In Terms of this Term
This Term has been quite intensive with lots of work and testing my capability to manage my time in order to deliver on my outcomes. Now that the term is coming to an end, I would like to collate my learnings into one single capsule. I will go by the months and how it was with me, then go into the different modules.
I have always been someone to document what I learn through a medium that is accessible to me at that moment of learning. This term, I found myself typing more that taking pen and paper notes, as opposed to last term. As you read along this, you will find my notes scattered throughout and I have tried to crystallise those notes and put it into this…. umm…. you can call it a package of sorts. 👾
At the start of the term, I was introduced to the multiple projects that I will be undertaking and it set the pace for what I will be doing this term. It was refreshing for me personally as I was ready to get thrown into a frenzy and keep myself occupied with work and hone my skills. First project we got into was the assembly and amplification project, the main project for our term, where we had to work with communities to get their stories(assembly) and amplify their voices. I was confused with the brief in the very beginning but as the weeks passed by, I started getting to know what the brief was in much more clarity, due to my tutors and my peers.
I had also joined my elective for the term “Technoethics and AI” as part of the SoC wide electives and started my class with reading from Asma Abbas. It was quite a heavy reading and we had quite a lot of intellectual conversations based on the same.
Parallely, I started to develop ideas for my CHS dissertation and took gaming as my root topic. I decided to explore on the engagement aspect of gaming and looked at it in a more artistic way.
The second month was more chaotic and I was right in the middle of all the projects that we had going. I had been selected for a workshop to learn the software Unreal Engine to create a public facing outcome by the end of June. The workshop was for 6 weeks were every Monday, we would meet at the RCA South Ken campus and have sessions on different aspect of the software. I was also on the side, developing the project that I would like to propose for the public facing outcome.
The assembly and amplification project was going at a steady pace of discovery and rediscovery where we were constantly coming back to the brief as a group and trying to figure out the nuances of the same. We had established contact with the community that we were working with and was on the track of building something up that would end up being quite useful.
With extremely heavy, thought provoking and intellectual readings for the elective, thursdays were quite intense and loved these sessions for it created a perspective into things that I was doing. Towards the end of February, I started working on my individual map that was part of the final assessment but also for personal reasons, as I have alwasys loved mapping things as I learnt them.
Then came March, and things were about to get into a grove and on the way to completion. With some of our works on the edge of completion, I also divided up my time to do work for the IRCAM project, to be showcased at Paris, France. Even though I did not end up going, it was really good to sort of rack my brains and refresh my knowledge in Arduino and also as a way to keep my Blender practice more on point. It was a good break from the other works and enjoyed the distraction.
I started to develop concepts for my project with the Unreal Engine workshop, creating and testing out sample worlds in Blender and Adobe Aero. Building my concept first into a visualisation and then trying to figure out the interaction part of it was quite difficult to begin with as the concept itself was simple, but the logic was a bit hard to wrap around.
The assembly and amplification project started to take a proper form with it starting to look like a package that we can hand over. The final forms of the project started taking shape with prototypes and other materials of the project coming along. Mostly working within my comfort zone to support my team, it was quite pretty quick and effective production line, since everyone took in what they were good at and made the execution that much more faster.
The elective assessments were done and I made an augmented reality map with my references and created an AR installation for my final submission. I learnt quite a lot from the elective in a lot of things, with something basic as how to read and how to look and understand academic texts.
I have also started to solidify my topic for CHS and at the first draft of my portfolio for CHS. I am yet to finish some of the aspects that I require for the proposal and yet to connect a few of my thoughts, but once I am done with the first draft of the portfolio, I will be able to see it all in one place and sort of draw the connections.
🧩 Going over each projects of my term, it was very interesting to see how it all stacked up in my development over the past term and what all I picked up in terms of skills and other things. I shall go over project wise to give an idea of how I tackled each of these projects.
Unreal Engine 🌻
During the course, each week we focused on an aspect of the software and the part that I enjoyed the most was world building and cinematics. This will be the aspect that I will be taking forward in my public facing project.
My project idea is to create an interactive music video where the duration of the song depends on the listener. There will be a base time upon which the song reacts to how the listener interacts with the music, and accordingly creates a unique experience, with varying durations. I am yet to figure out the interaction aspect of the experience and I will be taking this spring break to figure out how to go about this inside Unreal Engine. I have already decided upon the type of outcome to be an exhibition with the scope of it being outside of an exhibition identified. I have not yet figured out how it will work outside of a controlled system like an exhibition and I will not explore into that at the moment.
For creating the assets in the game, I have used Blender, Quixel megascans assets and I am planning to go out and create 3D scanned assets of my own for the final video.
IRCAM: Listening to the Gems 🌺
For the IRCAM project, I mainly explored and tried to re-learn my basics about arduino and how to use the microcontroller. I was successful in creating a functioning prototype with help from my groupmates and John Wild, one of our inhouse tutors, and my other contribution to the project was to create a 3D model prototype and test out what we were trying to make in a virtual setup. What we were aiming for was to create an interactive installation where there are two planes intersecting each other, with a QR code cutout. The shadows are different from different sides and that creates two scannable QR code shadows onto the surface. When you scan these codes, you get directed to a website where a story is waiting to be heard. On the installation, there is an arduino nano with many open pins and a jumper wire cable. As and when you connect each jumper wire to a pin, there will be a different sound, the lesser known sounds of London.
The project was a huge technical challenge on all aspects, starting from visualising to fabrication and testing. Along the way, we had to make a lot of compromises to reach an outcome which stayed close to the initial idea and we were able to pool in our expertises into the project and create our first working prototype.
For my dissertation, I decided to look at the art of engagement in games and in the beginning, I had looked at multiple aspects of game design in general and went to broad with the idea. Further down writing the proposal and discussing with my CHS tutor, I decided to narrow it down to Florence and the ecosystem of feelings that this game has to offer.
I have always been passionate about games as a space for interaction and experiences and thought of games as a space that offers enormous versatility. It was amazing to me how simple Florence was and how it kept the player engaged and entertained throughout the duration of the game. It is one of my most favourite games that I have played and is one of my go-to examples of how a gamification can enhance a narrative and it is not always about the goal.
I have played the game multiple times but for the purpose of this dissertation, I started to play the game again and look at the games in a different light. As opposed to how I played it before, I have started to look at it and tried to reason it more to see how it narrates the story.
Techno ethics and AI, my elective 🦋
From sufferings of the mass, to analysing the significance of data in the present day, the elective took over a large number of textual data from different point of views to get talking about the ethics of technology and how it is related to the idea of AI. Over the years, we have heard that AI is going to take over us and how it is going to dictate our free will, with many references of the same across literature, popular media and so on. There even have been some scary news in the recent past that makes these dystopian stories a little closer to reality.
Through these sessions, it enabled me to create a particular standpoint and opinion by myself and to have reasoning for some of the things that I believe in. There were eight sessions in total, looking at wonderful and versatile texts and at the end, I had to make a map of how I connected all these texts and what I got from these. With this understanding, I had to create a proposal for a project that I can do now or in the future or even a speculative one.
I decided to pick up on a project that I started a few years ago, but could not finish it due to particular reasons, but then I picked it up again for this elective to revitalise my idea back then. I revisited my idea and saw that at the base of it, was a sound and structured argument, but what I built on top of it was quite superficial and I decided to focus my attention on that. I look backed at when the seed idea came to me, I realised that it might not have been conveyed properly because of this lack of structure upon the foundation that I built, and that is exactly what I proposed to do.
My idea was to look at development of cities in a much more metaphysical manner and tried to create a modular map that could be altered according to the communities that it represented. The basis of this was that the notion of nations in the future would change to be communities rather than geographical connotations on a map. I took Sustainable Development Goals or the SDGs to explain this, particularly looking at SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities. I suggested a new layer of goals over the existing ones that in the future, we will have to look at a more metaphysical aspect rather than looking at a more materialistic developmental goal. To achieve that metaphysical development, technology becomes an integral part to connect humans and weave communities out of them, and to make geographical positioning of nations irrelevant.
In the past, geographical relevance was related to the food that they grew or the kind of resources that they had and ultimately led to their proximity to clean and usable water. The dynamics of this evolved in the past and created powerful nations in the world depending on who controlled what. In the recent times, there is a shift in this tendency and a new super resource has been identified — Data. Data has very little geographical relevance but going forwards in this future, when data gets decentralised, it will lose even more of its geographical significance. Thus, data becomes a tool in this modern world of metaphysical development.
So far, I have tried to establish that data is a tool that is enabled by technology to create a metaphysical development possible, to transcend the individual and society into communities bound by the intangible rather than the tangible. In this relation, we as a community will still need to have an order which is created by the intervention of politics as a practice. Restructuring and starting from the base of what politics means is essential to create the new wave of metaphysical politics, providing that identity to communities.
Martin Heidegger said that with modern technology, it needs to have a set framework otherwise it will start to crumble from within. The danger lies in the chaos that is created by structureless technology. James Scott said that planned social order is nothing but just a schematic and it is far from how it works out realistically. In fact, if we try to follow the schematic exactly, it will crumble and thus act counterintuitively. When you look at these two statements by Heidegger and Scott, we see it to be acting as opposing arguments for my proposed idea of meta-politics but in fact that is the dialectics of the idea. While we need to have a structure for using modern technology, we also need to keep the usage and position of this framework within the system quite fluid and modular, thus making the map go beyond from being just a schematic. In several ways this map that I tried to create is a three dimensional idea and I could not quite crack it within the time frame I had but I tried to create a simplified version of the same to the best of my capabilities. With the explanations above, the map that I made might appear more sensible than without any context.
and of-course, my notes.
Assembly and Amplification: The ACE Project 🐸
The main project for my course was quite intense and since we had to work with a community, a lot of things were not in our control. There was a lot of waiting around and trying to get details from other people, and then being more confused about the whole thing and having doubts about the brief till the very last day.
The project evolved multiple times throughout and in its final version, it is a package that we developed for the ACE program by Catch22 for helping recalled prisoners stay on probation. Our group created an instagram template, an animation and an AR prototype to spread awareness about the program in a workshop scenario. After lot of ideations and brainstorming, we created a frog mascot to represent ACE. We also created the mascot to tie the entire project up and create a narrative that binds all.
In the project I was actively involved in trying to help set up the project base and looking at ways on how to contribute heavily to the project. I have mainly helped in sculpting and modelling the frog, creating the AR environment and setting up the prototype for the app, and also generally taking notes of our team meets because that is usually something that I do. The project was fun to work on in the way that I got to do what fell under my expertise and that was true for most of us as, and that made us work quite fast.
Being as huge as this project is, there were many twists and turns in this. There were a lot of outcomes that did not come about but also certain things that worked really well. I will attach my notes along for this one as well.
This term has been quite hectic and I know that seems to be quite repetitive at this point but it should not be mistaken for me not liking it, because I absolutely loved it. It was engaging and pushed me personally for many things that I would not have done. Looking critically, there were things that I could have done better in terms of the projects that I undertook but I take it as the learnings from this project and can always do this for my next project. I feel that I have grown quite in different ways throughout the term and that does make me quite happy. I am excited.