From La Cura Summer School to BAOTAZ
Between analog and digital world, between art and technology, between global and local:
this story tells how La Cura Summer School gave life to BAOTAZ, the interconnected mind of the world, to donate a new augmented sensoriality to humankind.
This is the general report of what was La Cura Summer School, the international summer school that Nefula organized in Florence from the 22nd to 26th August 2016. A tale made of texts and images, but although rich of external contents: materials, resources, projects, detailed studies. A path that brings us from its birth to the reached results, and that opens the school process to the external world.
La Cura Summer School finds its genesis inside La Cura, a project launched by Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico.
The project begins in 2012 when Salvatore, sick of brain cancer, decides to leave the hospital in order to give birth to La Cura, a global performance which wants to get back his own body and his own identity creating an active open-source cure for cancer. Salvatore asks to the world a cure, and millions of people answer from all over the world sending all kind of contributions – alternative diets, spiritual advices, poetries, doctors names, artworks and rituals – contributing to redefine the meaning of cure.
Cancer is a complex phenomenon that doesn’t involve only the doctor and the patient, but it involves many levels of society (family economics, relationships, urbanism, psychology…). Also the cure can’t be interpreted only as a medical treatment, it must necessarily include an interconnective dimension, in which different disciplinary approaches meet and influence themselves.
In May 2016 all the story behind La Cura is pubblished in a book, with this occasion Salvatore’s story becomes the input to start a process that searches in society, in the relational connections among people, the cure for the loss of contemporary sensoriality.
This is the starting idea of La Cura Summer School, born from the collaboration among La Cura, ISIA Firenze, Nefula, la Triennale di Milano and the event Condividi la Conoscenza.
The theme of the summer school was chosen in order to partecipate at the Triennale di Milano exhibition in occasion of the event Condividi la Conoscenza and thinking about it’s main topic: inhabiting the city, inhabiting the planet.
The theme was interpreted starting from the experience of La Cura, exploring the concept of inhabiting in its interconnective and transdisciplinary dimension.
In which way do we inhabit the planet in ubiquitous and hyper-connection era?
Is it possible to interconnect the planet in a global level, creating dynamics able to produce sensoriality from the relationship among bodies, objects, environments and processes?
May we value the “inhabiting the planet” theme as a transdisciplinary dimension, including multiple approaches and points of view, and in a collaborative dimension, in which everyone has the possibility to express in different ways?
From here the theme of the summer school: inhabiting the planet as an interconnected mind.
The theme was explored aiming to produce an interactive installation able to perceive in an analogical level the interactive life of the planet.
For the first time in humankind, we are able to connect with people and objects in every corner of the planet, using technologies, services and tools that are part of our daily life. These connections produce a huge amount of data, that could give us a lot of qualitative and quantitative information about expressions, emotions and relations.
But in which way do human beings use to perceive, observe and value the interconnections that live the planet?
The challenge of La Cura Summer School was to improve new ways that allow people to experience on its own body and in analogical level the interconnected life of the planet.
The result of the course was exposed at Milan ExpoGate, as part of the event Condividi la Conoscenza during the XI International Exposition of La Triennale di Milano.
To analyze the interconnection of the planet we used Human Ecosystems, a platform that allows to observe digital dimension of city in real time, observing information that people constantly public on social network.
Born in Rome in 2013, Human Ecosystem is an experimental process that now is present in many cities around the world, like Sao Paulo (Br), Montreal and Toronto (CA), New Haven (USA) and Bologna (ITA).
Human Ecosystems is a technological platform able to observe the digital life of the city in real time. The public conversations exchanged in the whole city on the main social networks (like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare) are captured, analysed using Natural Language Processing techniques and technologies (29 languages) in order to understand what people talk about (topic), which emotions are expressed (emotion), where the conversations happen (space), how they are distributed in time (time) and how people relate in a relational ecosystem described in their relationships (relation).
The aim of Human Ecosystems is research: it’s a tool which allows to observe knowledge and information flows in the city and in the public space, in particular:
– ways in which groups and communities grow up
– people’s roles
– ways in which informations, opinions, knowledge, emotions move inside and through communities
– their transformation over time, in space e through themes
– ways in which they interconnect and disconnect
The collected data are released under different sources of Open Data, guaranteeing the public and no profit use of data for citizen, students, researchers, public administrators, no profit associations, social entrepreneurs, artists, designers, teachers, etc…
Squo, the hyper-connected man
With the help of ISIA Firenze, Nefula curated all the aspects of the summer school: the contents of the lessons; the contacts with partners, students and teachers; the administrative and logistical planning; the technical materials; and the communication campaign.
A fundamental step was the designing of the visual communication for the summer school. This phase gave birth to Squo, the campaign testimonial. Squo is a man (gender discussion is still inconclusive) without skin but happy, from his brain basement long cables connect him to something else (abroad of our visible field).
It is a challenging representation of a hyper-connected man. His skin was removed, in order to get an hyper-sensible human being and consequently exposed to more risks, and his hyper-connective skill is represented as a prosthesis, that, probably unconscious of his circumstance (maybe not?), he’s relaxed and blessed to have.
Squo is disturbing, he’s not beautiful, he’s not the guest that you would find at the starting point of a creative path. Squo is unsettling, he’s aggravating and contradictory.
Squo makes us think about our state of human beings in this hyper-connected era, about our role and about what we wish. Squo makes a question about the role of our body and the transformation that it’s getting in relation with ubiquitous technology.
From this input all the visual communication grew up, designing an animated gif series that represent the main themes of the summer school.
In July, after the application deadline, we gathered a very heterogeneous team of participants. They’re from many countries: Italy, germany, England, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, USA, Mexico and Canada.
Also their backgrounds were heterogeneous: artists, designers, researchers, makers, technology experts, philosophers, lawyers, engineers, architects, communication and culture experts.
It was an incredible value for the summer school.
The theme of inhabiting the planet, as well as the hyper-connection one, brings in itself a series of implications that touch every aspect of human life, and these are visible from multiple disciplines points of view: from psychology to anthropology, from technology to art, from law to ecology.
La Cura Summer School was born as a transdisciplinary path among art, design, technology and philosophy. Participants, at different experience, knowledge and knowing levels, incredibly enriched this path, adding a piece of experience of the Summer School and naturally contributing to the p2p learning. At the beginning of La Cura Summer School, after the topic and program presentation step, was asked to participants to choose a work group.
To explore the complexity of the theme the summer school approached it from different sides, the participants of the summer school could choose between five working groups:
Big data, Social Media Listening
How do people express themselves about inhabiting the planet? Which are the sub-themes of inhabiting the planet? How to collect all these expressions and how to get it accessible and clear?
Data visualization, info-aesthetics
How is it possible to generate sense from a huge amount of data? How is it possible to visualize them and transform them into a perceptible and accessible public space? Which techniques and approaches are possible to follow or design in order to create a new tactility, a new augmented senses which are sensible of all these information, interconnecting people’s perception?
How is an interconnected identity? How can a brand become an expression platform for a whole ecosystem? In which shapes and through which channels could the communication process of a whole interconnected ecosystem take place?
Design and Prototype
How is an interactive installation able to react in real time to a huge amount of data? How do we relate with expositive space? How does the project interact with public? How is it realized?
Coding, Physical and Wearable Computing
What’s an augmented sense? How may we materialize on our body a new tactility able to interconnect in real time to millions of people’s expressions? How do people interact with this kind of project?
At the bottom of the summer school sharing process there are two main questions:
How is it possible to get a shared process from the summer school?
In which way is it possible to avoid hindrances among the groups?
Observing the experience in the aftermath 4 elements that supported the creation of a high quality relational environment were fundamental:
The approach of organizers, teachers and tutors to the program of the summer school is always been of maximum openness. Since the first connection with the participants we asked them to contribute in an active way to the creation of the summer school, sharing with them the preparatory materials about the contents and the educational process.
The program and work organization has always been flexible to what participants wished and to their curiosity. Some activities changed during the summer school and some participants chose to move among groups instead of follow a single path.
Some dedicated tools were created for the coordination of the groups activity. The goal was to avoid the creation of barriers in the information flow.
Although, the morning meeting contributed to give a complete update of past daily activities of each group, and it also helped to evoke thoughts, collect advices and critiques. The organization tool for the main meetings was the tazebao. The tazebao represented the connective network of the school. It was a big tab managed by tutors, teachers and participants themselves. It had the goal to involve the guests with the contents emerged from the interactions and from each work group, underlining the emerging of connections and relations among them.
The summer school included every day a healty lunch, cooked by chef Giorgio Cipolletta. It wasn’t just a simple food moment, sharing food strongly influenced the school’s evolution. The lunch represented a circumstance in which groups were disbanded and re-composed, but comparison keep going out of lesson rooms, in the garden, in a spontaneous way. Giorgio not only cooked a great and healthy food during the whole week, but he matched each meal with a real time poetry. These became a daily ritual that enriched not only our bodies, but also our minds.
The bar – managed directly by us – had a main role for creating an inclusive creation. Managing the bar, meals and breaks, absorbed a lot of energy (thanks to Marta, Gian Paolo and Giacomo who spent all their time on that) but it also contributed to the evolution of the course, in which times spontaneously expanded beyond lessons borders, including happy hours first, then dinner and after dinner. Sharing the bar area was a genuine exercise to take care of a common.
This experience is collected in the cookbook Ubiquitous Recipes, in which you can find Giorgio’s recipes and poetries.
All the week was captured by Tommaso Cappelletti and Arianna Magrini’s lenses. They didn’t follow a simple photo-report process, Tommaso and Arianna contributed to create a common narrative among work groups. Aiming to create a mockumentary, participants were actively involved in sci-fi performance that influenced the common imaginary and it extended beyond the borders.
For the first time they are realising the teaser of their work here.
The whole process of La Cura Summer School gave birth to BAOTAZ: a process, a collaborative platform, an interactive installation and a wearable technology to experiment in real time on our bodies the emotions expressed from all over the planet on the topic of “inhabiting”.
An immersive experience in which data, relations, emotions generated from our interconnected lives are materialised on the city public space and on the environment of an exposition room through an interactive sculpture, reaching our bodies.
The contributions of the single groups to BAOTAZ are described below:
Design and Prototype group, managed by Andrea Spatari, assisted by Rudy Faletra and with Francesco Bonomi as special guest, designed the analog installation. The group faced with common interaction design problems, observing and giving value to possible alternatives for the design of the interactive installation, and the relational ways in he which the viewers and the expositive space relate. Starting from the analysis of the state of the arts, the team extrapolated the key function modalities of an interactive work able to communicate data and sensoriality. How can an analog work technically communicate data in real time? Which are the possible actuator? How is it possible to technically and in semiotics way create a clear experience and that are able to sensitise?
Starting from these questions the group designed the installation, guaranteeing an active experience inside BAOTAZ’s world.
During the operative phase the group took care of realizing every part that composed the physical installation, working through different fields and knowledge, achieving electronics experience, electronic network design, coding on a side and from the other side working with plastic materials and wood.
The group dealt with designing the whole BAOTAZ’s physical experience designing the basement, which includes the whole needed electronic and sound part, and BAOTAZ Brain.
The group solved in the best way the needs of the installation, that must be disassembled, re-assembled and transportable occupying least dimensions. The basement was designed to be divided and used as a transport box for the work itself, guaranteeing a good protection and transportability.
Curiosity To design the central suspended blob, main object of BAOTAZ Brain, was handcrafted and modeled with a specific draining technique, many transparent acetic silicone layers creating a weave and a soft and gummy shape that reminds of the brain shape.
Coding, Physical and Wearable Computing group, managed by Guglielmo Torelli, developed the wearable technology, that means a device able to transmit collected data from Human Ecosystem directly to the body. The wearable device is a helmet, in which front section are installed 13 vibrating micro motors. Thanks to these 13 micro motors, the helmet transmits collected data with Human Ecosystems to the head of the person who wears it, setting up the vibration intensity and movement spread.
Conversely of neural helmets that obtains data from the person who uses it, BAOTAZ Wearable donates a new sensoriality to the person, the empathic interconnection sense.
Social listening group, managed by Oriana Persico, took care of setting up the research of expressions on inhabiting topic, through the Human Ecosystem platform preparing data for the other groups. Participants analysed the platform, learning to implement a research and analysing by a critically way the anthropological and linguistic implications of social media listening.
Cause of the size of the topic and the need to get usable data in a transverse way from the other groups, the group chose to keep the hypothesis to research on a general level, collecting the expressions of the planet on the “inhabiting” topic, translated in various languages and with different shades of meaning (synonymous): the linguistic skills of the participants, from USA, MExico, Serbia, Italy were used to reach this goal.
The group, moreover, produced a usage handbook as an output in order to furnish a metamodel able to permit to participants of the Summer School and anyone else to set up a research on the La Cura Summer School project field, from here BAOTAZ was born.
The metamodel conceptualizes three kind of general research (Topia, Situation, Place), identified as characterising elements in order to infect the Inhabiting the Planet topic, that could be inflected depending on specific project needs.
The handbook contains, moreover, useful recommendations to setting up the first research, depending on the experience achieved during the Summer School.
A third kind of output, not finished cause of time and cause of the need of a better discussion with the other participants, is the position paper. The group analysed in detail that kind of document in order to reach the goal of identifying the main topics in which participants could identify themselves and publicly express a common position. The document was started, but not discussed with the other groups, because of that we have to consider the output not already finished and it’s not included among the illustrated materials here.
Cause of the transversal origin of Data group, the group decided to methodologically get infiltrators: the participants constantly frequented all the other groups, establishing dialogues and collaborations and reporting information in each group. This activity is the result of a particular interest, both of feedback value thanks to it was possible to modulate and rethink the activities and outputs of the group itself, and cause of the possibility to get a complete vision of the Summer School process obtaining a large experience (which was desired by many participants who were deeply interested about the other groups), both because of connections and relations incrementation among groups and individuals.
In a complex project (and an environment) this kind of figure and methodologies result a great interest and, in the future, could be integrated in the next editions structure of the Summer School.
A last note is about the collaborative writing tools used by each group, specifically PiratePad and Gdrive: also the participants facebook group was used to communicate, even if during the Summer School interpersonal communications were much more used.
Operation: collecting from Instagram and Twitter, 29 languages
Curiosity During the week of the Summer School an earthquake damaged the centre of Italy, which destroyed the city of Amatrice. The social media listening group participants decided to set up their own researches on HE (Human Ecosystems) in order to listen the people’s expressions about the earthquake. The emotional analysis revealed an incrementation of the satisfaction feeling in conjunction with the volunteers arrive. This choice also inspired the Physical computing group.
The Communication, Branding group managed by Tommaso Tregnaghi and Mirko Balducci conducted the BAOTAZ’s visual identity design creation.
These are the main questions that we tried to answer during the 5 days of the School. Beginning from contemporary brand evolution (tribes, meta-brand, brand anonimi, organizations, etc…) we analysed the meaning and how is it possible to define, today, a process which drives the identity.
The analysis of La Cura brand was fundamentally important in order to begin and analyse affinities and divergences with the ongoing process during La Cura Summer School and to define it on the basis of a coherent projectual line.
How is it possible to give value to the results and to the involved people at the mean time? How is it possible to share the created value enabling other people?
Use scenarios were imagined to describe communication tools able to perform the process in the best way. The result was an open and sharable platform.
In addition to basis elements of a brand identity the structure of the platform that connected the experience of the Summer School and the experience of the groups around the common crux was created. The platform and the whole project were called BAOTAZ.
The work produced a fundamental awareness to all participants, it means that the Summer School itself was a small piece of the being defined process. BAOTAZ was defined as an alive process and cause of that it is accessible to anyone who desired to participate on it enriching, checking or simply promoting materials, values and goals around the theme inhabiting the planet as an interconnected mind.
This physical and not physical endowment, was identified as the real Common of the process itself, its nourishment and fundamental component.
To reach the theoretical basis for a good discussion level was the biggest hurdle with which we had to compare with. It wasn’t easy to share a specific and complex vocabulary whence it’s possible to start in order to analyse and theorise a model.
Anyway it was possible to start a stimulating and deeply educational dialogue about the topic. An affinity feeling to the project/process was generated and it extended outside the group which each participant belonged to and it came over every area of the process building the Common that we searched for.
Operation: Meta-brand + participative platform
Curiosity BAOTAZ was born composing the word “Tazebao”, which presence was one of the main elements of the life in the Summer School. The name met a lucky and random reference to the definition on the meaningfor website, in which the word concerns to interconnection, sharing and collaboration. A performance into the performance that we looked at as omen.
Visualization data, Infoaestethics group managed by Ruggero Castagnola.
Goal: Data visualization group handled to build a visualization that represents, as much as possible, the complexity, stratification and contradictory nature of the meaning of “Inhabiting the planet”.
Starting from the declared and planned goal of producing a digital artifact using the Human Ecosystems platform, the process was voluntarily left open, in order to give space to a reflection that could be collocated in any point of the area between practice and concept, between giving an insight and problematize.
Criticality: One of the most interesting parts of the process was the emerging of criticalities, and we are going to explain it with pleasure.
First of all, we noticed a big tension between the focus of the process and the focus of the ouput. In fact, the starting purpose was also to practically work to the visualization, a huge part of the time was dedicated to build a conceptual structure, obstructing the fact of having enough time to complete the implementation.
Secondly emerged a tension cause of the research of a result conceptually interesting that can efficaciously represent and communicate an underlying thought.
Thirdly, came out an enough great gap between guide lines and practical activity of the other groups. So it was difficult to understand the borders among different work groups and which one should be the right practical interconnection level. Like our group, also in the other the interest of teachers and participants pushed the research in ajar directions, making sometimes difficult to understand the practical contribution that each group could/wanted/must bring to the others.
Fourth contradictory element was the choice of operating with an open process and not directed as much as possible. From different parts was observed that a stronger leadership was more desired, sometimes, underlying that the two systems are not necessarily antithetical, and was underlying how much study, regulation, intelligence and mind was needed in order to properly get the right way that allows them to work well.
Operation: A demo is available here
BAOTAZ debuted at Expo Gate Milan on the 3rd and 4th September, during the event “Condividi la Conoscenza” inside the XI International Exposition of Triennale di Milano.
The installation raised the public and media interest, emerging on important national headlines (La Repubblica, La Stampa)
The fact that this topic was part of contemporary era, gave the possibility to access by an experimental way to untouchable information, the production and artistic process, the fact that BAOTAZ is a tangible thing, makes itself a unique experience.
After Milan, BAOTAZ moved to Pozzilli, in Molise (Italy), in order to participate to Notte Europea dei Ricercatori at the Istituto Neurologico Neuromed.
At Neuromed BAOTAZ met 1200 students from local high schools, in addition to researchers, institutions and citizens during the conclusion night event.
This was a unique and precious chance, that unlined the BAOTAZ’s skill of being an important meeting point among, art, technology and society.
BAOTAZ doesn’t exist only as a tangible work, it lives in the relational ecosystem that was born from La Cura Summer School and that involved all the actors that contributed, or desired to contribute to its existence.
Also this article, and all indications to external sources, is part of BAOTAZ’s life.
Now we are designing the dedicated BAOTAZ’s relational ecosystem platform, but at the same time you can use this Gdrive, in order to propose a new step for BAOTAZ’s process (an event, a workshop, a work, a scientific paper, an article, a talk…).
For more info, comments, critiques, advices don’t hesitate to write at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links and Resources
Outputs from La Cura Summer School