Interplay medium

Hello friends.

I want to share with you a story about another of my Interplay Medium projects, which I mentioned in passing in my previous article about the Prague electronic audio guide and which I have been slowly working on for the past four years. This time we will talk about a non-profit project designed primarily for the public, on the one hand, not alien to the development of electronics, on the other hand, interested in various kinds of aesthetic practices, which at first glance are not related to electronics.

This story, perhaps, makes sense to break into several parts. The first part will be more philosophical in nature, in it I will try to reveal the general prerequisites and the main idea of ​​the project. In the future, I will talk about the architecture of the whole undertaking and then, as far as possible, I will share specific step-by-step descriptions of simple implementations, which, in turn, may be useful to designers and developers who want to use my achievements in their own projects.

The text presented below is partly a translation of my own text in English posted on my project’s website, however, it does not copy it in its entirety (I’m not sure that this is possible here, therefore I apologize in advance, moderators, do not hit! My text is original, original).


We live in an era of technological and information boom, the true meaning and prospects of which are only just beginning to take on the first meaningful outlines. The availability of computer tools and the emergence of a global information infrastructure has become a prerequisite for changing the very idea of ​​communication. Computer technology has outgrown its infancy and has evolved from a simple means of algorithmization and analysis into an everyday tool for communication and cooperation. In the end, a large number of available devices appeared, allowing a new level of information exchange and organization. What awaits us next?

Human generated environment

Interplay Medium home

The idea that the whole of human existence is the essence of a continuous reorganization of the surrounding reality is not new. Even Vitruvius, describing architectural principles, spoke of creating a structure as a transformation of the basic elements of nature 1 , later the idea of ​​reorganization in a broader sense found a response in the aesthetics and philosophy of the Renaissance, and in the twentieth century embodied in the principles of theorists and practitioners of design 2 . Today we bring the concept of “design” to an even more abstract level, speaking of the organization of information in general - as a fundamental principle of all processes, not only in relation to the physical world, but also at the level of abstract relations and categories.

The adaptation of electronics to our senses, to our nature, to our increasingly sophisticated language, as well as the availability of tools, miniaturization and cheapening of the production of electronic components, and, ultimately, understanding the value of free exchange of information opens up prospects for which we today we can only guess. However, one thing is obvious - electronics, as an instrument, is just beginning its victorious march on the planet.

The emergence of open source hardware and copyleft electronics projects, a growing community of hacker enthusiasts who, using affordable, sometimes time-consuming electronics, create systems with more sophisticated functionality than is intended by industrial developers - all these, in my opinion, are visible signs of fragmentation of the technical progress and going beyond the predefined area of ​​automation of production and life. Electronics is literally becoming not just a tool but the actual material of an artist, designer, creator.

Interplay medium

We are used to talking about composition (whether it is graphic composition or architectural, literary or musical), how to construct (collage) passive objects (fragments) that acquire a meaningful structure in our imagination due to the laws of perception of shape and color. We can talk about the interaction of objects within a composition at the level of color, mass ratios, contrast of forms. We are used to asking some rules for organizing the composition familiar to our perception and using all this as an expressive means. Today, our new electronic “sensory organs” give us the opportunity to perceive and interact on a fundamentally new level. It's time to teach the world of objects a new language.

Interplay Medium cafe

Imagine an interior or a whole landscape inside which all objects exchange information about their own position and physical condition, as well as about each other and the environment. You, as a designer of the information environment, can set the algorithmic logic of the interaction of objects that complements the visible compositional logic of the organization of the architectural space. You, as a participant in the information environment, can interact with the environment and change system parameters through any physical and virtual “interfaces” provided by the designer, using both familiar forms of physical interaction between objects and interaction with the environment through personal devices (assistants).

In one form or another, any interaction with household or industrial automation is a special case of implementing this concept, for example: a “smart home” or building an urban lighting system during day and night hours. However, all these systems are designed to nothing more than automate an already existing familiar process. Interplay medium implies the organization of interaction at a fundamentally different level - when the very method of organization and the nature of the data circulating in the local information space are presented as an expressive tool.

Interplay Medium Club

The Interplay medium project offers a new concept of organizing the environment, which includes, in addition to classical expressive methods, an interactive and informational component, both at the level of object - person, and at the level of object - object and network - object - person.

Interactive Designers

Reflecting on the future of electronics and observing many more and more interesting projects implemented by authors from related and sometimes completely unrelated to areas of electronics, I recall the 80s. When specialists from seemingly completely different disciplines began to pay attention to computer technology. Designers working with a digital image have appeared in the community of programmers, musicians dealing with synthesized sound. And later, in the community of designers and animators, programmers began to appear, trying their hand at interactive graphics. The fact that the most striking and interesting results of this strange symbiosis were made by interdisciplinary developers makes me believe that it is precisely this kind of specialists who will be able to take (and are already taking) the first steps from the virtual world of flash, maxMSP, PureData and other intricate tools embedded within a computer into physical reality. On the other hand, creators who have not previously dealt with electronic technologies, discover new opportunities for themselves, opening up in the work with microprocessor technology. Open the Make magazine blog or go to the Arduino website and you will find hundreds of examples of such projects there.

In my opinion, the very moment comes when the development of interactive design goes beyond the virtual world of the PC and in the hands of creators takes on a new meaning in the physical world. The study of this new area, as well as the development of tools for such projects is the task that the interplay medium project is currently setting for itself.


Inteplay Medium prototype
This is how the prototype system assembled on Bifferboard looks like . On three independent devices, the browser interface of the AXOD microserver (aka Digital Axon) is open.

Interplay medium in its basic representation is a hardware-software complex designed for designers and developers who want to create systems of interactive objects, combined into a local infrastructure and subject to a single logic conceived by the author. Based on cheap devices like Raspberry Pi, Bifferboard, or even an ordinary household router, a developer can build a complete system for managing the logic of disparate objects. And having knowledge in the field of electronics creation, the author can create his own interactive objects and integrate them into the local Interplay medium infrastructure he created.

In this place, with your permission, I will interrupt my story, as long as this is more than enough for the intriguing preamble, and my fingers already require a thorough rest. In the next posting (which I will try to prepare somewhere in a week and a half) I will tell you about the architecture of the whole idea and briefly describe how the central element of the system - the AXOD (aka Digital Axon) microserver looks from the inside.

Links, again, I do not give, as long as the rules prohibit. However, I believe that if someone becomes interested, finding a project site by the name of the problem will not be.

1 - Marcus Vitruvius Pollio: de Architectura, Book I, Chapter 4, I BCE.
2 - For example, Frank Lloyd Wright in his works consistently brought up the idea of ​​constructing a "growing" from the natural environment and "built-in" into it, which subsequently formed as the style of "Organic Architecture". Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, being a follower of neo-Thomism, was guided in his ideas by the ideas of Aristotle about four proto-elements.

Thematic literature

  • McLuhan Marshall, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man ; 1st Ed. McGraw Hill, NY, 1964
    Surely familiar to the reader is the fundamental work of the famous Canadian philosopher, philologist and theorist of electronic communications. In his book, McLuhan describes the role of electronic media in modern society and tries to assess the degree and nature of their influence on humans.
  • Heidegger Martin, Die Frage nach der Technik // Die Kunste im technischen Zeitalter. Munchen, 1954
    Heidegger's performance in November 1953 at the Munich Higher Technical School in the framework of the readings "Arts in the Technical Era" arranged by the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. Heidegger's thoughts on the role and purpose of technology in culture.
  • Moles Abraham, Théorie de l'information et perception esthétique, Paris, Denoël , 1973
    One of the first and still few attempts to consider the issues of aesthetic perception from the point of view of mathematics, cognitive psychology and information theory.
  • Rob van Kranenburg, The Internet of Things 2008
    A book by the Dutch culturologist and literary critic and new media theorist. In his book, Kranenburg tries to look into tomorrow's ambient technologies and the "all-seeing" networks day. He shares critical fears regarding their development and, at the same time, focuses on emerging alternative trends in the development of these technologies and their impact on society.
    The book was released under a creative commons license and can be downloaded from the Network Cultures