The Renascence of the Sensual in a Vivacious World

Dr. Patricia J. Flanagan
Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University
Web: http://www.triciaflanagan.com
Reference this essay: Flanagan, Patricia J. “The Renascence of the Sensual in a Vivacious World.” In Leonardo Electronic Almanac 22, no. 1, edited by Lanfranco Aceti, Paul Thomas, and Edward Colless. Cambridge, MA: LEA / MIT Press, 2017.
Published Online: May 15, 2017
Published in Print: To Be Announced
ISSN: 1071-4391
ISBN: 978-1-906897-62-8


The implications of cloud phenomena and molecular aesthetics conjure macro and micro perspectives that resonate with the author’s research into haptic interface aesthetics and open systems. Physics describes the world’s natural state as one of entropy, where clusters of order are the result of the ability of living organisms or machines to make decisions in order to create local zones of organization. The author’s a/r/tographic work in humanistic intelligence, through haptic interfaces or reconstructed sensas, has led to a consideration of materials in terms of non-static manifestations. This article discusses the potential of this shift in perspective to open new spaces for artists to work in and new vivacious materials to sculpt with. Nanotechnology enhances our capacity to sense molecular activity, enabling engagement with materials previously considered dormant and stable that are now perceptibly in motion; we will hear, touch, and feel them in new ways – our bodies will witness a renaissance of the sensual. Wearable prototypes are explored as aesthetic interpretations and expressions of data-flows. Viewing all things as ‘actants’ reframes design questions to ask: What are the flows and waves that emanate around ‘things’? How do ‘things’ connect with and disturb the fields of matter surrounding them?

Keywords: Vibrant matter, wearables, haptic interface, actants, nanotechnology, Internet of Things (IoT)

Micro and Macro

The implications of cloud phenomena and molecular aesthetics conjure macro and micro perspectives, which resonate with the author’s ‘a/r/tographic’ [1] explorations of haptic interface aesthetics and open systems. Zooming out in Google maps, we gain a perspective of the earth that in the past was solely the privilege of pilots or astronauts. Today, this perspective is one we have learned to accommodate into our everyday perception of space and place.

In 2005, the author embarked on a project on the banks of Denman Creek in New South Wales, Australia, that was 700 meters long, large enough to be easily located in satellite photographs. The Denman Creek Interpretative Walk involved 1000 local residents whose names were stenciled onto a concrete pathway running from the town center to Hyde Park. [2] The names provide a snapshot, a visual impression of the community captured in time and embedded into the pathway. The artwork is isolated, approximately 130 kilometers from the populated east coast of Australia. When the author designed the project, it involved numerous site visits and many hours of driving. Today, the initial design phase of the project could be completed virtually, expediting the process and saving time and resources. The use of contemporary technology augments our bodies’ natural abilities. The fact that we are now accustomed to viewing places from a macro perspective exemplifies one way in which our sense of perception is evolving and expanding.

The dimensions of the virtual spaces we inhabit range from macro to micro. Technologies are rapidly becoming smaller, cheaper, more mobile, and fused with artifacts in our everyday lives. As a result, we slip in and out of these spaces (virtual and real) and scales (micro to macro) seamlessly. We now have instant access to information and communications technologies that profoundly change the way we live and work compared with a decade ago. Artists are tracking and mapping these macro and micro perspectives, creating artifacts and experiences that help us conceive and make sense of the interconnected worlds in which we now live. It is not only the objects that they create, but also the way they are created that evidence this change and give us some indication of what we may expect in the future.

Thread is a commemorative artwork that tracks 400 master’s degree students’ journeys from their homes to campus over a span of ten years. It is a map that was created by the author and a small team of assistants working simultaneously from various locations. The data were retrieved from statistics in Australia, digital mapping that took place in France, and machine embroidery in Hong Kong. The way it was created sounds like any global manufacturing process, but real-time problem-solving and production occurred as if we were working in one space. Three days and nights blurred within the delirium of a laborious production line. There was an awareness of the sun as it rose and set, but in the collaborative work-sphere, diurnal time was irrelevant, as was geographic separation. This was the kind of experience that online virtual reality gamers are well aware of. What takes place here is a spillage between spaces. Whereas in a virtual world, you seem to step into another universe—the digital and fantastic otherworldliness of the game inside the black box—in the context of Thread’s production, the connection between the workshops via a virtual portal meant the border between digital and real space was almost unnoticeable. Large projection screens, surround sound, strong microphones, and cheap internet connection meant that the team worked naturally, each at their task, calling across the room (so to speak) to ask a question of another artisan when the need arose. It mattered little whether it was across the room or across the globe; the response time was the same. This circumstance suggests that, as technologies continue their rapid development, we will see a move away from the dominance of screen-based interaction toward more varied forms of interface, including interactions that feel so natural that they become invisible.

The scenario above exemplifies an evolution in our perception of ourselves as we experience something akin to Einstein’s thought experiment of a train traveling at the speed of light, which concluded that time is not linear, but happens simultaneously. Like peeking over the horizon of the flat earth to realize that it is round, we are stretching the membrane of our three-dimensional bubble of perception to connect with the fourth dimension. [3] The circumference of the globe ensures that the folding of time is experienced as a disparity of less than 24 hours, but as we colonize further reaches of the universe, the difference will become more acute. The point-line-plane postulates of the three-dimensional world we experience render four-dimensional space invisible to our perception. Theoretical physics tells us it exists, and virtual space helps us imagine what it might feel like. When we landed on the moon, images of what the earth looked like from space were transmitted back to us. Watching via live television, a perceptual shift was occurring as humankind saw a holistic view of the earth, recognizing it as a fragile ecosystem rather than a world of boundless plenitude.

Through technological development, we continue to open up new ways of perceiving the world and our experience within it. Supercomputers have the capacity to process big data that human cognition struggles to make sense of. The application of algorithms transforms raw data into comprehensible models and enables us to test massive sets of combinations in order to find answers. Predictive or reverse-predictive practices enable us to model and grasp large, speculative, or alternative ideas. [4] Supercomputing augments our ability to find structure in chaos and to perceive signals in noise. As access to data storage is no longer housed on personal hard drives, but rather in data-clouds, we are able to access large networks of real-time information from any location, enhancing our capacity for mobility.

We have adapted to augmented technologies that allow us to zoom out and look at the world from above, but technology is also bringing the micro-world into everyday focus. Access to accumulated data via portable devices consents introspection and surveillance at an unprecedented level. [5] Data of the most intimately private nature are now public, giving way to counter-surveillance by corporations and governments. Creativity at a microscale relies on the ability to augment the human-scale movements of our hands, through tools, down to the minuscule movements of a microsurgeon, and to augment the eye with cameras and microscopes to support sensitivity and accuracy at tiny scales. Willard Wigan’s Moon Landing exemplifies micro-sculpture crafted in the eye of a needle. [6] Although this is a clear example of the tiny scale of sculpture made possible by augmenting the eye and hand, this article goes beyond miniaturization. Fundamentally, it is not only the artwork, but also the environment around it that is radically changed as we explore the universe at different scales of perception. Observation of the nano-world is informing design, for example, by mimicking the nanoscale structure of a lotus leaf to create water-repelling fabric. [7] Learning from the natural world, textiles of the future could be as complex as skin, which varies in thickness and elasticity in different areas, adapting to serve different functions.

The future is in the cloud, where micro and macro events are instantaneously understood in terms comparable with their human-scale implications. Nanotechnologies enable us to engage with tangible materials, enhancing our capacity to sense molecular activity. Between the macro-scape of public spheres and the intimate private domain of the body, the author’s research into Wearables explores the space in-between, at the interface, and on the surface of the skin, thus reaching beneath it and extending beyond it. Instead of focusing on the design of aesthetic objects, the author’s research involved reframing questions to ask: What are the flows and waves that emanate around ‘things’? How do ‘things’ connect with and disturb the fields of matter surrounding them? Systems thinking combined with aesthetic sensibility led the author to focus on wearables as the design of emotional experience and the expression of data-flows; this position views all things as ‘actants.’ [8-10]

Haptic Interfaces and Humanistic Intelligence

Throughout our human techno-genesis, we have applied mechanical logic to the systems of the body in order to augment or replace them. In the late 1940s, Norbert Weiner was applying the logic of electronics to replicate the functions of the body by mimicking the chemical-synaptic connections between nerves in the body using electrical circuits. He conducted the “moth and bed bug” experiment, wherein two directives—one to move away from light, and the other to seek it—react to their environment, creating an oscillation switch. The two possible directives compete until one overrides the other and a decision is made. Weiner believed the oscillation had a correlation with the tremor condition of Parkinson’s disease. [11] Key to Weiner’s research was the notion of feedback loops, which he observed as a key feature of all living organisms. He developed this notion in his theory of cybernetics, in which man and electronics are combined. As he points out, physics describes the world’s natural state as one of entropy, where clusters of order are the result of the living organism’s or the machine’s ability to make decisions in order to create local zones of organization. [12] In our techno-genesis toward humanistic intelligence, the border between the organic and mechanic is dissolving. The full potential of computing will not be based on the machines’ ability to count, but rather their ability to apply logic to quantitative data; that is, rendering machines that can make decisions.

Exploring humanistic intelligence and feedback loops where biodata and computers communicate directly through haptic interfaces or reconstructed sensas [13] has led the author to a consideration of materials themselves in terms of non-static manifestations. Blinklifier [14] is a wearable computer that augments the gestures of the eye, amplifying subtle movements into light-sequence patterning in a futuristic headdress. Communication between the body’s biodata and the computer processor is direct and is not mediated by conscious thought. By wearing electro-plated false eyelashes and conductive ink eyeliner, a blink becomes a switch. We innately understand facial gestures, but in contemporary cityscapes and advertorial media spaces full of flashing lights, neon signs, and teleological stimuli, do human gestures go unnoticed?

Figure 1. Tricia Flanagan and Katia Vega, Blinklifier, 2012. Photography by Dicky Ma. © Tricia Flanagan, 2012. Used with permission.
Figure 1. Tricia Flanagan and Katia Vega, Blinklifier, 2012. Photography by Dicky Ma. © Tricia Flanagan, 2012. Used with permission.

Another project, Bamboo Whisper, explores communication by stripping language of its literary meaning and seeking vibrational patterns that communicate across global, multilingual populations. This project, although similar to the work of the Dadaist sound poems in their attempt to capture the momentary aura of the word, is more closely aligned to the earlier objectives of two Russian Futurist poets, Khlebnikov and Krucënykh. The Futurists came up with the term ‘Zaoum’ to describe their attempts to connect with Ursprache, a pre-Adamic form of primal language that all people could instinctively understand. [15] Bamboo Whisper [16] consists of two wearable computers embodied in elongated bonnets woven from bamboo, reminiscent in shape of Victorian-era fashions. The voice patterns of the wearers are transmitted to each other, translated into chattering and visible trembling of bamboo sticks protruding from the brim above the eyes, as well as vibration felt on the back of the neck. Conversation becomes a rhythmic dance, an experiment in reciprocity and empathy. Questions have emerged from early experiments with participants communicating through Bamboo Whisper. What are the emotional effects of the haptic relationships encountered? Are there waves and patterns that we intuitively understand, regardless of language and culture?

Figure 2. Tricia Flanagan and Raune Frankjaer, Bamboo Whisper, 2012. © Tricia Flanagan, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.
Figure 2. Tricia Flanagan and Raune Frankjaer, Bamboo Whisper, 2012. © Tricia Flanagan, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

The theory of humanistic intelligence (HI) proposed by Steve Mann [17] propounds a view of computer and human as conjoined, rather than separate, entities. This is in opposition to the traditional human-computer interaction (HCI) approach that centers on functionality, informational interfaces, and usability, as is illustrated in the work of Noam Tractinsky, [18] Donald Norman, [19] P. Desmet and P. Hekkert, [20] and Kristina Karvonen. [21] Due to the historical evolution of the computer as a screen and keyboard based interface, development in the field of interaction has been dominated by ocular-centric exploration. The epitome of this evolution is currently found in Google Glass. Using Moore’s Law, [22] Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2045, the convergence of computing power, genetics, nanotechnology, robotics, and artificial intelligence will reach a point he calls ‘Singularity,’ at which machine intelligence will be equal to that of the human mind. [23] Further, he believes ‘Artilects’ will pose a threat to human intelligence in the future. Stephen Hawkings imagines the extremity of Kurzweil's belief as he fears that Artilects pose a threat not only to intelligence, but also to humanity itself.

Projects such as Blinklifier and Bamboo Whisper explore haptic interactions as alternatives to the dominant focus in HCI on functionality, informational interfaces, and usability. They are emerging in reaction to current wearable-technology design practices that represent a reductionist human capacity. They exemplify a relatively recent aesthetic approach to HCI that follows the humanities and new-media approach, where an interface can also be a non-informational space; for example, see research by Lev Manovich, [24] Soren Pold, [25] Brenda Laurel and Joy Mountford, [26] David Bolter and Diane Gromala, [27] and Steven Johnson. [28] Within the canon of literature that is investigating aesthetic approaches to HCI, two broad subcategories can be identified:

  1. Experience-based approaches to HCI categorized as post-optimal objects evident in the interaction design of Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby; [29] Mark Blythe; [30]  Wiliam Gaver, Jacob Beaver, and Steve Benford; [31] Jonas Lowgren; [32] and John McCarthy and Peter Wright. [33]

  2. Positing a techno-futurist philosophy and countering the dominance of the ocular-centric approach to HCI, comprising the research into haptic interfaces by Hiroshi Ishii [34] and colleagues, particularly Ullmer, [35] and the author. [36]

Together, we are learning to inhabit environments wherein macro and micro perspectives can be experienced simultaneously and different time zones around the world can be accommodated in one common sphere. This scenario serves as the backdrop of a third research project that explores how our sensitivity to circadian rhythms between virtually constructed and real worlds is amplified and, at the same time, nullified. BODYecology TimeTopography is a series of artworks to be presented at Timeless Textiles gallery in Newcastle, Australia in June 2015 that draws directly on the body’s biorhythms in order to self-generate textiles and apparel.

Scientific knowledge, new technology, and art have always explored new terrain, but it seems we are approaching a threshold in our perception that will not only change the way we perceive cultural production, but that will also open new ways to live and participate in an interconnected world. When one thinks about the city as an organism and the body as a wetland ecosystem [37]—as floating islands—notions of shift, drift, erosion, calcification, blooming, swarm, and assemblage gain significance. Our interaction within these flows is facilitated by faster computer processing speeds that enable micro and macro events to be instantaneously understood in terms comparable with human-scale implications.

New Human Perception

Weiner’s approach was to replicate neural synapses in electrical circuits. Explorations of the brain in the last decade have identified mirror neurons that are revealing wider interconnected systems. Just as we are learning to understand the body, the planet and the universe can be viewed as one biological organism to be explored in terms of dynamic systems and flows. At a nanoscale, the properties of the environment that we assume are logical become meaningless. From the nano perspective, everything is unstable and chaotic. The world is porous and in a state of visible decomposition and entropy. Scale changes everything; to an insect, moving through the atmosphere is like swimming through molasses, and surface tension enables gravity-defying feats. Nanoscales of sensitivity are computer-mediated; using an atomic force microscope, waves are bounced back off an object and processed by a computer that models the surface at a scale that we can read. [38] A laser is reflected off the back of a probe—a silicon-nitrate tip—that runs at a constant distance over the surface of an object, recording its topographic texture. Although its visualization is screen-mediated, the recording of atoms is haptic, not visual.

Our ability to conceive of and adapt to environments of nano and macro perspectives simultaneously will reawaken in us our somatic capacities and extend our sensibility to the overwhelming detail of a moment and a micron. Physicists working in the field are already attuned to experiencing nano-environments, but the fungible data of the nano-world will easily merge with the data-flows discussed above; the tactility of the nano-sphere will overlay our experience of the world and the materials around us. Through the lens of technology, we will be able to zoom in and out from atomic levels to data-flows of information. In addition, supercomputers and reverse-predictive practice invert the notion of problem-solving by working according to a question-generating mode. Thus, new technologies enable new forms of imagination.

Vivacious Materials

The future is in the clouds as we reconsider the primacy of the ocular. Our current comprehension of material substances is broken down, such that our tangible and embodied understandings of space and place are seamlessly permeated with virtual and digital spaces. Key to contemporary transdisciplinary imaging at the intersection of art, science, and culture is the need to transcend the border between the image and the tangible, fusing them together and dissolving the “us and them” dichotomy between information and its embodiment. Similarly, materiality’s visual hold, which has engaged our attention since the enlightenment, will be seen as veiling the true nature of matter. The moving image is the “motorization of painting”; [39] it supersedes the static in its interactive engagement with information. Through digital technologies—motorization of society—in the digital revolution, [40] the interchangeability of code means that in the smart cities of the not-so-distant future, citizens will no longer sit behind the screen or in front of it, but in the Internet of Things smart citizens will experience vibrant matter. [41] Future nanotechnology will enable us to engage with tangible materials, enhancing our capacity to sense molecular activity. Space and place, comprised of strings of zeros and ones, provide vast dataspaces of bits and atoms that inhabit real and virtual realms. Quantum mechanics introduces string theory as a means of understanding these phenomena, and with it, the wave and the fold gain prominence. The potential of this shift in perspective is to open new spaces for artists to work in and new, vivacious materials to sculpt with.


Our natural techno-genesis is to augment our body, including our perception. Acts that may appear reminiscent of magic tricks could become a normal part of our lived experience once we colonize the nano-sphere and comprehend the ever-expanding macro-sphere of the multiverse. The aesthetic interpretation and expression of data-flows in the author’s research leads her to predicate a view of all things as ‘actants.’ This view involves reframing design questions to ask: What are the flows and waves that emanate around ‘things’? How do ‘things’ connect with and disturb the fields of matter surrounding them?

We have evolved in our understanding of the world – an evolution directly connected to our technological development – from an awareness of three dimensions to the potential of a fourth and, hypothetically, an eleven-dimensional multiverse, as promulgated in theoretical physics.

The artists working together on Thread, located in France, Australia, and Hong Kong, are able to do so because they are working with fungible data. Any one of the team members can bring any aspect back into physical space by printing it in either two or three dimensions, by playing it out as sound, or projection (for example, as a holographic object, basically in any form that we can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell). As everything at an atomic level is in resonance and all matter is vibrating, the artist can sculpt vibrant matter as if playing music, “cosmic music resonating throughout eleven-dimensional hyperspace.” [42] We live in a vibrant world, and artists working at the threshold—on the membrane of our bubbles of perception, from nano-spheres to mass-media informational spheres of cloud computing—take on the role of data-sculptor. They thus facilitate the transformation of data into perceptible forms that enable us to conceive of the world in fundamentally new ways. What lies ahead is uncertain, but in the near future, it will become clearer as we explore nano-scales in which the properties of the world are completely different. This is the terrain of the subatomic universe and quantum physics, beyond the atomic level, where time and space may well be perceived simply as emerging properties of the universe.

Throughout this article, the evolution of human perception has been made evident through discussion of the augmented eye from telescope, to microscope, to nano-perspectives. In contemporary times, the power of supercomputing, the rapid growth in data storage capacity, and the hyper-immediacy of capture and retrieval mechanisms leaves us with the estranged feeling that we are defying the laws of nature, time, and space. However, what we are facing is a period of adjustment to these new ways of perceiving the world. Once we accept the interlinked world as a part of us, we can be responsible for our role within these assemblages. The power no longer resides within the objects of desire, nor between them, but instead in the persistence of ideas in the collective consciousness of the media itself (that is, its efficacy). The aesthetics that emerge from the new machine–human interfaces are a combination of virtual and actual media in new types of haptic interfaces. The emotional experience of these encounters creates residual memories and objects as the mediators of these experiences in our vibrant evolution. The challenge for art/design/science is to augment our human capacity to experience the world in meaningful ways as part of an interconnected organism and sustainable ecosystem.

References and Notes

[1] A/r/tography stands for art/research/teaching. See: R. L. Irwin, R. Beer, S. Springgay, K. Grauer, G. Xiong and B. Bickel, “The Rhizomatic Relations of A/r/tography,” Studies in Art Education 48, no. 1 (2006): 70-88.

[2] Tricia Flanagan’s official Web Site,“Denman Creek Interpretative Signage Walk 2006,”, (accessed September 26, 2014).

[3] Michio Kaku and Garbriel Karl, “Einstein' Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time,” Physics Today 58, no. 4, (2005): 59-60.

[4] Patricia J. Flanagan,” Haptic Interface Aesthetics—Feedback Loops, Live Coding and How to Harness the Potential of Embodied Estrangement in Artistic Practices and Aesthetic Theories within Interface Culture,” in Design, User Experience and Usability, Design Philosophy, Methods and Tools, ed. Aaron Marcus Vol. 8012, 58-67 (Berlin Heidelberg: Springer 2013), 65.

[5] Steve Mann, Jason Nolan, and Barry Wellman, “Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments,” Surveillance and Society 1, no. 3 (2003): 331-355. September 26 2012)

[6] Hue Hart, “Microsculptor’s Incredible Hulk Fits in Eye of Needle,” Wired Magazine, August 19, 2009, (accessed September 26 2014).

[7] H. Yildirim Erbil, A, Levent Demirel Yonca Avci Duman and Olcay Mert, “Transformation of a Simple Plastic into a Superhydrophobic Surface,” Science 299, no. 5611 (February 28, 2003): 1377-80.

[8] Actants are sources of action; matter that responds and requires a response and is part of the political ecology.

[9] Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke University Press 2010): 9.

[10] Mark Hansen, “Engineering Pre-individual Potentiality: Technics, Transindividuation, and 21^st ^Century Media,” SubStance 41, no. 3, (2012): 33.

[11] Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (London: Free Association 1989): 163.

[12] Ibid., 34.

[13] “… now it's a machine that's reconstructing sensations pixel by pixel and bits by bits. Not just visual or auditory sensations, the audio-visible, but also olfactory sensations, tactile sensations. We are faced with a reconstruction of the sensas. ‘Sensas’ are the basis of sensations the way we say psyche, etc.” Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer, The Accident of Art (New York: Semiotext(e) 2005), 66.

[14] Patricia Flanagan, Katia Vega and Hugo Fuks, “Blinklifier: The Power of Feedback Loops for Amplifying Expressions through Bodily Worn Objects,” (paper presented at 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Computer Human Interaction 2012, Conference Proceedings Vol. 2, Matsue, Japan 2012): 641-2.

[15] Harriett Watts, “The Dada Event: From Transsubstaniation to Bones and Barking,” in "Event" Arts and Art Events, ed. Stephen C. Foster, Vol. 57 (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press 1988), 119-31.

[16] Patricia Flanagan, “Haptic Interface Aesthetics – ‘Feedback Loops, Live Coding and How to Harness the Potential of Embodied Estrangement in Artistic Practices and Aesthetic Theories within Interface Culture,” in Design, User Experience, and Usability. Design Philosophy, Methods, and Tools: Second International Conference, DUXU 2013, held as part of HCI International 2013, Las Vegas, NV, USA, July 21-26, 2013, proceedings, part I., ed. Aaron Marcus. Vol. 8012, (Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer 2013) 58-67.

[17] Steve Mann, “Wearable Computing: Toward Humanistic Intelligence,” IEEE Intelligent Systems 16, no. 3 (2001): 10-5.

[18] Noam Tractinsky, “Aesthetics and Apparent Usability: Empirically Assessing Cultural and Methodological Issues,” CHI 97: Conference on Human Factors in Computing, (ACM 1997): 115-122.

[19] Donald A. Norman, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things (New York: Basic Books 2004), 5.

[20] P. Desmet and P. Hekkert, “Framework of Product Experience,” International Journal of Design 1, no. 1 (2007): 57-66.

[21] Kristina Karvonen, “The Beauty of Simplicity,” CUU '00 Proceedings on the 2000 conference on Universal Usability (ACM New York, NY, USA 2000): 85-90.

[22] The claim that processing power for computing doubles every two years.

[23] Ray Kurzweil, “Singularity: Ubiquity Interviews Ray Kurzweil,” Ubiquity (January, 2006): 1.

[24] Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2001), 64 – 5.

[25] Soren Pold, “Interface Realisms: The Interface as Aesthetic Form,” Postmodern Culture 15, no. 2 (2005): 9.

[26] Brenda Laurel and S. Joy Mountford, The Art of Human-computer Interface Design(Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1990).

[27] David J. Bolter and Diane Gromala, Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2003).

[28] Steven Johnson, Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate (San Francisco: HarperEdge 1997).

[29] Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects, (London: August / Birkhèauser, 2001).

[30] M.A. Blythe, K. Overbeeke, A.F. Monk and P.C. Wright, Funology: From Usability to Enjoyment, Vol. 3 (Dordrecht: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005).

[31] William Gaver, Jacob Beaver and Steve Benford, “Ambiguity as a Resource for Design,” ACM conference proceedings (2003): 233-240.

[32] Jonas Lowgren, “Pliability as an Experiential quality: Exploring the Aesthetics of Interaction Design,” Artifact 1/2 (2007): 85-95.

[33] John McCarthy and Peter Wright, Technology as Experience, Vol. 11 (New York: ACM 2004), 42-43.

[34] Horoshi Ishii, Dávid Lakatos, Leonardo Bonanni, and Jean-Baptiste Labrune, Radical Atoms: Beyond Tangible Bits, Toward Transformable Materials, Vol. 19 (New York: ACM 2012), 38-51. Vol. 19 (New York: ACM 2012), 38-51.

[35] B. Ullmer and H. Ishii, “Emerging Frameworks for Tangible User Interfaces,” IBM Systems Journal 39, no. 3-4 (2000): 915-30.

[36] Patricia Flanagan, “A Vibrant Evolution: From Wearable Devices to Objects as Mediators of Experience,” in Aaron Marcus (ed), Design, User Experience, and Usability. User Experience Design for Everyday Life Applications and Services 8519 (2014): 58-67.

[37] Lindsay Kelley, “Digesting Wetlands, Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics,” The third international conference on Trans-disciplinary Imaging at the intersections of Art, Science and Culture, Istanbul June 26-8, 2014, (accessed Jun 22th, 2014).

[38] Paul Thomas, Nanoart: The Immateriality of Art (Chicago, IL: Intellect 2013).

[39] Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer, The Accident of Art (New York: Semiotext(e) 2005), 66.

[40] Jack Burnham, “Systems esthetics,” in Open Systems: Rethinking Art c.1970, eds. Donna M. De Salvo, Johanna Burton, Mark Godfrey and Boris Grois, (London: Tate 2005), 166-170.

[41] Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke University Press 2010), 5.

[42] Michio Kaku and Martin Rocek, “Strings, Conformal Fields and Topology: An Introduction,” Physics Today 45, no. 4 (1992): 88.


Flanagan received funding support from the Academy of Visual Arts Hong Kong Baptist University to present this paper at Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics, The Third International Conference on Trans-disciplinary Imaging at the Intersections of Art, Science and Culture, (Istanbul June, 2014).

Blinklifier was created in collaboration with Katia Vega. Bamboo Whisper was created in collaboration with Raune Frankjaer. Both projects were prototyped in Haptic InterFace (HIF) intensive workshops at the Wearables Lab Academy of Visual Arts Hong Kong Baptist University (2012, 2014). HIF is made possible through the generous supported of Seeed Studios and The Woolmark Company. Flanagan received support for HIF in 2012 from Hong Kong Baptist University RC-start up grant for new academics.

Author Biography

Patricia Flanagan has been exhibiting internationally since the mid 1990’s and is represented in private and public collections in Australia, Ireland, Germany, Italy and China. She is the winner of four CASP funded public art commissions, a UGCTD Grant to develop PIPA; representative for Oceania at the Tournai Contemporary Textiles Biennial Belgium; recipient of the Australian Postgraduate Scholarship Award and winner of The Max Fabre Foundation Award for Environmental Awareness. She completed a Doctorate of Philosophy (Public Art) University of Newcastle Australia; Master of Art (Visual Art) Bauhaus University Weimar; Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) and Associate Diploma awarded with honours (Fashion Design). Her research in human computer interaction is widely published and she is on the programing committee for HCI – Design User Experience and Usability. Dr. Flanagan established the Wearables Lab at the Academy of Visual Art at HKBU in 2009 where she worked as assistant professor until her relocation to the University of New South Wales, Art and Design in 2016.