From the perspective of an all-knowing, all-seeing machine, how would human be seen?
A surveilling installation that confronts the audience with the panopticon of digital age
Made in collaboration with Barak Chamo
In the age of mass surveillance and commoditized information, we are all, willingly or not, constantly watched. Our devices, online presence, transaction history and even physical presence have become an asset for social network, world governments and corporations to own - we live in a digital panopticon devoid of consent and, in many cases, even awareness. As in Bentham’s architecture, the watchman’s all-seeing eye keeps us from misstepping and policing ourselves.
Through Panopticon, we've created an experience of being both the "observed" and the "observer". It is a critique and a wakeup call to the alarming prevalence of mass surveillance all around us, to how tracking and surveillance devices have become largely invisible to us and to how insensitive we have become toward privacy invasion.
Inspired by the system of control of the same name, we created the project “Panopticon”, an interactive media sculpture that breaks the illusion of privacy and control of our digital identity and physical presence. Multiple camera rigs monitor users throughout the exhibition space, tracking and capturing faces, and collecting the facial data to be projected on a semi-torus sculpture.
Documentation Video, Panopticon, 2018
The Observer and The Observed, artist talk with Barak Chamo in Currents New Media Festival, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2019
“Domestic Daikon”, which means “domestic-grown white radish” in Japanese, is a light installation made of ready-made: Using traffic cones as the base, the installation was filled with LED light tubes and food trash: empty drinking bottles, food packing boxes and plastic bags. All the ready-made materials were hung with fishing lines, all together constituting the look of ice-cream cones.
Trashed, dirty ready-mades together compose a sweet, shining and dreamy figure, “Domestic Daikon” gets its inspiration from a contradiction I’ve observed during my two-week residency in Yokohama, Japan: From the one side, streets in Japan, even with so few public trash cans, are impressively clean. There are very strict rules for trash sorting, disposal and recycle. Littering could receive heavy punishment including five years in jail, or fine up to 100 thousand USD. But from the other side, we realize there is no such thing as plastic bag usage charge. And foods in Japan are usually over-packing: 3-4 plastic bags could be handed out to customers every time you shop in convenience shops like Family Marts or 7-11. During the residency we rely heavily on convenience shops to buy foods and drinks. After one and half week, even we had been frequently taking out trash, we were left with huge amount of empty bottles, food packing papers, and so forth. To commenting on this situation, we took use of the trash and created three giant “ice-creams” using these trashes.
Inspired by the music video Musical Fiction, a song about the song writing process, I created this Ren’py game called A Heart-broken Boy.
I basically follow the plot in the song when designing this dialogue-driven game: a lonely boy named Robert was heart-broken in a little bar because his girlfriend just broke up with him. What did he drink? Where did he go? And who did he encounter?
See the play-through below:
With Inform 7 I created this game named “How Cinderella become the mysterious princess”, a game that adapts the scenario of which Cinderella’s godmother asked her to get several things: a pumpkin from the garden, six mice and a fat rat from the mousetrap from the kitchen , and uses her magic wand, by a simple tap, to transform these items into a fancy coach, six horses and a coachman.
Source code could be found here.
But figuring out the logics of Inform 7 was very challenging. I have the plot now pauses at where Cinderella’s godmother has collected the elements she needs and give Cinderella a luxurious set of transportation tools and servants.
How Cinderella become the mysterious princess
An Interactive Fiction by Tong Wu
Release 1 / Serial number 180926 / Inform 7 build 6M62 (I6/v6.33 lib 6/12N) SD
You are now in this spatial room. Your step-mom and two step-sisters were all dressed up and left you for the prince's party.
When their coach gradually disappeared in your sight, you starts to cry.
Look at yourself, bare feet, a dirty grey dress. How could you go to the ball like this?
Your godmother, who sees you all in tears, who was a fairy, asks you tenderly: "You wish that you could go to the ball; is it not so?"
"Yes," cries you, with a great sigh. "Well, " says godmother, "be but a good girl, and I will contrive that you shall go. Can you check around and bring me a pumpkin?"
In the room there is a door to the south, which lead to the garden. And the kitchen is north of the chamber.
>examine grey dress
A grey dress you've been given three years ago as a gift when you dad married this woman, which later become your servant uniform. It is full of patches since it has been mended many times. But it cannot hide your beautiful appearance.
The garden is full of flowers and fruits. When you are young, your mom and you are always in the garden. She put you on her lap, sang you beautiful nersey rhyme. That's one of your sweetest memory you've always treasured.
A doorway east will give you a short cut to the kitchen. Don't bother going back to chamber to find the kitchen.
You can see a pumpkin patch (in which is pumpkins) here.
>examine pumpkin patch
Take pumpkins, as your godmother said.
In the pumpkin patch is pumpkins.
Bring it to the kitchen to see your godmother.
The kitchen is where you've been staying in for the past few years. Every day you wakes up before everyone in the house, and dedicately prepare breakfast for your families.
You god mother is now here. She is waiting for you to give her pumpkins.
You know every corner Inside the kitchen , including the mousetrap an old servant placed in the northeast corner.
A doorway south will bring you back to the chamber, or you could use the door you just came in that takes you to the west to the garden.
You can see a mousetrap (in which is six mices) here.
You gather the finest pumpkin you could get, and brought it to you godmother, not being able to imagine how this pumpkin could help you go to the ball.
Your godmother scooped out all the inside of it, leaving nothing but the rind. Having done this, she struck the pumpkin with her wand, and it was instantly turned into a fine coach, gilded all over with gold.
There are six mices, all alive.
In the mousetrap is six mices.
You so damn brave, girl. Your godmother gives each mouse, as it went out, a little tap with her wand, and the mouse is that moment turned into a fine horse, which altogether make a very fine set of six horses of a beautiful mouse colored dapple gray.
Being at a loss for a coachman, You said, "I will check the rat trap in the yard and see if there is not a rat that we can turn into a coachman." "You are right," replied her godmother, "Go and look using the door to the west."
This is the exit of the house with beautiful lawn and a huge fountain.
You can see a rat trap (in which is three rats) here.
>examine rat trap
There are three huge rats inside the rat trap.
They just keep moving and screaming, make it hard to cath. But you manage to pick the one with the largest beard..
The fairy choose the one which had the largest beard, touches him with her wand, and turned him into a fat, jolly coachman, who had the smartest whiskers that eyes ever beheld.
Based on the readings, the male-gazed tendency of android/smart helper design actually fulfills the male fantasies on females. We seem to be a long way from the sensitive and caring robotic lover imagined by proponents of this technology. Would this tendency therefore lead to lower level of tolerance and consideration when it comes to real-human relationship?
Or it will just lead to a new era of human developing relationship or obsession with the androids they make? What could be some possible ethical discussion/dilemma rising from it?
Scan Morphing & Rigging
I used the scan of mine from last week to start morphing and rigging. When setting up the alignment points, I soon realized it’s really important to wear clothes that fits your body. My loose pants no matter makes it difficult to clearly mark each part of my legs, but also makes the final avatar to look bulky.
One of my favorite animations from Mixamo is called “Can can”. The avatar has its arms in a “T” shape and does high knee exercise constantly, which makes it easy to check if I have parts like arm pit and between-legs well scanned. As seen in the gif, the right arm pit part wasn’t well scanned, probably because of the loose blouse I wore.
With the help of Twine, I adapted one of my favorite short stories, “August 25, 1983”, by Argentine short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges, into this interactive story project, “August 25”.
August 25, 1983 was the only Borges short story that uses date as its title. It’s about the meeting of two Borges: Borges of 61-year-old dreamed about that he visited the Hotel Las Delicias, accidentally ran into Borges of 84-year-old and observed his death.
The essence of the story is about “dream”. By repeatedly asking “who is dreaming about whom?” in the story, Borges creates time warp under a linear story structure. He purposely set up narrative traps inside a few suspicious keywords and hides the distorted story lines insides it. You could easily fall into these traps and get lost in his world.
The theme of the double has always been around Borges - in his short stories, non-fiction works or even inside he himself. He always tried to separate the public self from the non-public self and believe they are two people.
Therefore I adapted this short story by having two story lines going together: the 61-year-old “player” visited the Hotel Las Delicias, while the 84-year-old “player” went back to the apartment of Calle Maipé, and they ran into each other. There are several steps where, by choosing different way of answers to the question, you may switch from the 61-year-old to the 84-year-old, or vice versa. And you only notice the role change by figuring out the logics of the on-going conversation.
I did my avatar scanning in the micro studio with Yiyao. I set up three spot lights to provide enough lighting.
I had my first scan as a burst scanning with my hair down. The texture of hair then became bulky and rigid in the final scanning result. Also it leaves terrible distortion on my shoulder part.
The second scanning went much better after I tied my hair up. But my partner started scanning my face from a side angle, which led my face look distorted.
“Tong can be anyone today” is a self portrait project of mine creating with express server and p5.speech library. Every time it listens to the keyword “Who is she” and “What’s her job”, the server will randomly pick and play a 3-second short clip from two videos as the answer to these two questions.
The project is now running on https://tw950.itp.io:7000/index.html
Cautionary Tale for Chinese is a sarcastic tale generated with Tracery that features the terrible end of a Chinese who escaped from his socialistic reality and then ended up being eaten by decadent capitalism.
The tale was adapted from a 1907 children's book written by Hilaire Belloc called Cautionary Tales for Children: Designed for the Admonition of Children between the ages of eight and fourteen years. Besides the tale which I chose for this project, “Jim: Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion,” the book also includes other tales with similar structure and topics: "Henry King: Who chewed bits of string, and was early cut off in Dreadful agonies”, “Matilda: Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death" and “Rebecca: Who slammed doors for fun and Perished miserably”.
The tales for children in this book have such a strong sense of disciplinary power, which keeps reminding me of the invisible surveillance and regulation from the government that I experienced when back in Shanghai this summer.
I keep the original structure of the tale as six paragraphs, and extract the key conflict of this story:
“Jim” escaped from the protection of “nurse”, even though he was treated well and given lots of “good food”.
“Jim” ran into a “lion”, he shouted out “words” to his “nurse”, but it was too late, and the “lion” ate him.
“Jim”’s parents wasn’t too sad about their son’s death, because “Jim” wouldn’t do what he was told.
“Jim” - Here I replaced “Jim” with a collection of “Top 10 common Chinese names”
“nurse” - “Nurse” is a metaphor for something that provides protection/daily need while restricts the free will of Chinese people.
“lion” - “Lion” is the invader as well as the terminator to “Jim”’s life, which I interprets as cultural invasion. So I picked a few stereotypical cultural “invaders” to Chinese culture such as Hollywood movies, idea of LGBT equality, DINK, K-pop.
“good food” - The book The Global Trap gives this 20/80 theory, in which 20 percent of 21st century’s population keeps the economy going, while the rest 80 percent of frustrated citizens “happy with a mixture of deadeningly predictable, lowest common denominator entertainment for the soul and nourishment for the body.” These low cost entertainment is called “titty-tainment”, which is how I interpreted the metaphor of “good food” in this tale.
“words” - With his life threatened, “ Jim” finally realized his protection only comes from obeying his nurse, so he shouted out “help” to his “nurse.” Here I adapted the word “help” with the Core Socialist Value, which is a set of new official interpretations of Chinese propaganda about socialism promoted at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012. Shouting out the “core value” has an explicit meaning of the ultimate surrender to his protector.
Adobe Fuse provides a wide array of options for users to build their 3d models, which are very detailed, intro-to-industrial-level wile intuitive control over the avatar you are making: You could be tuning the tiny details of avatar’s bone structure，facial features and are able to view the adjustment result showing on the model in a real-time, 3d way.
However, a difficulty I encountered when building the 3d model was, even though there are a bunch of available cranium types to choose from, most of them are not modeled based on Asian physical characteristics, nor did the control panel provide enough options to adjust the model’s facial feature to be close to an East Asian face. Also, the hair and cloth options for the model lack of variety and suitability. I could hardly adjust the hairstyle of the model.
I ended up with a 3d model that doesn’t quite accurately represent me. Besides lack of variety and suitability of hair/cloth, the software doesn’t develop its system based on many Asian examples. Asian people, especially east asian people tend to have thinner facial profile, therefore to build an asian-looking avatar you need more detailed tuning in its facial features instead of in its bone structure.
“Face your manga“ (https://www.faceyourmanga.com/editmangatar.php) is an online social application for creating, modifying, collecting and sharing 2d, cartoonish avatars. It gives shape and color options for you to choose from when making avatars, but doesn’t give accessibility to adjust or fine-tune the details of the options.
The highlights of this platform is that it has a variety of options for facial features, providing shapes of eyes, eyebrows and hairstyles that are typical for building an asian looking avatar. Also it provides clothing of different styles which could better express the identity and personality of the avatar.
The avatar I created via “Face your manga”, I feel, express more of “who I am” than the one I built in Fuse. Although Adobe Fuse beats “Face your manga” for no doubt in terms of the lifelikeness, and the flexibility and freedom of creation avatar, besides the similar facial appearance and the flesh, the final model I made in Fuse lacks of context details that in result not making me feel much connected to it.
What kind of detail characteristics the avatar has would strengthen/weaken the psychological bonding between users and the avatars of them?
Parts of our consciousness become virtual and inhabit online, represented by our “avatars”. Could we define our avatars as an external existence of us?
1.Final Presentation"I-Ching Master" is an oracle deck I created, where the querent uses their own sketch instead of flipping coins to get I-Ching hexagon results that tells their fortune or gives suggestion about their concerns.
The demo could be accessed at https://tongwu226.github.io/I-ChingRead/
2. Inspiration & Methodology
I was inspired by two very traditional divination methods originated from east Asia, I-Ching and literomancy.
Traditional I-Ching divination consists of 64 hexagrams, composed of six stacked horizontal lines, where each line is either Yang or Yin decided by throwing three coins together for six times.
Literomancy is a form of fortune telling widely practiced in Chinese-speaking communities, where the querent asks the reader a question or tells a concern, then writes down a Chinese character. The reader tells the fortune or gives prediction on how to solve a question based on analyzing each single part of the character, or by adding strokes to or subtracking strokes from the original character to indicate potential change.
My oracle deck was just a clean, black box mimicing Fu, an important tool which is the symbol of Daoism practice, on which Daoist practitioners draw the incantation and make it function as summons or instructions to deities, spirits. An individual who participates in my divination practice could think about his/her concerns in mind, and then freely draws on the black canvas. The "Erase" button could clear the canvas if the participant is not satisfied with the drawing. Once done, he or she could press the "divination" button, which then generates four hexagram results from I-Ching based on the drawing. And the "read" button would generate content that explains what each hexagram result means, based on the traditional interpretation of I-Ching.
3. The Algorithm Behind
The algorithm behind this prototype is based on calculating the proportion of the pixels actually being painted in four different sections of the canvas, and mapping each of the four outcomes generated by the sketch to 16 hexagon results. Therefore, each drawing could generate four random results from 64 possible hexagon results.