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Award-winning mobile multimedia project bridges art and engineering


Jürgen Schieble, doctoral candidate at Helsinki’s University of Art and Design Media Lab, wants to create “new types of enriching social experiences.” Combining his experience in mobile technologies with his music performance skills, Jürgen created MobiLenin, a participatory entertainment system. In recognition for his MobiLenin research, Jürgen, together with thesis advisor Timo Ojala, was awarded the Best Arts Paper at the ACM Multimedia 2005 conference in Singapore.

Lenin’s Godson has a vision

Jürgen is both a mobile phone software wizard and an award-winning musician who goes by the name Lenin’s Godson (due to his resemblance the Russian revolutionary). Driven by a vision to be “a bridge builder between art and engineering”, Jürgen joined the Media Lab to “give it a go and inspire the world.” He shows an enthusiasm for artistic research, where art drives the development of technology, and to spread the word. For example, he recently gave a seminar on “Creativity inspired by smartphones and Python.”

More to Jürgen than just a programming language, Python is a small, easy to use tool that sparks creativity. Python allows him “to rapidly prototype artistic ideas, opening up opportunities for rich experiences on a smartphone.” And yes, MobiLenin is partly made with Python.

MobiLenin and street research

MobiLenin is a performance melding virtual and physical interaction. One part is a large screen showing Lenin’s Godson playing a song in one of many styles. The other part is a collection of smartphones that participants use to collectively vote on what style should be played. Jürgen live-tested MobiLenin in a pub in Oulu and it was well received.

Live testing is a core feature of the University of Oulu Rotuaari programme, a multi-disciplinary research programme in northern Finland that MobiLenin is a part of. Timo Ojala is the Director of Rotuaari. In the past three years the programme has grown from a thought in Timo’s head to a bustling programme with a mix of municipal, federal, corporate, and university participants. He likened Rotuaari, named after the main pedestrian street in Oulu, to a “living lab” focusing on “street research” of mobile services, exploring new technologies and consumer behaviours through testing in real environments.

What’s next?

Timo said Rotuaari would conclude in the spring and likely not continue. Nonetheless, Timo is pleased with the programme’s numerous papers, theses, and awards, and by the programme’s strong impact on the city of Oulu. Timo also notes that, as main sponsor, the Fenix interactive computing technology programme from Tekes was instrumental in creating the special mix that is Rotuaari.

As for Jürgen, he wants to grow MobiLenin and use it in his own concerts. He will also soon go to MIT’s Media Lab for 3 months and will participate in workshops at Stanford and at Yahoo’s Berkeley Labs, spreading his vision of creatively bridging art and engineering.

Eeva Ahola | alfa
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