Kick off! Mediamatic RFID & Physical Computing Hackers Camp @ Picnic 07

On: September 24, 2007
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About Esther Weltevrede
Esther Weltevrede is a second year Media Studies Research Master student at the University of Amsterdam. Before studying New Media she attended the School of Arts in Breda where she received a Bachelor degree in Graphic Design. She is involved as researcher and coordinator in the recently founded Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam. DMI is dedicated to developing tools and methods for researching the ‘natively digital.’ Since this summer she is a member of GovComOrg, a foundation dedicated to creating and hosting political tools on the Web. Currently she is a part-time teacher Information Visualization at Master Editorial Design, Utrecht School of Art, and part-time teacher Public Design at Interactive Media, Hogeschool van Amsterdam.


RFID hackers together in hteir HQ - At picnic 07

RFID Hackers Camp kicks off at Westergasfabriek, the PICNIC 07 location. With a group of great hackers, designers and engineers the camp aims to bring together creativity, knowledge, and skills from various fields and disciplines to realize innovative and creative uses of RFID technology. Within only five days a number of projects will be created for the approximately 2000 PICNIC visitors carrying around RFID-tagged badges. The projects created will run throughout the conference at various places for people to play with the objects and the objects with them.

The uniformity of the projects lies in a few requirements that emerged form the first brainstorm. First of all, all projects make use of the available RFID tags. Secondly the projects should need no explanation to the audience and should give instant satisfaction. Intuitive and easy to use is an important aim of all projects, because the context is people walking around at the PICNIC conference. It’s a social thing. Thirdly, the projects are focused on social networking. It should support sociality, get people to connect and know each other. It uses and adds to the AnyMeta database, where visitors of PICNIC create a profile page forming the PICNIC network. There aren’t that many mandatory fields in the profile for visitors to fill in, but the database will be filled with new data that is generated during interaction with the projects and other visitors. Social networking becomes a blended physical and digital experience leading into new kinds of hybrid profiles and friendships.

Mika Raeto’s bunch of ‘testing’ phones

Before the actual launch of the camp, participants already posted some first ideas for projects on the Mediamatic workshop page. After an introduction of all participants, and distribution of some essential hardware for this camp, these ideas function as basis for a first collective brainstorm session. The participants form groups, rather dynamically and self-organizing, around the project proposals that are suggested and open for debate. Half way through the day, these initial ideas about projects have merged and evolved into six concrete proposals, which can be read in more detail on the projects page of this site. The current running projects are supported by volunteers working together with the participants to realize the projects.

The round table of hack

Racket Reader
with hobbyist, maker or hardware hacker Mark Hoekstra, who has the idea of unrecognizably transferring old tennis rackets into RFID-readers with the purpose to make you aware you probably already are wearing RFID-tags with you. During the day this team started to collaborate with Connection Cushion / Wireless RFID Reader, because this project aims to create an infrastructure for mobile RFID readers. This project is led by Tim Olden from Blendid and Melanie Rieback, RFID researcher and privacy enthusiast from the VU. She came up with the idea that participants could “opt-out” of the RFID festivities. However, she’s not going to protect your privacy for you! She’s hoping to send out hoards of rogue agents who will secretly scan any RFID tags you have on you, and will use them to learn more about your habits at PICNIC.

More participants in this camp similarly play with the ongoing privacy debate surrounding RFID and personal information collection more generally with the aim of raising awareness about these issues. Designer and animator at Ijsfontein Don Blaauw, founding member of Blendid David Kousemaker, programmer and web researcher for and Digital Methods Initiative Erik Borra and interaction designer who likes complex systems Dirk van Oosterbosch are developing Data Traces / Bio Generator. This project launches a query about you on the picnic network and the internet searching for information. This information is presented as a data cloud following you through a fixed area. This project shows how much – true and false – information on you is already publicly available.

Phd student at Goldsmiths, University of London in Design department Jim Wood and web hacker Mark Wubben are working on Badge Collector / Magic Mirror. This is a project that visualizes digital information such as number of friends or contacts from the PICNIC database. When you walk up to the mirror your personal profile data is translated visually into badges in the mirror image.


Timo Arnall, head of an international research project on mobile technology, and lecturer in design, physical computing and design methodology, has a specialization in near field nature of technology. With interaction designer, photographer and new media researcher specialized in blog software Anne Helmond and two of his students Einar Sneve Martinussen and Jørn Knutsen, they are creating the project Photo Booth. This project blends physical and digital experience of making friends. It creats a connection between you and a new friend by taking a picture of the two of you together and automatically adding this new connection to the PICNIC profile. This project leads you into new kinds of hybrid profiles and friendships.

Programmer and specialist in physical computing working at Jaiku Andy Smith and Symbian hacker, recent PhD and Jaiku Mobile creator Mika Raento are adding to, and extracting information from your profile with Exit Poll. You enhance your profile by the vote you give on how you’re feeling after each session on the conference. Each mood will be linked to a color and a set of keywords and will generate mood lighting outside the venue.

In the following days posts on this camp addressing the development of the projects will be cross-posted on the mediamatic blog. More pictures made by Anne and other participants can be viewed on Flickr .

Basic setup. A few readers, a box with a camera and LIGHTS! and a screen for visualising the results.

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