Πέμπτη, 21 Φεβρουαρίου 2008

Interaction & Virtual Environments

2.1. Introduction

Human-Computer Interaction is a relatively new domain in the science of Informatics. Its elements have been present since the beginning of the computer age, but hadn’t been considered to be important or primary at that time and thus, a distinct domain wasn’t formed. The fact that the domain emerged recently, along with the dominant institution of techno-science, often lead to misunderstandings. An examination of the terms Interaction, Human, Computer, on their own may elucidate the situation.

/> Interaction: A universal definition is impossible. It can certainly be told, however, that not all forms of communication are to be classified under this term (e.g. between two routers), even if there is a request-and-respond action from the participants.

There has to be a relationship between the n-th respond and the (n-1)-th request. This relationship has to be more than a functional or, in general, an ensidic one—there has to be a relationship of content, a relationship of presentations, a relationship of meaning.

/> Human: The most usual misunderstanding of the domain until now is that it tries to explain humans through the external characteristics of their behaviour (behaviourism). So, we have loads of models of the brain as teukhein, as a deterministic machine (with some random noise, but without changing the general concept). Humans are represented in analogy to the computer, as two different sources of “objective reality”, which they communicate in the form of bits (reminding us Kant’s for itself), but simply having their own special way to express this “reality”.

This viewpoint cancels human psyche; humans and computers are alien/other to each other, not different; humans are capable of representing—of making meaning emerge in a magmatic relationship of the ensidic, imaginary, symbolic, phantasmatic; it cancels human creation, the social self-institution which happens through and with the historical time.

Recent research [2] [3] [4] [5] that surpass a mechanistic model and discuss about the content of interaction, has encountered with astonishment the fact that, apart from emotions and easy learning, participants in interactive experiences show enhanced sociality (this was successfully realized in the Bauhaus School) [6].

/> Computer: Interaction is usually considered to be “external” action. The metaphor of “navigation” used in Interface Design shows the contradiction. When we “navigate” in an application we perceive it in two opposite ways. The Cartesian view of the digital landscape is external to us, as a map both independent and spontaneous. On the contrary, our subjective presence is an undoubted part of the virtual digital landscape. This contradiction is quite old [2].

The computer, however, bears within itself interactivity—it has been constructed for this purpose. Its application
and its hardware are thinkable as interactive because they are organized as such. Anyway, the computer processes data and not information—meaning-making, due to lack of radical imaginary, is impossible. This is often omitted during the development of interactive applications. Inevitably then, we have to take Humans into consideration even more, if we take into account this alterity. This distinction is essential to us, and we view it as Human-Computer Interaction’s principle and not as a neo-humanistic ideal.

Progress in Human-Computer Interaction (presented in 2.2) is technically undoubted, because of research on and understanding of some basic functions of interactivity. Nevertheless, one has to keep in mind progress (or rather evolution?) in Human Interaction, like with Freudian psychoanalysis initially, group therapy afterwards, etc.

2.2. Interactivity

People tend to connect interactivity to computers, especially after 1990 when Bill Moggridge came up with the term interaction design, but this is totally insufficient. Interactivity has been in different regions and eras of social-historical institution, in the fires of Homer, in the smoke signals of Native American, or in the stone cairns of the Celts.

Several centuries later, in the 1830s, Samuel Morse constructed and designed not only his code, but also the whole telegraph system: the electric circuits, the mechanism to produce the code and user’s training. Of course, it didn’t happen in one day, but it is the first communication system too complex for the average user. It required an entire system to be specially designed.

Similarly, for other communication systems such as the radio, the telephone or television, interfaces had to be designed by the engineers. For the very first time the interface
was not a human being (the telegrapher, the typographer, the post-man), but a mechanical, and often automatic, device. We can define, for the first time, a virtual interface. These interfaces were also used for the communication between devices (telephone routers etc.). This forms an entire virtual environment. Interaction design, at that time, was not a priority.

Machinery used for these technological achievements had human input, but in a simple, linear, non-adoptable way. That changed with the use of computers.

Other advancements concerning input and data control in computers, came from medical and film industry and have many similarities. In motion capture usually sensors are used, reflective or gyroscopic to construct and control virtual environments. State-of-the-art implementations combine different sensor types (U70 computer, XSens MT9, ARTTrack, Flock of Birds, ARToolKit, Garmin GPS18 USB). [8] [9]

Usual navigation in virtual environments with touch screens derives from 2D and 3D computer desktops and its usability is questioned. The iOrb device was specially designed for command and data input in virtual environments. The user can run application commands selecting from 1D and 2D pie menus. Spatial selection include both selection rays and cones. Interaction uses relative gyroscopic distances, so measuring is quite sensitive to errors. [10]

Concerning the development of interactive applications targeting the expression of users’ psychic presentations, haptic senses are used, a rather constraining factor. State-of-the-art application is the reacTable*, while non-haptic virtual environments had been restricted to visualization of voice data—as in the installations Hidden Worlds, Messa di Voce and RE:MARK. [11] [12] There has been a lack of an electronic music instrument that allows the musicians to express psychic representations through their own physical movement, but with a non-haptic interface, controlled completely remotely.


[2] J. Wood, The Virtual Embodied, Routledge, London, 1998.
[3] S. Rafaeli, Interactivity.
[4] M. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, Humanities Press, New York, 1962.
[5] P. Light, K. Littleton, “Situational Effects in Computer-Based Problem Solving”, Discourse, Tools, and Reasoning, Springer-Verlag, 1997.
[6] D. Svanaes, Understanding Interactivity, 1999.
[7] G. Levin, Painterly Interfaces for Audiovisual Performance, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1994.
[8] D. Schmalstieg, G. Reitmayr, “The World as a User Interface: Augmented Reality for Ubiquitous Computing”, Central European Multimedia and Virtual Reality Conference, 2005.
[9] N.J. Dellemana, E. den Dekkera, T.K. Tana, I3VR –Intuitive Interactive Immersive Virtual Reality– Technology, France, 2006.
[10] G. Reitmayr, C. Chiu, A. Kusternig, M. Kusternig, H. Witzmann, “iOrb - unifying command and 3d input for mobile
augmented reality”, Proc. IEEE VR Workshop on New Directions in 3D User Interfaces, IEEE, pp. 7–10, 2005.
[11] S. Jordà, Sonigraphical Instruments: From FMOL to the reacTable*, 2003.
[12] G. Levin & Z. Lieberman, In-Situ Speech Visualization in Real-Time Interactive Installation and Performance, 2004.

Παρασκευή, 15 Φεβρουαρίου 2008

Humans and Music

Part from our Thesis (Evans+DinOS)

1.1. Introduction

A simple and universal definition of Music proposed by ethnomusicologists and sociologists of music is “sound organized in human way”. Western Music is usually defined as the Art and Science dealing with sound. This separation between Theory and Action has been cultivated intensively since the ancient Greeks who, by the term Music, meant initially Poiesis, Melos and Choros, as a unification of Theatrical arts, while music theory was studied as Harmonics. This separation has been adopted and preserved from the western european civilization, so today, we may say that music as Science studies the origin, production, order, pitch, amplitude, duration of sounds, as also the connection among them. Thus emerged the special fields of Morphology, Musicology, Ethnomusicology, History of Music, Acoustics. As an Art, it tries to cover the human need of expressing, using sound, specific thoughts, emotions or psychic states.

Sound elements turn into music only due to their organization. A human is needed, who may be recognized by their environment as having special skills and knowledge, to decide how to organize chosen sounds in a certain time-space. The way sound is organized by the human, thus producing music, depends on the interaction with the natural, social and cultural environment, on natural laws such as symmetry, periodicality, repetition, echo, and also on unpredictable factors.

But, what does “humans express, using sound, specific thoughts, emotions or psychic states” mean? Why do humans have the need to express themselves this way? Why is the sound material organized in this, and not some other, way? What are the factors that make humans express themselves in this particular way? What does expression of the self mean? What do the words “sound”, “thought”, mean to a human? Does a musician really create something (and an Artist in general), or are they more “influenced” than we can imagine from the social and cultural environment? What does “social and cultural environment” mean, how does it become “influenced” by humans, and how are humans “influenced” by it?

This paper is an effort to set questions and aporia such the above, that are in our interest for the last years. We hope that these questions will be the entrance in a labyrinth which we hope to elucidate to our very end, to our telos (if telos exists—and what does telos mean?).

1.2. Social-historical

What is society? What is history or, even better, how and why is there change in a society as time passes by? In reference to what does this change happen? Does anything new emerge in history and what does it mean? Why are there many types of society and not only one? What is their difference and why is there such? If someone told that this difference is illusive, why does this illusion, this phainesthai exist? Why does the thing itself appear as other?

The numerous given answers since the dawn of thought can easily be reduced to two types; and their various alterations. The first is the naturalistic, that reduces society and history primarily to the biological nature of humans. The second type is rationalistic/logicistic (differences appear according to the specific meaning of ratio-logos). According to [1], naturalism and rationalism are nothing more than means to extend the axioms and schemata of the ensemblistic-identitary logic (for brevity’s sake ensidic logic) in history and society. Has the inherited thought, using always the ensidic logic, given a solid answer? Until now, never [1]. It always does, and always will fall into contradictions. For 25 centuries, greco-western thought has been grounded, processed, expanded, on this thesis: einai (isness), means to be determined (einai ti), legein (reasoning), means legein a determined discourse (ti legein), alithōs legein (reasoning for the truth) signifies the determination of the legein and of the discourse, according to the determination of the einai or the determination of einai according to the determination of the legein, and the final awareness of their identicalness. This is the Western institution of thought as logos. The ensidic logic effects everything. Even the discourse of those who doubt it, of those who try to eliminate it. The existence of society as collective, anonymous doing/representing, is impossible (inconceivable to us) without the institution of legein (distinct-choose-set-collect-count-tell) and without its embodied ensidic logic. According, again, to [1], a society ensembles the first physical strate and transforms it into social imaginary values. Humans institute their society in basis of physical events, but these institutions “surpass” nature and are determined by social imaginary values, which bear reference to the magma of all imaginary values of this specific society. For example, in a society live male and female people who can be signified as men and women. They bear boys and girls who are always and everywhere incapable of surviving, unless adults protect them for some time. Until now we can see the effect of the first physical strate. But the way how the distinction in men and women subsets is done, how children grow up, what is the children-adults difference, can all be reduced to the magma of all the imaginary values of the specific society. The physical event may give stimuli for institution, but there is a huge gap between the stimulus and a necessary and sufficient condition. [1]

Social-historical institution is that in which and through which the social imaginary emerges and is. This institution is institution of a magma of meanings, of social imaginary meanings. The participable representative basis of these meanings consists of images or figures, in the broad sense of the terms. Image or figure representations may be, and often are indeed, images or figures on their term, and consequently are new bases of meaning. The social imaginary
is primarily creation of meanings and creation of images or forms that are their (the meanings’) basis. A significant part of the meanings of a society, these which may be or are explicitly expressed, are instituted, directly or indirectly, in and through language. At the same time, the ensemblization of the world which is instituted by the society, is done in and through legein. Legein is the ensemblistic-ensembling dimension of social representing/legein, as teukhein is the ensemblist-ensemblizing dimension of social doing/prattein. Both prop (étayage) on the identitary side of the first physical strate, but both are, already by themselves, social creations, primary and instrumental institutions of every institution. Language is in and through two indistinguishable dimensions or vectors. It is langue as far as it signifies, that is as it refers
to a magma of meanings. It is code as far as it organizes and is organized identitarilly, or since it is legein. Language cannot try to ensemble the world, unless it (language) is a system of sets and ensemblist relations itself and unless it institutes itself as such a system. Language is the first and only real set that has ever been, the only “objectively real” and not just “typical” set. Every other set, not only logically presupposes it, but also can’t be constituted unless it contains the same operation type. Every identitary logic is nothing but the function of identitary operations which are instituted in and through legein, in and through language as code.

As legein embodies and makes the ensidic dimension of language to be, and in general of the social representing, teukhein embodies and makes the ensidic dimension of social doing/prattein to be. As language is langue and code, also teukhein, as ensidic, is indistinguishable between the imaginary dimension of doing/prattein and the magma of social imaginary values, which are made-to-be by social doing and in which and through these values, this doing is social doing. [1]

1.3. The Subject

We saw until now, how the social-historical institution of society happens. We have to examine however, the social-historical institution of the subject, that is the transformation of the psychic monad to a social subject, for whom there will be other subjects, objects, world, society, institutions, things which are primarily meaningless and existence for the psyche.
This leads us to discuss the problem of the psyche, that actually is inseparable from the problem of the social-historical, two expressions of the radical imaginary, here as radical imagination, there as social imaginary.

Freudian outlook remained blind to two domains: social-historical institution and the psyche as radical imagination, that is, essentially, as emergence of presentations or as presentational flow that does not follow any determinism.

The process of the social institution of the subject, that is of the socialization of the psyche, is a unified process of psycho-enfantement or socio-enfantement. It is a history of the psyche, during which the psyche is altered (verändert) and opens itself to the social-historical world, also through its own function and creativity, and a history of imposing to the psyche a mode of being that the psyche itself would never make emerge and which constructs/creates the social subject. The common result of these two histories is the emergence of the social subject as coexistence, always impossible and always realized, of a private or closed world and a common or public world.

1.4. Conclusion

What we call art (techne) derives from teukhein. So, music also, is a product of teukhein. In music the creator tries to express some psychic presentations. Due to the establishment of the Other, however, these presentations reflect the presentations of inherited thought, those that emerge from the Other of the unconscious.

Consequently, in order to be able to create (in the special sense of the term) music, humans should surpass as much as they can inherited thought, the establishment of the Other, ensidic logic, and have moments of expression and emergence of new presentations (vorstellung).

Humans should not try to forclude the Other (it is impossible) but to establish a new type of relation between the conscious and the unconscious. They should know when each part functions. They should surpass heteronomy, and their society’s heteronomy. The subject and societies should self-institute themselves explicitly and consciously whatever this might conclude to.

[1] C. Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society, Κέδρος (Kedros), 1978.
more chapters coming soon...