I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Anne Friedberg, a brilliant scholar I had the privilege of collaborating with on a project called “The Virtual Window Interactive,” a companion piece to her book The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Anne passed away a week ago today.
In the brief time during which I worked with Anne, I found her to be not just a brilliant thinker, but a wonderful collaborator with an infectious enthusiasm for the potential of the field. “The Virtual Window Interactive” was one of those rare projects which almost seemed to design itself, as if the ideas Anne had been exploring were anxiously awaiting just this kind of outlet. The inherent visual qualities of Anne’s subject matter, the excitement she had for the medium, and the depth and clarity of her analysis made the project a real pleasure to develop.
Most of our real-time contact during the project was via three-way videoconferences between Anne, Steve Anderson (who orchestrated our meeting and facilitated the project) and myself. I had a habit of taking screenshots during these calls, and thought I’d share an image of one of our lighter moments (see below). I remember Anne being intrigued by the “windows” of the videoconferencing interface itself; throughout the development of the project she was keen to stay abreast of the dizzying changes happening in screen space and wanted the piece to speak to those changes as much as possible.
Others have reflected more thoroughly on the breadth of Anne’s considerable contributions to her field and the positive impact she had on those who knew her personally. I didn’t know Anne well, but I’m grateful for even the brief chance I had to work with such a remarkable person. Thank you, Anne.
Just wanted to share a few snapshots taken just prior to the opening of the installation of Blood Sugar at the UCLA Art | Science Center (the exhibit runs through February 20). The event went quite well—people seemed to really be engaging with the content of the piece, and we got lots of positive feedback about the use of the Wii remote and nunchuk as controllers. “Feels like Minority Report,” one visitor commented.
One interesting tip that might be of use to other folks wanting to create Wii remote-driven installations using the sensor bar: we found that stacking two sensor bars one on top of the other resulted in significantly more reliable pointer control.
This Thursday, January 29 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm, UCLA’s Art | Science Center & Lab [directions] is hosting an opening reception for a three-week exhibit of two documentary projects by Sharon Daniel: Public Secrets and the forthcoming Blood Sugar—any interested Angelenos are welcome. I worked with Sharon designing and programming both projects. Here’s a description of Blood Sugar:
Blood Sugar is a “new media documentary” that examines the social and political construction of poverty, alienation, and addiction in American society through the eyes of those who live it. Blood Sugar provides an interactive interface to an audio archive of conversations with 24 current and former injection drug users recorded at the HIV Education and Prevention Program of Alameda County and in California state prisons. Since addicts must fear encounters with regimes of enforcement, they are afraid to be seen-but they do want to be heard. Theirs are the most important voices in the discourse around addiction, public health, poverty and belonging in America. Through the stories of those most affected by addiction, Blood Sugar challenges us to address question such as, what is the social and political status of the addicted? Is the addict considered fully human, diseased, possessed or wholly “other” and thus rendered ideologically appropriate to her status as less than human?
Barring technical issues, you’ll be able to navigate Blood Sugar with a Wii remote and nunchuk at the opening, which makes for quite an immersive experience. We’d love to see you there.
See below—an interview by Andrew Jakubowicz of the University of Technology Sydney with David Theo Goldberg, author of Blue Velvet, the Vectors project we collaborated on last year with Stefka Hristova. David has some kind things to say about my work, but more importantly the two engage in a rather deep, lengthy and wide-ranging discussion about the piece. If you’re interested in this project and the process by which it was created, give this clip a play.
In related news, we recently launched The Threat of Race, a companion site to David’s new book of the same title. The site includes a blog, as well as an interesting interactive feature called the ThreatMap—a Google Maps-based reference that locates concepts and media related to the book in both geographic and conceptual space.
HASTAC II, the second annual conference of the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, was held at UC Irvine and UCLA on May 22-24. The theme? “Technotravels.” Unfortunately scheduling conflicts prevented me from checking out many of the sessions (would love to have seen Brenda Laurel’s provocation, as her book Computers as Theatre was an early inspiration for me), but happily I was able to attend Curtis Wong’s presentation entitled “From Beethoven to Betelgeuse, 20 Years in the Quest for the Holy Grail of Interactive Storytelling.” It was great getting to hear about what Curtis has been up to since the Voyager days, and to get an introduction to his latest project, Worldwide Telescope—a kind of Google Earth for the sky that seamlessly integrates astrophotography from a variety of sources into an experience with lots of hooks for user-generated content.
I presented two projects at HASTAC II, the first of which was Viewfinder. The presentation was done on UC Irvine’s HIPerWall, the extremely high resolution display consisting of 50 30-inch Apple Cinema Displays linked together. I was able to distribute the presentation materials (slides, two videos, the Viewfinder web interface, and Google Earth itself) across the width of the screen, and while we weren’t running at the native resolution of the display, it was still pretty cool to be able to play with a visual field of that size. During the show I was able to give a look at the evolution of the Viewfinder web application UI since our initial release—in this version, we had the complete workflow running as a Flex application using the new Flash Google Maps API released the week before. The first session was very well attended, and I’m told there was some lively discussion afterwards. Thanks to David Theo Goldberg for inviting me to present on the HIPerWall, and Sung-Jin Kim for invaluable help with the presentation logistics.
The following day, Caren Kaplan and I presented our upcoming piece Precision Targets as part of the demo sessions at UCLA. Precision Targets combines six narratives about GPS and its movement from military to civilian use in a comic-book-inspired format (featuring art by Ezra Claytan Daniels) that places the narratives inside a navigable 3D cube with commentary written by Caren. The work was very well received—we got a lot of great feedback that we aim to translate into momentum to complete the project in the next few months.
Next up: A report on the Electronic Literature Organization conference in Vancouver, Washington…
Here’s a list of links to works cited in my recent talk “Storytelling in the Age of Divided Screens” at Gallaudet University.
I’m very happy to announce the launch of “Timeframing: The Art of Comics on Screens,” a new website that explores what comics have to teach us about creative communication in the age of screen media.
To celebrate the launch of Upgrade Soul, here’s a screen shot of an eleven year old prototype I made that sets artwork from Will Eisner’s “The Treasure of Avenue ‘C’” (a story from New York: The Big City) in two dynamically resizable panels.
The last couple of months have seen an uptick in published commentary on Strange Rain, much of it owing to notice the app received at this year’s Modern Language Association conference in Seattle.
Dialogue bubbles huddle together in the Unity authoring environment like backstage theatre performers awaiting their chance to shine in the forthcoming iOS and Android release Upgrade Soul, from Opertoon.