Moritz Greiner-Petter

I'm a designer and researcher based in Basel (CH), with a background in visual communication and digital media design. As a researcher and practitioner I'm interested in exploring the media aesthetics and epistemes of information technologies through design practice. My work takes the form of speculative artifacts and interface prototypes, experimental on- and offline publishing formats as well as writing.

Since 2013, I have been working on various research, design and publication projects at the Critical Media Lab, part of the Institute Experimental Design and Media Cultures (IXDM), Basel Academy of Art and Design FHNW. At the lab, I'm also responsible for communication and the design of various internal collaboration tools and formats.

Currently, I'm developing a series of digital interfaces for research on a historic science film archive within the SNSF-funded project Visualpedia (2022–26), situated at University Lucerne, Department of Cultural and Science Studies. Related to that, I'm also developing interfaces for the critical annotation of archival films of the former Swiss Tropical Institute within the project "Research Film Provenance", situated at University of Basel, Department of Media Studies.

Besides that, I'm finishing some work on Telekolleg, a recent research project exploring the design of digital collaboration tools. Mainly I'm trying to find some time to release a new version of Whurlpool, a prototype online tool that came out of the project. I'm also keen to finish work on a small note-taking app I've been developing, to be released some time late 2024.

Constant interests: 💿 media-reflexivity 🔘 critical interfaces 📁 digital materiality 🔩 the generative poetics of standards and formats 🖇 thinking tools and notational virtuosity 🎚 nuance and ambiguity in digital structures 🐚 organizing knowledge otherwise 🔗 institutional interfaces and media formats of collaboration 🗄 archival interfaces 📓 books, shelves and other objects for organizing things.

News

09 / 2022
I'm part of the SNSF-funded research project Visualpedia, lead by Sarine Waltenspül at University Lucerne (CH), Department of Cultural and Science Studies. The project examines the Encyclopaedia Cinematographica, a historic collection of science films. I'll develop a series of interactive archival interfaces to explore both historical and experimental conceptions of the (not unproblematic) collection.
03 / 2022
Out now: Critical by Design? Genealogies, Practices, Positions. A new anthology on the ambivalent relations between design and critique that I co-edited together with Prof. Dr. Claudia Mareis and Prof. Michael Renner. More below
06 / 2021
I started Telekolleg, a work-in-progress website to document my ongoing research on the design of collaboration tools here. The research is part of the SNSF-funded project Commons in Design at the Institute Contemporary Design Practices, HGK Basel.
03 / 2019
I recently got the chance to publish an article about my graduation project Precise Ambiguities in the context of media theory, fuzzy methods and tool design in the edited volume Wild Thing – Unordentliche Prozesse in Design und Wissenschaft, edited by Claudia Mareis and Christof Windgätter.
03 / 2018
Together with my colleagues of the research project Critical Artifacts I'm currently organising and designing the conference Critical by Design? that will be held in Basel on May 17–18, 2018.
03 / 2018
I contributed a short post on Seamful Design to the online project How to think with obstacles?. (Update: the project website is not accessible anymore.)
09 / 2017
T9 Numerology is featured in the Post-Digital Publishing Archive and was recently shown at Plan D festival in Zagreb as part of the Experimental Publishing exhibition.
08 / 2017
I just released the small publication T9 Numerology that I designed and produced. It is now available at Motto books, or get in touch for a copy.
06 / 2017
The exhibition WINDOWS that I co-organised with Jamie Allen, will be on show in the store window of COMPUTER + SOFTWARE in Basel from 16 June to 31 July 2017.
02 / 2017
I designed a new publication Impossible Escapes for the Critical Media Lab that was presented with an accompanying workshop at transmediale festival in Berlin.
10 / 2016
With Jamie Allen I'm presenting the lecture performance How to Build a Lie for the launch of Archaeologies of Media and Technology (AMT) research group in Winchester.
04 / 2016
I'm at Copenhagen's Nikolaj Kunsthal this month to launch the online piece Order: My Holy Nacho accompanying the exhibition Sectioning: My Holy Nacho by Jamie Allen & Bernhard Garnicnig.
02 / 2016
Unmaking: 5 Anxieties was presented at transmediale in Berlin. A write-up of the event can be read here.
11 / 2015
I took part in the wonderful PhD By Design conference at Goldsmiths in London, where I also co-hosted a small workshop on the "Digital Academic" together with Bianca Elzenbaumer. More info on the event here.
09 / 2015
Back in July I developed the lecture performance Bread and Roses and Data together with Jamie Allen for the conference Data Traces in Basel. A video of the lecture is now online.
05 / 2015
Precise Ambiguities is currently on display in the exhibition Bildtaktik at Altana Galerie in Dresden.
05 / 2015
I contributed a short article in the current issue of some magazine on the theme "complicated".
03 / 2015
The Swiss National Science Foundation approved funding for the research project Critical Artifacts that I co-developed with my colleagues at IXDM in Basel (lead by Prof. Dr. Claudia Mareis and Prof. Michael Renner). Yeah!
01 / 2015
The print and online publication Three Questions On Media Criticality that I designed for Critical Media Lab was presented at transmediale 2015 in Berlin.
06 / 2014
I'll take part in the doctoral colloquium of the DRS conference in Umeå, Sweden.
10 / 2013
I'll present my graduation project Precise Ambiguities in a wider theoretical context at the two-day conference Wild Thing in Berlin.
08 / 2013
My diploma project Precise Ambiguities was awarded in the international student competition of :output.

Selected Projects

How to Build a Lie

Performance Lecture, 2020

Together with Jamie Allen, I developed a lecture performance for Gaîté Lyrique in Paris, part of his artistic research project The Lie Machine / How to Build a Lie on voice stress analysis and other media technologies associated with “lie detection” and “truth verification”.

For the presentation we created a courtroom-style media scenography, choreographing various images, video clips and a live webcam feed across two digital and an overhead projection. For a better control of the digital projections, I developed a custom browser-based media player tailored to the lecture script.

Special thanks to Benoît Verjat for his invaluable support.

Ultimate Fail Compilation

Generative Video / Custom Tools, 2018 & 2023

Wheels of Misfortune
In the deluge of daily video compilations of epic fails, bad karma and what-could-go-wrongs, the two-wheeled electric hoverboard looms as a peculiarly devilish contraption – a failure machine by thoughtless design, a vehicle for the endless replication of human humiliation. With carpet corners and kitchen counters as natural enemies, the accident is an inevitability in its fleeting service life.

Misery Loves Company
Fueled by the omnipresence of smartphone cameras, the pleasure industry of mediated misery strives. No personal fail that goes unrecorded in the global village of stupid neighbors and coworkers having a bad day. The tacit conventions of domestic smartphone videography reveal the choreographies of failure to unfold in remarkably similar ways. The media-aesthetic uniformity of everyday fails yields a communal catharsis: We all fail the same.

Fail Army
The visual compilation of collective failures merges the individual struggle into the universal tale of the epic fail. One's own mindless mishap becomes the expression of an eternal cycle of failure, a repetitive pattern of similitude, an ideal type, an emblematic fail.

Complete Failure
The algorithmic supercut of near failures evokes an unrelenting vertigo, a doomsurfing limbo of comedic cruelty. In this manufactured state of permanent crisis, the gleeful expectation of disastrous satisfaction is forever teased, but endlessly suspended.

Ultimate Fail Compilation is a programmatically generated supercut of people (almost) falling off electric hoverboards. Scenes were collected from "fail" video compilations found online. I developed a custom frame annotation tool to manually label the alignment and positioning of movements in the video clips. The final animations are automatically generated by combining the clips based on their annotated frame data with dynamically changing blending parameters. Made with Processing.

Generative video loops (pre-rendered, various versions), variable duration, 9:16, without sound.

Critical by Design?

Edited Volume, 2022

I co-edited the anthology Critical by Design? Genealogies, Practices, Positions together with Prof. Dr. Claudia Mareis and Prof. Michael Renner, and with editorial support by Meike Hardt. With contributions from design theory, practice and education, art theory, philosophy, and informatics, the volume aims to unpack the ambivalent tensions between design and critique and expand understandings of what critical design practices could be. The book proceeds a conference that we organised together in 2018.

I also contributed an article on Grey design: critical practices of design at the peripheries of the discipline (PDF).

With contributions by Annette Geiger, Bruno Gransche, Emanuele Quinz, Michaela Büsse, Mara Recklies, Anja Groten, Bianca Elzenbaumer & Meike Hardt, Patrycja Zdziarska with Jeffrey Bardzell & Shaowen Bardzell, Emile De Visscher, Moritz Greiner-Petter, Janneke Wesseling, Guy Julier, Carl DiSalvo, Jesko Fezer, Björn Franke, Matt Ward, Marius Förster & Meike Hardt, and an introduction by Claudia Mareis, Moritz Greiner-Petter & Michael Renner.

The intricate design of the publication was developed by Meike Hardt and Marius Förster (operative.space), with coding support by Jef Van den broeck. The book was selected for the longlist of The Best German Book Design 2022.

The book is open access and available at Transcript Publishing. The digital version is freely accessible online. I highly recommend getting one of the beautiful print editions as well:
www.transcript-publishing.com

The publication was made possible by funding of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Basel Academy of Art and Design FHNW.

Critical by Design?

Conference Design, 2018

As part of the research team of the project Critical Artifacts, I co-organised Critical by Design?, an international conference on the potentials and limitations of design as a mode of critique. It was held on May 17–18, 2018 at the Basel Academy of Art and Design FHNW.

Together with Meike Hardt, I also developed the design concept, website and conference materials.

The design is based upon a combinatorial play with concepts taken from critical design discourse. Two different terms are combined into ever-changing variations of the conference title to underline the questioning and interrogative perspective of the symposium. Each of the terms is related to a large set of found imagery used to generate evocative collages illustrating the juxtaposed concepts.

The research project and conference were funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Printed programme with folded conference poster as cover & badges unique to each participant.

WINDOWS

Exhibition / Website / Software Box, 2017

WINDOWS is an invitational installation in the front window of COMPUTER + SOFTWARE, a computer store in Basel that has been in existence since 1984. Jamie Allen and I asked a group of 16 artists and friends* to design a software box for our contemporary digital era. A series of interviews as part of the research looks into the early history and practice of software retail packaging design.

* With contributions by Aram Bartholl, Benoît Verjat, Bernhard Garnicnig, Ciara Phillips, Constant Dullaart, Evan Roth, Geraldine Juárez, Ishac Bertran, Jan Robert Leegte, Peter Moosgaard, Phillip Stearns, Pussykrew, Evan Roth, Rosa Menkman, Sebastian Schmieg, Suzanne Treister and Windows93.

As part of the project, I also developed the project website (where you can find the interviews and an online collection of the software boxes), designed promotional print materials and contributed a box design to the exhibition.

T9 Numerology

Book Design / System Poetry, 2017

T9 (short for ›text on 9 keys‹) is a predictive text technology developed in 1995. It was designed to optimize text entry on 3×4 numeric cell phone keypads commonly used at that time. On these standard 12-key layouts the number keys from ›2‹ to ›9‹ are assigned to a group of three to four letters each. In T9, a sequence of single keystrokes is matched against a stored dictionary. Words associated to the entered sequence of numbers are then presented to the user to choose from. Coincidentally and inherent to the working principle of T9, one sequence of keystrokes can potentially represent many different words. This guide book compiles an incomplete and subjective selection of these so-called ›textonyms‹ to be found in the English language. It exposes the collateral poetry, incidental truisms, and semantic comedy that are latently lurking in encoding and compression technologies like T9.

The book's design is based on NOKIA's model 7110 handset, the first mobile phone to commercially implement T9 technology. The layout incorporates a modified version of NOKIA's iconic display font, adopts the device's original keypad design and a page color reminiscent of late 1990s mobile phone LCD screens.

120 pages, 2-color offset print on 130g/m² granulated paper. Edition of 250 copies, self-published.

Impossible Escapes

Escape and Evasion Map, 2017

The third in a series of experimental publications I designed for the Critical Media Lab's collaboration with transmediale festival in Berlin. The foldout map addresses illusive modern tendencies to escape – be it from technology, society, or earth – in various vignettes and collected anecdotes. The publication accompanied a workshop the CML organised for the 2017 transmediale festival themed ever elusive. The map was exclusively distributed during the festival and through special editions of Neural magazine's issue 56.

The design is a conceptual and formal play on two different genres of "escape maps": the graphical language alludes to architectural emergency or evacuation plans, e.g. through the use of custom icons, the green color, and the integration of a floor plan of the actual festival venue. The included escape tactics and the map's materiality – printed on durable synthetic paper and folded for practicality – speak the language of escape and evasion maps used by the military.

Order: My Holy Nacho

Website / Parametric PDF Publication, 2016

This online artwork was commissioned by Kunsthal Aarhus as part of the project My Holy Nacho* by Jamie Allen and Bernhard Garnicnig. It enacts an online order process that results in uniquely generated order documents for each customer, that I designed and coded in collaboration with the artists. The project points to forms of networked labour and production and the idealized promise of seamless digital command. The website and generated documents lean heavily into the formal language of online order forms and the ambiguity of remote specification.

The online piece consists of a website with an order form where users can specify a set of randomized process instructions and material selections. After submitting a shipping address and placing an order, a server-side script generates a personalized and unique order confirmation in form of a PDF. The document features randomly generated material samples and specifications, various custom-designed diagrams of material compositions, a process diagram with stock images of heavy machinery and their randomly generated names, and a fictional shipping route map based on the customer's location.

*My Holy Nacho is a durational sculptural project that uses the Internet to create a work of art. A single, randomly chosen object was sent all over the world, and in series treated using material and industrial processes available via online order. It was first presented as Unboxing: My Holy Nacho at Kunsthal Aarhus in 2015. The online commission Order: My Holy Nacho is hosted in conjunction with Copenhagen’s Nikolaj Kunsthal and the exhibition-performance Sectioning: My Holy Nacho, in which the sculptural object is dissected and destroyed.

Unmaking: 5 Anxieties

Card Deck, 2016

For transmediale 2016 in Berlin, the Critical Media Lab together with the Research Institute for Arts and Technology as well as guest researcher Tom Jenkins held a discussion session on maker culture and its discontents. As a conversation starter and workshop tool we developed an Unmaking Kit – a publication in card deck format containing quotes, images and questions organized around five thematic streams we called "anxieties". I designed the cards, topped off with faux particle board packaging.

The card deck evokes similar forms of supposedly creativity-conjuring and game-like techniques, as IDEO's Method Cards or Brian Eno's & Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies. The kitification and commodification of creativity sold in form of maker kits is one of the many critical aspects addressed in the card deck itself. The format also is taking up critical toolkits like the Critical Making Design Process Cards or Design Friction Kits and more generally is inspired by open publication formats like Fluxus artists' books.

Bread and Roses and Data

Desktop Performance, 2015

At the conference Data Traces in Basel, Jamie Allen held a performative lecture on labour aspects of networked production. Together we developed a desktop performance in which exhaustive layers of online interfaces, services and tools dramatically unfold to create a laborious workspace illusion for the talk itself.

During the performance, various web services, websites and other online documents are launched from a predefined list in sync with the lecture script, interspersed with programmed desktop actions as dramatic intermissions. The system is realized in AppleScript, a programming interface for the automation of Mac OS.

Three Questions On Media Criticality

Booklet / Website, 2015

I designed a field notebook and website accompanying a discussion session held by the Critical Media Lab at transmediale 2015 in Berlin. The publication compiles responses by invited scholars and practitioners in the field of media studies and arts to three questions on the notion of criticality of, in, and through media technologies.

The layout of the publication attempts to incorporate a self-reflexive perspective on its own media format. All pages are shown on each and every page in a revolving arrangement that also mirrors the circularity of the ring binding. The same principle is translated to an online version, where the dynamically generated and animated layout creates a mesmerizing reading experience. By blending conventions of media forms, the design concept refers equally to traditions of book design (e.g the visual density and hierarchy of medieval scripts) as to principles of digital display structures (e.g. the adaptive, generative layout system and nested contents).

Displayce

Experimental Map Interfaces, 2014

Displayce is a series of four experimental web interfaces for digital maps. In a situationist manner, the functionalities of Google's mapping service are reconfigured into striking visual patterns that explore novel cartographic interactions and aesthetics, ranging from purposeful disorientation to playful geo-imagination.

foci (above) let's you explore the same location in cascading zoom levels to shift between detail and context in one view.

weave meshes two locations together into a checkerboard pattern view that are interlinked while navigating.

tectonics interactively displaces slices of the map view to create a wave-like shift of the geography.

st. helena reshuffles map sections of the eponymous real-world island to generate ever-changing imaginary land formations.

CML

Designing (for) an Institute, 2013–present

Elements of the visual identity of the lab (2020).

Since 2013, I’ve been responsible for the communication design of the Critical Media Lab in my role as designer and researcher at the institute. The CML is a research space and community and part of the Institute Experimental Design and Media Cultures (IXDM) at the Basel Academy of Art and Design FHNW.

Over the years, the lab has also provided me with a testing ground for developing approaches and ideas for the design of various context-specific organizational tools and collaborative structures – from digital message boards to spatial design elements for the research lab.

Cover and poster designs from the early days of the lab (2014).

Some of the many design elements large and small:

Demo Mode (2018) – A low-key presentation setup in the lab space to display a series of interviews with the researchers. It runs in synchronized browser windows across three screens. Selecting a video triggers the related project website to open. Video production by Piet Esch.

Showcase (2019) – Custom-made flexible shelving system for the Critical Media Lab. Developed together with Joseph Popper. The mounted screen also shows the message board system developed for the lab.

Precise Ambiguities

Critical Artifacts / Graduation Project, 2012

Precise Ambiguities is a collection of self-critical Denkwerkzeuge (tools of thought). The project consists of a series of conceptual artifacts that reflect on our ability to relate to the world and its phenomena through the tools we create. By irritations of their conventional form or behaviour the project tries to materialize the implicit blind spots of our instruments for thinking and knowing, measurement and perception, organisation and design.

"Irregler"

"A-Normal"

"Vage"

"Tick"

"Semantic Camera"

New Media Projects

Archive

A selection of early interactive objects and installations I developed during my time as a student within the former Studio Class New Media (Prof. Kora Kimpel) and New Media Class (Prof. Joachim Sauter / Jussi Ängeslevä) at Berlin University of the Arts.

Scope

Installation / Tangible Time, 2009

Scope is a contemplative media installation that allows one to physically interact with time – or rather with a set of chronological image data. For the duration the installation is exhibited, a growth process of plants is captured by a camera. Sand on a reactive surface represents an amount of time passed. By manipulating the sand different moments of the growth process are projected directly onto material.
Video Documentation

Projector, cameras, translucent screen, sand, plant tray, code (Processing).

Mirrorcle

Installation / Slow Media, 2009

Mirrorcle exposes hidden messages through a person's breath. Although the developed display technology is based on a regular dot matrix design, the slow and fuzzy response of the heat transfer leads to some intriguing analogue qualities. The narrative potentials of the protoype were explored with short oracle-like messages triggered when someone gets close to the mirror.

Plastic mirror, wood mirror frame, custom-built array of copper plates and heating wire, Arduino microcontroller, code.

Memo

Interactive Object / Gestures, 2009

Memo is a prototype for a device that allows to leave behind short messages for others to discover. The box itself acts as an input device that translates writing gestures to letters, like a clumsy digital stylus. The resulting message is stored and can be displayed by tilting the box.
Video Documentation

LED matrix display, accelerometer, buttons, Arduino microcontroller, code.