Layered Space III

Synthesis- Part III

Mapped visualizations hacked into existing environments recur in different formats throughout the ages - Camera Obscura, shadow puppetry, panoramas, frescos, and even graffiti - developed in accordance with available technology. Enhanced Digital projection mapping is not unique in this way {but in 2010 it was considered the next big thing in advertising brand dominance, finding niche markets in advertising as well as in cultural events}. In contrast, the development of the viewing environment as a purpose-built place established a decorum and expectation of the viewing event, designed to enhance the audience experience - the museum diorama, the exposition pavilion, the cinema house {though the cinema initially repurposed theatre archetypes}. In Oliver Grau’s compendium, Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion {2003}, Grau surveys the shift towards the experience of the medium as the main objective over-riding the content {Barnum and Bailey employed this technique well in the oft-cited This Way to the Egress directional sign, whereby the exit is qualified as an experience}. The shift toward total immersion has also taken a turn toward the inner space of the senses with Occulus Rift-esque deployments of virtual environments. Initially, I began to experiment with the external variables - the canvas of a conventional static graphic image in a controlled environment, hybridized with the projected movement of elements taken from the same graphic source. Without prior knowledge in software mapping technology, explorations turned toward hacking perhaps the most banal of corporate boardroom communications tools - PowerPoint {years of building palatable presentations as a group creative director have paid off} - to create a graphic temporal narrative.With simple low tech tools and programs, the effects of digital projection comprised of a filmic light composition narrative overlay on a static graphic print landscape. An interpretive piece was developed to explore such effects, involving the production of a 17ft long graphic background landscape, orchestrated to a soundtrack with colour and augmented light. What transpired was a indeterminate interface of physical and digital content of CMYK print colour and CMYK light* {*actually RGB simulating CMYK}.
Graphic landscape file foundation

The mixed medium of digital overlays mesh with the analogue graphic representation - the conceptual intent of projection mapping. This addresses one technique of hybridizing space with multimedia, and encompasses context-specific digital layered space onto the physical design.

InterSpatial Processing

For the most part, the narration is automated and choreographed, beginning and ending at a fixed meter. This brings us to the next level of immersion as has been widely known in web 2.0 terms for a decade - the engagement of audiences-turned-participants, becoming a part of the story in the process. The future goal of project Layered Space is to marry the JavaScript feedback of action to reaction in real-time, creating an awareness of space as a malleable context of inhabitable creation by actionable presence of the inhabitant. As in JavaScript, there are no classes: subject and object are interchangeable, values determined by the amount of input data participants willingly contribute to the space. In turn, space reflects, reacts, embodies the subjects as an extension of the body, and bodies become enmeshed into the infrastructure. By engendering a public space with personal entities, unique opportunities for an event open up. A space is given back to the individual and the community, projecting identity and responsibility of the commons as a shared ownership. A relationship between the person, object / place and event emerges as equal parts of agential creation.

Case Study

Enter into Victoria Lane, part of the Ryerson University campus. Retail stakeholders are adjacent to campus facilities, and a bicycle locker room is discretely tucked in the side.

Lightweight LED curtains and floor projectors are installed in the laneway, structurally mobile and independent from the existing facilities. Fire and safety rated, escapes and egress are accounted for, and the campus emergency alarm is supported by GPS-enhanced WiFi security on student phones. To become a participant of the Layered Space laneway, guests opt-in to synchronize their personalized I.D. Sine wave, identified by a unique tone and graphic wave visualizer from the Layered Space API. WiFi is available throughout the campus grounds, therefore activation is only required once. The API from the personal mobile device is connected to the Layered Space laneway ready for interaction at designated facilities and doubles as a real-time security feature for students who wish to have the emergency feature synchronized to the device.

Upon entering a Layered Space environment, movement of a participant is anticipated with the activation of smart lighting technology with the LED and projection hardware, increasing light levels and activity. 1 participant = 1 colour, 2 participants = 2 colours; +>3 = randomized colours {in a triadic spectrum colour palette per sets of 3}. Wave tones are generated through discrete audio, ascribed to the participant’s unique wave form. +>3 = randomized chords {in a triadic acoustic spectrum}. Non-community members and members alike have the opportunity to opt-out of participation, in which case a generic colour and single sine wave tone is assigned.

Temporality is a key variant to the environment’s display and output - the duration in which a participant lingers, talks to and moves about on the coordinate system, and the velocity of trajectory - are factors that alter the frequency of change. The long-term goal is to acquire data of biases and habits of community tendencies: circadian rhythms and volume of people, patterns of grouping and dispersing, passive and active engagement with media. The data collected helps to direct future interventions under the auspices of communal awareness and well-being {even if well-being consists of the terminating the project}.


The content creation of Layered Space involved the conception and application of fundamental programming criteria. The process of learning concepts and protocol methods of JavaScript presented intriguing parallels between the design process of materiality and the logic systems of executable code. The framework in the design-build of content creation and infrastructure drastically influences the user’s potential to engage or avoid interaction. The translation of programming into first-world environments is finding momentum through the ubiquity of expanded projects on a micro scale {wearable , nano-) and macro scale {urban infrastructure, cultural institutions, global mapping}. As such, the increasing fluidity of programming into spatial environments quickly demonstrates a change in scale of interaction, requiring a different set of aesthetic, cognitive, and corporeal skills to evaluate and respond to. This brings about certain questions on a broader level of ethics, for instance: what is universally accessible? Corporeal UIs may appeal to quadra-limb functioning bodies, yet how will it relate to the disabled bodies? Mental and emotional attachment is affected by the accessibility, driving the success or failure of the program. In individual scenarios, communities will define the base line for their needs. In any case, the information of a program on screen will transform in different ways when it plays out in a change of media and scale. Thus, in both creative development processes, prototyping and Beta testing is fundamental to any object acting as an interface {chair, or screen alike}.


  • A majority of the project’s efforts focused on troubleshooting JavaScript’s unique logic, thus experimentation on the prototyping of Synthesis: Part III is on-going. A growing knowledge base and resources is required to produce qualitative analysis of real-time actor-UI results and reactions.
  • The architecture of the program requires an absolute break-down of components to the atomic degree. Once such a character is defined, it may require further definition when new interactions are introduced.
    -Simplicity carries the greatest complexity best: this is true in JS and in functional design.
    -Hacking code to generate a new function is design innovation.
    -Unpredictable results are an inevitability in coding. So are users of a designed environment. Work with this, and the new learnings that ensue.
    All programs have the ability to be altered in JS.
    -Transparency of code, and the creative commons code of conduct is intrinsic to the developer world. Design could learn from this. As such, stealing code has no logic without native context, and may not be successful if not applied with thoughtful consideration.
    -Programming is communication = Design is communication.

Futuring Space

The presence of Layered Space oscillates between the active and passive role, dependent upon the actors’ willingness of engagement. At base level, it facilitates safety and encourages use of under-utilized real estate in a benign application. At a high level of engagement, it becomes a nodal transaction point of a community, with a developing set of cultural norms yet to be determined, in a new context of body and personalized mobile virtual presence. The script of the space’s function is a reflection of the level of agency the community collectively moves toward {or away from}. JavaScript can be finite, or it can also be generative, indeterminate if set to varying sets of automated algorithmic loops. Such methods could include either an accretion of knowledge, or an atomization of individuals, building on the input of the actors in the environment. In a seminal article “What is Agency?” by Mustafa Emirbayer and Ann Mische {1998}, The authors build a case to demonstrate the actor’s constant fluctuation between the temporal states of past, present and future. In an over-simplification of the article, I’ll paraphrase the agentic context of the cognitive behavioural states: the past is referred to as ITERATIVE, the present as PRACTICAL EVALUATIVE, and the future as PROJECTIVE. This last state is of particular interest to the authors. While on the one hand they present embedded factors {current cultural, political, historical sentiments} having the capacity to procure agency, on the other hand they accredit a high level of autonomy to the actor who is able to perceive themselves in the larger framework, the flow of time.

“The locus of agency here lies in the hypothesization of experience, as actors attempt to reconfigure received schemas by generating alternative possible responses to the problematic situations they confront in their lives. Immersed in a temporal flow, they move “beyond themselves” into the future and construct changing images of where they think they are going, where they want to go, and how they can get there….” {984}

Emirbayer and Mische adds the importance of reflectivity in actions, and in so doing engages the past iterative and present practical evaluative functions of recall and assessment. Reflectivity requires self-assessment through the presentation of self-initiated events which I will refer to as the feedback loop {Wired magazine}, encompassing an altering course of action of the actor that also presents itself in the programming code. The program, therefore, would require a set of methods to generate a change of actions to make visible the actions of the actor. Modification of the action would lead to an “else” JS function, developing a new set of parameters.

In contradistinction to Ben van Berkel’s process of “Deep Planning” research {Diagrams, Processes, Models of UNStudio, 1998) in social, political and economic landscapes, the architecture of space starts and continues to be informed by the accretive transforming states of social engagement once built. The structure of space doubles as a part of the cultural development in continual progress, constantly re-evaluating the emerging present condition in relation to the past and projective future in a temporal and relational concept {Emirbayer Mische 968}. As such, the leverage of agency is interdependent upon a networked field of actors in a community and the unique conditions {of time, place and welfare} enframing the process.

In conclusion, space is a mutable presence; enveloping and channelling objects it interacts with. Objects are interchangeable with subjects as a class-less system, and events act as the “other” binding agent to agential environments, spanning between the past and present, informing the projective future. The design of Layered Space is a pervasive approach, and it gives insight to methods beyond the convention of working within the fixed physical parameters. The next investigation of Layered Space leads toward the immersion of experience, but not of a physical construct; rather, the inner space of embodiment and perception.


Using Format