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The Changing Room—final performance

My residency at The Cube concluded last month with the opening of my piece The Changing Room.

How would you like to feel? What if you could make it happen with a touch of a screen? What would you do with complete control over your own emotions and those of the people around you?

The Changing Room is a custom software installation and performance that allows participants to select one of hundreds of emotions, evoking that emotion in them and everyone in the space through a layered environment of light, visuals, sound, text, and interaction exhibited over a multi-level, many-sided display. Dealing with themes of surveillant architectures, social technologies, and smart homes, the piece simultaneously invades and cares for the emotions of passersby.

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Upon entering the main space, you are confronted with the question, “Do you want to feel?”, and you are given the opportunity to select the emotion you’d like to experience.

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The Changing Room then gets to work trying to make everyone in the space feel that emotion as intensely as possible.

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Every zone of The Cube becomes active with different instructions, graphics, and activities that it guides passersby through. In one zone, your voice is interpreted as animated objects moving around the screens. If you touch them to pop them, a command is released instructing you to “hug the person next to you”, or “curl up into a ball”.

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People in the booths are confronted with a monolithic block that slides back and forth roulette style, randomly choosing a booth to light up with an instruction intended for that group.

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On the second floor, your body position is analyzed as you’re guided through a series of positions and contortions. The process of assuming the various positions is designed to  evoke the emotion that’s been selected in the main space.

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In another zone, ambient sound and voices are picked up by a series of microphones distributed throughout the area and analyzed. Depending on the currently selected emotion, you are instructed to adapt yourself to “share your feelings”, “calm down”, or “express more joy”.

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The opening was accompanied by a special performance and dinner during which participants were fully immersed in The Changing Room. Performers took cues from The Cube and worked to amplify the emotions and guide conversation around themes of surveillance and social technology.

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The evening concluded with a series of toasts to the future. While participants felt a mix of hope, fear, and ambiguity, I think we all left with a sense of open curiosity and questioning.

The Changing Room was created in collaboration with Sean Druitt, Ryan Bargiel, Allan Bishop, Samuel Collins, Daniel Fisher, Simon Harrison, Brian Jeffery, and the rest of the QUT Cube Team, and Andy Bates and Yu Kao. Performers included Viv Coburn, Brittany Hurkmans, Jacob Nye, Tiffany Symons, and Jackie Taylor. This project was completed as part of a TRANSMIT³ Residency at The Cube, QUT. The residency is presented by Ars Electronica and QUT.

Thank you QUT for having me and supporting this project! I am back in the states now and missing Australia already.

Photos by Kyle McDonald

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Q&A with Lauren McCarthy: Provoking ‘fellow feelings’ in her own way

Ars Electronica Q&A with Lauren McCarthy about her Transmit³-Residency: The Changing Room.

Designer, artist and programmer Lauren McCarthy explores the structures and systems of social interaction, identity as well as self-presentation and the potential of technology of how it can influence the dynamics between those traits. During her Transmit³-Residency she wanted to find out about the influence of Big Data on the togetherness in front of The Cube.

Photo by Lauren McCarthy

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Residency presentation: The Cube as a smart social environment

Hi, Lauren here. I’m wrapping up my two month TRANSMIT3 Residency at The Cube and next Thursday 11 August will be the official opening of the new piece I’ve been working on with the team.

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The event will feature an interactive performance installation in which we dine together in a near future where we change feelings like channels on a TV, swipe left for nostalgia, swipe right for glee, and follow each other as The Cube tracks us all.

Stay tuned for my last blog post which details how this event plays out.

 

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Turning The Cube into an emotion machine

It’s been a busy few weeks at The Cube. I started with a few workshops with kids thinking about ‘homes of the future’. Participants imagined the toys they’d play with, clothes they’d wear, rules they’d follow, and robots that would serve as caretakers. They learned to code using p5.js, a platform for building interactive artworks online, and built their own rooms of the future which we combined into a one big apartment building.

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The students' output of the rooms created with code in p5.js

The students’ output of the rooms created with code in p5.js

While reflecting on things learned in the workshops, I also worked with The Cube team to rig up The Cube space with extra sensors and create a system that links all the zones of the space with the data being collected as people move through it. We started with some basic tests to see how it felt to control the movement of objects on the screen with our bodies.

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After some experimentation, I landed on the idea of turning The Cube into a sort of emotion machine. People will be asked to determine how they would like to feel, and The Cube will get to work molding the feelings of everyone around it into the desired emotion.

We began with some tests of the interface to select emotions. I want it to have the feeling of an ice cream store with hundreds of flavors. Each one you pick brings on an entirely different sensation.

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In the next few weeks, we’ll be developing the content and interactions much further and I’m planning a final performance that will happen over dinner at The Cube next month.

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Hello and welcome, Lauren McCarthy

Hi! I am an artist from New York, in residence for the next two months at The Cube. My practice involves looking at our social interactions, the rules and expectations that govern them, and the effects of technology. I have always been a pretty socially awkward person, and my projects are often attempts to hack my way to better relationships.

A few years ago, I went on a series of dates with people I met on an online dating site and crowdsourced my dating life by paying workers online to watch a video stream of the dates and tell me what to say and do. (Social Turkers, 2013, http://socialturkers.com)

https://vimeo.com/66339316

Thinking about algorithmic enhancement of relationships, together with Kyle McDonald, we made a Google Hangout app that would monitor your speech and facial expression and provide real-time prompts to “enhance” the conversation. (us+, 2014, http://lauren-mccarthy.com/us)

https://vimeo.com/81903116

Most recently, I created an Uber-like app and service where you could hire a stranger (I was actually the Follower) to follow you for one day . I’d tail the person based on their GPS data, keeping just out of sight but within their consciousness, leaving them at the end with just one photo from sometime during the day. (Follower, 2016, http://lauren-mccarthy.com/follower)

https://vimeo.com/149917476

For this residency, I am focusing on the idea of the Smart Home and Internet of Things, and all of the promises these offer. I am going to turn the Cube into a smart home for QUT students and community, gathering data through its many sensors, and interacting with the people in the space through ambient instructions on the walls. The point is to question and critique the idea of a surveillant space that guides you mindlessly, while also exploring more interesting possibilities.

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Often the idea of a smart space or AI is represented by thermostats that adjust themselves and either the complete lack of any human feeling, or a sci-fi fantasy female character.

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I’m planning to dig deeper into the process of socialisation. Who are the human authority figures that teach us how to behave and relate to others. Maybe it is your mum or dad, an older sibling, teacher, or friend, or role model. How do these people watch over us and influence us. Could this social intelligence be captured and embodied in an artificial intelligence?

These are some of the questions I aim to explore with this project. I’ll be starting research with a series of interviews and workshops open to the public. Stay tuned for more details if you’d like to participate!

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Introducing Friedrich Kirschner and the Society for Cultural Optimism

The Cube is excited to welcome its newest Ars Electronica Futurelab TRANSMIT³ resident, Friedrich Kirschner, who will be teaming up with the Society for Cultural Optimism to simulate an alternate reality through social interventions, performances and interactive content on The Cube.

The Society for Cultural Optimism develops situated social games that engage participants through overwhelming optimism. They strongly believe that someplace north-east of cynicism, popular culture can be fun and engaging.

For Friedrich’s TRANSMIT³ residency, they will investigate a time and place in which The Cube transforms the everyday as a conduit to the virtual, and they will invite the public to help in their research and implementation. As part of their research, the team set up a base camp at Robotronica late last month.

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Friedrich: During QUTs Robotronica festival, we had the opportunity to establish our first expeditionary base camp. Using our newly constructed Weltmaschine, a device that helps us simulate possible future realities, we encouraged visitors to share their thoughts on technological development and possible future scenarios. From the data gathered, and using the Weltmaschine in its first incarnation, we generated a poem of the future.