Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Desirable Potentials and The Human Condition

Desirable Potentials and The Human Condition
Written: 12-01-15 by Nathaniel Jack Greene

Proclaiming one’s lifelong, steadfast and utmost mission as: “improve the human condition” creates a flavor of heresy, skepticism, ridicule, and a variety of other reactions. Sure, there are occasional moments of synchrony and acceptance when an optimists mindset understands the clarity and empathy of such a statement. Many years have passed from when I first uttered the phrase “my mission is: to improve the human condition”. What “condition”? What “human”? What IS the “human condition” they would ask? It’s too vague. It’s too lofty. It’s too, broad, were all reactionary statements by others as a result. The generality of the statement was half the point. The statement is made intentionally as a trope (DiSalvo, 2012), which serves as a broad scaffold to span across cultures, specialties, arts, markets and human involvement on a dynamic scale. The other half of the statement is with respect to the projection of desired fulfilment of human “potential”. The optimistic and suggestive tone of prioritizing the human condition, while accepting its faults, and beauty equally, prioritizes all causality into a precise guidance system based on a duality of positive vs. negative consequence. Most importantly however, is that the statement not only sets an intentional directive to my actions but projects forward a suggestive altruism by which others are now able to associate with or consider for a topic of importance in their own life’s mission(which may or may not have been considered to boot).

Some may argue that this well wishing is futile and the words do not embody any meaning, however that would be to suggest that as a human, conceptually or metaphorically, you refute the power of language or otherwise, would not wish to improve the human condition, which includes your own condition. Or, you may very well be content with “THE human condition”, or perhaps “YOUR human condition” which although understandable for a self oriented, individualistic, self preservation culture, this perspective may not rub well with the eventuality of localized effects of global and “wicked” problems currently existing in the world. This lack of interest in “improving the human condition” is exactly what the statement is set out to effectively disrupt. Another critical perspective may include the apathetic reaction of “My thoughts and actions don’t matter, I cannot, alone change anything”. This perspective, although a powerful sentiment in early American 21st century culture is analogous to not rowing a lifeboat for not seeing the shore and furthermore does not acknowledge the interdependence humans share with one another. In this way, the statement “to improve the human condition” holds power to influence others to identify with an optimistic perspective and desire for positive change for both themselves as well as their fellow humans.

To insert an idea is to be born and bred of it. Ideation, imagination and manifestation are all concepts of seemingly ineffable and unmentionable status in the earliest process of creation. When an intention is called into existence by the mind, it is, in effect, the act of creation(in the non-material sense). Creation may be something as ethereal as a notion, intuition, concept or theory and may be as concrete as, well...concrete. The physical act of creation withstanding, we are to discuss the morphology of un-conscious idea through subconscious idea, to conscious idea and finally to a state of manifested potential. In other words, we are identifying a systematic framework for pre-visualizing, hypothesizing and modeling human potential so as to optimize this procedure for manifestation and implementation of theory and/or material.

Considering this a speculative design project seems tempting. However, the thought of ridiculing human potential into a waste basket of discardable ideas seems irresponsible and shortsighted. Therefore, we intend to define an acceptable model of human potential for use in a unified theory of mind and action.

Accepting the evolving nature of this model is important at this phase. Just as potential itself must emerge from an intention, we must be clear about the intention behind establishing a unified model of human potential. First, let’s be clear about the definition upon which we assign to “potential”.

Potential (adjective) in english, is defined plainly by Merriam Webster as “capable of development into actuality”.

In philosophy, “potentiality” and “actuality” are principles of an Aristotle dichotomy used to analyze causality, ethics, motion and physiology in his Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics and De Anima. The concept of potentiality, in this context, generally refers to any "possibility" that a thing can be said to have(more on this in FUTURES). To simplify the definition further, the removal of “-ity” as a suffix of the term, potentiality so as to draw a more reduced use of “potential”. The “-ity” simply serves to form nouns denoting “quality or condition“ to any term it is attached to. Being as we are not interested so much in defining the condition of “potential” (although it is tempting to associate with the human condition), we shall progress in adverb form and in this reduced language manner so as to discuss the conceptual model in some level of detail.

Furthermore it should be clarified that Aristotle drew a distinction between accidental or natural causation. and intentional causation. According to his understanding of nature there was both a weak sense of potential, meaning simply that something "might chance to happen or not to happen", and a stronger sense, to indicate how something could be done well. We are specifically referring to the latter and as applicable to the human condition and the variables therein.

Actuality, in contrast to potentiality, is the motion, change or activity that represents an exercise or fulfillment of a potential. Inasmuch as we are interested in modeling potential, actuality should be considered in greater depth at a future conjuncture. It is suffice to say for now, that with a properly developed model for optimizing potential, we are preparing for actualization in idealized form.

INTENTIONALITY
Without chasing the proverbial rabbit, we might suggest that  “intention” or the “intentionality” state of a process is a preliminary property of potential. An intention is said to be “the quality of mental states (e.g., thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes) that consists in their being directed toward some object or state of affairs” as defined philosophically.

The defensive essay of John Searle suggests that intentionality of the human mind as the basis of argument for why Strong AI is not possible. This conjecture is a powerful one and will persist to claim space in my consideration queue regarding artificial intelligence and whether computers can truly achieve consciousness rivaling or bettering that of a human.

Intentionality, although an interesting topic and one of direct effect to a model of potential, we should like to continue research into. As applicable to the model proposed, “intentionality” would serve as a reasonable purpose unto which one would adjust their “potential” target to a more or less desirable trajectory. Intentionality as a value system in and of itself is of interest as well and may have great implications upon which to research affective labor as a differentiator in the computational culture and resulting economic disruptions.

It is my intention to define the usefulness of “potentials” as a conceptual model for instantiating uses for technology into outcomes of highest desirability. Desirability is a tricky term to contend with as it results in such emotive and subjective experience territory. However, if one were to alternate another complementary term into the duality of “desirable” & “undesirable” such as “positive” & “negative” or other prefered terms to describe the state prior to and in direct relationship with actuality, this would seem acceptable given a polar opposite dichotomy of options. The purpose could theoretically vary between conclusiveness & inconclusiveness, like and dislike, or other polarities related to potential.

DUALITY
“Potential” expresses both harm or good and suggests a binary determinism in order to be defined. A mere, - or +,  0 or 1 dualistic approach to potentials seems a remarkably limited foundation upon which to construct a model for a humans. However, considering humans as either alive or dead, we might appropriate the metaphor as serving generations of humans in a wrong vs. right, good vs. bad, positive vs. negative, left vs. right propagation of choice. This dualistic perspective has served humans satisfactorily given the inherent desire to survive in the noisy and often dangerous conditions in our environments. The immediacy of a choice made, followed by an instinctually curated behaviour, evokes a survival strategy supporting of evolutionary species propagation(more in EVOLUTION).

Potential need not be limited to only two outcomes however. The more specific the 2 states of opposing energies, the greater the options available between them as well. Naturally, a bias for one of the two states will be instantiated according to the intended outcome minus any unforeseen acts of nature etc. This bias will serve as a proving ground for viability of said model to behave in statistical outcomes that exceed standard deviation as weighted by intentionality.

The harm or undesirable outcome of a potential should be stated very clearly as a higher probability as relative to the negative value of intention. For example, if a desirable intention is defined to provide internet connectivity to every person on the planet, the intentional value must be greater than that of the opposite and must be computable to all involved in the scope of said intention. In other words, the value proposition as related to intentionality for those receiving the internet connectivity must be greater than that of them not being provided the internet connectivity. As applies to capitalist economic modeling, this value system requires reformulation or at the very least revaluation of assets and resources available to perform useful work as it applies to potential(see SOCIO ECONOMICS).

Dual use and unforeseen consequences of a potential are inherent. The greatest intention and optimized potential may yet result in a dual use scenario in which a technology or development results in a disastrous or harmful application of the same (or sometimes slightly modified) actuality.

EVOLUTION
Since first painting caves with soil, humans have exploited their natural environment in order to express their knowledge of experience, in effort to propagate the embodiment beyond their own physical eventualism. Given that humans are unable to obtain, let alone retain the information available to them within their lifespan, a sophisticated repository is of high demand. Accessibility and ease of use of this repository is a key differentiator in the human knowledge generation potential. Without record of continuity, knowledge of civilizations have been known to be
misinterpreted or lost to future generations.

These recording systems have grown in sophistication and complexity in attempt to better represent the human evolutionary experience. Embodying this knowledge for current or future generations is a heady task. Leveraging knowledge into manifest requires intense discipline and specific intent, less an entropic default that is entertaining but far less useful to survival and propagation as a species.

This evolutionary process goes on through millennia as an often unconscious behavior and forgotten both in the information retention sense and conscious awareness of evolution. So far detached we have become from the information and knowledge of the human evolutionary condition(The Great Forgetting). Complacency, passive entertainment and novelty occupy the interest of the majority of human computational experience, satisficing for the deliverable consumables of information. Uninformed idolatry of computationalism becomes a default response to the information source in effort to detach from the conscious engagement required for evolutionary potentiation.

Computational algorithms enable accessibility, simplicity, parsing and modeling of potentials through information processing. As a result, humans are able to leverage ancestral and experientially tested information into models for improving the human condition (amoungst other purposes). It is this awareness or “conscious living” that I wish to communicate.

Accepting our evolutionary status is critical in guiding technology to benefit the human condition. Identifying with “potential” accepts that we are still evolving as our tools and technology evolve to advance our species. All the while optimizing to reduce entropy(gradual decline into disorder) and evolve towards our most desirable state as a species, in the most efficient way possible.

FUTURES
Strategic Foresight Lecturer, Joseph Voros in his book Foresight(2003), distinguishes between five classes of alternative futures to help organize and clarify the range of possible outcomes for risk assessment. Illustrated in his “futures cone” below are potential, possible, plausible, probable, and preferable futures.
Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 11.28.38 AM.png
This “Futures Cone” is of particular interest as it not only suggests a progressively linear approach to modeling from the “potential” but it does so through a targeted ideal overlap between preferable and probable. Thus suggesting a progressive refinement and opportunity for attunement to a more desirable outcome.

With the future as being “inherently indeterminate” according to the physical processes of the universe, such as the Heisenbery Uncertainty Principle of physics, we do not have a method of predicting the future. However, given we have an infinite number of potential “alternative futures” as depicted by Voros, and are directly actuated through “choice”, we have the opportunity to shape the future through knowledge based, insightful decision making and refinement of potential.

Probability is the measure of the likeliness that an event will occur and is closest to fulfilment of potential. With all due respect to this framework, I do wish to add the duality of “desirable” and “undesirable” as the dualistic variable target or manifestation of future potentials into the current moment.

potential_posneg.jpg

Note how intention is situated to directly drive potential states in a positive or negative gradient. Conceptually, intention would have numerous personal, behavioral and cultural driving forces. Value systems are the primary causal modality between these intention based states.

It would be well fitting to point out that critical futures studies attempts to "probe beneath the surface" of the social causes of the problems being addressed is where Voros proposed more work was needed. “This level of depth deals with how we create the problems in the first place through our worldviews and depth, unquestioned assumptions. It is concerned with how we create meaning in a social context, and with what we consider important; there is re-questioning of what constitutes social life, often questioning taken-for-granted notions such as "growth is good", and the treating of nature merely as a resource to be exploited. There is as yet relatively little work done at this level of depth, although this is now changing”.The “what we consider important” is a phrasing suggestive of a value system oriented to optimizing human potential.





PREDICTION
As designers of the future, we(all humans) are responsible for shaping our future results and outcomes based on choices made in the current moment. Climate change, disease, starvation, inequality and other less desirable states of the human condition are arguably results of decisions we make as a species given information that was available at the time. Just as the benefits reaped, we inhabit the resulting environment that our evolutionary prowess and naivete’ has afforded us given prior choices. We have “buttered our own bed, now we sleep in it” to paraphrase Jimmy Cricket, a favorite characterization of the metaphor for the power of conscience in sound decision making. When considering the future benefits and consequences of our current actions, we must process incoming information in a real-time feedback loop of prior knowledge + new information to estimate a resulting likelihood of a cognitive decision and/or course of action.

Developments in cognitive psychology and neuroscience strongly suggest the importance of factoring “priors” or knowledge, into our cognitive algorithms. These priors are generative as they are results from the previous experience and contain an inherent and predictive value. One such class of algorithms is the Naive Bayesian. In probability theory and statistics, Bayes' theorem (alternatively Bayes' law or Bayes' rule) describes the probability of outcome, based on conditions that are known as related to the event. This predictive coding framework serves as a progressive and incursive learning algorithm for application in many fields including text classification, medical diagnostics, financial risk assessments, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Additionally, it is theorized that this hierarchical system functions bi-directionally through sensory inputs, (which are considered prediction error generators) and a resulting action or output. This process is repeated again, continuously as it learns through time to improve upon itself given new knowledge input. It is herein that I suggest a trajectory is determined by the setting of intention towards the most desirable or undesirable potential given knowledge available at the time.

“As strange as it sounds, when your own behaviour is involved, your predictions not only precede sensation, they determine sensation. Thinking of going to the next pattern in a sequence causes a cascading prediction of what you should experience next. As the cascading prediction unfolds, it generates the motor commands necessary to fulfil the prediction. Thinking, predicting, and doing are all part of the same unfolding of sequences moving down the cortical hierarchy. (Hawkins & Blakeslee 2004, p. 158)”.

These algorithms are also utilized in machine learning and artificial intelligence so as to assimilate the cognitive function of human beings and their ability to process new, incoming information into probability functions and determine the best course of action or decision given the intended fulfillment of a potential.

Applying speculative design theories would suggest that we are "not predicting but using design to open up all sorts of possibilities that can be discussed, debated and used to collectively define a preferable future for a given group of people.” (Dunne, Raby, 2013) I believe this to be an example of designers aligning with the desire to direct altruistic intentions with a preferable outcome for their work and acceptance of the importance of clear intentions in shaping this likelihood.

SOCIO-ECONOMICS
Curiously, my research and searches for Nick Ostrum and his insight into computer simulated realities, I accidentally read into the socio-economic works of Elanor Ostrum, a political theorist and economic policy analyst of Nobel Prize winning work. Without initial realization of this erroneous name swapping, I proceeded to intake an education on distributed resource management as alternative to empirical regulation of shared interests, titled:
Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems. Curiously, the research applied into the fold of considering futures for technologically distributed resource management in my mind as her primary examples were extracted from the failures of empirical systems to effectively manage the limited water resources available to Californians and the test cases developed to prove the efficacy of self regulating micro-groups of shared interest.

The application of empirical studies to the policy world leads one to stress the importance of fitting institutional rules to a specific social-ecological setting. "One size fits all" policies are not effective. Ostrum’s research pursues a sort of humanistic socio-evolutionary study while balancing the modeled/chaos disparity. Utilizing game theory models and leveraging qualitative, experientially oriented insight, Ostrum appears to have many lessons to be considered with respect to the evolving landscape of technology as it relates to human evolution and it’s socio-political implications, now and in the near future.

An appreciation for judgement independent, yet observational reporting underlies the work of E. Ostrum. Utilizing theoretically modeled systems by which to hypothesize and test upon, is not only algorithmic in design but also serves as a test bed or mudbox for knowledge acquisition efficiencies while maintaining a human interest.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 7.58.36 AM.png
“Leibbrandt, Uri Gneezy, and John List (2010) show that individuals who regularly work in teams are more likely to adopt norms and trust each other more than individuals working alone.” This is an important finding and a considerable theme from the targeted eye of human potential interest, peering into Ostrum’s work. The self regulating mechanisms inherent in localized, municipal and even capitalist oriented resource management suggests a model by which to consider for an evolved value system. To suggest that all resources can be managed in a self organized fashion is, I believe a fallacy, given historic, observational experience. It would seem that a certain economy of scale is appropriate in this context. However, most importantly as related to “potential outcomes”,

As Paolo Virno puts it, to really understand biopolitics we should begin from the potentiality of our living bodies and from labour power itself: biopolitical structures come later as an apparatus of capture of this potentiality.

ALGORITHM
Simplification of complex systems are what algorithms do remarkably well. Through deductive logic, algorithms descend through a hierarchy of input to output modulation in order to make probabilistic determinisms. It is this detached nature we have with information related to our experience that serves as a catalyst for identifying computationalism as mystifying, worship worthy or beyond our ability to fully comprehend. The intrinsic nature of human involvement and potential grounds the notion of technology being beyond our capacities and realigns our expectations to formulated intentions of thought and action. Techne is then enabled to aide the human condition as a tool targeted towards a desirable potential.

Algorithmic processes are tools for imagination, not imagination itself. By simplifying, quantizing and structuring data/information into useful or maleable potentials for the imagination to “play” with, we express our evolutionary status, driving a stake into time and affording us a reflection point in which to evolve from.

Assigning humanistic values to techne’ such as imagination, is to suggest that information has character in and of iteself, independent of homosapiens. It is this independent relationship suggestion that is of great concern. Assigning humanistic characterizations to technology should be identified with our desire to better understand and represent ourselves while enabling us to reach new levels of potential and evolve preferably as a species. Whether we embody our technology, it embodies us, or a combination thereof, we continue to define, refine and express our experiences of reaching our greatest human potential.

Within Xenophon Memorabilia , Socrates was said to have sent “cautions that no one can know all things; so a person is wise to the extent that he knows” (IV.vi.7). Knowledge, then, can be accumulated. Since knowledge is divided into various skills, such as managing an estate and generalship, and their subdivisions, the wise man would appear to be someone who acquires as much of this kind of knowledge as possible.

If information were indeed power, the most powerful opportunity may reside within the ubiquitous information system: The Internet. Information alone is of limited value to humanity, however. The desired potential within the density of this information is where treasures await. Computational data mining and the exploration of knowledge are therefore tools of human evolution and fulfillment of human potential.

With enormous importance placed on storage and retrieval of information, it is important to acknowledge that Information alone is not yet knowledge until the human experience is applied and the creative cognitive process associates a conscious behaviour. Inference, association, contextual correlates, curiosity and application identification are a few examples of the remaining high­ demand creative tasks for humans in the techne’, episteme’ relationship. In effect, we become the architects of our most desirable potential outcome, regardless of the tools or mechanisms by which we employ, embody or develop to deliver us to this safest harbor.

TRANSHUMANISM
The theory and practice of combining human biologic systems and electron based computational systems aka transhumanism, are examples of culturally demonstrable acceptances and desire to achieve a new human potential.

Arguably, countless careers, lives and physical as well as intellectual resources have already been dedicated to knowledge, exploration, discovery and design of a fully functional, cognitive and mechanistic simulation of the human experience. This efforted and concentrated, if not persistent desire appears accelerated today, however this may simply be an artifact of recently vested integration into academia. Regardless, the academic climate is pouring with knowledge related to the topic from the humanities and arts to engineering, robotics, philosophy and psychology. This trend is a curious pattern to the cautious observer and critical creative scientist. As a cautious optimist, a preferred stance within this space is to accept and support the will of the humans. This seemingly constitutional position of acceptance is guided by a principle of accepting the evolutionary nature of the human experience and the will to overcome suffering. A compassion based alliance if you will. More importantly, however is the resistance to insist upon transhumanism, rather accept that which may come. Participation in a seemingly evolutionary process grounded in improving the human condition seems to be a fulfilment of my own personal model of potential.

Computational neuroscience intends to create a working computer simulated experience of consciousness and sense based input/output systems so as to simulate a conscious experience. The question of whether humans will have a completely accurate simulation of human consciousness is argued as “not if, but when” according to Daniel Dennett, Philosopher and Professor of Cognitive Science at Tufts University

Yuval Noah Harari, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has even gone so far as to proclaim that humans 'will become God-like cyborgs within 200 years’.

Stated quite clearly, the transhumanist view is guided by an evolving vision to take a more proactive approach to technology policy “This affirmation of human potential is offered as an alternative to customary injunctions against playing God, messing with nature, tampering with our human essence, or displaying punishable hubris.” (Bostrom, 2003).

CONCLUSION
The ambiguity of intentions; the siren. The proposal; to adopt a model to optimize human potential. The intention; to “improve the human condition”.

REFERENCES
Bostrom, N. (2003). Are we living in a computer simulation? The Philosophical Quarterly, 53(211), 243-255. doi:10.1111/1467-9213.00309

Clark, A. (2013). Whatever next? Predictive brains, situated agents, and the future of cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 181–253.

DiSalvo, C. (2012). FCJ-142 spectacles and tropes: Speculative design and contemporary food cultures. Fibreculture Journal, (20), 109-122.

Dunne, Anthony;Raby, Fiona. (2013). Speculative Everything. The MIT Press.

Gneezy, U., List, J. A., & Leibbrandt, A. (2013). Rise and fall of competitiveness in individualistic and collectivistic societies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(23), 9305-9308. doi:10.1073/pnas.1300431110

Hawkins, J., & Blakeslee, S. (2004). On intelligence (1st ed.). New York: Times Books.

John Locke - Major works, Theory of knowledge - Mean Example, Ideas, and Mind - JRank Articles http://psychology.jrank.org/pages/386/John-Locke.html#ixzz3stItvq6a

Voros, Joseph. (2003). A generic foresight process framework. Foresight, 5(3), 10-21.

Elinore Ostrum. (2009). Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems. Nobel Prize Lecture.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Aesthetic, Art and Augmented Cognition




Art is as we desire to be, not be and all between. Sure, digital art is valid as cubism, dadaism, minimalism or any other kind of ism "is". Warhol demonstrated that repetition, duplication and industrialization makes "acceptable" art, if it's time has come. My outlook on art is to never reject, but relentlessly ridicule. It's all garbage if it does not express my own exact cultural experience while making me believe I am creating the art myself as much as observing it. Humans wish to be seen, heard and most of all, understood. The question is "does computationalism demand to be seen, heard and understood?" As projections of tools for expressing the human experience, I would suggest they inherently do. So much as humans wish to extrapolate the essence from conscious experience, so will computational systems from a mirrored, virtual reflection of the human experience.

A new avant-garde emergence is always true. Generationalism is inherent in the human experience and always seeks to permeate. Do we envision a reflection of our best traits, habits and patterns, are we attempting to represent our best selves or are we simply attempting to create between the folds of failure and error, to glean a new perfected, ascended state? These are thoughts keeping me awake and aware of algorithmically augmented cognition.

Nathaniel Greene
October 14, 2015

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Imaginology Mission: Improve the Human Condition



My whole life I have been an Imaginologist, an artist and engineer. I believe in the power of art and technology to improve the human condition.

I also like to play and although I have spent decades producing educational media for the medical field, I have always found it important to have a creative outlet. More recently however, I have found that my interest in producing has less to do with entertainment or income and more to do with directly effecting peoples lives in a positive way. I am realigning my course to this cause.

In the last several years, I have worked with some talented artists and engineers who have collaborated to push the limits of creative technology. We have won awards and advanced performance art and puppetry. These advancements have been kept low-key as we continue to develop and refine as well as define new applications for these discoveries.

We must be responsible with our choices regarding technology applications. Technology isn't just fun and games. Most people consume media using technology, but the creative opportunities are far greater. We must remain engaged and productive in some capacity.

I believe we can all see the negative effects and possible outcomes of harnessing certain technologies. Back and neck pain, eyesight loss and attention deprivation and social withdrawal to name but a few.

As a visionary, I have dreams of human transcendence and sometimes Orwellian nightmares. Yet I am eternally optimistic that computing is just part of natural human evolution. Bio computing, neural mapping, robotics, experiential and virtual computing are seemingly converging towards a unified field. Interdisciplinary studies will continue to thrive and solutions based thinking is becoming our greatest asset.

We have many problems to solve and the potential to network humans to accomplish great things in this generation. We simply need leadership, prioritization and resource distribution to elevate our consciousness to our higher purpose. To evolve...

I have heard many technologists and insightful minds repeat the mantra - these are very interesting times!

Well, these ARE very interesting times indeed!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Creative Collaboration in a Supportive Community - Arcosanti



I generally embrace the unknown, but have found myself less embracing of the unknown in business as customers and products/services take root. However, the opportunity presented itself to bring Italian theater and opera into modern relevance in the 21st century for a fundraising dinner and show at Arcosanti, an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community and environmental accountability. Albeit more of a creative outlet than work, I still found this creative process to stretch my boundaries and challenge me to new limits.


Arcosanti has always been known to Arizona residents as a "turn off the highway up north" or as a "community of artists and architects who make brass bells and live together". I have always known it as a place I would like to visit sometime to see a performing arts show, and here I am given the opportunity to perform! What a blessing!

The Arcosanti website defines it as: "an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community and environmental accountability. Now I know it as a "laboratory for improving the human condition".

Designed by Paolo Soleri(1919-2013) and constructed by some 7,000 volunteers since 1970, Arcosanti is a living, breathing experiment in humans living, working, creating and playing in harmony with nature and one another (termed Arcology). Currently some 70-100 people reside on the property that has only been developed to 2% of it's overall vision.


The request to participate came quite unexpectedly from Dr. Lynne Haessler http://www.lhpiano.com/, a collaborative artist with mastery level skills in classical piano. The request was simple enough, work as visual artist in collaboration with her and Sopranist, Jayne Casselman as well as a few guest musicians and choir to display visual elements that would bring classical piano and opera into modern relevance. A few meetings, an Arcosanti visit or two and a couple weeks of pre-production led to a plan for slow moving, textures and elements to enhance the music presentation without distracting or "upstaging" the performers while still enhancing the stage presentation.


On-site residence at Arcosanti
What an amazing place with truly amazing people! I immediately felt welcome by the staff and residents and stayed just 4 nights compared to others who stayed 5 or more nights. Most of the performances and events that take place at Arcosanti involve a residency of some sort. Staying in the dorms (or if you are the star performer - the Sky Suite). Given that the property is an experiment in environmental accountability, the living quarters are basic and elemental, without air conditioning which in the dead heat of the summer would be an issue for most tourists wanting to duff around and watch TV(which is not available). This was not an issue however, given the opportunity to meet so many interesting people, students and artists. I found myself engaging in complex conversations and of course spending much time preparing for the performance and at times, simply breathing deeply and appreciating the surrounding beauty.


Creatively, Arcosanti is a retreat like experience with a sense of direct integration with the elements. I slept by open windows, staring at the stars at night and seeing the clouds and canyon walls as soon as I awoke. Sunrises and sunsets were appreciated like a news headline around the breakfast and dinner tables. This helped to make any performance anxiety or creative differences melt away in the process of preparation.


Collaboration as a learning experience
Working together with artists you have just met is a challenge and a blessing. You don't know people's hot buttons, control points or creative capacity. This made for interesting dynamics that molded and shaped the production throughout the week. Having produced video sequences in advance, meant that I had to remain flexible in acceptance, rejection or the desire to change my contributions according to the changes of the program. Fortunately, I had both the technology available as well as the right attitude to adapt. That isn't to say I didn't have a hard time accepting the rejection of one of my favorite pieces.


Improvisation as a method
Ultimately the "lab" environment at Arcosanti makes for a great place to experiment with new forms, methods or material. I felt very free to take risks and expand my creative capacity. I also felt free to fail, which helped aide me in my process. My attempt at live projection mapping on Lynn failed during tech rehearsal. I was confident in my attempt to pull the sequence from the show with the knowledge that I had the "space" to attempt it in the first place and was given the amazing opportunity to learn.

As is often the case with great artistic endeavors, some of the best moments were by accident. After several days of worry and uncertainty as to what my 2 improv segments were going to look like, they culminated into two wonderful sequences that I will hold in my heart forever. One being a puppetry sequence with masks peering over and around one another during an improvised percussion performance by Owen Davis. The other segment being a live graphic paint sequence with Lynn Haesseler - piano and Owen Davis - percussion improvising off of one another.

It was Owen that taught me the ability to prepare for your improvisation. Funny how this always seemed counterintuitive to me. Improvisation by its definition seems to imply that the process and result is completely foreign to you. However, in the context of a live performance with audience, I can now see where a little preparation goes a long way. Developing a framework in which to "play in" is still liberating while establishing a method for bridging between the known to the unknown and back again without nosediving.


The Future
We all returned to the city and our routines and found ourselves overflowing with creativity. Our buckets were full and we were ready to throw paint! Lynne and I immediately returned to Arcosanti for more photography and I have returned yet again to gather some video footage for a short "Arsocanti as Instrument" video. The ultimate realization in the experience was that Arcosanti is in great need of help! Their leadership and staff is very strong, but their resources and local community is small and possibly easily forgotten once visitors return back to the city. So naturally, we headed back up and provided a day of volunteer service to assist in building a database of supporters.



I encourage you to take an afternoon, visit Arcosanti in the morning, take a tour and attempt to get your head around what society could look like if we put more thought into our resources before building or sprawling further. Although the big picture might be a lot to take in, you will certainly get a glimpse of a beautiful option. I am so thankful to have experienced what creativity would look like!

Thank you Arcosanti, Jeff Stein, Kate and Travis, Lynne Haesseler, Jane Casselman, Scott Pfister, Owen Davis and Chris Ewbank and of course Paolo Soleri!



Monday, December 12, 2011

Performance Animation with the Pioneers

When you think of the term "perfromance animation" you probably think of images of Gollum in Lord of the Rings, hunched over and creepily repeating "my precious". Or if you're like me and enjoy all of the behind the scenes, making-of content that fulfills my rock-n-roll, film maker fantasy, you are familiar with images of Andy Serkis hunched over and embodying every bit as much of Gollum as resulted in the film.

Photo by New Line Productions

Either way, most people are familiar with the concept  of people performing in blue or green screen rooms with motion capture "balls", velcro attached to spandex jumpsuits as computers analyze and record location information.

However, with the recent gaming industry boom and resulting hardware and software developments, some basic motion capture technology has fallen into the consumers living room, likely without them even realizing it. Enter the Microsoft Kinect Camera. No longer do you need to dress like you are riding in the Tour de France to capture motion data or even perform live animation. Granted, the professional solutions in the industry are still top notch and by no means does the Kinect camera replace these technologies, rather offers a peice of it to the general public.

Naturally there's a world full of engineers, tinkerers and dreamers who will tap into available technology and tools to create brilliant experiences. Many people are plugging the Kinect camera into computers and writing code to use this technology for fun, educational, experimental, medical and many other applications. Our interest was to determine if performance animation is ready for live streaming and new business opportunities.

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting a seasoned professional in the field of real-time, interactive animation - Gary Jesch of CHOPS & Associates. A referral from our LinkedIn network of media professionals (Freelance Audio Visual Technicians), it was suggested that I look into his business after discussing real time animation with a video engineer.

Turns out, Gary is one of the pioneers of live, performance animation. Creating virtual characters and performance animation solutions for numerous industries and clients for nearly twenty years. Although his most prominent character is his "CHOPS(Cyber Human On a Performance System)" character, among his dozens of various characters, his true character is himself. He was immediately open and easy to communicate with. You could certainly sense that Gary had a great "ear" for people. His live performances and interactions with people over the years has certainly created a polished experience and you can tell he truly enjoys his work.



His offer to participate in a networking luncheon we were having the following week was a no-brainer. We had planned an Imaginology open house to demonstrate live character animation streaming and CHOPS (http://www.chops.com/) was a perfect fit. His performance animation plugs directly into teleconferencing software to allow him to interact in real-time on your desktop or laptop computer. The best part may simply be that the system just worked. No crashes, no delays, no issues. This truly helps make the experience immersive. You are simply conversing with an animated character. I suppose this is the best form of technology. The technology that you don't even notice as technology, but rather as technology that just works and stays out of the way.

We set him up to engage people at the door as they came in and he stopped almost everyone in their tracks. His characters entertained, inspired dozens of questions and kept everyone on the edge of their tongue as they watched the characters in awe and wonder. This is where Gary truly shines, as he keeps the momentum and engages everyone in the room, simply continuing the conversation and interest. I can see where this technology has tons of potential for business. Not only do you get great value in attention and retention of your brand, but the animation can be recorded to create character animation sequences for other materials as needed (think live animation production services).

It was a true pleasure to see a professional performance animation artist at work. I now look forward to my next experience with performance animation on either side of the camera.

Overall, performance animation seems to be ready for the business world, as well as the consumer. The question remains: is the consumer more ready than the business world?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Live iPad Streaming


Imaginology announces it's latest addition to it's streaming media solutions: LIVE iPad streaming! Now your event, conference or message can be communicated to your audience in real time on the device of choice for today's progressive business environment, the iPad and/or iPhone. Not to worry however, we offer delivery to the desktop, laptops and other mobile devices all in the same configuration.

If your organization is looking for exciting new ways to communicate to your sales and marketing teams, contact us now for a no cost consultation.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Use of the iPad in the Medical Marketplace - A Practical Perspective

Since the release of the iPad, the medical community has taken notice of the importance of transmitting medical education and information across simplified devices.  Brands have come a long way since creating video loops for the patient waiting room, where ultimately the waiting patient simply wants to watch the local news programming or talk show anyhow.

We are now in the age of instant information access. Patients come into the exam room more informed than ever and there is often a large gap between the patient and qualified, clinically sound educational materials. Further widening this gap is the medical professional's inability to adopt this new technology in the care process. It's the wild west out there. Just as in the early days of website development, everyone now wants a custom iPad app. But no one really knows how it works or what to ask for. 

Take, for example, a typical interactive timeline: likely, a brand started 10 or more years ago by relying on the physician-patient interaction, in the office, with branded patient education materials designed to raise the positives about its proprietary device or drug. Sometimes, these even got a bit fancy: slide rules or die-cut, rotating discs! Next came patient videos, online data capture and  DVDs. We thought we were really something when we advanced to standing kiosks, audio and video podcasting.

But the iPad brings an entirely new dimension. Aside from the obvious "wow!" factor, it may in fact actually increase a patient's comprehension of a complex concept or procedure. It's portable, eco-friendly (or at least, not paper!) and sustainable. The marketing and education can live on beyond the clinical setting; it's outdoor advertising, interactive, and physician and patient education all-in-one. At least for now, it's memorable. The visual display is impressive to most and visible to those with less than optimal vision. And iPad uptake among healthcare professionals, medical and surgical brands and consumers is steady and growing. Simply predicting the continued use of the iPad in healthcare is underestimation at its core; we have yet to see the myriad ways marketers and designers will enlist this particular form of interactivity to drive awareness, action and sales.