Tech Award Dispatches: Lark Buckingham

22 Jul, 2015

Tech Award Dispatches: Lark Buckingham

This year, the BCNM awarded five new media graduate students with technology services and training awards to help them fund the support they need to further their research agendas. Here's what Lark Buckingham gained from the experience!

I’ve put funds received through the BCNM Spring Training & Technology Research awards towards developing a series of design projects that explore possible applications of heart rate sensors, and focus attention on the political, personal, and social implications of the dissolving boundary between body and machine.

After creating the devices, I then brand the products, make websites, and incorporate the projects into art performances in both art and tech spaces. I’m also making a film where actors interact with the devices in staged (but not scripted) situations. The work shines a bright light on uncomfortable truths about developing technologies by drawing out the ways that heart rate sensors might be problematic, pointing to information privacy — arguably the defining problem of our time — and thinly-veiled, compulsory engagement with digital devices and social media platforms.

Babump is a business card holder designed for employers that allows them to discreetly view employee cardiovascular data in real-time. Meeglo senses your heart rate and glows as it changes; it helps you match your heart to your breath, calm your mind, and shift out of anxiety or stress. Beatmetrix is visualizes heart rate and analyzes the results. It is both a biometric device and a fortune-teller. Lastly, Tattletale Heart is a wearable necklace (designed for youth and party-goers) that displays heart rate, mood, and uploads to social media. Because some products use satire while others are more earnest, the project steers away from the didacticism that often accompanies critical art — its ambiguity grants the audience/consumer the opportunity to perform the critique for themselves.

With BCNM support, I’ve successfully prototyped two devices this Spring — Meeglo and Beatmetrix. I printed posters and other materials to bring Babump and Meeglo to tech fairs, and produced a promotional video for Tattletale Heart.