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Leonardo Electronic Almanac ISSN NO : 1071 - 4391 The MIT Press
Locating multimedia practice in the internet of things
by Derek Hales
Locating multimedia practice in the internet of things
by Derek Hales
School of Art and Design
University of Huddersfield, UK

This text illustrates issues of space, place and location embedded in teaching at the University of Huddersfield. Highlighting how real locations and behavioural studies of actual places are embedded in project work and how this informs understanding of our social responsibility as practioners in the internet of things and locations.

space, place, location, mixed reality, internet of things

Locative media practices at the University of Huddersfield are supported by the Multimedia Subject Area in The School of Art and Design and the Digital Research Unit. More properly, this area is supported by individual practitioners who work across these domains.

Our courses have grown through a combination of work in multimedia, particularly through net.art, installation art and other site-specific practices as well as drawing on aspects of our RIBA approved Architecture programme. All our courses operate somewhere within an ongoing exploration of a broad interpretation of time, space and the virtual including our explicitly named Virtual Reality award. This course is focussed on the creation of content for real-time data processing, computer games and other space-based media environments. This also encompasses the areas of mixed reality, pervasive or ubiquitous computing and locative media arts practice.

Our interest in site-specific media, net.installation practices, the internet and architecture informs our approach to the locative and the expanded range of media that both measure and describe. We acknowledge that our concerns respond to and develop some very old philosophical arguments, have origins and traditions, and are themselves located. Our approach is one of a group of practitioners, peripatetic academics, technologists, researchers and students, coming to terms, each in our own way with a sense of space, place and location.

Our work encompasses the development of a critical pedagogy, or a politicised dimension to our teaching. We instil in our students a sense of their responsibility and accountability in their work. We encourage our students to see their work and practice as part of a critique of the development of interactive, social and locative technologies, through the production of cultural content for an expanded internet: an internet of things, an internet of locations.

From the outset, students on the courses in the Multimedia Subject Area work with location and themes that are structured to explore space, place and location through time-based and interactive, networked and locative media, most frequently this is through a direct engagement with place. In the first year tasks are set that require observation of simple human interactions and studies of behaviour in urban environments. Other tasks draw on approaches with origins in Fluxus and Situationist practices, as well as developing an approach to process with origins in Structuralist and Expanded Cinema.

In our final year, students use techniques that develop from 'bodystorming' an area of creative development that we first discovered through the work of Proboscis and their Urban Tapestries project.

At Huddersfield we use the bodystorming process in quite a subtle way, to ask students to think about their projects on-site, in a place where they can at least see the kinds of people who might use their work, or the way that a location operates, who goes where, how people behave in a particular context or locale, so that these sets of circumstances and what actually occurs there can filter in to the project. This is a direct descendent of our teaching on our earlier Installation Art course as well as being a way of avoiding making assumptions about the people and places we are designing for as well as a way of testing and visualising the experience of design. Bodystorming might imply a more active way of approaching designing for other people. For us and our students it is a spatialising of process, or a locating of the design process in other contexts and a way of revealing aspects of the process that might otherwise remain hidden.

DEREK HALES is Subject Leader for Multimedia and Research Leader for Creative Technologies in the School of Art and Design, University of Huddersfield, UK. As Research Director of the Digital Research Unit, Derek works in partnership with Creative Director Tom Holley at the Media Centre, Huddersfield to support practice-based research <http://www.druh.co.uk/> through an Artist in residence programme, a series of Creative Labs and a newly established Mphil/PhD group. Derek is a chartered architect and chairs the Emerging Technology Group for the Royal Institute of British Architects in Yorkshire.

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