May studio & June blackbox memory/place update

Thanks, Patricia, so 

we may have Dance studio in May.  (Pending)


Friday June 24, 9 AM till June 30, 4 PM
 new Blackbox  request Pending
"For Para-site installation experiment, and Memory+Place+Identity experiment.  Zohar Kfir, Sha Xin Wei & Topological Media Lab."

Xin Wei

On 2011-04-01, at 2:49 PM, p.a.duquette wrote:

Hi All,

So I have been in touch with Michael Montanaro, regarding possible May dates for our formal trials. He has asked us to propose a few dates and times, so long as between 1pm and 10pm, so that he can assess what he is able to accommodate at his own studio.

I may be able to send you further information regarding the lay out of the studio, this weekend.

x patricia

Because the essence of technology is nothing technological, essential reflection upon technology and decisive confrontation with it must happen in a realm that is, on the one hand, akin to the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally different from it. Such a realm is art. But certainly only if reflection upon art, for its part, does not shut its eyes to the constellation of truth, concerning which we are questioning." - Heidegger

paper call for Gardening and Nesting groups

Laura, shall we meet Wed 2 PM next week to to talk about a paper?  
Jen if you're interested in joining us, you're welcome

Cheers, Xin Wei

Begin forwarded message:

Date: March 10, 2011 5:14:01 PM EST
To: "Sha Wei" <>
Cc: "p.a.duquette " <>
Subject: paper call for Gardening and Nesting groups

I meant Plant/Ecology  +  Memory/Place
groups of course:

Temporal Environments: Rethinking Time and Ecology
Deadline: April 01 2011
Updated: January 16 2011
Special Issue of the Journal of Environmental Philosophy Editors:
Jacob Metcalf (UC Santa Cruz) and Thom van Dooren (University of
Technology, Sydney)

Place and space have received substantial attention in environmental
philosophy in recent decades. Theorists from a variety of fields have
proposed that reorienting our relationship to the non-human world
requires reconsideration of ways of understanding and inhabiting
spaces and places. Ecophenomenologists have argued that replacing
meaningful places with abstract space was a critical moment in
histories of environmental destruction, and environmental ethics will
require re-imagining place as meaningful again. Bioregionalism has
emphasized the need to rethink our places as ecological relationships,
and inspired not only changes in academia, but also in environmental
movements such as food localism. In a related vein, Val Plumwood has
cautioned against too simplistic a notion of “one’s place”,
the fracturing of place in which cherished homeplaces are able to be
preserved only as a result of the destruction of less visible ‘shadow
places’. In short, there is a broad assertion that reassessing our
obligations to more-than-human worlds requires understanding place as
more meaningful than an empty space to be filled by human concerns.

This special issue of the Journal of Environmental Philosophy will
present a collection of articles that direct similar attention to the
time and temporality of environments, a topic that has been relatively
neglected by environmental philosophy and ethics. Although
environmental ethicists have long discussed temporal issues, such as
intergenerational justice, time has often been treated as an
essentially linear and static container for human action. But if we
conceive of time as produced, constructed, maintained, lived,
multiple, and a more-than-human concern, the possibilities for
environmental philosophy look dramatically different. This collection
will offer such a framework for thinking through time and environment
by exploring the multiple lived times present in global climate
change, species extinction, the practices of ecological sciences, and
the temporal fidelities of conservation and restoration.

Among the questions we hope this collection might explore are: What
philosophical reconsiderations of time might be available and useful
for other ecological disciplines? How does the pace of human life—
markets, science, desires, consumption—impact our ability to imagine
and produce livable futures? How might we remember different, and
sometimes lost, ways of valuing human and nonhuman worlds in a way
that does not fetishize the past but still holds it open as a resource
for constructing better futures? How does an attentiveness to the
scope of evolutionary time alter our sense of obligation in a time of
massive biodiversity loss? How does the high-speed pace of much human
life actually make it harder to change the conditions of those lives?
How do humans and other animals learn to justly co-inhabit our
sometimes very different temporalities? What ways of life are enabled
or disabled by different temporal metaphors? What post-colonial
temporalities are necessary for recuperation of cultural ecologies
damaged by genocides and ecocides? Will sustainable ecologies require
new models of temporality to reformulate growth, degrowth, and

We invite submissions from environmental philosophers and other
ecological scholars, including reflective pieces from natural and
social scientists. Pieces that are grounded in specific cases of
temporal environments are especially encouraged. We welcome pieces
from international and native communities, and others not often
represented in philosophy `journals.

The Journal of Environmental Philosophy (http:// is a peer-reviewed professional philosophy
journal, and is the official journal of the International Association
of Environmental Philosophy (IAEP). The Journal of Environmental
Philosophy publishes innovative research relevant to all areas of
environmental philosophy, including ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics,
theology, politics, ecofeminism, environmental justice, philosophy of
technology, and ecophenomenology. Target publication date: Spring 2012
Abstracts of 300-400 words, due by April 1, 2011 Papers due for review
by August 1, 2011 There are no word count restrictions, but
submissions are encouraged to aim for 6-8,000 words. For further
information or to submit abstracts, please contact Jacob Metcalf
( or Thom van Dooren

formal trial date & build costs

Begin forwarded message:

From: Andrew Forster <>
Date: March 9, 2011 10:25:36 AM EST
Subject: Re: formal trial date & build costs [memory/place]

Great picture. I think this is the perfect set-up. Thanks for looking into this. We get the big baboon and our participants hang underneath (with the updated glove on, of course). We'll need to get some bags of wood chips. We'll need to alter the protocol a little + I think the debrief should include the primate. I think this can work.


On 2011-03-09, at 10:07 AM, Niomi Anna Cherney wrote:

I suggest that we meet next Thursday in the TML to go over the video record of the first trial and begin to prepare a Call for Participation. 

The attached photo was taken by yours truly in 2008 at the Metro Toronto Zoo. The baby baboon pictured below is now of full size and anxiously awaiting his participation in our installation.

Until the next meeting, 

On Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 7:51 AM, Sha Xin Wei <> wrote:
Protocol people -- Noah Niomi Tristana  et al...
How about you guys decide, write  up a call for participants in the installation, t we will circulate.  Let's pose this not as an experiment, but as an art installation.  Let's regard our visitors as guests not as subjects.


On 2011-03-07, at 1:52 PM, "p.a.duquette" <> wrote:

I should perhaps add that I'm presenting y'all with the highest qoute, in search of an allowable budget range. Zohar and I are for sure looking into cheaper alternatives in the interim.

-----Original Message-----
From: p.a.duquette <>
Sent: Mon, Mar 7, 2011 12:45 pm
Subject: formal trial date & build costs [memory/place]

Hi All,

I can't seem to find reference to our overall schedule; when is it we are holding the formal trial (with selected glove / subjects, et al)? We are looking to know the timeline we are working within.

Zohar and I were discussing the possibility of using a wrist brace, upon which we would mount our new glove's electronics (such as this: It is firm as well as flexible enough to serve this purpose, and we would imitate it's design for a finger brace (where the vibrating motor and photoresister / light detector would be mounted). Both would be fastened via Velcro, thus adjustable.

Altogether, one device built this way would likely cost btwn 50-60$ (depending on how many parts we can pilfer rather than purchase). Is this affordable budget-wise? Is it affordable to build two of these (whether as 'back up' or to be worn on both hands)?

videos and thoughts

Looking at the videos, I find the body gestures fascinating, such as the intuitive index finger pointing even though the apparatus is not physically on it,
the leaning forward to extend the reaching point even when subjects are bound to the chair, seeking a fuzzy source.

It seems that it will be important to rethink the bodily limitations and make sure they are consistent.
also, with the prep talk and debriefing parts I find that consistency is highly important, making sure we ask each subject the exact same questions and not follow up on random tangents of thought.

Here are the videos for external views. (Ill upload Laura's next week, vimeo upload limits)

Memory-Place march 3rd | Xin Wei......Intro

Memory-Place march 3rd | Xin Wei......Part 1

Memory-Place march 3rd | Xin Wei......Part 2

Memory-Place march 3rd | Xin Wei......Debriefing

David | Xin Wei

Hysteresis and Metastability

I'm not too worried about these issues. The underlying issue with why we want an on-off response in the motor is this: we want the participant to have just ONE bit of data given by the environment; we want to show that with just this one bit, PLUS their feeling of their own movement, they can get a sense of space. This is what lets us show that the feeling of a space need not depend on more than that one data point. And this lets us make a strong argument that the sense of space is constituted via movement. When we have analogue response, the participant is gleaning multiple bits of data; and the data maps out vectors, from weaker to stronger responses, and so inherently has a kind of oriented spatiality to it. Experientially, I should also say that the feeling of being connected with something beyond me in the case of the digital glove, clearly arose from the way *I moved*; I have to do something to get a bearing. Whereas, with the analogue glove, it was more like being beholden to a vector field beyond me which ALREADY laid out its directions; I need to move only into order to reveal already given vectors. I.e., my thought is that the digital apparatus gives you more of a sense of being participant in space constitution.

No doubt the cut off implementation is going to give artifacts and interesting stuff. But I think these are artefacts as to where QUANTATIVELY, in *an already given space*, the cutoff is to happen. But our interest is in our moving relation to things and boundaries as QUALITATIVE, in a 'space of constituion'. So I'm not worried. On the other hand, coincidentally, I was thinking this morning that hysteresis, metastability, transitions, etc., are the point where machines become interestingly living. This is because I must have plugged my USB hard drive at *just* the wrong microsecond this morning as my computer was booting up, because it failed to recognize it properly and then wouldn't recognized it properly on a second, third, etc. insert. I thought my drive was fried, but it turned out to be some weird glitch that: didn't recognize the drive; yet left the driver resident in memory; and couldn't fix up that problem. When I shut down and restarted the drive worked fine. I take it this because there is something about the process of a system getting ready to function that nearly always leaves an unclean transition. I.e., we want computer systems to either be off or on, started up (and ready to recognize hardware) or not (and not ready to recognize), but the infinitely fast transitions that we envision always take time. And that's where machine get interestingly ornery, where we want to say: it's died on me, it's failed to live. -----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of
Sent: March-05-11 5:18 PM
Subject: RE: Hysteresis and Metastability

Thanks for the pointer although I should emphasize that the point of my
was to warn the memory-place group of the methodological rabbit hole:
not send them down into it.

You don't need to avoid comparators. There is one in every gate of every
digital computer...
You just need to know that digital is an illusion and that maintaining
the illusion is hard work and has some obvious
and some less obvious results. I nearly got caught by this myself
recently scaling up multitouch pressure fabric arrays we are working on.
Bigger than about 12x12 skew and jitter-induced distortion from
distributing the ADC clocks around the arrays is enough to impact
performance. Without a lot of hard work we will never get near the pitch
precision a cellist has available to them for example.

One doesn't usually add a nonlinearity as you suggest in the analog
world because the circuitry to do the nonlinearity
adds even more of its own noise (and a temperature dependence, requiring
noisy diodes to compensate for). Take a look at the LM13700 ecosystem to see what I am talking about.

> > Here's a suggestion: rather than using a comparator, think about using the
> venerable sigmoid or the hyperbolic tangent functions so that the
> "amplification" around the threshold can be tuned to be more gentle:
> +
> > You can get a feel for the functions here:
> > I'm not sure how to implement this with analog electronics, but you could do
> it with a little Atmega ATtiny chip: or
> a spare Arduino (overkill).
> > Morgan
> > On Sat, Mar 5, 2011 at 1:41 PM, wrote:
> > > Xin Wei asked me to forward these thoughts to the group in general. I
> > sent them to him originally because I didn't went to be known as the
> > chief source of rain on your parade…
> >
> >
> > After I heard you wanted to change the sensor device to a switching
> > instead of a continuous mode I reflexively told Patricia to look into
> > hysteresis (a basis function for state space modeling) for the glove
> > sensor.
> >
> > Hysteresis is what engineers learn about to analyze the usual solutions
> > to a thorny and deep problem that arises when moving from "continuous"
> > signals to bivalued signals. The solutions have various names, e.g.,
> > positive feedback comparator, Schmitt trigger
> > (
> > The idea is to eliminate what some engineers called "chatter" (others
> > jitter) a switching back and forth between the two states when you are
> > near the thresshold. At this threshhold very small modulations in light
> > are "amplified" into gross switching changes by the apparatus. These may
> > be caused by ambient interference from other light sources, noise from
> > the light source or sensors themselves or more interestingly your own
> > shakiness.
> >
> > I am concerned that I have just taught enough to the implementation team
> > to essentially ruin the experiment. The signal conditioning I mentioned
> > is inherent in the construction of this device and may deeply distort
> > the results. The idea of a "clean" edge/experience is loaded. You are
> > looking for emergence of walls and rooms but you may have constructed
> > them with the comparator.
> > What if fuzzy, chattery edges were fundamental and primary to
> > experiencing edge
> > and memory.....etc. What if random modulations are fundamental
> > to the perceptual apparatus (which there is evidence of in the case of
> > the eye)?
> >
> > Oops.
> >
> > Remember the coin-in-the-water demonstration? I claim the water is a
> > window. It doesn't have the familar spatial relationship or material
> > qualities that windows have in regular rooms. Why can't part of the
> > roomness be defined in the electronics?
> >
> > At the very least we have to acknowledge that what we experience using
> > the apparatus is an entanglement of us, the light source and the whole
> > apparatus.
> >
> > p.s. It is not the comparator by itself that is the problem. I hear you
> > all talking of the apparatus as if going to two states or a "single"
> > sense modality somehow simplified or reduced something. In fact the
> > implementation of a comparator like this is an amplifier of the noise at
> > the thresshold - a recoding of barely perceptible signals into
> > perceptible ones - a trade of space and time. ().
> >
> > If you are tempted to sweep this concern under the rug remember:
> >
> > 1) that 100pS jitter in audio signal reproduction is audible
> > 2) the related problem of metastability:
> > "metastability is an inevitable result of any attempt to map a
> > continuous domain to a discrete one"
> >
> > "Serious computer and digital hardware bugs caused by metastability have
> > a fascinating social history. Many engineers have refused to believe
> > that a bistable device can enter into a state that is neither true nor
> > false and has a positive probability that it will remain indefinite for
> > any given period of time, albeit with exponentially decreasing
> > probability over time. However, metastability is an inevitable result of
> > any attempt to map a continuous domain to a discrete one. There will
> > always be points in the continuous domain which are equidistant (or
> > nearly so) from the points of the discrete domain, making a decision as
> > to which discrete point to select a difficult and potentially lengthy
> > process.[8] If the inputs to an arbiter or flip-flop arrive almost
> > simultaneously, the circuit most likely will traverse a point of
> > metastability. Metastability remains poorly understood in some circles,
> > and various engineers have proposed their own circuits said to solve or
> > filter out the metastability; typically these circuits simply shift the
> > occurrence of metastability from one place to another."
> >
> > 3) These sorts of things are probably at play in biological signal
> > mechanisms at the cellular level e.g., gradients in cells.
> >
> >

Arakawa and Gins

Among the most sustained experimental, corporeal investigations of how the organism inhabits its space has been Madeline Gins and Arakawa's work.   It may be interesting to take a look at their holistic approach to analogous experiments.   We read Architectural Body a few years ago in an earlier TML seminar on architecture and experience.   It could be useful to spiral back, with philosophical eyes.

Helen Keller, or Arakawa, 1994

Architectural Body, 2002

Gaze Brace

Ubiquitous Site, Nagi

Memory+Place: Glove#3 (In Progress)

Carissimi Memory + Place People,

Congratulations everyone on a very illuminating reheasal of our variant of the Lenay Steiner experiment!
(sorry, couldn't resist that one)    Compliments to Naomi, Noah, and everyone working on the protocol (Thanks Tristana!)   Compliments to the glove makers Zohar and Patricia (Claire?).   Special Thanks to Adrian Freed in Berkeley for device-level help, intricately sensitive to some phenomenological implications.  (I'll forward Adrian's thoughts with his permission to share those implications.)

Some observations:

0.   To set some working vocabulary,  let's call the thresholded logic, the "on-off" or "binary" feedback, NOT digital.  In many situations, a digital logic can be written to imitate a continuous response to a degree largely indistinguishable from a human's perspective.   And an analog circuit can be made to imitate a binary logic.  Viz. a light switch.

1.  I agree that the most appropriate situation to try will be: (1) cloth-ring with motor; (2) cuff+velcro with amplified circuit (digital or analog + filters to make binary feedback); (3) nova: superbright  compact LEDs in a diffuser container, not a beam; (4) option to stand and walk around, with spotters.  (See comment #3.)

2.  The interesting effect of binary feedback is that the person is sensing projective geometry: all rays from the target (luminous object) are identified to a single "on" by the binary logic; moving the sensor toward the object along a given ray does not change the intensity of the motor.    "Normally," (we think that) the body equipped with stereo vision constructs range information from relative movement.   It gets even more interesting.  By approaching the object, the object subtends more of the your field of vision  -- it looms larger.  But in the case of the glove's "projective geometric" sensing: approaching the object, and sweeping your hand left and right, you subtend a smaller angle.   By carefully removing all range information, including Clever Hans info from the spotters, the object may appear to recede or get smaller as you approach it.

I would like to try to see if this can be the case!

3.   So obviously prosthetisizing the body by bold-facing the pointing finger may introduce overly cognitive scaffolding just as much as telling the person to mentally locate an object in a mental map of the room.

Two-handed accoutrement should elicit significantly different behavior from our one-glove situation:  reaching for, reaching around, shaping, vs pointing to, indicating ...  Behavior may be too loaded a term, but someone else can help suggest a less suggestive vocabulary here.

Hey, when's our next experiment?   We should press on because the term is rapidly closing, and our supply of eager subjects may drop as final projects hit.

Cheers! Onward!
Xin Wei

Glove#3 (In Progress)

 This is the one we'll try for the first time tomorrow...

z & p

"We are simple-minded enough to think that if we were saying something we would use words. We are rather doing something. The meaning of what we do is determined by each one who sees and hears it." - John Cage
Canada Research Chair • Associate Professor • Design and Computation Arts • Concordia University
Director, Topological Media Lab •    skype: shaxinwei • +1-514-817-3505

Glove#3 (In Progress)

 This is the one we'll try for the first time tomorrow...

z & p

"We are simple-minded enough to think that if we were saying something we would use words. We are rather doing something. The meaning of what we do is determined by each one who sees and hears it." - John Cage


Just to test my posterability, delete this whenever.
And thanks zohar, patricia, claire. Trying the glove, even in rudimentary circumstances was quite enlightening, you could say. There are definitely new ways of shaping to be experienced. And interesting on the experimental set-up side to know that the thing or shape we make as a target is not actually the shape we think it is. Clearly a need to eliminate cross-pollution in that regard. All of which justifies starting with the simplest reduction of the original experiment both to investigate the phenomena and to reduce the pollution. From there I can imagine about 20 interesting experimental variations with this tech set up alone. This could take about a decade.   Andrew