prior glove prototypes / plot

We tried posting these a while back, so this attempt is merely a test to see if we're successful (with new member settings). The following represent first attempts at constructing our electronic prosthetic and the studio plot. Newer / updated versions of each will posted over the coming week.

x zohar, patricia, and claire

"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

Experimental protocol (rough draft)

Tristana, Niomi and I (Noah) have cobbled together a rough draft of an experimental protocol. We focused on the first trials, which (I believe) will be an attempt to replicate the Lenay/Steiner experiment. (I'm attaching a copy of the Lenay/Steiner article, since folks seem to be having trouble finding it.) Once we get this protocol into shape, we can use it as a template for protocols for subsequent experiments.

We'll have to make some changes to this first draft based on the discussion we had yesterday, but for now here is a copy of the document that we handed out at the meeting. I'm also attaching a copy of the Lenay/Steiner article, since folks seem to be having trouble finding it.


Skype Meeting, Memor+Place Group, Concordia Thursday, January 20, 2011 2:30 PM-4:00 PM

Welcome to the Memory + Place + Identity project that David Morris and I have been tending for a year.  David is my colleague at Concordia, and Chair of the Philosophy Department.  We're deep into the process, and are beginning a round of experiments on "room effects" via haptic, sonic, kinesthetic, vs ocular modes.   We have a group of very sharp and energetic grad students in philosophy and fine arts.  Although our backgrounds and approaches may be different, I'm looking forward to opening a window and seeing what synergies ensue.

I hope that it'll be ok to introduce some non-fleshly presences, given our concern with phenomenology.

I will send a few references, and try to summarize our past seminar over the past year, in the next email, but wanted to send a quick welcome following Paula's email.   (Thanks Paula!)

Warm regards,
Xin Wei

Sha Xin Wei, Ph.D.
Canada Research Chair • Associate Professor • Design and Computation Arts • Concordia University
Director, Topological Media Lab •  • • +1-514-817-3505

On 2011-01-10, at 1:42 PM, Gardner, Paula(Academic) wrote:

When: Thursday, January 20, 2011 2:30 PM-4:00 PM. Eastern Standard Time
Where: Mobile Lab, OCAD


Hi all. This is a meeting with Xin Wei's memory/cognition/phenomenology group. We will introduce our general research questions and areas of interest and they theirs to discuss how to share and go forward. There are lots of good overlaps. We'll do this via skype at mobile lab. Jason: You are welcome to bring anyone working with you on your autism/memory/cognition project. Barbara do you want to invite Francis perhaps?
<Mail Attachment.ics>

Also just read Andrew's post

Thanks to David, Niomi and Andrew for their helpful posts. I have one thought to add.

In talking about how to give participants in our experiment a sense of being in a bounded space, i.e. a room, we seem to have ended up talking about giving them a second "artificial sense organ", in additon to a first one that would be geared to perceiving objects in these room. But I wonder if this added complication is necessary. It would be preferable, it seems to me, to think of room-boundaries as constraints on the first prosthetic sense organ, rather than objects perceived via a second prosthetic. (This might be more of a difference in how we think about this than in how we implement it.) 

I'm thinking of two ways in which boundaries might constrain the participant's perceptions. One is to constrain her movements. (Since perception occurs via movement, this is also a constraint on perception.) The other is to have boundaries that constrain or block the "line of sight" of her prosthetic sense. The simplest version of this would be to only allow perception of objects that are in the same room as the participant; a more complex version would allow perception of objects in other roms through doorways or windows (not sure how to implement this exactly).

I think it would be interesting to implement these two different kinds of constraint both separately and together. This way we could find out if boundaries that are opaque to perception, but porous to movement, are enough to generate a sense of "roominess"; or if transparent boundaries that prevent movement are sufficient; or if both together are needed.

I'm trying to avoid assuming in advance that we know what a room-boundary is. We're all familiar with walls, but what is it about walls that generates roominess? What, again, are the mimumum conditions a boundary requires in order to generate a room? Ideally I'd like to be able to watch the room-structure generate itself out of the dynamics of perception and navigation, rather than being decided it too much in advance. (This may be overly ambitious, but it's at least the direction I'd like to aim in.)

As far as implementing boundaries that prevent movement goes, I can see two different options broadly speaking: boundaries that physically impede the movement of participants, in the way that ordinary walls do; and signals, which let the participant know she's hit a wall, and that she should not continue in that direction. Now this signal could very well be a buzzer on the feet, so it seems we're back where we started. But I want to mark a distinction here which I think is important, between a sense organ and a signal. The prosthetic that's geared toward locating objects in space is supposed to be a sense organ in a fairly robust sense, which generates a sense of moving and perceiving in a three-dimensional space. But we don't necessarily need a whole other sense organ to locate walls with; we might only need some way of indicating to the participant that she's hit a wall, and thus constraining (albeit voluntarily) her movement.

Looking forward to discussing all this more with you all tomorrow.

On Nov 26, 2010, at 4:42 PM, David Morris wrote:

Thanks to Niomi and Andrew for these thoughts—I`ve only been able to just glance over, but they look rich and insightful.

NB I`d been thinking about something in the soles too, on the basis of Berthoz`s book; next to our inner ear, apparently some of the most important balance and acceleration sensing goes on in our feet.

I`d also been thinking about a bungee cord in some kind of payout system that measures how much cord is paid out and brakes it, to create a limit on movement. But I was worried about tangles, and kinks, etc. Unless we mounted it to the top of the head. Which would be odd.

Hope to spend some more time on this soon….

bon weekend,….

From: [] On Behalf Of Niomi Anna Cherney
Sent: November-26-10 12:38 PM
Subject: Also just read Andrew's post

Sorry all, was writing when Andrew posted. I think Andrew's sole sensor idea is genius and maybe gets around some of the problems I pose in my response. 

Niomi Anna Cherney
Master of Arts (Special Individualized Program) Candidate
Concordia University

Memory+Place: We will write out a experiment design brief Wed Dec 1

good points all!!!

PLease go ahead and take the baton on planning the experiment:
1.  the scenario, the phenomenon in question;
2. apparatus and stage design;
3. protocol;
4. plan: who does what when where.  First run we should do a study in the TML using Ozone set up. 

Zohar and Claire can draw on Ozone for backup

Ozone core people are : Morgan Sutherland -- state, sensing, Tyr Umbach -- realtime video, Navid Navab -- realtime sound, and others.

Please write this up as a proposal to me and David so we can all look it over and discuss the experimental protocol. A brief doc -- a few pages, with diagrams on physical layout, and apparatus system  -- is fine!   

Can the most spirited of you take this on.  I imagine Zohar and Claire should be among the authors. 

Please bring thoughts/notes for this by for Dec 1.  We can take that last session of the term to produce this doc.

Xin Wei

On 2010-11-26, at 9:37 AM, Niomi Anna Cherney wrote:

Sorry all, was writing when Andrew posted. I think Andrew's sole sensor idea is genius and maybe gets around some of the problems I pose in my response. 

Andrew Forster: soles

From: Andrew Forster <>

A brief though derived from DMs last post from the 21st, in reference to where the actuator and the transducers should be. 'Actuator' is sensor, 'transducer' is buzzy vibrator feedback thing, the thing we will feel, right?

Sensor: In might be useful if participants do NOT know where the sensor is or, alternatively, what method it uses to gather info (EG you put on a pair of overalls and a hat and somewhere in it is hidden the device), so we are not overly pre-interpreting, based on knowledge of the sensor.

Transducer: Following the comment in 2 b/d) about upper body/lower body/body schema/room schema, ankles and feet do seem interesting. What if the the transducer/feedack was on the soles of the feet? An insole slipped into the shoes, maybe. Firstly, the feet, unlike their friends the hands, are not primarily recruited for complex object sensing, in fact we shoe them to avoid or buffer their sensitivity to specifics and generally our downward sensing from the soles of our feet is about grounding and movement (changes in changes...). So that part of our body is not habitually preoccupied with object-processing. Secondly, precisely because the soles deal primarily with locomotion, balance, place etc. adding input here could destabilize a little our habitual way of measuring, pacing, locating. Lift us off our ground a little, creating an interesting sensitivity.

And I think the terms 'sedimented' and 'vanishing' in 2b create vital images.


Also just read Andrew's post

Thanks to Niomi and Andrew for these thoughts—I`ve only been able to just glance over, but they look rich and insightful.

NB I`d been thinking about something in the soles too, on the basis of Berthoz`s book; next to our inner ear, apparently some of the most important balance and acceleration sensing goes on in our feet.

I`d also been thinking about a bungee cord in some kind of payout system that measures how much cord is paid out and brakes it, to create a limit on movement. But I was worried about tangles, and kinks, etc. Unless we mounted it to the top of the head. Which would be odd.

Hope to spend some more time on this soon….

bon weekend,….

From: [] On Behalf Of Niomi Anna Cherney
Sent: November-26-10 12:38 PM
Subject: Also just read Andrew's post

Sorry all, was writing when Andrew posted. I think Andrew's sole sensor idea is genius and maybe gets around some of the problems I pose in my response. 

Even Further Thoughts re Experimental Design

A few other thoughts:

1) After re-reading Lenay and Steiner, I think it might be an error to have more than one actuator on the hand. I.e., it it’s probably wrong to pursue a model in which objects are colour coded, with different stimulators on the body responding to different colour lights. The issue is that with JUST ONE stimulator on the body, all you have is A POINT source, and a good argument that space is created by movement. If you have more than one point, this invites a representationalist interpretation, since the stimuli on the body start looking like a space of points.

2) Indeed, it would be a really powerful and impressive experiment, if a participant could discern the identity of multiple objects, i.e., discern that there ARE multiple objects, just using one point stimulus, and movement. That would be really wild.

I imagine us having a protocol in which some participants habituate to the single object setup, and some are naïve. Both go into a multiple object setup with the following variations: a) body is stationary; b) body can locomote, freely; c) body can locomote, with room constraints. I am betting b will be important to discerning multiple objects, and c might facilitate, or facilitiate remembering where things are.

We can then move from the above setup to a multi room setup, and test for memory and room-effects. But, in any case, the above setup will GIVE US A LENS INTO THE BODY-MOVEMENT-ROOM-THING nexus, that is, really let us see how movement and habit, etc., are involved in this domain of memory-place-identity.

3) It now strikes me that my own book, The Sense of Space, in particular the chapter on depth perception, will be a resource too. For Lenay and Steiner, I think, give confirmation of my concept of ‘envelopes’ of movement, constrained by the body schema, being crucial to perception. It now seems to me that what we are probing is the relation between inner and outer envelopes of movement in perception (inner envelopes are here movements of the body in relation to thing, and outer envelopes are locomotory movements of the body as limited by the room).

4) Rooms as joints: I wonder if there is something deep here. I also wonder why in English we call certain places “joints.” I.e., Marlow walks into the joint and asks the bar tender something. Could it be that English has a leg up here on German re. philosophical insights?


Further Experimental Design: Thoughts & Sources

Hello everybody,

Sorry I couldn’t make our Nov 17 meeting. Noah filled me in a bit on what happened, and I am really happy to hear that we are collectively excited by moving forward with an expansion of the design from Lenay and Steiner. A few thoughts that I think are important, and some remarks about sources to read to help us out. I hope this won’t be too long, but thoughts keep on coming and I don’t want to lose them, ‘cause then, gosh darn it, they don’t never come back. (Ah well, it ended up being a bit long…)

1)      I do hope we can use the virtual boundary model, where we dynamically generate the sense of running into room limits…

2)      I would argue that the actuators for feeling like you are running into room limits MUST NOT be on the hands, and shouldn’t be on the torso, but should be on the ankles or feet.

2.a) First, I think now that we should NOT CONFUSE THE ROOMS WE SEE/PERCEIVE  AS OBJECTS WITH THE SORT OF ROOM THAT WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT, the room that is the BACKGROUND of perception. True, we see the rooms in which we move about, but I think that is only accidental to what we are investigating. THE ROOM THAT ACTS AS LIMIT AND CONSTRAINT on movement is not in the first instance identical with the room we happen to perceive. This is a hard and subtle point. But, first of all consider that we are interested in room as a sort of condition and background for seeing OTHER things. This is sort of background condition is not thematic. And consider waking up in an unfamiliar hotel room in the middle of the night and needing to get to the bathroom. In this situation, you try and make an objective mental map, and you grope around with your hands, trying to feel where walls are, paying attention to sound and felt air movements, so you don’t smash your knee on the night table etc. IT IS IN THIS SITUATION THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO PERCEIVE THE ROOM AS OBJECT. When you get up out of bed at home to go to the bathroom, probably for the most part your room is not an OBJECT, but is a vanishing, inborn background of movement which has the bathroom as its object. So, a nicer way to put the point here is that when we are probing rooms as enabling constraints of handling/perceiving objects (and as thereby having a role in the harbouring of memory), we are not thinking about the ROOM AS AN OBJECT, but as a habitual, albeit ‘external’ background of movement.

2.b)On the basis of the above, I am now inclined to think of there being a ‘room schema’ in analogy to the body schema, or perhaps as an elaboration of the body schema: my body schema, as crossing me and the world, is labile, so there is a body-schema-of-me-in-the-office, in-the-kitchen, etc. Yet I don’t have this schema on my own, but through limits of rooms I inhabit. The point here is the room as I inhabit it is NOT a perceived object, anymore than my body-schema is a perceived object; the body-schema and room-schema are limits sedimented in my habits of inhabitation. Sometimes you can correlate objective features of a room with limits in the room schema, but there is no materialist, reductive way of producing this mapping. The kid doesn’t go into the basement because it’s a scary place, how close you go to walls depends on all sorts of things, you don’t cross the taped lines on the art gallery floor, the carpet runner in the middle of the hall keeps you off the wooden margins of the hall. There’s a way of reading motives for room-schemas in perceived features of rooms, but these features are not the causes, and in any case when a room is enabling motion toward things, I think it is doing this precisely by the room vanishing as an object  perceived (in the way that objective features of the hammer vanish in the hammering of other things). It’s only when things go wrong that you notice the room as such…(or when you’re designing a room, etc.)

2.c) All of which suggests: in the experiment, the modality through which you encounter objects IN a room, should not be the modality through which you encounter the ROOM, at least not in our minimal space design. I.e. it would confuse things if you perceived both things in the room and the room through actuators on the hand. (NB here I’m not really working with any principled thing vs. object distinction.)

2.d) Rooms are constraints/limits on overall movement, i.e., locomotion, movement from place to place. This limit enables body movement, i.e., movement of the body relative to itself as geared to things, lets call this manipulation for the movement. Generally we feel locomotion as happening in the lower body, and manipulation in the upper body; of course this is complicated and blurry, and if you’re swimming, etc., things are different, but in typical, prevalent situations this is a relevant distinction. This is why I think the feeling of running into felt constraints on movement should be felt in feet or ankles. You want participants to have two different feelings going on, which are going to eventually vanish as feelings of happenings in the body (vibrations in the fingers, etc.) and be experienced as feelings of something else: feeling of things to be manipulated; feeling of constraints in movement that make you feel like you’re in a room. What I am suspecting here is that this going to be more powerful and transparent if the happenings in the body are: in the hands as giving an experience of things; and in the lower body as giving an experience of rooms as limits in movement.

2.e) I think the transducers in both case should be in the kinaesthetic, proprioreceptive domain, not acoustic. Or maybe leave acoustic signals for room limits as a separate test.

3)      Sources: Alva Noë’s book Action in Perception has a lot of material on sensory substitution, if you’re not familiar with it, and a good bit on how action is perception, etc. Mixes in a phen perspective. Also see the O’Regan article cited by Lenay and Steiner. Another useful source is Alain Berthoz’s The Brain’s Sense of Movement; this goes into the neuroscience of felt movement, with some phen inspiration. One thing this book emphasizes is receptors for felt movement are generally receptive to second order changes, i.e., to changes in changes, e.g., not to pressure, but changes in pressure. You could think of this as a ‘design principle’ of both the brain and of sensory organs, or more, third order changes. We don’t want to think this in a reductionist way, but note it as a constraint on that to which the body can become sensitive, and also read something about life into this artefact of evolved bodies: life is (unsurprisingly) evolved to feel movement, change, what we can do, not: what is (in a static sense). Unchanging stasis vanishes.

4)      What we are probing,  I think, is the way that perceiving things is in our case a feeling sensitivity to movement, where that sensitivity to movement internally divides in two: sensitivity to unmoving limits in movement (to room-schemas as constraining background) and sensitivity to things moving/movable within these limits—where the two sensitivities are not disjoint. Indeed, this division echoes a division within body-thing movement, where the limits on ways of movingly handling something, e.g., attune us to what we can feel in the thing. An example is knowing how to move and runch cloth to feel its properties as silk, taffeta, organza, tweed, whatever, and thence feel how it’s going to hang in clothing. The room is like a thing that already knows how YOU should move to get the feel of things. (Vs. you having to learn how to handle the fabric.) This is something I tried to capture earlier in terms of the room as an “I ALREADY can move this or that way.”

5)      Don, if you’re still on this list: methinks  the above point about movement internally dividing into unmoved limits and limited movement that is attuned to things by these limits…. is a point about JOINTS. I.e., the logic of joints within the body (that there are joints, that the positioning of these joints enables limited movement that is thereby better tuned and powered, more determinate) is here echoed outside the body, in the environment in which we move. I.e., rooms joint us and disjoint us. This is no surprise if we think of our jointed bodies as echoing the gravitational and material environment in which we evolved; our joints have evolved to NOT be disjointed by their environment, with different sorts of joints in land vs. sea animals. In building rooms we take over this sort of connection with the surround to give us new joins with the world. The hotel room disjoins us, because the joining is not in the material but in the habit or schema of inhabitation.

6)      Notice too there are active/passive issues here too in the joint structure.