Project Description

Arts+Tech Accelerator

Arts+Tech Accelerator: MadLab

At the beginning of 2016 I was selected to be one of 12 Artists to take part in an Arts+Tech Accelerator prgram at MadLab in Manchester. This creative practice accelerator was one of 3 pilot programmes across the UK set up by Arts Council and Innovate UK as a space to develop new products, services and practices, and to stimulate collaboration and business acumen.

My journey on the arts & tech accelerator program started with the need for a decision. Faced with two paths, I battled through some inner turmoil with the help of Lego, a fascinating workshop led by Stuart Nolan. The models created in the session revealed the path that posed the most potential and where my true need for enquiry fell.

My main aims for the biometric path whilst on the project were to explore methods for using sensors to measure flow in a participatory context. Initially this meant a lot of research into different types of physiological measures and how they might imply ‘flow’ states. I also wanted to be sure that any sensors or combination of that I chose to use would be suitable for use in a public setting i.e. easy to set up, non-invasive and as hands off as possible.

I toyed with the concept of completely hands off sensors and looked into using cameras to measure things such as heart rate. After research and discussion with experts such as Kiel Gilleade I felt this would be an inappropriate tool as 1) experts felt that the data was dubious and 2) I felt that a physical interaction between participant and sensor was an important exchange in terms of a person feeling or believing they are inputting data and in a form of permission giving and acknowledging the collection of data.

Even though my ultimate goal is to use biometrics in a participatory context, I first wanted to document and prove the data by measuring that of makers/artists. As much of my work is based on replication of textile making processes in a magnified way I wanted to observe the physiological states of textile artists while making. I was grateful and privileged to be able to observer various makers such as Angela Davies, Ness Donnelly and Toni Buckby.

As a participatory artist I am very interested in the application biometrics as a form of interaction and live feedback. A few experiments looking at creating biofeedback loops between active and peripheral audiences led to a slight dead end with the specific methods trailed (a knitting machine and imagined audible pulse of observer) but is still an area I wish to explore beyond the scope of the program.


With the support of our in program resident technologist Chris Ball, I worked on the development of a combined sensor to transmits data live and wirelessly (which it turns out it far harder to do than I would have ever imagined) refining the actual measurement tools for future exploration as part of my creative practice.

Despite having decided to focus on exploring biometrics for measuring experiences of flow during participation whilst on the program, I still spent time working on the development of the punchcard reader. This has been surprisingly beneficial in a number of ways, namely that it has allowed me to develop new skills such a PCB (circuit board) design and take advantage of the various visiting experts in this area whilst learning on a live project. 

Tags: TextilesFlow, Digital, Technology, Sensors, PatternCraft, Research

Date: Septmber, 2016