Reflecting intensively on the multidisciplinary collaboration

Last weeks we had a great time working hard on the paper we wrote about the collaboration in a multidisciplinary team. All team members worked hard on the next prototype of the Silence Suit and we made great steps to realize it.

Danielle fitting the suit with Vera

Danielle fitting the suit with Vera

Collaboration Paper
But first, I want to tell you more about the paper we wrote. As a reaction to the call for papers from the Design Research Society, Danielle and me decided to reflect on the collaboration in this project. We decided that it goes very well and wanted to research if Danielle’s artistic vision of Hermitage 3.0 is stimulating the team member’s motivation in a positive way. We formulated a survey every team member answered to verify our hypothesis. These hypothesis were created by our reflection. While Danielle reflected on her own role and how she subjectively experience the collaboration, I took the role of an observer to reflect on it from a third angle as onlooker.

It was a really intensive time because it was very hard to formulate our hypothesis and our questions that clear, so we can compare it to the answers of the survey. First, it went very naturally. I did some research about the contemporary artist and compared it to Danielle’s art practice. Danielle read articles about the collaborations and how designers communicate within a collaboration. We saw some parallels with how our collaboration goes and talked about it. Later, it became more complex. We had some hypothesis and questions we still wanted to research. But what does our hypothesis mean in the bigger whole? While I found it easy to zoom in on the artistic practice, I found it more difficult to zoom out at the end to see the relations with the main question to formulate a conclusion.

It was noticeable that Danielle was the leader within this collaboration of writing the paper. I realized that she is experienced in reflecting and formulating her hypothesis in an academic way. Reflecting on how I worked on the paper, I noticed that the art school context is very different from the real world. Criteria for an artist as open minded and innovative seem obvious to me looking at my classmates. Danielle told me her experience with colleagues who finished art school but still work conservatively. I wonder if these people are artists in my eyes.

In the end I am really happy about the result of the paper. Even if there are some things we could further reflect on to get it more precisely, we made great discoveries. We concluded that there are objects needed to communicate with people from different disciplines. They are named boundary objects because they help the team members to cross boundaries. We also learned that the artistic vision of the project stimulates some team members to cross the boundaries of their own expertise. We believe that Danielle as person and as an artist stimulates also the dynamic of the project. But that is an aspect which is worthy of further research.

The writing of the paper was an extraordinary experience for me to work together on one text. I learned how difficult and important it is to understand each other thoughts in the way that you can think further on the thought of another. We have submitted the paper for review by the Design Research Society. We will know if it is accepted by the end of January. We’ll keep you posted.

Visit to Twente
Because we were so busy writing the paper I had no time yet to tell you about our last visit to Design Lab where three students from University Twente: Stephen, Klaas and Jelmer, are working hard to realize the electronics, 3D printed housing and the firmware for Silence Suit. Vera de Pont, the designer, went with us to look how the wiring and the sensors have to be included in the suit. The meeting itself seemed a bit chaotic to me because there was no main focus. Later, I realized that there cannot be a main focus because everyone is working on his own aspect from his own expertise. While Vera and Danielle tried on the suit, Stephen, Klaas and Jelmer worked on the PCBs and casing. And while Danielle spoke with Stephen, Klaas and Jelmer about technical details, Vera tried to effectuate the first adaptation. I noticed that Danielle took the cross over role between these two different work-fields, between design and technology she was the artist.

Stephen and Vera bringing things together on the Silence Suit Danielle is wearing

Stephen and Vera bringing things together on the Silence Suit Danielle is wearing

Generally, many things do not work from the beginning. So you have to make many trials before the result fulfils your expectations. That is something I really learned from my intern-ship and it is still something I have to work on. Personally, I want to do it right in one step. But obviously that is not possible with such a complex project. That is also why the meeting in Twente seemed that chaotic to me. In the end, I had the feeling that we did not reach our goals, because many things did not work. Now, some weeks later, I realize that these trials (I knowingly do not want to name it mistakes) were essential to come where we now are.

Danielle and Vera working on the Silence Suit

Danielle and Vera working on the Silence Suit

The first PCBs are ready, the badge for the environmental sensors and the box for the micro-controller are 3D printed and they look beautiful. The software and the suit itself will soon be ready. Then we have to bring together the suit with the wiring and the sensors. The next step will be to meditate as much as possible to get enough data to program the software intelligence which has to operate the light instrument. It is a exciting time because now, things really have come together.

3D print of the badge and the box

3D print of the badge and the box

Things come together in Twente

Last week we went to University Twente to meet Vera de Pont, our designer, and Klaas and Stephen, two of the students of DesignLab, working on the electronics and the software of the Silence Suit. It was a very exciting day to me. Before, I did not really know what to expect from the meeting. But I planned to take the role of an observer reflecting on how a meeting with people from different kind of disciplines proceeds. I have obtained interesting observations I want to share with you in the following.

Meeting in Twente - Vera, Danielle, Klaas, Stephen

Meeting in Twente – Vera, Danielle, Klaas, Stephen

Network
When we arrived, Danielle introduced Vera and me to Frank Kresin, the managing director of DesignLab. He warmly welcomed us. He asked us: ‘What is your background?’ I explained where I am from: ‘I am studying fine arts at the art academy St.Joost in Breda. I am finishing my final year and among other things I am doing my internship at Danielle’s Awareness Lab.’ He smiled warmly and said something like it was nice to meet. Vera’s answer was much more professional. She really explained what her work is about and which techniques she is familiar with: ‘At the moment, I am focussing on 3D printing’, she said, ‘so I am especially engaged in the graphical side of design.’ Frank seemed interested and wished us a productive meeting.

After we walked away, I wondered what his question was about. It was all about networking. Danielle explained later that he is into connecting people with each other. I guess that Vera is now saved in his memory and he associates her with the words she dropped within this short encounter. When somebody asks him the next time for a designer engaged in 3D print he will think about her. When it comes to my person, he only associates the intern of Danielle. That is neither good or bad, but the next time somebody asks me such a question I will know what this question is about. I need to name the core concept of my artistic practice in a few words.

I think it is good to be aware of such behavioural codes in the art world as well as in your daily life. As a child you have to learn what the answer should be if somebody asks you ‘How are you?’ We should say: ‘Good. How are you?’ At a certain point those behavioural codes go unknowingly. At the moment I am still the growing child. I am really thankful that I am learning from this internship about the behavioural codes in the art world.

In the course of the meeting I found it really interesting how an interdisciplinary collaboration proceeds. The Silence Suit has to meet many requirements such as beautiful look, stable data and convenient fit. In the following I will reflect on the different kinds of roles of the designer, the technician and the artist.

The role of the designer
Vera de Pont arrived with a big suitcase. ‘I thought it would be better to take some swatches with me, so that we can try different things. The suit itself is not that big.’, she says and laughs. She was well prepared. When we entered the meeting room she immediately unpacked her suitcase and presented the different parts of the suit on a table. I really loved to see how attentive she treated the suit she has made.

Preparing the suit for fitting - by Vera de Pont

Preparing the suit for fitting – by Vera de Pont

The first half of the meeting was about the progress of the electronics. She had many practical questions for the technicians about the look of the badge and the microcontroller container, so that she could include it in the following sketch of the suit. She properly wrote down every information she got about the electronics. In that first half of the meeting, the role of the designer was to understand as much as possible of the electronics to optimise the design of the suit.

Danielle fits the bottom layer - looking for solutions with Vera de Pont

Danielle fits the bottom layer – looking for solutions with Vera de Pont

The second half of the meeting was really about the fit of the suit. Vera seemed very excited when Danielle fit the suit. ‘It is so nice to see it on you.’ She said with a great smile on her face. It fits very well and she seems pleased that Danielle likes it. We have to think of each sensor, where it should be placed and how the cable connects to the microcontroller. Vera came up with new ideas how we could bring the electronics and the design together until everyone agreed. Her arguments were mainly about the look and that it should be as comfortable as possible for the user to maintain the suit. I was really impressed how focused she stayed during the whole meeting. In the second half of the meeting the role of the designer really seemed to be a living source of inspiration. She really thought in options instead of problems.

Danielle fits the suit - by Vera de Pont

Danielle fits the suit – by Vera de Pont

The role of the technician
Stephen and Klaas are both master students of University Twente participating in the DesignLab working on the software and the electronics of the Silence Suit. The DesignLab seemed to feel like home to them and I experienced how deep they are into the subject. They even worked through their lunch break. Before we met, they have worked many hours to optimise the construction of the badge and the microcontroller PCBs. They were able to minimise the number of plugs. Stephen and Klaas seemed happy about the outcome of their research.

Sketch of the electronics - by Klaas

Sketch of the electronics – by Klaas

Finally, they got a nice sketch of the electronics. But still, Vera and Danielle had some questions about optimising the electronics. For example, a screw connection of the plugs would be better than a clicking one. The argumentation of the technicians was mainly based on what the market offers. If there are no screw connections for that kind of plugs, they cannot do anything about it. But they were also trying to understand Danielle’s vision of the suit to bring it to a higher level on the field of electronics. They came up with the idea to change the light sensor with the wind sensor on the badge, so that the shadow of the plug will not influence the data. I enjoyed to see how they tried to think in the artist’s shoes.

Danielle consults about the electronics with Klaas and Stephen

Danielle consults about the electronics with Klaas and Stephen

The role of the technician stayed the furthest away from me. I was really impressed how much they know about their subject, but I only understood some of it. Still, I see the role of technician as a really practical one. In contrast to a designer or an artist who create things, the technician’s choice is more depending on existing things.

The role of the artist
I think the role of the artist is a really personal choice. Every artist has to formulate his own criteria. In the following I will try to characterise the role of the artist as I observed it in the case of Danielle during the meeting with Vera, Stephen and Klaas. Danielle herself told me once that she sees her own artistic practice in bringing things together. Her personal fascination leads to the vision of a project. In this case her vision is about Hermitage 3.0. The role of the artist here is to plan smaller steps to realise that vision. One of these steps is the Silence Suit as a part of Hermitage 3.0. Within that project the artist has to look for experts and people she wants to collaborate with. That is why we are sitting in Twente around a table with Vera, Klaas and Stephen.

During that meeting, Danielle kept on task all the time. But for me it seems very difficult to find the balance between practical choices and visual choices without losing your vision. For example, when Klaas told her that there is no screw connection for that kind of plug, she did not want to believe it and asked him to research once more. She asked it in a very respectful way, but I witnessed that an artist does not want to depend on existing things. Maybe Danielle’s role as an artist is comparable to a tinkerer.

Danielle presents the bottom layer of the suit by Vera de Pont

Danielle presents the bottom layer of the suit by Vera de Pont

Generally speaking, I think that an artist has to offer alternatives to existing structures. In my opinion, Danielle contributes valuable aspects by collaborating with different kind of disciplines. She creates her own universe by utilising different kind of research as a source of inspiration. The collaborations and the diversity of sources of inspiration make that she comes to a vision which could not have been thought out by one person.

To conclude this eventful day, it can be said that I acquired an in-depth view on how a collaboration in that professional environment looks like. I have especially learned a lot about the role of an artist by seeing how Danielle defines her artistic practice. That helps me to think about my future position in the art world.

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Design Lab nirvana

Ready, set, go!

After a difficult start things are really starting to move. Since a couple of weeks all the team members are working on their individual tasks: the database design, the interaction design, suit design, PCB design and experiment design. The project feels like a sort of organism that grows organically in different directions. I keep track of what everybody is up to via Skype or phone but nothing beats a face to face meeting. Last week we had such a meeting at the Design Lab Twente.

Teamwork, photo Meike Kurella

Teamwork, photo Meike Kurella

From 12 o’ clock onwards the Lab had kindly reserved a room for our team to collaborate. Present were Klaas and Stephen students from the TU Twente, designer Vera and my intern, art student Meike.

Klaas and Stephen have been working hard on the PCB design. Their main task is to simplify the design and make it more robust. Vera had been working on the first silhouette of the suit. Our goal for the afternoon was to check if things were still matching up.

Paper sensor, photo Vera de Pont

Paper sensor, photo Vera de Pont

Match maker

The boys walked me through their designs. We were able to clarify things for each other and we spend quite some time on the plug layout and the interaction with them.
I’m learning more and more to think like a designer by assuming the role of the user and by quick prototyping of problems and interaction hiccups. I really loved the way Vera and I found solutions by taking a different angle, using paper, key-cards and even a jojo to make future usage tangible.

Key-card as batch, photo Vera de Pont

Key-card as batch, photo Vera de Pont

Vera and I also discussed the fit and aesthetics. Wearing the suit has to be a pleasant experience that has to be put to the test. At the end of the afternoon Stephen said: You must like the way it fits, you’ve been wearing the suit all afternoon. And he is right, it does feel good to wear it.

Storing wires, photo Vera de Pont

Storing wires, photo Vera de Pont

I also loved the way in which we all are working towards something which still isn’t completely clear to any of us. I use intuition, faith and persistence to keep trying to bring the different worlds together. I’m discovering that this is what comes natural to me. Merging these worlds, looking for solutions to make the most of a problem and connecting different ways of thinking to come up with something that surprises myself.

Hardware and design, photo Vera de Pont

Hardware and design, photo Vera de Pont

Calling

I started this project with the aspiration to become a modern hermit. But more and more I’m beginning to see that I am made for teamwork, that I love to inspire and be inspired. Nothing beats creating something new together. I suppose I’ll be the first part-time hermit.

Kick-off in Twente

We are very happy we can work together with three students from Design Lab, a creative and cross-disciplinary ecosystem at the University of Twente.

Kick-off in Twente - two of the students of the DesignLab

Kick-off in Twente – two of the students of the DesignLab

This week Danielle went for two days to Twente to visit the students who will focus on the electronics and the embedded software. They will focus on the PCB’s and the 3D printing of the box for the PCB’s which will be included in the Silence Suit. After explaining the main idea of Hermitage 3.0 the intention of the Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit became clearer to them and they know what has to be done to optimize the Silence Suit.

The second day they already had some refreshing ideas about the electronics. To make the system more stable they will look for new connectors. Among others the connection between the suit and the vest will be optimized. They will reduce the cables from all the analogue sensors to one cable. They will explore if you can connect the suit to the vest by connecting it at one point.

In two weeks we will meet again to discuss the progress of the project and to look how we can include the electronics in the Silence Suit.

Another highlight this week was the skype meeting with Vera de Pont. She is working on the design of the Silence Suit. We are working towards an image of a contemporary monk. Vera had great ideas about how we can make the suit more timeless, unisex and nevertheless stylish. She is working on a poncho-like idea of the suit which will make it lighter so you can meditate comfortably.

first design by Vera de Pont - poncho like suit

first design by Vera de Pont – poncho like suit

Maybe the bottom layer can have long sleeves so you won’t get too cold in the winter. To make it light enough for in the summer Vera will look at cutting out a pattern. Therefore she plans to use a laser cutter as well was for the cabling. She wants to include the cabling in the design of the suit by making it visible at the surface area.

hand weave pattern - noting down your personal progress

hand weave pattern

It could underline the modern innovative image of the Silence Suit. Vera wants to work with pockets for the sensors and box. She plans to work with graphic icons to show the user clearly the content of the pockets. A weave pattern at the front of the suit might give the user the chance to personalize it. By noting down the weekly meditation sessions in the hand woven agenda you can overview your personal progress.

Danielle really likes the idea of connecting the high-tech meditation session to a classy look of a contemporary monk with some analogue aspects like the hand woven agenda. In two weeks when we meet the students in Twente Vera will come too present a textile sketch of the suit. I am excited how it looks like.

As you can see, the project is going well. By now everybody knows his tasks and can start realizing it. I think it is a great relief for Danielle. Now, she can focus on her research regarding content because she knows everything is going well.

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Neck sensor does his work

Last week we made great steps developing the sensors and the electronics.

We chose another sensor for in the neck. It detects movement to the extent we want it. We found a solution to include the sensor in the Silence Suit. We went further with the experiments we did last week. We chose another cloth for the turtleneck which is more flexible. It sits tight enough at the neck that the sensor can detect every move you make. Although there are still some small disturbances, three different angles can be detected very well. We can determine movement forward, to the right as well as to the left.

neck sensor - detecting every move you make

neck sensor – detecting every move you make

To make it more comfortable we cut it out at the front. So, the turtleneck will not influence your breathing. It is still sketchy but we are very happy we found a way that it works. Now it is up to our designer to optimize the look.

turtleneck - cut out at the front

turtleneck – cut out at the front

We have found a new sensor detecting the pressure between your fingers. We want detect light pressure. It is more sensitive than the one we used before. The amount of pressure between your fingers during meditation is a good indicator of your concentration level.

We changed the microcontroller we want to use. We included a battery so you can recharge it easily by connecting the microcontroller to your computer.

German has introduced us to a convenient platform to communicate with each other. We share our progress questions and discoveries among ourselves using Dropbox Paper. We are really happy that we can work together on one vision by sharing our thoughts that easily.

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper

Danielle’s research about the influence of the light is difficult because there is not that much investigated about it. We are waiting for the thesis of an intern from Philips Research who has focused on the influence of light on relaxation. The experiments Danielle wants to do with the sketch of the Silence Suit cannot be thought out because she misses some academical input. So, if you maybe know some interesting literature about the influence of light either on psychological or on scientific level, please let us know by leaving a comment.

Today I picked up how important it is to go on. No matter how small the steps seem that you make, they are all crucial to reach your goal. As you can see, we are making crucial steps to realize the Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit. And we can enjoy every small success we have, for instance the solution of the neck sensor today. But there is still much to do. I am excited what comes next.

breath sensor progress

During the TIK launch event I was fortunate to meet Christian Pointer. He’s an electronic engineer, programmer and hacker from Graz, Austria. He was very kind to help me with improving the stretch sensor. With the few parts I had with me he managed to increase the output range from the sensor to the Arduino dramaticly. Making it much easier for me to work the data and use it in different applications. The only thing I have to do is replace the two pot meters with ones’ of more suitable value and replace the simple opamp with a rail2rail one (TLV274 for example).

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