Vernacular Volumetric

Vernacular Volumetric is a research-creation project that uses speculative design to explore how volumetric video recording might look as a mundane future technology. It is part of a larger research investigation into the techno-social entanglements surrounding hybrid captured images.

The project seeks to envision and investigate the future of digital capture technologies in the creation, understanding, and use of everyday images. The project considers:

  1. How social and vernacular practices may impact volumetric capture
  2. The key affordances of a volumetric image
  3. The opportunities and challenges for this technology in relation to broader adoption and use
  4. How this technology may be appropriated and subverted by amateur practitioners

Vernacular Volumetric is a pilot project intended to develop into a broader scale research agenda exploring digital capture.

Hybrid image capture practices, including volumetric capture, are becoming increasingly common. Such projects showcase the incredible potential for this mode of computationally-enhanced capture, but also present a number of emerging issues. These technologies are, for the most part, restricted to technologically-savvy and well-funded art technologists, with the most common path of exploration being high-end production. Additionally, the rapid adoption and development of this technology has not been accompanied by a substantive reflective practice or analysis. Important questions remain with regard to our understanding and relationships to these images, and what this technology might look like upon wider consumer adoption.

Vernacular Volumetric is an initial exploration into hybrid image capture technology, specifically volumetric video recording, as it might look as a mundane future technology. The project examines the future of everyday hybrid image capture in the shift from professional to consumer adoption, with a specific focus on future vernacular (everyday) practices in the context of post-photographic discourse. This work project is also contextualized within discourse surrounding image creation, reception, and everyday use.

Using speculative scenarios, Vernacular Volumetric creates a series of small-scale image prototypes using volumetric capture. This series serves as a prompt for further discussion and research development in hybrid image capture technologies and practices. The project utilizes speculative design, a discursive approach which focuses on using the design process as a tool for envisioning and interrogating potential design futures. 

This research caters to a growing interest in the impact of emerging technology on approaches to non-fiction media production. It forms the basis for a broader examination of how digital technologies impact capture practices, and helps ensure that the development and conceptualization of hybrid image technology is not limited to high-end approaches and can instead be engaged by diverse socio-cultural practices.

Image prototype using volumetric capture: two views from different angles of a figure standing in a rectangular prism
Photograph of the team working in the lab, two people discussing content of a large computer screen amidst notes
Friday, November 24, 2017 - 12:00pm
Lab Member: 
Cindy Poremba


This research project investigates the transformation of affect and surface qualities through the process of translating synthetic data into “real” (physical) objects with material qualities. Of particular interest, is a critical examination of what qualities are gained and which are lost as objects move from digital instantiation, on a computer screen, to physicalization as 3D-printed artifacts. Printers come with a resolution of output that is still crude while on screen one can zoom into the data that is normally lost for the human eye, this is a fascinating area of research still underexplored from the practitioner’s point of view.

Rauch has explored digital surfaces and screens with a haptic sculpting pen. A body of corresponding work was produced, physicalized, using rapidform printers. The intention was to explore the aesthetic qualities of the physical material output. Starting with the more obvious material components of the work, (hard plastics, metal, and ceramic shell powder,) and ending with ephemeral materials (resin and the digital works) she is currently mapping and theorizing shifts in materiality that arise through the process of making the digital manifest.

The larger concern of this investigation is to explore how emerging 3D production technologies are affecting creativity and the development of design-production chains. Traditional sculptors have typically developed a keen tacit knowledge and learned experience about material. With the emergence and proliferation of new digital materials, much of the embodied application of tacit knowledge is now being surrendered to software applications and digital tools. This project seeks to understand: (1) how digital media frame (and are responsive to) such things as, creatives’ level of skill, understanding of material behavior, simulate stress and strength of selected materials, etc.; and (2) how a disconnect in knowledge between the use of digital materials and the materialization through physical material might lead to new usages, novel forms, and emergent aesthetics.


Emergent Surfaces Piece 1
Emergent Surfaces Piece 2
Friday, March 9, 2012 - 9:15pm
Lab Member: 
Dr. Barbara Rauch