I&IC Workshop #5 with Random International at ECAL, brief: “The Everlasting Shadow”

Note: As I mentioned in a previous post, the I&IC design research project enters further developments in the context of new experimental workshops. Being still part of the first phase of our work, these researches are led in collaboration with design partners (peers) and the participation of Interaction Design students (Ba & Ma). They follow the purpose of creating a thematic corpus of design “counter-proposals” to the existing apparatus of the “cloud” (as described in the foundation document about this research).

I therefore publish the brief that Dev Joshi (from the London based collective Random International) recently sent me, in preparation of the coming workshop that will take place at ECAL next week (16-20.11.2015). This workshop will interrogate what the “self” might become in an era of permanent personal data traces left on countless online/cloud based services. These traces, now commonly known as “digital footprints“, or “data shadows” (“ombres numériques” in French) and even sometimes “data ghosts” open interesting questions when it comes to communicate/interface with these “ghosts”, objectify or make them visible.


The Everlasting Shadow

Workshop brief, November 2015.
Random International / Dev Joshi (Head of Creative Technology)





A unique construct, the cloud is always growing but will never fill up and it always looks the same, regardless of the angle from which it is viewed.

People often think of the cloud as something which is lightweight, easy to use, not imposing and perhaps even mercurial in nature. Content streams are always changing, documents viewable at their most current version – everything is fast and new. Looking below the surface, it is clear that this perception isn’t true. The cloud is heavy – it has a huge physical and environmental impact and the permanence of the data is worrying.

Where does all that stuff go, who is there to look after it? When all of your life’s information exists on someone else’s computer, even if you delete, how can you be sure that it is gone? Years of our lives left to rot in forgotten Dropbox accounts; previous versions of ourselves trapped on abandoned MySpace pages with only Tom for company.

The dualism of the ghosts we leave behind in the cloud, these indelible snapshots of ourselves, raise interesting questions about where the self exists in the modern age and of ownership. If ownership over something is the right to destroy it, have we surrendered ourselves to a broken immortality which we cannot control. Have we lost the right to forget and be forgotten?


Questions and staring points

The cloud is always something that belongs to someone else, operating in borrowed time and space. Devise a way of informing others about the physical and digital shadow they leave behind when they use the cloud.

Written records have existed for millennia but great effort is still expended in deciphering ancient texts written in forgotten languages. If everything in the cloud really is forever, how can we ensure it retains its value when the world has forgotten how we communicate?

How many different versions of you are there in the cloud? If they could speak, what would they say?

Your digital ghosts are trapped on islands around the cloud – is there a way to rescue them? Maybe they just need a shelter to live in now that you have moved on?


Output and medium

Could be, but not limited to:

. Making use of existing, static, cloud data (Things in your drop box, old social media accounts)

. Small (desktop) artifacts

. Projection and frames in space – things which hang from the ceiling or are fixed to the wall

. Screen based


Reference pieces







Monday – Introduction and discussion (am briefing)

Tuesday – Bandwidth and bare minimums (am briefing)

Wednesday – The trees that grow on technology island (am briefing)

Thursday – Work day

Friday – Presentation prep and delivery


Further reading

Marcelo Coelho, Karsten Schmidt, Allison E Wood

“Botcaves” on #algopop

Matthew Plummer-Fernandez just took the occasion to publish the results of the workshop he led at ECAL on #algopop (“studying the appearance of algorithms in popular culture and everyday life”)!

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:


I&IC Workshop #3 with Algopop at ECAL, brief: “Botcaves”

Note: I publish here the brief that Matthew Plummer-Fernandez (a.k.a. Algopop) sent me before the workshop he’ll lead next week (17-21.11) with Media & Interaction Design students from 2nd and 3rd year Ba at the ECAL.

This workshop will take place in the frame of the I&IC research project, for which we had the occasion to exchange together prior to the workshop. It will investigate the idea of very low power computing, situated processing, data sensing/storage and automatized data treatment (“bots”) that could be highly distributed into everyday life objects or situations. While doing so, the project will undoubtedly address the idea of “networked objects”, which due to the low capacities of their computing parts will become major consumers of cloud based services (computing power, storage). Yet, following the hypothesis of the research, what kind of non-standard networked objects/situations based on what king of decentralized, personal cloud architecture?

The subject of this workshop explains some recent posts that could serve as resources or tools for this workshop, as the students will work around personal “bots” that will gather, process, host and expose data.

Stay tuned for more!





Algorithmic and autonomous software agents known as bots are increasingly participating in everyday life. Bots can potentially gather data from both physical and digital activity, store and share data in the ‘cloud’, and develop ways to communicate and learn from their databases. In essence bots can animate data, making it useful, interactive, visual or legible. Bots although software-based require hardware from which to run from, and it is this underexplored crossover between the physical and digital presence of bots that this workshop investigates.

You will be asked to design a physical ‘housing’ or ‘interface’, either bespoke or hacked from existing objects, for your personal bots to run from. These botcaves would be present in the home, workspace or other, permitting novel interactions between the digital and physical environments that these bots inhabit.

Raspberry Pis, template bot code, APIs, cloud storage, existing services (Twitter, IFTTT, etc) and physical elements (sensors, lights, cameras, etc) may be used in the workshop.



British/ Colombian Artist and Designer Matthew Plummer-Fernandez makes work that critically and playfully examines sociocultural entanglements with technologies. His current interests span algorithms, bots, automation, copyright, 3D files and file-sharing. He was awarded a Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for the project Disarming Corruptor; an app for disguising 3D Print files as glitched artefacts. He is also known for his computational approach to aesthetics translated into physical sculpture.

For research purposes he runs Algopop, a popular tumblr that documents the emergence of algorithms in everyday life as well as the artists that respond to this context in their work. This has become the starting point to a practice-based PhD funded by the AHRC at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is also a research associate at the Interaction Research Studio and a visiting tutor. He holds a BEng in Computer Aided Mechanical Engineering from Kings College London and an MA in Design Products from the Royal College of Art.