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I am seeing things

I attended an amazing event yesterday called “I am seeing things”, which was a symposium organised by Dr Chris Speed at the University of Edinburgh around the topic Internet of Things. The symposium was organised in part as a dissemination event for a 3-year research project called TOTeM (Tales of Things and Electronic Memory). The event brought together speakers from very different disciplines: artists, marketing experts, cultural geography and architecture.



The event began with a talk about sentient cities by Mark Shepard,  who made the distinction between “sentire”, meaning to feel or to hear, and “sapere”, meaning to know. Playing with this distinction he creates disruptive artifacts where, for example, people can sense they are under surveillance, or can use a mug to communicate down a railway carriage, with the aim to stimulate debate.


Mike Phillips talked about how objects are changing; seeing communities of objects may mean they have different qualities, and they may have many, and varied meanings. He talked about projects where you can see things through digital sensed data, projects where the importance of now is more relevant than predicted data, and the different values ascribed by instrumentalists and humanists to data collected. He showed a part of the film the “fly” and indicated the sense of trauma we may feel by the Internet of Things.


We then had two talks by artists. Thorston Lauschmann presented various pieces, such as the digital clock and a film called the Space that is going to be available on the BBC web site next week. Geoff Mann presented pieces where the overarching theme is rendering the intangible that “encapsulates the beauty that exists above and apart from the material world”. He talked about capturing movement in glass and porcelain, animating a conversation through filming changing croquery forms on a table, and spikey objects created by 3D printers.


The final two talks were concerned with value. Irene Ng talked about value versus worth and servicing contexts. The immediacy afforded by technology changes what has value and what is valuable. Mike Crang, a cultural geographer, talked about remainder objects, disposal and salvaging.


I couldn’t hope to summarise the complex issues that were presented, but I tried to pull out some emerging themes for the day.

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