The Fallible Machine

This is part of a larger piece of work about the the relationship between humans and machines within the realm of manufacturing; it investigates the symbiotic relationship between mass industry, the craftsman, and the consumer, and studies how attitudes surrounding them have changed alongside technological developments.

This miniature ‘sub-project’ is an exercise to try and isolate the human factor from a person engaged in the creative process, this essence can then be syphoned off by a computer allowing a unconscious digital entity to create work that includes the fallible human touch.

Whilst the user draws on the modified Etch A Sketch, manipulating the position of the stylus, the two solid copper knobs are constantly reading the galvanic skin response (GSR) of the 'artist'. GSR is a measurement of skin conductivity which fluctuates with the arousal of the sympathetic(unconscious) nervous system. Emotions and varying cognitive states such as stress, discomfort or pleasure affect the reading. GSR is usually measured as part of a lie detector test, and in the context of this piece it represents the fallible conscious humanity of the user whilst they are engaged in the act of creativity.

The data are constantly being processed and translated into the movement of a second stylus on the computer screen. Each time interval the programme draws a quarter of a circle, the orientation of which is dictated by whether a fluctuation in the data is positive or negative, and the diameter by the magnitude.

I turned the copper knobs on a manual Boxford Lathe from solid copper stock, they are wired to an Arduino running Firmata which sends the data to a Processing sketch which draws the patterns and outputs to a PDF.