AMANU EN SIS

Evan Marnoch Dedale Studio

[L. (in Suetonius) adj. used subst., f. denominative phrase a manu a secretary, short for servus a manu + -ensis belonging to.] One who copies or writes from the dictation of another.

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OBSESSION STATEMENT
To begin the term a statement of obsession was written. The intention behind this statement was to help to determine where our true interests lie. I began to type up my statement on an old typewriter I had found at an auction.

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Brother AX-18 Typewriter: Vivisection
Our second task was to go out, identify and acquire objects for vivisection. Because of my interest in printmaking, graphic design and typography I began to search out numerous devices for creating printed matter. I looked at different types of printers, fax machines, and typewriters. I ended up finding 2 identical 1987 Brother AX-18 electronic typewriters in working condition at Value Village and decided that these were to be my subject for vivisection. I began to carefully take apart one, leaving the other for spare parts in the case of emergencies (which proved to be a very wise decision later on in the project). As the AX-18 slowly came apart I realized that it was basically made up of 4 components. 1. A power supply. 2. The print-head and chassis. 3. The circuit board. 4. And the keyboard. Here is the process of vivisection.

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Brother AX-18 Typewriter: Vivisection

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Brother AX-18 Typewriter: Vivisection

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Brother AX-18 Typewriter: Vivisection

Daisy Wheel The Daisy Wheel. This slots into the PrintHead and is the source of the letter form. As mentioned, the hammer on the Print-Head contacts the Daisy Wheel. Essentially this is a disc of arms with heads containing reversed letter forms. These are easily replaceable and allow for font changes. This is the advantage of Daisy Wheels over tradition typewriting methods, where you were not able to change fonts necessarily.

Ink Ribbon Cassette Here lies the Ink Ribbon Cassette. Basically a small hammer hits the daisy wheel cassette, which in turn contacts the ink ribbon - leaving the impression of the letter on the page.

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Brother AX-18 Typewriter: Vivisection

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Brother AX-18 Typewriter: Vivisection

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Brother AX-18 Typewriter: Vivisection
The four basic components to the typewriter. 1. A power supply. 2. The print-head and chassis. 3. The circuit board. 4. And the keyboard.

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Exploitation
One thing that has interested me for a while is pattern making - especially through repetition of letter forms and other characters found on the keyboard. The typewriter offers an interesting opportunity to manually (as opposed to on-screen) produce these patterns through the exploitation of individual characters. These drawings were an attempt at how I could start to look at the typewriter as a tool for making rather than writing. They are exercises in exploiting the typewriter for its ability to repeat characters consistently and relentlessly as well the exploitation of a simple characters found on the keyboard. These ideas eventually make their way back into the project in a major way in the last stage.

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[L. (in Suetonius) adj. used subst., f. denominative phrase a manu a secretary, short for servus a manu + -ensis belonging to.] One who copies or writes from the dictation of another.

Through the vivisection of my found typewriters as well as research into the history and relevance of typewriters, I became fascinated with this term ‘amanuensis’. As the typewriter developed and eventually became an essential tool to writers and authors around the turn of the 19th century so did a phenomenon arise - that of the writer no longer needing a pencil to create. Instead, any “real” writer would dictate to an amanuensis. This relationship between dictator and amanuensis was not and is not a flawless system. The system can become corrupt - words, thoughts may be lost in translation or even purposely altered? As for my intentions with this project, I want to begin to question the notion of drawing, technology and authorship. It was my intention to begin to recreate this phenomenon of the amanuensis and its relationship to the dictator. How can we dictate drawings just as authors, writers and poets did with the introduction of the typewriter? If we may start to do this what then becomes the implications on authorship? A translation begins to emerge between author (drawer), technology and amanuensis in which information may be misunderstood and transformed... or maybe not? By what means do we begin to dictate? Do we ourselves take on the role of the dictator? Or does the building, in some capacity, inherit the role of the dictator?

The following is my struggle to create an AMANUENSIS both as a physical object - a machine capable of taking dictation and producing output on the typewriter - as well as a phenomenological relationship.

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Halifax: ACADIA Conference & Metabolic Workshop
For the first week of October I attended, along with a number of graduate students, the ACADIA 2007 international conference in Halifax held by The Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) together with the Canada Design Research Network (CDRN). The theme for the conference was Expanding Bodies. The conference focused on expanding physical boundaries and expanding bodies of knowledge in digital sensing, interactive, and responsive systems. When we arrived in Halifax on Sept. 30 at about 2:00pm in the afternoon, after a 25 minute taxi ride from the airport we arrived at the Architecture Building of Dalhousie University. The entry way led us directly to the space in which the Metabolic Workshop was to be held - and there were already a number of people getting started on preparing all of the rope and electronics. This was to become our home for the next 3 days. The workshop started with a group discussion and introductions of all participants. The brief for the workshop was basically that we were going to turning the mass of rope hanging from rigging into some kind of responsive textile environment installation - by impregnating it with motors, electronics, new materials and engineered pieces. We broke out into smaller groups in order to tackle all of the tasks that would be necessary to complete the installation. The 3 groups consisted of a group dealing directly with the mass of rope already in place, another group working with servo motors and systems that were to be introduced into the rope-organism, and another group dealing with the electronics/electrical systems. I decided that I would throw myself into what I perceived to be the most difficult task (for myself as I knew basically nothing about circuitry and electronics). I felt it would be a good way to learn, especially having Alan Macy as our team leader. Alan is an electrical engineer from California and has incredible patience in helping people understand the very basics of electronics and circuitry.

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Halifax: ACADIA Conference & Metabolic Workshop
In this smaller group I met a guy named Josh Cotten from SOM Chicago. Throughout the day Christine Macy, one the Workshop organizers, began to develop some venus flytrap-like petals using LED’s and conductive fabric. We were also introduced to “muscle wire” or Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) or Flexinol or Nitonol - an alloy which shrinks roughly 3-5% of its length as an electrical current is passed through it and returns to its original length as it cools. Josh and I saw an interesting opportunity with the idea of the venus flytrap-like petal and the muscle wire. We took off in our own direction and began to draw up some leveraging systems, with the help of Alan, so that we could create the jaw of the flytrap. The leveraging system is essential to making the best use of the muscle wire. It is required to exaggerate the very little movement that you would get from the muscle wire on its own - only 3 to 5% of its length.

Flytrap Prototype 1 Our first crude prototype of a scissor-like lever system made out of 3 pieces of stripped bamboo that was lying around. It was fashioned together using tape, a bull clip, a nail, and the muscle wire and it actually worked.

Flytrap Prototype 2 The next prototype was much nicer in materials and hardware (although we were still limited in what we had to work with. We quickly drew up some pieces in Illustrator and went down to the laser cutter to fabricate them. Emanuel, the Professor whom runs the fabrication equipment, was incredibly nice in helping us out. It was both Josh and I’s first experience with the laser cutter and we started with lexan - an apparently very toxic material to laser cut. The idea here is a simple lever system in order to exaggerate the movement of the muscle wire - as it only actually shrinks about 4% of its length. The top-jaw and the stem are fixed in place and the bottom jaw is the only component which moves.

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Halifax: ACADIA Conference & Metabolic Workshop
After identifying and working out some of the flaws in prototype 2, we redrew the pieces and prepared them for the laser cutter.

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Halifax: ACADIA Conference & Metabolic Workshop
Process of constructing the fly-traps.

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Halifax: ACADIA Conference & Metabolic Workshop
This next image is the “tongue” of the Fly Trap. It is a piece of copper conductive fabric with LED’s running around the perimeter - a continuation of the piece that Christine Macy started to play with earlier in the workshop. The way that this works is that one leg of the LED (anode or cathode) is taped to one piece of fabric with conductive fabric tape. That piece of fabric is then affixed to the acrylic tongue, which insulates the two pieces of fabric from each other. Another piece of conductive fabric is the affixed to the opposite side of the tongue and the other leg of the LED is the taped to that side. The conductive fabric is then able to distribute a charge from a single source to all LED’s. And, finally, an image of the final piece integrated (physically only...) into the installation. It is kind of unfortunate, but without the help of the software and wiring experts we were unable to get our piece to work interactively within the context of the installation.

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Halifax: ACADIA Conference & Metabolic Workshop
Final image of the entire installation from the Metabolic Workshop. I was able to bring back a great experience of working with new materials (muscle wire) along with new fabrication methods (laser cutter). Both proved to be a very valuable asset to my project.

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Prototyping; Dome Switch Keyboard
With the idea of the AMANUENSIS in mind, I began to develop a prototype for a pincer device. Looking back to my vivisection of the Brother AX-18 typewriter, it became apparent that it utilized a domeswitch keyboard. Essentially what this is is a piece of plastic film interlaced with circuits residing beneath the keyboard. Directly under each key resides a dome switch, which is a flexible button with a conductive tip. I decided to take advantage of this system and began to salvage the dome switches from the keyboard in order to give the pincer devices a conductive finger tip - a sort of deconstruction and reconfiguration of the typewriter’s original parts.

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Prototyping; Pincer A
Some initial sketches for the development of a pincer prototype.

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Prototyping; Pincer A
After flushing out some mechanical ideas I decided to utilize a similar mechanism to the fly-trap device that I built in Halifax. The pincer would be actuated by means of muscle wire and a scissorlike leverage system. The muscle wire would allow for a very silent actuation and offer an eerie or mysterious behaviour to the device.

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Prototyping; Pincer A
The pincer prototype A. The non-adjustable clip for attaching to the frame of the AMANUENSIS would prove to be a problem as 5 separate models would be required in order to reach the 5 different rows of circuits on the keyboard.

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Prototyping; Framing
Initial drawings and construction of the frame of the AMANUENSIS - in order to splay the keyboard circuit out and allow for a chassis in which the pincers would attach.

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Arduino
In preparation for our trip to Montreal I began to experiment with an Arduino board - a very simple, but very effective microprocessor. Arduino boards run off of fairly basic software and are completely open source. I started with some very basic tutorials. The tutorial started with a very basic circuit, controlling one LED - basically following a very simple example in the Arduino software and turning the LED on and off. Please refer to the accompanying DVD for video of the experiments.

I then added a second LED to the circuit, and modified the sample code in Arduino to change up the pattern of the 2 blinking LED’s.

Next I added a third LED. Modified the code again and started to play with different patterns.

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Prototyping; Pincer B
As mentioned there were a few flaws both mechanically & functionally as well as aesthetically with prototype A. This is a reiteration including an adjustable slot and clip in order to reach any elevation required along the keyboard.

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Prototyping; Pincer B - Laser Cutting Files

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Prototyping; Pincer B - Laser Cutting Files

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Prototyping; Pincer B
Pincer B completed.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
From November 3rd to 10th we travelled to Montreal with the intentions of collaborating with the Topological Media Lab of Hexagram - an institute for research/creation in media arts and technologies - at Concordia University. Hexagram supplied us with a blank canvas for which our projects would begin to inhabit; the Black Box. This was our workspace for the week in which we basically spent all day/ night in. It was an amazing space. We had no idea what to totally expect getting there. It really was a process of collaborating and making - a great experience. The intention behind our work at the Black Box was to make our studio projects, or monsters interact, in some capacity, with each other. Hexagram also provided us with incredible audio and visual equipment and expertise in which we were to take full advantage of.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
The work week was intense and a lot of our projects were not yet complete upon arrival. For me the week was spent building, assembling, testing and experimenting.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
Below is a schematic sketch and image of the AMANUENSIS in progress of being assembled and suspended within its space at the Black Box.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
One of the big challenges for me going to the black box was the circuitry required to make it possible for the muscle wire to actuate properly. Elliot Sinyor of the Topological Media Lab played a major role in helping to make the AMANUENSIS active. Elliot and I worked together, he on the software side and I on the hardware end of things to make the project work. Pictured below is the backstage setup in which the muscle wire circuit is hooked into my laptop running Arduino and Max/MSP.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
The system was wirelessly receiving information from a piezo mic in which condensation created by Gregory Rubin’s steam project was dropping onto a mylar screen contacting the mic. This data was sent to a computer which processed the level of vibration created which was in turn sent wirelessly to my laptop running a Max/MSP patch and Arduino. Depending on the level of vibration the Max/MSP patch would randomly distribute current sent to the AMANUENSIS’ pincers, which would then actuate and complete the circuit on the typewriter circuit. 1. The muscle wire circuit / Arduino board / laptop running Max/MSP & Arduino. The circuit diagram overlaid. 2. Detail of the muscle wire circuit. 3. The water condensing and falling onto the piezo / contact microphone. 4. The Max/MSP patch.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
AMANUENSIS installation within the context of the entire Black Box installation entitled Grotesque Perbutations.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
AMANUENSIS installation. The AMANUENSIS device with video of the output being project onto itself as well as details of the randomly generated data.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
AMANUENSIS installation.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
AMANUENSIS installation.

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Montreal: Concordia / Hexagram / Black Box
AMANUENSIS installation. Pincer details.

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Prototyping: Pincer C
One major issue that arose in Montreal was the length of muscle wire that Pincer B allowed for - a length of merely about an inch. With the muscle wire shrinking an average of about 4% this length would have meant a very negligible amount of movement. It was very a very touchy process for getting the pincers to actuate properly and make a solid connection on the circuit in Montreal. This drawing of Pincer Prototype C is an attempt to understand the behaviour of the AMANUENSIS as well as to reiterate the mechanics of the device.

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Prototyping: Pincer C - Laser Cutting Files

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Prototyping: Pincer C - Laser Cutting Files
Proscenium piece for frame & pincers.

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Prototyping: Pincer C - Laser Cutting Files
Proscenium pieces for typewriter print head.

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Prototyping: Pincer C - Laser Cutting Files
The new Pincer Prototype C allows for a much greater length of the muscle wire - roughly 7.5” long. This length makes it possible for the AMANUENSIS to actuate properly and really clamp down on the typewriter circuit.

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Blog Entry: Dictation & Exploitation
It has taken me a while to derive a direction that I am confident in, but I think I have finally arrived at that point. It has come through much frustrations and discussions with numerous people (thanks Patrick, Candace and Gregory). I have been thinking for the past couple of weeks that my Amanuensis device should observe and record something very technical and complex - with the thought that it would somehow make my project more meaningful... I got caught up in the technology. I now realize that that was the main source of my frustration and confusion over the past few weeks. It was a small group discussion with Gregory and Candace where it hit me that I need to focus on a simple, already established system and pattern within the building. This is when I began to take a look at some of the work I had done earlier in the term and it all started to come together. The drawings I had started to produce with my typewriter at the beginning of the term really embodied a lot of the ideas and potential that my project has started to take on. The repeating bracket drawing, for instance, was really about the exploitation of the typewriter as a machine capable of reproducing consistent characters over and over... and over again. The typewriter’s ability to do so enables simple systems to take on new meaning. A bracket when used in a sentence might just be a bracket, but when repeated, flipped, and layered on top of itself it begins to express a new language. It takes on a new potential in the form of a self-producing pattern. This simple character becomes something more meaningful. Similarly, if we take an existing system within a building - for example a door - might we be able to find an embodied potential within its established constraints? The idea is that the door takes on the role of the bracket from my previous drawing. A system that might be taken for granted but has a potential which resides within it. By monitoring the different components of this system - for example the hinge, the handle, the latch, and the stop - does a pattern begin to reveal itself? I believe that it will.

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The Door & The Piezo Mic
With the idea of having a door essentially become the dictator for the AMANUENSIS I decided that the subject for this experiment would be the door to our studio; Studio 115. The intention for the remainder of the project would be to let the door dictate to the AMANUENSIS through a series of piezo / contact microphones placed on the door. Each piezo mic would be associated to a specific pincer and would trigger that pincer based on vibration created by the use of the door. The idea is that as the door is activated a series of characters would be typed and a pattern might start to reveal itself. Unfortunately I was unable to get the mics conversing with the pincers this term. This is the goal for further experimentation.

Circuit Diagram & Actual Circuit of Piezo Mic

Series of Piezo Mic Placements on the door.

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Studio 115
The AMANUENSIS in Studio 115. For this final stage we were to create some sort of proscenium for our machines. The proscenium I created for the AMANUENSIS enabled it to latch onto existing systems within the studio (friction fit clips attaching to pipe). This structure allowed the AMANUENSIS to suspend itself within the space in such a manner as though it were having a discussion with itself - the pincers & frame come face to face with the printer chassis.

Circuit connecting the piezo mic to the muscle wire.

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Studio 115
The AMANUENSIS in Studio 115 - within its proscenium. Pincers & frame face to face with the printer chassis.

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Studio 115
The AMANUENSIS in Studio 115 - within its proscenium.

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Studio 115
The AMANUENSIS in Studio 115 - within its proscenium.

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Studio 115
The AMANUENSIS in Studio 115 - within its proscenium. The printer chassis & generated output. Please see accompanying DVD for video of the AMANUENSIS operating.

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Studio 115
The AMANUENSIS in Studio 115 - pincer details.