Hackteria & lab hacking @ NK, Berlin

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Hackteria ohne.jpg


we will hold a first workshop about the topic of hackteria.cc, meaning DIY practices for biology, microscopy and the resulting artistic visualisation and sonification.

Saturday 30 May - Wednesday 3 June 2009, 12.00-18.00 daily

Location: NK / ElsenStr. 52 (2.Hof) Berlin, Germany Telephone: +49 (0)176 20626386

Course Participation fee: 100 euros Please register early to ensure a place. Places are limited to 16. Registration is required for this workshop and can only be done via email to: enka_nkATgmxDOTde

For Workshop leaders Biographies and full description and additional reading go to myspace.com/enka52

Overview Experimental make-workshop with multilayered outcome for people interested in sound, DIY-biology, microscopy and interaction of living microorganisms. Knowledge in physical computing, video and sound processing, electronics and puredata is welcome, but not compulsary.

Description In this workshop the experiments will take place in close-up view of microorganisms (e.g. water bears aka tardigrades,amoebae and collected organisms from urban environments), which appears to be a world by itself. Maybe due to the scaling and the amplification of a microscope, but maybe also due to all parameters of imagination that the microcosmos provokes. Growth and behaviour of these microscopic animals remind us of our own micro-macro-development. With the image and the movement of the organisms, the participants are encouraged to collect inspiration and bridge video and sound to what they experience with these small “animalcules”, as termed by their first observer Leeuwenhoek in 1677.

Microscope historic drawing.png

The participants will learn How to work with the usb-microscopes and hack webcams to be used as microscopes, observe the behaviour and motion of the waterbears and other microorganisms, find sounds from the lab equipment, hack into electronic devices to integrate into bioelectronic culture devices and build habitats for the animals. Also they will discover sounds from the different instrumentation and utilities of the laboratory. Recycle and compose arrangements for Lab-visual and Lab-sound scapes and benefit from a cross fertilization between the whole (scientific) equipment (you can bring your own too!) and an artistic metaphorical language. The outcome can be a video with a microscopic soundtrack, a living object with singing waterbears, a performance with laboratory sounds, or an openLab Hackteria installation.

Material needed The participant should bring their own laptop/computer, a webcam with an adjustable lens and some general lab stuff they have access to.

Material available various labware, glassware, petri-dishes, usb-microscopes, microorganisms, soldering stations, electronic parts, arduinos etc..


Day 1

  • welcome/introduction
  • overview
  • inputs from participants
  • how big are things?
  • webcam hacking
  • first views of the microcosmos

Day 2

  • microscopy overview
  • intro to bioelectronix
  • build a microscope
  • urban micro_walk / collection of microorganisms

Day 3

  • more about microorganisms
  • improve the microscope / leds, motors and sensors
  • Bio-Arduino / control your micro-bio-device
  • observation and bio-hacking

Day 4

  • puredata for microscopy
  • bio2sound interfaces
  • sound2bio communication
  • brainstorm about concepts for installations/performances

Day 5

  • finish the devices
  • open hackteria-sessions


DIY microscopy

building an inverted microscope setup for access and easy handling of biological species

To use a simple usb webcam as a microscope, a few modifications are needed which are described in detail on the DIY_microscopy page.

in short, a small hack to the optics of a standard webcam with an adjustable focus-lens, allows to create video data, with a magnification of around 100 to 400x (depending on the model) at a working distance of a few mm. the highest magnifications can be achieved by inverting (putting upside down) the lens. addition of good lighting by the use of leds allows to create images using a bright-field method (shine through the stuff) or dark field method (look at the reflections and scattering).

dark-field image sequence (4 sec) of an amoebae recorded on a modified webcam
bright-field image sequence (4 sec) of an amoebae recorded on a modified webcam
live processing of the video, high contrast and digital zoom


more about the conbination of electronics and biology can be found on the bioelectronix page.

Astro bio mark1.jpg





mixed Protozoa


  • pure data

File:Pd microscope.zip

  • avidemux
  • imageJ
  • videoLAN
  • maccam - universal webcam driver for apple computers runing OS X

worm2sound interfaces


direct recording of the microorganism using microphones/piezos and amplifiaction

refracted lasers


live processing of the video, high contrast and digital zoom

motion tracking of individual microorganisms

x-y position data can be mapped onto electronic sound generation, such as frequency, filters, timbre or midi. real-time audio.

distibuted trigger map

certain parts of the image are used as virtual triggers eg. to play samples, when the worm passes that part of the image. intensity data could be used as a treshold for detection and triggering in dark field images. real-time but no direct audio.

ROI low frequency modulators

the color/brightness data of a ROI (region of interest) in the image is used to generate low frequency oscillations, which can be mapped on any sound processing parameter. at a video rate of 25fps a maximum frequncy of 25 Hz can be theoretically achieved, and the timescale of the bio-image data will reduce this further into seconds and more. real-time audio in combination with other sound generators.

Histogram time shifts

histogram data or changes in intensity are recorded and subsequently time-shifted into audible frequencies. use biological motion behavior, as noise and wave generators. can be used in combination with recorded video. no real-time audio.

Concepts for performances and installations


Marc Dusseiller aka dusjagr

Kaspar König

Urs Gaudenz

Farah Hatam

Heike Siegert


Impressions of the workshop

Hackteria in Berlin