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Artistic Tools and DIY Networks

Finally met Jill Walker during the break! Now on to the next panel - but it's very dark in here so I'll apologise in advance for any typing errors. Mary Flanagan and Ken Perlin are presenting on their RAPUNSEL project. The motivation is that very few of the programmers and other IT professionals in the US are women (7%), so the project is to develop a game to attract girls to the area. The main drop-off point for interest amongst girls is around middle school, but they are and remain very interested in online gaming (over 60% of the gamers in Sims Online are women). The project builds on this by using 'computer clubhouses' in poor and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in New York (which are sponsored by Intel). The combination of everyday desires and technology enables the expression of a possible world (building on Deleuze). So how can hacker and middle-schooler cultures be connected in this way?

Early experiments of the project were simple to develop some believable 3D animated characters which were developed in consultation with the target audience of 12-year-old girls. Such characters could then embody specific programmes, for example. You then end up with directable virtual actors - which are here told to dance, for example. Thus, kids could learn computer programming through choreographing the dance. Further, kids could learn the architecture of the game and build more frameworks for what is actually possible in the game environment, and the kids would become interested in programming or hacking the game. Finally, a problem with all of this is the school environment itself. Parents aren't necessarily sold on the idea of their kids learning to programme ('why not just use existing software'), and of course US schools are sometimes directly technology-sponsored by Microsoft, so the open source nature of this project is problematic from these schools' point of view...

Next is Adam Hyde of Radioqualia. He begins by talking about the Frequency Clock project, an attempt to find unique ways in which Internet and radio could be combined. A pecursor for this was based at De Waag in Amsterdam, and enabled people from all over the Net to broadcast their audio via FM radio in Amsterdam. Later this was also transformed into a TV broadcast. The structure was very flat, with few preinscribed scheduling or programming rules. Content ranged from original material to stuff copied from all over the Net, and there was even a local real estate agent using the system for advertising. Eventually, this was further expanded to satellite TV. Finally, then, this was converted into an open source system. There are some problems with the free and open software system, of course - the definition of 'free' (as in speech, or as in beer)? Free, perhaps, as in 'you'? How is FOSS supported from an economic point of view? Finally, then, he introduces a project called ReCo(de)R - remote-controlled radio. This looks to integrate diverse audio sources into one output, and constitutes audio augmented by an underlying database. And some other interesting pointers from him: Radio Astronomy Open Sauces

Finally on to the two Johns from Critical Artware: they introduce their Liken system. As a group they are interested in the history of media and video art and particularly in the experience of the pioneers of this area (whether current or from decades past). Liken consists of a swishly designed demo which promises the world in neural information networking - a 'distributed human neural network'. Of course, this is a parody - but it mirrors many of the wild promises of similar such knowledge base projects. And there is a  real project in here somewhere... (I think!)