Alan N. Shapiro, Visiting Professor in Transdisciplinary Design, Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, Germany

Blog and project archive about transdisciplinary design, media theory and creative coding

Lecture-Performance in Amsterdam (Alan N. Shapiro and Regan O’Brien), with video clips


Alan and Regan video clip #1

On March 14, 2012, I did a lecture-performance in Amsterdam, together with the choreographer and performance studies scholar Regan O’Brien.

Alan and Regan video clip #2

Regan is working in these areas:

internal body rhythm
neuroelectric receptivity
economy of movement
clarity and communication

Alan and Regan video clip #3

This was part of an event sponsored by the Dirty Art Department of the Sandberg Institute called the AGE-ISM Lecture Series. It was principally organized by Elise Van Mourik.

More information at Facebook about the event.

The event took place at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam, Frederick Roeskestraat 96, 1076 ED Amsterdam, Netherlands, from 10 am to 6 pm.

I think that this happening had a lot to do with Jean Baudrillard, and Baudrillard attended the event. I was excited. It reminded me of July 2004 when I met Baudillard at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe, Germany.

The topic of my lecture was “The Car of the Future” and I also showed visualisations by the virtuoso concept designer Nick Pugh. And I sang “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash.

Here are some excerpts from my lecture notes:

Alan and Regan video clip #4

Today I will speak about my ideas for “the Car of the Future.” On March 28, I will speak about the future of software. The argument that I will present on March 28 will be that, in order to progress further, software development or computer science must begin to concern itself with cultural codes as well as with software codes. Computer science must transform itself into a hybrid engineering and humanities discipline.

Alan and Regan video clip #5

My lecture today will focus on four key ideas. First, I will present the idea of the transformer car that becomes a vertical car when it enters the city. Second, I will offer the idea of the car as a 3D Virtual Reality game platform. Third – and more briefly – I will discuss technologies for the reduction of noise. And what is noise? Fourth, I will examine the use of human simulation models for automotive design. Here I will also address the question of simulation generally. My work on simulation consists of my striving to develop a position that synthesizes Jean Baudrillard’s key concept of simulation and mainstream ideas in technology of what simulation means.

Alan and Regan video clip #6

Alan and Regan video clip #7

As long as automobile manufacturers persist in not recognizing the cinematic nature of the driving experience, the car will continue to be upstaged by the “trans-dimensional” vehicles of media image streams such as TV and the Internet, tele-commuting and tele-shopping, experienced by the public as a better way to navigate the Virtual Reality in which we now live. In an important sense, the car needs to be redesigned from scratch in order to keep up with these developments of the supercession – to a significant degree – of the physical real by the virtual (what we want is a new, more embodied relationship between the physical real and the virtual). This comprehensive redesign is something entirely different from simply equipping the car with high-tech gadgets ranging from cell phones, MP3 players, video screens and recorders to radar detectors, global positioning systems, and command-oriented speech interaction.

This analysis of the deficit of the automobile with respect to TV, computers, and telecommunications leads to the formulation of the idea of the “Car of the Future” as a new VR entertainment platform: the Tele-Car or Tele-Mobile, the Holo-Car. The car will become a cockpit for all kinds of simulations or Virtual Realities.

Alan and Regan video clip #8

Alan and Regan video clip #9

The “Car of the Future” will flexibly alter its basic planar orientation between horizontal and vertical. It will transform its shape as it exits the highway and enters the city. When in the city, it will only be 55% as wide as today’s cars. It transforms into a double-decker with four passenger compartments: lower front, lower rear, upper front, and upper rear. Each compartment is about as wide as the seat of a golf cart, and can comfortably accommodate one or two persons. Up to 8 persons can ride in the car. The driver sits in the lower front compartment. There is a retractable electric stoop on the exterior side of the car that goes up and down like a small elevator platform, enabling access to the upper compartments. The engine turns vertical with the car, or is small enough to not need to be rotated.

Thanks to its decreased overall width when in the city, the “Car of the Future” will provide the prerequisite for the humanly beneficial redesign of urban streets. They will be only half as wide as they are now. Cars can go in single file in this much narrower street. This will make for a much wider sidewalk, and give back much physical space to the urban environment to rebuild the social sphere and the community. Street life will make a comeback. Parking problems will be greatly alleviated.

Alan and Regan video clip #10

Alan and Regan video clip #11

In 2010, the Committee on Technology for a Quieter America published a report of its findings to the National Academy of Engineering. The report began with the following statement: “Exposure to noise (i.e., unwanted or potentially hazardous sound) at home, at work, while traveling, and during leisure activities is a fact of life for all Americans. At times noise can be loud enough to damage hearing, and at lower levels it can disrupt normal living, affect sleep patterns, affect our ability to concentrate at work, interfere with outdoor recreational activities, and, in some cases, interfere with communications and even cause accidents. Clearly, exposure to excessive noise can affect our quality of life.” A common measure of noise is the sound pressure level in decibels (dB). This level is almost always weighted according to the A-frequency weighting curve which is applied to the signal to make it more representative of the noise perceived by a listener. The resulting value is expressed in dB(A). For the most part, however, the public has little or no understanding of the decibel or A-frequency weighting and thus is unable to appreciate or participate in a discussion of quantitative levels of noise. In a quiet library with soft whispers, the sound level is 30 decibels. The noise from a typical refrigerator is 40 decibels. Light traffic, normal conversation, quiet office: 50 decibels. Air conditioner, sewing machine: 60 decibels. Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, noisy restaurant: 70 decibels. Garbage disposal, alarm clock, average city traffic: 80 decibels. Subway, motorcycle, truck, lawnmover: 90 decibels. Garbage truck, chain saw, pneumatic drill: 100 decibels. Rock bank concert: 120 decibels. Jet plane at airport: 140 decibels. Rocket launching pad: 180 decibels.

Alan and Regan video clip #12

Alan and Regan video clip #13

In 2001, the American Society of Automotive Engineers published a report entitled Digital Human Modeling for Vehicle and Workplace Design, edited by Don B. Chaffin. In his foreword to the SAE report, David O. Swain of The Boeing Company states: “The ability to digitally simulate how humans interact with a product has the potential to revolutionize the way companies design, build, operate, and maintain new products. Digital modeling and simulation techniques have already proven their ability to significantly reduce the cycle time and cost of designing new products, and have generally improved the quality of products and made them faster, easier, and cheaper to produce, operate, and maintain. But many products – such as high performance aircraft and spacecraft – present additional design challenges in human factors. To get the greatest performance, comfort, and safety from these products, engineers need to know early in the design process how effectively and efficiently humans will be able to interact with them.” What we see emerging here is a new generation of the practice of engineering which is much closer to the humanities and the concerns of the human than the previous generation of engineering practice which was more strictly technical in orientation. In software engineering, this is known as the field of “user experience.” But it is a development that is occurring throughout all of the engineering disciplines.

Alan and Regan video clip #14

3 Responses

“rumour has it that Baudrillard will be attending”.
Uh? Baudrillard died in 2007…

  • A truly wonderful comment by Ms. van den Boomen. Baudrillard would have loved this! If you look at the programme of the event, you will see that there is going to be a reading of a portion of Baudrillard’s seminal-iconic text “America,” and that this reading is going to be performed by a performer “impersonating Baudrillard.” One of the central categories of Baudrillard’s system of thought is irony. My statement that Baudrillard will be attending is made in the form of irony, not in the form of “literal fact.” (The English-language Wikipedia article on Baudrillard had his birthday incorrect for a long time until I corrected it.)

  • Alan, in fairness to your commenter, the information about “Stephane Barbier Bouvet as Jean Baudrillard, reading ‘Vanishing Point’” isn’t mentioned in your post and isn’t immediately apparent on the Facebook page you linked to – you have to click to expand the Facebook story to find it. Jokes about information two clicks away put demands on blog readers and the unsympathetic ones (who may know nothing of your history) will sarcastically bring it to your attention.
    Hope all is well,

  • Leave a Reply