Inhabiting & Interfacing the Cloud(s): all research workshops results at once (recap about usages, interaction, territory)

Note: the 6 research workshops we organized in the frame of Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s) took place during the “preliminary sketches” phase. A known and common phase that takes place in the course of each design process, during which we could naturally involve peers partners and students so to increase our “trials and errors”.

The outcomes of these experimental workshops were further analyzed in two posts by N. Nova and P. Keller (ethnographic “Lessons” and design “Learnings“), to further develop design proposals as the main results of this research, along with two publications to come.


Introduction to I&IC & field study (10.2014) – no sound :

Soilless – a research introduction and a field study from design research on Vimeo.

More information about “Soilless, diagrams of uses” at HEAD – Genève on


Situations, usages and alternative clouds (01.2016 & 11.2014), at HEAD – Genève:

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

More information about  Cloud Gestures on


Cloudified Scenarios – a workshop with James Auger at HEAD – Genève on Vimeo.

More information about Cloudified Scenarios on



Interaction and data interfaces (11.2014 & 11.2015), at ECAL:

Botcaves – a workshop with Matthew Plummer-Fernandez at ECAL on Vimeo.

More information about  Networked Data Objects / Botcaves on


The Everlasting Shadows – a workshop with rAndom International at ECAL from design research on Vimeo.

More information about  The Everlasting Shadow on



Networked and decentralized cloud infrastructures (02.2015), at EPFL-ECAL Lab:

Data territories – a workshop at EPFL-ECAL Lab with ALICE from design research on Vimeo.

More information about  Distributed Data Territories on


Oracle, Bastien Girshig & Martin Hertig’s workshop #3 project at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Glad to see that Oracle, the project that Bastien Girshig and Martin Hertig made in the context of the workshop organized with Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, will be exhibited during next Milan Furniture Fair.

The project will be part of a group show entitled Poetry, organized by Logotel Italy and curated by Sefano Maffei.

Faced with the complexity of modern art, the design world tends to seek certainty and comfort. Producing, as a result, reassuring uniformities and unvarying expectations. Landscapes, environments, behaviours, democratic and functional objects that feed desire yet fail to surprise and often leave us cold.
They lack the transgressive energy of a détournement.
Or a stroke of originality bringing with it the power of poetry.

Curatorial statement.


More about this exhibition on


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 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: output > “The Everlasting Shadows” / Ghost Data Interfaces

Note: the post I&IC Workshop #5 with Random International at ECAL, brief: “The Everlasting Shadow” presents the objectives and brief for this workshop.


The fifth workshop we ran in the frame of the design research I&IC ended up on November the 20th. It lasted for a week (16-20 November 2015) under the creative direction of our guest researcher and interaction designer Dev Joshi (rAndom International‘s creative technologist), with the help of research assistants in interaction design Lucien Langton and Laura Perrenoud. It involved 3rd year Ba students in Interaction Design from ECAL, so as one 1st year student in Mas Design Research from EPFL-ECAL Lab.


The Everlasting Shadows – a workshop with rAndom International at ECAL from design research on Vimeo.


The title and subject of the workshop was “The Everlasting Shadows“, as explained by Dev Joshi in a previous post, and commented by myself later on to the students that would be involved, before the week of work started.

The aim of the workshop was to address the (now common) situation of the data we leave or disperse behind us in clouds and online services of all sorts. Data that will then remain, sometimes dormant or even forgotten for a long period of time and to consider these traces as literally (forgotten) parts of ourselves –fragments? shadows? or even ghosts?– The purpose was to select a set of exemplary shadow data and then experiment how one could develop “interfaces” to connect (again) with these “shadows”, make them “speak” (“what would they say if they could speak ?“), visible or “alive” again. These interfaces could likely be spatial, immersive or “sheltering” in some ways. We chose to realize the workshop in the big cinema studio of the school for that reason.




Dev Joshi presenting rAndom International’s work at ECAL during his research workshop week (top) and talking to the students at the beginning of final presentations (bottom).


The ongoing work has been shortly documented along the process by Lucien Langton, but we can now take more time to come back to the proposals made by the students and document them.

All in all, most of the projects didn’t really develop experimental interfaces per se or tried to reformulate the cloud paradigm as it was envisioned, at the exception maybe of Bits and Tweets of Former Self, but focused on comments or narratives about the described situation. The overall week of research triggered engaged discussions among the students and seemed to focus – one more time – on the need to “make visible and graspable” in some ways the” invisible” cloud based processes and data.

The fact that the students experienced difficulties to develop concrete proposals, which is a situation observed since the beginning of the research project and in particular its workshop period, underlines and confirms our initial hypotheses (centralization, “putting things at a distance” that need to be further questioned).

As the “cloud” technological construct and metaphor is dedicated to become the main paradigm and future of (online) computing, at least for the coming decade(s) if we consider the amount of money investments made in this sector by big companies, it stresses the needs for simpler, graspable infrastructures and tools.


Pyro42 - (Benjamin Botros)



Pyro42 intro screen (top). Benjamin Botros introducing his “data narration” during final presentation of the workshop (bottom).


Based on the public data and statistics about a particular gamer who played during 3854 hours since 2005, data mined from the platform STEAM and its online gaming community, Benjamin Botros decided to built up one gamer’s digital life narrative. If Pyro42 didn’t really suggest any interface or ways to interact with such data, it nevertheless proposed a story in the form of a quite “surrealistic” and imaginative gaming life about this particular gamer “who collected a fair number of achievements” before “peacefully retiring” after having built “4 bio farms and 4 organic ranches”!

All of a sudden, data about wins and losses, flags stolen, cities and countries “built”, etc. take a different flavor full of heroic but also depressing moments…


Anamorphic Memory - (Edina Desboeufs, Pierre Georges)


Anamorphic Memory, the proposition made by the two students was more of a personal interpretation and metaphor than it was a concrete interface proposal about “ghost data” kept online in “cloudified” services.

Regarding the theme of “shadows” and past identities that would be left online in the form of data, Edina and Pierre decided to record moments of life taken in the cafeteria of the design school (ECAL). These recordings were made with a video camera without sound, shot under a unique point of view while sitting on a chair. Their project then developed a way to navigate these visual memories while overlapping their projection to the current state of the same location.

The project ended up in a form of anamorphic projection installation, in which the video shot in the cafeteria were beamed on a screen to be seen from the exact same position and visual deformation as from where they were taken at a different period in time. The seemingly overlapping of past and present times was the purpose of the work.


Embodied Archive - (Alexia Léchot)


“Tempo_B” is a temporary folder in the school (ECAL) where all students from different faculties can leave temporary files during their day of work, until they are erased at the end of the day. Alexia Léchot proposed to keep and curate some of these files so to give view and memory to what happens in the school during a week of workshop.

The installation she proposed took the form of a corner projection, immersive and diptych projection of these files which happened to look a bit like a big open book. A tracking camera was observing the x-y movements of any spectator on the floor within this corner and use them to navigate the archived content (old-recent).


Abandoned Lil_sug4r_92 - (Julie-Lou Bellenot, Lara Défayes, Pablo Perez, Karen Pisoni)



The pile of colorful waste (top) reminding us of F. Gonzalez-Torres’ pile of candies. Catapult on the left that throw paper on the pile (bottom).


A forsaken email account that had not been opened for years but continued to receive emails (mostly spams and publicity) – and therefore be filled, served as the base for this project. The email account was in function years ago when it was used by one of the four students involved in this proposal. A teenager at this time then.

Abandoned Lil_sug4r_92, only partly realized in the short time at disposal, proposed a kind of automated machine linked to that account and that would fold a piece of colored paper (spam = red, promo = yellow, newsletter = “blue”, etc.) for each email received, then throw it away on a nearby pile. It was a way for Julie-Lou, Lara, Karen and Pablo to show the waste associated with such accounts, rather than any meaningful identity or construct. The pile of colored paper eventually acted as an information design, showing by the colors in the pile which was the dominant type of useless emails/data kept online.


Bits and Tweets of Former Self - (Mylène Dreyer, Jasmine Florentile –from EPFL-ECAL Lab–, Lina Vozniuk-Berzhaner)




Lina Vozniuk-Berzhaner and Mylène Dreyer playing with their interface, the semi-transparent screen and tweets superimposing to their faces in front of the mirror (top, middle, bottom).


Probably the most developed proposal at the end of the workshop and the closest to the brief, Bits and Tweets of Former Self was a program that dug into the past content of a (potentially any) Twitter account (you would have to grant access and then login).

With the help of a mirror, selected past messages and sentences were beamed into air at the height of the face of the user of the device, reversed and scrolling. You couldn’t really see these messages until this person, facing another mirror placed on the wall  “catched” these “flying messages” with a sort of “mesh-screen” (semi-transparent) with which she was equipped and that she could move. While displacing this “mesh-screen” in front of her face, the messages started to appear… ephemerally. Further more, they became readable and superimposed to the user with their reflection on the facing horizontal mirror on the wall.



Many thanks to Dev Joshi for his involvement with the students, his personal interpretation of the Cloud theme and for the interesting exchanges we had about the subject of the research in general; Laura Perrenoud for helping the students, Lucien Langton for its involvement, pictures and documentation. A special thanks to the students from ECAL and EPFL-ECAL Lab involved in the project and the energy they’ve put into it: Julie-Lou Bellenot, Benjamin Botros, Lara Défayes, Edina Desboeuf, Mylène Dreyer, Jasmine Florentile (EPFL_ECAL Lab), Pierre Georges, Alexia Léchot, Pablo Perez, Karen Pisoni, Lina Vozniuk-Berzhaner.

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).