Joel Lewis Session 3 - 25/11/2016

Visit to Parallel Worlds conference at Somerset House.
During this session we went to a VR and gaming conference at Somerset House.

Golden Egg - This is my repsonse to Joels question to find an interesting area of research, concept, theory etc and present it to the group. This could form part of a research project or exhibition:

Many-body correlations
Basically at the moment there is a gap between quantum physics which can explain the very small and relativity and classical physics which describe things at a larger scale. The many-body proposition is that the larger effects of physics such as the force of magnetism emerges from the quantum behaviour of particles. We cannot observe quantum behaviour such as entanglement at real world scales but many observable effects such as magnetism are caused by the overall entanglement of particles. One real example of this is that birds use the quantum entanglement of electrons in their eyes so that they can navigate over huge distances during migrations.

Helen Pritchard Session 4 - 3/12/2016

1. bring with you (to discuss) a journal paper or chapter from an edited collection that is written about either an artwork or a computational practice that you feel conveys the work/research effectively and is written in a style or uses approaches you find interesting/useful.

This article talks about network affordance within the context of network art. It gives an example of the SPEED SHOW which is a curatorial technique for showing net art in internet cafes where each computer in the cafe is rented for the entire evening and an individual net art piece is shown on each computer. It discusses on particular speed show which occurred in Hong Kong and how unpredictability is a component of net art and how the layers of technology and networks are required in order to present the show.

Hong kong is an interesting place to do net art because almost no other city in the world is as hyper connected to the internet and hence cyber cafes are almost completely unnecessary given how freely accessible wifi internet is and how espensive physical space to rent is. So the artist created their own internet cafe within an existing cafe.

The article examines the SPEED SHOW exhibition through the lens of unpredictable parameters. To quote directly from the article: "We want to emphasise that affordances are constantly shifting and are subjected to the conditions and happenings of the network".

In this paper they discuss the unique network setting of SPEED SHOW [2.0] Hong Kong and have illustrated how a number of the artworks presented were contingent upon the ‘unpredictable parameters’ of the network. Each artwork performed differently under varying circumstances.

*What methods/methodology do they use (not really sure about this....)

*What aspects of the work do they discuss
The article discusses the idea of affordances and how unpredictability are important in art and the exhibition environment. For example one work was using 21 images from different servers around the world and this was a critique of the materiality and physicality of the internet.

Internet technology is constantly moving and changing, since everything is built on layers there is so much scope for things to break or stop working very quickly.

So the article talks about the different pieces and what types of unpredictability effect each, for example
- Brother Cream (a real cat) exists inside and outside the network, it exists as a physical being and then invades the network through code
- Summer shows that parameters like infrastructure, speed and connectivity create unpredicatibility
- threads similiarly to above shows how the parameters of internet architecture effect the work
- TrackMeNot uses the entorpy of data to obfisucate user behaviour from search engine analytics.

Joel Lewis Session 4 - 20/1/2017

During the break I have tried contacting several people/institutions to discuss my work. I was successful in contacting two people whose work is related to mine. Vlatko Vedral from the Oxford University Quantum Lab and Susan Stepney from York University

Vlatko Vedral is a physicist at Oxford university who studies quantum physics and quantum computing and runs the new frontiers lab within Oxford University. This lab is specifically focussed on the edges of quantum physics the overlap with other fields. Vlatko has published some pop science books on quantum computing and is specifcally interested in ideas around the nature of the universe as information.

With Helens help I drafted an email to Vlatko and sent it to him on the 30th of November. He responded very quickly and is interested in a collaboration. After a week or so of email exchanges we organised for me to go to Oxford university some time in february to visit the lab. Vlatko has been away since then so I am waiting for him to return to organise the visit.

I also contacted Professor Susan Stepney a researcher from York University. Susans work is broad but the area that I am interested in is her work on Heterotic Computing which is about computing systems that use two or more computational type systems. She has written extensively about using the combination of classical computing, quantum computing and biological computing. This is a direction I think I will be going for my final project, creating a framework and think about the use of several different types of non traditional computational systems.

Susan agreed to meet me for an informal interview, I will be going to Cambridge on the 23rd of Janrauary to conduct this interview. I will be asking her questions about her work in Heterotic computational systems and discuss with her some of my ideas on the implications and future of Heterotic computing systems

Helen Pritchard Session 5 - 27/1/2017

1. Practice lead project
Over the break the task was to work on a practice lead project. My project was to create a visualisation of a Quantum Cellular Automata.

This project was created in response to a meeting I had with Professor Susan Stepney from York University in Cambridge. I have been reasearching standard computing (quantum computing, biological based computing,etc) for a while and Professor Stepney is one of the leaders in this field with her work concentrating on formulating structures around heterotic computing. See more about her work here.

During this meeting we discussed both her and my work and the overlap of interests. We discussed extensively the way in which art can aid in science communication and she was very interested in the idea of showing complexity and the emergence of computation through art

Upon returning to london I started researching computational complexity and more specific the concept of the edge of chaos which led to investigating cellular automata

Cellular automata have been studied extensively so I wanted to try something new and create cellular automata that use quantum probabilistic logic rather.

This proved to be an interested exercise as I was able to visualise the way thse algorithms work. Which is usually quite difficult and very abstract to non computer scientists

I want to extend this much further and try to visualise more complex behaviour within quantum cellular automata and also visualise computation existing in natural systems

The next part of the project was to rebuild the random number generator device I built last year. This device contains a geiger counter that detects radioactive decay and generates random numbers based on this. I originally built this device last year for my Physical Computing class and I wanted to update it.

All of these were put together to create a random number generating device that measures radioactive decay from a piece of slightly radioactive stone. The device works by detected each pulse from the geiger counter and measuring the time between each pulse. If the time between the first two pulses is less than the second two pulses it writes a 1 into a 8 bit char array, otherwise it writes a 0, this process continues until we have a 8 bit char array and we can create a number. This number is then used to seed the random number generator used within the quantum computing code.

Finished project:

Week 10 - Helen Pritchard 10/2/2017

Response to Wendy Chuns text:
In the text the way Wendy Chun describes habit, especially her description of the way in which people learn habit from one another reminds me of a cellular automata type system. Simple interactions are propagated through the system by learned behaviours and creates a kind of autopoietic system with more complex emergent behaviours forming from these simpler interactions. She describes habit as the "productive unconcious" which when seen at a macro level shows all kinds of complex effects and interactions which arise from the new ways in which we can interact on the internet. Wendy further describes the way in which crystals have a habit that dictates their growth and formation. I see crystals as an amazingly succint representation of emergent behaviour. Crystals are formed from the phsyical laws of nature but can create beautiful and intricate structures that humans have often imbued mysticism or given special powers to. Contrary to what Wendy says later on in the text this kind of behaviour does show that Crystals and other inorganic objects do display a kind of habit. As impurities or different environmental factors are introduced such as temperature changes, pressure changes during the formation of the crystals they create their own kind of unique behaviour which then produces differing kinds of physical structures. This is analgous to people and communities which exist online. We all have the same tools and techniques available to communicate but outside influences and factors shape our own interactions, giving us our own habits.

Joel Lewis Session 4 - 17/2/2017

Paper Model Task
Joel wanted us to make a paper model of our installation to start thinking about what it will be. Although I haven't given much thought to what the final piece will look like I constructucted this paper model for Joels homework task. Basically I thought of a possible installation idea for the end of year exhibition which was to have three tables each showing crystals that have been constructed in a different way. One table contains a screen that is showing the digital generation of crystals, another showing a 3d printed crystal and a final one a tank containing a crystal that has been grown. The concept behind this is to show the algorithmic process of the way in which crystals grow and how this can exist in different forms.

Joel Lewis Session 5 - 24/2/2017

During this session we discussed crystals and their computational origins and uses.

For the home work task Joel wants me to go visit the Natural History Museusm Gem and Mineral collection which I did. It was an amazing exhibition, thousands of crystals and gems. It is fascinating to see the way in which they have grown, and try to deduce the algorithmic processes behind them.

We also discussed my own crystal growing experiments and I showed some close up pictures I took of these using the microscope in the new Lab.

Joel Lewis Session 6 - 3/3/2017

Weekly homework tasks set by Joel 1) watch silent running
Watched film, had something interesting ideas about closed systems and eco systems in space

2) reach out to mike rumsey
Emailed Mike Rumsey from the Gem and Mineral Collection at the Natural History Museum. He said it is possible to find Anthropocene minerals but they are not categorised as such. He said it is possible to come visit the museum and view some of the collection that isn't on dipslay.

3) what problems can they solve? shortest route? crystals for computing?
Using voronoi function to partition a plane into a crystal shape
solving a special type of a partial differential equation
algorithm is applied to the planning of a collision-free path for a robot avoiding enemy attacks.
Crystalline computation
Use the behaviour of crystals as a kind of cellular automata
Crystals contain their own atomic clocks
Crystal oscillators for time keeping
Chemically assembled circuits
Crystals used in radios
Crystals mined/processed to receive specific wavelengths of radio signals.
Piezo eletric effect
When you squeeze a quartz crystal it releases energy
Or when you apply electricity to a quartz crystal it bends
This is how record needles work as well

4) speak to theo about computing people working with cellular automata
There doesn't seem to be anyone working in this area

5) crystal healing session
Had a look at some places around Soho, it is quite expensive. I also looked around on some crystal facebook groups and found some interesting people. Trying to organise a crystal session as of now.

6) reach out to andy lomas
Email sent, waiting for reply.

Week 14 - Helen Pritchard 10/3/2017

1. Summarise the approaches taken by Chris Salter and Sha Xin Wei in their texts.
Chris Salter (approach)
Practice based (two approaches)
We design the processes in which art creates itself?
How are humans and media co-produced in the act of making things?
materials like sound, biological stuff, and sensory inputs such as touch, taste, and light used in techno-scientifically driven art practice act beyond human intent
what the world does rather than what it is
How does one write an account of practice with such materials
His work is enabled through technoscience
Technoscience is scientific practices that are directly intertwined in a technological setting and that are technologically driven
How do new things emerge into the world and what do they do?

Chris Salter - Alien Agency (Introduction)
intersection of art practice and science studies
Making art and experimenting should be synonmos
I think I know the world. What I ’ m working with. That computer, that sensor, that clump of cells, that strobe light. But this could be an illusion. Once we begin to shape and manipulate these things, this stuff, watching it perform becomes unknown, surprising, alien. The alien is strange, unlike one ’ s own, distanced, outside of us. It is that which not only descends from extraterrestrial skies but also moves out of our control, defying logic, rationality, reason. It behaves as it will. When we encounter the world ’ s vivacity, does it really care about us?
Disciplines are breaking down and merging, everything now is a combination of fields especially within the arts
in. Exhibitions and festivals increasingly challenge the ecological, biological, and sensorial borders between humans and other entities
The kind of art he is creating behave and perform in ways beyond the creator's intent, becoming unknown, surprising, alien (generative?)

Xi (introduction)
The most compelling reason for refining technical challenges into philosophical questions is to accommodate value
math­ematicians create truths via imaginative processes that can be regarded· as poetic processes
World is made of stuff not objects
Sha maps a genealogy of topological media
he shows how thinking about the world in terms of continuity and process can be informed by computational technologies
The most compelling reason for refining technical challenges into philosophical questions is to accommodate value. Given that we can engineer A, B, or C, the question we ought to answer first is why A, B, or C?

2. Summarise the differences in the approaches.

3. Using one of the approaches develop a short experiment and text to present in class based on your own research.
Comparison of the earth creating crystals and making them digitally using code?
My process of growing crystals, both physically and digitally.
Physical crystals are created using liquids and solutions, then left to emerge themselves
Digital crystals are created using code, then lete to generate themselves.
In both techniques one sets the parameters and rules and then lets the code/crystalline habit create the final piece. Both crystal forming processes have elements of randomness to them, and hence create new and novel forms.
For both approaches I am co creating with the laws of nature?
Crystals emerged independent of people but were then imbdued with properties
This is the cultural object that emerges
Amethyst: calming
Agate: attract abundance
Aventurine: comforting
Labradorite: transofrmation
Similar to chris salters gels with different properties

I grew up in a small town in Australia and always felt close to nature. Our town was sorrounded by forests, vineyards and fruit trees so I spent a lot of time of my younger yeares exploring the outdoors. As I got older I got very interested in computers and technology. I used to love pulling apart electronic devices and seeing how they worked. I always thought they looked like little micro eco systems. I was into circuit bending and hacking devices and then got into programming. I guess in the same way I was really interested in exploring the outer world of nature I became interested in exploring the digital and technology world of computers and technologies. Another important thing was the Internet which became common in households when I was a child, being the first generation to grow up with the internet was an interesting experience. As I got older I finished high school and went to university to study computer science. After finishing this degree I was very interested in digital graphics and started making generative visuals using code for music events such as friends bands gigs, dj nights etc. This slowly evolved and I started working for artists doing programming and technical work and this developed into my own arts practice.

Joel Lewis Session 7 - 17/3/2017 1) make a crystal radio
Made a crystal radio but it didn't work very well. I don't think I will use this idea for the final exhibition. The crystal is only a small part of the radio anyway and not very obvious.

2) research germanium
Germanium Is used in various computer components, it also has new agey uses in bracelets and necklaces. It is very inert and forms under high temperatures so it is not a material I can use to grow crystals

3) think of mythology - around undersea wrecks? sea level rising?
I have looked into anthropocene crystals:

Also this book looks amazing! I will read through it for interesting ideas on crystal mythologies and was written in 1915.

The Curious Lore of Precious Stones and Gems

One interesting picture from the book is this crystal powered airship from 1709!

4) 3D print a form to grow on

5) meet some crystal healers / do the esoteric walking tour
I walked around soho and checked out some of the esoteric bookshops. It was an interesting afternoon, most of the ones I went to were very new agey and kind of generic. They had a lot of books on crystals but it didn't seem to be grounded in any kind of older religion or belief system. But the one bookshops which was super interesting was Atlantis books, they had some really interesting books an ancient archaeology and crystals plus all kinds of books on thelema, satanism, etc. I bought this book on ancient stone monuments in Britian which looks interesting.

Week 16 - Helen Pritchard 24/3/2017
3d Additivism
Creating new things for the anthropocene
Plastic is the most important material of the 21st century
Will last forever
Digital/Physical divide is blurred with additivist technology
Quite a broad idea encompasses all kinds of things such as Bio hacking, 3d printing, glitch art etc

Rosa bradoitti
Part of new materalism is hybidity
Combines monsters, machines, insects into this post human world

New materaliasm
Defined around the primacy of matter and its properties and actions, New Materialism re-works long-held assumptions about the nature of the stuff of the universe. It responds to the need for novel accounts of agency, nature and social relationships in the contemporary epoch, when new questions have arisen about our place as embodied humans in the world and the ways we produce, reproduce and consume our material environment.
Pioneering, exploring, maps etc
Brave explorers conquering the uncharted territory of the brain and conciousness
Reminds me of the term psychonauts

Fabrication task
Using an additivism based approach I developed a small project investigation digital/physical/organic processes My task involved generating a 3d crystal shape digitall with code. I created an openframeworks that generated a simple 3d crystal shape and then saved it to an stl file. This file was then loaded into the 3d printer and printed out to create a physical object The physical object was then left to soak in a copper sulfate solution for 48 hours to grow organic crystals over it. The concept behind this project was to work upon the idea of creating crystals, digital from openframeworks code, anthropromorphically using a 3d printer and then organically by using the 3d printed plastic crystal as a base to grow real copper sulphate crystals on it. It is my idea that crystals embody the ideas in additivism of creation, fabrication and post digital concepts of the object. The Crystals exists as an algorithm or process existing in the code, in the physical structure of the plastic and the laws of physics and chemistry which force the copper sulphate solution to grow into a specific form. Material/semiotic object like the mouse.

This project is the investigation into fabricating crystal forms through digital, physical and organic techniques. The idea is that a crystal exists as an algorithmic process, an inherent process that exists beyond the physical/digital matter that the crystal is formed from. This project uses a an approach similar to that described in the 3D additivist cookbook that discusses the creation of new objects and the blurring of the physical and digital divide. The project started with the investigation of crystalline structures, and ways in which to generate these from code, from this a simple crystal structure was created generatively in OpenFrameworks, this structure was then exported into a .STL 3d model file that could be printed with a 3d printer. By going through this process I took the digital code that described the crystal and turned it into a real physical object consisting of plastic, the material comprising the 3d printed crystal is interesting because it is identical in materiality to any other 3d printed object. Once this 3d printed version of the crystal was created it was used as a seed to grow organic copper sulphate crystals from. The 3d printed model was dipped in a saturated copper sulphate solution and allowed to grow for 48 hours. The copper sulphate crystals grew onto the plastic structure of the 3d printed crystal. The copper sulphate crystals grew along the structure of the crystal and formed their own shapes which are determined by the inherent algorithmic processes in the copper sulphate molecules. By using a 3d printed crystal to seed the growth of organic copper sulphate crystals the 3d printed model acts as a conduit between the digital code and the organic molecules.

Joel Session 8 - 28/4/2017

1) make a crystal radio
Done, didn’t seem to work very well

2) research germanium

Used in optic fibres, lenses etc

3) think of mythology - around undersea wrecks? sea level rising?
Mythology around ballards book the crystal world, crystals are taking over the world. Technicallogical crystallisation is growing over everything. We are being entombed in digital information, technology, at what point do we become like the matrix.

Another thing is the idea of crystallmancy, looking into crystals to see things that aren’t there.

4) 3D print a form to grow on

5) meet some crystal healers / do the esoteric walking tour - Did this, it was pretty cool, lady in the atlantis shop was very anti crystals, the new agey people had tonnes of books on crystals, but were all really lame. I like the uses of crystals by hopi indians better, using them as lenses to see stuff.

6) think again about digital analogue mix
Real crystals growing on digital devices?

Joel Session 9 - 19/5/2017

1) send photos of 25KG bag of copper sulphate and computer case, send ebay listing too

2) continue to experiment with Experiment with LEDs in the crystal growth structures and computer case - wax protection?

3) send photos of experiments thus far - send a zip, with sensible file names Sent to Joel

Joel Session 10 - 9/6/2017

1) continue with crystal growing around computer
Some more experiments:

2) get kit list sorted out for show and work on layout
Thinking about what kind of screens and displays to use. 3) ask pete about vitrines / white plinths
There are some plinths from last year, they are all quite shabby. I will be best to make or buy some myself.

4) do some light investigations around casting light through crystals
Tested some different lights, white, UV, different coloured gels. The best seemed to be plain white light

5) work out a game of life simulation running on crystalised computer
Some openframeworks experiements:

7) Look at museum displays for ideas on how display project, labels, descriptions, screens etc
I went around to some different museums such as the Design Musuem, Natural History, British Museum and looked for ideas. Most were quite plain and boring but I found some interesting inspiration from online.

Joel Session 11 - 7/7/2017

1) get one cheap ikea thing and assemble...
Bought one from gumtree, put it together and it looks pretty good. I think I will definitly use these.

2) keep going on kit list
I am still deciding how many screens I will use and also what kind of lighting.

3) think about screen vs printed outputs
I will use some printed vinyls to display the names of the individual crystal artefacts that will go onto the glass displays.

4) think about cyrstal selfies/putting visitors in crystal world / punk
Not sure I want to do this, kind of takes away from the museum exhibit aesthetic I am going for.

5) think about timeline narrative / content - all labels and text
I am working on a narrative/story to accompany the exhibition piece. This will play on a screen or be printed out for people to get some background on the piece.

Joel Session 12 - 21/7/2017

1. Full narrative for show
In the early part of the 21st century the endless digitisation and quantification of information led to a supersaturation of data. At this point in history there was around 44 zettabytes of data which was stored on enormous data centres and cloud computing servers that stretched all over the world. In the same way that the supersaturation of matter in a liquid causes the crystallisation of that matter the huge amount of density of information caused the crystallisation of data into physical forms. What began in a cloud server farm in china and spread throughout the infrastructure of the cloud and all its connected technology, in the same way a computer virus spreads throughout the internet this crystallisation spread throughout the internet and crystals emerged on cloud servers, hard drives, personal computers, laptops and even memory sticks throughout the world.

It is during this process in which the digital-physical divide was crossed and Ballardian-esque crystal structures started to emerge, growing out from hard drives, usb sticks, server racks and cloud infrastructure. Metadata, search histories and personal files crystallised into physical jewelled forms that continued to grow and self replicate, taking over and spreading out from existing technology it continued to grow as if feeding upon the bits and bytes that had been stored.

This accelerated the anthropocene

These new crystalline forms contained within them a mutated form of information, seeded by the original data but self replicating themselves into crystalline structures to form strange, almost alien types of data that have created a modern day codex which remained a mystery to the people that tried to make sense of this post crystallisation world.

With crystals emerging all across the world the global systems of societal control started to break down and the world descended into a post apocalyptic landscape with governments ceasing to exist society reverted to more tribal like structures and also learnt to adapt to this new post crystallised world. With any information based technology rendered obsolete people had to work out ways to adapt to a world littered with these mysterious crystalline structures. It wasn't long till people discovered that the new strange crystals had special properties and tried to harness them. These properties ranged from almost quantum abilities to communicate, predict or even see into the future. Some groups of people even formed cults who worshipped the crystals and their powers, claiming that they could see the future and alternate realities through the crystal through crystallomancy and finding hidden meanings encoded within the crystals. As the traditional ideas of religion on modern culture broke down people started to look to the occult and religions as both a means of making sense of this new world. and of An interesting cult arose during this post crystallisation world, based on the religion of Thelema created by aleister crowley, this cult viewed the crystals as a manifestation of spirits and used them to conjure demons and create powers with the crystals. These groups looked into the crystallised data, trying to decipher its meaning, obsessed with the thought that these crystalline growths contain messages and hidden knowledge from some kind of otherworldly group.

This became a kind of crystal punk society where technology evolved around the power of these crystals. People created new kinds of technology which used the mysterious properties of these crystals. Crystallised smart watches were used as communication tools, utilising the quantum effects of superposition and entanglement the crystals would vibrate and glow at different frequency in resonance with other nearby crystals. Allowing people to see whether a member of their tribe who had a similar crystal was nearby or in what direction they were.

Another common use for these new crystal forms was to take the computers that were once used for forecasting and predicting information and stare deeply into the crystals that formed on them performing a kind of crystallomancy where one can see body their own eyes and see more about the world than is usually visible. This was used to create special glasses where people could see the presence of different kinds of energies.

Some tribes went even further and fully immersed themselves in this kind of crystalline virtual world. Strapping the crystals onto their faces they claimed that they did not need to use their own eyes and could see extra planes of reality through the crystals which were far more interesting than the everyday world around them.

Others looked to the crystals as sacred texts or information left by the gods, attempting to decode the crystalline information into audio and visual codecs such as mp3, jpg and mov these people poured endlessly through the chaotic but structured information created by the crystals for an insight into worlds beyond our own.

This crystal punk world has some of its roots in the power and mystique of crystals. Throughout history crystals have always been used in ceremonies and magic. Some even went further to try and harness the power such as the crystal powered airship which was devised but never built in 1709 and is documented the Museum Museorum book by Vantini.

2. Kit List
3 x screens
display cabinents/frames for show
Media player(s) to play narrative video
mac mini to run generative software

3. Take away for visitors
Some kind of business card?
Or crystallised usb stick or something?

Helen Session 4/5/2017
Individual Session with helen

Helen and I discussed putting in some primary research into the dissertation. Going to find some media object in a museum or archive and writing about it. So I am going to look into crystal based computing objects. A few places I might try to find these are the Science Museum Archive and the various computing museums around the UK. Having some primary research within the essay would strengthen it and also it would be interesting for me to do as I love poking around museums and history archives.

Some possible places to search:

Computing Museum at Bletchley Park
Wellcome Trust Archives
Science Museum Archive
British Museum
Computing Museum Cambridge

Helen Session 26/5/2017
Individual Session with helen

Today we discussed expanding upon the speculative media archaeology methodology I have been using in my text and how to better define it within the paper. This methdology is related to variantology, looking at alternative lines of development of technology. The speculative media archaeology I am working on uses this same idea but looking at what happens in the future as a result of this alternative line of technology development. In my text I am looking at using this to analyse a world in which techology that is based on crystals has moved forward and is the dominant technology. This is somewhat similar to things such as steampunk which is a kind of alternative future of technology in which steam has become the most prominent technology.

Helen Session 2/6/2017
Individual Session with helen

Helen and I discussed the concept of Silification which is a type of crystallisation in which the original atoms that make up an object are replaced by silicon. This is an interesting metaphor for what is happening with technology and the world around us. Everything is becoming embedded with computers and technology and in some way being connected by silicon to every other device via the internet. Also when looking at things such as artificial intelligence and machine learning we can see how this is a kind of silicon based lifeform that is forming on our world.

Helen Session 16/6/2017
Individual Session with helen

During this session Helen and I discussed some of the primary research that I have been doing at the Wellcome Trust and Science Museum Archives viewing papers and objects of John Dee. The object I was mostly interested in was the John Dee crystal which is a crystal that was used during the 1600s for crysatlmancy. John Dee would use the crystal almost as a kind of speculative media device in which he would communicate with angels to gain insights into mathematics, astronomy and alchemy. The reason that this is relevant to my research is that I have been thinking about speculative futures of crystals. Ways in which they might be used in the future so I wanted to look back into history and perform a kind of media archeology investigations of a crystal that was used as an early media device.

Although from a scientific perspective I am dubious of Dee's claims that he talked to angels through the crystal it did seem to have a very mysterious aura to it. The crystal was incredibly delicate and beautiful, clearer than any glass i've ever seen and when looking through it there was the effect of an out of focus magnifying glass. It is easy to see how John dee could have thought he was communicating with other wordly beings when looking through it.

I was very lucky to be able to see it as it took a lot of organsing through the Wellcome Trust and Science museum to be able to see it.

Images below are of the crystal and the science museums archive where I went to view the crystal:

Helen Session 14/7/2017
Individual Session with helen

As I am going away during the submission time I finished the dissertation early. You can read a copy of it here: Crystal Media Dissertation

Overall I was happy with how it came out. I spent a lot of time doing both primary and secondary research for this paper, visiting museums, requesting papers and going over documents from a range of different sources. I would like to keep working on it for the future and write a more in depth version. I felt like the word limit reduced what I could write and I had to keep it less detailed that I would have liked but overall I am happy with what I have wrote

Dissertation Overview

“...the process of supersaturation continues, the original atoms and molecules producing spatial replicas of themselves, substance without mass, in an attempt to increase their foothold upon existence. The process is theoretically without end, and it may be possible for a single atom to produce an infinite number of duplicates of itself, and so fill the entire universe, ” J G Ballard - Crystal World

J G Ballard's book “The Crystal World” describes a post apocalyptic setting in which the condensation and supersaturation of time, deep in the jungle has started a process of crystallisation. This process spreads, enclosing everything it comes into contact with into a beautiful jewelled state of suspended animation. The crystallisation process itself starts with molecules joining together into an organised structure depending on its available bonds, as the crystal grows an apparent shape emerges, creating beautiful and mesmerising structures. (Ballard, 1966).

This essay discusses the process of crystal growth in relation to the development of computers, technology and network culture and how the process of crystallisation is inherent across all kinds of complex systems. This process of crystallisation has continued since Deep Time and has now entered a phase of Silicification, in which silicon is overwhelming every aspect of our world. Using a hybrid approach of looking at this evolution through the methodologies of Variantology (Zielinski, 2006) and Media Archaeology (Parikka, 2010), I will discuss a different way of looking at the history and evolution of computers and computational systems. I propose that computers and computational systems are a type of crystallisation that has continued throughout history. This global crystallisation process started with the coalescing of atoms and particles to create complex forms of matter in deep time has continued throughout the history of the universe and is apparent now in the rapid growth and increased density of technology and data.

From their geological beginnings, to their use as tools for divination and to their modern use in computers, crystals have always been part of hardware components. They have been used as mathematical models of self organisation and have been at the at the centre of the development and a source of inspiration for our networked culture. Some examples are oscillators made of quartz crystals which are used to create stable high frequency oscillators, silicon crystal wafers used to create computer chips used in almost all devices, precious gems used for divination or calculating time and also the processes of crystal growth has been used as a model of self organising systems such as cellular automata (Langton, 1986). What I am describing in this essay is a crystallisation process which has lead to the evolution of computers and networks and is happening in the same way that the crystals in Ballard's book formed from the supersaturation of time and space and started to take over the jungle.