Daily Dividuals

Work Type : #AugmentedReality #Interaction #SocialCriticism #MasterThesis
Developer Tools : Unity/ARKit/Vuforia/ Xcode
Designer tools : Maya/Photoshop/3D Scanning


What am I?Am I a human, a machine, or a product?

How would an all-knowing, all-seeing machine process the concept of "human”? 

Overview:

“Daily Dividuals (2019) ” is a series of avatar-based, Augmented Reality body sculptures of surreal scenes from everyday life in an imaginary future, in which the roles of humans and machines are purposely reversed. It’s created individually by Tong Wu as the thesis project of her master's program in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.

Combining social commentary and satire, this project wants to discuss the alienation of and between individuals and their surrounding environments due to increasing complexity and capability of technology in the age of algorithm.

In this project, through presenting my miniatures as human-object hybrid creatures from an imaginary perspective of machine, I am visualizing my philosophical exploration about the confusing yet dynamic human-machine relationship, given the context when the uses of artificial intelligence, machine learning have re-shaped the ways we perceive machine and perceive ourselves.

I present myself in this project as a series of single-function objects:

  • A USB drive labelled as the #5237 copy of a human sample named TONG, with audience’s coming closer to trigger an unstoppable duplication of TONG’s digital appearance.

  • A spinning fan made of TONG’s avatars

  • A book binder made of a row of Tong’s avatars

  • (Continue working…)


“Daily Dividuals” presented by Tong Wu in ITP Thesis Week 2019, ITP, New York | Video


Academic / Background Research

The term “dividuals” in the project title “Daily Dividuals” was inspired by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. In his 1992 work, Postscript on the societies of Control, Deleuze coined the term “dividual” to explain the mechanism of “control society”: the word “individual” can no longer represent the smallest unit that the society could be reduced to. The evolving modern technology of control has turned individuals into “masses, samples, data, markets, or “banks” (5, 1992). This shift from individual to dividual means we are in a constant orbit of networks that we are unable to opt out of.

Related Readings:
China’s Big AI Advantage: Humans (vice)
Cheap Labor Drives China’s A.I. Ambitions (New York Times)
Inspiring Artworks:
Can you tear for me? by XinLiu
Primitives by Alan Warbuton

The idea of “dividuals” has been reinforced along with the deepen of social division of labor and media fragmentation. When I was doing background research for this project, a few reports about data labeling industry in China have caught my eyes. Many may think the intelligence of machine comes from its own learning ability, but very few would realize that, AI models need to digest tons of labeled videos, tagged pictures or texts to understand something as simple as “what cats and black cats are both cats.” It’s millions of human data labeler that are spending days sitting in front of computers, repetitively completing mind-numbing labeling tasks ordered by AI tech labs. To some extend, just like workers working on assembly lines, data labelers are operating as the disposable components that power the booming of AI industry.


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Design Developing

To reflect on the core concept, bodily alienation in the digital age, I performed a complete objectification of myself, turning my body to into a hyper-flexible avatar model, and used the model to construct imaginary body sculptures.

 

1. Human body avatar processing |

platform: structure sensor, wrap3, Photoshop, Maya

I used hand-held structure sensor to scan myself standing still in T-pose and obtained a rough point cloud and an unprocessed skin texture. Then I used softwares including Photoshop, Wrap3 and Maya to process the original point cloud into a 3d model of me.

2. Design Research

“What makes and object an object? and why we are feeling more objectified in the digital world?”

These are the core design questions I’ve been thinking about when constructing the visuals and interaction of the body sculptures. So I conducted several researches, both online and in life, to gain inspiration about visual and interaction designs for this project.

Design Research

3. Visual Design | Platform: Maya, KeyShot

 
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4. Interaction Design | Platform: Unity, ARKit, Vuforia, Xcode

 


We always thought we are making machine more like us, but it may be that we are becoming more like machines. In a sense, we are meeting machine in the middle.