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interdisciplinary research studio-lab

THE QUALIFIED SELF

Project Description:

The Qualified Self is an exploratory research project between researchers at Concordia and McGill Universities, Philips research laboratories and cultural partners in the Netherlands. The project aims to study the phenomenon of interactional synchrony in a large group of people using biometric/physiological signals such as respiration, heart-rate/heart rate variability (ECG) and skin conductance (GSR). QS seeks to answer three core research questions:(1), How can a group of participants synchronize their physiological signals with each other and what measure of synchrony can be established? (2), How can synchrony be encouraged or indeed, induced from specific kinds of temporal patterns occurring in different multimodal media (light, sound, worn vibrotactile stimulators) ? and; (3), How can this synchrony be displayed (visualized, sonified, converted into vibrotactile stimuli) within the environment and used as a catalyst for feedback. The project is a unique chance to collaborate with experts in signal processing, music technology, neuroscience and engineering to artistically explore a novel and emerging research field: the use of collectively produced, real time biometric signals to influence the behavior of media in an environment. QS will develop a series of research studies comprising experiments, record different physiological data (respiration, heart rate and skin conductance), apply a range of existing signal processing, feature extraction and machine learning techniques to both discern synchronous behavior across groups of signals and develop compositional strategies to map these physiological signals to control specific parameters to generate/influence temporal patterns (“behaviors”) over different media.

Artistic Results of Research:

Other/Self

Other/Self is a performative installation exploring the tension between a vision of the self as “quantified” versus a “qualified” self that emerges through the embodied and sensorial presence of the other. The installation consists of an immersive sound, light and haptic experience directly modulated by one of our most intimate and felt bodily experiences: our heartbeat. Two visitors at a time enter a brightly lit enclosed room and put on a set of wearable sensors and actuators. Sitting side by side but facing in opposite directions, the visitors are suddenly plunged into total darkness. Very gradually, each individual begins to barely feel the heartbeat of the other, transferred and transformed into various luminous, acoustic and haptic patterns at varying levels of intensity. As the visitors’ breathing and heartbeats come into synchrony, the sensorial and corporeal encounter begins to change. Rapid, abrupt changes of light, sound and vibration build to an uncanny climax in which the border between self and other, self and environment dissolves.

Dissense

Dissense is a live performance for a solo performer and 50 audience members. The work revisits composer Alvin Lucier’s groundbreaking 1965 composition Music For Solo Performer in which Lucier, equipped with an early EEG device, activated a series of percussion instruments using his brain’s Alpha waves. Dissense expands and updates Lucier’s work by exploring the transferring of sensations from performer to audience. Equipped with a range of body-based sensors (heartrate, respiration, EEG, electrical signals from the muscles), the Korean trained dancer and performance artist Miri Lee unleashes a minimal composition of sound and light from her physiological signals by way of extreme micro-movements – almost unnoticeable gestures and actions which, over time, grow larger and more intense. As the performance develops, the performer’s body signals not only influence the visual and acoustic environment but are also transferred directly onto the bodies of the audience. The performer and audience thus becomes the test subject of a new kind of collective experiment in sensation at a distance.

Documentation:

Location:

“Other/Self,” STRP Biennial, Eindhoven, Netherlands, March-April 2017
“Dissense,” Todays Art 2017, The Hague, September 2017

Technical:

1. BioSignalToolKit: An open-source, Max based toolkit for affective computational arts. Includes feature extractors and synchrony detectors for ECG, EMG, Respiration and GSR-based signals. This freely available set of Max externals can be downloaded here.

2. Show control prototypes:

Qualified Self produced two comparative show control system prototypes. One system is ZenStates: a new software tool that allows creative users to quickly specify interactive environments, combining the direct manipulation style with a simple yet powerful specification model–based on Hierarchical Finite-States Machines, Javascript expressions, and a blackboard.

The other system utilizes a Behavior Tree model to control multiple media.

Publications:

Salter, Chris. Making Sense in the Quantified Age (in development for MIT Press)

Salter, Chris. “Can We Have a Collective Self?” Baltan Quarterly #4. Available online at http://baltanlaboratories.org/article/publication/baltan-quarterly-4. 2015.

PRESENTATIONS:

Salter, Chris. “Technologies of Sense: Quantification and Embodiment in the Age of the Data Driven Self.” A Body of Knowledge: First International Conference on Embodied Cognition and the Arts. UC Irvine. December 2016.

“Infrastructures of Sensation: Making up People in the “Sensor Society.” Annual Meeting for the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) and EASST (European Association for the Study of Science and Technology). Barcelona, Spain. August 2016.

“The Qualified Self.” Keynote Address. “Hack the Body.” De Waag/Pakhuis de Zwijger. Amsterdam, Netherlands. March 2016.

PRESS:

http://we-make-money-not-art.com/8-things-ive-learnt-during-the-last-edition-of-the-strp-biennale/

FUNDER:

Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Sociéte et Culture, Programme d’appui aux arts et technologies médiatiques

DATES:

November 2015-November 2017

COLLABORATORS:

Labxmodal (Concordia University)– Chris Salter (PI), Sofian Audry, Garrett Lockhart, Sebastien Alvarez, Joseph Plazak, TeZ , Luis Fernandez, Najmeh Mahani

IDMIL (McGill University)
Marcelo Wanderley (Co-PI), Jeronimo Barbosa

Philips Research, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Ad Denissen

Baltan Labs
Olga Mink, Koen Snoekx

STRP Biennial
Gieske Bienert
Angelique Spinkx

STATUS:

Completed