Fluidity of Presence

Friday morning, I woke up early and met with Fien to continue working on our plans for the Circuit Playground interaction. Our team member Arimit from Willem de Kooning Academy got the chat platform up on his server and provided us with the link we needed to test our hardware code. We tested the platform first and found it to be really delightful. Each participant appears as a glowing white dot with their name next to it. I thought I would miss the video interaction, but I actually really enjoyed the disembodied experience. The platform was successful in that the sound would change based on our relationship to each other in the interface.

Our hardware code mostly worked well, but there was an issue with the way the data was being used to light up the LEDs. Each data point came through quickly, so it was hard to perceive the change in the lights as they responded to the volume of a voice. We need to make the code simulate the effect of an audio equalizer: the light would get bright quickly but then dim more slowly. This could be accomplished by having the light actually respond to the average volume over a certain time period. Though this was a practical need, it actually fit conceptually with our idea about “traces of presence.” The light is basically responding to a memory of the sound rather than the literal volume at that moment.

While Fien, Arimit, and I focused on the code, Ezra from Sint Lucas Antwerpen focused on refining the language to describe our project and documenting the process in our project wiki. Armith from WdKA created a 3D prototype for how the Circuit Playground could be housed. Marit from WdKA, Michelle from SLA, and Jin from MICA worked on visuals of how the platform could look and be promoted in the future.

There was a real rush to the finish line, but we were ready to present our work at 10:00 am ET on Friday. We first presented internally to the Unravel participants/mentors. We then presented again for a public audience. I was really touched to see the MICA Graphic Design MFA directors, Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, and about 7 of our cohort peers also joined in to support Ana, Ruichao, and me.

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