I kept waiting for this project to become unbearably overwhelming and difficult, but that never happened. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so excited about its content that it just hasn’t felt like work; it’s been–dare I say–fun. There were minor speedbumps, like the fact that at first my Mac wasn’t especially fond of the little Arduino board.



But with a lttle finnageling (and a little help from Tim), I got it all running smoothly, sensor and all.  Hallelujah!



I ended up reshooting some of the Rouxby cam footage at the last minute.  I had mostly natural looking stuff, ie open space, etc.  I decided, though, that I wanted to just film her daily life, which includes human interaction and her vantage point of my house.  Also, I figured out a much better way to attach the camera to her: athletic tape.




Claire Cam

If the footage created by strapping a camera on Roux is Rouxby Cam, then I guess it makes sense to refer to the footage I take as Claire Cam. Or Human Cam?

Either way, I’ve started editing the footage I’ve been collecting.  I’m thinking it makes the most sense to include primarily footage of an interesting interaction (as opposed to the copious amounts of footage I have of the dogs standing around, lying around, eating deer poop–monumentally less interesting than footage of play fighting).

I’ve been doing most of my shooting in open space at sunrise.  I don’t know that there’s any conceptual reason the footage needs to be taken at sunrise other than it’s aesthetically pleasing (and phonetically pleasing; I like the chirping birds), and practically speaking the footage is easier to see when there’s no harsh shadows from a burning midday sun.

Here’s a preliminary look at some play fighting footage:

Claire Cam from Claire B on Vimeo.

Paramount to my project is the idea of observation, including the idea that most people don’t know how, or don’t take the time to really observe.

Suzanne Clothier, author of Bones Would Rain From The Sky, keeps a blog with updated articles related to dog training, including this one about the importance of observation.

This paragraph resonates most with what I’m driving at:

Dogs live and act in a world of exquisitely subtle signals in their interactions with each other. Our observations and communications in our interactions with them must seem unbelievably coarse at times to these sophisticates of non-verbal communication. Turned around the other way, we would perceive such inattentiveness to our subtle signals as rude, uncaring or perhaps simply stupid. Fortunately for us, dogs bring to the human-dog relationship their wonderful powers of observation, allowing them to be highly aware of our posture, breathing, muscular tensions, and facial expressions, often reacting to changes of which we are not aware. Training or behavior problems often result from the dog’s response to signals we unknowingly have sent. Unfortunately, the dog is often blamed rather than the handler.

Project Update

The plan for this project has shifted a little bit, and now revolves primarily around proximity (as opposed to specific body movements).  The video content will switch through various clips of the Rouxby Cam, and then footage taken by me, from a perspective we’re used to seeing.  The closer you get to the projection, the more you disrupt the footage playing.  There will be a critical point at which the footage will switch from the Rouxby Cam to regular footage, mirroring the idea that observation is paramount and respecting natural canine boundaries for space.  When you are quietly observing from a distance, you will be let into the dog’s world (Rouxby Cam), but when you push that boundary, you are no longer able to see things clearly from their perspective.

I’ve been in the process of collecting the footage that will be used for this, but need to get cracking on some of the other elements.  I think what I’ll need is the following:

– projector

– laptop

– infrared sensor (or another option that will sense proximity)

– max patch to read the numbers generated by the sensor and to then chose the appropriate video clips

So that’s the update.  I’ll start posting footage as my collection grows.  Next step is probably to start working on the patch, too.

So after a bit of research and a lot of thought, I think I’m going to use Rouxby Cam footage for a majority of my project–at least in this iteration of it.
As much as I would like to have a tiny little camera perched right between her eyes so that I could record what she’s actually seeing, I’m finding that a bit implausible at the moment. Spy cams are either very expensive or record at terrible quality. But I did find this:


A tiny little camcorder that records HD video and also has an adjustable lens. I’m thinking this might allow me to strap it under her chin and position the lens so that it is parallel to her chin–probably the closest thing to actually having a camera between her eyes.

I’m thinking I’ll run by Best Buy, get one, strap it on the dog and see how it does. And then if it doesn’t work then I’ll put it back in the box and return it.

I’m due for a longer post regarding the current state of the conceptual side of things, but it has to do primarily with proximity feedback affecting the Rouxby Cam video.

Keeping in line with my continued exploration of canine behavior, this interaction is one I’ve been studying lately for personal reasons that is also an interesting one to map.

As a puppy, my dog, Roux (who will be two this summer) wanted to play with every single dog she met. Then when she was just shy of a year old, she was bit by a large, furry dog. The bite didn’t require stitches, but it broke the skin and we were sure it would make her afraid. With time, she did become more and more wary of new dogs. I thought the best way to push past this was by exposing her to as many new dogs as I could, which often meant taking her to dog parks. Her anxiety about new dogs continued to worsen until it got to the point where she would start foaming at the mouth, keep her tail tucked the entire time, and whimper every time a new dog got near her. If the new dog persisted in trying to get her to play she would growl and snarl at them. It soon became obvious that we needed to figure out what was going on and how to address it.

I did a lot of reading and observation, and spent too much money on a half hour phone consultation with one of my favorite canine behaviorists, Suzanne Clothier. I’m glad to say I now feel like I understand these canine interactions and as a result am much better equipped to deal with the situations.

One of the main things Clothier said when I spoke to her was that Roux’s anxiety about other dogs could have nothing at all to do with being bitten, and instead could be solely a result of dog parks. Canine culture at dog parks encourages unnatural canine behavior, which for many dogs is deeply upsetting. When dogs first meet each other the canine code of conduct dictates they should quietly sniff each other, sometimes the submissive dog will roll over on her back. They sniff each other’s rear ends as well, and should be careful to read the other dog’s body language. Play can only occur if both dogs are willing participants, which requires that the dogs “ask” each other to play. Probably most often this is done with the play bow—where the dog’s rump stays high in the air and she lays down with her front paws.

Here’s a (very) basic diagram of one way the invite to play could go:


But dog parks have created dogs that don’t interact this way at all; instead, many of these dogs come barreling up to Roux, try to jump on her, or play bite her, and often bark at her when she doesn’t react. Clothier explained this interaction with an analogy. To human bystanders, it may look like the dogs are just trying to play. But for Roux it might be the equivalent of a strange man on the street trying to dance with a girl he doesn’t know. To an outsider it could very well look like a fun activity, but if the girl hasn’t accepted his offer to dance it would be an extremely uncomfortable and threatening position to be in.

This made quite a lot of sense, and as I watched Roux’s interactions with other dogs (needless to say I stopped taking her to the dog park), I could see that what was happening supported this theory. When Roux meets polite dogs, dogs who understand the order in which things should happen, she is usually more than happy to play with them. But when she comes across dogs that don’t give her the courtesy of first asking her to play, she doesn’t react well—at which point it is my job to step in. By putting myself between Roux and the other dog, I am able to communicate to her that I have the situation under control and that everything will be okay, which is hugely valuable in preventing her from feeling threatened to the point of aggression.

There are some dogs who are much less sensitive than Roux and are happy to play with just about any dog regardless of the situation. But for the most part, dog parks are volatile spaces, and once you have even the slightest understanding of canine behavior it becomes startlingly obvious just how unhealthy these spaces really are, not to mention how uneducated people are about what their dogs are saying.  In his book, The Emotional Lives of Animals, Marc Bekoff writes this passage that I particularly like:

In order to learn the dynamics of play, it’s essential to pay attention to subtle details that can be lost or unnoticed when, for instance, we are simply watching dogs in the park. Dogs and other animals keep close track of what’s happening, so we need to also.

There simply is no replacement for careful observation; Bekoff often analyzes video frame by frame–a form of observation that I plan to pursue as well.

Mapping: Susan Boyle

It seems like you can’t go anywhere at the moment without somehow encountering Susan Boyle. She is on the cover of countless magazines, in newspapers, and literally all over the internet. I ignored the first four or five emails I got with Susan Boyle’s video; nothing about a name I didn’t recognize was particularly appealing to me. But after the sixth or seventh email I decided to check it out.

It won’t let me embed, but you can watch it here.

It’s definitely worth watching. I can see why Boyle’s underdog story has grabbed the world’s attention, however fleetingly. What I find particularly interesting about the interactions involved in bringing Boyle into the spotlight so suddenly is the unbelievable amount of time it took for her to get there. Boyle dreamed of being a singer for decades before Britain’s Got Talent skyrocketed her to the forefront of the media in days.

This is one interaction that is effectively mapped linearly.