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Commons Sense Test Space

Every day things are being ‘sensed’ by smart technologies and data is being collected. But what information can and should be collected? Is this data being used for the common good or corporate gain?

The Commons Sense Test Space exhibition invited people to explore these questions through a range of interactive exhibits, artworks, and activities. The exhibition opened at Knowle West Media Centre in May 2018 and ran until November 2018.  It was created by artists Becca Rose and Pete Bennett, in collaboration with the team at our digital manufacturing space KWMC: The Factory.

Event Programme

The first event in the Test Space was run by Lisa May Thomas and her collaborators. Lisa is a dancer and researcher based in Bristol, investigating how we experience touch and how we perceive our senses in real, virtual and imaginative spaces. Lisa led Knowle West residents and KWMC staff through workshops that explored the sensations and effects of moving between real, imagined and virtual worlds, both as individuals and in small groups. Lisa and her collaborators also led a workshop, Figuring, for dancers and non dancers to use movement, sensors, Virtual Reality technology and giant string figures [cats-cradles] to create a short movement piece that was shared at the Would Like To Meet Commons Sense Special.

Figuring Workshop with Lisa May Thomas and her collaborators. Photography: Ibolya Feher

The Would Like To Meet Commons Sense Special marked the opening of the Commons Sense Test Space and the launch of the new Bristol Approach website. It was a chance for people from a wide of range of backgrounds to network, experience the exhibition, see the performance made at the Figuring workshop and explore how technology and data can be used for the common good. Children, young people and adults with an interest in dance, art, tech and computer science had a great night exploring sensors, playing with interactive artworks and watching live performance.

Would like to Meet Commons Sense Special. Photography Ibolya Feher

The second workshop, Women Reclaiming AI for Activism, was led by artists Coral Manton and Birgitte Aga. In this workshop, people identifying as female challenged the often-subservient female voices that are commonly used by chat-bots or voice assistants by collaboratively creating a new intelligence for a feminist ‘conversational AI’ [Artificial Intelligence]. The group imagined an AI that: has a fluid personality, that sometimes doesn’t want to answer you, that inspires you with famous feminist quotes, and that surprises you. This workshop marked the beginning of a process to create chat-bots that feel more representative of our society – an area of work that KWMC will be continuing to explore. If you are working in this area or are interested in finding out more about the feminist chat-bot and its future development please get in touch.

Women Reclaiming AI for Activism. Photography Ibolya Feher

The third workshop DIY sensor workshop: Explore E-textiles was led by E-Stitches, a Bristol based meet-up group for thinkers, tinkerers, makers, and creators to get together and explore wearable technologies, e-textiles, and soft circuitry. The workshop participants learnt more about the wonderful world of E-textiles, finding out about projects where clothes: act as video games consoles when massagedplay musiclight up or disappear. Everyone got stuck in to making and created their own conductive pompoms. E-Stitches meet on the second Tuesday of the month at Pervasive Media Studio, based at Watershed, if you’d like to find out more.


DIY sensor workshop: Explore E-textiles. Photography Ibolya Feher

The final workshop of the Test Space programme, Our Tools Our Senses, was led by Berlin-based artist Hannah Perner-Wilson. All makers were welcomed to explore the tools their use and how we might be able to attach our tools to ourselves in order to experience the world with these new extended senses.

Our Tools, Our Senses led by Hannah Perner-Wilson. Photography Ibolya Feher

Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
+44 (0) 117 903 0444

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