Research Gallery

Passages: Interactive Media Art Installation

in Singapore Art Show 2005's Creative Curating Lab,
23 September – 23 October 2005, CityLink Mall.

Alexander Mitchell

"There is memory in public spaces, but it usually isn't visible to those who pass through; technology can be used to record, and also reveal, this hidden memory."

Passages is an interactive art installation exploring the traces left behind by the passage of people through a public, urban landscape. By tracking the movement of people, and creating a persistent, but gradually fading, visual trail of this motion, the piece reflects the transient, yet important, impact that our movement through a spatial landscape has on the temporal landscape of memory. The piece was shown as part of the Singapore Art Show 2005's Creative Curating Lab, 23 September-23 October 2005, at CityLink Mall.

This project was created by Alexander Mitchell with Patricia Lim and Ng Wen Lei, and was curated by Susie Wong.

Artistic Concept

The installation explores the idea of memory and communication in an urban public space. In a natural space, such as a grassy field or a forest, the character of the space changes over time based on how people use it and how people move through it – wearing down a path, leaving physical evidence of the passage of people. The constant changes to the environment act as a memory of those who have passed by, and provide a subtle communication between people who may never meet, but have passed through the same space at different times.

In contrast, a man-made urban space, such as the CityLink Mall tunnel, is a controlled environment where people moving through have little if any impact on the space. There is a memory in public spaces, but it isn't visible to those who pass through; instead, it takes the form of pervasive monitoring devices and surveillance equipment, through which all our movements are recorded. However, unlike a public space, we don't have access to that memory. Control of the memory of the space is no longer available to the community, but instead resides with the authorities/owners of the space. This removal of control and loss of the communicative elements of a public space is in effect a process of privatization of what was once a public space.

The installation made visible the movements through a space, and the invisible changes that take place over time, by recording and visualizing the passage of people through the tunnel, providing a semblance of the worn path that is created by many people walking through a grassy field. The piece also captured glimpses of the people who have passed through, providing fleeting memories of who had been there, while at the same time suggesting how our movement is monitored. The piece encouraged people to reflect on the hidden memories of a place, and how their passage through the space, although fleeting, does indeed have an impact on the space, and may have been recorded without our knowledge.

Technical Description

The installation consisted of a video camera recording movement through the space in front of the display area, several televisions, and a computer. The camera recorded people's movements, which were displayed on the televisions. The computer displayed the camera's image whereever motion was detected. These movements were later replayed, ghostlike, as transparent overlays on top of the live video, and gradually faded over time, showing the traces of movements of people who had passed through the space in the past.


Singapore Art Show 2005 Catalogue, National Arts Council, Singapore, 2005, p. 63-63.

External Links


Alexander Mitchell teaches interactive media at the Communications and New Media Programme of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.

Before joining NUS, he was a lecturer at the School of Design, Nanyang Polytechnic, where he taught and developed projects in interactive media and games. Alex has worked as an interaction designer at IDEO, London, and at Kent Ridge Digital Labs (now called I2R), Singapore. He has a M.Sc. in Computer Science (Human-Computer Interaction) from the University of Toronto. His work has been shown at SIGGRAPH'98, at the Science Museum in London, at Graphite 2004 at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and as part of the Creative Curating Lab at the Singapore Art Show 2005.

His research interests include games studies, narrative and play, experimental gameplay, situated/ambient interaction, qualitative research methodologies for interaction design, and computer-supported cooperative work/play/learning. He teaches modules on game design, narrative and play in interactive media, and interactivity and everyday life.


Chapters in books

  • Posner, I.R., Mitchell, A., and Baecker, R.M., "Learning to Write Together Using Groupware", in Groupware and Authoring, Rada, R. (ed.), Academic Press, 1996, pp. 161-185.

Conference Papers

  • Das, T., Singh, G., Mitchell, A., Kumar, P.S., and McGee, K. "NetEffect: A Network Architecture for Large-Scale Multi-User Virtual Worlds", in Proceedings of VRST'97, ACM Press, New York, 1997, pp. 157-163.
  • Posner, I.R., Baecker, R.M., and Mitchell, A. "Evaluating Real Users, Using Real Software, Performing Real Tasks, in Real Contexts", in Proceedings of HCI International '97, Elsevier, 1997, pp. 597-600.
  • Das, T., Singh, G., Mitchell, A., Kumar, P.S., and McGee, K. "Developing Social Virtual Worlds using NetEffect", in Proceedings of WETICE'97, IEEE Computer Society Press, California, 1997, pp.148-154.
  • Mitchell, A., Posner, I.R., and Baecker, R.M., "Learning to Write Together Using Groupware", in Proceedings of CHI '95, Denver, Colorado, May 1995, pp. 288-295.


  • Mitchell, A. Communication and Shared Understanding in Collaborative Writing, Master's Thesis, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, 1996.


  • Baecker, R.M., Glass, G., Mitchell, A., and Posner, I.R., "SASSE: the Collaborative Editor", 8 minute refereed video tape presented at CHI '94; also published in SIGGRAPH Video Review 97, 1994.


Alexander Mitchell can be contacted by:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Telephone: (65) 6516 3021


His website is located at

Descartes and Material Falsity

A/P Cecilia Lim

"Descartes's account of material falsity is so obscure that scholars have called it a 'headache'. But understanding this account is crucial for understanding his views on truth and falsehood."

This project investigates the impact of the epistemic advances made within Descartes's Meditations on his account of material falsity - and hence on his account of truth, falsehood and ideational representation. It also examines the role played by Descartes's Third Meditation discussion of this notion in advancing the argument in the rest of the Meditations.

Descartes claims to have derived his notion of 'material' falsity from the late-Scholastic philosopher Francisco Suárez. Material falsity receives detailed treatment only twice in the whole Cartesian corpus – once in the Third Meditation, and once in Descartes's Replies to the Fourth Set of Objections to the Meditations, posed to him by theologian and philosopher Antoine Arnauld. Descartes's claims concerning the nature of material falsity in those two discussions are somewhat obscure and apparently contradictory - leading (longsuffering and occasionally frustrated) Cartesian scholars to label his account a 'headache' and a 'model of confusion confounded'. However, commentators recognize that an understanding of what Descartes held material falsity to be is crucial to understanding his views on the more 'mainstream' concepts of truth, falsehood and representation.

This project examines Descartes's account of material falsity with two considerations in mind:

  1. The recognition that the Meditations is an intellectual journey where the meditator's views change and develop as he makes new discoveries about God, self and matter;
  2. The influence on Descartes's metaphysics of earlier philosophers such as Suárez and Augustine.

With respect to the first, it is argued that attention to the epistemic advances made by the meditator in the Meditations will show that the account of material falsity therein evolves with these advances. This leads to changing criteria for what constitutes material truth and falsehood in an idea within the Meditations.

Again, attention to the meditator's Third Meditation account of material falsity reveals that it has, in its turn, important contributions to make to the further epistemic advances of the Meditations. It is shown that the notion of 'privation' as an absence of perfection, first bruited in this discussion, plays a role in the Third Meditation proofs of God's existence, and subsequently in the account of error (both epistemic and 'natural') and theodicy in the Fourth and Sixth Meditations. Indeed, the Third Meditation account of materially false ideas as due to 'privation' and 'defect' is shown to lead (admittedly by rather tortuous paths) to a revisionist account of Descartes's ethical views!

With respect to the second consideration (i.e. the influence of earlier philosophers on Descartes), one source of puzzlement for commentators is why Descartes explicitly claims that his notion of 'material' falsity is derived from Suárez, when there seems at first glance to be little in common between his account and the passage in Suárez that he refers his readers to. One aim of the project is to show that there are indeed significant similarities between the two accounts. Descartes's views on such notions as 'objective reality' (crucial to an understanding of material falsity) are also discussed and mapped onto Suárez's. Lastly, Augustine's account of privation in relation to the wider theodicy is shown to have influenced Descartes's own views on this issue in the Fourth Meditation.


The main publication resulting from this project is:

  1. Material Falsity and Error in Descartes's Meditations (London and New York: Routledge 2006)

This book includes material from some earlier papers:

  1. 'Materially False Ideas and the Arguments for God's Existence in Descartes's Meditations', in Joyce Jenkins, Jennifer Whiting and Christopher Williams, eds., Persons and Passions: Essays in Honor of Annette Baier (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press 2005)
  2. 'Descartes's Two Proofs of the External World', Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80 (2002): 487-501
  3. 'Self, Other and Community in Cartesian Ethics', History of Philosophy Quarterly 19 (2002):255-73

Some secondary literature that is very useful on Descartes's notion of material falsity and related topics can be found here.

Confucian Democracy

A/P Tan Sor Hoon

"People with a Confucian heritage should not have to choose between the false dichotomy of Westernization & authoritarianism. A Confucian way of life can also be democratic."

Starting out in an attempt to better understand Confucianism and its relevance to modern life, A/P Tan rejects Samuel Huntington�s judgment that �Confucian democracy?is a contradiction in terms. She argues that both the Western tradition of democracy and the Confucian tradition have valuable resources for modern living, but at the same time, both are in need of reconstruction. Societies with Confucian legacies in this part of the world are not condemned to authoritarian government or illiberal social order. Like other Asian societies, where East and West have been meeting for centuries, they could be the beneficiaries of two or several great traditions: they could bring about democracy without sacrificing their cultural heritage.

A/P Tan's monograph, Confucian Democracy, sets out to reconstruct a philosophical framework for Confucian democracy, through a comparison of the works of the American Pragmatist, John Dewey, who was arguably the most influential Western philosopher during the first half of the twentieth century, and pre-Qin Confucian texts. The reconstruction is based on detailed examination of key concepts found in the two traditions, such as individual, community, equality and liberty, in the context of different ways of pursuing ethical and political order. Some questions answered in the reconstructive process include: how could we conceive of individuals as social individuals without sacrificing individuality to the collective; how do we create and sustain harmonious communities that are not stifling internally and do not adopt "us-them" exclusionary mentality that is hostile to other groups; what is the relationship between ethics and politics; how do we move from the Confucian concern for government for the people to government by the people; how is it possible to respect authority and still be free?

Since completing the work on Confucian Democracy, A/P Tan has continued to elaborate, in journal articles and book chapters, on questions which were raised but could not be explored in detail in the book, such as how a Confucian civil society is possible and how it works; how we might purge Confucianism of its historical sexism for a more democratic understanding of gender within Confucian context while challenging some Western formulations of gender equality; whether there is room for creativity in Confucianism; how rituals as understood in Confucian ethics might improve democratic living; what are the differences between law and rituals and what are their relative merits as tools of government; why modern Confucians should desire democracy or advocates of democracy in East Asia should accommodate Confucianism.

Democracy as Pragmatic Experiment

A/P Tan's Deweyan reconstruction of Confucian democracy has led her into an exploration of the historical encounter between China and Pragmatist philosophy beginning with John Dewey's visit to China between 1919 and 1921, of how cultural differences lead to a Chinese Pragmatism that differs from its American cousin even though they share certain commonalities. She is currently working on a monograph that will explore the role of Pragmatism in China's quest for democracy.

Democracy as Culture

The Confucian democracy project taps into a wider field of questions about the relationship between democracy and culture, including questions about multiculturalism and cultural identity in politics, and whether the primacy of culture in some cases justifies antidemocratic political outcomes. A/P Tan's recent joint project with A/P John Whalen-Bridge from the Department of English Language and Literature is an international workshop on "Democracy as Art, Belief, and Culture." An edited volume is in the works that will examine the various connections between democracy and culture, exploring the conceptual and practical problems of conceiving of democracy as not merely a political system, but a culture, a whole way of life.


Confucian Democracy: A Deweyan Reconstruction. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.

"China's Pragmatist Experiment in Democracy." In The Range of Pragmatism and the Limits of Philosophy, ed. Richard Shusterman.Oxford:Blackwells, 2004.

Challenging Citizenship: Group Membership and Cultural Identity in a Global Age,(Ed). Aldershot, Hants, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005.



Tan Sor Hoon is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and was Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (Undergraduate Matters) for the term of 2005-2006.

A/P Tan's research interests include Comparative Philosophy, Confucianism and Pragmatism, Daoism, Legalism and Twentieth-century Chinese Philosophy. She holds degrees from Oxford University, National University of Singapore, and University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her doctoral research was a comparative study of the moral and political philosophy of early Confucianism and John Dewey. Prior to her doctoral studies, she has been Senior Research Officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Assistant Director at the Ministry of Law, Assistant Dean at the Civil Service College, as well as Corporate Development Manager at a listed company with diverse business interests in the region. She has been teaching at NUS since 2000 and was the recipient of an Excellent Teacher Award in 2005.

Apart from teaching and research, A/P Tan has also been involved in various outreach activities, including the Humanities and Social Sciences Research Project for secondary schools, the 6th Asia Europe Young Leaders Symposium held in Berlin, workshops for secondary school teachers involved in "Philosophy for Schools Program", etc.

Her detailed CV may by found here.


A/P Tan may be contacted by:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Telephone: (65) 6516 6290


Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Dean's Office, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences National University of Singapore

  • Add: The Shaw Foundation Building, Block AS7, Level 5
  • 5 Arts Link, Singapore 117570
  • Level 5 (Undergraduate) & Level 6 (Graduate)
  • Fax: +65 6777 0751
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