Calligraphy: Kazuko Ishii; Photo: Mengying "Cathy" Fang 

ColloGraphy (colloquy+calligraphy) is a tangible way to interact and communicate with another person from a different time, whether a loved one who passed away or another artist from the past, through the act of writing calligraphy.

While a static piece of calligraphy work itself shows great artistry, it detaches itself from the "embodied" creation process: the motion of the calligrapher's arm and hand, the pressure applied by the fingers on the brush, and the subtle changes in the breaths, are expressive and give life to the work.

ColloGraphy fills the missing pieces in two ways:

(1) It renders the ghost calligrapher’s motion with a shadow that matches the order and direction of the characters' stroke.

(2) The brush held by the audience provides haptic feedback via the body of the brush.

The goal is not to create a surrogate or deception that the ghost artist is sentient. Rather, it is an illusory feeling of back-and-forth exchange through the loose coupling between the motion of the audience’s hand and the shadow and characters/message generated by the system.

ColloGraphy I

The first prototype is a pair of networked brushes where one brush’s rotation is captured and used to control the movement of the other brush tip mounted using servos. The user holding the servo-instrumented brush can directly feel the literal movement of the other person in their hand. Participants during public showings of this prototype commented on the added playfulness and enchantedness of the brush but also the lack of agency as their control of the brush is hijacked by the other brush. 

ColloGraphy II: shadow  

unlisted demo video:

To juxtapose, for the second prototype, I generated movement from static traces using computer vision and databases of the characters’ stroke order. I rendered a digital shadow that represents the absent body following the generated movement. The choice of a shadow is intentional, fusing the body and the brush in one, a metaphor for having achieved mastery in calligraphy writing where the brush becomes a natural extension of the body. Recent research suggests that body shadows undergo prioritized processing, and observing a cast shadow of one hand can affect imitative behaviors. With this prototype, I hope to investigate whether changes in the spatial position and time-synchrony of the shadow influence the perceived ownership of the shadow and induce an illusory sense of fluidity in one’s movement.

ColloGraphy III : gantry

unlisted demo video:

The third prototype combines visual and haptic stimuli and uses a technique called passive haptic learning to achieve implicit learning. Individuals would hover over the brush that moves the hand in three axes while the user observes characters being written. I hypothesize that passive haptic feedback can help increase the speed of acquiring a procedural motor skill (in this case remembering the stroke order of writing Chinese characters). In addition, I want to investigate if passive haptic feedback can help reduce the cognitive load and frustration of acquiring a procedural motor skill.

ColloGraphy is a project under the broader concept of TeleAbsence. ColloGraphy creates an illusory channel to feel and interact with someone’s presence – their dynamic body movement and energy of the brush strokes – during the practice of writing calligraphy.