OCAD University

OCAD professor receives SSHRC grant for

mobile and biometric technologies research

(Toronto—April 21, 2009) Associate Professor Paula Gardner of the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) is a recipient of a Research/Creation Grant in Fine Arts for $158,084 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the university announced today.

“One of this research project’s main objectives is to create artist-friendly mobile technologies to pave the way for future content-production by other artists,” said Gardner, who teaches in OCAD’s Faculty of Liberal Studies. “The project’s major component allows participants to use mobile and biometric technologies to gather data — a person’s heart rate, eye movement and breathing rate, for example — develop computing software, and then use it to create a map of one’s self.”

Entitled “Biomapping: Mobile Experiments in Self-computation and Spatial Aesthetics,” the project’s unique, interdisciplinary research-creation methodology will combine the skills of a sociologist, ethnographer-documentarian, engineer, sculpture/installation artist, and mobile/interface designer.

The approach merges mobile media and sculptural practices with science and technology studies, phenomenology and space studies. This novel method of art creation will pioneer interactive mobile experiences, and demonstrate, in art experimentation and creation, theoretical questions related to urban space, computational logic, mobile and time-based media and subjectivity.

“Paula is one of the leading researchers in mobile technology and I’m thrilled that she’s been awarded a grant that will allow her to pursue her work in this specialized field,” said Michael Owen, Vice-President, Research & Graduate Studies. “Paula’s success is an excellent example of the knowledge, innovation and research capacity our university provides to the world.”

About “Biomapping: Mobile Experiments in Self-computation and Spatial Aesthetics”

Art can take the temperature of a culture and allow us to gauge our selves through our sensual and perceptual experiences. “Biomapping: Mobile Experiments in Self-computation and Spatial Aesthetics” develops process-based and map- and sculptural-art creations that question our sense of self through mobile and biometric technologies.

Participants will create artworks based on their own biometric and perception data, collected in both laboratory and urban environments. Working with artists, participants will develop software that will process their personal data to reflect their own image of “self.” The data will then be translated into physical form via a computer-controlled printer or rapid-prototyping facility, creating a “biomap of self.“

“Biomapping” enriches Canadian culture through user-focused art, developing novel manners for Canadians to document themselves and their spaces. Research outcomes will be distributed across Canada and around the world via mobile networks, gallery exhibitions, process documentation, and an on-line, interactive Biomapping website.

The Biomapping project has seven objectives:

  • Create three art experiments, including self-documentation, biometric logic-crafting and map/sculpture creation that “compute” an individual’s sense of self;
  • Create an artist-friendly mobile technology network and a user-friendly coding interface for artists wishing to take up mobile/network art creation;
  • Create a back-end web space and “Metaphor Blog” that continually feeds theory into art practice and produces data, allowing users to interpret research methods as art practice;
  • Exhibit these art experiments in a gallery transformed into a mobile lab. The exhibit will represent (and conflate) participants’ experience and creations. It will also invite participants to become viewers, crafting their own biomap and participating in focus groups as performance art;
  • Gather data on experiments and the exhibits (as experiments), and analyze the data and represent it in exhibitions, workshops and conferences;
  • Employ relevant data in the creation and publication of a “Mood Architectures” website, an on-line space interpreting participants’ moods into maps;
  • Publish a collection of articles analyzing relevant findings of Biomapping.

About the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD)
The Ontario College of Art & Design (www.ocad.ca) is Canada’s “university of the imagination.” OCAD is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. The university is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinarity, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

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For more information please contact:

Leon Mar, Director, Marketing & Communications, OCAD
416.977.6000 Ext. 222

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