Critical Practice: Multimodal Research Projects
5 p.m., Saturday, April 16, room 704 | Faculty respondent: Scott Pobiner
In 1954 a flight arrived in New York carrying a unique passenger: a German racing pigeon. This pigeon, named Lena, reputedly got lost during a race, crossed the Iron Curtain, and delivered a message to Radio Free Europe from the Eastern Bloc. After delivering the anti-communist note, Lena flew on an airplane to NYC in order to become the model for the 1955 Crusade for Freedom.
This is a captivating story, but it’s probably not true.
This multimodal project will conduct a genealogy of Lena’s story. First, a written paper will point out the story’s fallacies and speculate on the social and political reasons for the story’s creation. Then, a multimedia performance in collaboration with New School Radio will ask, what do we do with such a story? (I mean, it’s a good story). Perhaps it can be used as a device to question the many “good stories” in today’s media landscape.
The performance, based on Bertolt Brecht’s Lehrstuck, not only tells Lena’s story, it also exposes the flaws in the official story. Brecht’s form is particularly fit for this situation because it uses media technology (in this case radio) to add commentary, and because it is a form that has, itself, been criticized as having a propagandist nature.
A final analysis of this project will ask how performance and Lehrstuck is a particularly effective method for presenting a story that is probably fictional. Then it will suggest ways that this project can inform future multimodal researchers in their work.
A Collaborative Gesture-based System
Our digital interfaces began as rudimentary, pixelated and rigid experiments. They have since evolved and the line today is often blurred in how we read, see, hear, and most recently, touch. This snowballing progress is double edged: big paradigm shifts away from aging interfaces like the keyboard and mouse are underway, yet many of the new interfaces we build still rely on outdated metaphors. Thinking about the complexity of the data we encounter in our lives, the reductive nature of their representations, the quantitative ways many of our experiences today are generated and the upcoming development of 3D display technologies led me to ask:
How can the power of connections and the network be harnessed in a qualitative non-reductive way?
How can the next generation of interfaces borrow the right combination of elements and metaphors from existing systems, yet drop the limiting and unintuitive ones?
How can a system let us create narratives of our own perspectives from a common pool of data, in whatever form they exist in: text, video, sound, music?
How can this system evolve past academic circles and become a standard with the potential to benefit a large number of people?
This is a draft collection of ideas and precedent for Parallels, a collaborative gesture-based system for fluidly drawing and establishing connections between sources of information. Users would be able to ‘play’ the perspective of others, share and remix their own, and have the flexibility to explore these connections non-linearly in different scales and modes.
Cinderella’s Illuminated Gown
Cinderella’s Illuminated Gown is a fiber optic/LED/fibre, time-based installation that unravels the interstitial state of transformation and ephemeral nature of Cinderella’s Gown. The project focuses on the role of Cinderella’s gown as a portal between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Divergent narrative retellings of Cinderella identify a supernatural source and elevates the tale from a struggle between mortals to an extraordinary intervention. The installation combines a sewn bodice, interwoven with LEDs, with variably illuminated fiber optics creating a fluid in-between state, where the ephemeral and transformative nature of Cinderella’s fabled gown is expressed.