Craft Dance Science
Trick Facial Recognition Software into Thinking You’re a Zebra or Giraffe with These Pyschedelic Garments
Here’s some unusual criteria to consider when deciding what to wear: if you’re scanned by facial-recognition software, do you prefer being detected as a zebra, giraffe, or a dog? Cap_able, an Italian fashion-meets-tech startup, prompts consumers to consider individual rights to privacy when making decisions about self-expression. The studio’s inaugural project, the Manifesto Collection, combines knitwear with an algorithm into a kind of 21st-century camouflage that protects the wearer’s biometric data without the need to conceal the face.
Built on ideas of collaboration and awareness, Cap_able was established in 2019 to fuse technology, textiles, and fashion into a high-tech product with everyday applications. Evocative of Magic Eye puzzles, the technology behind the Manifesto Collection‘s psychedelic patterns is an innovative system “capable of transposing images called adversarial patches onto a knitted fabric that can be used to deceive people detectors in real time,” the company says.
“Choosing what to wear is the first act of communication we perform every day. (It’s) a choice that can be the vehicle of our values,” says co-founder and CEO Rachele Didero. Likening the commodification of data to that of oil and its ability to be sold and traded by corporations for enormous sums—often without our knowledge—Didero describes mission of Cap_able as “opening the discussion on the importance of protecting against the misuse of biometric recognition cameras.” When a person dons a sweater, dress, or trousers woven with an adversarial image, their face is no longer detectable, and it tricks the software into categorizing them as an animal rather than a human.
The idea for the startup was planted in 2019 when Didero enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she was introduced to topics and issues around privacy and human rights. The idea of combining fashion and computer science evolved during months of research in working with textiles and studying artificial intelligence. She developed the now-patented concept of knitting adversarial imagery directly into the fabric of the garments, giving them the ability to respond to an individual’s size and shape, as opposed to existing versions which could only be applied to surfaces. After developing prototypes and testing the patterns using different types of recognition software, Didero teamed up with business partnert Federica Busani to launch the first collection.
Unlike most clothing items you’ll find on the rack, Cap_able’s garments are accompanied by some unique fine print: “The Manifesto Collection‘s intent is not to create an invisibility cloak, rather, it is to raise awareness and protect the rights of the wearer wherever possible.” See the full collection on Cap_able’s website.
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Boldly Contrasted Maps by Spencer Schien Visualize Population Density Data
It’s one thing to know that Chicago is the third largest city in the United States or that the fastest growing metropolitan areas are in the West and the South, but how can we see it? Data technologist Spencer Schien answers that question with an ongoing series of population density maps of states, rivers, and coastlines. In his work with nonprofits and NGOs, he uses R programming language to generate data visualizations that help organizations target where their services are most needed.
To compile the maps, Schien digs into the Kontur Population dataset, a publicly accessible project that layers global population numbers derived from sources like the Global Human Settlement Layer—a tool for assessing the presence of people on the planet—along with Microsoft’s Building Footprints and Facebook. He then translates statistical information about specific regions into highly contrasted maps utilizing Rayshader. The more densely populated an area is, the higher the bars rise. Atlanta, for example, is more than 137 square miles with around 4,200 people per square mile, and the map illustrates this as a mass of red amidst surroundings of more rural areas in green.
Currently based in Milwaukee where he works as the Senior Manager of Data & Analytics for City Forward Collective, Schien focuses on building the maps and other statistical visualizations using open-source tools that help to alleviate financial barriers to information. You can find more of his work on his website.
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Nathalie Miebach Weaves Data and Anecdotes into Expansive Sculptures to Raise Awareness of the Climate Crisis
For Boston-based artist Nathalie Miebach, art is a way to translate scientific data into a visual language of patterns and relationships. In 2007, when she first began to make works that explored weather and climate change, she wanted to better understand the science. “Each piece began with a specific question I had and then the sculpture would attempt to answer it. Over time, I began to be more interested not in how weather instruments record weather, but how we as a species respond to it,” she tells Colossal. “That’s when I began to look at extreme weather events such as floods, storms, and fires.”
Basketweaving plays a central role in Miebach’s practice as it both physically and metaphorically weaves together materials and information. The type of data she collects is both statistical and anecdotal, combining scientific inquiry with personal experiences. “Harvey’s Twitter SOS,” for example, translates 2017 data maps about Hurricane Harvey published by The New York Times. “The inner quilt is made up of shapes that map out income distribution in Houston and uses the city’s highway system as a visual anchor. Various types of information related to Harvey are stitched onto the quilt, including Twitter messages that were sent out during the storm,” she says. Each piece contains numerous pathways, repetitions, and connections, redolent of Rube Goldberg machines in which cause and effect play a central role.
During the past three years, the artist’s work also collates Covid-19 data alongside climate information. “Spinning Towards a New Normal,” on view currently at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, translates Covid-19 infection, death, and vaccination rates for Germany, Italy, and Spain into the form of a spinning top with a plumb bob, representing the struggle of communities and economies to find stability. “We are not invincible, and neither is this planet,” she warns. “For the first time in human history, we have all experienced how vulnerable we can be as a species. The recent work I have been doing is trying to look at these broader environmental changes we are now seeing through this lens of vulnerability.”
You can see Miebach’s work in All Hands On: Basketry at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin through May 25, 2023, and Climate Action, Inspiring Change at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, through June 25, 2023. Explore more of her work on her website and follow updates on Instagram.
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Interview: A Conversation with The Tempestry Project Delves Into the Importance of Knitting Tangible Records of Climate Data
Even in the wake of major weather events like the unprecedented flooding that closed Yellowstone National Park for the first time in decades last week, it can be difficult to grasp the magnitude of the climate crisis. The Tempestry Project has been striving to make such large-scale shifts more accessible and relatable through data-rich tapestries, which founders Asy Connelly and Emily McNeil discuss in a new interview supported by Colossal Members.
People don’t have to come at it specifically as “this is activism,” but people can come at it tangentially. Once they see the climate history that’s happening right in their backyards, it dawns on them that this is happening even here…A lot of the IPCC reports focus on what’s going to happen in the future, and people tune that out. I wish they wouldn’t, but it’s what happens. If you connect it to their lived experience in their homes, it’s a lot more impactful for people.
In this conversation with managing editor Grace Ebert, Connelly and McNeil discuss the slow, insightful process of crafting a Tempestry, why it’s important to standardize yarn colors, and the power a single knit has to change someone’s mind.
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Temperature Textiles Translate Climate Crisis Data into Colorful, Graphic Knits
Creating tangible records of weather patterns has been a long-running practice for crafters and designers interested in visually documenting the effects of the climate crisis over time. Daniera ter Haar and Christoph Brach, of the Eindhoven, The Netherlands-based studio Raw Color, join this endeavor with their new collection of knitted goods that embed data about temperature changes, the sea’s rising levels, and emissions directly within their products’ patterns.
In each design, the duo translates data from the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, into colorful, line graphics that represent four possible outcomes for the world through the year 2100. The titular Temperature Textiles rely on warm shades, sea level uses cool blues, purples, and greens, and emissions a combination of the two to visualize the changes.
Raw Color shares more specifics about the data behind Temperature Textiles on its site, where you can also shop the collection of flat and double knits. Follow the studio on Instagram to keep up with its latest designs. (via Design Milk)
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A Trio of Visual Catalogs Celebrates the Innovative Figures Who Pioneered Modern Information Graphics
A new book set honors the lives and legacies of three figures who fundamentally altered the way we communicate and organize data still today. Information Graphic Visionaries is a catalog trio dedicated to educator and entrepreneur Emma Willard, statistician and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale, and scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, who all brought insight and clarity to the modern world by conveying complex information in visually compelling and convincing manners. Edited by RJ Andrews of Info We Trust with art direction by Lorenzo Fanton, the series unveils these previously overlooked histories through newly discovered graphics and prominent works paired with contextual essays and annotations.
Through a combination of atlases, wall hangings, and textbook woodcut graphics, Emma Willard: Maps of History explores how Willard invented new conceptions of time and ultimately defined chronology in the United States. Florence Nightingale: Mortality & Health Diagrams contains the nurses’ persuasive designs that ultimately sparked vital reforms to the English health care system. And the Étienne-Jules Marey volume is the first English translation of the French scientist’s seminal text on data visualization, The Graphic Method, La Méthode Graphique, which was first published in 1885.
After launching May 11, Information Graphic Visionaries is already nearing its goal on Kickstarter, but you still have time to back the project.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.