Resonance Design

everything and nothing that involves notions of a design and thinking pattern that Rob van Kranenburg and me called "Resonance Design" (or Extelligence Design, your choice)

Friday, June 16, 2006


When you first hear people talk about SPORE, you don't quite believe them as it seems to incorporate a universe as we know it, in ALL terms of complexity.
Then I watched the video and I nearly damned myself for not having the money to pull off a software like that and I am not only talking about launching it on any platform possible.

SPORE is THE Resonancedesign game for one main reason: User created content!
What Will Wright realised, after hundreds of fan-developed tools for the Sims started appearing and adding thousands of objects and characters to the game, is that games are not necessarily about the scenarios and stories designed by game designers, but about the experience and situations gamers create by themselves. How else can you describe the phenomenon of people spending days and months creating MODs (user designed characters and stories mapped on existing game engines) and the survival of MUDs (text-based multi-user role-playing-games). The simple answer is, if you give the player the tools to create their own world, you will create a level of immersion, that even the best gran-tourismo-i-see-dust-flying-off-my-car's-tires designs can't challenge.
The commercial side-effects are indeed positive as well. As Will Wright put's it "the most expensive asset in games is the content". Given mainly user created content, this can cut down the budget impressively. Second, with all the stories and blogging content that users will create (as the Sims already has shown), you are given an advertising network for free.

SPORE so far looks like the essence of this new concept of decentralised production and user-created content. At it's core is a single simple yet complex tool, an editor for creatures and objects. The world itself is a structure of procedural modules, which flexibly react to the content produced. Procedural programming is nothing new per se, but to the extend it has been done in SPORE makes the game, put in gamers terms, real Next-Gen.

It's the game for the blogging, MODing and tagging age. It has the designer step back behind the screen and become a framework and tool designer. Philosophically it is the least egoistic or egocentric game so far and I dearly hope it will be seen as more than a game in terms of it's unique structure. It's a small step for a game, but it's an essential step that has been overdue at least for the last 5-10 years.

All we can do now is sit back and wait for it's launch.

Watch the video(1 hour)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Oli Leistert on RFId Dortmund

Hi all,

here is a short report about how i experienced our workshop/conference. As I tend to write critically, i hope no one feels uncomfortable with it. any comments are welcome!

best oli
Report: How I learned to love RFID, three day workshop organized by Hartware
MedienKunst Verein Dortmund from 20. 5. to 22. 5. 2006 at Phoenix-Halle
Dortmund. Written by Oliver Leistert.

Introduction: Dortmund

Dortmund, a city with roughly 600.000 inhabitants, is located right in the heart of Industrial Age Dwelling Conglomerate „Ruhrgebiet“. Since most of coal and steel production has terminated here, vast areas of industrial ruins are left over. Some have been dismantled, some declared memorials of a gone age and some have been remodelled for new usages. This is the case with the Phoenixhalle, which was part of the huge Phoenix areal, a furnace site, where one can easily still be impressed by an rusty industrial monster of double soccer field size.

So, place is not scarce in Dortmund. Not in and not outside the Phoenixhalle. The Hartware MedienKunst Verein (HMKV) has full access to the hall and any exhibitions there will definitely notlack space. But maybe this place could be promoted better. When I arrived with my collegue at Dortmund Hauptbahnhof, the taxi drivers either wanted to bring us to some other hall or had to admit not having a clue about the phoenix hall and its location. This seems to be a symptom that art and culture in the Ruhrgebiet suffer from: interest by locals is small. This might have a myriad of reasons. One trace might be that unemployment and populist media have changed the traditional red area of the Ruhrgebiet into a region with more and more rightwing and explizit nazi activities, letting popcultural mainstream turn right as well. Last year, one punk was murdered right in the center of Dortmund by nazis. Any art institution in Dortmund is confronted with such phenomena and has to react upon them. Maybe this is why HMKV organised a big exhibition about globalized football. In the midst of World Cup tohuwabohu they present uncommon views on the multi-billion dollar business of football.

The 1st day

The public day -saturday- offered a dense set of lectures. After curator Inke Arns' and Francis Hunger's introduction, Bruce Sterling, well known sci-fi writer, now more and more into teaching, gave his keynote. He started with a high-speed travel through contempory ambient/ubiquitous computing/web2.0/networked objects. Proposing „thinglings“ as a proper term, he recalled the main issues of coming objects: chips with id's, GPS/Locative
Media, Search Engines, Recyclebility, Virtual Models of Objects. As guiding principle, he proposed, it would be helpful to think of material instantiations of immaterial objects that will surround us soon. Bruce announced with a slightly cynical touch a „seven year window of
opportunities for artists“. To differentiate one from cooperate sites, he proposed to write „Rphid“ in html-meta tags, to identify interesting RFID-sites and projects much easier. His tour de force through contempary discussions around networked objects open the field for the whole day of speeches very wide and set expectations high that the follow-ups would use this discoursive space.
After this most entertaining presentation, the Foebud people, namely Rena Tangens and padeluun, startet their show. Foebud's point about RFID is privacy. They presented some success they had with interventions such as against Metro's RFID containing Consumer Card. The limits of Foebud's political discourse are that they have an isolated view on Privacy and Data Protection by recalling idealistic democratic narratives. To isolate questions of information protection from wider discourses such as why the cooperations are the players and who takes the benefit from such a technology like RFID make Foebud's political claims blind against the
trajectories it may lead to: inititiatives like Foebud help to make surveillance technologies compatible to western democratic regime standards. Foebud is not radical in any sense. Their primary concern is: citizens should decide what electronic information about them is held by whom and have the right to access this data and delete it. So, for instance, if consumer tag RFID once will be designed in a privacy compliant way, Foebud's aims are reached. In this sense, they offer consulting services for free to the industry and governments. That these players don't want to accept Foebud as a partner doesn't mean Foebud's work isn't of any use for them.
Historically, these Bürgerinitiativen-like associations of concerned citizens have played and will now and then play an important role as an catalysator during the implementation of new technologies into society. The second criticial point I may sketch concerning Foebud is that their
political model depends solely on representation: they act like the lobby of citizens. But what if citizens don't care and are happy to use the customer cards? This leads the most problematic field of political action itself, when you have to ask yourself whose voice you are raising and what you do with that. In the IT for Development discourses, these questions are debated
highly. Sadly, this discussion has not yet reached the Foebud people. Foebud has to ask itself: what concepts of society are used and what are fictionious parts in that image of society. If one has to refer to the Shoah when talking about the RFID World Cup Tickets, something is terribly wrong!
After the desperately needed Lunch Break (yummy!) agency agent Rob van Kranenburg presented a „weired“ (Bruce Sterling) presentation of a different kind. Rob concentrated on an european perspective of information spaces. While nation states loose more and more their souvereignity to the European Union, the E.U. itself urgently needs an information space for its citizens (this is what I understood as one of Rob's claims). RFID plays a role here, as it is amongst those technologies that constitute and operate in information spaces. To design these spaces according to the needs of E.U. citizens is one of the tasks Rob informed us about. He claimed a „design for emergence“ as default in systems. Meaning that design of technology should right from scratch be an interdisciplinary task, not solely of engineers and economists. Otherwise RFID would rest in the deadlock of hostile digital environments vs. consumer/citizen needs. Besides that from my perspective, that I find it confusing to demand such implementations within the E.U. as it is antidemocratic monster, leading in a constitution proposal that wants to implenent free trade and other market ideologies as default on constitutional level, I have to admit that I have not the slightest idea how someone should even approach the E.U. buerocrazy. Do they organize hearings for concerned citizens or letterboxes where one can drop wishes to the Commission?
Following Rob, Wolfgang Lammers of the Frauenhofer Institute in Dortmund, gave his speech. This was again a difference! Wolfgang presented actual and future targets of RFID in logistics and the problems thereby. He went deeply into explaining technical matters and systemic explorations. There are advantages with RFID against the Barcode or the 2D-System (a printed code, containing more informations than the barcode, being much cheaper and more easily to deploy than RFID). But the main problems with RFID still seem to be costs and non-faulty operationability, as fault readings would cause dramatic follow-up costs in any warehouse.
Rasa Smite and Honor Harger then reminded us that Radio doesn't necessarily has to be small, but can be very big. The Riga Center for New Media Culture (RIXC) has hands on an ex-soviet radar system, that once spyed over Europe and was abandoned when the Soviets left the baltic countries. Together with local astronomers the artists took over the system and are now listening to nothing less but to the radiowaves of the sun and other astral objects.
This was then experienced later on in the evening, when a live broadcast from the sun was transmitted, with interpretations by sound artists that were present in Dortmund. In a way, this raw and fuzzy end of the day was a good closing. It symbolized to me that talking about RFID needs to be focused and centered on concrete implementations of technology into society.

The 2nd day
Sunday, the „hands on workshop“ started in the morning. The Foebud people had brought with them material and tools to build some RFID gadgets. So, the whole bunch of artists, writers and how we call ourselves, tried to build an RFID-Chip detector (a project originating from german computer magaine c't) and an much easier to build RFID-Reader detector. Unfortunately, some parts to build the Chip detector were missing. So we succeded only partially. But everyone seemed happy to do something with their hands and touch electronical devices.
In an afternoon discussion all participants discussed the sad and not very impressing artistic use of emerging technlogies such as RFID. Besides beta-testing, we could not state many ideas pushing technologies somewhere else. The „we make money not art“ site seems to be paradimatic.

The 3rd day
The next day, we met at the Frauenhofer Institute for Logistics and Materialfluss, located near Dortmund's university and a Standortfaktor. The staff gave us a long guided tour. In their warehouse-simulation-like lab, we learned that RFID is efficient and makes everything even more efficient. One highlight I remember: Everyone is a logisticist!


After these three days, it came to my mind that I recommend to strengthen focus when disussing RFID. As an technology, it is easy to unerstand. But as a part of society, its manifestations are manifold, depending what purposes it is being used for. On a general level, one has to remember that RFID is basically just one more brick in the wall of quantification. With RFID, counting and sorting are default. So, anywhere it will be deployed,
economists are capable of calculating. For an artist, who refers by her name to an poetic world, this might at least provocate some reaction. Digital surroundings have systemic limits. By setting these surroundings as default for society, non-intelligible, non-countable and non-economised fields are losing even more weight than they already have in a functionalist capitalist surrounding. RFID in this sense is a hegemonial technology. As the Frauenhofer staff told us: it is all about efficiancy. This is the imperative of capitalist ideology. If you are not efficiant, you die. Let us think in this direction and forget about RFID-toys. Or, as the Critical Art Ensemble recalls in their latest book „Marching Plague“: to spot uselessness as a ghost haunting the functional world:
„We find uselessness even in the most functional of items, such as simple and complex technologies. Technology is generally considered a practical, material formation. Sometimes its tendency is utopian, sometimes apocalyptic, but it is always assumed to be functioning instrumentally. In truth, instrumentality's opposition very often creeps into the techno-object. From low-end instruments like cell phones jammed with useless features [...], to the many overly specialized pieces of low-end technology that clutter the closets of the middle class, to the highest-end germ and nuclear warfare technologies, uselessness is an integral part of each. When has the intercontinental ballistic missile ever been used?“
(Critical Art Ensemble: the Marching Plague. Germ Warfare and Global Public
Health. Autonomedia 2006, p. 86)