[ISEA2011] Paper: Charles Walker & Kim Newall – Sketches of an interdisciplinary practice: essential in-formation for post-digital thinkers


This paper presents part of a larger, practice-led research project to develop a new understanding of sketching as a methodology for creative practice in the post-digital age. It will be presented through a reflective critique of the researcher’s own hybrid, interactive, public performance-based practice.

Descriptions of sketching throughout history have emphasized its spontaneous, exploratory, unfinished, indeterminate, contingent and/or disordered qualities; often characterized by loss of control or openness to the unexpected (Petherbridge, 2010). Modern art also focused on aspects of the sketch to isolate, capture or value “the essential” as even more important than the finished work (Stjernfelt, 2007). In design disciplines, sketching is commonly seen as an interim activity; making images to assist in the creation of something more “real”.

This paper draws on recent research in mathematics, physical computing and cognitive science to suggest that sketching shares with these disciplines properties that can externalize cognitive processes or reveal categories of thinking. (Bhattacharya & Petsche 2005, Petherbridge 2010).

New “sketches” will be created for the ISEA conference to illustrate interdisciplinary mixed-reality relationships – neither “real” nor “virtual”, but always “in-formation”. The presentation may also refer to recent work such as ‘Vending Machine’ (Splore festival, New Zealand 2010), where digital designs were sketched and materialized into real attachments for the body, and  ‘Evolutionary Experiments’ (MIC Toi Rerehiko Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand 2010) where creatures developed from ‘sketching’ with software, hardware and cardboard, created and occupied a new space that would not have been possible in either digital or analog form.

Through this linking of sound- and video-based work, computer hacking, modeling, new and archival material, with traditional drawings, the presentation itself takes the form of a real-time, improvised sketch.  The accumulation of such sketches (archived in “sketchbooks”), in turn, in-forms further conversations between differing modes of knowledge and expression.

The paper will thus invite a wide audience to consider the (as yet “sketchy”) internal codes of an as yet un-named territory, rather than the normative external representations normally associated with sketching.  From this, we argue that an original language – with further possibilities for interdisciplinary interaction – is emerging from the authors’ practice.

  • Charles Walker, trained as an architect at Edinburgh College of Art and attained a Masters in Urban Development from the Faculty of Business at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. His PhD from the University of Auckland, NZ, explored the role of inter-subjective agency and ethics in professional accreditation processes for architectural education He joined Auckland University of Technology in 2007 to develop new approaches to trans-disciplinary education by drawing together design, computing, engineering, mathematics, philosophy, art and entrepreneurship. He is the inaugural Director of the Interdisciplinary Unit and a founding co-director of Colab, a node for Creative Technologies research at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. Current research explores sentient cities and the co-creation of complex and diverse ecologies of creative practice. https://www.aut.ac.nz/study/study-options/creative-technologies    colab.org.nz
  • Kim Newall

Full text (PDF) p. 1785-1791