Blogging as reflective practice

You are reading a blog that started off about art practice-based research charting
the journey of doing a phd. It explores alternative ways of using hand held devices
to create print-based interactive artworks using graphical tagging such as QR-codes.
Art, design, technology and craft were the main themes in writing. But life gets in the
way, and over this journey the story takes unexpected happy twists along the paths
of having a baby, going on a UK Digital Economy Sandpit, meeting fanstastic people,
and subsequent group success in funding for a large multidisciplinary research
project called TOTeM.

Quirky Quick Response Codes

I've just discovered that there is now a field of QR-codes now being called Quirky Quick Response Codes,  or QuiRC's. This term is now apparently the official name of what I have been doing to my QR-codes in artworks since 2007, when I warp them and make them more organic looking and less like a machine readable code. 

Matthew Kulseth, a lawyer from Minnesota has written a paper on how the use of QuiRC's as trademarks could challenge the Lanham act in America. It's in Cybaris, An Intellectual Property Law Review and the title is  "Twenty-first Century Trademarks; How Quirky Quick Response Codes (QuiRC's) will challenenge the Lanham Act and the USPTO", and was published mid-way through 2012, so not too long ago. 

The Lanham act prevents a number of activites such as trademark infringment, false advertising and other similar activities.  I guess the use of a QR code in a logo or trademark would have all types of ethical implications, particularly since DensoWave own the patent for all QR-codes in general. However if the code has been altered, so it is no longer a straight QR-code then the copyright issues get even more hairy. Definately food for thought and it is really important to be aware of the final uses of a code in the public arena. 

I was quite chuffed to discover that I have been credited in the paper as being the first person to use QuiRC's in the public domain! There is a section in the paper, called The Genesis of QR Codes, where he discusses how Fabrice de Nola created a series of paintings using QR codes in 2006. He then goes on to say:

"Indicative of how QR-Code images would ultimately be modified, in 2008, the  Australian-born artist Simone O'Callaghan used screenprinting to push the technology's limits by drastically softening the lines contained in a QR Code image. The work premiered on March the 3, 2008 in an exhibit called "Signals in the City" at the Hannah Maclure Centre in Dundee, United Kingdom. This is likely the first QuiRC; it looks very little like a traditional QR Code image but still preserves its usefulness. Strangely enough, it would only be a matter of days before the first marketing QuiRC appeared in London, United Kingdom.", p 38

I find it amazing that my pottering in the studio, trying to de-uglify QR codes has had far wider implications that I ever could have concieved, playing a small part in impacting areas such as IP law and the interpretation of the trademark acts. At the same time, I also find it humbling, because it is a reminder, that when putting any work out into the pubic domain it must be able to withstand all types of people digging it up and referring to it, so it better be good!

A nice surprise

Last year I worked with Maria Burke from Salford University on a paper for the Information Systems Journal, about the case studies that they had been doing at Salford for the TOTeM project. The work at Salford had concentrated on the business contexts in which Tales of Things could be applied and they had done extensive work with real estate agents. I was invited to join in writing the paper because I could add to the theorhetical and conceptual aspects of the paper in the areas of presence and connectivity. We'd submitted the paper last year and had it knocked back because the epistemological aspects were not clear, so we had reworked it a bit before other priorities put in it on the backburner. About 3 months ago, we finally got round to resubmitting, but because it had been so long in the process and there had been so  much to-ing and fro-ing, I forgot about it. So it came as a lovely surprise to get an email from ISJ to say that the paper has now been published! 

The paper is called The Business of Digital Storytelling - abstract to appear in the abstracts section of this website very soon!

Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 09:09PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Printed Electronics

Recently I presented at the IMPACT8 conference and saw some excellent papers being presented. One of the highlights was Erik Brunvand's presentation on creating printed circuit boards. It reminded me of the work that Dundee Product Design PhD student, Michael Shorter is doing on conductive ink. Both investigate ways in which prints can be augmented with electronics, though whilst Brunvand's work seems to concentrate on the geeky electronics side of things, and the aesthetics still need alot of work, Shorter's work is great on concept and aesthetics but I'm not sure how much of it is actually fully working and how  much of it is still proof of concept. 

I love the idea of conductive ink and the scope of functionality that could arise from a "pretty picture". Still it all seems to be, technically in very early phases and due to the needs of an electronic circuit board, the aesthetic tends to be screenprinted with very little tonal range. What I'd love to do is take this and have the electronic circuitry, and functionality, but also work with imagery that suports wider tonal ranges and different types of print processes. I guess in the short-term one could print the components using screenprinting, then add different types of processes on top to get the desired tonal ranges.

Still the field is in it's early days, so it will be exciting to see how things develop. 

Impact 8 Conference

I’ve had an academic paper accepted for the IMPACT8 printmaking conference happening here in Dundee in August this year, so another thing to keep me busy! If you head over to the abstracts section of my website, you can see what I’ll be presenting about this time round in my paper A Medium in the Liminal Zone: Exploring New Territories for Printmaking. Last time the conference was in Melbourne and I mostly enjoyed it – save the war rationing approach to catering. I’m looking forward to seeing what this conference brings and especially seeing the artworks that will be exhibited about the town.

Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 03:05PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , , , | Comments1 Comment

Without Sin: Taboo and Freedom within Digital Media, Leonardo Electronic Almanac

I’ve had my paper Seductive Technologies and Inadvertent Voyeurs accepted in the Without Sin: Special Edition of Leonardo Electronic Alamanac. The final paper was submitted over Christmas and they like it. I’ve a few corrections to do, but was chuffed with the reviewer’s comment: “A good, tight, well-researched article, which lays out its methodology clearly and succinctly” They also want more images, which I like because it gives me the opportunity to have my artworks nicely printed in a glossy publication!

Its actually really good having complete strangers review your work to see it from an alternative perspective, especially after I have had my supervisors going through my work I kind of know how they think, so new eyes on my work is really refreshing!

To give you an idea of the what the paper is about, you can look at my abstract for it in the abstracts section of this website under Seductive Technologies

New Year, New Activities

Now that I’ve finished my PhD and the TOTeM project has also come to an end, I find that I am still as busy as I even was! Jon Rogers who I worked with on TOTeM is on research leave this semester, so I am taking over from him, just until May, as the Acting Course Director for the MSc Product Design. For the past 3 years I have been telling Jon that I’m not a product designer, but now I finally get it! I don't have to be a product designer to be of use to a product design department in an art school -  the skills I have in interaction design, usability, creative visualisation and the way I approacj about my art are of valuable to a wide range of disciplines across digital media: Why did it take so long for the penny to drop?

I should have realised it last year when I was mentoring last year’s cohort of MSc Product Design students about their interactive plinths.  I’ve really been enjoying working with the students so far. They’re a great group of people with some interesting ambitions. I had missed student interaction when fully on research, and at the moment this post is good because it is not that demanding, so I can balance research, art making and my responsibilities to my students.

Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 02:56PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Oh what a viva!

Today I had my PhD viva and I have passed with minor corrections (fix up typos, add a word into my one of my research questions and add a couple of paragraphs in:  Its very rare to pass with no corrections) Apparently I can call myself Dr now! so I am Dr S.P.O'C!

All the internal examiners/ staff said that the external examiner made it really hard because in the time when I was supposed to be answering questions, so I could defend my research, he kept telling me what he thought could be improved upon, rather than asking me questions.

There was one point during the viva when I just sat there thinking “Why the hell didn’t I do a science PhD? Art is so subjective, and personal – it would have been so much easier to point to some cold hard figures that had an irrefutable proof of something…. I was also foundmyself wishing that I had done my PhD in Australia where they don't have vivas! That said, everyone, even the tricky external examiner that I defended my work very well. *sigh of relief*

All the examiners also told me about how much they really liked my artworks, how they thought they were witty and magical, and although it was supposed to be under exam conditions, there was quite a bit of laughter, particularly when they recalled some of the works. It was really nice hearing that because all through this process I’ve not really had any feedback from my supervisors on my artworks as works of art  in their own right, rather than ancilliaries to my research!

Posted on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 08:44PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Burning the candle at both ends 

Just because I've submitted my PhD doesn't mean I've had time to rest of my laurels: 

Lately I’ve been really busy with TOTeM, working like crazy on 2 exhibitions: One where I’ve been  editing vides and audio for interactive plinths and mentoring MSc Product Design students in reinventing ideas surrounding the physicality of plinths in the gallery space. This is for a TOTeM exhibition I’m Seeing Things taking place in the 26th of October 2012. It’s part of a symposium we’re running on the internet of things, and to disseminate our research outcomes since TOTeM Is coming to an end. The worst of it is though, that it clashes with my PhD viva, so I won’t be able to attend  : (.  I get all the joy of organising and making, but none of the joy of experiencing the final outcome! *sigh* More info about the event is here.

The other exhibition I’ve been working on is  From the Western Arctic to the Bay of Bengal  for the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther . For this exhibition, the Dundee team are exhibiting the work we’ve been doing in Trout Lake with the Canadian First Nation Community, as well in India, Portugal and Scotland.. All three communities are based on fishing so the exhibition explores stories around cultural objects, artworks and fishing. We’re looking at how remote communities are bourght together through mobile tagging technologies and online social networking tools. The exhibition is on until the 13th of February 2013, and more information can be found on the Scottish Fisheries website.

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