Bio Sensor Device

DIY electronics | workshop | prototypes | Metal Culture | Southend-on-Sea | 2012

Workshop series by Open System Association’s project Rebooting Computing at Metal Culture,  commissioned by Southend Education Trust in partnership with YoHa and Digital Explorations Center Prototypes and experiments developed in collaboration with Emilie Giles, Cliff Hammett, and Gareth Foote.

The bio-sensor device is a GSR (galvanic skin response) sensor operating with and Arduiono to measures the body’s sweat level and output it through a set of small speakers.  The workshop was designed to explore historical connections with the concept of electricity as a force of life, and to investigate literary interfaces to skin. The workshop uses bio-sensors to explore social aspects of computing such as the use of sensor data, data collection, collaborative software writing, and historical connections layered in the software at use. By drawing back the lines to 1771 when Galvani first experimented with electricity and biological bodies, brings about the initial ideas of how electricity can reanimate deceased bodies. While Galvani’s experiment was making a frog leg move, the writer Mary Shelley wrote the novel Frankenstein in 1818 based on Galvani’s radical ideas of the time, however, what she brought to life was a monster. Already at present, are these histories of not only computing and electricity, but also of literature and arts whilst working with galvanic skin responses. This connection was explored through a silent reading club, in which participants could choose a topic of literature, and the audience could hear only the electronically recorded bodily response. Rather than being an indicator of ‘stress levels’ (which it is often used as i.e. lie detectors or emotional mapping) the device can be seen as an instrument to explore how electronic monitoring of human bodies at once provide a new visibility (i.e. neural reactions to environment) and become a site of control in the defining the body in terms of data. This enabled us to discuss bigger political implications of digital technologies and how it re-conceptualises many intimate sections of society, such as the body.

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