Silence Suit: sustainably integrating spirituality and technology

This spring I wrote this article together with designer Vera de Pont. It was presented at the “Searching for the New Luxury” conference by the Fashion Colloquium. Unfortunately it will not be published in their journal. But we had a nice time writing it and we hope the content is of use to others.

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Abstract

In this article the authors will explain the different, layered ways in which use of the wearable Silence Suit can be considered a new luxury. The main luxury is empowerment through giving awareness and control to the user supported by embodiment and transparency.

After explaining the system of which the wearable is part and the context from which the concept arose the life cycle of the wearable is used to explain how interacting with the suit offers many opportunities to experience a new sense of luxury.

Keywords: sustainability, meditation, open source, wearable technology, self-assembly, interaction design

Introduction

Experimenter kit

The wearable Silence Suit is part of Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit, a system which enables users to experiment with their meditation practice and improve it through insight and direct influence of the environment. With the wearable users can collect biometric and environmental data during the meditation session (Figure 1). The quality of the session is assessed using pre and post meditation questionnaires. Both data sets are fed into a learning system which determines which environmental variables have the most positive effect on the meditation quality. Through Internet of Things technology, the light in the environment is changed automatically depending on the meditation-quality predicted by the system.

This system is geared towards helping individual users improve their practice by giving them a toolset to conduct their own meditation experiments, get insight through exploring their data, and by actually optimising the environment for higher quality meditation.

Context

Danielle Roberts, artist/designer/innovator is the initiator and conceiver of the Kit. She has maintained an intensive meditation practice for over 20 years. She is also a self-tracking enthusiast and tracks health and lifestyle parameter on a daily basis. Both practices have shown her that increased awareness allows her to grow and flourish in a compassionate way. In her work she explores ways through which contemporary technologies can support this.

Roberts’s vision is to create the optimal home which will support a spiritual, productive, healthy and sustainable life: Hermitage 3.0. Being able to measure its’ inhabitant is the first step towards realising this holistic living environment.

Status and vision

Figure 1 Graphic overview of the current version of the suit and the sensors

Figure 1 Graphic overview of the current version of the suit and the sensors

In 2015 Roberts started building the wearable Silence Suit. In 2017 the opportunity arose to apply with this first prototype for the WEAR Sustain open call[8]. This was issued by the European Commission to promote collaboration between creatives and technically skilled people to work on ethical and sustainable wearables. Roberts was one of the winners. Together with a team she designed and produced 5 wearables in 3 sizes and custom software was developed that allows users to create and analyse their own meditation experiments.

Design for agency

In recent years digital fabrication and specifically 3D printing and laser cutting as both creative and manufacturing tool has received much more widespread adoption. As enabling technology this facilitated a whole new range of self-assembly designs generated from digital files that are often presented as Open Source files to be customised and controlled by the end user.

The Silence Suit is designed with the Open Source philosophy in mind. The open approach to the garment’s production ensures a garment design that is accessible, manufacturable and upgradable by whoever chooses to do so[1] and makes it producible with a limited amount of machines in local workspaces and fablabs. Users become aware of the process of production and the parts of the suit.
With regards to the production of the Silence Suit, the aim is to develop a system where the level of end-user assembly is chosen by the end user themselves. Ranging from the level of complete individual production in local production facilities, to the level of end user assembly with pre-produced parts.

The transparency of self-assembly and the embodiment during local production constitute a new luxury which empower the user.

Silence Suit life cycle

At every stage of the life cycle the design and use of the system create for the user to experience the system properties embodiment and transparency. Which may produce control and awareness for the user. These properties and mind-sets interact and result in empowerment of the user. In this section this will be highlighted for every phase of the life cycle.

Prepare for use

The suit is designed for assembly and there are four possible user scenarios when preparing the suit for use:

A. Hard-core makers: Start from scratch and completely assemble and / or modify every aspect of the suit including the electronic parts.
B. Maker apprentice: Has some knowledge of the techniques involved but needs guidance in for example a workshop.
C. Meditator: Start from a semi-finished product. No soldering is required but the parts must be placed at the proper positions and connections.
D. Use a finished suit: no assembly, the user only has to put on the wearable. The design isn’t aimed at this type of use but it is imaginable in scenarios like meditation workshops or rental.

The following describes option C. This is how the parts were delivered to Roberts on first use.

To prepare the garment for use, it’s produced modular parts will have to be assembled. This includes the hardware pieces that have to be located on specific locations on the suit, as well as weaving the cables and attaching them to their respective hardware pieces.

To ensure a relatively short assembly time and correct end user assembly, the garment is designed as a manual for use. The suit contains engraved symbols which showcase the positioning of the sensor pieces. This helps the user to assemble the parts correctly while leaving the user free to weave the cables to her liking through small openings in the fabric. This tangible interaction with the suit can be a mindful action which aims to create a bond with the garment and raise awareness of all the parts that the suit contains.

Ease of use and perfect fit

The main prerequisites of the garment are its ease of use and comfortable fit. Here some opposing forces are at play:

Many sensors vs Unobtrusiveness during meditation
Sensor placement vs Comfortable fit
Aesthetic style and cut vs Accurate and complete measurements
Putting on the garment correctly vs Mindfulness
Unobtrusive electronics vs  Recyclability
Data collection vs Privacy and ethics

The design process was aimed at solving these conflicting interests by carefully looking at the interaction between the user and the garment at various steps during use and stages of the life cycle.

The ‘perfect fit’ is relative to the way data can be optimally collected and the aesthetics of the garment is influenced by the way the garment will be used. For example the Galvanic Skin Response Sensor (Figure 2), which is positioned on the upper arm and needs direct contact with the skin for optimal data collection.

Figure 2 Integrated Galvanic Skin Response sensor. The design balances aesthetics and optimal data collection

Figure 2 Integrated Galvanic Skin Response sensor. The design balances aesthetics and optimal data collection

A conscious choice was made to develop the Silence Suit in 3 standardized unisex sizes (EU small/medium/large) to fit a multitude of people. Where tight fit is needed adjustable straps are provided for. These simple Velcro straps afford personalisation (Figure 3). The user can control the tightness for optimal balance between comfortableness and good measurements, as with the detachable neck piece carrying a posture sensor. The sensor is positioned within two layers of stretchable fabric, making sure that the placement is fixed and close to the skin without feeling stiff.

The tight fitting bottom layer feels soft to the skin, kindling awareness. It is complemented by a more loosely fitting top layer with a big hood that combines strength and flexibility to carry the hardware casings (Figure 4). The design choices give users control to personalise the fit of the suit.

Daily use

The main user group for Silence Suit is people who meditate regularly or daily. Using the suit daily should at a minimum be easy and as hassle free as possible. But in the design de Pont and Roberts looked for ways to go beyond that. Wearing the suit and interacting with the software should bring extra value and quality to the meditation practice and support awareness. The main focus areas for adding value and quality are:

  • Smooth user interaction with the garment and the electronics
  • Pleasing aesthetics and integration of special features which promote mindfulness and emotional bonding
  • Empowering features embedded in the kits’ software

These focus areas are explained in detail below.

Figure 3 Adjusting the straps

Figure 3 Adjusting the straps

Awareness-promoting interaction with the wearable

Ideally doing meditation experiments with Silence Suit should contribute to and enhance awareness and mindfulness. In designing the suit the designers wanted the putting on and taking off the wearable to become a rhythm of actions.

In total there are eleven sensors on the suit and one feedback LED. They have to be fasted correctly and stored safely after use. The design was tested extensively by Roberts during her daily meditation practice and a six day retreat. During group experiments almost 40 different users tested the design.

Feedback from users indicated that if all the sensors are fastened correctly the electronics have no negative influence on the meditation experience, people are not aware that they are being measured by 11 sensors.

The way the sensors and fasteners are positioned facilitates the ritualization of the interaction with the garment. The attention needed to secure the sensors primes for attention during the session. Exclamations after the experiments like “Wow, this suit is so comfortable” were no exception.

Enrichment of meditation practice through special features

Users found the aesthetics pleasing this contributed to the enjoyment of the meditation experience.  The design also includes special features to further support awareness and control during meditation:

  • An oversized hood inspired on the cowl of a monks’ habit. It was used frequently by Roberts and the experiment participants. In a practical sense it shields from cold while sitting still. But it also creates intimacy which makes it easier to withdraw and block out distractions. Both Roberts and the participants have used the hood for these purposes.
  • On the top layer there is a vertical row of seven incisions. A small flap can be inserted into these slits creating an opening in the garment. This provides an analogue and transparent way to track daily sessions. Thus the practice is made visible and tangible which can be motivating. These interactions may also create an extra bond with the garment, making it more personal.
Figure 4 Top layer of Silence Suit carrying the casing. This picture shows the hood and the analogue logging elements on the left

Figure 4 Top layer of Silence Suit carrying the casing. This picture shows the hood and the analogue logging elements on the left

Introducing the Dataserver

With the wearable comes a custom software application, the Dataserver (Figure 5).

The functionality of the software is based on enabling users to experiment with their own meditation practice. The hypothesis underlying the functionality is that the environment in which one meditates has an impact on the quality of the meditation session. Changing the environment may impact the meditation quality in a positive way. The current version of the Dataserver supports experimenting with environmental light. Three light conditions are offered to experiment with. Research in other domains has shown that these conditions can respectively impact concentration[6], alertness[7] or relaxation[4].

Figure 5 Complete system overview

Figure 5 Complete system overview

With the system users can log, view and compare data, conduct single and group experiments using the three light settings. Meditation quality is determined by pre and post meditation questionnaires. The quality outcomes are used in a machine learning algorithm. Once the system is trained it will automatically change the environmental light based on predictions of meditation quality.

Software: empowering users by creating awareness and control

The software aims to quantify meditation in order to create awareness and insight. It gives the results back to the users in two ways:

  • In the form of graphs after a meditation session. In this sense the software is used as a quantified-self tool. Self-tracking has been shown not only to give trackers awareness of and insight into the workings of their body it also gives the sense of being able to transform their bodies[1]. The meditation kit creates awareness of the body through biometric data. Filling in pre and post meditation questionnaires makes the user aware of subjective mind states connected to meditation thus empowering users to also experience more control of and insights into the workings of their minds. This can motivate users to practice.
  • In the form of an embodied experience during meditation based on real-time data. In this case the software transforms the actual meditation experience by predicting the most optimal light conditions throughout the session. This may lead to improved relaxation, concentration and alertness during the sessions.

Quantification can bring with it the risk of loss of privacy and agency[9, 5]. The software tries to minimise these risks in the following ways:

  • Control over and ownership of personal data. This is ensured because the system is designed to work offline and function fully on the users’ own PC. No data is send over the internet, data is stored locally
  • Data literacy: Users get insight into their personal data through graphs and basic statistics
  • Science literacy: The software provides easy steps to design and conduct experiments

Maintenance and repair supported by transparency and control

In the above is explained how the design uses size, fit and style to enhance longevity through awareness and control. Care is one of the fundamental areas mentioned in the WRAP Design for Longevity report[2] in promoting the lifespan of a garment. Easy replacement and repair was one of the guiding principles to support the durability of the design. This has been approached in different ways which are outlined below.

Modularity

The life-cycle of electronics is often much different than the usage patterns of fashion wearables. Therefore modular self-assembly is used in the design of the Silence Suit as enabling technology in the integration of on-body sensors in textiles. Where-as fashion items are worn and go out of use depending on fashion trends or personal aesthetics, the life cycles of electronic wearables depend on limitations like battery life and upgrade cycles of the technology. To elongate the lifespan of the Silence Suit and make electronic replacements simple, the design approached sustainability in two ways. One on the level of the suit’s infrastructure and one on the level of the electronic parts:

Level 1: By clearly separating the electronic parts from the garment, instead of integrating them, the design approaches sustainability through transparency. This “white box” approach makes the electronic infrastructure visible and easily accessible. This creates awareness.

Level 2: Instead of working towards miniaturisation and using unique custom parts, the design uses the ready made breakout boards and leaves them mostly intact. The entire board can be removed and replaced in one action. Most of the electronic parts and sensors are low cost, off-the-shelf Open Source components which can be bought from online electronics shop.

These two approaches on different levels aim to facilitate user control to increase the lifespan of the suit.

Customisation

Access and modification of the production files is a transparent approach which allows for custom modification during the lifecycle of the suit. Once the patterns become available users can control the outcome of the suit. They can make the suit locally to their own taste and even modify the files to make a personal, tailored version.

These customizations can be done by the user herself. Embodied actions may strengthen the bond with the wearable making it more and more personal over time.

The flexibility of the wearable is also reflected in the software approach. The system architecture is designed to be scalable: users, suits and actuators can be added to the system without breaking it.

Software flexibility is also expressed by providing an API. This allows users to control the output and to build custom applications using their own data and extend the use of the platform.

End of life

Material choices for the Silence Suit were made with recyclability and carbon neutrality in mind. The top layer is 100% wool, one of the most sustainable textiles[3]. When exposed to moisture, the fibre will gradually decompose.
The chosen material of the bottom layer is a mixed Modal fabric. Modal has been made from a renewable crop and is biodegradable.Laser cutting requires special properties of the textile. At this point in time no more sustainable fabric options were available therefor a mixed fabric was chosen which is not fully biodegradable. Up to date fabric recommendations will be accompanying the digital production files allowing users to choose the most sustainable options available.
3D printed casings and cable connectors were printed with a PLA filament. This carbon neutral filament is plant based and biodegradable. It can also be recycled with a plastic recycling machine which can even produce a new filament to start with.

The modularity and transparency of the suit design facilitate responsible actions at the end of the life cycle, this may be considered a new luxury in the realm of wearable fashion. Textiles and electronics are often merged in order to obscure the technology and render it unobtrusive. However, in this design, users can manually separate the fabric from the electronics without any special tools or equipment and recycle the parts locally.
The systems’ transparency and ease of disassembly removes barriers for users to dispose of the suit. The “intestines” of the suit are laid bare. This creates awareness of what the suit is and how it is put together.

Visions for the future

In the previous part it is explained how embodiment and transparency drive awareness and control in the present prototype. Future plans and applications are geared to further strengthen these qualities.

New paths to awareness

Future research will focus on stimulating more senses to enhance embodiment. Apart from light influence research will extend to other senses and actuators, for example room temperature and airflow. Roberts is designing immersive meditation experiences from live meditation data. She is working on tele-meditation and meditation performances which will provide novel paths to user awareness.

Multi-sense actuation and immersion will provide more ways to experience body awareness.

More control with an Open Source product

The five suits available now are not ready for market. The plan is to sell the design as a physical kit, reminiscent of the various experimenters’ kits available from open source online vendors. Ideally users can purchase the kit in different stages of completion corresponding to the scenarios outlined above.

Future developments will be aimed at making the digital blueprints accessible and transparent for specific user groups, so that users can enter the production of the Silence Suit at the level most suitable to them.

To improve assembly time and make production more efficient for all user types, further developments will also be aimed at implementing 3D printed connectors to eliminate any sewing activities. Parts can be upgraded, updated and reused and eventually more easily recycled when no longer needed.
Open source schematics and code allow for user-driven upgrades and customisations.

Once the API to the Dataserver is published programmers can start building their own applications on top of the system giving them ultimate control over its use and outcomes.

Creating connections

All of the future plans will, to a more or less extend contribute to the possibility to create a community around the project. While using the kit an individual user may experience awareness, control, transparency and embodiment. Interaction between these factors can result in new ways of connection between different users:

  • Experiment together: because of the research component embedded in the system users can connect by conducting experiments together. This feature is already provided.
  • Community platform: the plan is to create an online community platform were users and makers can exchange experiences, knowledge, ideas and parts or redundant suits. This can help to move towards circularity.
  • New ways of connection through technology: as explained above Roberts is working on novel ways of sharing meditation data and creating new, shareable content and experiences from it such as performances.
  • App creation: makers will be encouraged to share their new applications and code with others.

Discussion

The findings with regard to user experience are mostly from one source, Roberts. At this point she has used the system most frequently. On the one hand this provides a profound knowledge about the interaction with the suit on the other hand these insights are limited to only one user who is also the maker and therefore has prior knowledge of and perhaps a positive bias towards the wearable. The wearable was to some extend made to measure for Roberts which might also give her an advantage when it comes to judging the fit of the garment. However participants of the experiments did not contradict Roberts’s findings. More intensive individual experiment tracks are planned which will yield more insight into user satisfaction during frequent use.

New experiments also will give more insight into the effectiveness of the meditation actuation through light. Findings from one user are not enough to determine if environmental light has a positive effect on meditation quality.

Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit has from the start been conceived as a springboard for applications which will make use of the kit. This becomes apparent in for example the provided API and the digital blueprints. So even though the future plans may seem speculative they have been part of the design from the start. What the effects of the proposed new applications will be is part of the design and research process that will inform these new designs. The authors wanted to extend the findings of current design to the future perspective they foresee for the system precisely because user control and adjustability is an essential part of the new kind of luxury this design provides.

Conclusions

Throughout the lifecycle of the garment there are two empowering principles at play which constitute a new luxury: user control and user awareness. They are supported respectively by:

  • System transparency in the form of: System modularity and local production, self-assembly and customisation by the user and open source philosophy.
  • Elements of embodiment in using the system in the form of: ritualization of interaction, emotional bonding, embodied and tangible interaction, personalisation.

Emerging from interactions between these principles the system also allows for new kinds of connections, turning the individual act of meditation into something which can bring users together. This is true for the current prototype and will be build upon as the system ecology develops.

References

[1] Bergsland, R. (2017). The human/wearable technology engagement and its embodied effects on self-trackers. University of Gothenburg.

[2] Cooper, T. et al. (2013). Design for Longevity Final report, WRAP p. 16

[3] Ryan, R. (2016). The Fashion English Bible. Vaughan, p 265-266.

[4] Seuntiens, P.J.H. & Vogels, I. (2008). Atmosphere creation: The relation between atmosphere and light characteristics. Proceedings from the 6th Conference on Design and Emotion 2008.

[5] Sharon, T. (2017). Self-Tracking for Health and the Quantified Self: Re-Articulating Autonomy, Solidarity, and Authenticity in an Age of Personalized Healthcare. Philosophy & Technology Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 93–121.

[6] Sleegers, P.J.C., Moolenaar, N.M., Galetzka, M., Pruyn, A., Sarroukh, B.E., van der Zande, B. (2013). Lighting affects students’ concentration positively: Findings from three Dutch studies. Lighting Research & Technology Vol 45, Issue 2, pp. 159 – 175

[7] Taillard, J., Capelli, A., Sagaspe, P., Anund A., Akerstedt T, Philip P (2012). In-Car Nocturnal Blue Light Exposure Improves Motorway Driving: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46750.

[8] WEARsustain. (2017). Open Call Themes for Project Proposals. Accessed 23-5-2018 https://wearsustain.eu/open-calls/open-call-themes/

[9] Zhou, Wei & Piramuthu, Selwyn. (2014). Security/privacy of wearable fitness tracking IoT devices. Iberian Conference on Information Systems and Technologies, CISTI. 1-5. 10.1109/CISTI.2014.6877073.

[1] The same counts for the software systems, which the user can control completely and also build upon. View also “Maintenance and repair supported by transparency and control”.

The artist as boundary crosser in the collaboration process to create a mixed media art piece

This article I wrote with my intern Meike Kurella for the Design Research Society conference 2018. The article was rejected but we would still like to share our findings here.

Summary

In this article we explore the role of an artist in a multidisciplinary team with regard to the effectiveness of the communication and the productivity of the team. In this case study a diverse team worked towards a complex, multifaceted, interactive art piece. Our main questions were: What makes this challenging collaboration successful? How does the team deal with the boundaries they encounter? We have looked at those questions from the following angles: The teams’ use of boundary objects, the multidisciplinarity of the artist, her artistic vision and the final result the team is working towards. We have researched these questions using observation, reflection and through a questionnaire answered by every team member. We have come to the conclusion that all four angles have contributed to the success but there may be other factors at play which call for further exploration.

Keywords: Experiential Knowledge; Boundary Crossing; Boundary Object; Multidisciplinary Collaboration

Introduction

This article describes part of the creation process of a mixed media artwork. This work is being created during a six month project as part of the WEAR Sustain open call. The aim of the WEAR consortium is in line with the broader goal of the European Commission “…to enhance creativity and the innovative capacity in industry and society…” (“Open Call Themes”, 2017) it wants “…to boost synergies between artists and ICT experts (technologists) to enable Europe to benefit from the catalytic nature of the arts and culture across European society and industry. …In order to promote further collaboration between the arts and technology through innovation activities, WEAR focuses its engagement in collaboration, co-design and co-development of a new generation of ethical, critical, and aesthetic wearable technologies and smart textiles to influence change in industries practices and for a more circular economy.” (“Open Call Themes”, 2017)

Artist DR works at the intersection of art, technology, science, spirituality and design. With her work she wants to promote self and environmental awareness and well-being using emerging technologies and data. At the time of the call announcement she had already been working on a wearable for a year. The wearable tracks physiological and environmental data during meditation. Its aim was to learn if and how meditation practice can be optimised by changing aspects of the environment.

This wearable fitted the theme and criteria of the call. She applied for the call and was one of the 23 winners. Below follows a brief description of the project.

The project is called Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit. It is a tool-set that allows users to do their own experiments to improve their meditation quality. The kit consists of:

  • a wearable with 10 different sensors called Silence Suit
  • a software program for storing, analysing and managing data and wearables called the Data Server
  • an Internet of Things interface to automatically influence environmental light using a device called Light Instrument
  • an API to create your own applications with the data

To realise this the system makes use of emerging technologies like Internet of Things. This allows devices to talk to each other wirelessly such as, in this case, the wearable and the light device. An artificial intelligence module will learn from the data to create the most optimal light circumstances for meditation for individual users.

During this 6 month project we focussed on building a basic, flexible system that can actually influence meditation through light.

The structure of the call is such that you apply with a team, they are the project owners and get to spend the most time and money on the project. With additional vouchers a team can buy external expertise not present with the team members. So there is a technical difference between team members and external experts. For our research in this article we will however regard both types of collaborators as part of the team.

Both authors of the article are part of the team. They work on the project as well as reflect on the collaboration. Below we will describe the team and its members in more detail.

What might set this project apart from other design assignments is that the artist is also the commissioner. She had complete freedom in determining the deliverables and setting their standards. She could decide on the success of the project and its outcomes.

At the time of writing the project is still ongoing and is in its third month. But the first stage of the project is where the collaboration is most intensive and the meetings are most frequent. During the first stage the design and production of the wearable takes place. The data server structure and interface is designed. Both these activities require a lot of communication and collaboration. We therefore think that reflecting on the collaboration at this stage will still yield valuable insights. More so because were are not only looking at the results to inform the success of the project and collaboration but we are especially looking at the role of the artist within the team.

Starting points

The product

Part of the requirements of the WEAR Sustain call was that there was already a prototype at technical readiness level 3 (TRL3). At the start of the project there was a wearable that could be worn and data from the sensors could be plotted and stored. So a lot of the design, the concept and technical groundwork was already done. The collaboration during the first three months focussed on:

  • Improving the existing wearable with regards to technical robustness, look and feel, usability and interaction design
  • Designing the overall system and the Data Server which included: system architecture, database design and user interaction

The team

The team consists of a mix of experienced experts, students and interns. Their backgrounds vary from computer science and electronic engineering to design and fine arts. This is a typical setting of boundaries at work in the technology and design domain as explained by Akkerman (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). Below is a summary of the team members’ roles and expertise. This provides a picture of the diversity of the team.

The main team (as defined in the WEAR Sustain call) are:

DR is an artist. She is the project manager and during this part of the project works on various design tasks ranging from interaction design, experiment design and soft electronics. She holds a BFA in sculpting and monumental design. She has completed several university courses in psychology, psychological experiment design and statistics. She finished several courses in the field of software engineering and intensively studied information architecture. She learned the basics of electronic engineering. She took online courses on Buddhism and psychology and philosophy. And she has studied and practiced user-centred design. DR combined autonomous art production with work as a self-employed web designer (until 2013) and various teaching jobs and project management in the cultural sector (up to the present). We will explain the significance of this knowledge and experience in the collaboration process below.

VP is a textile designer with a strong interest in technologies like 3D printing, laser cutting and sustainability through fashion on demand. She is responsible for the suit design, pattern making and production.

SB is an embedded software engineer with experience in hardware for wearables and software development. He’s an employee of the innovation acceleration foundation Protospace. He is responsible for the system design and programming of the Data Server.

The external experts (as defined in the WEAR Sustain call) are:

SG is a master student embedded systems. At this stage he is responsible for the electronics and firmware.

KH is a master student embedded systems at Twente University. He is responsible for the design and production of the PCBs.

JD is a bachelor student mechanical engineering at Twente University. He is responsible for the design and 3D printing of the containers for the electronics.

AH is a student Multimedia Design and Communication and is an intern at Protospace. She works on the user interaction and interface design of the Data Server.

GB is a data scientist. He is responsible for the learning algorithms and artificial intelligence module.

HA is a software architect. His responsibility is to ensure the robustness, flexibility and scalability of the whole system.

MK is a fine arts student. As an intern at DR she works on describing the ongoing development of Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit in a weekly blogpost and various hands on tasks like sewing.

The team has used several ways to communicate. Because members were scattered over 5 locations telephone and teleconferencing have been used in addition to face to face meetings.

Research methods

To research DRs multidisciplinairity and the impact on the collaboration with experts from different disciplines, we reflected on the interaction between team members in specific meetings. Especially, we focused on the role of the DR in relation to others. In this research DR reflected mainly on herself and how she experienced the collaboration and the communication. MK took on the role of an observer to reflect on how the collaboration and the communication seemed to a third party.

To verify the assumptions we made, we asked all team members to fill in a survey about how they see the collaboration and communication. In this survey we combined 5 point Likert scale responses with open questions where the team members could describe their individual point of view. So we could get as much detailed information as possible as well as the possibility to compare them to each other.

The questions we asked the team members were about their own role and their motivation to work on the project. DRs role and her qualities, as well as the interaction between DRs role and the team members and the quality of the communication within the collaboration (Attachment 1).

Working with boundaries

In this part we want to further explore the role boundaries play in this project. We have described the multidisciplinary team, the artist leading the team and the mixed media deliverables the project will yield. We want to take this a step further and show how boundaries, boundary crossing and boundary objects are at the core of the process and the end result.

When looking at the progress in the first months (milestones are being met) and the overall smoothness of the communication and collaboration (rated 3.81/5 by the team) we believe the collaboration up to the point of writing has been successful. This is despite the diversity of the team and the complex results they aimed for. We hypothesise this is due to the following factors:

  1. The use of boundary objects
  2. The multidisciplinary artist
  3. The artistic vision
  4. The art piece as a boundary object

1. The use of boundary objects

In order to make communication and transfer of knowledge possible and better, mixed teams make extensive use of self-created objects often referred to a boundary objects. They can be described as artefacts doing the crossing across sites by fulfilling a bridging function (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). The team described in this article is no exception.

We have identified 19 objects which can be considered boundary objects (table 1). They have been used on varying occasions and by different numbers of team members. Because the art piece is multi-faceted, every facet has its own set of objects which may explain the even distribution of use and perceived usefulness of the various objects (table 1).

Table 1. Overview of identified boundary objects

  Title/name Type Use frequency Subjective importance
1 Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit|System Specifications Dropbox paper 41 changes, 7 remarks in 2 months, shared with 7 users 3
2 MLEK Data Scheme Dropbox paper 13 changes, shared with 6 people 2
3 Silence Suit first design a Tangible object Brought to x f2f meetings 3
4 System Outline version 2 Schematic image Brought to almost every meeting, referred to in Skype meetings 1
5 MLEK system architecture PowerPoint with system architect proposals Used in one Skype meeting 3
6 MLEK data server user interface and functionality Schematic image Used in two meetings, referred to in no 1 4
7 Costumer journey maps Text file Used in two meetings 2
8 MLEK DS Implementation Schematic image Used in one meeting 4
9 Meditation Quality Classification Annotated image Used in one meeting  
10 Silence Suit textile sample version 1 Tangible object Used in one meeting 2
11 Silence Suit textile sample version 2 Tangible object Used in one meeting 2
12 Silence Suit first prototype b Tangible object Used in one meeting 2
13 Silence Suit part list Excel file Used in several meetings, shared with multiple people  
14 Project management plan Design Lab White board drawing Used in one meeting  
15 Cable and connection layout version 1 and 2 Drawings Used in several meetings, shared with multiple people 2
16 Photographic notes Photographs Used in several meetings by the designer 1
17 3D PCB designs Technical drawing Used in several meetings 2
18 To-do list per meeting Evernote to-do list Used in one meeting 1
19 User interaction flowchart Schematic image Used in several meetings, shared with multiple people 1

 

In our survey we asked the team to name the objects most helpful to them. We have ranked the objects found most useful by the team and categorised them:

  1. Schematics of the system (5 objects)
  2. Prototype (4 objects)
  3. Interactive collaboration tools (on-line) (2 objects)
  4. Drawings (2 objects)

Other objects have been used but were mentioned once or not at all by team members in the survey.

From the reactions in the survey it has become clear that the appreciation of the communication and the intensiveness of use of boundary objects are strongly linked. To explain this finding we give two examples on the extreme of the collaboration spectrum.

On the one hand is the work with VP, the suit designer. VP rated the overall communication 5/5. DR and VP have worked intensively on the user interaction with the suit. They have used iterations of the suit prototype to explore the way in which users will wear it and interact with it. The prototype was always at the centre of the communication. They enacted the future interaction with the suit with simple objects available at the scene (image 1). This way they simulated the future reality for the user and made it visual and tangible for both the artist and the designer. This type of learning through boundary objects is part of the reflective impact of boundaries called perspective taking. “This taking of the other into account, in light of a reflexive knowledge of one’s own perspective, is the perspective-taking process”. (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011, pp. 145). We crossed the boundary into the future to imagine the most optimal way for the future users to interact with the garment. The object facilitated our learning and thinking process.

Paper sensor, photo Vera de Pont

Paper sensor, photo Vera de Pont

Image 1 cardboard sensor replica and suit prototype. Photograph by VP

On the other hand is JD, the 3D printing expert. JD rated the overall communication 2/5. Contrary to the many samples of VP, JD only presented DR with a 3D drawing of one of the containers during a Skype meeting. It was difficult to get a clear idea of the container from the screen, this was also hampered by lack of computing power to render the drawing. In his statement he clarifies that much remained unclear because of different frames of mind. This makes clear that from his perspective boundaries were not crossed. This is underscored by his remarks when questioned about the use of boundary objects: he finds boundary objects useful in general but acknowledges the fact that we made poor use of them and mostly used email.

What was lacking is this particular communication was the learning aspect of coordination in which “…effective means and procedures are sought allowing diverse practices to cooperate efficiently in distributed work, even in the absence of consensus…” (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011, pp. 143). In those cases boundary objects facilitate the bare minimum of dialogue necessary to maintain work flow (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). 3D printing is an area DR is not very knowledgeable in. JD is a young and specialised student. The two perspectives were very much apart. A requisite for coordination is a communicative connection between diverse practices or perspectives established through boundary objects (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). The lack of (good) mediating artefacts at least partly explains the low productivity and stagnant work flow in the design and production of the containers.

These examples make very clear the key role boundary objects have in supporting boundary crossing communication.

2. The multidisciplinary artist

Multidisciplinarity

To characterize DR as an artist we first need to define different kinds of artists in the contemporary art scene as described by Gielen, van Winkel, Zwaan, 2012.

Nearly every contemporary artist is a multidisciplinary artist who has no steady medium. By medium we mean the traditionally known disciplines, such as painting, sculpting or ceramics through which the artist expresses himself. We are living and working in the post-medium-conditions. This means that the question about the medium no longer defines the artistic practice. It no longer defines you as an artist. It changes the artist’s self-concept as well as how he is seen in the society (Gielen, van Winkel, Zwaan, 2012).

In our days, many creative professions are plural practices. Bureau and Shapiro define in ‘L’Artiste Pluriel’ three different levels of pluriformity: the polyvalent artist, the polyactive artist and the pluriactive artist. The polyvanlent artist has different tasks in his own artistic practice. That could be creating things, developing the concept as well as managing his own project and governing financial matters. The polyactive artist has different professions in different social fields. It is the artist who has a non-artistic job in addition to his artistic practice. The pluriactive artist has different professions in the creative field. That means that the job you have in addition to your artistic practice takes place in the applied art field.  Pluriformity is an economic as well as a legislative and a political choice. It offers you a financial security but it changes the identity and the autonomy of the artist (Gielen, van Winkel, Zwaan, 2012).

Camiel van Winkel, Pascal Gielen and Koos Zwaan add a fourth level of pluriformity to the artistic practice. It is the hybrid artist they introduce. A hybrid artist firstly has to be a pluriactive artist. Secondly, the two practices of autonomous and applied art are no longer divided, so that they are equal. They take shape in one context and in the same production. The blurring can contribute to the identity and the profile of the artist in a positive way. The artist has no need to divide the tasks because they enhance each other (Gielen, van Winkel, Zwaan, 2012).

As van Winkel, Gielen and Zwaan describe, together with the hybridism and the post-medium-conditions goes also the deskilling of the artist. The contemporary art practice is build up around a framework of concepts, intentions and attitudes. The vision of the artist is central. From here the artist determines which (technical) skills he has to learn to realize the vision. This phenomenon is called deskilling because the skills itself come on the second place. They are a derivative of the vision instead of a main thing. The artist creates a versatile package of skills (Gielen, van Winkel, Zwaan, 2012).

In this sense the artist maintains his autonomous context which is characterized as self-determined, uncompromising and authentic (Gielen, van Winkel, Zwaan, 2012). The vision of the artist is central. It is the critical view of an artist and the extraordinary capability to reflect on yourself as well as on the society. A driving force to the artist is the will to make things nobody is waiting for, except yourself. From the personal desires and inspirations around yourself the vision of an artist develops.

Having described the various types of contemporary artist we will now explain how DRs position is unique and how it may influence the team collaboration.

Looking at her art practice we can conclude that DR is polyvalent, pluriactive and hybride in different parts of her practice.

When DR is working in her studio she is an polyvalent artist. Also in this project she has different tasks such as team leader, project manager and artist at the same time.

She is a pluriactive artist when she adds various design aspects to her artistic work, may it be the research method or the outcome of the work.

The combination of design and autonomous work goes further in the case of DR than a pluriactive practice. It definitely can be said that she is a hybrid artist. ‘There is no need to divide the different domains of my work, because it is not possible to divide them. The autonomous practice needs the applied art to meet my vision and vice versa’, she explains.

We think that her skills and her artistic identity go beyond the practice of a hybrid artist. DR graduated from St Joost art school in Breda, the Netherlands in 1993 on the subject of sculpture and monumental design. So when she finished her art school education the post-medium-conditions were not that present as they are nowadays.

DR is not only active as a creative but has also worked in and or studied psychology, ICT and spirituality. During her career as an artist DR has built a broad set of skills and she has expanded her knowledge continuously. Not only to keep up to date with new developments but also to broaden her view.

This process is called ‘deskilling’ (Gielen, van Winkel, Zwaan, 2012). The choices of what to learn and how to expand are closely linked to the artistic vision. DR studied these fields to enhance her art practice and to be better able to talk to experts in different fields. On the other hand the studies and work in different fields are also a big source of inspiration to her. They feed her artistic practice and help her come up with new ideas and provide different angles of looking at reality.

During her career she has stepped outside of the art scene and traditional artist sources. She has been on the lookout for new and interesting developments in science and technology. This is what sets her apart from regular hybrid artists. Having a broad repertoire and keeping a learning mind-set are typical for innovators (Liedtka, 2017). We believe it is this outlook which enables her to perform well across boundaries as we will explain next.

Boundary crossers

Akkerman & Bakker explain the ambivalence people working at the boundary may perceive: On one hand they have a very rich and valuable position since they are the ones who can introduce elements of one practice into the other (cf. Wenger, 1998). On the other hand they face a difficult position because they are easily seen as being at the periphery, with the risk of never fully belonging to or being acknowledged as a participant in any one practice (2011).

Within this project DR clearly performs the role of boundary crosser. Contrary to the claims made above she didn’t experience any of the difficulties described. We contribute that to the following factors.

After winning the open call DR automatically became the commissioner of the Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit project. She also controlled the budget. She was right at the centre of the project and never experienced herself as being at the periphery.

She felt a strong sense of belonging. DR describes her own role as including but not limited to guarding the process and keeping direction. With that comes a natural leadership position which the team recognises and respects. SG describes her role as between costumer and product owner.  He says: “We have room for our ideas but finally, she [DR] has to agree. Therefore we have to underpin our ideas well.” Apparently the team members follow DR as a leader but also feel free to bring in their own ideas.

As for never being acknowledged as a participant in any one practice: this and other projects have shown that being a boundary crosser is at the core of her work and her identity as an artist. Complex projects like the one described in this case study enable her to fully be an artist at the cross-roads of disciplines and domains.

As explained above DR can be characterised as hybrid artist and innovator which implies a broad repertoire and a learning mind-set. Both the contemporary artist and the innovator can be characterised as multidisciplinary. To verify if DR was perceived as such by the team we first asked the team how they rated the multidisciplinary of DR. This yielded a score of 4.4/5. So the overall perception was that DR is highly multidisciplinary. Next we asked if this broad knowledge was sufficient for the team members to perform their role and tasks. The knowledge sufficiency was rated 4.2/5. DRs overall general knowledge and openness to expert knowledge is appreciated. She has enough general knowledge to be able to enter the conversation. But there is enough room for the experts to do their job and feel they have an import role to play in the project. They feel DR relies on their expertise. “DR learns quickly and trusts advice.” is HDs comment on the question if DRs knowledge is sufficient. SB put it very well: “On a global level, yes on implementation level no. In my opinion global knowledge is in this case important.”

3. The artistic vision

We hypothesised that the artistic vision of DR could influence the motivation of the team members in a positive way. To verify this hypothesis we asked them in the survey if the artistic vision influenced their motivation. This yielded an average of 3/5. But there is only one team member who scored a 3. This points to a balance between two extremes of members who find the artistic vision a very strong influence on their motivation on the one hand, and on the other hand people who find the artistic vision does not influence their motivation at all. We wondered how it can be that the opinions of different team members on the same project are so far apart.

To explain these extremes it is interesting to look at the members own motivation. Here there are also two extremes. On the one hand, there are team members who are mainly motivated because of the collaboration aspect of and the personal challenge contained in the project. E.g. VP: “Knowledge enrichment concerning technology. Working in a team. Being a member of a bigger whole.”

On the other hand there are team members who mainly work on the project because of specific interests such as money or the fascination for their own discipline (e.g. JD: “Money.” or KH: “I am always in for electronics.”). We compared the extremes of the motivation to the extremes of the influence of the artistic vision and it appears that those who worked on the project because of the collaborative aspect were influenced by the artistic vision and those who were focused on a specific interest were not influenced by the artistic vision.

We consider these two perspectives a strength of this project, not a weakness. Members coming from different angles could and did find their role and contribution to the project useful, as we will explain below.

We see the artistic vision as guiding: even if it is not influencing people’s work or motivation directly, this project with all his complexity and diversity could never have taken place without a strong artistic vision.

4. Art piece as a boundary object

When looking at the description of a boundary object one may conclude that the final result of the collaboration will actually be a boundary object. The results translates between different disciplines as well as between autonomous and applied art. We believe this quality contributes to the success of the collaboration, as we will explain below.

The final result will be a mixture of different media and fields of expertise. This will make it accessible for different types of users:

Users wanting to optimise their meditation.

Users who want to experiment with their meditation.

Developers who want to explore new possibilities with the data and the build in Internet of Things functionality.

Users who enjoy the autonomous quality of suit and art works created from the data.

Right in the middle of these use cases is Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit. To accommodate for these different uses the outlook and expertise of very different people was needed.

The parts we worked on at the time of writing were: the garment, the electronic hardware and its containers, the embedded software, the data server with data base and user interface, the artificial intelligence module and the overall system architecture. The outline of the results were there, they guided the various tasks. But there was enough room for every team member to experience that their expertise is a valuable contribution. When asked about their role 4 out of 11 team members explicitly mention their role in the project as useful or important. The others see their role mostly as facilitating important parts or the project as a whole. Or as SG put it: “…It is clear that she [DR] needs to be surrounded by a team of experts to develop all the details of her ideas.”

Conclusion

We have described the process of working on a complex mixed media project with a diverse multidisciplinary team. Despite these challenging circumstances milestones were met and the quality of the communication and collaboration was high. We have explored the reasons for this success through observations, reflection and a survey among team members. We have discovered that the four aspects below have contributed to the success:

  1. The use of boundary objects
  2. The multidisciplinary artist
  3. The artistic vision
  4. The art piece as a boundary object

With respect to item 1. we conclude that we have used many different types of boundary objects which can be explained by the multi facet-ness of the project. In most interactions they have been used intensively. Which resulted in good productivity and communication. In the one case where boundary objects were lacking we saw a lack of productivity and poor communication.

With regard to DR as multidisciplinary we conclude that as an artist DR goes beyond the hybrid artist. Her innovative mindset has provided her with broad general knowledge. This enables her to easily cross boundaries. Her knowledge is sufficient to lead different team members. Being a generalist creates the need for expertise but also creates room for others to excel in their expertise.

We can conclude that the importance of the artistic vision differs among team members. This is driven by individual motivation. Still the overall vision is crucial because it connects the many facets and disciplines included in the project. But we believe that the passion of the artist in pursuing this vision reflects on the team members and acts as a source of inspiration. It might be the (hidden) driving force to go that extra mile. It triggers the team members to cross the boundaries of their own expertise.

Because we can identify the final art piece itself as a boundary object it provides room for users and experts to take a stance on the result and the tasks involved. This allows team members to view their contribution as an important part of the whole. The nature of the art piece is one of the aspects that enabled the successful design and production process.

This research has provided insights into what aspects contribute to successful communication and collaboration. For this article we only looked at the first months of the project period. Future research should take into account the whole project period. We believe that the role of the artistic vision and artist as someone who inspires is worthy of further research.

 

Referencing

Abrahamson, D. & Chase, K. (2015). Interfacing Practices: Domain Theory Emerges via Collaborative Reflection. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 16(3): 372–389. DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2015.1052384.

Akkerman, S.F., Bakker, A. (2011). Boundary Crossing and Boundary Objects. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 132 – 169.

Bowen, S., Durrant, A., Nissen, B., Bowers, J. & Wright, P. (2016). The Value of Designers’ Creative Practice within Complex Collaborations. Design Studies, 46, 174-198. DOI: 10.1016/j.destud.2016.06.001.

Gielen, P., van Winkel, C., Zwaan,K. (2012). De hybride kunstenaar; De organisatie van de artistieke praktijk in het postindustriële tijdperk [The hybrid artist; The organisation of the artistic practice in the post-industrial age]. Breda, Netherlands: AKV|St. Joost Expertisecentrum Kunst en Vormgeving.

Liedtka, J.M. (2017). Design Thinking for Innovation, Coursera Course University of Virginia.

Open Call Themes. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://wearsustain.eu/open-calls/open-call-themes/

Appendix 1

Questions to team members

1. What did you expect from the project before you started?

2. What motivated you to take part in the project?

3. Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit is guided by an artistic vision (working towards a high tech hermitage). Does this vision have an impact on your motivation?

4. How do you see your role in and its meaning for the Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit prototype?

5. How would you characterize the role of Danielle within the project?

6. How multidisciplinary does Danielle appear to you? How does that impact your tasks for this project?

7. Do you fell Danielle’s knowledge is sufficient for your contribution?

8. The next questions are related to specific meetings. In answering the next questions please go back to one of the following meeting. State in your answer which meeting you picked.

a. Software kick-off via Skype Monday 21 August from 14-16h

b. Kick-off at Design Lab Twente Monday 11 September from 15:30-17h

c. Work session at Design Lab Twente Thursday 5 October from 12-17h

1. If you think back to these meetings how good was the communication? (Think of smoothness, mutual understanding, knowledge sharing, etc.)

2. To communicate we used several aids (think of: prototypes, schematics, shared documents.) How would you describe the meaning of those aids with regards to the communication? Which aids were most useful to you?

about breathing_time

For the TIK festival documentation I wrote an article about breathing_time:

Background and concept

Breathing_time was conceived as part of the Time Inventors Kabinet[1] project for which I was an invited artist. The idea behind this project was to use different ecological input for creating new notions of time. Right from the start I had the idea to work with physiological data as input for a new time. Can we make time more personal if it is driven by our own body? Can we change our perceptions of time through growing awareness of the way our body functions? These were thoughts that motivated the work.

The concept of the windclock[2] was a central theme in the TIK project the most obvious physiological data to work with was breathing.

Early on in the project I had the idea of representing this personal data in a direct way using analogue techniques like drawing. I experimented a lot with ink and stains and made a hand driven drawing machine that drew a line of various thicknesses depending on the speed of breathing. I drew inspiration from Japanese calligraphy techniques, especially ensō[3]. While the idea of ink stayed it changed from analogue to digital: an animation with sound to represents the breath flow.

I wanted to work with a group of five people breathing at the same time and explore if becoming aware of someone else’s breathing pattern would influence your own and if we could reach a certain entrainment, our own rhythm. This resulted in two performances performed at the TIK festival.

Hardware

I build a custom device, the breathCatcher, using the JeeLabs RBBB Arduino[4] and the Modern Device Windsensor[5] and USB Bub[6]. The device is cone shaped to capture the breath flow in both directions. The wind sensor is placed in the opening of the cone. The cone should be worn over the nose and mouth. Breathing in and out through the nose is required. A felt ring protects the face from the sharp paper edge. A felt container at the bottom holds and protects the microcontroller. The paper device is connected to a PC by a cable using a USB-to-serial connection.

Sensor platform

For working with the sensor data I used the CommonSense platform[7]. I was sponsored by the Sense-os, the creators of that platform. CommonSense is an advanced online platform with comprehensive API[8] for working with sensor data. After creating an account you can create sensors, five in my case, and upload to and download data from the server. Different queries are possible and basic visualisation is available. That comes in very handy when you are developing.

I received a lot of help from Sense-os with connecting to the API and querying the database. All data is exchanged in JSON format which is very particular about quotes, which made it hard to work with.

For them the challenge lay in the near real time service of sending and receiving five times ten data points per second. I was advised to use a cable instead of Wifi to ensure minimal data loss.

Software

I wrote custom software, drawingBreath, in Processing[9]. I used some native Java and a few extra libraries and classes.[10] This software performs all the connections with the CommonSense API. It uses several timers to keep the tasks of sending and receiving data separated.

For 60 seconds the software calibrates all five devices so as to be able to detect the direction of the breath flow. Using the temperature sensor was very useful for that purpose.

After the breath flow has been calibrated the animation starts. Each of the five participants is represented by a ‘brush tip’ which will start to draw a circle. Going counter clockwise in red represents breathing in, the blue dot moving clockwise represents breathing out. The radius of the circle is determined by the strength of the breath flow as is the size of the tip and its’ colour intensity. In between breaths the drawing clears to start again.

Other software used in, and in aid of this project was Csound, Skype, Dropbox (view below) and NTP[11]. The latter was very important as the timestamp for every breath data point should be the same.

Adding sound

My friend Richard van Bemmelen, a musician and programmer kindly offered to help me add sound to the animation. My idea was to create a bamboo wind chime with our breaths. Creating a sound only when the breath status changed from in to out or vice versa. Richard is an advanced user of Csound[12] and wanted to use that program. As bamboo already exists as an Opcode[13] we could quickly start. The sound produced by Csound wasn’t the rattle of sticks but a far more beautiful flute-like sight. The pitch depends on the value of the breath flow data. To make everything work on all the participants’ PCs Csound had to be installed. A custom .csd file which defines the settings for the synthesizer is placed in that folder. To make starting of the sound part easy Richard created a batch file that would start Csound and make it wait for messages from Processing. For communicating with Csound the oscP5 library[14] was used in Processing. A message with the breath value was send whenever the breath status changed.

The performances

breathing_time was a networked performance. I’ve selected five people from different nationalities to partake in the experiment. With that I wanted to underline the universal character of breathing. From five different locations these five people would create sound and visuals using only their breath. Because of the drawingBreath software all participants saw the same animation and heard the same sounds. This output could act as feedback for them. I was in Brussels performing for an audience that saw and heard the same things as the participants.

One thing that took a lot more effort then anticipated was preparing the participants for the actual performances. To test the server and different versions of the software we had planned four test sessions at the start. But first all software had to be installed on the different computers. Right at the beginning I had to move everybody to the Windows platform as running the Processing application made on a Windows PC on a Mac appeared to be a hassle. Also the drivers for the USB Bub were absent for the Mac.

Having equipped two participants with my old laptops we could start testing. The Sense-os server did a very good job. The main problem was instructing everybody and making sure that the software and Csound updates were put in the right folders. I used Dropbox[15] to supply updates and manuals but even that was hard for some people. Through Skype I gave live instructions and could answer questions of all participants at the same time. After a good final rehearsal it was time for the real thing.

The performances started with each participant introducing him/herself in a pre-recorded sound file in both their mother tongue and English. At exactly 19:00 hours everybody would start their drawingBreath program and calibration started as the introductions continued.

Our assignment for the performances was: relax and breath naturally. Try to detect your own breath circle and see if you can leave some time between each breath. If this moment of in between breaths would coincide the screen would be cleared and we would have reached some sort of communal breathing.

The most important thing I learned from the performances is that breathing is a very personal thing that isn’t easily manipulated. This shows very well from the CommonSense logs where you can see the breathing pattern almost as a signature.[16] Our breathing gaps didn’t coincide but the different movements of the breath flows was interesting to watch.

I also realised that although the performances went reasonably well this is just the beginning. There are so many things that could be improved for which I just lacked the time. Enthusiastic reactions have brought to me new ideas of working with the concept. I’m considering creating an online community to improve the hard- and software. To breath together online and explore the idea of creating a communal “breathing time” further.

Specifications

drawingBreath software (Processing & Java), breathCatcher hardware (Arduino RBBB, Modern Device Wind sensor, USB Bub, USB cable, paper, felt, elastic band), sensor platform (CommonSense API), sound (Csound & Processing)

Credits

Concept, design, development & programming: Danielle Roberts

Sound: Richard van Bemmelen

CommonSense API: Sense-os

Participants: Adriana Osorio Castrillon, Lorenzo Brandli, Mieke van den Hende, Tomoko Baba

Location: Imal, Brussels

Also made possible by OKNO

Blog: http://www.numuseum.nl/blog/category/breathing_time/



[1] http://timeinventorskabinet.org/

[2] http://www.timeinventorskabinet.org/wiki/doku.php/windclocks

[3] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensō

[4] http://jeelabs.com/products/rbbb

[5] http://shop.moderndevice.com/products/wind-sensor

[6] http://jeelabs.com/products/usb-bub

[7] http://www.sense-os.nl/commonsense

[8] http://www.sense-os.nl/api-console

[9] http://processing.org/

[10] Processing serial and net, guicomponents GTimer class, org.json and Java.net.URL and URLConnection classes

[11] http://www.meinberg.de/english/sw/index.htm

[12] http://www.csounds.com/

[13] http://www.csounds.com/manual/html/bamboo.html

[14] http://www.sojamo.de/libraries/oscP5/

[15] www.dropbox.com

[16] http://www.numuseum.nl/blog/2012/05/11/performance-11-5/