I/O/I. The Senses of Machines

An exhibition reflects on the relationship between man and machine at the Disseny Hub Barcelona.

I/O/I = input/output/input.

The first impression you get while visiting the exhibition I/O/I. The Senses of Machines is that you're on a playground of the future. In the current times, as the curators explains, "technology enables us to make ever more complex machines, leading to more sophisticated interaction with them". But this "playground of the future" is more than an interactive exhibition; it allows us to think on the relationship between men and machines in a different way, generating new experiences of dialogue.

I/O/I. The Senses of Machines [Interaction Laboratory] is a follow-on from the previous activity, Fabrication Laboratory. And we can talk, in fact, about the expanded concept of the term "laboratory", that is consolidated here through the specific features of the activity. As a laboratory, is interesting to remark that all the machines or mechanic pieces are involved in a process of constant change—the prototypes are repaired right here, before the visitor's eyes; always evolving, always in constant change.
Top image: <i>Cell Phone Disco,</i> 2006. © Informationlab.<br />
Above: <i>Augmented Shadow,</i> © Joon Y. Moon.
Top image: Cell Phone Disco, 2006. © Informationlab.
Above: Augmented Shadow, © Joon Y. Moon.
On the exhibition, the visitor became conscious on how deeply information technologies have become part of our lives over the last forty years, and how these changes has affected our surrounding space, from the house to the city. We are now trying to define the point we have reached and the immediate future of the technological interactions that are transforming our reality in every sense: social, economic, natural, and politic; and also we're defining how to face this changes and learn from them. That's why the space is divided in sections as Sensors, Interface, Data Visualization, and Swarms and Emergent Systems, among others, aiming to find answers to this profound changes we're living. Is interesting to think in which stage we are now: if we're going back to Banham's 'Machine Age'[1] or, as Ramon Prat says, simply thinking that technology "will be a means of leaving the old and obsolete behind, improving our lives and our world."
<i>The Unemployed,</i> 2009 by Jody Zellen. © Brian Moss.
The Unemployed, 2009 by Jody Zellen. © Brian Moss.
We can feel in The Senses of Machines exhibition the same Joie de vivre that Charles and Ray Eames used in the interactive exhibition Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond[2], where they combined logics with playfulness as a method of communication; both exhibitions, separated by almost fifty tears, are a demonstration that when the public is allowed to interact with the machines, the childlike curiosity that everyone has inside is suddenly awaken. We can read in Domus 402[3] about the Eames exhibitions:

"Thus the initial pleasure of the public is the spontaneous one of seeing coincidences work perfectly. This gradually creates in them, when moving around physically and mentally in this world of ideas, an even more intense and subtle emotion: the awareness of the elegance of the idea and methods, and the greatness, infinitely open, of the game."
But at the end, the real meaning of the exhibition is not only focused on technology but in our current relationship with it...
<i>Polygon Playground,</i> 2008 by White Void. © Christopher Bauder.
Polygon Playground, 2008 by White Void. © Christopher Bauder.
It just seems that there has been no time between 1961 and 2011 and we can use almost the same words to talk about The Senses of Machines. This fact can be perceived as a contradiction itself, as we're talking here about a new generation of interfaces, which include natural interactive functions and social behaviors. But at the end, the real meaning of the exhibition is not only focused on technology but in our current relationship with it... and is exactly at this point where we find similarities beyond the fifty years that separate the Eames' exhibitions from The Senses of Machines.
<i>Lunch Box Stories,</i> 2009 by Paula Winograd. © Fundacikón Musgo
Lunch Box Stories, 2009 by Paula Winograd. © Fundacikón Musgo
Nowadays, when everything seems to be interactive and intercommunicated, but at the same time we can easily get lost in the flow of information. The nine-month duration of this exhibition and laboratory becomes a wonderful resource of projects, grouped into four major areas: robotics, the Internet of things, data visualization and all related with physical computation, interaction design, and code design, among others. It is basically an exploration of new territories, new disciplines and new experiences generated by interaction.
<i>Bit.Flow</i>, 1999 by Julius Popp.
Bit.Flow, 1999 by Julius Popp.
[1] Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. Reyner Banham, MIT Press, 1960.
[2] "Mathematica: A World of Numbers… and Beyond". An interactive exhibition originally at the California Museum of Science and Industry, March 1961.
[3] "From the Eames Studio." Article published in Domus 402, May 1963.

I/O/I. The Senses of Machines
Montcada, 12
From 10 June 2011 to 15 January 2012

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