Jonah Brucker-Cohen
Since the beginning
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America

Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Ph.D., is an award winning artist, researcher, and writer. He received his Ph.D. in the Disruptive Design Team of the Networking and Telecommunications Research Group (NTRG), Trinity College Dublin. He is the Director of the Digital Humanities MA program and an Assistant Professor of Digital Media and Networked Culture in the department of Journalism, Communication, and Theatre at Lehman College (City University of New York – CUNY).

He has taught as adjunct assistant professor at Parsons MFA in Design & Technology and Parsons School of Art, Design, History, and Theory (ADHT) from 2010 to 2014. He has also taught in the Media, Culture, Communication dept of NYU Steinhardt School of Culture Education and Human Development (2009, 2010, 2011). He has also taught at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) (2007, 2008), and Trinity College’s MsC in Interactive Digital Media (2003, 2004). From 2001-2004 he was a Research Fellow in the Human Connectedness Group at Media Lab Europe and from 2006-2007 he was an R&D OpenLab Fellow at Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology in New York City. He received his Masters from ITP in 1999 and was an Interval Research Fellow from 1999-2001.

Jonah’s work and thesis focuses on the theme of “Deconstructing Networks” which includes over 80 projects that critically challenge and subvert accepted perceptions of network interaction and experience.

He is co-founder of the Dublin Art and Technology Association (DATA Group), recipient of the ARANEUM Prize sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Art, Science and Technology and Fundacion ARCO, and was a 2006 and 2008 Rockefeller Foundation New Media Fellow Nominee. His writing has appeared in numerous international publications including WIRED Magazine, Make Magazine, Neural,, Art Asia Pacific, Gizmodo and more, and his work has been presented at events and organizations such as DEAF (03,04), London Science Museum (2008), Future Sonic / Future Everything (2004, 2009), Art Futura (04), SIGGRAPH (00,05), UBICOMP (02,03,04), CHI (04,06) Transmediale (02,04,08), NIME (07), ISEA (02,04,06,09,12), Institute of Contemporary Art in London (04), Tate Modern (03), Whitney Museum of American Art’s ArtPort (03, 12), Ars Electronica (02,04,08), Chelsea Art Museum, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art (04-5),Museum of Modern Art (MOMA – NYC)(2008),San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (2008), and Palais Du Tokyo, Paris (2009). His work has been reported about in The Times, The New York Times, Wired News, Make, Boing Boing, El Pais, Gizmodo, Engadget, The Register, Slashdot, NY Post, The Wire, Rhizome, Crunch Gear, Beyond the Beyond, Neural, Liberation, Village Voice, IEEE Spectrum, The Age, Taschen Books, and more.

He has given lectures about his work at locations and venues such as Intel Corporation, School of Visual Arts, Ars Electronica, Canadian Consulate, NYU, UCLA, USC, San Jose State University, ISEA 2002, 2004, 2006, 2012, University of Buenos Aires, Institute of Contemporary Art London, Transmediale, Universität der Künste Berlin, Tate Modern, Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Urbis Manchester, CCCB Barcelona, Open Hardware Summit, Contemporary Art Museum Belo Horizonte, Brazil, The Banff Centre, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Rhode Island School of Design, Maker Faire, Royal College of Art, Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark, Eyebeam, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Pratt Institute, and more.

Locative Media Revisited


Molly Dilworth, 547 West 27th Street (2009). From the series "Paintings for Satellites."

In the early 2000s, as location-aware devices first became commonplace, there was a lot of hype surrounding their potential creative use by artists. However, over time, this initial enthusiasm for "locative media"--projects that respond to data or communications technologies that refer to particular sites--leveled off, even dissipated. Regardless of this drought, geospatial technologies are widely used, and play an important and often unnoticed role in conditioning many aspects of our existence. Responding to this condition of ubiquity, artists have continued to use locative technologies critically, opening up closed systems, making their effects visible, and reconfiguring our relationship with such systems.  

Welcome to Your New NSA Partner Network: Report from Transmediale 2014

We're running our annual community campaign through March 19. Give today!

Photo: Andreas Nicolas Fischer.

A kind of cold weather antipode of summer's "Love Parade," the Transmediale 2014 media arts festival was a beacon of light in the long dusk of a Berlin winter. As a twist on the usual curated exhibition, this year's festival opted for an ad-hoc "Art Hack Day" (AHD) approach, where submitting artists were expected to create new and original artworks in the span of two days (and nights). Opening the exhibition with a more down-to-earth feel, AHD ultimately resembled a DIY, garage-style party instead of a highbrow exhibition space.

Art In Your Pocket 3: Sensor Driven iPad and iPhone Art Apps

 PXL, Rainer Kohlberger, 2012

As the iPhone just celebrated its fifth year on the market, artists have already made a substantial dent in the commercially lucrative world of Apple’s AppStore. Despite this success, artists are still pushing forward to build apps that further integrate with the device’s sensors and location-based capabilities. Rather than working solely within the context of software art as I have covered in two previous articles on the subject for Rhizome, there is a focus now on artists who are interacting with the physical world by using the device’s internal sensors, location capabilities, constant Internet connectivity, and built-in cameras.


“Konfetti”, Stephan Maximillian Huber, 2012


Using the camera as a sensor, “Konfetti” by German based designer Stephan Maximillian Huber visualizes the image of its subject into countless dots. In effect, the camera image is translated into virtual confetti that follows any movement and creates an ever changing images based on which camera is selected. The dot’s movement is correlated to the detected flow captured by the camera and by repelling other dots, which also move as you touch and drag them. Huber explains over email how the app works as a reflection based art tool. “The app started as an iPad-only app, and on an iPad the app acts like a mirror, showing an abstract reflection of yourself. You'll get a clear image of yourself only when you concentrate on the process of the app, and don't move too fast. It's like contemplating about yourself and the image of yourself. And as your thoughts and emotions aren't static the image the app generates is dynamic and adapts to minimal movements and new ...


Art in Your Pocket 2

In the summer of 2009, I wrote an article here at Rhizome about the burgeoning activities of media artists creating new works or updating versions of their older interactive screen-based projects for Apple's iPhone and iTouch mobile devices. As the article made its way throughout the blogosphere, comments surfaced ranging from criticism of the "closed world of Apple's App Store and iPhone devices" to a championing of the availability of inexpensive multi-touch technology now available to artists who had been waiting for a platform that could adequately display and allow for the type of interaction their projects demanded. A year after the article came out, the draw of these devices and their potentially expansive audience has become even more irresistible to artists enough so that several more "apps" have surfaced. The following article catalogs several new iPhone works which have emerged over the past year, works that are pioneering the next generation of portable media art.

Top 5 - 10

Image from There I Fixed It

Jonah Brucker-Cohen is a researcher, artist, professor and writer. His writing has appeared in numerous international publications including WIRED Magazine, Make Magazine, Neural, Rhizome, Art Asia Pacific, Gizmodo and more, and his work has been shown at events such as DEAF (03,04), Art Futura (04), SIGGRAPH (00,05), UBICOMP (02,03,04), CHI (04,06) Transmediale (02,04,08), NIME (07), ISEA (02,04,06,09), Institute of Contemporary Art in London (04), Whitney Museum of American Art's ArtPort (03), Ars Electronica (02,04,08), Chelsea Art Museum, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art (04-5),Museum of Modern Art (MOMA - NYC)(2008), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (2008). He received his Ph.D. in the Disruptive Design Team of the Networking and Telecommunications Research Group (NTRG), Trinity College Dublin. He is an adjunct assistant professor of communications at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and in the Media, Culture, Communication dept of NYU Steinhardt School of Culture Education and Human Development.

2009 was an important year for the Internet as a whole. The advent of web 2.0 and "crowdsourcing" initiatives has enabled a much richer array of content from users who might never have ventured onto the Internet in previous years. My top 10 sites for this year cover a wide range of topics from art made for mobile devices with to evidence of both information saturation with Information Aesthetics and physical and pseudo intellectual abundance with This is Why You're Fat and There I Fixed It, to strange observances of mistakes in the public realm with Fail Blog. In addition to these crowdsourced content sites, I also see some ongoing potential with artist-created sites such as Brett Domino's lowtech approach to music making ...


Discussions (40) Opportunities (1) Events (2) Jobs (0)

SimpleTEXT: Oct 26 @ NYU

SimpleTEXT: Oct 26 @ NYU

* Below is information about the next SimpleTEXT
peformance on October 26 @ NYU*

Please forward to those who might be interested in attending!

*a cell phone enabled interactive performance* by Family Filter

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 (8 pm)
Bring your Cell phone and Wireless Laptop!

New York University (NYU), NYC, USA
Kimmel Center for University Life
in the Beverly and Arthur Shorin Performance Studio
8th floor, 60 Washington Square south
Corner of 4th St and LaGuardia Place (on Washington Square Park)

Map Link:`+Washington+Square+South,+new+york,+ny&spn=0.006488,0.016328&iwloc=A&hl=en


More info on the Handheld Event:

About SimpleTEXT:
SimpleTEXT is a collaborative audio/visual public performance that
relies on audience participation through input from mobile devices
such as phones, PDAs or laptops. SimpleTEXT focuses on dynamic input
from participants as essential to the overall output. The performance
creates a dialogue between participants who submit messages which
control the audiovisual output of the installation. These messages
are first parsed according to a code that dictates how the music is
created, and then rhythmically drive a speech synthesizer and a
picture synthesizer in order to create a compelling, collaborative
audiovisual performance.

SimpleTEXT focuses on mobile devices and the web as a bridge between
networked interfaces and public space. As mobile devices become more
prolific, they also become separated by increased emphasis on
individual use. The SimpleTEXT project looks beyond the screen and
isolated usage of mobile devices to encourage collaborative use of
input devices to both drive the visuals and audio output, inform each
participant of each other's interaction, and allows people to
actively participate in the performance while it happens.Our purpose
with the performance is to create the possibility of large-scale
interaction through anonymous collaboration, with immediate audio and
visual feedback. SimpleTEXT encourages users to respond to one
another's ideas and build upon the unexpected chains of ideas that
may develop from their input..

SimpleTEXT is created by Family Filter, a collaboration between Jonah
Brucker-Cohen, Tim Redfern, and Duncan Murphy. It was originally
funded by a commission from Low-Fi, a new media arts organization
based in London, UK and has been performed in 5+ countries worldwide.
This event is sponsored by NYU's Program Board and the "Handheld"

About SimpleTEXT:

Jonah Brucker-Cohen -
Tim Redfern -


Report From SIGGRAPH 2005

Report from SIGGRAPH 2005
Los Angeles, CA
July 31-Aug 4, 2005
by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (

In the heat of the LA summer, SIGGRAPH 2005 opened its doors to
50,000+ computer graphics technologists, animators, musicians,
artists, geeks, curators, and digital media professionals. This
year's Art gallery and emerging tech sections featured hundreds of
projects that aimed to showcase the "future" of computer graphics and
interaction. Since I was active in this year's conference, I didn't
get a chance to visit every presentation or try every demo, but here
is a report from the projects and talks that I saw.

This year's main event was the keynote address by acclaimed filmmaker
and special effects innovator, George Lucas. Widely considered as the
"father of digital cinema", Lucas proclaimed himself as a storyteller
before anything else. In order to realize the worlds he envisioned he
turned to computers as an enabling technology. He calmly stated that
he was "not a computer person" and had "no idea what SIGGRAPH people
do." He referenced Akira Kurosawa as a filmmaker who triumphs in
creating an illusion that fantasy worlds exist and proclaimed the
secret to this as "immaculate reality." Lucas's humble moment was
when he admitted to the audience, "I don't know how you do this
stuff, but it allows me to tell a story so I'm happy you're doing it."

On the ground floor of the convention center was the SIGGRAPH Art
Gallery: "Threading Time", which featured a wide range of interactive
and other digital artworks from artists around the world. On the wall
in a red frame was Boredom Research's "Ornamental Bug Garden" a
small, animated screen-based ecosystem that reacted as visitors
approached. Also interactive was Camille Utterback's "Untitled 5:
External Measures Series", a collage of painterly shapes and images
that animated according to visitors movements tracked from overhead.
On the opposite was John Gerrard's "Watchful Portrait", a 3D portrait
that followed the sun's ascent and descent. On the other side of the
wall Gerrard's "Saddening Portrait" was another 3D figure who's face
gradually saddened over a 100-year period. Perry Hoberman's "Art
Under Contract" consisted of a large metal case on the wall with a
small, motor controlled shutter door. After each visitor clicked the
"agree" button of a simple contract, the door would open exposing the
art, but then suddenly shut after the viewing time was over. This
project was a good example of a piece of media art controlling its
viewing audience.

In the "Emerging Technologies" section, projects ranged from new
types of interactive displays to tactile control mechanisms for
interacting with the screen to more artistic uses of technology. The
highlight of the show was Japanese artist Toshio Iwai's (in
collaboration with Yamaha) "Tenori-On" a physical interface that
allows people to create musical compositions visually by pressing on
a dense array of lighted buttons. The instrument's simple, yet
elegant output was a nice reminder that the increasing complexity of
digital interfaces often clouds basic creativity. Other interesting
creative projects included "Exhale: Breath Between Bodies" a series
of networked skirts that collected the breath of the wearers and
transmitted the data to fans in corresponding skirts.

Upstairs from the keynote, art galleries, and other lecture rooms,
the Guerrilla Studio was a place where visitors to the event could
create projects from various different media. I co-ran a workshop
there with Katherine Moriwaki called "DIY Wearable Challenge",
co-hosted by the Ludica Gaming Atelier, where we invited conference
attendees to create simple wearable projects in a few hours from
basic electronics and sensors. The best creations made their way to
the cyber fashion show, hosted later on at the event. This type of
dynamic creativity was evident in other areas of the studio where
visitors could create board games, 3D prints of designs, and even
on-the spot motion capture animations.

As the conference continued, I managed to attend a few of the panels
and presentations. The ISEA 2006 meeting was an organizational
meeting and open forum for the upcoming ISEA symposium and media art
event in San Jose at the end of 2006. The panel featured curator
Steve Dietz, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Peter Anders and others involved
with the conference's organization and curation. In addition to
speaking about the ISEA event, the panel was also meant to launch "01
San Jose", a new, US based bi-annual media arts festival to take
place in San Jose. The prospect of a larger festival occurring in
northern California is nice evidence that there is still money left
in Silicon Valley.

Moving into West Hall B, the "Extreme Fashion" special session
included speakers working with fashion and technology from varied
disciplines. International Fashion Machines (IFM) founder Maggie Orth
began with a presentation about the definition of extreme fashion and
how the true fashion technology object includes input, processing and
some type of display mechanism. She gave the example of the "Voltaic
Jacket" which includes solar panels on its back to harness power to
charge portable data devices worn on the body. Orth saw the main
roadblocks to wearable technology as 1) No standards of wash ability
2.) Little commercial activity and 3.) lack of good display
materials. Professor Thad Starner of Georgia Tech spoke about his
"Free Digiter", proximity sensing device can detect simple movements
of its wearer and be mapped to control functions such as volume
levels on car and portable MP3 players. Dr. Jenny Tillotson spoke
about her "Second Skin Dress" which attempts to "create a personal
scent bubble around the wearer". This would help to prevent bad moods
and add an emotional quality to everyday experience. Elise Co of
Minty Monkey showed some of her current work including the "Lumiloop"
bracelet that illuminates based on patterns created by its wearer and
the UFOS shoes that light up according to specified movements. "Your
outfit shouldn't be the technology, this is something that could go
with the rest of your stuff" explained Co. Also on the panel was
Katherine Moriwaki who spoke about her PHD work into "Social
Fashioning" and several of her projects that monitor the environment
and attempt to create social relationships between people occupying
similar spaces.

This session ended as the "SIGGRAPH Cyber Fashion" show began. The
show, hosted by wearable tech artist and enthusiast, Isa Gordon of
Psymbiote, featured a collection of wearables that resembled
everything from a post-Tron utopia to a trip to the Sharper Image.
Every model on the floor had a piece of electroluminescent glow wire
as standard garb. Some of the highlights included Luisa Paraguai
Donati's "Vestis: Affective Bodies" a full body suit with tubes
surrounding the wearer that expanded and contracted as personal body
space and "comfort zone" was infringed upon. Similarly, Simona Brusa
Pasque's "Beauty and the Beast" is a pair of plexiglass shoes that
include a stun gun embedded in the toe of one, and an alarm system in
the other activated by wearer stamping their feet. Overall there was
an interesting mix of clothing that reacted to outside stimuli and
those that protected its wearer.

As SIGGRPH 2005 came to a close, the conference seemed to be stuck in
a continual challenge between how to smoothly integrate the corporate
graphics world into the fringe artistic spectrum. This was evident
with the chaotic scene at the Cyber Fashion show and the low level of
artistic input into the Electronic Theater. The panels seemed more
dense with artistic input this year, but the separation between
disciplines seemed more evident as crossover participation waned.
Perhaps if the new ZeroOne conference in San Jose is successful it
will draw the artistic spectrum away from SIGGRAPH and let it regain
focus back onto the graphics industry. I guess time will have to be
the instigator in that debate.

--- Jonah Brucker-Cohen (


Report From Artbots 2005

Fri Jul 15, 2005 00:00 - Mon Jul 25, 2005

Report from Artbots 2005
July 15-17, 2005
Saints Michael and John Church
Dublin, Ireland

By Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah (at)

Held for the first time outside of the US, the 4th annual "Artbots:
The Robot Talent Show" took place in Saints Michael and John church
in Dublin, Ireland. During an unusually warm summer in Dublin, the
yearly event showcased over 20 projects from 10 countries ranging
from kinetic art-producing robots to solar robot and scrapyard sound
workshops. Organized by Douglas Irving Repetto and curated this year
with Michael John Gorman and Marie Redmond, the event featured an
even more international group of artists than from previous years
coming from as far as South America, Europe, US, and the Middle East.
The show was held in conjunction with the larger, summer-long "Save
The Robots" festival about the culture and history of robots
organized by The Ark, a cultural center for children located in the
heart of Dublin's Temple Bar district.

Upon entering the venue, visitors were greeted by Venezuelan artist
Elias Crespin's "Malla Electrocinetica #1", a mesh of 64 nodes
hanging from the ceiling that subtly moved in a wave above the
entrance stairwell. This piece's delicate movements were as intricate
as they were beautiful and precise. Moving further along the first
level and down the hall was Will Tremblay and Rob Gonsalves' "Wave
Puppet", a physical simulation of waves across the ocean's surface.
Following a similar aesthetic to Crespin's work, the project was
built from a combination of servomotors, acrylic walls, and a rubber
surface that bent forward and backwards like a steady moving wave.

As the entrance hallway extended, there were two workshops that
allowed visitors to the event to build their own robots or musical
instruments. Ralf Schreiber and Tina Tonagel's "60 minutes bot"
workshop integrated simple electronic components including wires,
electric motors and solar panels to create simple bots that exhibited
varied movements based on their exposure to light in a small exhibit
space. The second workshop, which I ran with Katherine Moriwaki, was
called "MIDI Scrapyard Challenge" and allowed visitors to create
musical controllers out of cast off or discarded materials found in
local junk shops and in the refuse bin of local computer labs. Both
workshops engaged participants from varied age groups to get involved
in the creation of robots and electronic instruments with little or
no previous knowledge of electronics.

Further down the hallway along the walls was "Sketch of a field of
grass (dunes, Pacific Coast, 2005)" by Ryan Wolfe. The project
consisted of a row of mechanically controlled blades of grass that
responded to each other's movements mimicking a breeze blowing
through a field. The simplicity of this array of grass was a nice
reminder of how natural movements can be emulated through simple
motorized controllers. Across the walkway was Amanda Parkes and
Jessica Banks's "Curiously Strong", an array of 250 mechanically
controlled Altoid's tins that opened and closed as a large kinetic

Moving into the main exhibition space, robots exhibited ranged from
those that created art as a byproduct of their movements to those
that questioned the very definition of mechanical or autonomous art.
Bruce Shapiro's "Ribbon Dancer" was two long metal arms mounted on a
banister that moved wildly around the space with ribbons attached to
the ends. Their actions resulted in a lively and fluid stream of
animated fabric high in the air. Further along the far wall was
Sabrina Raaf's "Translator II: Grower", a mechanical robot that
measured carbon dioxide levels in the room and drew green blades of
grass of varying heights along the walls. This type of immediate
analysis of the environment was a nice constant reminder of our own
physical output manifested by the machine. Further across the room
was local Dublin artist Peter O'Kennedy's "Escape", a collection of
15 small mouse-shaped robots all attempting to move towards a single
passageway that was only big enough for one of them. This simple
concept proved addictive to watch as the small bots scurried towards
an awkward freedom.

Though not a competition, Artbots awards two prizes each year: one to
the artist's choice and one for the audience choice. This year's
audience favorite was Garnet Hertz's "Cockroach-controlled Mobile
Robot #2". Hertz's robot consisted of a large Madagascan Hissing
Cockroach perched atop a modified trackball that controlled a
three-wheeled robot. As the cockroach tried to move forward, its feet
caught on the trackball, pushing the robot ahead. Thus allowing the
roach to "drive" the robot around depending on its activity. This bot
got a lot of stares from pedestrians as Hertz took it out to a local
square to give it more space to manouver. The artist's favorite prize
was awarded to Elias Crespin's kinetic mobile described earlier.

Also located in the main exhibition space was the masochistic
"Shockbot Corejulio", a computer-based device that affected its own
behavior by placing a piece of metal over its exposed circuit board.
With each touch from the metal, the bot consequently "shocked" itself
causing the graphics output of the screen to change. The resulting
display resembled a Mondrian painting which became more and more
abstract the further the bot was shocked. Moving down into the
basement of the church, "Nervous", by Bjoern Schuelke, consisted of
small, bright orange, furry objects that coated the walls of the
space. As you got closer and touched them, they began to shake and
emit nervous sounds. This project was a nice simulation of the "human
side" to artificial life and a reminder of the "fragility" of
automated creatures.

As the show came to a close, it was evident that automated or
mechanized art is not dependent on the creation itself. Most of the
work in the show came to life with audience involvement and through
the individual perception each participant and author brought to the
works. Throughout its four year existence, Artbots has presented a
sample of work that re-defines what "robotic art" is or how it could
be perceived (see the website for a list of all works included). Each
of the works in this year's show were unique reminders that
technological art can produce the same visceral reaction usually
associated with traditional art forms. The kinetic nature of the
works adds a relational aspect for the viewer who can project their
own experience on the piece. This remarkable quality to the work and
high standard of curation from a yearly open call, has turned Artbots
into one of the most unique and eclectic electronic art festivals

--- By Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah (at)


Report from Wired NextFest 2005

Here's a report I wrote on NextFest...hope people find it interesting..


Report from Wired Nextfest
Chicago, Illinois
June 25-26, 2005

In the sweltering heat of the Chicago summer, Wired Magazine's
NextFest took place on Navy Pier, the city's entertainment center.
Billed as "the next world's fair", the 2nd annual Next Fest (last
year's event took place in San Francisco and next year's will be in
New York City) was a mixture of corporate ecology culture and
artistic interventions into visions of the future.

NextFest was split up into 7 categories examining projects in the
future of "Exploration, Transportation, Security, Health,
Entertainment, Design, and Communication." Notable projects in this
year's fest included the "Entertainment" category's "Kick Ass Kung
Fu", a full body Kung Fu game where participants step on a platform
and fight 2D assailants. Camera tracking on movements puts players
into the game screen. Other projects such as Robot Lab's "Jukebots"
were repurposed car manufacturing robots that spin and scratch
records on turntables. It was nice to see a combination of hi-tech
robotics next to the very "low-tech" medium of vinyl (especially
since many of the kids attending the event might not even know what a
"vinyl record" was. Also on the floor was "Musicbox", a souped up
version of the classic music windup toy where instead of metal pins,
used bright LEDs

On the subject of kids, the Future of Exploration pavilion featured
"STINKY" a submersible robot built by the Falcon robotics team at
Carl Hayden High School in Arizona. Their project was featured in
WIRED in an article called "La Vida Robot", as their hand-crafted
robot beat MIT researchers in the "national underwater bot
championship". Nearby, in the "Transportation" pavilion, was the
"Moller Skycar", a flying car that looks like a 1950s red baron
bomber. Videos playing beside it showed the car in action, but I have
a feeling you have to be present at a test flight to really believe
in it as the future of transportation.

The "Future of Health" pavilion was perhaps the most bizarre of all
the collections of projects on display. Here you could see a set of
real-live "cloned" cats. Also on display was Luminetx's "Veinviewer",
an infrared light that when projected on the patient identifies which
veins are suitable for injection or blood withdrawal. Also the "Power
Assist Suit" by Japan's Kanagawa Institute of Technology is a
full-body hydraulic outfit that assists senior citizens or
handicapped people by calculating how much air to release to the
"muscles" based on sensor input from the wearer's limbs. There was
even a cyborg of Science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick that
understood natural language enough for visitors to ask him questions.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask what the next Hollywood
inflated-budget remake of his novels would be? Oh well, maybe next

Across the room from Health was the "Future of Design", which
featured projects that attempted to seamlessly integrate technology
into everyday experience. Sweden's Interactive Institute showed their
"Energy Curtain" an augmented curtain that stores energy from the sun
on flexible solar panels during the day and lights up the opposite
side at night. Also integrating technology into fabric was "Urban
Chameleon", a set of computationally enhanced skirts that monitored
air quality, movement, and touch and displayed them on the surface of
the garments. Adding interaction into the mix, the "Future of
Communication" featured projects that examined how technology will
(and has already) change (d) the way we connect to people over
distance and within close proximity. The "Acceleglove" by students at
George Washington University, is a glove that translates sign
language into written characters and speech to allow for a type of
"dictation tool" for the deaf. Also here was "Mobile Feelings" by
artists Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau. The project
consisted of two gourds that that allowed each user to share their
pulse rates with each other across a minimal distance.

Finally, the "Security" pavilion focused on projects that
demonstrated how "secure" we might be if we had devices that could
detect unwanted visitors from miles away and conduct automated
background checks on them as they approached. One of the more
interesting projects was "Brain Fingerprinting", a device with
electrodes that monitors brain activity and can detect when the
person recognizes an image they had previously seen. Forget lie
detectors, in the future nothing will be a secret.

As this year's NextFest came to a close, the question remained as to
how much of this "techno fetishism" stuff will ever make it to
market? When will I be able to walk into my local car dealer and take
a test "fly" in the Moller Sky Car? If the future is closer than we
think, this might be something that will happen in our lifetime. If
not, we might find out what's "next" by dreaming it up in a bathroom
stall. In any case, Wired's world fair of sorts was a good reminder
that we are heading towards the future at an accelerated pace. The
question that still needs addressing is: What will we do once we get

-- Jonah Brucker-Cohen


Report from ISEA 2004

Report From ISEA 2004
Published on - 9/13/04
Baltic Sea, Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia)
August 14-22, 2004
by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah(at)

Held over a week and located in Helsinki, Tallinn, and a Baltic
Sea-roving cruise liner, ISEA 2004 was a marathon media arts
conference like none other. With over 1,500 artists taking part in
panels, performances, fashion shows, keynotes, and installations,
there was little time for sleep among all of the commuting between
venues. The conference's theme examined the crossover between
wireless culture, wearable or fashionable technology, and networked
experience. ISEA 2004 aimed to explore themes surrounding critical
notions of interaction design, open source software culture, and
geopolitics of media. This approach attempted to challenge accepted
notions of interaction by focusing on possibilities of
re-appropriation instead of mere re-evaluation. Although the
conference schedule was an often strenuous journey through multiple
cities and events, the discussions, interventions, and realizations
that manifested contributed to an exhilarating experience.

The festival officially began aboard the "Networked Experience"
Baltic sea cruise (I missed the Koneisto sound event the night before
in Helsinki), where the focus was on how networked culture iterates
human understanding through shared experiences such as email lists,
collective performance, interactive narrative, and GPS sound
installations. The panel entitled "The List: The mailing list
phenomena", began in the Metropolitan ballroom of the ship, with a
panel of list-serve moderators such as Melinda Rackham of Empyre,
Kathy Rae Huffman of Faces, Axel Bruns of Fibre Culture, and
Charlotte Frost who is studying list culture for her Ph.D. thesis.
Examining networked culture, the debate centered around the nurturing
of lists and what types of communication technologies are appropriate
for specific communities. I spoke on the challenges of my BumpList
project as an example of an email community that focuses on shifting
the structure of a system to change its participants behaviors. Other
panels and events focused on community awareness in digital media
projects like "E-Tester" and UNESCO meetings with African and Asian
award winners and participants.

Arriving bewildered and tired in the city of Tallinn, Estonia, the
"Wearable Experience" theme of ISEA began with a keynote from
Concordia University's Joanna Berzowska. Her talk was an overview of
wearable trends and projects that aimed to challenge traditional
notions of strapped-on gadgetry by emphasizing the integration of
sensors and displays into clothing. Her own research on "Memory Rich
Garments" showed how everyday emotions and intimacy could be
projected and enhanced through computationally enhanced clothing that
stores non-personal data about people it comes into contact with.
Other panels focused on the how technology and fashion can integrate
into networks, how clothing can act as a display for portable
signage, or how intimacy could be conveyed over distance. This
discussion continued to Helsinki's "Wireless Experience" theme, which
began as hundreds of ISEA attendees were stuck in passport control
after arriving on the SuperSeaCat ferry from Tallinn. Machiko
Kusahara of Japan's Waseda University opened the conference with a
keynote address on mobile phone culture in Japan. Her focus centered
around how "socially acceptable" mobile phone or "ketai" use had
become and how advertisements for services emphasized how "left out"
of mainstream culture people have become without a phone. Although
her talk emphasized the social pressures of technology, it left out
dangers of extended mobile phone use or the advent of surveillance
culture. These questions were made more evident through the many
parallel sessions over the next few days.

The second keynote by the Sarai New Media Initiative's Shuddhabrata
Sengupta focused around the conference theme of "Histories of the
New" and how reinventing the future is often tied to lessons from the
past. His talk "The Remains of Tomorrows Past: Speculations on the
Antiquity of New Media Practice in South Asia", presented the history
of technical networks from the telegraph to the Internet. His talk
referenced Tom Standage's book "The Victorian Internet" to illustrate
how these information networks are not new and how they simply
provide frameworks for a centralized space that expands global
discourse. UCLA's Erkki Huhtamo, followed this talk with his take on
the "Archaeology of Mobile Media", or how media does not exist
independently from the social framework that envelops them. He showed
imagery of the amateur photographer of the early 20th century
comparing the public perception of this "nuisance" to the current
mobile phone camera phenomenon: both seen as invasions of privacy and
unwanted surveillance in the hands of the people.

Following this theme, the GPS art panel, moderated by San Francisco
based-artist Marisa Olsen, attempted to ground location-based media
projects into a defined genre. The current ghettoization of media art
into technology-defined categories like GPS or Wi-Fi tends to counter
creativity at its roots. Instead the focus should be on crystallizing
an idea so that the technology becomes less awkward and central to
the output. Projects discussed included Pall Thayer's "Hlemmur in C"
that tracked taxi movements through GPS and composed real-time
soundtracks based on their position in the city, Joel Slayton's (of
the C5 collective) mapping of altitudes on the Great Wall of China to
plot where it could have been built in California, and Teri Rueb's
"Trace" which allows people to discover location-based sound clips
embedded into positions on a nature trail in Canada. In a sense, most
of the work in this area centers on GPS enabling you find or discover
things in your environment or enabling people or devices to find you.
Little was mentioned about the surveillance aspects of tracking or
the social aspects of why this technology is becoming pervasive?

Filling in the hard theory was keynote speaker Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
of Brown University who spoke on "Control and Freedom: Interactivity
as a Software Effect". Her talk was probably the most seminal moment
of the conference as it connected up the central themes. Chun
emphasized the role of technology as a contributor to social stigma
especially in networked culture and outlined how surveillance is
becoming a visual and territorial metaphor for control. Her breakdown
of the utopian view that current software assumes that users cannot
understand computation showed explicitly how layers of mediation
between code and interface are getting thicker. Nina Wakeford of the
University of Surrey spoke on "Identity Politics of Mobility and
Design Culture", focusing on the importance of local knowledge with
examples of projects that emphasized aspects of mobility as a driving
force in design.

The exhibitions scattered around Tallinn and Helsinki showcased
everything from fashion tech and accessories to social and political
projects, to interactive installations and data visualizations. Some
impressive projects included Bundith Phunsombatlert's "Path of
Illusion", a series of street lamps with rotating LED displays that
passerbyers could type into rounded keyboards at the base of the
lights. Also meant to display information in public space was Steve
Heimbecker's "POD (Wind Array Cascade Machine)" which consisted of
sixty four air flow sensors in Montreal that transmitted data to
towers of LEDs that resembled a large-scale graphic equalizer. Also
interesting was Diego Diaz's "Playground" which turned a kids
merry-go-round into a collective joystick to navigate a shared 3D
space. I think someone got overexcited and broke the piece midway
through. In Tallinn, the wearable showcase features Tina Gonsalves
and Tom Donaldson's "Medulla Intimata", video jewelry that changes
depending on the emotional state of the wearer and the conversations
in which they are engaged. Other projects such as Kelly Dobson's
"ScreamBody" which consists of a bag you scream into and release the
sound later, Sabrina Raaf's "Saturday" which used gloves with bone
transducers to hear sampled CB radio conversations through your
cheekbones, and "Seven Mile Boots" by Laura Beloff, Erich Berger and
Martin Pichlmair that allows people to traverse chat rooms by walking
around a physical space. Overall the projects in the show examined
how wearable technology can impact and change our environment,
personal experience and social landscape.

As ISEA ended, most people were thoroughly exhausted. Although the
constant shifting of venues, cities, and themes might have
contributed to this, the questions raised by the presentations and
exhibitions remained strong throughout the event. Why is interaction
engaging? Is there a larger message involved? How do creative systems
and practice filter up to decision and policy makers to provoke and
result in global action? With diverse speakers such as the Sarai
Collective's challenge to the hegemony of the digital art canon and
Mark Tribe open-sourcing his presentation online so that people could
"remix" it after his talk, the conference presented a wide array of
contrasting opinions that attempted to make sense of the current
media arts landscape. With so many perspectives, the endpoint seemed
scattered but also manageable. The more we question the fundamental
reasons why technology is important, the more we discover why we
cannot live without it. Only through events like ISEA can we really
come to grips with this realization.

- by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah (at)