Drones

weekTwo: Futures

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Last week I spoke about research, craft and art being a trio of intersecting parameters in which we define our practises in media and technology. One could argue that, based off Terry Eagleton’s book Literary Theory: An Introduction,  that theory is more than just a governing body to give reason behind things we do. Some interesting words came about when discussing a solid definition to “theory”:

  • Discourse affecting Practise
  • Contemplation and Speculation
  • A morality behind a curiosity

So what makes theory vary from Research?

  • Theory can spark a particular engagement element or a curiosity as mentioned, to perhaps gain an intention.
  • I believe these two ideals DO compliment each other in terms of motivation and outlook. Research isn’t sparked on us without wondering the intentions of something.

I want to use my significance of last weeks post to dive deeper into this with my own experiences and try and grasp such a broad topic with the example I’ve had in practise. Suppose my passion for Drones sparked by a love of the skies. Or perhaps it was my interest to reinvent their storytelling narrative by turning them into an all in one robotic device that allows the operator to capture landscape, subjects and if so desired themselves with autonomy function. Actually, it was much more theoretical than that. It was a lecture room and a quadcopter was walked in sitting amongst other technologies that caught my attention and seeing it take off and land indoors with no real direction as to how it can be applied or what its purpose was. More that there’s a camera on the front, and it can fly, next move is yours. Already we have a research path, a craftsman path and a potential for an aesthetic (which was my initial response to how calm it hovered in the air seemingly by itself).

What transpired after getting involved with them, was the motivation and intention that I was going to build one for the intention of a purpose to extend the human potential that would ultimately create a safe environment for practitioners in engineering disciplines, as well as efficiently saving resources in time and money. This is how I intersected theory (my reason behind or rationale) and research (how do I access resources to get hands on in a technological inspired background). I believe that my research approach (whilst not industry professional stereotyped) was effective in that online tutorial and trial and error actually assisted my craft, which was, finding out everything I can about the hardware of robotics.

The Art side of my practise, which is, how was I going to satisfy my aesthetic motivation with these devices. In the years that I’d become interested in drones, so had every other media practitioner wanting to create visual experiences. This is why I get some people think the technology is fast becoming boring and repetitive (to a certain extent I agree, birds eye view of a landscape kinda has to resonate the video’s trajectory or its past its used by date)  but I’ve created start to end projects using the lens of the robot in various forms of motion. Not always does the camera have to be hovering in the air to capture unique shots, this personal assistance allows people to Be Their Own Camera Crew.

The idea of futures, I believe relates to how theory can relate to a critical engagement or an inventive narrative that allows concepts to turn into projects through, again, research application. Perhaps we have an obligation, to continue all three aspects so that these technics live on and projected futures don’t become scarce.

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week1: Theory; Practise & Process.

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Introducing theory, practise, research, art, media and technology into one collective group I believe allows us to draw connections and trajectories between works of art, innovation modules and indeed continue an obligation to broaden the limits for the future.

Firstly, I participated in an activity to draw an draw out or map our thoughts within a Venn Diagram. We split the categories three ways: Research, Craft and Art. With these the base headings, we wanted to discuss how some technologies and works we’ve created in the past fit into some, one or all of these.

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The three categories were filled with words or thought stimulators we could come up with. We ultimately decided that if dwelled on for long enough, each of the examples provided could actaully weave their way into all the categories. Which meant we had to be really specific with out choice of examples. For instance, if we say “technology” as a whole, it can definitely be talked about in a Research, Craft and Art bias but when naming a specific technology like VR/AR or 3D Printing, we then have to think about its position in these categories relevant to the time period.

This then lead into a mode of generalised thinking;

Research – Documentation, theory, PAST TENSE, things shaping ideas that have already happened and are revisted for further understanding

Craft – Practical, Skill based, materialistic, for me the act of “doing” could even be placed here. For example, the act of deciding to create or develop, that intrinsic thought applied to turning ideas into a reality.

Art – “the Grey area”, possible outcomes, aesthetic?, subjective, passion

For my own benefit and area of practise, I decided to take the controversial topic of Drone technology and try and outline their significance in each of these categories with an example of the above. I love the conversation this kind of thinking evokes, and how innovation can be seen as an artwork, or someones craft can pave the way for further research. This has happened with me. A lot of my projects have stimulated my own research into drone application for jobs to help people or solve outdated problems. Though indefinite, my research isn’t exactly “aesthetic” or probably wouldn’t be considered by most as an Art piece, doesn’t mean it couldn’t be. A device that provokes discussion for me means that it has potential. When the technology becomes a realistic everyday norm that’s when it gets succeeded.

Examples I want to share and build on the idea of specific pieces of work from drone technology, rather than the broad field they offer.

Art

Research

Craft

Next week, I’m excited to dive into the “futures” topic, and further develop this idea of connected links between craft and theory, and how some of the practises I’m involved with had elements of Research, Craft and Art mixed to create a prototyping idea through media art and communications applied to a new area of study in engineering.

BE your own CAMERA CREW

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Robotic implications and emerging technologies have always been a fascination of mine, and my university career has lead me to want to dive into these potentials usually by obtaining a new device or creating an account on a platform and just using them. Over the years at the University of Wollongong, I’ve created some digital artefacts, media art and written countless blog posts that have attributed to a creative content portfolio that will serve as a resume moving into the digital generation, lead by us in communications and digital media. This aggregated content curation has lead me to drone technology and how this emerging technology will be something this degree and certainly its graduates will have to become aware of as a tool to capture aerial images and video. I’ve been focused on the devices for about 2 years now, ranging from theoretical research and skillsets within ethical privacy, e-waste, production and consumption in the Asian Pacific, commercial and non-commercial use, agricultural implications, aesthetic filming and editing as well as launching a start-up within iAccelerate fuelled by UOW pitch 2016 whereby I’ve designed, built and implemented a drone device in collaboration with the RMS.

 

What I intend to do for this kind of research is something perhaps down the aesthetic road, whilst still defining my expertise and encouraging others to do so. I was to understand and field test the options that “off-the-shelf” commercial drones offer filmmakers and creatives, essentially out of the box ready to fly. Collision avoidance, active tracking and smart landing features are all components that drone manufacturers have to have as a core to their product if they’re to compete in the market today. These devices are a flying personal camera crew, and I want to create a video that captures myself as the subject that’s filmed by me. The edit is then done by me and my skills in two fields are already being tested and improved. That the act of creating and learning from failure still have more physical work showcase potential than ever before, we now have an evolutionary showreel to showcase what we’d describe in a written resume’ as “flexible, diverse and hard working”. Inevitably, this content creation goes back into my portfolio online and hopefully as media professionals scroll through the years, areas of improvement are evident.

 

For this digital artefact titled, “Be your Own Camera Crew”, I want to create a series of, or one video, to capture the skills I’ve learnt over the years of university attendance and the skillset from that, and create a visual showcase of this device potential for content creators like us who are trying to create jobs that perhaps aren’t even open for positions yet. The processes of editing, planning shots and ultimately creating a start to finish product that can then be used for a workplace portfolio is something i’d be interested in exploring. The drone I will be using is a product made by DJI, one of the world’s leading manufacturers in quadcopter technology, utilizing what’s called “active track”. This feature allows its user to click and drag a virtual box around a subject on live view from the drone on a smartphone, to then become the focus point of the shot. Once the subject is recognised and focused on, piloting the drone becomes automatic, without the use of the controller or even any piloting gestures. This means the person creating the work doesn’t have to worry about missing a particular moment in the filming process as the drone stays fixed on them. The type of video I would like to create would be something visually aesthetic as well as something with motion. The editing is then done with free software that comes with both personal laptops, in my case iMovie, or at the University. Lastly, the platform YouTube, allows this to be publically available for anyone with an internet upload connection. This will allow feedback for critic, as well as the convenience of a link to embed in future career initiation talks and applications.

 

I will be tangling with the week 5 topic of “The Object” and the autonomous function found on commercial quadcopters today. With some research, I’ve discovered that I’m not alone in my thinking that drones could serve a real world place in terms of providing accessibility to social, educational and creative disciplines, as theorist Utkarsh Mittal conveniently states that  drones will provide new opportunities for content creation and research, users may expect drones to be part of the technology resources available.  I use this example broadly, but some specific examples that I’ve been exposed to are the library at the University of Wollongong. The ‘maker-space’ will encourage emerging technologies and new devices on offer for students to complete projects that require an extra layer of physicality or aesthetic. These include drones, 3D printers and virtual reality, all available within a University library, which means the integration of these devices are already being encouraged as academic resources.

 

In my project, I want to contribute to this discussion from the viewpoint of a creative content creator.The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are linked to all kinds of prejudice and harsh criticisms about privacy, hostility and the unknown realm that is autonomous robotics. My intention is to explore the latter of these categories, and unlock what it means to aspiring media professionals like myself, when devices we use to conduct research and perform our creative tasks suddenly are able to do this without piloting and without supervision.

Stay tuned.

Drone Media Art?

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To explore the field of drones/quadcopters historical timeline, military usage of these devices would first have to be taken into account. Their surveillance and autonomous nature as well as the unmanned aspect made them appealing to “spy” on an enemy. Their commercialisation and furthermore “aesthetic” potential only came about in the last decade. Their cinematography capabilities meant they could capture steady visuals of subjects in a bird’s eye view fashion.

Previously this would have been done with an aircraft and some form of SLR camera, now they creative can pilot these devices for the shot.

The first aerial photograph was taken in 1858 by Felix Tournachon, known as Nadar, from a tethered balloon over the Bievre Valley in France (M, Cellania 2007)

 

Furthermore cameras were attached to various floating vessels such as hot air balloons, kites and remarkably even strapping a small camera with a timed fuse to a pigeon and sending it to the air. Aeroplanes came into the field in 1908 and after this practice, aviation photography boomed for applications such as science, mapping, and military reconnaissance. The photo and video aspects from the air define the commercial aspect of today’s off the shelf drones, their image resolution and steady gimbal design means that professional shots can be taken by amateur filmmakers and photographers.

Recently, the aesthetic of the images the drone can take aren’t the only art works being created with the devices. The physical presence of the device and wonderments associated to flight, hover and autonomous features are being taken into a new possibility. Visually spectualr light shows, LED attachment, long exposure and synced routines to name a few, such as:

 

 

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These inspiration shots are the types of emerging media art works and installation that is the beginnings of the field I want to investigate. The physical device is now the canvas and whether it’s attachments, or their hovering characteristics to be the subject, the camera is sometimes not even used.

An emerging technology, the practice in media art hasn’t got a great line of historical works, however it can be associated with the following:

Selfie

Flight

Aerial imagery

Remote control

Radio signal

Autonomous art

Inanimate objects

Surveillance/ satellite 

These topics are what historically go into the art practise we experience above and it’s a starting mindmap to lead into a practise of applying a field of technology to areas that perhaps wouldn’t initially associate.

 

 

Perhaps this exploration will draw some inspiration I had way back in first year when trying to compose a practise for 102, seen here.

Link to Aerial Photography

 

 

 

Curiosity = Content

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Perhaps a word to describe the origins of my university trajectory would in-fact be week one’s topic of ‘Curiosity’. I’ve always been fascinated with topics or activities that I have little to no experience in. This included this degree, it also included where I wanted to take this course and mould myself into the practitioner I am today.

I’m Sam and I’m 3rd and final year of my Communications and Media (digital media) degree. I want to take you on a journey that has been my BCM career to date, and how I plan to take the same mentality that’s brought so many interesting iterations along the way.

In 2015 I walked into a class that required me to create a project with a digital creative medium to convey a message. Initially it was challenge because I hadn’t used the allocated platforms, however I knew I wanted to create a video series and I wanted to do it with something I had no idea about and perhaps inform others that our curiosity could be this message I spent countless hours wondering what was. So I created a 3D printed prosthesis for a young child who had lost their left limb from the forearm down. This was successful and upon my curious endeavours was able to apply our creative communication practise to health sciences and engineering faculties, done through the powerful aid of YouTube and content aggregation.

This didn’t push me as much as the curiosity bug did, and so by the next semester I was curious about an entire device, the Drone (or quadcopter, or UAV). This is where I am today. I was first of all curious how I could build a project with something I was backgrounded in with a technology I once thought was a breed of cattle. So, inevitably, it was taken to the farm I worked on before moving to university and created a short series on Drones Agricultural Uses. This was with the cheapest off the shelf drone and the free software pre-installed on my laptop at the time. The aesthetic didn’t interest me, the curious nature of pumping out what another use for this technology did, and these particular videos helped me reach some sort of message, and with perhaps better resources the crisp quality could have met those who needed it.

Today, I’ve come along way in teaching myself through thorough research of Wiki-hole like trial and error. I’ve successfully built my own drone, by first wondering how it all works and buying a cheap off the shelf one and taking it all apart screw by screw. I was curious to how I could apply my fascination with their usage outside commercially safe aerial photography and videography, which has lead me to customising my own to do what I need it to do.

Curiosity has lead me into trying to change the way these devices are thought about at surveillance and military tools into how they’re application to make certain jobs safer or increase an aesthetic to a film or movie video piece. This is my exploration with the device i’ve created and want to continue to give the opportunity of showcasing and receiving feedback. My device being 360 degree video enabled highlights the curious nature of the user, and gives them freedom to all but fly the device to see what they desire. This will hopefully make sense in the projects I conduct in the future, whereby YouTube video content doesn’t restrict its user to view what I intended.

Digital Storytelling Project: Drone Protagonist

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Click Here for the Digital Storytelling Project: Drone Protagonist

Reflection:

Drones burst onto the media scene at an unprecedented rate, and like any new technology there’s optimists and skeptics. The idea behind this project was to demonstrate the trajectories and stories that are on offer, have been showcased in the past, and to perhaps encourage other creatives and public individual to think about how the spatial nature of these devices offer a whole new paradigm in the way we convey content.

I have a passionate background with the drone quadcopters, and it’s something I want to eventually build a career out of and own in abundance, so using these particular devices were a no brainer and something I could offer scholarly, factual, aesthetic as well as real world applications to that could persuade an audience to think about how media practices and audience experiences are spatial in nature. Of course, with passion and knowledge widely spread out across the chosen topic, comes problems in narrowing down a definitive timeline of a project. I had plans for a major looks into the assembly, the different types of drone and what they’re doing for the device’s reputation, a demographic showcase of the mindset of people when they think about drones, as well as having a whole heap of drones that I personally would review and showcase to people. These ideas were all likely to be projects in their separated state. I had to fine tune my thoughts into a collective and informative piece that still constructed a story that would cause people to think differently about a technology.

Target

This project was aimed at the general public and creatives alike who were unsure, skeptical, skilful or experts in the field of drones and their application towards tasks and aesthetics. This meant that it was both informative but also had room to grow, or showcase works of others that were more advanced than what I had access to. It also creates discussion, feedback loops as well as teaching myself personally from those who had opinions or useful criticism. I wanted to make this publically available, and for it to incorporate an essence of social utility outside of a “university only” style. Something I could have improved on this was the wider opinion of outside perspectives. Different age brackets, different individuals from various geographical locations as well as a greater number of all these factors could have generated more talking or focal points. This can be developed further to which I have every intention of doing in creating a digital portfolio of knowledge that covers everything there is to know about attitudes towards this technology.

Challenges

I touched on this before, however the way in which I condensed this into a singular linear trajectory was probably my biggest hurdle. I discussed heavily with my tutor and we decided to attack the project in a broad sense, that would open opportunity for debate, discussion as well as general conversation about the device. The intention with this method would be to showcase all that is good in comparison to the bad, to perhaps initiate people to think in terms of what Can be done, and then whether or not it should be done.

Another challenge was not having a personal drone that could film regular or “conventional” drone shots. This meant I couldn’t run with the original idea in doing reaction videos around the university and film in real time (from a drone) what people think or reacted like when a drone took off in front of their eyes and flew around a university setting. This could be another interesting approach later in my research studies as a first hand or primary research tool.

In terms of “gear” I was also not equip to conduct vox-pop type surveys, to which I substituted a survey monkey approach. The challenge with this was that I couldn’t approach people outside of the classroom for their opinions. A vox-Pop is effective in that it can get raw footage and thoughts people have on a topic by catching them off guard and recording whatever springs to mind. Again, another consideration for further insights into public opinion.

Prezi

Prezi as a platform was amazing in the way that the user is able to embed links that convert straight away into view-able content without leaving the site. Vimeo, YouTube and images requiring a simple hyperlink credits the sources as well as being easily navigated around the presentation.

Another huge aspect of this project was shifting the control from drone manufacturing companies telling the audience what to do with this technology. Prezi is almost a metaphorical representation of this attitude because the viewer isn’t subject to a linear presentation viewing point. They can skip as fast or a slowly through the slides as they please, view as much or as little of the video as they like, as well as skip to particular points of the presentation and click and drag their way to viewing different content. The zoom feature on images is also a user friendly feature.

Lastly, YouTube for the drone footage content I have aggregated is a free platform that works well with Prezi. It allows sharing options to be widely available and the footage I captured to be fully 360 degrees supportive.

Results and Future

The results from the surveys included that for a future program or an extension of this research, demographics play a huge role in the way we consume media from drones and their spatial significance in public areas. Peers and classmates who completed the survey in terms of what’s commercially available seem to just want to know more about these aircrafts and perhaps creatives like myself need to keep producing new content that’s publically available to see their potential. Another interesting aspect is the association with the words and connotations. This can be traced into production and consumption in an Asian pacific region where the word drone in certain languages connotes negatively in correspondence with words similarly, ie. Buzz, vulture, Dark.

This project is something I can use for my professional portfolio of an overall understanding of the drone implementation into society. Media industries will see the introduction of these devices for more detailed and raw footage, and having started to get people thinking about their positive impact they could potentially have if embraced and trialed with them, only has the capacity to have more around. Manufactures could definitely also benefit with this kind of research too with the way they build, market and in some cases limit their products. If we’re going to change anxieties about these devices we use in public spaces, it’s going to start with the quality and quantity of available footage we can get from creatives like myself, showing people what CAN be done.

 

Couldry, Nick, MacDonald, Richard, Stephansen, Hilde, Clark, Wilma, Dickens, Luke and Fotopoulou, Aristea (2015) Constructing a digital storycircle: digital infrastructure and mutual recognition, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Published by SAGE Publications, viewed 25th October 2016, <http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/54412/1/Couldry_Constructing-a-digital-storycircle_2014.pdf&gt;

Nesta, n.d., Drones: a history of flying robots; A collection of links, videos and recommended reading on the subject of drones, Nesta, Viewed 26th October 2016, <http://www.nesta.org.uk/drones-history-flying-robots>

M, Schroyer 2013, Man whose RC drone was shot down over Turkey protest returns to the skies, DIY Drones, viewed 25th October 2016, <http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/man-whose-rc-drone-was-shot-down-over-turkey-protest-returns-to&gt;

 

360 drone business – Sam Noakes — TOPMAX

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A Review of #DIGC302 by Top. Thanks for the awesome review!! Be Sure to head over and follow his Blog and YouTube Series!

For this semester I have been following the development and progress of “360 drone” project in relation to how could drone would gives cost effective and safe time in bridge inspection. I following this project through his website ‘Free look’, ‘THINK Sam’ and his twitter under named Sam Noakes [@samnoakes95]. His project pitch was one […]

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