Jordan Backhus

All posts by jbackhus

Physical Computing: Proposal for the Final

Public Measures for the Private Person

For my final, I will explore the modern-day obsession with self-portraiture and, most importantly, video surveillance through portraiture — which exceeds measures of safety to the realms of political espionage and voyeurism.

I imagine making a structural installation using exposed monitors, LCD screens, and/or vintage televisions.

ex. 1)  Figure 5 - Exposed monitor from Gary Hill s piece

ex. 2)  namjunepaik2

ex. 3) Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.33.32 AM

Surveillance cameras will be planted in unnoticeable places all around this arena.

The cameras will relay UNSETTLING and DRAMATIC images: the user and his/her profile,  his/her ear or the nape of their neck, his/her shifting, wandering eyes  in close-up, forehead, or scalp, his/her crotch area, his/her peers interacting with the space around the room.





The installation arena will be BARREN; a blank, raw space is the only proper way to view these untainted images. The experience will be unfiltered and, indubitably, uncomfortable for the user. It will be raw and unavoidable: the user must accept his/her portrait, the inevitability that no matter what he/she does… he or she will be watched.

Study on Light & Space

Our installation is an aesthetic exercise, using concepts and techniques in both physical computing and computational media. Through the manipulation of physical space, the installation interacts via movement of its user, creating the illusion of travel and, perhaps, disorientation. The experience emphasizes interaction and encourages self-reflection.




-Ultrasonic Range Sensor

– 3D screen: tulle(s), etc.

-13k lumens Panasonic projector

When researching for the setup of our installation, we looked at other visual artists who have used physical mediums alongside their chosen technologies. We were specifically influenced by the work of Olafur Eliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist known for sculptures and large-scale light installations.

Ex. OLAFUR ELIASSONPasted Graphic 1 Pasted Graphic 2



The Firewall Art Installation by ITP Grad Aaron Sherwood, the Shanghai 2010 World Expo ‘Firefly Lighting’ exhibit by Vincent Moreau and Kevin Riou, and the ‘rAndom International Future Self’ exhibit are among are our inspirations.

1) Front 



2) Side View



3) Computer View


4) 13 K lumens Projector


Physical Computing: Week 3

Short-Form Thoughts on the Short-Form Cartoon Network App:

When babysitting my godmother’s six and eight-year-old this weekend, I did not expect to discover a new interactive technology, especially one as interesting to write about in this post. However, I was more than surprised to see that children experience, equivalently or moreover, contact with interactive technology on a regular and everyday basis. Tablets and phones are an increasingly common way for children to consume television and cinematic content. [ How many times have you seen a child on an airplane, in a restaurant, or the like with an interactive viewing tablet in hand? I have — in fact, one too many times. ] Cartoon Network’s approach to this development, framed around the fancy term “micro-network,” is “Cartoon Network Anything.”

Both Stella and Roman were particularly attached to their tablets for the entirety of my stay. Upon observation, I realized that their attention was consumed by none other than CN’s short-form app for the ADD generation. For the remainder of the night, I decided to take a look and see what it was all about. Cartoon Network, in an effort to display its content wherever its young viewers are, has created a network that will serve non-stop streams of content (around 10-15 seconds) to tablet and mobile viewers; users can answer trivia, play games, watch videos, and, through the swipe of a finger, directly interact with the application. Technically, the program strategy is as such: the network is never “off.” Such a flow of information does offer its advantages, particularly to parents; CN’s application can deliver educational apps and books, parental guidelines can be configured, tablets are mobile, and children can truly interact with a show, instead of passively staring. But it does leave a lot of room for thought. How exactly will CN, among other content publishers, make money in a world without commercials? I imagine CN will offer “sponsorship” and advertisement opportunities to engage children while they interact within the micro-net. It makes me nervous to think that children will be the testing ground for new models of high-intensity visual content. How will this change the way children interact with technologies, as well as with each other?

Physical Computing: Week 1

Physical Interactions: Thoughts In The “Artistic” Context

I believe the most significant challenge for any inventor — or artist for  that matter — is creating an instrument that can properly achieve a functioning discourse between its audience and its technology. Any purposeful instrument that wishes to create a dialogue has a system to its operation — much like a debate between two adults, the petting of an animal, the exchange of love, the game of chess. Chris Crawford, self-proclaimed lexicographer, colloquially labels this a “conversation,” a dimensional discourse that requires listening, thinking, and, in turn, action on both ends. In accordance, I would further the discussion by proposing that interactivity is dependent on the idea that the interaction is experiential, a matter of participation, involvement, and effect/affect. Ever-evolving computer technologies allow the modern-day inventor and/or artist a medium through which he/she can can combine technological capabilities and human reactivity; the product will respond to the audience and adapt to its environment. Both the technology and the audience listen and, in turn, speak to each other. To define interactivity as an active conversation may limit alternative variables that exceed tangibility. Crawford and Victor look at interactivity from a functional (and arguably austere) standpoint. Perhaps I am seeking a part as the Devil’s Advocate, considering I am hardly spiritual, but I would certainly allow room for cultural and artistic ethos and divine interpretation in my definition of interactivity. In antiquity, a painting of Carvaggio or a fresco of Giotto garnered an audience who sought a divine personal experience, a feeling of the present, of an experience created specifically for them; they believed that through the artist(s) and/or inventor(s), God (or whichever divinity) was interacting. Though I agree with each author’s terms of interaction, I would leave room for “conversation.”

As far as defining “good” physical interaction, I’m not quite sure I know where to begin. When posed this question, I think mostly of modern day interactive art. Art can, of course, do many things: excite us with its ingenuity, its technical originality; comment on culture, human conditions, political agendas; give us discomfort or pleasure, and cater us with allusions of inexplicable beauty. It can transcend the constraints of our human language. But aside from aesthetics, I find that less and less frequently does contemporary art inspire its spectators with anything approaching an intense emotion. This may be in part tangential to the way in which we experience the art. In a generation of biennales and celebrity art fairs, we cannot truly avoid our surroundings unless we are in fact alone. If we step too close to a painting, in the hopes of intimacy, we are approached by a guard or hear the complaints of our fellow spectators whose view we are indubitably blocking. Such caution only limits our ability to entirely interact with the art. Just a thought (or two…).