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)

I&IC Workshop #6 with Sascha Pohflepp at HEAD: ongoing


The workshop is still ongoing and the students are busy working on various field explorations. As explained in the brief, their purpose is to observe and document everyday practices with the cloud. More specifically the focus is on gestures and representations people build about this technology.

We formed three groups, each working in different directions.

I&IC Workshop #6 with Sascha Pohflepp at HEAD: brief, “Cloud Gestures”

Note: as mentioned by Patrick last week, the I&IC project moved further and we’re now doing additional workshops. Here is the brief of the one proposed by Sascha Pohflepp to Media Design students at HEAD – Genève this week.


Cloud Gestures

Workshop brief, November 2015.
Sascha Pohflepp (plugimi)



Photo by Hanna Elisabeth

All that is solid melts into Airbnb

– title of an event at the Swiss Institute, September 2014



We are being ever more permeated by clouds. This migration of aspects of our life into the digital is only going to speed up as more and more aspects of it is being captured as data and mediated by services. But what is the cloud? Does it have a physical presence? What is its language? Can we resist it? Do certain people use it in certain ways? Are users always human? Does it ever rain? What are gestures of the cloud today ?

In this project we are asking you to assume both the role of a cloud ethnographer and speculative documentarian.

In the first step you will do field work to find out how exactly our lives that are evaporating into the cloud. Formulate a research question, position or hypothesis and observe people, focussing on gestures and metaphors. Ask them to describe how they imagine the cloud, how they conceive of the objects they are creating and the machinery that is running it. How they feel it is affecting their life and where it may be going.

Importantly, do not just consider what is in front of you, also think about the vast cascade of actions that a simple touch on a display might initiate. Some gestures may be invisible, some may take the shape of cities.

Collect as much as data as you can, this is important. Give thought to your method before you go into the field. Consider some of the examples you’ve seen during the introduction and adapt their techniques to your needs and interests.

For the second step we ask you to turn your data into a document of what you observed and its cloudiness. You are fairly free in terms of medium and what aspects you focus on. There will be something in your data that will serve as a focal point. Present your research in an unconventional way.



Elaborate on a small gesture and expand it or focus on the whole and distill it into one gesture. Be a true documentarian or reflect on our world by situating your insights in a speculation.

Re-enact (and document) behaviors; make the invisible visible or embody it; describe what you see in language or pretend you are observing a new language; pretend everything is the other way around; consider the largest gesture involved in what you have observed, consider the smallest; consider who is gesturing and towards whom; are users human?; create maps or destroy them; re-/assign gestures; reflect the all-too human; draw.



MONDAY Presentation + brainstorming session
TUESDAY Ethnographic fieldwork & data collection, processing
WEDNESDAY Data presentation and work on presentation
THURSDAY AM Finalizing presentation
THURSDAY PM Final presentation


Related work & reading

Slides of Sascha’s presentation (PDF)
Versuch_einer_Phaenomenologie by Vilem Flusser
Drawing a Hypothesis (video) by Nikolaus Gansterer
A Simple Introduction to the Practice of Ethnography and Guide to Ethnographic Fieldnotes by Brian Hoey

I&IC Workshop #5 with random International at ECAL: work in progress


Our workshop with Dev Joshi from rAndom International is going on well during the week, with different ideas cast into the direction of digital shadows, traces and footprints.

The students are encouraged to produce objects, although it has been suggested that they take advantage of space as well (installations), as the workshop takes place in a large studio (cinema studio at ECAL).

I&IC Workshop #4 with ALICE at EPFL-ECAL Lab, brief: “Inhabiting the Cloud(s)”

Note: we will start a new I&IC workshop in two weeks (02-06.02) that will be led by the architects of ALICE laboratory (EPFL), under the direction of Prof. Dieter Dietz, doctoral assistant Thomas Favre-Bulle, architect scientist-lecturer Caroline Dionne and architect studio director Rudi Nieveen. During this workshop, we will mainly investigate the territorial dimension(s) of the cloud, so as distributed “domestic” scenarios that will develop symbiosis between small decentralized personal data centers and the act of inhabiting. We will also look toward a possible urban dimension for these data centers. The workshop is open to master and bachelor students of architecture (EPFL), on a voluntary basis (it is not part of the cursus).

A second workshop will also be organized by ALICE during the same week on a related topic (see the downloadable pdf below). Both workshops will take place at the EPFL-ECAL Lab.

I introduce below the brief that has been distributed to the students by ALICE.


Inhabiting the Cloud(s)


Wondering about interaction design, architecture and the virtual? Wish to improve your reactivity and design skills?

Cloud interfaces are now part of our daily experience: we use them as storage space for our music, our work, our contacts, and so on. Clouds are intangible, virtual “spaces” and yet, their efficacy relies on humongous data-centres located in remote areas and subjected to strict spatial configurations, climate conditions and access control.
Inhabiting the cloud(s) is a five days exploratory workshop on the theme of cloud interfacing, data-centres and their architectural, urban and territorial manifestations.
Working from the scale of the “shelter” and the (digital) “cabinet”, projects will address issues of inhabited social space, virtualization and urban practices. Cloud(s) and their potential materialization(s) will be explored through “on the spot” models, drawings and 3D printing. The aim is to produce a series of prototypes and user-centered scenarios.

Participation is free and open to all SAR students.

ATTENTION: Places are limited to 10, register now!
Info and registration: caroline.dionne@epfl.ch & thomas.favre-bulle@epfl.ch


Download the two briefs (Inhabiting the Cloud(s) & Montreux Jazz Pavilion)


Laboratory profile

The key hypothesis of ALICE’s research and teaching activities places space within the focus of human and technological processes. Can the complex ties between human societies, technology and the environment become tangible once translated into spatial parameters? How can these be reflected in a synthetic design process? ALICE strives for collective, open processes and non-deterministic design methodologies, driven by the will to integrate analytical, data based approaches and design thinking into actual project proposals and holistic scenarios.




I&IC Workshop #3 with Algopop at ECAL: Botcaves on Github

Note: a message from Matthew on Tuesday about his ongoing I&IC workshop. More resources to come there by the end of the week, as students are looking into many different directions!

I’ve started a github repository for the workshop so I can post code and tips there.

Please share with the students:


Cookbook > Basic instructions to set up a Raspberry Pi

In the context of the workshop being held by Matthew Plummer-Fernandez this week at ECAL, Raspberry Pi’s will be available to students.

The Pi’s have already been set up with a basic layer of software / harware, the OS installed is Raspbian (on 8Gb SD’s for the Raspberry Pi B and 16Gb SDxC for the Raspberry Pi B+), the keyboard system is standard International Mac US and the wifi-dongle enables to access the Pi via SSH from another machine. Here’s how we did it from scratch: