Archives for the month of: January, 2014

fig 1. This is the image that Synapse captures from the Kinect (Model1414). Notice how it has automatically captured the wire frame skeleton.

The next phase of my work is creating a “wireless” tug o’ war. My theoretical basis for this is the “Alien hand” experiment(see SØrensen 2005). I want to see if the impression of tugging creates the sense that another person is there. I will test this via a digitally mediated interface, rather than a length of rope.

In this case,  I will use a Kinect to simulate a physical connection between to players. At least, that is my goal. this post will focus on the process of physically connecting the Kinect device, made by Microsoft, to my Apple laptop, running OSX Mavericks. By no means am I a computer engineer, so I am synthesizing advice from friends and referencing various web sources.

After doing a little research, I realised I would need an adapter that both provides power to it the Kinect as well as plugging it into my computer. That was purchase for about CAN$15 and delivered in 3 days. To get the Kinect to talk to my computer, I downloaded Synapse and it was easy to install, and free.

The next stage was to find a means to processing the data from the Kinect. I found this tutorial( ). I just followed it and it worked quite well. What did I learn? How to get movement data transferred into my computer. How to start visually presenting that data.

There are still many hurdles: How to get data streams from two people to interact, how to represent that interaction, and how to provide appropriate feedback to the actors involved. But those a closer to n]being soluble problem than they were this morning.


SØrensen, J. B. (2005). The alien-hand experiment. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4(1), 73-90.

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-005-5854-4


fig 2. This Quartz composer sketch links the various “objects” that allow the data from the Kinect to be processed. Quartz Composer is free for people with Mac OSX and an apple account, and is part of the XCode development kit, for making apps for OSX.


fig 3. The viewer in Quartz Composer: It shows my image, and a spray of particles that follow my left hand. Not bad for an afternoon’s work, and never having used Xcode or any modern programming languages.


As part of my research on Research -Creation Methods I played Pippen Bar’s game The Artist is Present. This game bases itself on the 2010 performance of the same name by Marina Abramavic. She performed this over the course of several months at the MOMA in New York. In that performance, visitors would buy a ticket then stand in line, waiting for the opportunity to sit facing the artist, Abramavic , for as long as they wanted. Some visitors sat for a moment or two, others for several hours. Everyone would leave the museum at the end of the day, regardless of whether or not they had the opportunity to sit facing Abramavic. The work was very much about patience and presence. In this case, it means being very aware of your immediate surroundings. By rendering the supposed goal, sitting with the artist, possibility out of reach

Barr’s game simulates this performance- you enter the museum, purchase a ticket, stand in line, occasionally shuffling your avatar forward. Apparently, you get to sit with the Maria Abramavic toon, then leave. In my case, I seem to have made a mistake with the controls and was “escorted out by a guard”. Here are the notes I took, for this auto-ethnography, conducted as I played the game in my small apartment.

play the Artist is Present
start at10:59
I’m told to enter through the left, although the queu is empty.grrrr
granted access tho I failed to indicate yes to ticket purchase. player agency evaporating
barr artist present line 1After a minute, someone joins the line behind me. I wonder when the line will move. clicking the arrow key causes my avatar to jostle a bit but nought else. There are thirteen avatar/npc’s in front of me.

I realise that it would be easy to forget which avatar is mine. after 10 minutes, the line hasn’t apparently moved. I reflect the image in the background, I think representing a painting by Matisse. It occurs to me that i’m taking notes on an ipad. The experience would be very different as in Abramovic’s ideas, such devices wouldn’t be allowed.

i shuffle my avatar, but this does little- a half step back and forwards.
At eleven:fifteen, the line trundles foward. At this rate, I’ll be here about 3 hours.
I confirm, the image behind is a representation of Henri Matisse Dance(1) oil on canvas, 1909.
my office set up is centered around a standing desk I built, so I am actually standing as I usually do. The computer  screen is static, but the rumble (moved again 11:20) of the washer and dryer in the kitchenette next to me add to the feeling of domestic activity. This game, and Abramovic’s performance make me think of John Cage’s 4’26” . interpreted as a joke, it is also an invitation to listen closely to sounds. Perhaps people don’t realise the performance is indeterminate in length and location. In abramovic’s piece, you had to prepare yourself for the journey to the MOMA, the wait in line and the possibility that you would not actually sit in the chair and face Abramovic.

What an odd tension between presence and immersion. In this sense, I mean immersion as the sense of ecstatic temporality. the all- encompassing moment that draws your attention. Could a shopping line give that calm? But we are concerned with completing the shopping and leaving.
I notice my avatar is slightly more in the foreground of the chinese perspective of the game- perhaps this was intended to subtly allow me to differentiate my toon from the others.

The line hasn’t moved again, yet. I wonder what system determines when the line moves?
in Abramovic’s performance, the participant could sit facing Abramavic as longs as they wished, until the performance paused for the day. In one essay, the writer describes watching her  friend sit for three hours, until the performance closed for the day. She described feeling confusion, that this had happened, that her experience was not what she had intended.

i am fiddling with the too  when the line moves forward again(11:40). I risk a run to the toilet. I return without having lost my place. This game exemplifies grind. I take notes, stand, and sip water. I have a chest cold that I am fighting off with as my hydration as possible, it makes standing in line less pleasant. ten toons stand in front of me- I wonder if they are generated NPCs or avatars of other players. I doubt it. What is the likelyhood of a dozen other people playing this?

I cough and feel tension in my lower back and across my shoulders, as the cough throws me slightly forward. My avatar remains stalwart. He has a full head of hair, unlike me, but I imagine he is wearing grey-green corderoy slacks, a brown jacket and perhaps a dark grey turtleneck. Very professorial, very art critic, so I have discovered my vanity standing in (oooops missed that shuffle 11:54) this line, now with nine toons in front of me.

often my thoughts skip ahead to what I must do after this game. Compose some questions and email Pippen Barr, should I post this to my blog? Not forget to prepare my slides and notes for my class, tomorrow. I ask my son to get me a glass of water, so I don’t lose my place in line. I explained my work today to my wife and she said “quack quack! quack quack!” when I asked her if I was “an odd duck”. She did her graduate work in sociology, and thinks philosophers are odd. Well, she would know, then.

I roll my shoulders (walk avatar forwards 12:01) and hear my shoulders crack. On either side of me are speaker amplifiers and I periodicly lift one foot or the other onto the respective cabinets. This removes the tension from the small of my back and lets me stretch my legs and groin. The discomfort of standing in museums was always more bothersome, during my art history studies, than the heavy lifting and carrying that carpentry involved.

Five toons stand behind me and eight in front. It has been just over and hour since I began. The skill tested in this game is attention, not dexterity. Apparently, if I don’t shuffle forward with the line, I will lose my place and have to start over. Moreover, if closing time comes around I will have to leave the museum.  I look closely to see if the line moves at the 5 or ten minute mark, but it doesn’t move at 12:10. I want to know if it is timed for that, to know how long I was distracted a couple of times before I moved my toon. Oooops indicates that I didn’t see the line move, just became aware of the gap. I will try for a screen grab of the gap. But I am afraid of “stepping outta line” and losing my place(ooops 12:14).

I set up Grab, and wait. My thoughts go to how I will talk about this. How I might use images. My attention jumps from the screen, the tablet in my hands and how to discuss this. The last takes my attention to the future. My phone beeps a warning and my heart jumps. Barr describes the play through of his own game as very intense(ref). I wait to click on the screen. In some way, this is reminiscent of a sniping/shooting game. A tiny gap of opportunity- an “execution element”(ooops 12:24) where the player can do something different than expected.

Barr a gap in the line 1At the last ooops, I glance swiftly from screen to screen, but having no muscle memory of having done this, hesitated for a split-second before I clicked on the laptop track pad, then on the direction keys, shuffling again. No harm done and a brief surge of minor triumph.

I look back through my notes periodicly, to correct spelling or to pull technical terms that escape me from my literature research. My physical tension is greater. My sone hands me a glass of water but I suddenly lack the agility to smoothly take the glass from him. Ask him to adjust his grip so I can grasp the glass without dropping it. I am annoyed.

I think I will play again later, and deliberatley get kicked out of line.mHow long would that take? Would it affect my (Shuffle 12:35) play style? would it require less attention if I knew more precisely how much time I have? Think of Heidegger’s argument in Being and Time that as we more precisely measure time, we have less time (oooops 12:37) in the present- effectively we have less time as Being.

only four toons ahead, with six behind. Will more toons fall in after lunch? I notice one toon that I interpret as being female, but could be a dude in a mullet. The game offers different skin colours, dark brown, olive and pink. Hair colour doesn’t seem to follow conventional patterns of colour vis a vis complexion. Two dark skinned toons have blonde and chestnut brown hair, respectively. A mullet seems to be the sole formal nod to gender. Body types are uniform, with modest variety of colour and sleeve length(jacket to tank-top). My toon has olive complexion, as do I during spring, summer and fall.

(shuffle 12:48) There is no discernable pattern in the line shuffling forward. three toons in front, and none have joined the line recently so still six in back. Around me, the wife and son bustle about. The boy is about to depart for an afternoon of D&D with his friend. The missus is doing homework, checking work email. I risk stepping away to give my son a hug, but with one (oooops 12:54) eye on the screen. I sit down on an amp cabinet for a moment to rest. I count my lines written so far, in this account. I count 81 lines or about 900 words (can check this later)

Shufffle at 12:58

One toon a head. Is there another room, or is the artist just ahead? I’m not sure if I can stay for another two hours. My physical and mental stamina can do it, but I have to prepare a paper, and so forth. The missus is preparing to run some errands- I ask for a cup of tea. The distractions of the home are its comforts and the responsibilities, liking laundry & cleaning on Sundays. These would call differently, perhaps if I was standing in line at the MOMA. The missus says I should inlude her loud fart in my ethnography, since it drew my attention. We are definitely doing in group ethnography, here. But I am the group, because she isn’t playing. This poses an interesting problem- where to begin and end in game play (auto) ethnography?

Another toon wanders in and fills in the line at back

Stretch, crack joints in back, shoulders. My hand is somewhat fatigued  by holding a tablet for two hours. Stretch fingers, eyes flick back and forth from the computer screen where the game takes place, to the tablet screen, to doemestic activities that take place in my peripheral vision. Another logng-haired toon enters. The black top and grey mullet suggest an aging biker, or perhaps (Ooops 13:12) a member of an 80’s hard rock band.

Barr the tableau 2I have literally stuck my nose in the room. You can see it protruding from the left, along with a ‘tuft’ of my hair.

I decide to pretend that when the next toon sits down, that it is my avatar.

The Abramavic avatar sits unmoving, staring at the toon in front, across s table( later removed in the actual performance). The paricipating toon sits up right , but the abramavic toon seems to leam slightly into the gaze.

The missus leaves, kissing me and airily mentioning “have fun” and “paint dry”.

The laundry is silent, and I am alone in the apt. The faint humm of the laptop, the quiet rumble of the fridge and the faint rustle of my movements become more audible.
(ooops 13:27)

Barr transition 3The Abramavic toon has lowered her gaze and another toon has sat. I will try to focus on the transition, and capture it with a screen grab.

(13:37) Waiting for the screen grab, just watching was very pleasant. Suddenly, I feel very dissociated from the tableau. Will the screen change when My toon sits? or will it be indistinguishable from those that sit before it? Will I receive instructions to sit or rise?

I have to know, so I will continue. I set up for another screen grab. I wait and obseve and try to note impressions.

Cheating (Ooops 13:57) by not going through with my own toon- thus losing an emotional pay off? Would that diminish the value of the three hours I have committed so far? So much of this game is internal, as I an my avatar stand here. If cow-clicker reduces time to a measuring system for exchange, how does The Artist is Present address our emotional committment to time spent?

6 toons before me, one seated in the middle of his ‘seance’?(14:04)

I will see this to the end, part of the experience is leaving the scene.

(Shuffle 14:17)
Five toons ahead, one seated. I have been stretching, fidgeting but with my eyes on the screen.

I have become very aware of minor aches and (shuffle 14:21) stiffness in my body. I wonder how much I am distracted from myself. I’m more aware of my body than I feel I have been in a long time. These pains were here before today, but usually I’m reading, or distracted by video or game play. (Shuffle 14:25)

three toons, one sitting. I feel a sudden twinge of exultion, I will make to the end, barring something truly unforseen, but even then my response will be usefull.

The missus returns from the gym, asking me if the paint was still drying. I kiss her hellow and rather excitedly point to the few toons in front of me
(ooops 14:45)

two toons, one standing in line, one across the table from Abramovic toon

I imagined myself at this point, earlier as if I were in the real hall, glimpsing Abramavic past the person in front of me, and the two mulleted attendents. But I can’t imagine myself as clearly sitting down with her.

my bladder is suddenly full, but I don’t want to lose my place now. I have one more transition before my turn. I will go then. Why not let my wife watch my place for a minute? That wouldn’t be cheating, I would be a spoil sport, or my own experience. The wait is the game, attention is the skill. The game is better without note taking.

shuffle 14:54

I am next and my mind fluctuates from great attention to the game tableau to imagining the real thing- the hush, the murmur, the presence.

very focussed on game with eyes- mouth and brain wander,

i nervously wiggle the avatar, geBarr wait turn 4t a warning to wait my turn panic over ressetting the scgren bgrab

ethnography of online art work specilist

the warning message comes up- having watched you fool around far too long without taking your seat, the guard escorts you out.
Barr out of MOMA 5

“you’ve got to be joking”. is there no way to sit?