D) 5 Connected Objects

A project developed by Lucien Langton

5 Connected Objects consist in a physical implementation (among many possible) of the Cloud of Cards Processing Library and exemplifies its use, client side. Linked to the 5 Folders Cloud (both server and software sides), the five physical objects work exclusively as its complements and have no independent digital functions of their own. They seek to propose a form of natural gestures interface (“clients” for the cloud) to locally access, monitor and manipulate ones data or files in the distant cloud, with a Cloud of Cards twist…

Indeed, directly linked to the results of the design research, as well as the ethnographic field study on the uses of the cloud, the purpose of the 5 Connected Objects is to materialize in daily environments the “ghostly” presence of one’s distant data. It is to incarnate as well the “digital anxiety” caused by various problems that can occur to personal files and data when dropped in a distant cloud (fear of losing one’s files, apprehension of erasing versions, of wrong sharing or access rights, of having private files being openly published, of undesired updates, of hacks, etc.)

As a consequence, the objects, and in particular their physical manipulation, can trigger automated procedures linked to these potential problems…

My Data Controllers (evolution, models)

Note: “My Data Controllers” (working title) is part of a home cloud kit, which was described in a previous post and that will be composed by four various artifacts, both physical and digital.

The kit will be distributed freely at the end of the project.


Continuing our design process, we milled the first prototypes of the five connected objects, which consist in tangible versions of the five main folders present in our alternative version of Owncloud (“A Personal Cloud”, working title as well).

As explained in this post, each object is based on the same elementary brick which brings and manages a natural interaction between the connected object, the personal cloud and its contained data, files and folders –therefore becoming a controller–. This elementary brick holds the Raspberry Pi, sensors and hardware necessary to physically interact with Owncloud. This interaction will be slow and discrete.

Furthermore than the identified objectives through the ethnographic field study and design sketches we’ve lead along the research, our approach to these networked objects was fueled by complementary meaningful references. The first one (image below) consisting in a different approach to the behavior users adopt in their interaction with the “technological home”, Shaker furniture:



A Personal Cloud (evolution)

Note: “A Personal Cloud” (working title) is part of a home cloud kit, which was described in a previous post and that will be composed by four various artifacts, both physical and digital.

The kit will be distributed freely at the end of the project.


The “alternative version” of the cloud (client, interface) and the way we interact with it is still under development.

Strongly connected to the ethnographic field research that was achieved earlier during the research process regarding cloud usages, the purpose of this project is to exemplify a different way of handling or even playing with one’s data and files in the cloud, as well as to demonstrate an implementation of “I&IC’s OwnCLoud Core Processing Library” that will also be part of the final delivery “cloud kit”.

“A Personal Cloud” is also in tight connection with the objects controllers project, “My Data Controllers” (working title as well), because these networked objects will directly interact with the files and data contained in it.



A version of OwnCloud developed with the help of “I&IC’s OwnCloud Core Processing Library” and containing five root folders, each with a singular automated behavior.

Old web today, by Rhizome

(…) Today’s web browsers want to be invisible, merging with the visual environment of the desktop in an effort to convince users to treat “the cloud” as just an extension of their hard drive.

In the 1990s, browser design took nearly the opposite approach, using iconography associated with travel to convey the feeling of going on a journey. Netscape Navigator, which used a ship’s helm as its logo, made a very direct link with the nautical origins of the prefix cyber-, while Internet Explorer’s logo promised to take the user around the whole globe. (…)

By Rhizome.org

I&IC Workshop #6 with Sascha Pohflepp at HEAD: output > Cloud Gestures

Note: the post I&IC Workshop #6 with Sascha Pohflepp at HEAD: brief, “Cloud Gestures” presents the objectives and brief for this workshop.


The 6th workshop of our I&IC project lasted four days at the end of November and it was led by Sascha Pohflepp, with students from the Media Design program at the Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD – Genève).


Cloud Gestures – A workshop with S. Pohflepp at HEAD – Genève from iiclouds.org design research on Vimeo.


Entitled “Cloud gestures”, the workshop addressed the representations people built when using cloud-based technologies, and, more specifically, the types of gestures they deploy when interacting with them. The group adopted a design ethnography approach to these issues, documenting everyday practices and designing artefacts that materialize the use of cloud computing services. This research direction aimed at generating insights, ideas and opportunities that will later be relevant for designing alternatives to existing systems.





The three projects that emerge out of this workshop all address cloud gestures in their own way. The short amount of time devoted to field research/data analysis only led to hypotheses. Nevertheless, they can be seen as relevant directions to be explored in further investigations.


Project 1: “SARA” (Vanesa Toquero)


The project explored the notion of predictions, and how data collected by sensors (and located “in the cloud”) could be used for anticipating future situations and behaviors. The student selected a group of users and asked them what gestures they did when they wanted to anticipate something, to make a decision, what happens if rain was coming, what happened if they were to receive tons of data. She videotaped this material, following their hand movement (people protecting their head, slapping their fingers, etc.). To some extent, this can be seen as a poetic depiction of anticipatory gestures, as such motion may be remotely connected to cloud technologies. The hypothesis the student wanted to explore consisted in investigating how predictions that could come from the cloud may materialize, or may be triggered by users.



The output of the project is a series of little films of people talking about the future, video of human users as seen from “a machine eye” that tracks the movement of one’s hands, and detecting their intentions. Such films show how our body language, the non-verbal communication we put in place, could be a relevant way to interact with machines and cloud technologies.


Project 2: Cumul0mainbus (Sara Bourquin, Hind Chammas)


The group approached a group of teenage students and interviewed them about their knowledge about the Cloud, social media and networked technologies. They ask them which action they do repeatedly when they use such platform… which led to a series of “verbs” described by the users: typing, commenting, sharing, liking, stalking, uploading, communicating, etc.

They then asked the teenagers to recreate them through gestures, which they videotaped in order to document these so-called “cloud gestures”. Interestingly, the group noticed how these users “use their own selves/their body as a reference” and that the gestures proposed were homogeneous between the people interviewed. The next step consisted in selecting the most salient gestures (classifying, sharing, organizing, blocking, stalking) that the group then recreated by filming them in two colors in order to create flip-books.



These flip books could be seen as a documentation of cloud gestures, a material depiction of everyday interaction with cloud technologies. The other end of the data center so to say. The project’s name – Cumul0mainbus – is a pun, a portmanteau word based on the name of a cloud type, and “main”, the French word for “hand”, revealing the intersection of gestural interaction and cloud tech.


Project 3: Cloud-up (Marianna Czwojdrak, Léa Thévenot, Eun-Seun Lee)


The group selected a diverse set of individuals and ask them to elicit their representation of the cloud on paper. In order to do that, they asked these people to “draw a life-cycle of your shared files”. As the question may be a tad too technical, they told them to represent what happens to their files as they use them. Their intention was to find out how people think about such issues, as well as discuss the temporality of digital content. One of the reason that motivated such approach was that “people did not understand what we meant by cloud”, as expressed by one of the group member.

The drawings produced were quite abstract. One of the user represented the Cloud as Egypt’s pyramid because “whatever I share, it’s shared with my family in Egypt”. Another described a series of steps that show what happen to one’s file from a computer to a server (the latter being represented as humans). This made the students realize no one really knew how the cloud work. An additional remark is that no one raised issues about surveillance.

The students then chose the three most interesting drawings and created textual interpretations of this material. Using this, they then created a series of User Interfaces that describe the cloud interface/functionality as envisioned by the person interviewed. Each highlight potential needs and interests regarding cloud functionalities:

  • Heaven/hell interface: you can decide whether your file would stay or vanish after a certain point in time
  • The cloud party: files are “drunk”/partying, there’s some partying time for the file and you need to be sober so that you can download them
  • ”Space wars”: when you upload/download files, they would duplicated themselves/leave traces in other places, so there are multiple instances of files (duplicates)

Dead Drops and Keepalive by A. Bartholl

By Wednesday, October 28, 2015 Tags: 0116, D, Data, Interaction, Object, Situated, Storage Permalink 0


Note: we mentioned the project Dead Drops (2010), by artist Aram Bartholl, in the foundation document of our design research Inhabiting & Interfacing the Cloud(s). The project was about passive memory sticks (usb keys) that were inserted into public streets walls, for anybody to drop or pick files.

A. Bartholl recently published a new project, Keepalive, which also presents a public, situated (rural or into the wild) and almost ritual interaction with files.

Both projects are presented below in more details, but what interests us in these two cases is this different interaction with files that is proposed. Both physical and that brings a different meaning to the interaction itself: a special type of (situated) interaction to access specific files. Something quite different therefore than a general purpose type of interaction (“clic” with a mouse or “tap” with a finger) to access any type of files (current situation with cloud storage).

In the continuity of the workshop we held about physical bot objects that manipulate data, “Botcaves” - Networked Data Objects, this is certainly a track we’ll like to pursue and digg into during the next steps of this project.