Category Archives: News

Decode FACT: Where do you go to?, workshop, Liverpool, Feb 2014

Workshop from Claire, Bridget and I following on from our CX Where do you go to? project looking at all of the digital connections from FACT on a single day. Here’s my description:

Ben Dalton introduces Decode FACT, which will be taking place in the Co-Working Space this week.

At one end of the Hybrid Lives Co-Working space in the foyer of FACT is a tall, thin wall. Pinned to the wall are photos of desks and other spaces of work. If you look at the photos at eye-level, you see someone has been working at a cafe table, a garden, a train table, the step of a house, public spaces. If you look further up the wall, you can see office desks and workshops. Higher still, and you can glimpse kitchen tables, bedroom desks, private spaces. The photos were taken using a phone app called ‘Where do you go to?’. The app is a prototype, designed to let small groups of people who work together share images of where they are working. The aim of the app is to make a working ‘status update’ that isn’t about written notes or pictures of faces. The images are displayed on a timeline of work across the wall, and sorted by privacy up the height of the space.

We have tested this app with several work teams including the Creative Exchange group designing the co-working space and researchers at the BBC R&D lab in Salford. These teams were rarely in the same room at the same time, so much of their collaboration happens through digital spaces. They share notes online, send emails, occasionally video call, share files they are working on, and so on. But our research suggested they were lacking a ‘sense of place’ while working together. If they were all in one office, it would be easy to wander past a colleague’s desk, see what they were working on, know how busy they were without interrupting them. But in digital space, ‘wandering past’ is harder, a video call must be scheduled, or a specific question edited in to an email and added to the ever increasing inbox pile. And so we set out to design a ‘desk sharing’ app prototype to see what happens when collaborators can share ‘where they are’ rather than just ‘what they want’.

From the images people share using the app we can see that their working patterns move through lots of physical spaces. Digital tools allow lots of types of work to be done anywhere, organising tasks with tools like email or digital production with text editors or creative software. The app often captured work in transient public space, like public parks or trains. It also captured work in private space when people were layering their working life in to their home life. The images of cafes that pop-up in the timeline of a project made us think about the work that happens in FACT, in the temporary co-working space, and elsewhere in the cafe, cinema and gallery. Every worker in a public space like FACT is actually connected digitally to many collaborators in other places. They may be checking an email from work across the other side of Liverpool before a film starts, or calling a supplier in another UK city over lunch from the cafe, or sharing a document with someone across the globe sat at a co-working table. The office has become many different physical locations at once, linked or ‘overlayed’ through unseen digital space.

Our drop-in workshop (Thursday 6 Feb) will look at decoding how big the FACT workspace really is. We will be asking visitors to help us build a map of all the places in the city, country and world that FACT connects to through the individual work people are doing in the building. We will try to map where and who each email, each document, each amazon order, each podcast connects to in the world. Liverpool has always been a city of work built on connections around the world. The traditions of global trade have shifted from docks, to desks, to digital space, and continue to define the city’s outward-looking focus in the digital age.

Decode FACT: Where do you go to? post on FACT site

Accept Cookies, AND 2013 Fair, FACT Liverpool, Oct 2013

AND 2013, Fair:
Sat 05 Oct 2013 FACT / Public Spaces / 11:00 – 18:00 / Free, drop by

accept cookies stall

Web cookies and browser fingerprints are used by companies to track the web pages you visit and build up detailed profiles of your tastes and habits. Users often have to accept cookies from online strangers before accessing each new web site, but it’s easy to forget about these digital traces.

Ben Dalton wants to give AND Fair-goers a unique tracking cookie too, but his are edible. Take your laptop or phone along to generate a personal cookie, eat it or keep it, and have a discussion about the information that browser fingerprint characteristics give away about you and your online activity.

the AND Fair is inspired by the World’s Fairs of old, where inventors could showcase new inventions and discoveries such as moving images, electricity or the fluorescent light bulb.

Toying with optical illusions, flying machines, biological probes and computer algorithms, the Fair is a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with projects that bring emerging and primitive forms of technology together in unexpected fashions.

Exhibitors at the fair will include some of AND’s favourite artists and former collaborators together with a number of inspiring, emerging practitioners who responded to our recent open call.

Abandon Normal Devices 2013

Data As Place, Sensuous Knowledge, Bergen Jan 2013

I will be at the 2013 Sensuous Knowledge conference in Bergen, Norway from the 23rd – 25th January. I will be giving a talk on Thursday afternoon as part of the program of presentations and discussions, on the theme of Data as Place: Aesthetics and Geopolitics of Data Centre Architecture. This talk and project is in collaboration with Amber Frid-Jimenez and Joe Dahmen.

A little about the conference:

The Sensuous Knowledge Conferences started in 2004 as an international venue for presentation and discussion of artistic research projects. The overriding purpose of these three-day working conferences is to contribute to the creation and refining of a discourse for critical reflection on artistic research. …

With this year’s conference, the 7th in the row, The Sensuous Knowledge Conference comes to town – and moves directly into the contemporary art world: A unique collaboration between The Art Museums of Bergen and Bergen Academy of Art and Design forms the context for a conference taking place within the precincts of the art museum…

Rethinking Real-time Google Protothon HackDay participant, London Nov 2012

facebook screenshot

it was great fun to be invited along for the day at Google Campus London by the excellent Protothon people for a day of hacking on the Web Audio and WebRTC APIs.

Protothon and the Chrome team from Google called creative developers and developed creatives for a day of inspiration and innovation. Those chosen formed interdisciplinary teams that within one day prototyped applications and experiences pushing the Web Audio and WebRTC APIs to their limits.

our team (Daniel Tauber, Marcin Ignac, Addi Zakaria and I), drawing heavily on the javascript coding skills of Marcin Ignac, knocked up a demo of live video Facebook avatars, and web-page gremlins that monkeyed with your page when you weren’t looking.

Dowsing Invisible Cities, Leeds Psychogeography Group Talk, Feb 28th 2012

Man dowsing

Tues February 28th, 5.15pm, University of Leeds
Full Title: Dowsing Invisible Cities
Ben presents several projects he has worked on that attempt to reveal hidden aspects of city life. He will be talking about the ghosts of wasted heat, contrails of fashion choices, traces of acoustic detail, digital maps of playful crowds and music for forgotten buildings. The technologies he uses include CCTV computer vision, mechanical bubble machines, GPS apps, inflatables, hand soldered binaural microphones, openstreetmap data, building-sized displays, arduinos, laser-cut stencils, pocket-sized screens, digital projectors and hastily installed & poorly understood GIS software.

Venue: Baines Wing Miall Lecture Theatre 2.34, University of Leeds
Campus map of buildings: click on this link, then launch the interactive campus map, and choose Baines Wing from the list on the right.

From the main entrance, go straight on past the front desk, then through the doors on the left. Follow the corridor round to the right and then to the left. At the end of the corridor on your right take the lift to the second floor (West) or go up 5 short flights of stairs. The Miall Lecture Theatre (2.34) is straight opposite the lift.

Thanks to Tina Richardson for inviting me along to give a talk. The Leeds psychogeography talks are always a fun crowd.

Chapeltown Standard artist discussant, Leeds June 2011

Participated as an artist discussant at a series of meals and conversations organised by artist Benedict Philips.

Part of the Under The Paving Stones, The Beach festival in Chapeltown, Leeds (21-25 June 2011).

Under the Paving Stones, the Beach is a translation of the Situationist International slogan ‘sous les pavés, la plage’ used during the protests of May ’68 in Paris. The slogan refers to both the practice of lifting paving stones by rioters to use against police in demonstration but also the possibility of imagining the city beyond what is obvious in our current social and urban organisation. Both ideas are relevant in Chapeltown, a place known both for its incredible – but often overlooked – multicultural and archeological importance as well as its – very well documented – social problems and violent past.

Under The Paving Stones, The Beach is a festival of art in the public realm throughout Chapeltown. Featuring artists from across the UK – including artists resident in Chapeltown – the aim is to create social interaction and offer different opportunities to the public to engage with projects about what kind of art represents Chapeltown. Working outside white cube spaces and in partnership with local landlords and businesses the project offers exhibitions, public discussion, games and parties, internet-based and billboard projects on the street, in  other cultural venues, cafes as well as disused buildings reanimated for the occasion.

Here are my notes from our discussions.

copy connect remap repeat workshop, KHiB Bergen May 2011

copy connect remap repeat, Foundations of Computational Design

Kunsthøgskolen i Bergen | Bergen National Academy of the Arts

Equal parts design, social critique, and play, exploring fundamental principles of computational design. A course by Amber Frid-Jimenez Associate Professor and Ben Dalton Visiting Professor.

Hidden Trajectories, Viewing Area talk at Terminal Convention, Cork Mar 2011

Hidden Trajectories – Artists’ use of aviation and network mapping, Ben Dalton

Slitscan of video from landing plane


Viewing Area is a weekend conference on Saturday the 19th & Sunday 20th of March 2011 for aviation enthusiasts at Terminal Convention at Cork International Airport, Ireland

Using an ideal glazed vantage point on the first floor of the old decommissioned Airport Terminal, overlooking the runway and air traffic control towers, a series of informal talks and events explore how people engage with aviation through technology, art and society organised by artist Ross Dalziel.

Keep track of the Conference’s research links and conference programme content here

Terminal Convention is an internationally significant art, film, music and discursive event featuring some of the worlds leading and emerging international artists, musicians and academics taking place 17-27 March 2011, and is set in the former Cork International Airport Terminal, Ireland and Cork city centre music venues.

Digital Media Labs Residency technical advisor, Hull Oct 2010

[update: pasted in notes from talk below]

Technical advisor for the Digital Media Labs Hull touch screen art commissioning residency.

Digital Media Labs offers ten chosen artists a week-long residency as part of a commissioning process for a touch screen art work for the new multi-million pound NHS Hull Wilberforce Health Centre. This commission and Lab will be a key part of their innovative and ambitious arts programme for the new city centre multi-use building. – about

Ran a series of workshops and talks throughout the week demonstrating the potential and limitations of touch screens. Worked with other resident artists to help them produce functional demos of touch-screen pieces. Predominantly used Processing.

A winding journey through technology talk notes.

Most useful Processing code snippets for touch screens are:


size(screen.width, screen.height);

and remembering that you can run in presentation mode full screen on the second monitor if you change run.display in the preferences file linked from the processing preferences page. void mouseMoved() { } was also handy, as touching the screen often triggers a move rather than a click.

A winding journey through technology talk notes:

Trying to find nice examples of touch screen art feels hard to me. A few projects come to mind that don’t use the technology we are focusing on necessarily, but do introduce nice modes of interaction and aesthetics.

  • Khronos Projector – timelapse seems to lend itself to well to touch. Alvaro Cassinelli & Masatoshi Ishikawa’s morphable ventures through time and the timelapse ideas that proceeded it are outlined nicely in Golan’s Slit-Scan review.
  • Manual Input Workstation – Golan Levin & Zachary Lieberman’s high-tech, low-tech combination of Over Head Projector and computer vision feels like very fluid interaction interaction and stylish visual output.
  • PinPongPlus – this MIT Media Lab project came up in conversation as an example of touch as secondary to an interaction, and also for the use of microphones to detect points of contact – a way of making a window in to a touch interface for example.
  • Urine Control – a touch interface in the loosest sense, and the urinal game the She-Pee was made for. While the stream is constant, players can adjust direction to find their desired target.

We then moved on to a number of technical elements, each one triggering an association in some way with the next.

  • Shadow Cameras – we were talking about whether you could look round corners in a photo ‘like in the movies’. It is, under some conditions, possible to re-calculate the view of a scene from another light source. Not quite round corners, but close.
  • Optical Emission Security – the images on computer screens can be reconstructed under some conditions – which really could be viewing round a corner. This example relies on CRT monitors like the old van Eck eavesdropping, but other methods of diffusely reflected screen light have also been investigated (couldn’t remember the link).
  • Sneakey – this telephoto-key-duplication project led on from the discussion of how the things we assume are secure, may not be as technology advances.
  • Kryptonite Pen Key – as did this classic example of lateral thinking and a low-tech equivalent of bump-keying with the end of a bic ballpoint pen.
  • Yellow Dots – the idea of snooping led us to the Yellow Dots that computers can easily recognise, but humans tend to miss. You can find them on your bank notes in little constellations, and most commercial printers sneak yellow dot fingerprints on to each page you print.
  • Fingerprints – we often consider the uniqueness of our fingerprints as a useful shortcut for proving who we are. As do governments when planning their advanced ID documents. Many countries now include RFID chips containing biometric data derived from facial features and fingerprints. However, it has been proposed that it may be possible to reverse engineer a fingerprint from the biometric data. Or your fingerprints may be obtained some other way. The prints can then be etched using standard circuit board kits, and made in to fake fingers using melted gummy bears for access to secure offices, etc.
  • RFID Guardian – radio frequency ID chips are designed to be read from only a few centimetres away, but they can be interrogated from much farther away with the appropriate scanner. The RFID Guardian is designed to actively intercept all requests for information from the RFID chips in your pockets, and only allow through the ones you allow.
  • Airpwn – the RFID Guardian is a user approved man-in-the-middle attack, intercepting the communication between chip and reader. Normally, however, man-in-the-middle attacks tend to be more malicious. Airpwn was an experiment at defcon 12 where a laptop listened to the open traffic over the wifi network and transmitted answers louder in return. They tricked the laptops around them in to loading their versions of web pages, but with details swapped maliciously. In particular, goatse was used to replace every image. More recently, the FireSheep plugin has demonstrated how open to interception internet traffic can be.
  • Mary 101 – if FireSheep lets someone co-opt your online identity, what about a more fundamental appropriation? I like this work from Tony Ezzat, Gadi Geiger and Tomaso Poggio that calculates suitable mouth shapes from existing video to fit faces to new spoken word. It allows experimenters to make videos of people say things they never said, and can even make you sing Korean Pop.
  • Human Cycles – in a final, slightly unrelated point, we chatted about Louis von Ahn’s great adventures in motivating humans to contribute help to things computers can’t do well, and inparticular the classic ESP Game, where people guess words to describe images – playing a game for fun, but also labelling the images as a by-product.

Art in Unusual Spaces residency & show, Leeds Aug 2010

One month Art in Unusual Spaces artist residency and End Of Season group show.

Art in Unusual Spaces Presents…

Preview Event: 5-7pm Thursday 2nd September 2010
Ground Floor of Leeds Shopping Plaza | All are welcome to attend.
Refreshments will be served courtesy of Land Securities
Artwork will be viewable through the windows of the units:
Fri 3rd Sept & Sat 4th Sept 10 – 6pm , Sun 5th Sept 11 – 5pm.

Throughout August a number of artists have been creating illustration, video and installation in five empty shop units in Leeds shopping Plaza. Audiences are invited to come and view the work during the first weekend of September.

Art in Unusual Spaces has been hosting events across Leeds City Centre since December 2009. This is the last exhibition utilising these empty shop units before they are redeveloped and we move on to new pastures!