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.

Art in Your Pocket 4: Net Art and Abstraction for the Small Screen

"The Facets of Obama" created by Jonah Brucker­-Cohen using the Fracture application by James Alliban, 2011

The devices we carry with us can do much more than simply act as communication tools and entertainment appendages. They can also bring us into a growing world of artistic projects that could have never been imagined without their existence.

The recent boom in creative software for the iPhone and iPad now enables artists to remake existing web projects as iOS apps or use the physical world as a canvas for augmented reality, reimagining our physical surroundings through painting and rendering. In this article, the fourth one in a series that I've written over the past six years of reviews surveying art for the iPhone and iPad, I cover projects that both revive net art pieces that were once only possible on traditional computer systems or in browsers, as well as those that use the iPhone and iPad's sound and camera capabilities to their fullest.



Thicket:Classic (Hairy Circles mode), 2011, Interval Studios (aka Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard)

Beginning with abstraction and sound, two works examine methods of sound production through algorithmic composition. Thicket (2011) by Interval Studios (programmer and artist Joshue Ott and composer Morgan Packard) is an amalgam of abstract shapes and patterns that engage with touch-based interaction, visual stimulation, generative pattern creation, and mesmerizing sound transference. The original version of Thicket, or Thicket:Classic, feels like a musical masterpiece on the edge of a high precipice. As a user changes the orientation of their phone in four directions (up, down, right, left) the onscreen graphics shift to new modes.

Thicket 3.11 Video, Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard, Interval Studios.

My favorite mode in Thicket:Classic is "Hairy Circles," which features menacing yellow-orangish circles of tangled lines that correspond to each finger's touch and shift when dragged around, creating a machine-like beat that evokes an industrial assembly line. Ott explains, "Thicket uses a bunch of different algorithms—for both audio and visuals. The aesthetic came from repeated experimentation and rapid prototyping of modes. Sometimes we would start with the visuals, sometimes with the audio, but there was often a back and forth process of each of us adjusting our part until we both liked the results."

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.

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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)


Report from FutureSonic 2004

Report from Futuresonic 2004
Mobile Connections
April 30-May 1, 2004

by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (

Held in the oblong shaped, glass-surfaced, URBIS center in
Manchester, UK, the Futuresonic festival began with a conference
focused on the theme of "Mobile Connections", or the role of mobile
technology and location-based media in creative arts practice.
Covering everything from mixed reality mobile gaming to mobile ad-hoc
networking to biometric recording devices, the conference and
accompanying exhibition provided a concise overview and impressive
showcase of emerging mobile media projects.

Media theorist Sadie Plant opened the event with a keynote address on
the history of technology-mediated communication and the social
ramifications of this phenomenon on our daily lives. She outlined how
human behavior shifts when communication is siphoned through
different mediums. For instance, when using the Internet a typical
question asked among users is "Who are you?" since anonymity of
identity remains important. In contrast, the fixed telephone causes
people to ask "How are you?" since in most cases you already know who
you are calling and it being a specific location. Finally, the mobile
telephone sees people asking "Where are you?" since their location
plays a key role in determining the type and duration of the
conversation. These subtle clues attest to how people adapt to
shifting contexts of interaction and how these nuances play out
within the corresponding spaces of each device.

Following this discussion was the "Network Commons" panel, moderated
by Armin Mendosch, which brought up some interesting debate and
arguments centering around the use and deployment of community
wireless networks in urban areas. I presented my Wifi-Hog project as
an example of a device that challenges the claim of ownership over
public wireless spaces by corporate nodes looking to populate urban
centers with their pay-per-use networks. Although the project has
received numerous negative reactions from proponents of free
networks, its main point is to examine both the positive and negative
effects of territorialism with networks that seep from private spaces
into public areas. Also on the panel, Adam Burns from London's outlined a plan for ways community groups could overthrow
the mobile carriers by building home-spun GSM access points. However,
this approach still requires centralized access points, placing
control in the hands of few. In contrast, an ad-hoc network approach
would allow everyone to be a router and pass information directly to
each other without the need for a central relay.

The second day featured a keynote by Matt Adams of Blast Theory, the
artist group responsible for launching a wave of pervasive gaming
projects, most notably "Can You See Me Now?" and "Uncle Roy All
Around You". These games pit online players against "runners" on the
street who try to chase each aother down in both spaces
simultaneously through the use of mobile digital devices and wireless
technology. Adam's speech outlined a remake of Hakim Bey's "Temporary
Autonomous Zones", where instead of merely occupying a space in
physical proximity and association, technology mediated spaces affect
our actions and thus produce "Temporary Performative Zones". For
instance, when receiving a call on a mobile phone we must "perform"
to separate ourselves from people in our immediate area or mask our
discussions if they become too personal. Halfway through Adams' talk,
he received strong opposition from the audience who accused him of
"selling out" to corporate sponsors since his emphasis on the growing
mobile communications industry seemed to overshadow his artistic
intent with Blast Theory's work. Although the idea of pure art might
seem utopian, Adams was quick to point out that it is "naive to think
that this cultural form is independent from the capitalist economy
that these devices are coming from." In a sense, these games and
project comment on the current and future uses of these devices as
they gain ubiquity.

The exhibition featured a wide range of work focusing on both the
negative and positive effects of mobile technology in physical
spaces. One of my favorites was "Mobile Clubbing", a flash-mob-like
urban performance where participants with portable MP3 players and
headphones show up in public spaces like train stations and party
down. Reactions caught on video by onlookers were amusing. Playing
off the health risks of mobile phones was Rupert Griffith's
"Telenono", a sealed phone booth that supposedly blocks out all
radiation from devices such as mobile phones, televisions, radios,
and Bluetooth signals. When inside, the booth forces others to
physically find you to communicate. Around the URBIS grounds, several
projects were on demo that allowed visitors to traverse the urban
landscape of Manchester. "InterUrban", by Naomi Spellman, Jeremy
Hight, and Jeff Knowlton, consisted of an interactive narrative that
constructed itself based on a person's movement around the physical
grounds such as time of day, distance traveled, and actual direction.
Going for abstraction was the Japan-based artist Akitsugu
Maebayashi's "Sonic Interface", a wearable sonic re-sampler that
inputted live audio, remixed it, and spit it back out to the wearer's
headphones. The exhibition traded slick production value for proof of
concept and rapid deployment to gain feedback from the attentive

As the conference ended, a prevalent theme seemed to form around the
concept of "minimal aesthetics" and social potential. The most
successful projects were realized with little technological overhead
and simultaneously created a space for collaborative intervention
among members of the public or a specific location. Mobile
Connections was meant to highlight the rift between location-based
media and everyday experience, where technology takes a backseat to
human and critical engagement. This was felt at the event, but the
question remains if theses devices should maintain a foreground or
background role in our everyday lives. Does the effort to interact
with a technology overshadow the result of the interaction? Since the
inclusion of digital technology in social situations creates tension
over accessibility, perhaps increased transparency will help to
relieve this conflict. Futuresonic initiated a debate on these
questions and provides a good starting point to examine the
sociological and personal effect of mobile technology on society at

-Jonah Brucker-Cohen (


Report From Ciber-Art Bilbao Conference

Report from Ciber-Art Bilbao Conference
April 25-29, 2004
Bilbao, Spain

By Jonah Brucker-Cohen (

Set in the post-industrial city of Bilbao, Spain, the Ciber-Art
Bilbao conference was a lively mix of interactive art exhibitions,
performances, concerts, and a comprehensive paper session where
artists and practitioners presented their work and theories on the
future of digital culture. The festival's main objective was to
situate Bilbao on the digital art map by creating an event with
global participation from internationally known media artists.
Although the art exhibition opened a week earlier, I arrived as the
five day long conference sessions began. One problem with the
structure of the conference was the attempt to integrate the local
media art presence, since the program booklet failed to translate
Spanish speaker's talks into English and vise versa. This is an
account of what I was able to experience, although with concurrent
panels running back to back, the breadth of the conference was
impossible to completely cover.

The opening presentation was by "Free Software" pioneer and
grassroots hero, Richard Stallman. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Stallman, who wrote the GNU (which stands for GNU's Not Unix)
operating system as an alternative to proprietary systems like
Windows, outlined the four tenets of the free software movement: 1)
The ability to run a software program, 2) The freedom to help
yourself to the source code and change it, 3) The freedom to
distribute copies of your modifications, and 4) The desire to help to
build your community by publishing a modified version. His talk
outlined why these freedoms are important to the premise of giving
you complete "control" over your computer and your ability to use it
freely. Having unrestricted access to source code and the work of
like-minded programmers perpetuates the proliferation of goodwill and
exchange among independent producers. He went on to demonstrate
whether or not these ideas applied to hardware, as well as software
by trying to deconstruct the use and misuse of a physical object: a
chair. However this argument fell short because software allows for
an economy of scale. When creating software it is easier for an
individual to create many copies than one, whereas with hardware
making many copies is more difficult and costly.

The paper topics presented over the next few days ranged from
examinations of online memes, location-based GPS art projects,
networked accessories, and formal overviews of art and technology
practice. Mirko Tobias Schafer, from the Institute of Media and
Re/presentation at the University of Utrecht spoke about how the
hacking and modification of existing technology has been integrated
into the next versions of the hacked object. One example is the
website,, which profiles a hobbyist's software and
hardware mods of the popular robotic dog, some of which Sony plans to
integrate into their next version. Giving an overview of academic
institutions in the US supporting art and technology, was Duke
University's Edward A. Shanken. Shaken sees collaborations between
artists and scientists as an interface for research to engage with
the public. This attitude was also prevalent in Susan Kozel's keynote
address where she outlined details of her wearable projects that aim
to engage the public through social performative experience. Kozel, a
professor at Simon Fraser University, outlined her aim to develop
clothing that can connect its wearer's biometric data with others
over a local network and produce vibro-haptic feedback on the surface
of the garment. Thus the clothing becomes a relay of mood and emotion
within social proximity.

Also exploring immediacy of interaction, Eric Paulos of Intel
Research Berkeley, gave the third keynote about his recent work in
"Urban Atmospheres". The project is a detailed account of the
proliferation of close-knit urban spaces where public passivity often
upstages collective engagement. His aim is to reverse this assumption
through a "carnivalization" of everyday encounters into playful
interventions where everyday individuals can engage with the people
or strangers occupying similar spaces. His latest project,
"Jabberwocky" manifests itself as a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone
application that connects to others to visualize and encourage
connections between 'strangers' who frequent similar spaces. Paulos
was asked if this type of community reflection could have a negative
effect for people who enjoy their anonymity. Like most tracking
related projects, the obvious answer is that most people give up a
certain amount of freedom regardless of their desire to be tracked,
simply by owning a mobile phone or using a credit card. This type of
surveillance fear was debated through the conference as the promise
of technology in most presentations often left out the repercussions
and baggage it entails.

Across town, in a large warehouse space, the art exhibition featured
several large-scale interactive installations, and hundreds of
screen-based terminals behind giant car-wash plastic flaps. "Evident
Traces", a mini-show at the festival, curated by Christiane Paul,
featured several works that attempted to engage the user on a
physical level. One of these projects was NYC-based artist, John
Klima's long awaited "Terrain Machine", a real-time depth display
with hundred of motorized potentiometers with stretched spandex
connecting each point. The result is a moving "terrain" with a
projected image of a woman floating on the surface, allowing users to
manipuate the depths of the pots as they cast a shadow. Also in
Paul's selection was Susan Kozel's "Between Bodies", the second phase
of the wearable sensing project, "whisper",but featuring a series of
skirts that send signals amongst each other via PocketPCs to effect
physical stimuli such as electric fans and motors. Also present were
Sibylle Hauert and Daniel Reichmuth's "Instant City", a tangible
sound installation that allows people to create sound mixes by
placing translucent plastic blocks on a light table. Depending on the
amount of light that passes through the stacked blocks, different
sound samples would play. Other notable additions were NYC based
artist Daniel Shiffman's "Reactive", a particle-based video parser,
and MEART - The Semi Living Artist's "Symbotica", which used
artificial life simulations coupled with a pneumatic robotic drawing

Leaving the conference early, I missed out on the Planetary Collegium
events scheduled for later in the week. Regardless, it seemed as if
the prevailing attitudes expressed outlined how the promise of
technology as a social leveler becomes more evident with
re-appropriation and disruption of existing contexts of interaction,
place, and social engagement. Is creativity the ultimate social
equalizer? When does technology lose relevance to the idea trying to
be conveyed? From the numerous installations that challenged how
forms of media can displace their traditional modes of
representation, to papers that explored how the proliferation and
mutation of ideas is causing a rift in popular culture, the Ciber-Art
Bilbao provided an interesting perspective on the role of the digital

-Jonah Brucker-Cohen (
Jonah Brucker-Cohen | Human Connectedness Group
PHD Candidate | Media Lab Europe
NTRG, Trinity College | Sugar House Lane, Bellevue
Dublin 2, Ireland | Dublin 8, Ireland
(w) +353 1 4742853 (m) +353 1 087 7990004
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ - projects and work/blog - a public audio message board!



Sun Apr 04, 2004 13:49

A 4-Day Workshop with Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Amy Franceschini/Futurefarmers

More info and Application Form:


WHERE: Kunstencentrum Vooruit Gent, Belgium
WHEN: May 11-14, 2004 (tuesday-friday) 12-8pm
Cost: $60
Workhop size: 10-15
Workshop Leaders:
Jonah Brucker-Cohen (
Amy Franceschini (

Call for Participation!
Have you ever wanted to hack public space? Have you ever wanted to
change or augment the cities you live in or visit? Communectivity is
a four-day intensive workshop for interventions in the public city
space of Gent, Belgium. Participants will collectively build a public
interactive installation to be deployed in the city of Gent and
present their project in a public forum. Workshop activities will
include creating rapid prototypes of concepts, collective
brainstorming, hacking and circuit bending, and subverting existing
architectures, public spaces, and collective practice. We will also
focus on challenging accepted forms of use of mobile and wireless
technologies to create playful interventions that allow members of
the public to participate. Workshop participation is open to anyone
interested in artistic practice and technology. Technology skills are
not necessary and a diversity of skills and practice are welcome and
encouraged! (For more detailed description /info - see above URL)

Who Should Apply?
The workshop is open to anyone interested in artistic practice and
technology. Technology skills are not necessary. Students, designers,
musicians, architects, gardeners, commercial practitioners,
researchers, academics, are all invited to apply.



Report From Transmediale.04: Fly Utopia!

Report From Transmediale.04: Fly Utopia!
1/31/04 - 2/4/04
Haus Der Culturen Der Welt, Berlin

By Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah(at)

In the backdrop of a snowy Berlin skyline, Transmediale.04 opened
with a hefty line-up of theorists, performers, artists, and
practitioners. Billed as the second largest media arts festival in
Europe (next to Ars Electronica), the event featured award categories
of Software, Interaction, and Image, and showcased a wide assortment
of themes ranging from locative mobile media to social fictions to
speculative programming and MIDI scrap-yard workshops. This year's
theme was "Fly Utopia," perhaps a reaction to the idealistic vision
of technology as a harbinger of the promised land of connected
toasters and robot butlers. Instead of exhibiting nicely "packaged"
products or projects, the festival aimed to add accountability to
practice by focusing on social and political movements that question
the status quo. Whether these themes were embodied in art objects or
a way of thinking seemed less important than the overall message:
creativity breeds disruption.

The opening ceremony discussions began with the idea of "utopia" as
coined by Thomas Moore, specifying an ideal commonwealth whose
inhabitants live under perfect conditions. Some participants argued
that technology has augmented this definition, especially with the
use and dissemination of the Internet, where the concept of "place"
has lost meaning as a fixed location. This discussion generated
questions throughout the festival, such as how historical visions of
the future, especially those of technology, have kept us questioning
our fate.

Beginning with the theme of bio-technological utopia, several
projects and lectures presented a future consisting of everything
from human-grown organs to planned and assisted ritualistic death.
Designer Fiona Raby's (RCA) former students presented their work
within the context of "Immortality," a sub-section of a larger
inquiry entitled "Consuming Monsters." Specific projects included the
"Toy Communicator," a telematic device to allow people to talk to
their pets when they are away. Another piece, "Planned Death,"
consisted of a kit for committing suicide when one reaches a state of
physical perfection. All of these future products were on display in
the Transmediale exhibition space as wary reminders of the future of
our imperfection. Along similar lines was Shilpa Gupta's "Your
Kidney Supermarket," an installation commenting on a bleak future of
organ trading across national borders, consisting of several dozen
kidneys in a hypothetical showroom. Despite its lack of noticeable
technology, the project displayed how close we have come to
commodification of anything (including human organs). Another
interesting lecture was about constructing the national identity of
the principality of SeaLand (, a sovereign island
micro nation situated in international waters, 6 miles from the coast
of Britain. This identity overhaul included designing stamps with
pictures of corporate scandals and failed political regimes, and
coins made to look like writeable CD media.

One of the most heated conference debates occurred after Andreas
Broegger's talk "From Art as Software to Software as Art." This
presentation featured details of two influential art interventions
from the 1970's: Jack Burnham's "Software" show at the Jewish Museum
in NYC and the magazine "Radical Software." Broegger's aim was to
show how a shift in attention has occurred away from simply taking
art objects at face value and towards examining the processes and
ideas they instill and execute. Arguments were vented that the
1970's show was trying to appropriate a definition of the term
"software" while today's "software art" is more about utilizing and
positioning the software as an art object unto itself. In this
regard, the Radical Software magazine can be seen as distilling
cultural processes into information processes as a type of software
creation. I tend to think that today's software art has an interest
in not only what it represents as executable code, but also in how
people use and experience it in their everyday lives. Since software
was not a pervasive technology in the 70's, this question of defining
the term existed as artistic experiments and conceptual models of
what the future of technology might hold. Today a glitchy network
protocol can be called art, whereas the 1970's birthed the idea that
computational technology could be re-purposed for artistic
interventions in the first place.

Moving into mobile space, the MobiloTopia panel featured artists
working with location-based or "locative" media. Marc Tuters opened
the discussion with an overview of the "Locative Media Lab," a
dispersed network of practitioners focusing on the creative practice
and use of portable, context-aware technologies. His talk featured a
breakdown of the cultural theory and representative images of future
utopias as envisioned from the past. Ben Russell followed by
offering an overview of current systems for location tracking and
surveillance. He presented a case for creating localized street
level sharing systems, where for instance, people would be able to
use their neighbors' garden equipment if they knew it was available
on a shared map. This idea would certainly work in a utopian version
of the world, but may not be likely in today's ultra paranoid,
terrorist-alert police state. Drew Hemment of FutureSonic spoke
about how locative media feeds into emergent art practice; whereby
navigating real space is the impetus for the work (think GPS
drawing). Finally, Teri Rueb showed documentation of her "Trace"
project, an interactive, location-aware sound installation where
hiking in a forest recalled sounds clips that commemorated personal

The award presentations for image, interaction, and software
consisted of short talks by the nominated artists. In the image
category, Julien Maire's "DEMI-PAS" was a remarkable projection
system featuring interchangeable slides, each with tiny motorized
dioramas. Everyday, repetitive scenes were depicted, including a man
washing his car or smoke blowing from a factory, but their
intricacies were precise and beautiful. In the interactive category,
Simon Schiessl's "Haptic Opposition" won over the judges with a
simple motorized LED text display that responded to user aggression
by becoming more anxious and nervous during repeated interaction. I
was a bit surprised that Schiessl seemed more impressed by the
technology of the piece rather than its social potential for
interface design. Finally, the software art presentation of Robert
Luxemburg's "The Conceptual Crisis of Private Property as a Crisis in
Practice" was premised on the idea of a screen shot that, when run
through a PHP script, would be transformed into the full text of Neal
Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon." Although the concept of decryption of
proprietary file formats is not new (take DeCSS for example), the
idea that one file could be masked within the binary data of another
begins to get scary.

For a festival themed on questioning the future, there existed almost
a fearful reluctance to discuss what might happen if we ever reach
utopia. There might be bio-products in our food, computer-predicted
life experiences, and organ superstores on every corner, but what
will happen to society in general? Will a resistance form? Will
technology eventually catch up with us and deter our fetishistic
instincts? Forget living! Is utopia something worth dying for? Does
anyone care? As the festival closed, a central question remained
stuck in my mind: If creativity is our salvation, why does the dream
of utopia always seem to cloud its potential? Most of the projects
shown at Transmediale seemed to grapple with the idea that technology
can produce beauty through simplicity. This was also evident with
most of the invited speakers, who spoke of utopia within a defined
context rather than masked jargon. Overall, the festival offered a
taste of both questioning and embracing the road ahead, and it
promises to be even more inspirational next year.

Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah(at)