Workshop 5: Sensor circuits, controlling inputs and outputs

In week 5’s workshop, we return to the lab to experiment with micro-controllers, circuits, and sensors. In this workshop you will be presented with a number of common sensor circuits to explore as well as the Arduino Interface Development Environment (IDE) for creating new circuits.

There will be a programming refresher/ programming basics that will introduce you to the use of Arduino with the view that you may incorporate this into your subject’s major project.


  • Document all experiments using photographs/ videos and texts on process blog.
  • Research on use of sensors in media art works (physical computing works) or in everyday situations.
  • Review materials to prepare/ bring to next workshop.
  • Complete Research essay.

Research Analysis:

In considering audience experience of media artworks that utilise technologies to engage the audience in some way, the notion of interactivity needs to be unpacked.

  • What is the common understanding of interaction/ interactivity?
  • What constitutes interactivity in an everyday context?
  • What are the historical definitions of interaction or interactivity? 
  • What circumstances may give rise of interactions in art?
  • What may be the criticism of these approaches in new media art?

Below are three quotes that may open up the discussion on interactivity:

  1. Walter Benjamin writes in ‘Authors as Producers’:

[Art as an apparatus should] bring [consumers] into contact with the production process’ turning ‘readers or spectators […] into collaborators.

2.  Claire Bishop writes in ‘Viewers as Producers’, in her book Participation::

In calling for spectators who are active as interpreters, [Jacques] Rancière implies that the politics of participation might best lie, not in anti-spectacular stagings of community or in the claim that mere physical activity would correspond to emancipation, but in putting to work the idea that we are all equally capable of inventing our own translations. Unattached to a privileged artistic medium, this principle would not divide audiences into active and passive, capable and incapable, but instead would invite us all to appropriate works for ourselves and make use of these in ways that their authors might never have dreamed possible.

Vera Buhlmann writes in ‘Volatile Milieus: The Poetics of Interactivity’, that interactivity is:

the open-mindedness towards potential outcomes of any situation. Even though we readily have different preconceived models of how to react available for almost any situation, there are always other possibilities. To interact is to focus on the very peculiarities of a situation … it is to focus on what makes a situation different from the general…

Below are 4 media artworks: 2 from mid-twentieth century and 2 from the early twenty-first century; 2 utilised electronic and computer media, and 2 do not engage with new technologies.

Discuss what kind of experiences the following 4 works may engender in relation to the notion of interactivity embedded in the quotes by, Benjamin, Bishop, and Buhlmann above.

Consider the following questions while exploring the works:

  • What are the potential outcomes of encountering the work?
  • What are the preconceived models in reacting to the encounter with the work?
  • What happens when an audience ‘consume’ this work? How would he/she react with the materials presented? If he/she were to make meanings, how might he/she go about this, and what may be the results?
  • How has the audience be invited to interact with, engage or experience the work? 
  • In the work, would the audience be transformed into collaborators of a work? If so, how so? If not, why not?
  • If  ‘we are all capable of inventing our own translation’ when encountering a creative work, what would your invention/ translation be?

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #541

Exercise 1: Sensor circuits

Explore the following 5 pre-wired circuits including:

  1. LDR
  2. Proximity
  3. Switches: mercury/ tilt
  4. Switch: micro
  5. Piezo (Knock)

In a group of 2 or 3, choose one of these circuits and work out: sensory inputs, outputs, the relationships between the inputs and the outputs

Find two examples or works that rely on one or more of these circuits.

Jolt down ideas about how you can incorporate these circuits into a work/ an experience.

Exercise 2: Arduino Sketch

Programming refresher: anatomy of an Arduino Sketch

Open up the Arduino sketch of one of the circuits and examine the program and structure. Comment to explain each line. Provide referencing resources

Exercise 3: Controlling analogue inputs/outputs

Build the following Arduino circuits and document the exercise:

Find two examples or works that rely on one or more of these circuits.

Jolt down ideas about how you can incorporate these circuits into a work/ an experience.

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