Robin Shackford and Dominic Price working at laptops, with the printer and projector

Making it work

As with building the physical elements of the Future Machine with Ian Jones, I also had the pleasure of working with Robin Shackford, Dominic Price, Matt Little and Matthew (Mouse) Gates on the technical elements that go inside the machine and make it work as a machine and not just a strange, slightly anthropomorphic heavy wood and copper object on wheels.

I have already written about some of the complications and difficulties around working with digital and interactive technologies when creating an artwork about environmental change here

The technical developments are ongoing and are also happening alongside research with the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham (who have part funded and been involved in ongoing conceptual discussions about the project). Part of this development and research is to explore what it means to develop slow technology for a project that is delibrately designed to last for at least 10 years and hopefully 30 years. Issues of sustainability and robustness are both built in and difficult – particularly with a small budget and we are have had a to have a few stop gaps but also hope most of it will last or at least be able to be maintained, regenerated or rebuilt in the future.

Much of the code and some of the technology has been reused from other projects. The weather station is put together from different elements of sensors that I have been working on with Robin, Mouse, Matt and particularly Dominic from over 10 years of work with environmental sensing . The code that runs the machine is also hacked from The Prediction Machine although we’ve had some annoying surprises by investing in the latest printer and mini PC – that as Dominic and I and some of the workshop participants predicted, the latest technology is less robust than even tech from 5 years ago! We decided to get new hardware for the core elements so that it would last the longest but we may live to regret this decision. The PC is officially rubbish and we might need to now send the second one back.

There are many technical developments and adaptations to come (I have a document of ideas and changes required that I keep adding to) this is the beauty of a project designed to take place over 10-30 years. I hope it becomes more sustainable over time. I am most of all looking forward to finding funding for the solar umbrella Matt Little has designed to attach to the trolley!

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