This article introduces the programme “Hybrid Innovation” Creating the Future: Transcending Boundaries through Multi-Communication, a new collaboration between Tokyo Tech and Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (scroll down for English text).
A new collaboration was launched between the Tokyo Institute of Technology, a leading science and technology university, and Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London, a world leader in art and design. The fusion of science and art can create a great wave of innovation in society and industry, beyond research and education. Following this approach, we have been engaging in various unique activities. → READ Prof. Nohara’s interview “Encouraging technological innovation through ‘translation'”: Tokyo Tech’s surprising research: a new discipline that enables the fusion of science and art, on Toyo Keizai ONLINE 2021.1.16 (in Japanese).
Our Science & Art Lab “Creative Flow” started in 2009. We have been running joint workshops on “Concept Designing” in collaboration with Musashino Art University and promoted dialogue between science and art in the Creative Café series. Collaboration between students and researchers from both disciplines has been shown to improve soft skills such as creativity, team management, communication, and problem-solving.
In 2017, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and CSM teamed up again to further promote the integration of knowledge across disciplines through speculative and interdisciplinary research activities such as: “the Experiment” Symposium (2017), the research project “Existential Wearables: what are we going to wear in Tokyo in 10 years’ time?” (2018), the joint workshop “Becoming Hybrid” (2019), and the design workshop “Hacking Hearts” (2019) about biotechnological research on the heart. This collaboration is recognized as a WRHI Satellite Lab at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, a centre for interdisciplinary research and creative practice between science and art.
At the point of contact between science & technology and art/design, we find ourselves bound by assumptions and habits as we encounter “others” who are different from us. We recognize alternative language cultures, ways of thinking and values. By leaving a comfort zone that is protected by homogeneous culture and placing ourselves in an interdisciplinary space, we can translate ourselves and embody a shift in thinking. Against this backdrop, we are implementing a program for companies that integrates human resources and information from different fields.
In a time of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity), we cannot face future challenges with a fresh perspective if we remain complacent in existing fields and rely only on formulaic, conventional thinking. Innovation must be implemented in a social sense, not only in a technological sense. This requires innovation in our way of thinking. What is needed is a roadmap to think flexibly and overcome the segmentation of knowledge.
In this program, participating companies will experience a “Hybrid Innovation” process to establish a culture and methodology for creating innovation and transforming ideas. They will work with a diverse range of staff from Tokyo Tech and CSM, including scientists, engineers, artists, designers and philosophers, to provide a range of dynamic activities that connect science, technology and art. The participants will experience a multi-communication space and discussion where ideas reflect values, feelings and psychology without being bound by existing frameworks, and will gain insights for planning and executing strategies for creating unique innovation in their companies.
Program period: October 2022 – April 2023 (pre-season event in August/September 2022)
Application period: June 1, 2022 – September 15, 2022
Program contents: Seminars, workshops, manufacturing, experiments, and creative community activities that will be carried out flexibly face-to-face and/or online. The program will be concluded with a final symposium (limited to participating companies and open to the public).
The ON The BorderLINE exhibition was held at Shibuya QWS, Tokyo, on 25-28 February 2021. In this post, the participants of this first student-led project of the STADHI Satellite Lab at Tokyo Tech reflect on the experience of creating artworks and share lessons learned from the event.
“I chose this lab because it was called Science & Art Lab,” Masamune Kawasaki, the 2nd year master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course who directed the event, talked about his motivation in organizing the exhibition. After gaining experience in creating artworks and managing exhibitions outside the university in the previous year, he led the team of students from Nohara laboratory of the Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering Department at Tokyo Tech. “[…] I thought we could do it, so I suggested holding it at Tokyo Tech.”
The student-centered event was partly supported by the Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI) through a programme that aims to integrate science/technology with art/design. Visitors were invited to experience the feeling of standing on various overlooked borderlines by engaging with a total of nine works purposefully made by nine students. Acting as both artists and management staff, the students carried out the project mostly online. The exhibition itself was held face-to-face in February 2021 under strict preventive measures put in place against COVID-19 infection in Tokyo. Despite the situation, more than 160 people visited the space and many expressed a great interest. Reflecting on the event here, some students share their honest views on the experience of holding the exhibition.
“Although before creating I thought it seemed too difficult, it was not difficult to create when I started.”
ON The BorderLINE was born from the urge to re-examine various ‘borders’ in the current uncertain and chaotic modern times. Trying to capture their own unique ‘borderline’ perspective, each artist translated it into exhibits. Utilizing their knowledge and field of expertise from studying at Tokyo Tech, each also aimed to achieve certain individual aspirations.
“I was trying to capture my feelings towards science and technology,” said Chihiro Wada about her work entitled 126.96.36.199. Her artwork stemmed from her research at Tokyo Tech as a 2nd year Doctoral student with a specialization in gender studies. Her knowledge of cultural signs and text helped in the creation of the artwork: “I tried to evoke a culturally general mental reaction towards the work while at the same time trying to create a confusing effect to stimulate people’s interpretation.” Her final piece resembled mushroom clouds in black and white, which was intended to create an ambiguous, unstable and indescribable psychological landscape. While the making process was relatively simple, she felt that deciding on the final design of the work was a major challenge.
Some visitors shared their impressions of the artworks on a board purposefully prepared for the occasion. Their comments reflect thoughts born after interacting with the students during the exhibition. “I realized that the ‘white feelings’ are not always ‘pure white’ […],” was mentioned after understanding the detail behind color used in the 188.8.131.52. Chihiro Wada was filled with awe by new and interesting interpretations of her work. “Through hearing their comments, I also re-interpreted my artwork,” she stated.
Rei Sato, a 2nd year Master student of the Global Engineering for Development, Environment, and Society (GEDES) course, was inspired by a London-based quantum music project for his 複雑系の音色/Complex Network Tones. “I tried to create state-of-the-art artworks based on science (physics research) and art (music), which is a completely new concept all over the world.” Based on previous studies, he tried to implement the algorithm from scratch and developed the programming by himself to create an original music piece. A visitor asked, paraphrasing the artist: “So this is the sound of this (natural) world?”. Sato reflected on his participation in the show, “Although before creating, I thought it seemed too difficult, it was not difficult to create when I started”. One of the challenges that required much effort was to visually present his non-tangible work through a digital visualization of the music.
In her Your Touch Makes Me Fragrant, Yuke Wang, 2nd year Master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course, applied her theoretical olfactory research to interaction design. “I want to let people think about the relationship between humans and man-made things,” she said. Her interactive installation gave out an aroma when touched. She described the aroma as a metaphor for emotion and attachment. “Attachment makes artificial things emotional and special.” On a practical level, she especially pointed out how her technical background helped her in solving the problems she met in the making process.
The students spent months ‘translating’ their concepts into artworks, by sharing and discussing among each other while at the same time progressing with the overall event plan. Several WRHI members served as advisors, including Heather Barnett from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, and Prof. Masahiko Hara and Dr. Giorgio Salani from Tokyo Tech. From them, the students received valuable feedback, technical hints to solve any bottlenecks, and overall guidance in materializing their ideas.
“Through hearing their comments, I also re-interpreted my artwork.”
During the event, visitors could enjoy the exhibits while interacting with the students at the space. Serving as hall staff, the students were ready to explain each artwork to the visitors. Sometimes the talks went beyond simple explanations of individual works and reached a re-questioning of various underlying concepts and thoughts.
“Although I think my idea was easy to understand, there were still many in the audience who did not understand the concept until I explained it to them,” said Yamei, who was in her 2nd year of the Engineering Sciences and Design master course. Her piece, 私たちの間/ Border Between Us, was a clay sculpture based on the concept of the ever-present border of communication. While she was comfortable to be totally free in expressing herself, she felt insecure at the same time. Without a proper background in art, she wondered how far she managed to successfully convey her message. However, comments from visitors helped her become more confident. “Oh, although it sounds sad that we cannot truly understand each other, the relationship between us is still warm just like your work shows,” was one of the meaningful responses she received from visitors. “I suppose that most of them (visitors) did feel it (the message).”
“[…] I am very glad I could have chance to apply the science communication theory I learned at Nohara laboratory,” Farah Fauzia, a 1st year Master student of GEDES course commented. Her work 社会apparatus/Society Apparatus was meant to convey the message that ‘it is fine to preserve our own color’ through unmixed colorful liquids inside laboratory vessels. Originally graduated from Chemical Engineering major before coming to Tokyo Tech, she tried to give a simple explanation of the scientific reason why the liquids could not get mixed to the visitors. “[I] wondered if there is also something in society that plays the role of surfactants,” one of the visitors commented on the work by using the technical term mentioned by the artists during the explanation. “I learned how to interact with visitors, especially using simple language […],” Fauzia reflected. Another memorable comment from some foreign-national visitors was: “They said they can relate to the concept. It (this artwork) was rather a ‘brave’ message to the Japanese society that was possible probably because of our diverse background.”
The numerous visitors to the exhibition included students, researchers, designers, creators, journalists, and business people. Some were foreign nationals, who enjoyed talking with students using a language other than Japanese. “I thought I had to prepare my business card and portfolio…” one of the students admitted when asked what they would do differently next time.
“I learned that we had to pass lots of processes to exhibit artworks.”
“Attending the exhibition is not only about creating a fine work,” Rei Sato reflected. “[…] I think most of us did not consider them at all at first.” Most members of the 9-strong team acted as both artists and management staff for this exhibition and struggled to find a balance between working on personal pieces and planning the event. “I learned that we had to pass lots of processes to exhibit artworks,” one stated. Most students identified time management as the most challenging aspect of the whole experience. “It was truly hard work,” Masamune Kawasaki – who led the team – admitted during the final evaluation meeting.
Under the COVID-19 infection risk, they needed to figure out how to smoothly carry out most of the production work online. For example, the team relied on the virtual layout of Shibuya QWS Playground to design the exhibition floor—since only limited people could visit the place during the preparation phase, and some trouble arose on the spot. “[…] You should leave enough time to test and adjust it in the exhibition space,” Yuke Wang reflected on her experience of taking long a time to find and fix a problem with her interactive installation that did not work well after its installation. “[…] Anything could happen during the exhibition time,” Farah Fauzia added, “It was very important to stay aware of overall exhibition space so we could respond swiftly.”
Another voiced a different opinion, “I think the most difficult part is generating good ideas”. The students spent months shaping their concepts into exhibits and went through a process of problem finding and solving in expressing their ideas. Chihiro Wada explored different ideas before finally settling on her [184.108.40.206] work. “I just kept thinking and thinking through creating my piece. It was a lot of work, but I believed it was necessary to the current me,” she explained.
When asked whether making the artwork helped them become a better researcher, some students were unconvinced. “I am not sure that they are related but […] I think it makes me better person,” Yamei expressed. Yuke Wang, who produced two pieces for the exhibition, pointed out the difference between the two activities: “Doing research is trying to figure out “why” and trying to express clearly to let other people understand. No ambiguity. But making artwork is more about expressing yourself. And different people can have different understanding of your artwork. There can be ambiguity.” However, most of them also agree that there are similarities between artwork production and research activities. “I think the process of finding a question and solving it is similar,” Wang said. “It was practically a trial and error, or experiments,” another added. “By not giving up and facing the challenge, we will equip ourselves with the necessary skills to become a good researcher,” Fauzia argued.
“I just kept thinking and thinking through creating my piece. It was a lot of work, but I believed it was necessary to the current me.”
FINAL REFLECTION, FUTURE THOUGHT
The students also shared personal impressions on their own pieces. “I like the texture and delicacy of my piece,” one of them honestly said. While others also stated they like their own pieces in terms of idea and quality, some felt not quite satisfied, “if I have more time, I can make them better.” Another student also added, “Next time, I would like […] to enhance the impact and message of the artwork.”
Some enjoyed receiving feedback and wanted to enable more interaction with the audience. “This experience is priceless,” one of the students summarized. For another student, through talking with various people with various background, one can also sell his/her own name. “This experience gives us a wide view not only of our artwork but also trigger future plans,” Rei Sato stated.
If there were opportunities in the future, all the students involved in the show agreed they would love to make artwork again. “Of course. I always have [a] strong desire of creating something,” Yamei eagerly stated. “I feel I need to express my thoughts not only through academic articles but also through art,” Chihiro Wada added. Another student also mentioned that this kind of experience is something that she probably could not easily come across in the future.
On the final evaluation meeting, event producer and director Masamune Kawasaki said he was glad this time there were some members who said they would want to experience the process again, “I think it was a good thing. We have experienced it once so we should be able to proceed more smoothly next time.” As all concerning issues (especially on the management side) were being evaluated, he hopes the event can be held annually. “We should collaborate with other universities,” one argued. During the event, some visitors from the architecture and literature department of another university came to talk about the overall exhibition with great interest. “It would be interesting to collaborate with them,” Kawasaki agreed.
He also pointed out his opinion that there might be something that can only be possible to be produced here in ScienceXArt Nohara Laboratory. “Unlike other laboratories, each individual has [a] different specialty, so the output will be different.” Different from art colleges who usually have a decided fixed output, university students (especially in non-art related majors) attempting to make artworks from original concepts may introduce interesting scientific innovations.
“This experience is priceless.”
Borrowing Prof. Kayoko Nohara’s words, through this exhibition, the Tokyo Tech students who specialize in science and technology have been trying to communicate with audience in a way that differ from your usual language. By integrating science/technology with art/design, they tried to explore media and tools that can capture the potential behind the organized chaos of the borderline. Reflecting on the experiences, they hoped the baton could be passed on to invite more audiences visiting whole new perspectives in future events.
Written by Farah Fauzia, based on an interview by Dr. Giorgio Salani. Edited by Giorgio Salani.
Contributor: Chihiro Wada, Yuke Wang, Rei Sato, Farah Fauzia, Yamei
また、Science x Artラボである野原研究室でしか作れないものがあるかもしれないという観客からの反応もありました。このイベントでは、科学・技術を専門とする東工大生たちが、いつもの言葉ではない形で、コミュニケーションを図ろうとしています。科学・技術をアート・デザインと統合することにより、彼らは境界線の組織化された混沌の背後にある可能性を受けとめ発信できるメディアとツールを探求しようとしました。
“ON the border LINE” was an exhibition based on re-examination of “border” in the current uncertain and chaotic modern times. Boundaries divide anything into two: this is science, this is not science; this is art, this is not art; this is seeing, this is hearing. What about the border itself? Much ambiguity is expected where boundaries are drawn. Students from the Dept. of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering at Tokyo Tech explored and translated this concept into exhibits, and invited visitors to take a look at the world from various borderline perspectives.”
The exhibition was held on 25-28 February 2021 at the Playground of Shibuya Scramble Square QWS in Tokyo. Despite strict preventive measures put in place against COVID-19 infection, more than 160 people visited the space during the 4-day face-to-face exhibition. The project aimed to re-frame various ambiguous boundaries in modern times under the current disarrayed global condition.
In 2020, our ‘normal’ everyday activities were suddenly disrupted by the spread of COVID-19. Since then, human life has been significantly affected. Countless visible borders, such as masks and social distancing, have become indispensable. At the same time, the ‘new normal’ has redefined various views of the world. However, amidst these uncertainties and disorder, there must be something that can only be captured at this very moment. Based on this feeling, this exhibition was held to invite visitors to experience the feeling of standing on various overlooked borderlines.
The show was directed by Masamune Kawasaki, 2nd year Master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course. A total of nine works from Tokyo Tech students were exhibited.
“If I didn’t see this work, I probably wouldn’t have encountered the world of quantum for the rest of my life…” (impression from anonymousvisitor)
Making use of knowledge from his field of interest – physics research – Rei Sato brought the visitors to listen to his mysterious ‘quantum music’. Referring to music that operates in quantum mechanic ways, quantum music has been recently recognized as a new music technology mainly in Western Europe. These tones enabled visitors to hear previously unperceived quantum interaction through music. This works as a border that connects people and complex systems.
“…we probably have been living while struggling to deal with this kind of dual opposition.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Using a black and white theme, Chihiro Wada expressed her personal view of science and technology. The title represents the atomic bombing that happened on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 in her hometown of Hiroshima, which was also the birth of her complex feelings toward science. Specializing in the field of Gender Studies of Humanities, her view toward science and technology gradually changed after enrolling in Tokyo Tech, a concept she tried to convey through this work.
“The scent of artificial flowers was very mysterious. Just like a science fiction!” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Through this ‘cyber flower’ interactive installation, Yuke Wang tried to explore the relationship between humans and artificial things. The ‘dead’ flower would become ‘alive’ with emotion and give out fragrance just like a real flower when coming in contact with a human. Having been working on olfactory research, Yuke Wang designed this artificial flower to give out a rose scent after being directly touched by the visitors.
“Border Between Us (私たちの間)” by Yamei
“I can watch this forever…” (impression from anonymous visitor)
This sculpture work represented a mass of ‘love’, which exists with an unfilled gap. Through this work, Yamei expressed how ‘words’ are an important element in building relationships between people. The various expressions of love written on this work represent any means for people to express and listen, in the effort to understand and be understood. While the gap–border of communication exists forever, people are still yearning to build ‘love’ between them.
“I didn’t know that just by having something else replaced your own face, your mind could be affected this much.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Inspired by the mask that has become part of everyday life during the Coronavirus pandemic, this interactive installation was designed as a ‘mirror’ that can show different ‘faces’ of oneself. Through this work, Ayano Nagata tried to realize the desire of ‘choosing body and fashion that can express one’s personality without being bound by natural body’ in the future. In this AR-based installation, visitors could have their face replaced by non-human avatars while still wearing masks.
“…I wonder if human also possess some kind of independent thing that will never get mixed.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Making use of knowledge in Chemistry from her Chemical Engineering background, Farah Fauzia wanted to deliver the beauty of ‘layers’ that form in society. Through this colorful installation, visitors could directly see how various liquids would not blend even if they were mixed together due to their different characteristics. With this demonstration, she tried to convey her opinion that it should be fine to stay true to our own ‘color’ in society.
“This made me realize that the boundaries in the landscape are not just those created by humans.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
By following the hundreds of photos taken along the journey from Tokyo Tech to the Shibuya QWS venue that were displayed on the floor of exhibition hall, Wang Hezheng invited the visitors to re-discover the beauty of the inconspicuous scenery in daily life. Graduated from Architecture studies, she transformed the everyday landscape into novel scenery by noticing the ‘boundary line’ that divide the materials, colors, and spaces and let visitors to enjoy new perspectives.
“It was interesting to express the current social situation and the emotions of people living in it.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
This work expressed two systems – open and closed – using the flow of water. Tomohiro Ichikawa wanted to convey his view that current society – in chaos due to forces such as capitalism and the Coronavirus pandemic, has divided people into independent subjects. Having major interest in Psychology research, he tried to re-question the whole situation by positioning the ‘subject’ from different point of view together with the visitors.
“It was beautiful to contrast technology and tradition.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Using Kintsugi (金継ぎ) to connect traditional ceramic vessels and modern plastic cups, Kato and Wang tried to question the value of new things. As human lives become more efficient, some value is added but some is lost when things become more convenient. Is it evolution, or is it erosion? The set of new things born from different value aimed to ask such question to the visitors.
During the exhibition, visitors from diverse background could enjoy the exhibits while interacting with the students from Tokyo Tech. The communication went beyond the simple explanation of their works, and reached a phase of re-questioning of various concepts and thoughts. Among the most notable impressions from the visitors, some pointed out how the concept from each exhibit managed to be conveyed in an easy-to-understand manner compared with the usual art exhibitions. This was probably made possible due to integration of science and art as basis for the show.
This event is the first student-centered project conducted as part of the Satellite Lab STADHI of Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI), which aims to integrate science/technology with art/design and is organized by Nohara laboratory led by Prof. Kayoko Nohara. Among the supporters, Prof. Masahiko Hara and Dr. Giorgio Salani from Tokyo Tech acted as technical advisors, with Dr. Heather Barnett from Central Saint Martins, University Arts London, as honorary advisor.
Written by Farah Fauzia
「ON the borderLINE」は、先の見えない混沌とした現代における「境界：Border」を見つめ直すことに基づく展覧会でした。境界は物事を二分します。これはサイエンス、これはサイエンスではない/これはアート、これはアートではない。しかし境界線上はどうでしょうか。きっと、多くのあいまいさからどっちつかずの混沌とした世界が広がっています。東京工業大学の融合理工学系の学生たちは、このコンセプトを調査して展示に変換し、観客たちをさまざまな境界線上で世界を見ることに誘いました。
Lead Researchers and authors: Prof Shinya Hanaoka, Xin Guo, Akari Nosaka, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Hanaoka Research Group, School of Environment and Society, Department of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering; Nathan Cohen, Tokyo Institute of Technology WRHI Visiting Professor; Central Saint martins, University of the Arts London.
FULL TITLE: Olfaction and its impact on train travellers well-being in Japan, a transdisciplinary collaborative research project integrating art, science and technology.
Following discussions in 2019 resulting from a presentation made at the ‘Colloquium with Central Saint Martins @ Tokyo Tech’ (14 May) a research project has developed led by Nathan Cohen and Shinya Hanaoka, with students attending the Hanaoka Research Group, Xin Guo and Akari Nosaka. This commenced in October 2019, as an olfactory project investigating the impact of odour on train passengers sense of well-being, with Xin Guo undertaking a supervised literature review. Over the duration of the research to date we have been investigating how smell influences our impression of the environment with a view to understanding if a heightened sense of well-being could be induced in passengers on public transport, particularly at times of stress, through the subtle introduction of certain odours.
We are also interested in how smell can be used to positively enhance the experience and recollection of different aspects of making a particular journey, from the purchasing of a ticket, through travel to associations with particular places – an assisted form of auto-performative olfactory and culturally curated experience, both practical and aesthetic, which may be of interest to passengers and train companies in promoting travel as a healthy experience that could also enhance well-being and for purposes of tourism.
This complements research previously undertaken by Nathan Cohen collaboratively with the Japanese artist Reiko Kubota, along with others researching this, into the field of olfaction, memory and narrative,* with a view to establishing how the well-being benefits of olfaction can be adapted to a larger scale. Shinya Hanaoka expressed an interest in this in the context of public transport, a field in which he has expertise. For both of us this research opens up new possibilities for investigation in ways that we have not previously had the opportunity to explore.
The literature review did reveal some studies looking at different aspects of passenger response to train travel although there was relatively little published that covered the specific aspects in relation to olfaction that we are interested in investigating. There is, however, more literature available relating to personal response to different odour types, and this helped to inform the choices made regarding which odours to test and the methods that should be used to do this.
In the Spring of 2020 Shinya Hanaoka approached a couple of train companies in Japan and the Isumi Railway Company in Chiba agreed to our conducting an experiment aboard one of their trains. This company runs a small railway line between Ohara and Kazusa-Nakano which provides for local transport needs and tourism, the journey running through the Boso peninsula known locally for its beautiful landscape. During the tourist season the company also offers gastronomic train journeys attracting visitors from within Japan and abroad, particularly during the Spring and early Summer flowering season.
Consequently, we devised an experiment where passenger response to odour on a train could be tested. This would enable us to test 2 odours and how they impacted travellers on 2 timed round trip journeys between Ohara to Otaki stations. Two hypothesise were being tested relating to the idea that a pleasant ambient smell on the train would (1) induce a change in railway users emotional response and that (2) it would influence their perception of the environment in which they were travelling, leading overall to an enhanced sense of well-being.
A questionnaire had to be devised to be completed by each traveller for each of the journeys they made with the different odours and also without an odour being introduced that would enable statistical analysis of participants responses. Led by Xin Guo, assisted by Akari Nosaka, 23 students from Tokyo Institute of Technology volunteered to participate in the experiment and questionnaire forms were completed on December 2nd 2020 when the main experiment took place, following an initial test in November.
The questionnaire was based on established psychological test methods. The first hypothesis, related to pleasure and arousal of emotion, was tested using the PAD Model (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974) and Russell’s Circumplex Model (Russell, 1980), adapted for use in Japan with a revised translation (任,井上 2018). The second hypothesis, perception of the train carriage environment, was tested by including an updated version of the Semantic Differential technique (SD method) (Osgood et al., 1957). Participants were asked to record their perceptions using a Visual Analogue Scale.^
Advice on the questionnaire preparation and experimental methodology was also provided by Associate Prof Mitsue Nagamine (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Nagamine Lab), and Prof Takefumi Kobayashi (Bunkyo Gakuin University). Prof Satomi Kunieda (Ritsumeikan University) also advised on the selection of the odour samples used in the experiment, which were distributed in the train carriage using fans.
While this was an initial test with 23 participants, we did learn that, for the majority of those taking part in the experiment, there was a measurable increase in their sense of well-being when exposed to both odour samples, Lavender and Lemon (citrus), compared to when travelling without an odour sample present.†
We are now entering the next stage of the research (April 2021 – March 2022) to establish how different olfactory sources enhance train passenger experience, and how this may also relate to tourism. Nathan Cohen, together with the team from the Hanaoka Research Group, will also be investigating the use of olfaction and the ways this can be developed and applied aesthetically to create memorable user train journeys.
*For details of this research please visit this website: www.olfactoryresearch.net/research
^Xin Guo has now graduated with a Master’s thesis titled: The influence of odor in a train carriage upon positive emotional response in railway users (鉄道車両内の香りが利用者のポジティブ感情に与える影響), that describes the research undertaken for this project up to March 2021.
† This experiment was conducted under Covid-19 pandemic restrictions which meant numbers of participants were restricted, so results should be interpreted accordingly.
S T A D H I – Science & Technology + Art & Design Hybrid Innovation
This research is supported by the Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI), School of Environment and Society, Department of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Lead Researchers and authors: Prof Takamichi Nakamoto, Saya Onai, IIR Laboratory for Future Interdisciplinary Research of Science and Technology, School of Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology; Nathan Cohen, Tokyo Institute of Technology WRHI Visiting Professor, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.
ARTICLE’S FULL TITLE: Olfaction and its combination with visual stimuli in the creation of interactive and immersive environments, with the potential to enhance personal engagement and well-being – a transdisciplinary collaborative research project integrating science, technology and art.
Since March 2020 we have been working on an olfactory project investigating how smell, in combination with visual stimuli, influences our impression of an environment and how this could impact Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) users when creating immersive, interactive scenes.
Smell is a complex medium to work with, posing challenges for developers, technologists and creatives in its identification, application and handling. Invisible yet, to varying degrees, influential in how we interpret our environment, it has been a source of fascination and inspiration for centuries. Samples of aromatic substances are to be found in the graves of early Egyptians and, in refined forms, it has been a rare and sought after commodity across cultures through to the present day.
Smell, or more particularly the odours which form it, can be distributed artificially in different ways. Perfume is worn directly on the body or clothing. Aromatic oil or alcohol based solutions can be sniffed from a simple container or using smelling sticks that absorb the sample. Moved under the nose the aromatic compounds within the odour samples are released into the air and we absorb them through our nasal passages where smell receptors translate the experience to the brain. This requires a simple haptic approach to encountering the smell sample. Alternatives include burning incense, warming essential oils, and the use of aerosol sprays and gel dispensers to disseminate odours more widely within a space.
However, to offer a range of odours in a way that is more intimate and corresponds to other stimuli within a controlled and time based environment requires a different approach. Over recent years Takamichi Nakamoto has developed, with his team in the Nakamoto Laboratory, a technical and computerised approach to delivering odour samples, either linked to a headset or in close proximity, enabling their combination with visual and auditory media in immersive digital environments. Many technical difficulties had to be overcome in this construction including how to enable several odour samples to be delivered through one device without their contaminating each other, and how these odours could be linked to different aspects of the immersive environment in which they can be encountered over varying durations of time. The device currently being used for our experiments in the creation of interactive virtual spacio-olfactory games is an high-speed solenoid valve open/close olfactory display.
One area of investigation we are exploring is how smell can encourage memory and enhance narrative association. An earlier example of this may be seen in the boxed artwork Scentscape (2019, Nathan Cohen, Reiko Kubota) where odour samples were presented in small glass screw capped containers which, when handled, triggered sequences of still images on a video screen corresponding to particular places with which the odours are associated. Other objects relating to memories of these places could also be placed within the box, the intention being that the user could combine their own imagery, odour samples and objects to create their own personalised memory box.
The olfactory displays developed by Takamichi Nakamoto offer a more technical and differently immersive approach. In this current research we will be exploring ways in which the combination of imagery and olfaction can create an enhanced narrative experience for the user through the development of scenes that complement and are complemented by odours. This will also take the form of an animated interactive environment that users engage with.
As Saya Onai states in a co-published paper ‘Significant research has already been done in relation to memory and scene recall that can be induced by scent (odours), but information transmission and scene recall by scent alone has not yet been realised effectively. It has been difficult to achieve a common perception of a particular scene from a certain odour due to the influence of prior experience and differences in individual perceptions.’ * In this research, we are seeking ways to enhance scene recollection by combining olfactory, visual, and possibly auditory, stimuli within an immersive environment.
To better understand the links between smell and memory recall a supervised experiment was conceived by the group working on this research and conducted in the Nakamoto Laboratory by Saya Onai in December 2020. 18 volunteers were divided into 2 separate groups.† Group 1 were presented with the first of 2 related images on a monitor screen, the screen then went blank and an odour related to the image was dispensed through the linked headset for 7 seconds with an overall pause of 10 seconds. Following this the screen displayed the second related image. There were a sequence of 11 sets of visual image pairs with corresponding odours, referred to as ‘scenes’, that all the volunteers experienced consecutively. After viewing all 11 scenes a multiple choice questionnaire was presented asking which odour is the correct one in relation to each scene. For group 1 the questionnaire presented sets of 4 visual images per odour to select from, inviting the participant to identify which image correctly corresponds to the odour for each scene.
Group 2 separately experienced the same test, only the multiple choice options for selecting the correct odour were text based only and not images.
Initial analysis of the experiment’s results reveal mixed rates of identification, with some odour – image associations stronger than others. We will be exploring this further to identify which odour image combinations are more readily identifiable, together with investigating the temporal nature of odour and odour combination in the creation of animated smell scenes that induce narrative association. We will also be considering the aesthetic aspects of the game design required to engage users and enhance their experience of interaction. This will form the basis for the research during April 2021 – March 2022, with the intention to produce a working prototype for display at Siggraph Asia in December 2021.
*香りによる情景想起の基礎的研究 Fundamental Study of Association of Scenes with Scents Nakamoto, T., Onai, S., Iseki, M., Cohen, N. (2021) IEICE General conference
† This was an initial experiment conducted under Covid-19 pandemic restrictions which meant numbers of participants were restricted.
S T A D H I – Science & Technology + Art & Design Hybrid Innovation
This research is supported by the Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI), Program of the Institute of Innovative Research (IIR), Tokyo Institute of Technology.
This article introduces the “Technology and Product in Context” course by Dr Betti Marenko held in the 2020/21 autumn term for GSEC, the Global Scientists and Engineers Course. The classes included a series of 6 lectures and a workshop with the students on the third week. Design theorist Dr Marenko is WRHI Specially Appointed Professor at Tokyo Tech and Reader in Design and Techno-Digital Futures at Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London, UK.
What does it mean to be human in a world designed to be smart? How well can we get along with machines that are unpredictable and inscrutable? How do we think about ‘hybrid futures’? These were some of the questions raised in the Technology and Product in Context lecture series by design theorist, academic and educator Dr Betti Marenko. The course – ended in February 2021 – was attended by about 15 students from various branches of engineering, social and life sciences, who share an interest in the future of technology, philosophical issues around design and making, design theory and science communication. The sessions were conducted entirely in English and online, using Zoom, PowerPoint and Miro boards. This article follows the structure of the course and outlines some of the key topics, references and examples discussed each week.
Dr Marenko has written extensively about technological futures and the role of design in the Post-Anthropocene, a future geological era that does not presuppose the presence of humans on Earth. Her “tools for thinking in the Post-Anthropocene” lie at the intersection of design, philosophy and technology. In her view, the development of future technologies needs to engage with complexity, and design can benefit from a shift “from problem solving to problem finding”. The first lecture explored the question of hybrid futures from a historical perspective, tracing the origins of the human-machine encounter back to the automata that emerged in Europe in the Renaissance period.
Prompted by questions on their views on “technology” and “context” – two keywords in the course title – the students proposed ideas such as “the unknown”, “a more harmonious and convenient society”, abstract and changeable ideas of “hope”, “cooperation” and “unpredictability”. For Marenko, the context of design is not simply a background to a project, but “mutually constituted ecologies” of interactions that retain an ability to ask better questions. She highlights the undivided nature of theory and practice through the image of the Moebius strip, a continuous form that is both inside and outside. Similarly, the contrast between what is human and non-human, or post-human, is dissolved in philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s definition of the human as “the machine that produces the notion of the human”. For design theorists Colomina and Wigley, “being human means being able to design”, and design is about changing the world. For Marenko, the boundaries between human and non-human need constant reassessing, and technology is what we use to address this instability. The lecture included numerous examples of artworks and writings that illustrate or embody her philosophical narratives.
The course continued with an exploration of the concept of future through three keywords: expectation, imagination and anticipation. Anticipation is the capacity to imagine the non-existent future in the present, leading to the idea of ‘future proofing’. However, as Marenko puts it, “the conditions for change do change”. The simplistic assumption that future proofing is possible, let alone desirable, underpins some of the failed philosophies of modern design: planned obsolescence (the design of failure to stimulate future sales), solutionism (the idea that design is all about finding solutions to existing problems) and linear progress (the vision of a world constantly improving thanks to science and technology). Design brings better solutions, but better for whom? And, better for what? Dr Marenko proposes a view based on French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s idea that building the future is not about predicting but “being attentive to the unknown knocking at the door”.
This set the basis for a workshop conducted on Week 3 using a Miro board and a set of cards developed by Dr Marenko and colleagues at CSM. Working in four small groups, the students were asked to propose a scenario for 2050 that addressed one of four ‘pills’ provided: animism, counterfactuals, decolonization and post-Anthropocene. These were read through selected ‘affective mode cards’, which summarised the attitude performed in the discussion, i.e. the anxious, the optimist, the resilient, the survivalist, the nihilist and the Zen master. Guided by this participatory strategy, the groups offered their visions of the future in short presentations, anticipating a few aspects that would be analysed in the subsequent weeks.
The course went on to question “received notions of technology” as having to do with the latest innovations, and stressed the continuity with historical developments. The term and notion of android, for instance, go back to Pierre Jaquet Droz’s writing automaton from the 1770s and its use of the power of technology to “enchant” its audience. Similarly, the term automaton today to some extent maintains the original meaning (from Diderot’s Encyclopaedia of 1751) of a machine that can move by itself, following a sequence of operations or responding to encoded instructions. The conversation continued on the topic of “digital enchantment” (based on texts by anthropologist Alfred Gell) and the relationship of technology with magic. The lecture material was grounded in historical and philosophical developments but made more accessible by recurrent references to well-known techno-gadgets, and visual and popular culture: from iPhones and Blade Runner, to Amazon and the latest Android firmware.
Following the steps of French philosopher F. Guattari, Dr Marenko discussed digital uncertainty in contemporary society, one that is seeing “a fundamental repositioning of human beings in relation to both their machinic and natural environments”. Information and computation are not simply mediating our lives, they constitute a large part of what we do every day. But the outcomes of these digital encounters are not fully predicted or programmed, hence the emergence of uncertainty. Examples include the algorithmic automation that drives financial services and much of our interaction online. These considerations are driving AI innovations and constitute a new “technological unconsciousness” that contrasts with 20th century views of technology. Marenko therefore asks, “Can AI get smarter by becoming more uncertain?”.
Through old and new theories of cybernetics, uncertainty was explored both as an accident and as a glitch. A fundamental concept is von Foerster’s “non-trivial machines”, deterministic systems producing unpredictable outcomes. Digital models, for example, can work by iterations and design strategies can operate by a fast succession of trial and error, as described by historian and critic Mario Carpo (2013). This poses interesting questions on what constitutes digital craft and how it relates to the idea of “risk”, an essential aspect of handmade production.
The next lecture started by pointing out the paradox of innovation: any new products must retain familiarity, so people can comprehend and recognise them. For example, the first car in the 1870s was named “the horseless carriage” and very much looked like one. Design theorists D. Norman and R. Verganti discussed this issue in their 2014 paper on “incremental and radical innovation”, a critique of the same human-centred design (UCD) that Normal had helped developing in the 1980s and 90s. For them, UCD can provide incremental innovation to “users” but only focuses on things people already know. For Marenko, instead, design can assume a more rhizomatic nature and embrace its role as interface between the making of objects and that of concepts. According to this view, the design process is simultaneously thing-making, concept-making and future-building.
The discussion followed on the concept of future crafting and the role of fiction in producing reality. This was linked to other design strategies and methods of future crafting, such as cultural probes (embracing risk and uncertainty) and defamiliarization (embracing strangeness).
The series concluded with Dr Marenko’s original reflections on technology and animism. As surprising as it may sound, we already live in a world that has seen a shift from “talking about things to talking with things” (her italics). If from a technological perspective we are seeing the rise of the ‘internet of things’, theoretical developments also attempt to question outdated (Western) notions of animism for our new age. Following Bruno Latour’s thinking, the focus is not just on drawing parallels between consumerist and religious practices, but to rethink about the “agency” of objects as a relational property. Philosopher Jane Bennett has also discussed “thing-power”, the curious ability of inanimate things to produce effects. Referencing multiple recent studies on the subject, Dr Marenko discussed the role of animism in creativity and design. She provides a definition of “animistic design” as one that operates in a post-user (or post-UCD) scenario and maintains “mental elbowroom” to generate new, non-linear forms of knowledge. But why is uncertainty so important? Because it establishes perceptions, it shows what might happen and focuses on ranges of possibility, including those that were not thought of. It depends on elements that are not fully controllable, are random and not fully predicted. Uncertainty has to do with creativity.
Through her often surprising and always inspiring lectures, Dr Marenko opens new views on technology and its deployment in crafting humanity’s future. Her arguments on science and technology stand out as seamlessly built on a diverse range of references across disparate disciplines. The discussion was made more accurate and relevant by drawing from philosophy and design theory, but also science fiction, critical design, art practice, advertising and popular culture. The hope is that students’ accepted views of technology could be shaken by all this unorthodox transdisciplinarity, leading them to wider-open reflection, inspiration and future-shaping innovation.
Dr Betti Marenko’s forthcoming book, Designing Smart Objects in Everyday Life. Intelligences. Agencies. Ecologies (co-edited with Marco Rozendaal and Will Odom), is a collection of essays developing a new research framework for interaction design. For more information on this and other projects, visit bettimarenko.org
The Hacking Heart hackathon was held at Central Saint Martins, London, UK, on 4-8 November 2019 (full programme here). Prof. Nohara and the team reflected on the interdisciplinary exchanges performed during their weeklong project.
“After day one I was a bit overwhelmed by the presentations – there’s a lot to absorb”. Participants and organisers of the Hacking Heart hackathon sat down 10 days later to reflect on the event. The project was a weeklong experimental collaboration between scientists and Art & Design students, held on 4-8 November 2019 at Central Saint Martins college (CSM) in London, UK. The activities were designed to interrogate and reimagine contemporary scientific research centred on heart disease, energy harvesting and cellular sensing. Talking to the organisers Dr Heather Barnett and Dr Ulrike Oberlack, the students described the initial difficulties in accessing scientific language and content delivered by the scientists, “I had more one-on-one experience discussing the research with the scientists that cleared up a lot of misunderstandings… it helped with our research and planning before we went to discuss it with the scientists”. Researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Queen Mary University of London (Queen Mary) worked with the organisers and 12 students from across a range of postgraduate courses at CSM (MA Art and Science, MA Design Furniture, MA Graphic Communication Design, MA Industrial Design, MA Jewellery Design, and MA Performance Design and Practice). Over the course of the week, the workshops facilitated a fertile exchange of ideas between artists and scientists. Each of the three groups of students produced a performance, delivered to participants and members of the public in a symposium on the last day.
Initially, the event presented the typical difficulties of working collaboratively. “At the beginning we have a lot of ideas about the project, about the Hacking Hearts, how to show that, but, finally, we should give up some of them, some things are not very strong or some things not very connected, not very related”. The students learned to sacrifice some ideas to build up a clear outcome. “It was that phrase that consumed my mind: that a horse designed by committee could look like a camel”, the group laughed.
“It was that phrase that consumed my mind: that a horse designed by committee could look like a camel”
On the first day, the scientists shared their work in biotechnologies for the students to hack over the course of the week, ending with a public symposium on 8th November. Dr Thomas Iskratsch (Queen Mary) presented his research on biotechnological approaches for preventing and curing heart disease. Integrating biology with engineering, bioengineering solutions employ a combination of cells, signals and materials to create tissues outside the body that “will give us insights into disease processes, which in the future might aid design of novel drugs”. Dr Iskratsch researches the ways in which heart cells measure muscular stiffness by using simplified systems to investigate specific parameters in isolation, such as rigidity or shape. The students were invited to respond to his research and develop a “transdisciplinary translation” of its contents, as part of a wider effort to create a “third place bridging science/tech and art/design through communication”, as the organisers described.
The research discussed by Prof. Wataru Hijikata (Tokyo Tech) provided additional food for thought. His presentation gave a quick overview of his work on energy harvesting systems that can be implanted in the human body, such as those required to power artificial heart pumps. The students responded to this work by creating props for a performance built around the idea of natural and artificial heartbeats. This inspired a question about accuracy during the symposium’s Q&A, as according to the students, by engaging with scientific content artists can “try to accurately communicate [in a] very certain and interesting way to a wider public audience, or you can go down the route where you’re just using as a jumping-off point, something to interpret, something to inspire you”.
The experience also changed the scientists’ own perception of what could be possible through collaboration with artists. On a straightforward level, Hijikata had to censor the content of his presentation to avoid discussing ethically challenging methods, such as the use of animal testing in research. This triggered a sort of suspicion about scientific procedures but resulted in a positive artistic outcome. For the scientist, “some disturbances are necessary for making impressive emotional performances”. He admired the performance about the beating hearts, which showed the essence (if not the details) of his research had been received appropriately by the students. For him, the value of art lies in translating scientific information into emotions. He compared his experience of the performance with that of watching the Japanese martial art of Kendo, “you’re very close in that moment – there’s no distance”. This was a superb achievement for the students. “I think that a lot of artists would aspire to this”, the organisers noted.
By working with people with “different disciplinary knowledge, methods and mindsets”, the participants explored and reinterpreted social, ethical and philosophical dimensions of scientific research. In her role as Social Scientist in Residence at CSM, Prof. Nohara observed and reflected on the hybrid nature of those interactions. The team observed, “I guess the creative process generally goes through several phases of diversion, conversion, diversion, conversion, diversion, conversion. It’s sort of when you hit a problem, you then open it up and then have to close it down, and then you’ve got another problem”. The social dimension involved in collaborating with others can lead to the attempt to include all voices and “embrace everything”. But achieving a definite outcome requires some final convergence of views. This was compared to an artist’s creative process, embracing all ideas at the start only to reject, select and develop components later.
During the hackathon, thinking creatively was promoted by exercises such as exploring alternative meanings for the words used in the scientific presentations. “It was really interesting how we all had different kind of ideas about some of the words”, the students convened, pointing out differences in specialised knowledge and personal interests among the participants. “So, the strategy worked in inviting inspiration?”. A student confirmed, “I think that helped everyone open up and look at it a little bit more creatively [free] instead of just thinking in terms of […] how to interpret that research”.
“The ‘right’ is when you’re feeling connected enough to the artwork so that what you’re proposing has some sort of plausibility to it, but far enough away so that it is not a one-on-one translation”
The programme of events concluded on 8th November with a public symposium, during which the scientists presented their work to the audience and the students performed work created in response to the discussions held during the week-long activities. Four students entered the stage in the dark holding heart-like luminous objects while a projected video asked, “Can you distinguish between the different heartbeats? Healthy heart, unhealthy heart, pacemaker, artificial heart”. The audience was invited to participate in the performance and answer the question by beating different materials. Their active engagement surprised even the artists, “it was amazing that in one moment […] was interacting and it was very beautiful to see that”. This mimicked the contents of the presentation given by Prof. Hijikata but provided an alternative take on the issues.
Finally, the participants agreed on the importance of having a symposium at the end of the week, “I think that even though we know that there was no specific outcome required, there was – because of the symposium. I think without that, we may not have formulated pieces that were ready to show”. The participants appreciated the pressure given by the tight schedule and linked their productivity to it, “It wasn’t stressful. It was more trying to come up with creative solutions in order to get to a place where we were satisfied that the audience would have something somewhat finished to interpret”.
“So that was quite nice to go out of your comfort zone and I feel like I want to push that a bit further maybe in my own work”
Beyond the success of the project for the team and their audience, the experience left a mark on individual artists, e.g. inspiring further performative elements and using materials closer to those the scientists employ in their work. “So that was quite nice to go out of your comfort zone and I feel like I want to push that a bit further maybe in my own work”. The discussion concluded with positive remarks about continuing the collaboration with Dr Iskratsch, who is also based in London, and plans for a potential exhibition at the Science Museum to produce a physical body of work aside from the performances.
HYBRID INNOVATION:A VISION BUILDING WORKSHOP will be offered.
ART AND DESIGN MEET SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 13:00-16:30, 9 Jan 2020 @407A Workshop Room, South 5
We are a multidisciplinary team made of a designer, a translation/facilitation expert and a theorist working across art and design, science and technology and the humanities. We have been working together for years developing new research, educational and communication methods that bring together different perspectives from our respective fields and across several cultures. We have run a range of activities including academic symposia, hackathons, workshops and public events for different expert and non-expert audiences, in Tokyo and London. With this workshop taster we want to share with you some of the insights we have been developing to address this urgent question: how can we imagine alternate futures?
Most important for you, our guests, how can our methods and insights be mobilized to help you amplify your capacity for innovation, to think about the futures you want and to ask new questions about the values that matter to you and to your company.
HYBRID INNOVATION:A VISION BUILDING WORKSHOP
ART AND DESIGN MEET SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The “Media Editorial Design” course took place in the 4th trimester of 2019. The overall theme was “design to prevent transmission” and the task was to produce a “graphic expression to prevent transmission”.
The students experimented with designs that “do not communicate” a message. The lecture’s goal was to understand the usability of information, the meaning of design today, and the basics of editing. Despite the difficulty of the task, all the students took on the challenge and produced bold works. It was wonderful to tackle these issues. We think that the experience of actively discovering both the difficulty and fun aspects of “communicating” thoughts will be useful in their own research in the future.
In the first half of the lecture, we discussed the nature of design and thought of a familiar “not transmitted” design.
“Art is a medium that can express invisible dynamic elements. Design is the medium that fixes the visible event”
The students received clear instructions: learn how to sketch and start creating works. Specify the location of the text, graphics and photos on a sketch paper sheet, and type specific text. The important point is to know where to put what.
During the production process, fine adjustments (e.g. number of pixels) were made with the teacher. Small differences affect the mood of the work. On the last day, the students’ work was reviewed. Each work was a masterpiece that pursued a design that was “not transmitted”. Some examples are shown below: