Emergent Objects: Designing the human/technology interface through performance

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Performance & Cultural Industries


This project seeks to use performance knowledge to explore and articulate the emergent nature of the interface between technological object and human that is fundamental to the development of new design thinking and practices. It uses performance perspectives to investigate the modelling of a role of design in a technological society. It asks questions about the desirable relationships between users and designed artefacts, systems or environments.

This project is concerned with investigating fluid, malleable, emerging or invisible interfaces through focussing on direct kinaesthetic engagement and playful, embodied experiences in different stages of the design process. The aim is to avoid submission to technology, whether through fetish or by disconnection, and to investigate interfaces which are responsive, which facilitate communication and expression, and which consider the users as participant-performers.

This portfolio proposal comprises three sub-projects clustered under one meta-level project. Each sub-project involves a cross-sector, interdisciplinary team drawn from artists, designers, choreographers, performance academics, computer specialists and roboticists from the academy and the professional sphere. Each investigates the interface between human and technological object using performance practices and knowledge, but from a different starting points. 'Snake' investigates the extent of interactivity and responsivity between a designed object (as interactive sculpture) and human agent. 'SpiderCrab' is concerned with design development for a robotic agent, using models and theories of performance. The focus is on ways that designers and performers work together as an interdisciplinary team. 'Hoverflies' aims to design and build an interactive object which entices performance interaction and play. This project is at the earliest stage of the design process, in its most fluid state of emergence.

Regular joint workshops involving all three sub-projects will develop a dialogue between them, exposing and articulating key issues. This will allow the meta-level project to observe, map and theorise beyond the local level, identifying approaches and concepts which are of value to the wider design community. Two performance-based events will be the focus of colloquia where an international group of invited participants drawn from a range of design practices will be able to experience and discuss the aims, methods and insights of the project. The Emergent Objects website will provide a publicly accessible record of the work, including footage from the workshops, and will be a vehicle for a further exchange and a resource for the developing dialogue between performance and design.


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Title All three artefacts - Snake, SpiderCrab and Hoverflies were open for public view and interaction 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Title Dux07 Designing for User Experience Conference, Chicago 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Title Exhibition/evaluation of Snake 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Title Prototype objectiles - Snake, SpiderCrab and Snake - persist as artefacts for exhibition and development 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Title The Emergent Objects project representation at Streetwise Robots 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition