When browsing the web, we navigate a network that enables anyone to publish their perspective on the world. Yet, on a closer look, most of our information provision turns out biased towards sources that tell the stories we are often familiar and comfortable with. ‘Inter Momenta’ explores how our information selection can be a starting point for serendipitous connection by letting two audience members (interactants) meet to explore connections between each other’s interpretation of the present.
Selection of seasonal words
Upon arrival at the project, the interactant is presented with a collection of words associated to global current affairs, from which she selects (by either touching/clicking or pronouncing) three or more to describe her present moment. The collection, taking its inspiration from the Japanese Haiku's “Saijiki”, is curated in the background by a language model that selects keywords - or “Kigo” - from news articles based on a combination of their frequency and recency. With at least 3 words selected, this step is completed by touching/clicking ‘continue’ or when no input is received for a sustained period of time.
Connection between moments
The selected words move closer and cluster together to form a single ‘momentum’, bound by the interactant’s choice illustrated by thin lines between the words. In the background the creator is paired to another interactant who is just completing her selection and their ‘momenta’ are juxtaposed on an otherwise empty canvas, shared by the two participants.
Two layers of connectivity are at play here:
• Data-driven movement: The momenta’s movements are governed by forces acting between individual words determined by semantic similarity captured in the language model. This gives rise to smooth, natural motion, reminiscent of the flocking of birds: a swarm of actuality that visualizes poetically how the ‘now’ is represented and related. • Human Interaction: On top of this data-driven behaviour, participants add their own layer of meaning. By clicking any of the words on screen, the momentum it belongs to is extended with a word that has been co-selected with the clicked word as part of a momentum in the past.
Like any moment in life, the momenta on screen are ephemeral. When faded connections leave a word isolated, it disappears from screen. This process continues as long as the interactants continue to extend their momenta, until all words have faded. Each connection has a lifespan of one minute.
As it currently stands, the Inter Momenta protoype provides a content agnostic visual langage to interactively visualize and explore textual content. One of the exciting things of the project is that it can take any textual content, like the headline articles from a selection of news providers or the entire history of Al Jazeera's news broadcast transcriptions.
The current application is a prototype of the main interface. This will be developed into a dynamic mobile compatible web application (using the Meteor framework running on Node.js and making extensive use of the recently released p5.js library).
Lead Designer & Technologist: Philo van Kemenade
Philo van Kemenade is the initiator of Inter Momenta. Through his academic background in Artificial Intelligence he has gained experience developing Natural Language Processing applications. Recently he has become interested in the interplay between autonomous systems and human interaction and has previously developed an application that lets users interactively explore and adapt the rules that governing emergent swarm behaviour . His involvement in the organisation of the Popathon series of storytelling hackathons over the past 2 years has given him hands-on experience of prototyping web-native narrative user experiences.
Philo van Kemenade combines video, data and the web to explore how technology can support engaging storytelling. His expertise in Artificial Intelligence and passion for filmmaking brought him to London, where he researched data-driven storytelling using user-generated online video as its building blocks. He leads Data & Analytics at Storygami, an interactive video platform that lets creators, brands and businesses make their online video stories smarter by adding interactive context. Philo is initiator of Popathon, an international series of hackathon events to encourage multidisciplinary collaboration in the field of web-native storytelling.
Font Design: Fabio Lattanzi Antinori
Fabio Lattanzi Antinori is a multimedia artist working increasingly with data as his material. His background is in graphic design and he has years of professional experience designing custom fonts. He has recently exhibited his piece ‘Olympic Walk’ that captures and reconceptualises large amounts of textual data. Within Inter Momenta, Fabio focuses on the design of a bespoke, parametric font that takes shape depending on the data that is fed to it.
Fabio Lattanzi Antinori’s work is concerned with the individual and the group from a social, historical and cultural perspective focusing around the relationship existing between corporate systems and the language of the interior in the postmodern society. His practice traverses the territory of popular culture in the age of mass information with a specific interest in the sacred role of data, seen as a critical tool to provide an interpretation of reality and an attempt to objectify it. His language ranges from kinetic sculptures to screen print, photography, video and installations and it has been exhibited internationally in galleries and museums.
Audio Composition: Xabier Garcia Mera
Xabier Garcia Mera is a London-based composer and musician who has, besides his own productions, composed mainly for films and theatre. For Interactual Xabier is working on two audio designs. First, a vocabulary of instantaneous sounds that provide feedback to the interactant’s interactions. An exciting design consideration involves how voices recorded during the selection can effectively be employed within the main interface. Second, a continuous soundscape that plays throughout the collaborative exploration of the shared canvas.