• Hack the Body 

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    Posted: 23 September 2015

    A multi-year open-innovation program

    Critical reflection on the blurry boundaries between intimacy, privacy and technology.

    Technological developments such as wearable sensors and mobile applications enable us to generate an unlimited amount of data – data generated from our most intimate resources: our bodies and our lives. Now that we can store this data in the cloud, we have access to a limitless repository of information. The Internet enables us to share this information with the rest of the world in the blink of an eye. However advanced and glorious this instantly gratifying self-expression may seem, the question remains: What do we gain by capturing, saving and sharing all? And equally important, what do we lose?

    It's time to face the fact that many of us are enmeshed in technology. Some say the current time is one of an interregnum: a period in which the old is dead and the new cannot yet be born. In order to enable new birth, we must face new challenges and questions: What is the impact of technology on the human being? What does this increased and shared intimacy between technology and our body mean? What do we gain by these technologies? Is it the ultimate way to bypass our subjective memory? Or do we strive to reconnect with a deeper inner self, by measuring all we can as our last resort of ultimate self-expression, to celebrate human individuality in an increasingly techno-dominated society?

    Baltan Laboratories is taking these challenges head on in the Hack the Body program, in which we explore the relationship between technology and the human through artistic research. With Hack the Body Baltan brings together several (artistic) projects that share the same underlying idea: using new sensor and information technology to explore new concepts within biometric measurement, neuro-feedback and data generation.

    Currently associated projects

    EEG Kiss by Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat (independent artists collaborating as LancelMaat) as part of an artistic PhD at Delft University and in collaboration with TNO and other partners. EEG Kiss is a project that questions how a kiss can be translated into data. Can we measure a kiss? Can we measure what kissers feel? Can we transfer a kiss and it’s intimacy online? Do we want to save our private kisses in a database - to be used by others? Tele-presence technologies extend our bodies beyond biological boundaries in time and space, but they prevent us from touching. EEG Kiss incorporates performances with live kissing experiments while the subjects are wearing EEG headsets to measure brainwaves. Visitors are invited to participate in the role of kisser, voyeur, EEG data scanner and interpreter.

    FLOW by Kris Jannis & Bob Permentier (B-Classic - part of Flanders Music Festival), Tom De Smedt (Experimental Media Research Group St. Lucas Antwerp), Gaëlle Dhooghe (psychologist) and other partners. Flow studies the occurrence of creative flow among performing musicians during one-off concerts in unique constellations. Both performers and audience members are fitted with sensors (EEG, ECG, GSR) aiming to detect and measure chemistry and moments in which a state of flow occurs. This research provides insight into a potential flow exchange between musician and the public.

    Qualified Self by Chris Salter (Research Chair Concordia University Montreal, director Hexagram, independent artist), TeZ (Italian interdisciplinary artist an independent researcher) and Luis Rodil Fernandez (independent artist and programmer) in collaboration with Holst Centre. This project investigates synchrony through an experimental Self Lab in which an oscillation between the self and the lack of self will be projected onto test persons/audience members. Measurements are conducted through biometric signals (EEG, ACG, GSR) which influence sensory stimuli and vice versa. The Self Lab exists out of three levels: Fractal Self, Out of Body Self and Collective Self. This research will result in a performative work which incorporates scientific research and an aesthetic experience.

    WE ARE DATA by Tijl Akkermans, Thomas Blom and Hester Swaving in collaboration with Stichting Autres Directions, VPRO Medialab and other partners. WE ARE DATA aims to develop a travelling installation that investigates privacy through confronting visitors with extracted data: thoughts, fears, prejudices, feelings and even sexual orientation. Which data should remain your exclusive personal property? WE ARE DATA is using FaceReader, eye tracking, PhotoPlethysmograhpy technology and various sensors to consciously and unconsciously generate a personal profile of each visitor. A confrontation with this information builds awareness about the accuracy with which machines can register our emotions and feelings. Visitors get the choice to either publish their profile in public, or to keep it private.

    A selection of our program technology partners:
    Fourtress, Holst Centre, Philips, TNO

    Baltan Laboratories invites all interested parties to tune in on this project and bring in their specific insights, wishes and needs.

    Suggestions for potential partners are:

    • Engineers, software- and product developers and knowledge institutes in the domain of sensors and the ‘internet of things’ (IoT)
    • Sociologists, psychologists, behavioral- and social scientists.
    • Museums, festivals, conferences and other presentation initiatives in the cultural, technological or public domain.
    • Artists, scholars, research programs, students and creative individuals interested in the relationship between technology and the human body.

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