Digital Media Art Project: Testing
On the definition of the digital media art project, the testing of the artefact is the sixth step within the a/r/cographic methodology. As I previously did, I leave a recap for those who are not familiarised with what I am talking about.
This entry has the goal of listing the improvements and modifications for IMWYM 2. The list gathers the experience of live testing the artefact I’m Watching You/Me during the congress ARTECH (Olivero & Araújo, 2021). In addition, it also considers what I have researched since then, current research goals, published articles, methodological requirements, etc.
Figure 1 – Testing the artefact the night before the exhibition
I introduced the functioning of IWMYM 1 on my previous entry:
This first version of IMWYM introduced the innovation of allowing live spherical drawing (IN-1, IN-3) and its parallel VR visualisation (OU-1). Through a mobile phone (IN-4), the user interacted with the visual sphere either while I was performing a live drawing session or while an already existing drawing was selected as input. Hence, the artist draws in equirectangular projection using either traditional (IN-1) or digital techniques (IN-2, IN-3) while visitors interact with the camera’s position (IN-4). Both artists and visitors watch the VR results through OU-1.
Previously, I explained that IMWYM 1 was more a prototype than a fully developed artefact. Indeed, within this first installation many things resulted rudimentary and clumsy, there was a total lack of artistic concept and narrative, and a certain distance from a wide methodological approach for art-practice-based research due to IMWYM 1’s technical focus. Therefore, I will develop now those issues and problems, which were mainly found during the exhibition. Furthermore, I will give a possible solution for each issue, aiming to implement them on IMWYM 2.
Current requirements and new features
During the intention stage, I mentioned two versions of the artefact to be considered, where the first one is:
V1 will be the MVP (minimal viable product), thus the functional version for the Retiro 2022. In detail, this version focuses on the subjective reading, i.e., the phenomenological social reading (Lee, 1991, pp. 347–348, Olivero, 2022, p. 8) (…) the artefact has the goal of understanding how visitors relate a visual artwork with a musical expression.
Hence, for defining a new version for the digital media art project, I will consider the live testing of the artefact during the congress ARTECH 2021. In such an opportunity, I had the occasion for testing the artefact which helped me to find many issues, such as functional, aesthetic, interaction, concept, etc.
Furthermore, since I started with IMWYM in 2021 I have developed plenty of new research, specially for the Digital Media Art Program DMAD. For example, I have explored new topics such as specific methodologies for art-practice based research. Based on that, I narrowed some methodological definitions for the current research (see this article). Finally, I also published two peer-reviewed articles about IMWYM (Olivero & Araújo, 2021, 2022).
- the experience with the live testing of the artefact,
- methodological definitions,
- articles’ reviewers notes,
- articles’ developments,
- the current state of the art,
- research goals,
- visitors’ feedback,
I do a list of critical points for improving the first prototype and for focusing its use within the field of digital art.
Since I have already divided the intentions for this project within the sets of narrative/development, interaction/evolution and experience/fruition (see this article), I will focus the issues within the same axes.
Narrative / Development
- Missing concept. The 1st edition of IMWYM was fully aimed to show a technical advancement. Indeed, there was neither a clear artistic concept nor a definition of a certain narrative. As seen during the previous entries, the new edition should hardly focus in the artfulness of the hybrid immersive models. Therefore, both concept and narrative are critical improvements this time for integrating IMWYM with the goals of my art-practice-based research.
Critical issue. IMWYM 2 would not have any sense without this definition. Therefore, I have developed [IN]musicality for solving it. The concept allows an exploration of the artefact from an artistic point of view. In detail, it focuses on the visitor’s experience while interacting with a special set of media made by Hybrid Immersive Models. Thus, the artefact has the goal of understanding how visitors relate a visual artwork with a musical expression.
- Missing narrative. The exhibition of ARTECH 2021 followed the narrative within the curatorship “Contingency”, by M. M. Lopes (Lopes et al., 2021, p. VII). However, the artefact was simply “included” within it, yet neither limited nor oriented towards any kind of specific direction by the narrative of the curatorship. Note, that this lack of narrative was both in relation with the general exhibition, and within the use of the prototype. Meaning with the latter that there was no evolution during the interaction with the artefact.
Critical issue. IMWYM 2 will be presented as part of the shared exhibition [IN]tangibilidades digitais. The narrative invites participants to come across matters inherent to working with digital art through the exploration of the tangible / intangible binomial: near / remote; palpable / impalpable; probable / imaginary; in / out. The game of digital intangibilities challenges the “definition of things through their perception” (Borges, 2017), and instead, it proposes to perceive what is not perceived: the intangible.
Figure 4 – The narrative of the exhibition [IN]Tangibilidades Digitais has been defined in collaboration with a collective of nine artist
Interaction / Evolution
- Not available front-ed interface. This is necessary for a more efficient and simplified operation, for example, for switching or adding inputs. In particular, the requirements for v1 is an interface for:
- Giving access to drawings and musical inputs.
- Interacting with the VR drawings while listening to music.
- Pairing a certain music with a certain drawing.
- Conducting a survey to determine the socio-phenomenological conditions of the reading.
Critical issue. The interface is the connection between the content of the artefact with the public’s interaction. As so, it is very important not just for a simplified operation but also for gathering visitors’ feedback. This interaction is the base for determining the aimed phenomenological reading. If time would not allow it, there could be QR codes connected to online surveys as an alternative to a graphic interface. However, this option does not simplifies the interaction with the artefact, and might bring issues regarding the presence of the artist (see issue 5).
- Fixed FOV. Currently, the field of view can be modified within TouchDesigner, but it remains as a constant while the artefact is running. It would be interesting to add a functionality for changing it during runtime directly from the front-end interface.
Low priority. This issue is not connected with the main functioning but with an advanced fruition and visualisation feature. Consequently, it can be considered a minor problem regarding the interaction and understanding of the artefact.
- Dependance on the artist’s presence. There were missing additional material, such as graphic elements or posters around the artefact. This, together with issue number 3, made more complicated the understanding of the interaction and evolution of the experience. Therefore, this demanded the presence of the artefact’s authors for explaining its functioning.
Critical issue. To solve this issue I should work on the distribution and exposition of supplementary material for explaining the artefact’s functioning. This material could be eventually shown digitally if an external device (tablet, or similar) is available. Otherwise, it should rely exclusively on the graphic physical material both distributed to the public and exhibited with the artefact.
Figure 5 – The presence of the authors was mandatory for setting up the artefact and explaining what was it about
Experience / Fruition
- Incompatibility with OS migration from Mac to Windows and with the external camera (IN-5). Using the same software I would have expected a better integration between both operative systems. Yet, I needed to rework on the setup of some components. Furthermore, the first camera provided was an old webcam, which did not work (Figure 5, centre and right).
Medium priority. If I have access to a computer with Windows before arriving to the exhibition, then I can test the artefact with time on another OS. Otherwise, I can solve it by using my own laptop during the exhibition. On the long term, it could be interesting to develop a web-based software, so to do not have OS limitations. Regarding the camera, it will depend on the local facilities available for the exhibition.
- Navigation glitch. Compass and Gravity sensors determine the camera’s position. Presently, a glitch occurs during the navigation: there is an inversion/discontinuity of the view under certain rotations, probably due to the use of Euler angles.
Low priority. This issue can be solved by using Quaternion-based calculations. The solution needs visual programming on TouchDesigner.
- OSC data is provided by the private application Zig Sim. Therefore, due to the app’s characteristics, the phone is forced to be constantly on and with the application on screen. Furthermore, it is necessary to setup a private wi-fi network to send wireless data. Consequently, we must use a wired connection both to keep the phone’s battery loaded, and to simplify the net connection, specially if we need the computer connected to the Internet.
Medium-high priority. The problem requires developed skills in programming (which I do not fully have), and it might require some time for development. Furthermore, the creation of a dedicated mobile application might be also useful for covering other purposes and goals of this research, such as using the phone for and with a VR headset.
- Inputs limited to the equirectangular projection.
Medium priority. It would be also important to integrate cubical and azimuthal-equidistant perspective inputs as well.
- Fragile calibration of the camera (IN-5). No camera tripod was available during the exhibition at ARTECH 2021. Therefore, I hold the camera using cardboard boxes and a very precarious construction (Figure 6, right). The result was a shaky structure loosing the calibration at every minimal contact with the desk, forcing me to recalibrate the camera very often.
Medium-high priority. IMWYM 2 could or could not have a live session of drawing. Therefore, IN-5 might not be necessary. If the session should be host, then the solution is rather very simple: a camera with a stable tripod.
- IN-2 and OU-2 not tested. The reasons were mainly two: first, there was no available space on the table, and second, I was not expecting to use such a precarious and bulky construction to hold the camera.
Low priority. The implementation of the solution for issue 10 should also leave the desk more free. In any case, it would be also nice to have two desks for having a better distribution. However, Input 2 (drawing pad, tablet) might be a bit tedious for who is not familiarised both with the device and with spherical drawing. Therefore, it is more likely that I would need a dedicated artist for proving it. On the other hand, Output 2 would be very interesting to have, since IN-3 (drawing with software) and the front-end interface could be separated.
- Setup IN-1 (physical drawing) / AR-1 (artist) / IN-5 (camera). This configuration generated a rather obvious problem: being the physical drawing hanged on the wall, the artist casts shadows while drawing and the visual captured by the camera gets partially blocked.
Low priority. As explained previously, v1 might or might not have a live performance. Therefore, it is not urgent to solve this issue for the Retiro 2022. Yet, if I manage to do a live performance, then I should consider a setup for drawing onto a glass or something transparent, and a camera capturing the drawing from the other side.
- Setup IN-1 (physical drawing) / OU-1. During ARTECH, IN-1 and OU-1 were almost parallel and within the same line. As a consequence, it was very complicated for the artist to watch the VR results for having instant visual feedback.
Low priority. For the same reason given for issue 12, this is not an issue of concern. However, it is important to build a flexible setup (i.e., considering the installation with and without the live drawing performance), and to keep an eye on the general perspective that the visitor has of the artefact.
Figure 6 – The general fragility of the structure did not invite users to interact with the artefact
Conclusion: IMWYM 2nd Edition
On my way of defining the digital media art project, I have exposed the results of live testing the artefact IMWYM 1. The next entry (last of the a/r/cographic scheme) will illustrate the final requirements and set up of IMWYM 2. Meaning, that I will consider the draft solutions presented in this entry and join them with the real possibilities at the exhibition’s place (the Espírito Santo Convent of Loulé). I will also consider the time left to the exhibition and the priority given to each issue.
Borges, J. L. (2017). Borges esencial. Edicion Conmemorativa / Essential Borges: Commemorative Edition. Real Academia Española / Alfaguara.
Lopes, M. M., Bastos, P. B., Araújo, A. B., Olivero, L. F., & Adérito, F. M. (Eds.). (2021). Proceedings of ACM ARTECH conference (ARTECH2021)—10th international conference on digital and interactive arts. ACM Press. https://dl.acm.org/doi/proceedings/10.1145/3483529
Olivero, L. F., & Araújo, A. B. (2021). I’m watching you/me. Live drawing and VR visualization of spherical perspectives using TouchDesigner. Proceedings of ACM ARTECH Conference (ARTECH2021). 10th international conference on digital and interactive arts, Aveiro Portugal. https://doi.org/10.1145/3483529.3483778