Week Six

While we may not yet have robots in our living rooms folding our sheets, robotics are ever increasingly becoming an essential part of modern life. Robots can be cheaply constructed at home, while others aim to achieve human likeness. However, as noted by Rokeby, “The creation of interactive interfaces carries a social responsibility.” [1] Design must be considered in regards to how society will use and react to interactive technologies.

One good example of a piece of well designed interactive technology that has been used far beyond its perceived limits is Microsoft’s Kinect, developed for its Xbox 360 gaming console. What appears to be a gimmicky toy is a great and cheap sensor which can be applied to robotics and be developed by every day users to create all sorts of previously unimagined things, such as Minority Report style interfaces. [2] As stated by Rokeby, “Computer game developers are the newest masters of illusion.” [1]

Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a very influential film which showcased many potential interactive technologies well ahead of their time. It shows how people have been speculating about such technologies for quite some time, and how the technologies in the movie are still being developed towards – such as the sophisticated A.I.s such as HAL, which shows human emotions despite its monotone voice, almost placing it in the Uncanny Valley below.

Uncanny Valley

In the lecture there was some discussion on the uncanny valley, something I am very interested in. When thinking about robotics and interactive technologies it is very important, as if we reach the bottom of the uncanny valley there will be fear and loathing towards these interactive technologies. The uncanny valley was theorised by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori.


In tutorial, we discussed the contents of our interviews and picked out themes. The themes that particularly stood out to me were overpopulation, virtual travel, cultural diversity, fads and the interactivity of technology. That last one is particularly relevant to this week’s discussion. From here we starting thinking about potential scenarios to be developed from these themes.

[1] AND Rokeby, D (1998) “The Construction of Experience: Interface as Content” in Clark Dodsworth, Jr. (Ed.) Digital
Illusion: Entertaining the Future with High Technology, ACM Press, New York

[2] http://www.hizook.com/blog/2011/01/09/need-low-cost-sensors-robotics-holiday-edition

[3] Kubrick, S. (1968) 2001: A Space Odyssey (Feature Film)

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Week Five

What is the future? Histories & Predictions


Released in 1927, this 84 year old German expressionist silent film is still hailed as a classic and can even be seen as relevant today with renewing fears that we will be controlled by technology, especially with our growing reliance on things such as the internet and technology in medicine. Metropolis is an example of how we use popular culture to predict the future, and while being an exaggerated artistic film, today it reflects on how we as humans are becoming more and more programmed to perform with a machine. This can relate back to last weeks lecture where Lizzie discussed self-serve check outs at large chain retailers – here we are part of the machine rather than interacting with a cashier. (Although arguably the cashier is just another extension of their machine.) This sort of prediction, warning us of technology, often survives longer in relevancy over predictions of an amazing future full of glamorous technologies.

In contrast, Popular Mechanic’s ‘Mircales You’ll See In The Next Fifty Years’ (Feb, 1950) makes some hilariously bad predictions, such as food from sawdust. (2) However, these sorts of miraculous and glamorous technologies were parodied in their time, such as in this Tex Avery cartoon ‘Car of Tomorrow”. (3)


Chris Riedy and Aleta Leder’s lecture provided some great definitions and models to predicting the future. In particular STEEP (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, Politics), backcasting and forecasting and the ‘Iceberg’ of Litany, Systemic Causes, Worldview and Metaphors should prove to be useful in the course of designing in this subject and beyond. Leder’s examples of interpretive artworks provided some good inspiration for the coming project.


Forecasting and Backcasting was utilised in this week’s class, following the aforementioned models, particularly STEEP. We discussed how we feel the future will progress, as well as what our ideal future would be and backcasting the steps to get there. This provided some insightful ways of looking into the future and trying to understand how we can work and design towards the future we want. Although unfortunately, we came to a consensus that in order to force society to become more responsible and sustainable something catastrophic would have to occur. Another exercise we did was collating some images – our theme was positivity towards becoming slaves to technology. At the beginning of this session we viewed some IDEO videos which also provided some interesting ideas for how the future could look as well as prompting discussion.

(image of class exercise needed)


1. Metropolis, 1927, Fritz Lang

2. Popular Mechanics, Feb 1950, Mircales You’ll See In The Next Fifty Years http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/10/05/miracles-youll-see-in-the-next-fifty-years/

3. Car of Tomorrow, Tex Avery, 1951

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Week Four

Design Futuring and Scenario Building

This weeks lecture, by Lizzie Muller, was particularly interesting and relevant. Understanding and predicting the future is definitely an important aspect of creating and designing. A range of interesting topics were brought up by Lizzie over the course of this lecture. It is interesting to note how people can be nostalgic about the future – such as in the steampunk subculture highlighted by Lizzie. It would appear that people have always put a sort of timeline on the future, creating a date at which point the future will exist. It is impossible to create this sort of cap on the future, as the future is infinite (at least from the perspective of a human with a finite life span).

There were some eye opening things discussed, such as the problems of mining for Coltan (used in all mobile phones and many other common electronic devices), the reprogramming of humans to work more and more with machines rather than each other and our own inability to predict our future behaviour.

A Future of Glamour vs. Disaster

The most interesting point made by Lizzie was the two ideas of the future – the glitzy and the bleak. While many people envision the future to be made in places such as MIT, others envision a future of natural disasters and lack a lack of resources.

Solutions to these problems are often being developed in these glamorous labs. Continuing from the example of MIT, here is one solution that was developed as a response to the Haiti disaster – a portable solar-powered desalination system that could be used to reduce problems with dehydration on the island, harnessing their two most common resources of solar radiation and Caribbean ocean. While the solution is certainly beneficial and can be used in future applications, it presents a number of problems with developing these solutions in these labs.

Significantly, this solution was created after the problem became apparent and was not created as a result of a future scenario. It highlights the problem that humans have with reacting to stimulus to solve problems rather than predicting and building them from there. One Tony Fry quote implies this problem of this set to a larger scale – “Of course, the fundamental problem with a project that depends on large scale grant funding is that there are few, if any, major funding sources that will fund projects that are actually progressive, rigorous and radical.” (Fry, Tony, Design futuring: sustainability, ethics and new practice, 2009, p. 152)

Video: Steven Dubowsky, Amy Bilton, Leah Kelley

Next Assignment

There was discussion regarding the next assignment – to build scenarios around futuring. It looks like it will be insightful – I have already done the first interview, which brought up some interesting concepts from the perspective of someone over fifty.


http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/itw-portable-desalination-1015.html – MITnews, October 15 2010, accessed 31/03/2011

Fry, Tony, Design futuring: sustainability, ethics and new practice, 2009

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Humans Becoming Machines

Humans Becoming Machines

This weeks reading, by Don Idhe, explores the history of technology to draw out his main concepts of what technology is. In opening this chapter, Idhe states “one may not simple stipulate some definition of technology without also setting possible arguments and directions which could either skew or foreclose various avenues of inquiry.” (1) This shows that Idhe is showing his own bias in presenting his views – he does continue on to even say that a definition can not be neutral. However, Idhe’s ideas about technology are interesting and provide a discussion of his ideas as time, space and language being considered technologies. These ideas are intriguing and challenging my perceptions of what technology can be.

Machines as Part of Us

One example that particularly stood out in this weeks lecture was Stelarc and the ear implanted in his arm – something he one day wants to be fully functional, able to enhance his own senses.

Medical technologies were mentioned in the lecture – one example of a medical technology that is used to an extreme to play off peoples senses is BrainGate, a technology developed to help people who have lost the use of their limbs. It allows people to do simple tasks through a chip implanted in their brain, creating a brain-computer interface. One chip has reached a milestone in being used by a patient for over a thousand days. (2) This sort of neuroscience medical application can appear to be the future of how humans interact with computers and can arguably show how we are eithers masters or slaves to technology.

Speculative Design

Some speculative design was mentioned in the lecture, including Dunne and Raby’s ‘What If’ art installation, which was both poignant and amusing. In both class and the lecture we looked at Danielle Wilde’s and Kristina Andersen’s OWL project. Using these speculative objects on parts of our bodies we came up with concepts of how they could be applied using our own senses, feelings and needs.


1. Idhe, Don, Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction, p 47, New York: Paragon Hoise 1993

2. Brown University, BrainGate neural interface reaches 1,000 day milestone, David Orenstein, March 24, 2011, http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2011/03/braingate, accessed 6/03/11

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Creative Technologies 85500 Week Two

Online all the Time

Technology catalyses changes not only in what we do but in how we think.” (1) This quote from the week’s reading really emphasises how humans, especially the younger, digital native types, are beginning to change their views and habits around the internet, the topic of discussion in this weeks lecture given by Dr Keir Winesmith from SBS Online.

The internet is something that has always existed in the lives of someone born in the 1990s, as many undertaking this subject are. Even if it has not always been accessible to us, it has in that time been mainstream and well-known amongst the general populace. It was in the early 90s that the internet took off over the world and created a sort of revolution in how we think, act and protect our privacy.

Internet Privacy

Today the internet is used by billions of people globally. It is taking over the world and it is taking over people. While the internet is beneficial in many ways, it can also be a negative in many ways. Many students may bemoan the amount of time they spend procrastinating on the ‘addictive’ facebook, although this just scratches the surface. There are some serious issues of privacy which are brought about by the internet. One of the more serious examples brought up by Dr Winesmith was ChoicePoint, a company that sells information about people collated from the internet to clients. (2) Of these clients, the American government makes up a very sizable portion, using loopholes to gather information they can’t gather themselves.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/business/daily/graphics/choicepoint_012005.html#

Another prominent example was our relationship with social media and how it compromised our information. This included Google, however Facebook was particularly prominent. Recently, some internet pranksters took it upon themselves to show the problems with Facebook and privacy. Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico created a website which scraped Facebook for public profiles and details and sorted people based on their facial expressions. (2) (3) This is really alarming as it shows just how easily people can now be searched and categorised, creating preconceived notions about people and how their information is compromised. The authors insist it is art.

1. Turkle, Sherry, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, London: Granada, 1984

2. Wired, Feb 3 2011, Dating Site Imports 250,000 Facebook Profiles, Without Their Permission, http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/02/facebook-dating/ accessed 06/04/1

3. http://www.face-to-facebook.net/index.php

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85500 Creative Technologies Week One

As a digital native, it’s impossible to imagine a world without abundance and technology. The joining of humans and technology are an every day unavoidable part of life and something to which has not been given much mainstream thought since some big action flicks from the 1980s. The ideas brought up the question of what constitutes a cyborg are interesting and far away from the traditional ideas one might hold of thinking of a cyborg being purely like the Terminator or a replicant out of the movie Bladerunner.

As pointed out in The Cyborg Handbook (1), it is folly to base our notions of what a cyborg is based on the musings of science fiction alone.

However, how we view cyborgs today has been in part influenced by popular medi and science fiction. For example, the movie Terminator 2 gives an example of the extreme – a robot with a human skin. However, this robot can learn and interact with humans, even becoming a sort of father figure for the movie’s protagonist John Connor. This may show a sort of future for cyborgs – humans becoming more and more robotic, or the alternative of cyborgs becoming more and more like humans.


Cyborgs are now a part of daily life; it is argued that not only is someone with an implant a cyborg, but so to is someone who uses something as common as glasses – technology enhancing our senses. It’s an idea that might be scoffed at by the average person, especially someone younger and a digital native, but it is none the less how we run our lives. It is almost impossible for someone to imagine a time before a certain technology that they now posses – even if they did not have that technology before. As was discussed, technology makes us masters of nature and while we consider it our slaves, we are still dependant on it and society is structured on it – it is hard to see every day cyborgs not existing, as many people depend on it for medicinal reasons, either for someone like glasses, or for something like an implant, but one can imagine how we could see cyborgs in the future for all sorts of reasons – embedded chips with information on the person and so on.

1. Gray, Chris Hables, The Cyborg Handbook, New York: Routledge, 1995

2. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991, Dir James Cameron

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