User:Stijn van Aardenne/MIC

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Minor research

As a graphic designer I like to work with techniques I don’t know quite well or even at all. This makes every new project much more exciting. I try to care less about the fact if something is already done by others. I think a lot of my work is something I do for myself and doesn’t have to be ground breaking for others, it’s more about the way I use the technique, not about the most effective way to use it. As a designer I also have another way of working. The more conceptual approach, which can sometimes be a bit more difficult for me to work with. I tend to work more as a scientist, someone who tries something a hundred times by changing something small in the process and see what comes out. Also I like to explain certain things in my work, show how stuff works in a way everybody can understand, but not in the most convenient way. I’m not going to write an essay explained how reaction diffusion works, but I’ll make an installation that, with some input of the visitor will tell much more about the substance than a lot of words will do. As said before I’m not interested in the most modern techniques but I like to keep it simple. Use the basics of certain appearances, so you can spend more time in how to show it to the people.

I’ve always been interested in the way stuff works, mostly mechanically. Practical thinking and knowledge of basic engineering en technology is something that stand high for me. Working towards new knowledge in a way that I discover a lot by doing, changing parameters and gathering information that way. I have been building bicycle, motorised karts and lots of more stuff when I was around fourteen. That passion kind of went away when I got older, and made it’s way to my computer later.

My knowledge isn’t based on the newest technology but rather on older stuff that’s better to analyse and find your own way in doing so. I’m not working towards a groundbreaking idea, rather to something we all know but show it in a way we would understand it’s behaviour better. I like ‘explaining’ things, were I give a starting point for people to think of something. I’m not presenting a research which will explain it one on one, but I show it in a way where you have to think of your own. In that way, people will have different ideas about what they see, I want to make people think. We never think about how our phone works, simply because it’s too complex probably. Also when it comes down to modern day technology, where not interested in understanding peculiarities. We want the fastest way and most features, but at the cost of not knowing anything about what’s going on inside. It’s just too much to get a hold on. So in my opinion, smaller, more understandable technological work is of great value for the viewer.

Gathering own knowledge through experimenting is not something to consider the most practical way to use. Taking much more time than looking something up and work in that direction, I am sure you learn besides from the subject your working on a way of thinking that is critical in the craft part of this study. In a way lots of things are mechanical even to each other. This gives you a few step ahead, getting better in solving problems thanks to the self taught thinking methods I use. I think that empirical research is a craft on it’s own but is sometimes hard to make concrete because it’s a path I’m walking where it is hard to tell if you are there yet or not. So seeing the research as a craft requires a question, or else, your just piling up findings.


There is so much possible in little time, but the problem with doing so, is making decisions, something that went alright while working in different groups in this minor. Thinking out loud in a group causes an explosion of ideas and subjects. I really enjoyed the short time projects. It forces you to act fast and that’s something you can do better in a group. While I’m not always a master in fine tuning a concept I like to work on the bigger picture. Starting this minor I had trouble to see potential in my own group and it’s thermal radiation. I think it had to do with the fact that it was the first assignment and there wasn’t just no real click with us three. Somehow I could think of a million ideas for other groups but within my own I just jammed. Apart from that I think we still delivered something good, but maybe much more powerful in a way of presenting a research for a bigger project. I also noticed that it’s difficult to work with people you barely know.

Because of the somewhat inconvenient start I was really eager to start on a new project, where I joined Boris and Kars for a good dose of illegal transmitting. We got the idea of making our own radiostation to send images pretty quick. That was the result of a continuous flow of what if, how come and more of these questions. Boris played a big role in really getting it working while Kars and I were more on the background there and focussed on how we would present it. What I really liked here was that there was constant trouble sending the images in a correct way, without any glitches. Our idea was to implement our own glitches by using a microphone that should pick up the beeps that eventually would turn into an image. But, we found out that there were already so many errors occurring because of the bad signal we produced with our Rasberry. Although everything worked in the end, we didn’t pay any attention to what we would send. First I thought this was really important, but I realised that should see this project as a design tool to alter images in a way that’s only doable with this device. While working on the complete set up of this installation I discovered something that later on would be of great value for the following project. Although I do not have a lot of knowledge about scripts I got a better understanding on how it works. I’m nog able to write any complex code, but I can understand the elements and the foundation much more.

While working on the SSTV with Boris and Kars, I discovered something about how computer screens work. I was pulling two screens apart to use for our installation and noticed that the actual colored pixels can be separated from the backlight. Boris and Arthur both found this interesting enough to start a group of three. We started experimenting right away and decided that we needed more screens, so we bought around sixteen screens on Marktplaats. It was good to see how flawless we worked together, even for the first time we did so, I felt that everybody knew what he could do. Being critical towards the final work, I can state that also this time our work did what is should do, but we just didn’t finished with a great concept of what we wanted to show. At some point we just knew there wasn’t enough time to make a complete animation for the four screens so we tried something else. We need to take risks when projects take two weeks, but when something goes wrong it’s hard to recover. What I do encourage in these projects is start to make, that let’s use your time much more efficiently because your concept is forming while working and you’re not forcing your brain to think of something or in a certain direction. I also know that I personally have trouble getting to work in the stations. Somehow the step towards the wood or metal workshop is too big sometimes, so I postpone it to the last moment. But, what I like about group projects, I somehow take that step much faster and take my time to start building. Same as for this project we ended up in the workshop pretty early. I can say that these short projects and workshops really helped me to see for example woodworking also as sketching and I’m not sitting behind my laptop for the biggest part of the assignment. While working in unknown fields tangible tests are of great value. Our experiments maybe did kill a few screens but it also made us understand what was going in much better.

As for the final short term project I kind off felt back into my own habits, which I also liked and looking back it wasn’t a big problem. I think it’s good to work on diverse ways instead of only one. It is just fascinating how you can set up a three dimensional space, were everything floats around, and were you can play with al kinds of parameters, which eventually take you to something super complex were it’s hard to tell how you actually came to that point. The downside of this is that’s more a kind of research, it’s hard to tell were I’m going because this time te goal was to make, a lot of, patterns. I need to set a clear goal, coming from a concept. Because when I work like this, I get so caught up in my computer that I totally forget to think of an concept. As I said before, I am a fan of letting a concept take form while experimenting, but to be honest, I don’t quite master that skill sometimes. I really need to be aware to do so. Since in one of the sketches, my final Minor work was hidden I just didn’t see the potential in it. I liked it and did some experiments, but then I thought alright on to the next one. If I would let some more thinking down on what I’m actually doing I would get a better understanding of what is going on and what is possible.


First of all, I can say my approach of the tangible object was like all my digital projects have lately been. Working by a kind of fault analysis were I change small things in a big chain to get everything the way that I want. I enjoy this way of working, because it can bring any kind of lame sketch to a new level, but, the downside of this is that I usually don’t really know when I can consider something a finished project. I had the same problem while working on the radiation patterns. I was constantly changing small parameters in my patterns, which got super crazy eventually, but at the end I had more a kind of form research instead of a finished project. That’s all the result of the lack of a clear concept. In the first to years here at WdKA I always worked from a clear concept, but because of the time that concept needed before it was right, I had very little time to start elaborating the concept. I saw this as a big problem. I often liked my ideas and concepts, but with time being an issue I didn’t always liked my final work. In the third year I changed my way of working after I did a project with Stan where the main goal was to start making more and ‘think less’. Or in other words, inplement the thinking more in the doing, don’t split these two parts up to much.

Looking back on my minor, the first part of the radiation patterns was a bit too much of the making. At first I had the idea of the plinko and was very interested in the way it worked and how probability played a role in this system. After the digital reconstruction I made I ditched the idea and didn’t think about it anymore, due to too little time to really do something with it. I started over and completely dove in the role of the scientist by making digital patterns that went from very simple to extremely complex. I know I like doing stuff like this but I have trouble seeing the potential of certain things sometimes. There are endless possibilities. Having a good view of what your doing and seeing potential in research designs is of big value the way I work. Sometimes you need to do a step back, look fresh at something you made to get a beter understanding of what is possible with this subject. I think that I failed seeing the potential of the plinko, pushed it aside way too soon. But that also resulted in a nice research in patterns.

Being critical towards myself, I can state that the final work was good in a way that it worked and did what it needed to do. But regarding to the way it looked there were some things that could’ve been done better. Maybe it is a bit harsh towards myself but in a way I see this as a working prototype and not as the final form of my project. Things that should have got more attention were too much on the background and vice versa. When working with probability and mechanic structures precision is key too succes. Building the first prototype at home with a shell of a milk carton resulted in a very consistent pattern which clearly wasn’t based on a 50/50 percent chance. So a note to myself was to make this final version as precise as possible. That was a big challenge because I normally don’t take my time for getting everything perfect. This project really asked for that approach. This took way more time then I expected. This took so much energy that some other parameters got more on the background. The whole technical part behind the board was done in the trial and error way and I really enjoyed this way of working in a tangible way, not just behind my computer. But when you’re making small changes to an object to function properly you need to be focused on not ending up with a crappy result. While focussing on this and getting everything very smooth, I’m still looking at it as a prototype. I can see a lot of things I would do different now. For example, the display showing the results was way too small, and didn’t seem as important as it should be. The size I’ve chosen is also something arguable it isn’t really the crazy huge plinko size nor the scientific approach size. The difference between those was clear, but making a decision was pretty tough. I ended up with a combination of both, because I think the size really did the trick and there wasn’t any way to start over to finish in time. The big board has a kind of silly look, a bit childish, this of course has to do with the fact people know Plinko as Plinko and not as a Galton board. I think by over-emphasising this with the clips, from The Price is Right of extremely happy people who’ve just won thousands of dollars it gets it right.

I can conclude that I know more ways of working towards my end work now. I must asure that I often take a step back and need to critically reflect on what I have to get te full potential out of an idea or concept. Experimenting can be part of forming your concept.


The scientist approach suits me, I think it could be of great value in my graduation project. My biggest question with this approach is why would you start an emperical research in a subject that is already way ahead of you? Why not take a look at the newest developments and work from there. I think that with modern day technology the target is to clear, all bumps and miscallculations are improved and not seen as a potential. I like seeking for errors, I’m not explicitly looking for them but they can be the starting point for a project. The last minor I took my scientist approach away from my computer and started working on tangible objects. Since this is lacking in the past years, but was very present in the year before the academy, I really enjoy the craft part of the minor. When working on a craft, you’re also busy with empirical research. Your gathering information gradually, and this will continue during the complete time your working on the craft.

It’s clear I need to be heading to the stations to get my full potential. I also noticed in the last minor that research isn’t my best quality, there should be a good research before anything can be done. As far as a direction to go for my graduation I must say that’s this is not totally clear. I’m interested in audio and the more technical part behind sound reproduction. But while experimenting with that in the past minor I found that I missed the power of image and I stopped with the ‘audio only’ project I was working on. I like it when I set a few parameters in a chain but never can predict the outcome totally. I would like to discover more ways to do so and would like to know more artists that work this way, because till this day I don’t know a lot of them. My last minor project is a good example of an installation like this. Maybe works like this can be done in a more technical and mechanical way, working from a older and existing technology. But when doing so, there is one big question I need to answer to give a work like this more value, and that’s a very short one. Why? What is the power of a work like this that isn’t relevant. How can I make a work like this more relevant. As a reference, I think the work of Alvin Lucier, I’m Sitting in a Room is very powerful. Something that makes the work powerful is that the description of it is in the text, it’s inside the ‘installation’. You need to listen to it to understand it, you don’t need te read a description. This self explaining work is a example where it is very obvious that the work explains itself. But that is a approach I consider very good and see it as a challenge to do so in my own work. Seeing something you don’t understand immediately but after taking a good look at it is something that asks for attention. I’m also learning that works which include repetition get my attention and that ideas I come up with are often based on repetition and multiplying things. By doing so, you can understand a given subject better. Showing something a lot of times with every time different peculiarities, in the construction it self or in the outcome of the work, it contributes to getting a better understanding.

I’m also very interested by the work of Peter Vogel. His approach is in a way based on empirical research. He is adding chips, transistors and so on to his work and see what happens, of course, after doing so for the last decades he knows much more than in the beginning, but still there is a kind of trial and error approach. The structures show what’s going on in the machine. The way he builds his installations are very appealing and are, as discussed before, in a way understandable so interesting to look at because if you give it some time you will understand a little bit of what’s going on in the work. I like to base an installation on audio, but I have noticed that something like that needs to be in his own space to get it’s full potential, or not? This could also be something to think of, as I once tried to reproduce music into a words, and had the idea making patterns with sounds in the this minor.


From all the projects I have seen in the past few months, which where all based on radiation, and somewhat had all a 'technological' explanation. I can conclude that works, based on explaining and making the spectator 'think' about what they see is of great value for me. I saw a lot of 'AHA' moments at our expo