Reading& Resource List - Physical Computing, Interactivity, Motion Based Events, Animism, Electronics

Readings focused on physical computing, ubiquitous computing, activated objects, kinematics, gesture understanding, interactivity, embodiment, virtual/real world interfaces

Note these resources are used by students in SFSU's Conceptual/Information Arts Program
Prepared by Professor Stephen Wilson
More information about Conceptual Information Arts (CIA) Program (

List of books on researve for SFSU physical computing course

Artists Writing & Work with Motion Based Events, Physical Computing, Activated Objects, etc.

Note the CIA art and technology sites contain links to artists working in physical computing, activated objects, motion detection, telepresence, etc.  Many of these artists also have essays on their sites.
go to kinetics/robotics section, go to activated objects sectionwilson activated installation list,

Art Links focused on telecommunications and the physical
Review artists in telecommunication section -
or in the web artist site section on 'Arrangements that Use Readings of the Physical World to Affect the Web,  Mixed Realities'

Researchers working on ubiquitous computing
Links to arcicles on Ubiquitous Computing/ Tangible Computing

Books - Physical Computing, Interface, Ubiquitous Computing

Physical Computing
by Dan O'Sullivan, Tom Igoe
Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade; 1 edition (June 2, 2004)

Wilson, Stephen.  Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology.  (MIT Press, 2002)
Chapters 7.1 Research Agendas and Theoretical Overview
7.2 Computer Media - Theoretical Reflections
7.4 Motion, Gesture, Touch...and Activated Objects
6.4  WebArt (section on Arrangements that Use Readings of the Physical World)
2.5  Body & Medicine

Donald Norman books and essays
-Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things
-The Invisible Computer
-Things That Make us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine
-The Design of Everyday Things
- The Psychology of Everyday Things
Don Norman Stie  (includes online chapters)  -

P. Denning (Ed.), The Invisible Future: The seamless integration of technology in everyday life - see Buxton, W. (2001).  Less is More (More or Less),

Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects,    ©2001, Princeton   Architectural Press;

Adam Greenfield -  Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing

Bruce Sterling - Shaping Things 
MIT Press, 2005 

Gershenfiekd, Neil   - When Things Start to Think

Wilson art/science bibliography
(see sections on the Body, Physical Computing)

Books - Electronics

Forrest Mims  - Getting Started in Electronics

Forrest Mims - Engineers Notebook

Paul Scherz  - Practical Electronics for Inventors
mcgraw hill

Bill Urmenyi Ltd. Electronics for Artists

Articles -  Ubiquitous Computing and Gesture Understanding

(Note - article descriptions adapted from Tom Igoe site list of books and articles )

Summary: Potential Contributions of the Arts to Research Agendas in Ubiquitous Computing and Gesture Understanding.
Stephen Wilson, SFSU

Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown
Xerox PARC
The third wave of computing is that of ubiquitous computing, whose cross-over point with personal computing will be around 2005-2020[3]. The "UC" era will have lots of computers sharing each of us. Some of these computers will be the hundreds we may access in the course of a few minutes of Internet browsing. Others will be imbedded in walls, chairs, clothing, light switches, cars - in everything. UC is fundamentally characterized by the connection of things in the world with computation. This will take place at a many scales, including the microscopic.

**** Graspable User Interfaces -  George W. Fitzmaurice
This dissertation defines and explores Graspable User Interfaces, an evolution of the input mechanisms used in graphical user interfaces (GUIs). A Graspable UI design provides users concurrent access to multiple, specialized input devices which can serve as dedicated physical interface widgets, affording physical manipulation and spatial arrangements  (Read chapter 2 and 3)

**** Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces between People, Bits and Atoms - Hiroshi Ishii and Brygg Ullmer
Tangible Media Group- MIT Media Laboratory  
Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces between People, Bits and Atoms (pdf Hiroshi Ishii and Brygg Ullmer)
This paper presents our vision of Human Computer Interaction (HCI): "TangibleBits." Tangible Bits allows users to "grasp & manipulate"bits in the center of users' attention by coupling the bits with everydayphysical objects and architectural surfaces. Tangible Bits also enablesusers to be aware of background bits at the periphery of human perceptionusing ambient display media such as light, sound, airflow, and water movementin an augmented space. The goal of Tangible Bits is to bridge the gaps betweenboth cyberspace and the physical environment, as well as the foregroundand background of human activities.

Bruce Sterling - Emerging Technology keynote (audio) on "The Internet of Things"

Anne Galloway, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University
Ubiquitous computing seeks to embed computers into our everyday lives in such ways as to render them invisible and allow them to be taken for granted, and social and cultural theories of everyday life have always been interested in rendering the invisible visible and exposing the mundane. Despite these related concerns, social and cultural studies remain in the background of discussions of ubiquitous technology design. This essay seeks to introduce researchers in both fields to each other, and begin to explore the ways in which collaboration might proceed. By exploring mobile and ubiquitous technologies currently being used to augment our experiences of the city, this paper investigates notions of sociality, spatialisation and temporalisation as central to our experiences of everyday life, and therefore of interest to the design of ubiquitous computing.

Utopian Promises-Net Realities / Critical Art Ensemble
The need for net criticism certainly is a matter of overwhelming urgency.   While a number of critics have approached the new world of computerized  communications with a healthy amount of skepticism, their message has been  lost in the noise and spectacle of corporate hype-the unstoppable tidal wave  of seduction has enveloped so many in its dynamic utopian beauty that little  time for careful reflection is left. Indeed, a glimpse of a possibility for a  better future may be contained in the new techno-apparatus, and perhaps it is  best to acknowledge these possibilities here in the beginning, since Critical  Art Ensemble (CAE) has no desire to take the position of the neoluddites who  believe that the techno-apparatus should be rejected outright, if not  destroyed. To be sure, computerized communications offer the possibility for  the enhanced storage, retrieval, and exchange of information for those who  have access to the necessary hardware, software, and technical skills. In  turn, this increases the possibility for greater access to vital information,  faster exchange of information, enhanced distribution of information, and  cross cultural artistic and critical collaborations. The potential  humanitarian benefits of electronic systems are undeniable; however, CAE  questions whether the electronic apparatus is being used for these purposes in the representative case, much as we question the political policies which  guide the net's development and accessibility.

Jim Campbell "Delusions of Dialogue: Control and Choice in Interactive Art
I find it useful to put interactive work on a dynamic spectrum with controllable systems on one end and responsive systems on the other.  In controllable systems the actions of the viewer correlate in a 1 to 1 way with the reaction of the system. Interactive CD ROM's are on this end of the spectrum and generally speaking so are games.  In responsive systems the actions of the viewer are interpreted by the program to create the response of the system. Artificial Life works fit at the extreme end of this side of the spectrum.

Bill Gaver -   Computer Related Design Royal College of Art
‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’  – popular saying The advent of graphical interfaces, more than fifteen years ago, revolutionised the way we think about computers. The desktop metaphor had such a complete inner logic that it seemed to dismiss offhand the tedious call-and-response interfaces that had prevailed. The computer as concept expanded from a tool to a virtual environment, from a clumsy machine to a place for exploration and experimentation. Research on interaction also expanded, as people sought new perspectives from which to understand this newly-discovered territory – from cognition, to perceptual, to ethnographic and anthropological.  As our appreciation of computing’s potential grew, so did our appreciation of the aspects of humanity it mirrors. Now we are on the brink of another revolution, as computers invade our everyday lives. The point is not that computers are becoming ubiquitous or ambient or disappearing altogether.

Wilson Links to critical essays on the body, physical computing,  and interactivity

Articles on Interactivity, Physical Computing Art

Proxemics, Kinesic, Motion, Gesture, Animism


The Hidden Dimension
edward t hall
****  summary  -
Hall is most associated with proxemics, the study of the human use of space within the context of culture. In The Hidden Dimension (1966), Hall developed his theory of proxemics, arguing that human perceptions of space, although derived from sensory apparatus that all humans share, are molded and patterned by culture. He argued that differing cultural frameworks for defining and organizing space, which are internalized in all people at an unconscious level, can lead to serious failures of communication and understanding in cross-cultural settings. This book analyzed both the personal spaces that people form around their bodies as well as the macro-level sensibilities that shape cultural expectations about how streets, neighborhoods and cities should be properly organized.


Excerpts (focused on the body)  from the book Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology
Stephen Wilson

Significance of body proxemics

Proxemics - David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies

g walker oregon state
Nonverbal Communication Theories
COMM 321 - Introduction to Communication Theory

**** Encarta  - article on Animism

Missionary article on Animism

Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science

Books on Reserve for SFSU  Physical Computing Course

The design of everyday things
The psychology of everyday things
Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things -  Basic Books - ISBN-13: 978-0465051359
Using Computers to Create Art
Shaping things
Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing ISBN-13: 978-0321384010
Practical Electronics for Inventors
Getting started in Electronics -
Phyical Computing - Thomson Course Technology PTR; ISBN: 159200346X

Electronics for artists / by Bill Urmenyi ; foreword by Guy Brett.
book on cd  - available in media access center