Category Archives: projects by type

Middle east, radiance 2000 vs. 2013

Urban Radiance

What have global data sets that estimate population density, economic productivity, measles outbreaks, rural poverty, resource footprints and electrification rates, urbanization and suburbanization, or average wages in common? They are all based on nighttime imagery of city lights captured by the Operational Line Scanner (OLS) sensor on the satellites from the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). [Link to project] What should later become the workhorse of geographers and economists was initially a completely accidental by-product: of a cold-war era military satellite program—launched in the…

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Indexical Design Conference

Symposium curated at Northeastern University. Indexical Design addresses the difference between data and evidence. The symposium explores the physical trace and its role for making sense of the world. We will investigate the different scientific, aesthetic, and rhetoric techniques for making traces “speak.” Information visualization is traditionally concerned with the symbolic languages of charts, maps, and diagrams. Its underlying data are also symbolic representations: the results of processes encoding traces and events. At the same time, traces such as tree rings, fingerprints, or ice core…

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Cryptographic Heritage 

Figure 1: the number on the lower edge is the public bitcoin address, which is connected to an unique, publicly accessible, but immutable entry in the Bitcoin blockchain. Design: Azra Aksamija The following is paraphrased from a recent medium article on the subject: The cryptographic heritage project, led by Dietmar Offenhuber, explores best practices how to use Bitcoin and blockchain technology to store evidence of cultural heritage under threat in ethnic and nationalistic conflicts. To give an example — in nationalistic conflicts, cultural heritage such as libraries,…

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Manila Improstructure

The project investigates and documents the social and creative practices around the electricity grid and the street lighting system of Manila, Philippines. Dietmar Offenhuber, Katja Schechtner, Julia Nebrija In cooperation with TU Vienna, Urban Design Institute Students: Anna Giffinger, Antonella Amesberger, Julius Alexander Fink, Konstantin Jagsch, Lisa Jindra, Matthias Dorfstetter, Michael Egger, Michael Wallinger, Sophie Wuerzer; Faculty advisors: Markus Tomaselli, Michael Surböck Video: Antonia Amesberger, Michael Egger, Konstantin Jagsch, Dietmar Offenhuber Manila Improstructure is part of the the third instance of the sensing place /…

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Excavating a 2002 piece – wegzeit

An old project, part of my thesis in architecture 2002: an early web-3d visualization project introducing different cartogram techniques and methods of urban time-space representation using real-time traffic information. Since the technology used then does no longer work (virtools), I tried to salvage what still worked for the video. “When you ask someone in Los Angeles how far it is from the beach to downtown, he or she will answer with the number of minutes it generally takes to traverse the distance rather than noting…

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Urban entropy

A project for the ars electronica facade, created during a residency at ars for the connecting cities conference and the soundframe festival. My explanation from a blog post: “My project is actually quite simple. On the LED façade, I display complaints received by the city, and thus visualize in the public sphere what people are complaining about. I find this fascinating because there are now many different systems that publish such complaints on a website. But I think it’s something completely different when they’re displayed…

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Sorting Out Cities

Piece for the Geo-Cosmos display at Miraikan – the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Tokyo. Dietmar Offenhuber & Ars Electronica Futurelab – Roland Haring, Peter Holzkorn, Andreas Jalsovec , Michael Mayr, Nicolas Naveau, Emiko Ogawa Although cities cover only a small fraction of the earth, they have a tremendous impact on the world. This theme explores how cities relate to the rest of the world in terms of the space they occupy, the people they shelter, the resources they use, the global movements…

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Decoding the City

an edited volume on data-driven urbanism together with Senseable City Lab Director Carlo Ratti, has just reached the printshop and will be published in German in the prestigious Swiss architecture theory series “Bauwelt Fundamente,” which has includes the German translations of iconic texts from the likes of Le Corbusier, Venturi & Scott Brown, or Jane Jacobs. The book focuses on research approach of the Senseable City Lab and includes essays from guest authors including Fabien Girardin, Luis Betttencourt (Santa Fe Institute), Andres Sevtsuk (City Form…

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LED Facade Northeastern

Hot/Cold: Information Design for Dynamic Media and Light The collaboration with Philips Color Kinetics focuses on responsive, interactive, and public display using dynamic lighting at the architectural scale. A team of students will develop and implement design proposals that should conclude with a temporary installation on Ryder Hall on Northeastern University’s campus. This activity is embedded in a studio course on the design of interactive information displays in different contexts and at different scales, ranging from visualizations for personal, mobile devices to information displays on…

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Infrastructure legibility

After one year in review, the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society has published my recent study of design issues in citizen feedback systems. The full text of the paper can be found here: Offenhuber, D. 2014. “Infrastructure Legibility–a Comparative Analysis of open311-Based Citizen Feedback Systems.” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, March. doi:10.1093/cjres/rsu001. During the past decade, most large US cities have implemented non-emergency incident reporting systems via telephone helplines, websites and more recently, mobile applications. Using data from systems operating in…

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Accountability Technologies

Tools for Asking Hard Questions “The basic need of civil society to live in responsibly planned and managed cities, to be involved in the planning process, or to at least be informed about it, has become a renewed focal point of debate in the past years. While the incipient criticism of the institutionalized and oft-unquestioned decision- making chain of urban planning was accompanied by a basic struggle for more say and participation in the 1970s, the varieties of participation, the technical possibili- ties of knowledge…

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What do New Yorkers complain about?

Currently I am working on a comparative study of the design factors of citizen feedback systems based on the data they generate. The recent history of these systems is a tale of growing ambition. In the past decade, most large US cities have implemented non-emergency incident reporting systems via telephone helplines, websites, and recently mobile applications. During that time, 311 systems, named after the three-digit telephone number reserved for that purpose, have evolved from service hotlines to public accountability instruments, data sources for urban maintenance…

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Waste / Packaging Index

A workshop together with Pablo Rey from Basurama in the Guggenheim Lab Berlin investigating the hidden processes and stories that are embedded in consumer products. We all know how our waste looks like, but often overlook that a large part of the waste we generate is invisible. Lets say we buy an apple – sometimes wrapped in paper, sometimes not. But this paper is not the only waste generated in this transaction: we also have to count in the bag in which we carry it home,…

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Inscribing a Square: Urban Data as Public Space

After several months of work, we finally made it. The book on our last year’s Symposium, Sensing Place / Placing Sense has been published and is available from Springer. In his1965 movie Alphaville, Jean-Luc Godard takes us to a city regulated and controlled by the omniscient computer “Alpha 60” based on principles of logic and reason. Allegedly, Godard originally intended to name his movie Tarzan versus IBM (Darke, 2005). As of 2012, this working title seems more pertinent than ever. The past year was marked by…

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DUST – Laboratoria Moscow

Our interest in exploring dust as an aesthetic and interactive medium aligned perfectly with the new exhibition “DUST” (12.4.12 – 15.7.12) in Laboratoria art & science space in Moscow, curated by Daria Parkhomenko and Simon Mraz. We (Markus Decker, Orkan Telhan and me) contributed the project “dust serenade”, a musical instrument visualizing its sounds through dust particles moved by the sound waves, and based on a 19th century physics experiment by August Kundt. Images from the installation below.

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Collection activity of the Cooperative, orange: collection with handcart, blue: collection with truck

forage tracking

The Forage Tracking project is mapping the tacit knowledge and spatial organization of informal recyclers in downtown Saõ Paulo. We used location-detecting hardware and software to investigate how the Catadores, informal recyclers, find and collect material in the city. We are also developing participatory platforms that will help them to organize their activities and connect the cooperative to the citizens. In our work with the recycling cooperative COOPAMARE, we try to increase visibility and understanding of the service they provide to the city. Project homepage…

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Active Listening Sites

A new stadtmusik work, tying together a lot of what we were working on in the past couple of years. The physical configuration of the built environment generates a wide spectrum of acoustic effects. Even while they usually remain unnoticed, these acoustic phenomena actively support our orientation in the city and provide a sense of place. For the exhibition, we have assembled an inventory of urban auditory situations illustrating some of these effects in the vicinity of the architecture forum. We provide a visitor of…

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sensing place / placing sense

The mental image of the city has become more complex. Since mobile phones have become geo-social devices, location-based data is increasingly shaping the way we navigate, experience and define the urban environment. The Symposium and the exhibition will investigate the potential of experimental and artistic forms of inquiry for helping us making sense of the city, and discuss practices that create new public infrastructures and define new places. The panels explore the sensory, structural and cultural aspects of new urban systems literacy – a re-examination…

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A new senseable city lab project i worked on is now exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. BackTalk is in many ways a follow up project on Trash | Track, this time focusing on obsolete electronics, disposed as e-waste or shipped as donated as refurbished computers to developing countries. All of these devices still capable of recording their location and surroundings. The initial inspiration was an incident I read about involving a lost camera, scuba diving and a sea turtle. The…

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dust serenade at MIT museum

Our new project in the dust series: Markus Decker, Dietmar Offenhuber, Orkan Telhan ‘Dust Serenade‘ is a reenactment of an acoustic experiment done by German physicist August Kundt. Inspired by the Chladni’s famous sand figures visualizing sound waves in solid materials, Kundt devised an experiment for visualizing longitudinal sound waves through fine lycopodium dust; a setup that would allow him to measure the speed of sound in different gases. Kundt was a strong believer in experimental methods over purely theoretical inquiry in a time when…

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Mapping the Archive

Evelyn Münster, Jaume Nualart, Dietmar Offenhuber, Moritz Stefaner, Gerhard Dirmoser This project presents the results of an interdisciplinary investigation of the Prix Ars Electronica archive in the form of interactive and static visualizations of information. The archive is examined on three levels: total submissions since 1987 as a quantitative analysis, the jury process as a social network analysis, and the winning projects and their context in accordance with art scholarship. The project is a collaboration between the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Media.Art.Research. and Ars Electronica. More…

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A Timeline of Audiovisual Culture

Related to the See this Sound exhibition, The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute created on an encyclopedia of audiovisual culture during the last three years. As a installation in the exhibition, Stefan Schilcher and I created an interactive visualization showing the structural properties of the different texts, chapters in this encyclopedia. Credits: Visual Concept: Dietmar Offenhuber und Stefan Schilcher Programming: Stefan Schilcher Content: Sandra Naumann und Mario Röhrle more on the blog of see this sound.

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The Scent of Information – Symposium

This two-day expert meeting is dedicated to the discussion and comparison of new approaches to organize, analyze and visualize large bodies of archival information.  Archives like the ars electronica archive present themselves as massive collections of heterogeneous and, in some ways, conflicting data organized in many different formats. In order to make sense of this information, traditional database structures and query interfaces are not sufficient. At the same time, it becomes more and more important to connect and contextualize information resources that already exist. For…

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Comment Flow

MIT media lab / sociable media group dietmar offenhuber, judith donath Social networks are abstract organizational structures that help us understand the relationships among a group of interconnected individuals. Much recent research has focused on understanding the structure of these networks, identifying patterns such as bridges, structural holes, etc. and on developing visualizations for these often complex entities. Yet the network itself is a conceptual topology.   The key is the activity that flows along the network paths: the support offered, the information given, the gossip…

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zurückbleiben bitte!

7min38sec, DVD video “Above and below do not exist at first, and other indications of direction do not work either. The picture itself is an agglomeration of details that are constantly being created and disappearing, becoming and ceasing to exist, assembling and breaking up.” (Marc Ries) more information on zurückbleiben bitte! (remaster) from stadtmusik on Vimeo. please stand back (excerpt)

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dust till dawn

fun with lasers, noise and dirt maex decker, dietmar offenhuber, ushi reiter DTD kicks up a lot of dust – with atmosphere being its sole medium of interaction. The project is a sound installation for a room with dusty floor, on which a number of phonographs are placed, playing back silent vinyl records. As a result of the visitors movements, particles of dust accumulate in the grooves of empty records and define a musical score. A carpet of monochromatic light visualizes the turbulence in the…

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Public exhibition at Ars Electronica 2006


SemaSpace is a compact graph editor and browser for the construction and analysis of knowledge networks. The program was specially designed for the fast, interactive manipulation of very large networks. SemaSpace was first released in 2004 and actively developed until 2010 by Dietmar Offenhuber & Gerhard Dirmoser. The first version of SemaSpace was developed out of the need for a fast and powerful browser for semantic networks that involve a lot of visual content. Semaspace, a joint project with Gerhard Dirmoser, resulted in an interactive network editor and…

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kapitel 3

2005 stadtmusik music: sam auinger, hannes strobl image: dietmar offenhuber more information on part of edition “abstracts of syn“, published and distributed by kunstverein medienturm “Urban architecture is a sound box, it shapes a space, wherein the range of sounds which surround us is resounded and reflected. The video STADTMUSIK (“City Music”) by Dietmar Offenhuber (Linz/Boston) and the formation tamtam (Sam Auinger, Hannes Strobl; Berlin) discusses sound in cities by analysing sound structures which are triggered by urban buildings and facilities. They focus on…

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still from mauerpark


17min27sec, DVD video The winter landscape of mauerpark in berlin turns into a theatrical stage, populated by pedestrians and cyclists following various, sometimes mysterious activities. What seems like a slice of daily life is in fact heavily digitally manipulated. The soundtrack creates a second space, sometimes contradicting the visual events in the picture. The travelling focus directs the visual attention and is controlled by subtle acoustic ambience. Its unnatural strength has a miniaturizing effect on the whole scenery. Credits sam auinger dietmar offenhuber hannes strobl…

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For the start of Austria’s presidency of the European Union in January 2006, 200 individuals from all over Europe were interviewed about their opinions on the strengths, weaknesses, chances and risks of the European Union. I was commissioned to analyze and visualize the semantic space of these responses. By identifying recurring topics and common associations in the text corpus of the material, I was able to generate a semantic network of the european thoughtscape. The result showed that everyone seems to agree upon the strengths…

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felsen m18

2005, 17:50 min video: dietmar offenhuber, music: sam auinger, hannes strobl part of edition “abstracts of syn“, published and distributed by kunstverein medienturm “Urban architecture is a sound box, it shapes a space, wherein the range of sounds which surround us is resounded and reflected. The video STADTMUSIK (“City Music”) by Dietmar Offenhuber (Linz/Boston) and the formation tamtam (Sam Auinger, Hannes Strobl; Berlin) discusses sound in cities by analysing sound structures which are triggered by urban buildings and facilities. They focus on the aspect of…

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Isotope is a generative architecture derived from the proportional system of the Stonborough House (1925, also known as Haus Wittgenstein) designed by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Austrian architect Paul Engelmann. The house is assembled from seven cubes, arranged in a carefully balanced proportionate system. All elements correspond to each other, and it is impossible to change this system without destroying the balance of volumes and voids. Starting from a textual representation of the model in the VRML language, the “isotopes” of the original…

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heinz weiss (naredmanet)

Some time ago, a moving company cleared out the residence of the retired Heinz k. (name changed). Among his belongings were a tape recorder including a 90-minute tape. Heinz K. spent the last 5 years of his retirement spying on his neighbors and recordSome time ago, a moving company cleared out the residence of the retired Heinz k. (name changed). Among his belongings were a tape recorder including a 90-minute tape. Heinz K. spent the last 5 years of his retirement spying on his neighbors…

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Picture 10


Describing the city through repeated everyday actions In his novel L’Innommable Beckett describes a strange world made up from a complex system of repetitive cyclical events. What is described as social architecture – the spatial / temporal organisation of everyday life- is often very similar to this: people do the same things at the same time. They follow the same routes in regular periods. Sometimes when riding the tram, visiting a cafe or going to the supermarket I recognize strangers who seem to live in…

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The Language of Networks – Symposium

The Language of Networks is a symposium / exhibition I co-curated for Ars Electronica 2004. The lineup was  interdisciplinary, including visualization developers, media artists, mathematicians and social scientists. The festival website is offline, since ars electronica restructured their archive, but the pdf program can still be downloaded here. A nice blogpost about the symposium can be found here. Program Panel I – Information Visualization Ulrik Brandes (DE) – Network Visualization and Graph Drawing Lothar Krempel (DE) – Communicating Empirical Information with Color Anne Nigten (NL)…

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Routine Pathways

three women describe their daily routine pathways, giving insight in how personal practice shapes the perception of the city. The interactive diagram juxtaposes their descriptions with “objective” way descriptions from a navigation system. By highlighting the time a person spends talking about a specific section of her path in relation to the sections actual length, the diagram captures the focal points of personal subjective spaces. The project was developed as part of the EMARE artist in residency at the Werkleitz gesellschaft. It can be viewed…

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5 minute places

Starting from a central place, five minutes of movement in all directions with different means of transport are recorded. This project builds upon the work of Masaki Fujihata and Joachim Sauter, who combined GPS and video footage to create a map of the environment. in this case however, the GPS traces are mapped in time-space. using the videotraces, it becomes visible where the traveler interrupted his way … Link to the project, developed in the course of an Emare Residency at the Werkleitz Gesellschaft in…

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URBIS – Imagining the City

Developed with the ars electronica futurelab in a larger collaboration with Landesign, Inc. / London. Projection-based interface for the visualization of the cultural content in a dynamic three-dimensional environment for the “Urbis” museum project in Manchester, England. The modular information platform on which the installation is based invites visitors to create virtual cities through interaction with a flow of media. The results are three-dimensional, dynamic skylines that are projected onto a panorama screen. The individual cities (City of Pleasures, Emotions, Imaginations and Senses) are embedded…

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The Geometry of Relative Distance my Thesis in Architecture .pdf “When you ask someone in Los Angeles how far it is from the beach to downtown, he or she will answer with the number of minutes it generally takes to traverse the distance rather than noting the number of miles. This system of defining and representing distance has recently been codified for use on the California Department of Transportation’s large LED “Freeway Condition” signs, which offer up-to-the-minute projections of estimated drive times: “8 minutes to…

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“the freewaysystem in its totality is now a single comprehensible place, a coherent state of mind, a complete way of life” – Reyner Banham “It´s subject is not ”natural” perception, but perception put in motion by modern means of transportation, and therefore implicitly the history of an epochal transformation of the way in which time and space is experienced. It has come to a preliminary end in suitable contexts – for example cities such as Los Angeles, which has been shaped by the history of…

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LA Billboard Houses

During my stay in Los Angeles in 2000, the impressive and sturdy billboard constructions caught my interest. I also liked the way how they interact with the built environment, how they seem to wrap themselves around small houses or reach out into the street scape. I wondered whether it would be possible to use these structures for holding small parasitic houses and made a series of sketches. The houses have the size of a very large trailer home, a balcony, billboard space for paying the…

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image manipulation soundtrack

A live performance at ars electronica 2000 using found footage from surveillance cameras and satellites. with markus decker, joachim schnaitter, gerda palmetshofer .image everything that the mechanical eye records. found footage from cctv surveillance cams, traffic cams, earth observation satellites, atm cash machines cams, motion tracking and image analysis. streams from public places and private spheres, by day and night, of human beings, of vehicles, of planets. .manipulation the sequence of these videos and the rhythm of their cuts from one scene to the next…

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An early media architecture example conceptualized and implemented as part of the ars electronica futurelab. For the new building of an Austrian education institution we conceived a display concept based on the idea of “functional transparency”, the building communicating its processes to its users, visitors and the city. The project consists of three elements. Most visible from the city, the light columns with individually addressable RGB light elements, communicates global environmental parameters such as time of the day. A second display element, the text floor,…

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A game-engine modification as an audiovisual environment. Intrigued by the erratically busy movement of non-player characters in a computer game, we re-contextualized the purpose of these bots as narrators and sound objects: ranting about experiences in pizza restaurants or making announcements in an infinite loop. We also developed a 1m2 platform as a full-body interface, allowing visitors to move through the environment by balancing on the platform. “Interwoven spaces, diverse acoustic domains and the transmutation of physical laws constitute challenges to visitors’ faculties of perception.…

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bike – a roadmovie

A Roadmovie Bike emerged from an improvisation I did in late 1998. Creating one situation, which works as a loop sequence, I tried to tell the story just by switching the perspective – from first person view to the very distant spectator who is able to survey the whole situation. The Soundtrack was constructed by Markus Decker in Mathematica and layered with short analog noise impacts. The short was shown at Siggraph 99, New York Animation Festival, Darklight Filmfestival Dublin, Art Futura 99, Ars Electronica…

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orbital elements

“Romanticism for data fanciers and ham radio fans, watching sunsets and satellite launches staging and making perceptible the activities and patterns of motion of “invisible” forms of technology that seem to be capable of independent action. The user has the opportunity to follow the race of NOAA 14 and meteor 3-5 two earth observation satellites, one american and one russian, during a live-transmission from the on-board cameras of the two orbiters. Two receiver units are provided, each consisting of a hand-held antenna, coaxial cable, receiver…

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AEC Elevator Floor

This was my first project for Ars Electronica, started in 1995 – an animation on the floor of the elevator, synchronized with its movement. For historical interest, the Animation was modeled in Alias Animator Studio on a Silicon Graphics Onyx 2 and played back in frame mode on DPS Perception video hardware, rendered in 100 fps to accommodate for the elevator’s acceleration. Thanks to Gerda Palmetshofer for help with the textures.

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