The Language of Gait

The Language of Gait

Language – the words and sentences used to make our intentions known to others and help us understand others’ intentions toward us – are only part of human-to-human communication. Non-verbal communication makes up three quarters of our ability to communicate.

Within weeks of being born we learn the meaning of a whole physical language, from a mother’s smile to a sibling’s frown. From thereon, how we sit, how we stand, where we look and what we do with our hands and feet give us clues about the thoughts, sincerity and mood of others. This article tries to discuss the possible use cases of this form of communication with a machine aka human computer interaction.

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The Blind and the Lame Man

The Blind and the Lame Man

AI and the future of Human-Computer Language: The progress curve of technological advancements in the world is about to hit a new tangent. The availability, accessibility and affordance of smart devices, autonomous systems and cyber-assistants has led us to reconsider the penetration of technology we want in our surroundings. These technologies represent forces very similar to those during the Industrial Revolution; only that now they will be much more impactful, fast and widespread [∂]. It has and will further, not only shake the socio-economic framework of our society, but also challenge us on a moral and ethical level. Why? Because for so long machines were complimenting the areas of human strength and physical labour. Now, they attempt to complement our notions of human intelligence. 

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Cloud Gate

Excerpts of a memoir, I wrote about my visit to Chikmagalur in Sep 2015. The text describes my experience of a trek that we took to the Mullayangiri Hills, which I later got to know was the highest peak of state of Karnataka:

“It is a calming experience. To feel lighter. Feel carefree, alive, almost like a child. To feel the cool damp of the winter breeze brushing your face, the water accumulating near your eyelids and slowly making them heavy. My hairs try to blanket them but fail. It leaves its mild embrace underneath and moves on. My hands try to get a hold of them, to capture it forever. The breeze couldn’t care less. Its amorphous shape steals the meaning off the steady forms and gives them a mischievous dynamism. A veil it looks!” ….

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One is not a number!

Some of the most profound philosophies change the way we see the world or rather count it. They can shed light on something as fundamental as elementary school concepts. They inspire us to contest these ‘given’ facts under a logical framework, question them and understand them better. This is the basis of any scientific approach.

A lot of my friends, even now, question the purpose of learning algebra and geometry in high school. They quickly come to the conclusion that learning advanced mathematics is irrelevant and find the topics purposeless. Many of them detest it; they grow fundamentally weak in those subjects and hence can’t see through the concept beyond their immediate application. But if you ask an architect, he/she will be able to tell you the applications of trigonometry in building plans, a computer programmer will appreciate the usefulness of Fourier transformations and believe it or not most of the compression algorithms (that let you video call and play online games) use very nuanced mathematical models.

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Kochi Biennale 2018-19: A personal note

Kochi Biennale 2018-19: A personal note

A personal note on my 9 days visit to Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018-19. As a New Media Design student, I have tried to critically analyse my experience and express my view. They are completely personal.

The 2018-19 edition, which opens with a curatorial title of Possibilities for Non-Alienated Life, boasted housing a never-before majority of female artists hailing from diverse demographics. This 4th edition, which lasts for three months, portrays itself across 14 venues and over 60 exhibition spaces in Fort Kochi, Mattancherry and the erstwhile Muziris area. Over 90 artists from 36 countries have been showcased including names like VALIE EXPORT, EB Itso and Adam Kraft, Rania Stephen, Cyrus Kabiru, Guerilla Girls, Shirin Neshat, The Otolith Group, etc and domestic artists like Kaustav Mukhopadhyay, Sonia Khurana, BV Suresh, Chitra Ganesh, etc.

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Memory and Sensation: Decoding Izanami

Memory and Sensation: Decoding Izanami

I am big fan of Japanese manga and anime. And one of my favourites is the Naruto series. The story revolves around a fictional ninja world and the main character who aspires to become the best ninja in his village (I won’t speak further and deliver spoilers!). The story line, character development and concepts of the series are legendary and I would suggest everyone to watch it at least once (I have done it twice). But this blog is for those who have already watched or are watching the series. And as it might be very complicating and long to summaries the context of my discussion, I want to draw our attention to a particular duel between Kabuto and Uchiha Itachi and its conceptual staging. Beware, spoilers ahead!!

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Offline...

To understand the concept of offline, one has to define the pretext they are talking about. A look at the history of the usage of this word (which is as old as the Internet itself) and how it has changed over the decades will bring one closer to grasping the advancements that have happened in the world of internet technologies and will also make it clear as to when and in what context the word can be used. Being offline, in very raw terms, means being disconnected to a network. In the case of Internet, the meaning and versatility of the word stems from whether it is used in conjunction with virtual personas, content or services (we can include sub-networks in this list as well). This text calls upon the need to educate ourselves about the internet and the various ‘states’ in which the aforementioned ‘objects’ inhabit it. By doing so, we can hope to answer the primitive questions in mind, such as what does ‘offline’ (or ‘being offline’) means and what can and cannot stay offline.

IOT AND THE IDEA OF OFFLINE

With the advent of smart devices, numerous sensors surround us, often obscured from our vision, passively tracking our activities, from our sleep cycles to our heartbeats, from the TV shows we frequently watch to the type of cuisine we recently ordered (commonly called the Internet of Things). Although many of us are aware of them, very few realize that these devices share data on the internet which is available for third party entities to draw insights into our behavior, our lifestyle and even our orientations and inclinations (this is how free social networking services like WhatsApp, Google+, Facebook, etc. earn money). Today, being connected is no more an active or a conscious choice, as it was during the early days of the Internet. This has been the hot topic in many current discourses among online communities and brings up the question that ‘Are we ever offline?’

ONLINE PRESENCE

Even if one successfully manages to turn off their devices, their virtual presence in the Internet lingers. Our digital footprints never die: once any data is uploaded in the internet, it never gets removed. And as discussed earlier, people have their entire life recorded online. Think about people’s Instagram or Facebook profiles. Even when they are not connected to the network (physically offline), they occupy the online space and their profiles are available for scrutinizing. A review of a standard Facebook profile can tell where an individual lives, expose personal photos, relationship status, opinions, political affiliations and even recent check-in details. These are typically referred as the ‘online’ presenceof an individual in marketing terminology, although it does not require the individual to remain online 24/7.

OFFLINE PSYCHOLOGY AND FOMO

Research shows how individuals have developed a gluttonous habit of being connected to the internet at all times, often exhibiting the characteristics of a drug addict. Internet addiction is now considered a disorder by psychological associations around the worldand given the ubiquitous nature of Internet now, its research has attained a lot of momentum in the recent years. Dr. Ivan K. Goldberg in 1995 compared its model to that of pathological gambling. The fear of being offline is often associated with the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO, which manifests itself in scenarios where individuals frequently check their emails, their Facebook and Twitter notifications and feeds. This tendency is especially true in the case of online games where the risks and rewards are high, and a mid-game disconnection means an enormous loss of effort and time.

More essays on Offline: link

Ethnography in Contemporary times

Ethnography in Contemporary times

Our first design project (DP-I) was all about knowing ourselves, our social groups and our community better. One of the most prominent ways to do that is by the means of an Ethnographic study of the concerned group. At its heart, ethnography is the study of cultures. But what does it mean to KNOW a social group? And how do we as designers or rather ethnographers find it out? How does one's involvement in a social group affect its dynamics? How does the researcher celebrates or condemns social practices of the group in his/her writings based on his/her limited understanding of the world? What is the basis of these judgements?

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Sports Complex: The Science Behind Fanatic Behaviour

Recently watched the India-Sri Lanka-Bangladesh tri-series matches and noticed how fans including many of my close friends react to teams' victory and loss. This got me curious about the reasons why fans follow sports so passionately, to extents where there are chances of violence and hooliganism. The following post is a download of an article written by Shirley Wang in 2006 that compiles the research that attempt to answer this question. I have highlighted the sentences that I found important. 

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An Approach to Indian Society

An Approach to Indian Society

Modern India is essentially a nation with deep and rich ancient history and culture, trying to come in terms with its growing population and mediocre infrastructure, which just after 70 years of Independence is competing economically with some aggressive neighbors and the rest of the world. What seem to have been the changing agents of this vast nation play a balancing and a counter-balancing effect on its various social, political, religious and economical aspects

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"What is Design?": A Personal Note

As I embark a new journey into the world of design, it would be wise to jot down my initial thoughts.
At NID, as part of our foundation course, the first assignment given to us was to make a poster that displayed our perception of design. Being not very good at poster making, maybe my post will do some justice to the submission.

I hope that as time passes by, my thoughts and ideologies grow more refined.
Comments are welcome!

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My CC1 Speech: The IceBreaker

Recently I gave my first prepared speech at our org's Toastmasters Club which is also known as 'CC1'. This is like an initiation speech in the prepared speeches category. Every toastmasters' speech is reviewed and marked based on specific factors by the evaluator, the grammarian notes the linguistic errors and fillers, timer tracks the duration of the speech. The objectives of the speech (mentioned alongside) are strict on time and exceeding 6.5 min leads to disqualification. OK! Lets begin...

[0.00] Traditionally CC1 serves as an introduction to your fellow members; about yourself, your goals, your idols and your experiences, etc. 

Numerous topics came to my mind as I thought what I should talk about. About how my life in Kota had infused a sense of love for science and logic, discipline and hard-work in me, about how I felt always burnt-out in my first year of BITS and scored a low CGPA and how rest of the years were all about this disaster-management. But these stories had nothing new, almost everyone I meet tells me the same thing 'Yaar college me padh lena chahiye tha yaar!' (Should have studied in the college). Those who don't are probably completing their masters in IIMs or top US universities.

But these are stories written, spoken and heard quite a lot of times. For my CC1, I needed something fresh and creative! Below is the rough draft of my speech:

CC1 OBJECTIVES:

  1. To begin speaking before an audience.
  2. To discover speaking skills you already have and skills that need some attention.
Time: 4-6 minutes 

FRAME YOUR LIFE (1 day at a time)

A few days ago, me and my friend were hanging around on a hot Saturday evening and watching the traffic grow on the overlooking road, when he suddenly exclaimed, "Life should be romantic!!". As I looked at him curiously, he retracted and said "Don't get me wrong", smiled and went on: "I read an article about a New York photographer who clicked a picture of his life, every day for 18 years, before he finally died of brain tumor (read more). Now imagine you also did the same thing. How would your photos look!?"

[1.30] The thought struck me. Photos carry a sense of nostalgia with them, a feeling associated with something joyous, or something that made you smile, or something you want to remember. But what if I rephrase this statement a bit and say that Photo can, in one frame, capture the essence of time, serve as a time capsule waiting to reveal a story. It would like therapy. 

- Went through a shitty day?
- Does the memory of your last trip to Bali relaxes your mind!?

- Had an amazing day?
- What is the Moment of the Day for you?

[10 sec demo]

I know at this point of time you will have a sudden urge to take out your mobile cameras. But, for this exercise lets use our brains rather than memory cards. Doing this will ensures two things. First, when you close eyes and your  search for that perfect frame that defines your day, the experience will be more immersive than looking through the lens of a camera. Second, if you follow this ritually, you will hopefully find the best moments of your days, the silver linings in your cloudy days. I would like rag-picking art out of your miserable day.

[2.30] Now many of you may think that why is this guy talking about depressing days. I have to admit I am, or rather was a few weeks ago. And I would be so glad if YOU are not. But, even if you find yourself twirling in the whirlpool of your busy life, trying hard to take control of it yet failing, I would ask you to give this idea a serious thought. Photography has proven to have beneficiary medical effects on the user (read more).

[3.30] And here's my point. Because you will not have a handheld device with you, the results of this practice, the images, will be yours and yours only. ABSOLUTELY PERSONAL! They will be free from the criticism of photo-experts, the judgement of others. You won't have to prove/showcase your talent on social media and hence can avoid the anxiety ride that comes along with it. You alone will be the creator, editor and the reviewer of these memories. Sounds good?

[4:30] I saw a film few years ago, named "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". In the movie, Walter finds this world famous photographer, Shawn, perched in the mountains of Hindu Kush, Afghanistan waiting to capture the sight of snow leopards that are rare to find. And when Shawn found a leopard right between the frame of his camera, he did not press the capture button. When Walter asked him why, he said "Sometimes when I like a moment, me personally, I do not like a distraction, I stay in it. Right there." 

[5:30] Beautiful things in life do not ask for attention, and that's why its easy to miss them. So I ask you, I urge you, to be in the moment, to be attentive, to love the beauty that has passed and the one that lies ahead of you. And someday, ONE day, you will realize that you have become a romantic. You will realize that LIFE with all its futility, is one brilliant gift that has been bestowed upon you, a gift that you can fall in love with… I want to leave you with a quote from the same movie:

To see the world, things dangerous to come to,
to see behind walls, to draw closer,
to find each other and to feel.
That is the Purpose of Life
— #dearzindagi