University of Sussex: 30/04 – 01/05/2022
The idea to organize an embodiment hackathon, combining embodiment hacks, along with the prototyping and experimental electronics you’d expect at a regular hackathon, came to me after I attended Giacomo Lepri’s gloriously Absurd Music Hackathon at Queen Mary University London (2019). About the same time, I met artist Sissel Marie Tonn and she loved the idea, so we decided we would make it happen. It happened on the weekend of 30 April to 1 May 2022, at the Sussex Humanities Lab (Uni Sussex). Facilitators included Emilie Giles, Sam Bilbow, Fiona Miller and support from Jonathan Reus.
The hackathon works with a hacker’s ethos, according to Mitch Altman, one of the early founders of and an expert on the hackerspace movement, that means ‘wanting to share your enthusiasm and skills in what you do with those around you’.
Conceived of as a weekend of shared curiosity and experimentation, the Embodiment Hackathon began with a question:
How could sensor technology extend or confuse the (embodied) sense of self?
Over two days we created ‘non-usables‘, we transferred the rhythm of our hearts to the Unity game engine, we held multi-coloured ostrich feathers that delicately pulsed to the shuddering of our bodies, we followed a guided hand meditation to resensitise touch ready to craft soft sensors from crochet, thread and textiles, we did Tai Chi, tried an HCI massage on each other – which helps you be less demanding of your tech – one participant integrated a paper shoe for a virtual pilgrimage into Unity, while others dived into their inner worlds to discover ‘how is embodiment? ‘ from the microphenomenological perspective. And we asked ourselves ‘what we were doing?’ without ever really knowing the answer.