Fugitive Moments Research Process
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The research process underlying Fugitive Moments entailed a close collaboration between four computer scientists (Erwan Le Martelot, Daniel Hulme, Richard Clarke and David Malkin), Beau Lotto and Sarah Rubidge. In the original research proposal to the Wellcome Foundation Lotto's and Rubidge's research goals were merged. Rubidge's initial research interest was to explore ways in which the subtle autonomus physiological reactions that take place when human beings move within an artistic (indeed any) environment can be accessed, harnessed and then using these to drive the generation and progression evolving digital imagery. Lotto was interested in exploring in a different medium his underlying position concerning the dialogue between the human being and their envirnonment, namely that they are inextricably connected, and adapt one to the other. Both have an abiding interst in complex systems, and use the systems or at the every least the their principles extensively in their research. (See www.sensedigital.co.uk and www.lottolab.org)
The research took place in several stages: In the first stage prototypes on the evolutionary computer programmes that were needed to test the accessibility and usability of biometric data in this context (EvoIm and EvoCritter) were designed and built by Clarke, Hulme and Malikin, under Lotto's supervision, and later modifed by Le Martelot, again under Lotto's supervision. These had two functions. The first (EvoIm), which used still images, was designed to ascertain the viability of using biomteric data as the source of input to an evolutionary system. EvoIm (evolving images) comprised banks (or sets) of images which ranged from images that scientific experiments have proven to generate strong physiological responses (erotic and horrific [images of violence, gaping wounds]) to more neutral images (flora, fauna, lansdcapes, people) and finally simple fields of colour. Sets of contrasting images were fed into the programme and shown in succession to the viewer, who was linked to the programme by a biometric measuring device. The succession of the images was determined by the level of physiological response. The greater the response to an image from a particular set the more often images from that set were likely to appear. Conversely, the less strong the response to an image the less likely it would be that the images from that set would recur. We used three sets of images in each experiment. After several modifications to the programme resulting from analysis of the results of preliminary experiments the vailidity of the evolutionary system rtunnig the programme and the claim that biometric data could affect the evolutionary response was proven.
Extensive library research to ascertain appropriate suorces fo the biometric data to use in the project was undertaken. Skin Conductivity Response (SCR) and Heart Rate (HR) offered themselves as candidates for measuring in non-controlled conditions such as an Art Gallery. Initially SCR was measured and used to drive the evolutionary programmes. It quickly became apparent that SCR is sensitive to any input from the environment (e.g. sound, people in the room, sudden changes in light) and thus was insifficiently controllable for a project in a public space. Subsequently different parameters of Heart Rate (HR) were used.The rate, ampliitude and variability of the latter is indicative of the strength of physiological responses to external stimuli. Initially this measure was chosen as scientific literature indicated that Heart Rate variability (HRV) measures the hedonic response to a stimuli. However, after engaging in experiments with our relatively cheap biomteric measuring equipment it became apparent that HRV was a very unstablemeasure, and tended to compromise accompanying data when combined with other HR measures (e.g. amplitude and frequency). These last two were finally used as the biometric measures in the experiments, during which the programmes were set to evolve alternately in each experiment to maximise or minimise the response to generate proof of concept.
The second programme (EvoCritter) entailed the development of a programme that would generate and modulate abstract imagery with an artistic quality that was grounded in colour and motion.The latter had to have the potential to produce a fluid motional quality that could accommodate a variety of dynamic characteristics.
The conditions that generated the particular colour imagery that resulted in any one manifestation of the programme could be modified by the end user. To this extent the programme operated on two levels, the base evolutionary programming, and the colour visualisation programming. (See Technical Reports for details) The programmers developed the programme in under Lotto's supervision. The coilour visualisation system was developed in close dialogue with Rubidge concerning its aesthetic qualities, responding to her aesthetic preferences as they programmed (see Final Artistic Report). The programme went through several iterations in the first stage of developmet (see Interim Technical Report) and was reprogrammed and developed in the second stage of development (see Final Technical Report). Rubidge remained in close dialogue with the programmers throughout this period.
Rubidge programmed the conditions under which the eight colour visualisation systems operated (three for Fugitive Moments I, five for Fugitive Moments II) when Fugitive Moments was mounted in the Otter Gallery, Chichester in November/December 2007.