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MaDe Finalist

Davide Piscitelli

Digital Lichen

Considering himself as an Hyperobject Explorer, Davide investigates topics that transcend the temporality and the space of our human experience. He is interested in how we, as society,  build collective imaginaries as an attempt to conceptualise these ‘objects’ and the role that art, science and philosophy play in this conversation, in particular looking at the symbiosis between knowledge and aesthetic.

He holds a BA in New Technologies of Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, Italy, and a MA in Material Futures from the Central Saint Martins in London, United Kingdom.

He defines his approach as not multidisciplinary but antidisciplinary.

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Project Information
Material Qualities
Colour: Transparent / White. It depends on air quality
Soft / Hard: Soft
Shiney / Matte: It depends on air quality
Smells: Odourless
Texture: Smooth / rough based on air quality
Others: Digital, smart behaviour
Material Recipe
Algorithm - It defines the basic behaviour of the digital material
(colour, shape, movement)


Live stream data of air pollution - It influences the initial parameters of the algorithm. Potential pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground level ozone (03), particles (PM10 and PM2.5) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).
Material Application
1) AR and VR industry. Digital Lichen has been designed in particular for the context of AR face filter where the users experience their own image through a screen. Instead of being used as just a visual effect it could educate the users about air pollution.

2) A tool for activism. A database of pictures uploaded by the users will show the environmental conditions of where they live.

3) Digital cosmetics. AR face filters are already influencing cosmetic industry, and vice versa. Re-thinking our relationship with the surrounding environment through sensitive makeup.

4) Architectural installation. The ‘mirror’ of the city: a physical installation where citizens and visitors can experience the surrounding environmental conditions through their own reflections. It could be a way of raise awareness but also influence policy, could it become an attraction and educate people about our intrinsic relationship with the environment?

5) A tool for supporting medical research. Its daily use could create a “map” about the amount of air pollution our bodies are constantly exposed to.
Material Method
- Generation of the algorithm that simulates the basic material
- Connection to an official air pollution database
- Collection and elaboration of the data
- Simulation of the material based on the collected data
Material Narrative
Digital Lichen is a digital material inspired by the properties of bioindication and bioaccumulation of lichens, natural communicators of air pollution. The concept of digital materials is still in discussion yet it is already influencing cultures and aesthetics, leading me to believe it is a fascinating territory to explore.

With Digital Lichen, I am exploring the potentialities of digital materials used and experienced through the medium of augmented reality (AR), in particular focusing on the resulting aesthetic of AR face filters. Within this emerging aesthetic, two elements attracted my attention: becoming something else through a (virtual) mask, and the resulting concept of beauty from wearing it. Looking at digital materials is also a way of speaking to younger generations, to whom AR face filters is fast becoming a sort of language, and an attempt of looking at our daily technology under a different perspective.

Within this emerging culture, one of the main material characteristic of an attractive AR face filter is its amount of shininess. Shininess dictates how beautiful you are.

With Digital Lichen I am proposing a digital material, for AR, whose properties are not dictated only by human taste - how much shiny or not it has to be - but they are also defined by environmental conditions surrounding the wearer. Its properties - colours, textures, shapes, behaviours - are influenced by live air pollution data collected at the user’s geo-location. The surrounding environment will define the materiality of the virtual mask of the user influencing what they could become.

In this case, the quality and richness of the materiality of the AR face filter is a reflection of our environment. In the moment we wear a digital mask we alter our self, becoming something different. My material aims to re-frame the individualistic ego of the user, looking at their self, to a collective ego, looking at us as environment, hopefully creating a feeling of profound awareness.
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MaDe, a project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of The European Union, aims at boosting talents towards circular economies across Europe partnering with design and cultural institutions, Elisava, Ma-tt-er and Politecnico di Milano.

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