[ISEA2016] Artist Talk: Joelle Bitton — Living in the Material World

Artist Statement

This paper sketches the links between personal data and digital fabrication, and the creative opportunities that arise from that. Two artistic pieces, Twipology and Rabota, illustrate our arguments as they suggest an experience where digital fabrication becomes intimate, embodied and disruptive. Overall our talk outlines the premise for interacting with our physical world.

Personal Data
Our daily activities are increasingly recorded, captured, archived by way of the tools we use and the expansion of storage capacities: from emails, to photos, biometrics and a wide variety of logs. Clearly, individuals develop as well many creative outlets for these records, as we see them shared on numerous social network platforms.
The artworks Twipology and Rabota situate themselves in this context of aggregating data and using it to propose a new kind of user experience. Specifically, as we can now monitor many types of behaviours and movements with countless sensors. These projects take that opportunity to translate the collected data into a physical manifestation or materialisation of common daily activities, respectively our Twitter feeds and our sleep patterns. Data becomes a commodity for design and fabrication [1].

Interactive Fabrication
These projects are part of a doctorate research that links emerging trends in personal fabrication with new possibilities of data tracking and collection. We’re here proposing to use human-based data as parameters for machine control in a fabrication process: the premise for interactive fabrication.
By the term “interactive”, I mean that a user can provide her own data as the numeric input for machine control, as opposed to the input that is usually sourced from a pre-determined geometry which is then translated into gCode by specific software (ie. MasterCam). In our investigation, we look for ways to generate the geometry and the gCode from human interactions.
Human-based data is generated usually from two main sources: sensor-based (i.e. heartbeats, gestures, temperature) or application-based (ie. emails, photos, text messages). With this research on interactive processes, we expand on early experiments done at on early experiments done at the Computational Design Lab at Carnegie Mellon [2].
We propose here that interactivity is an opportunity for involving users with fabrication
processes in a playful, intuitive, direct and affective manner [3]. It is not meant as a precise and a systematic design method although notions of control are addressed
in a sub-text.

Material traces and the un-production
Interactive fabrication is thought here as a modus operandi that invites users to fabricate things in a distinct way compared to most formal and professional contexts: meaning not in a linear process that requires a predesigned digital file to be fabricated. Thus the fabricated outcome or final result is not our primary purpose. With digital fabrication tools, we can use tangible metaphors to comprehend the data that we accumulate in our everyday life. Beyond that, we question the current paradigm of production itself and its determinism. With these aesthetic experiences, we challenge the idea of efficiency and precision. In that sense, we capture a moment in a person’s life as a poetic material trace.


  1. Bonanni, L., Parkes, A., & Ishii, H. (2008) ‘Future craft: how digital media is transforming product design’. In Proceedings from CHI’08 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems.
  2. Willis, K. D. D., Xu, C., Wu, K. J., Levin, G., & Gross, M.D. (2011). Interactive fabrication: new interfaces for digital fabrication. In: Proceedings of the fifth international conference on Tangible, embedded, and embodied interaction.
  3. Candy L., Ferguson S. (eds) (2014) Interactive Experience in the Digital Age. Evaluating New Art Practice. Springer

On Twipology: freeradicals.io/projects/twipology On Rabota: freeradicals.io/projects/rabota-is-a-cnc-machine-on-wheels-that-is-uniquely

  • Joëlle Bitton, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, USA freeradicals.io