Unfortunately today is my last day in the employ of the Spencer Museum of Art working on the Arts, Research, Collaboration initiative. It has been a very fun ride over the last two years. The image above if from my first day in the ARC office and a lot has changed since then. I have worked with many great colleagues and many great artists, scientists, and technologists. Now it is time for me to get back to being an artist researcher. My wonderful colleague Rebecca Blocksome is off to do residencies at the Pistoletto Foundation and the Banff Centre this autumn. Thanks to everyone who has been involved in ARC over the last two years. ARC will continue on in some form at the Spencer so keep an eye on this space and don’t hesitate to get in touch.
SMA & ARC Postdoctoral Researcher, Steven Duval, and SMA Videographer, Ryan Waggoner, made a film for the Hybrid Practices Conference called ‘Peer Review’. The film which was shot in November 2014 and January 2015 is comprised of interviews with Maurice Tuchman, Jane Livingston, Julie Martin, Robert Whitman, Elsa Garmire, and John Pierce. The film explores issues relating to collaborations between artists, technologists, and scientists in the historical projects of E.A.T. and Art & Technology at LACMA. These photos are from both film shoots and show Duval & Waggoner working with various interviewees who were kind enough to offer their time and sometime their homes for filming. Special thanks to Julie Martin who was instrumental in facilitating some of the interviews. The film was generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Paulus Maximus
While normally I’m not a huge fan of information visualization projects, this physics-botany-architecture hybrid looks amazing!
Educational Technologist Dana Atwood-Blaine and I have created a game for the exhibition, Art + Science, at The University of Kansas’ Watson Library and would love it if you would come a play. Using the ARIS platform, players use the books throughout the stack to create a practice-led research question and get all of the research grant money. It is currently in its beta form so there are still a few bugs to work out. Please try it out and help us make it better and more fun.
Last week I attended the Games, Learning, Society conference in Madison, WI. It was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning through games. The first day was spent at the ARIS summit. ARIS or Augment Reality for Interactive Storytelling is the platform we plan to use for our Performing History project. At the summit I met the very affable David Gagnon, who started ARIS while doing his masters. I also heard about some great projects using ARIS and participated in a workshop to use ARIS in its current format. In September ARIS is rolling out its 2.0 version that uses HTML 5.
The second day of the conference I saw many different presentations discussing games in a learning environment. The first talk I saw was on the obligatory nature of games in the classroom and whether the context kills the fun. It was interesting as an outsider to see an important debate within this context about the imperative that games be ‘fun’. That session linked really well with the next session I went to on failure in games. This series of papers addressed how failure is built into commercial games and the prescriptive nature of ‘winning’ games versus exploring games. These papers examined how we define success and if there is room for other kinds of players that explore, subvert, or circumvent the game protocols and world. A big word in this conference was agency. Agency was the key to getting players immersed, involved and invested in the game. Without it players will learn less and are less likely to even finish a game. Another paper’s research focused on the player’s empathic connection to his/her avatar. There was an extensively detailed paper on how avatars that are created by players (versus generic avatars) allow for the players to be immersed in the world and fully identify with their characters.
In the afternoon I went to a paper session on analytics. How do we get data from games that are useful, and how do we get qualitative information from the click stream? There was a lot of talk about testing as often as possible during the development of the game. The second afternoon session was dedicated to getting students to understand ideologies and how they operate in the worldview of politicians. This was interesting, since the connection between the two proved to be difficult for most undergraduate students. Despite many iterations of similar games, students couldn’t make the connection between an ideology of e.g. ‘Libertarianism’ and politicians who call themselves Libertarian. There was also discussion about creating a cognitive empathic response in players which boiled down to more peer-to-peer interactions.
On the third day the keynote was Scot Osterweil from MIT. He, echoing conversations from the day before, talked about making sure that the game is a space of freedom and play. He saw many games as being deterministic but saw freedom to play in the world of a subject to be as good as it could get in terms of engagement. The morning session was about interactions in games. The first paper was a science school project, using ARIS, to get students to solve a mystery using science. What I got out of this paper was the nature of language in determining how players interact with each other and the game—if a player used positive language, their interactions and learning were stronger.
The afternoon was focused on the role that gender plays in games. As you might imagine, the world of games is quite male-oriented, and this session analyzed the reason why through interviews with women in the industry. There was also an analysis of Lego in determining gender roles and agency. The final program was about how role-playing games can be used in the classroom. Overall the week was great. I met a lot of people, as GLS is a very friendly conference.
For more information go to:
We’ve been away from blogging for a while because we have been developing a project called Performing History. The project uses a mobile phone and GPS application (or app) to help guide users across the urban terrain and to interact with it virtually throughout history. This app allows the user to choose an identity/avatar to embody and interact with a historical environment. The platform we intend to use is called ARIS, which was developed by the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The game requires players to have basic cell-phone knowledge, including how to upload a picture, tag an image, or record a video. Users will work their way through the game, utilizing creative problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles in the historical narrative. Sometimes the game will ask them to encounter a historical context as well as respond to it, and have agency in the story. By doing this, users will create possible histories and have more buy-in within the process of engagement with subject. Users will also be able to interact with each other, developing more complex narratives.
The game will deal directly with Lawrence’s rich history, from its origins as an abolitionist town to the early life of Langston Hughes and other prominent African Americans who lived here. Delving into this history will help users to see the time and place they currently live in with new eyes. The game will also make history more engaging for participants, giving them an entryway to further scholarship and a relationship with the past. One of the main goals for the project is to give users what the sociologist Victor Turner called a “liminoid” experience—an experience of personal and social ambiguity, with multiple possible outcomes. Role-play games often provide liminoid experiences for players, giving them an opportunity to consider life through the eyes of others.
Reference Link – http://arisgames.org/
Today at ARC we had a fantastic virtual meeting with the people at arts@CERN and collide@CERN. This collaboration was the brainchild of Daniel Tapia Takaki who is a physicist at KU and CERN. The team at CERN were Panos Charitos, Adelina von Fürstenberg, and Rosalind McLachlan. Today it was decided that we will be having public and private roundtable discussions on November 19th at The Commons here in Lawrence. Rosalind will be discussing her project ‘CERN as an Archeological Site’ and Adelina will be presenting the past projects at CERN. We at ARC are very excited by the project and the possibilities of what future projects we might make together. Below you can find out more about everyone involved in our collaboration. We will be posting more on this project as it progresses.
After being in lovely southern California I flew up to the Bay area for the fourth and final day of the ARC research visits. On March 13 at I met with Tony Cascardi, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley and founding member of the Arts Research Center. Tony talked about how practice-led research was being done there. They have created structures, led by faculty, which can be duplicated depending on the various subjects that they are engaged in at the moment such as ‘Global Urban Humanities’ and ‘Art + Time’. Each research unit has a team of faculty members and is driven by different members for specific projects under each research heading. He also talked about how they interacted with the university art space there, the David Brower Center.
Later in the day I met with the wonderful Sarah Curran, program director of the Arts Institute at Stanford University. Sarah, who started at the program’s inception, told me about its history and the importance that the university administration has placed on Stanford students engaging with the arts. The project was started because the arts were named as one of five presidential priorities in 2008. They are funded by endowments and will be moving into a new building that will also house the Anderson Collection; it is located next door to the Cantor Arts Center. Sarah emphasized the importance of faculty buy-in early in the project, with student buy-in closely following. They now feel that after initiating mostly faculty- and student-driven projects, they can move on to bringing in artists to work with other disciplines on collaborative projects. She talked about how Stanford now offers majors in computer science + music and computer science + dance. It was a really fitting end of the research journey that allowed us to see many different and exciting projects taking place in California around art, science, and technology. Please see the links below for more information on these projects.
On March 12 Steve Goddard and I drove down to the campus of the University of California at San Diego where we met with Sheldon Brown, who runs the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and is professor and vice chair of the art department there. Sheldon also runs the Center for Hybrid Multi-core Productivity Research. He comes to the question of hybrid practice from a very interesting position. Although trained in the arts, he creates work through computing and has done so since the early nineties. He has written several grants to the NSF that have been funded, and he has been working with one foot in the field of art and one in the field of computing for some time. One of the things that Sheldon talked about was trying to get technologists and artists to work together on problems where they use imagination through technology. Some of his collaborative research projects have paired science fiction writers with technologists.
We also met with Lisa Cartwright, professor of communication and science studies at UCSD, who is moving to visual arts and works with Jordan Crandall, who is chair of the art department and director of the active structures + materials research unit. Jordan had kindly set up a meeting with us a few times but unfortunately was unable to make our meeting because of a scheduling conflict. Lisa told us that the research unit had been given a new space in the Structural Materials and Engineering building. She also told us about the great work being done by EMPAC and Patricia Olynyk at Washington University. Lisa was also kind enough to elaborate on her current work around wind turbines in Kansas. Both Lisa and Sheldon were fantastic and I recommend that you check out their work, and Jordan’s, via the links below.
Day 2 of the ARC research trip took Saralyn Reece Hardy, SMA Director, Steve Goddard, Associate Director and Head Curator, and me to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. There we met with Amy Heibel the associate vice president of technology, web, and digital media there who is also running the Art + Technology Lab. Amy was kind enough to tell us about the private partnerships the museum developed to get the project started and how the museum was moving toward a more user based model. Amy took us to their space in the Balch Library and told us about some of their plans for the future. If you click on the link below you will see the start of what promises to be a great project in the spirit of LACMA’s seminal ‘Art & Technology’ exhibition. After our visit with Amy we saw a lot of great art including the James Turrell retrospective and ‘See the Light: Photography, Perception, Cognition’.
Our second visit that day was to UCLA again where we met with Christina Agapakis who has created a very interesting hybrid practice between visual art and synthetic biology. Christina was kind enough to show us her lab as well as give us a tour of the campus on our way to visit the Art|Sci Lab in the Broad Center for Art. Christina introduced us to the lab’s director Victoria Vesna who told us about all of the projects that they were doing. Victoria told us about how she felt that the core of a good collaboration was friendship and that a real collaboration was one that lasted years. She also told us about their Nanolab which is a summer school for young artist/scientists who work with various specialists over their term. The Art|Sci Lab is a really wonderful project and you can read about via the links below.