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New Media Arts

Palpable Creativity, Cognition, Collaboration

Washington, D.C.
We're now in the wrap-up session for Creativity & Cognition 2007. Programme co-chair Elisa Giaccardi begins by highlighting the range of themes, topics, and disciplinary backgrounds represented here, and introduces keynote speaker Thecla Schiphorst. Thecla begins by noting the increasing miniaturisation of computing technology, and the invisibility of the object which follows from this increases the visibility of our own presence and contributions. She frames this in a field of somatics: the felt experience of the self, through lived experiences, first-person methodologies, tension and movement, and a phenomenological understanding.

New Musical Instruments and Tools for Collaboration

Washington, D.C.
I got back a little late from today's lunch, and missed most of the first couple of papers in the next session here at Creativity & Cognition 2007. The paper by Kirsty Beilharz and Sam Ferguson is already in progress; they enhanced a Japanese flute, the shakahachi, with a variety of extra-instrumental sensors which drive a generative music system, creating a hyper-instrument, or a creative environment for the instrument. The environment senses the player's physical gestures while plying the instrument; some such gestures already exist as part of the normal process of playing the shakahachi, and the environment therefore enhances and builds on the often unconscious movements of the player, enabling them to exploit techniques they already have. Additionally, qualities of the instrument tone itself (breathiness, noisiness, and other qualities) are also monitored and harnessed.

New Approaches to Design

Washington, D.C.
The next session at Creativity & Cognition 2007 starts with a paper by Ron Wakkary and Leah Maestri. They note the rise of ubiquitous computing as providing a new focus on design for the home, and point to the fact that in the home, evolutionary solutions to common problems are most appropriate; this relies on pliable, changeable artefacts which enable users to be everyday designers of their home environment. Creativity in this context is a quality of resourcefulness and adaptivity, and relies on 'tinkerability': appropriation of available tools and technologies, their adaptation, and judgments of quality. Ron and Leah conducted a study examining such practices in a number of homes.

Environments for Creative Work

Washington, D.C.
The final day of Creativity & Cognition 2007 has begun, and Andrew Warr and Eamonn O'Neill are making a start. The note that design is a collaborative creative process, and that a number of tools for the creation, manipulation and dissemination of externalisations and boundary objects in design. Externalisations, such as sketches, complement verbal communication and allow for the creation of tangible forms for ideas; boundary objects are externalisations that are used to communicate and facilitate shared understandings. For Schön, this enables a design process of seeing-drawing-seeing, facilitating the development of individual and shared understandings and of a common ground in a group, in an iterative process.

Creating, Sharing, Using, Produsing

Washington, D.C.
We're in the last session for today already, and Stefan Schutt makes a start. He's in the process of building Small Histories, a Website for users to upload and compare their life stories. Stefan begins by sharing his own very interesting life story (his family originates from Pomerania, and is now spread across the world including relatives in Germany, France, and Israel). Inspired by such family history, Stefan has built a Website for uploading and sharing this and similar stories; this enables users to compare perspectives on events and times in history through sharing their own small histories, putting them out into the public domain without the need for turning them into something else first.

Models for Creative Collaboration

Washington, D.C.
The next presenters at Creativity & Cognition 2007 are Yun Zhang and Linda Candy, focussing on art-technology collaborations. Her study focussed on a specific group of collaborators developing a new media art project reinterpreting the experience of exploring the Brickpit Ringwalk in Sydney. Collaboration took place in face-to-face, proposal-assisted, drawing-assisted, computer-assisted, and interactive artefact-assisted modes, and such interactions were analysed in Yun and Linda's research. The results are perhaps what one would expect: face-to-face and proposal-assisted modes of collaboration decline over the duration of the project, while computer- and interactive artefact-assisted forms of collaboration pick up as the process develops. This indicates perhaps the growing maturity of the project itself, and points to the crucial role that mediation technologies play in developing a project.

Creative (Approaches to) Education

Washington, D.C.
The next session at Creativity & Cognition continues the focus on education. Su Zheng and Martin Adam are the first presenters. Their focus is on producing interactive exhibits for children in the 7-11 age group, who are in a 'concrete' cognitive stage in their interaction with technology - not uncreative, but engaging mainly with the existing affordances of technology rather than exploring its possible extensions. They point to a number of recent exhibits in UK museums which largely failed in their aim to get children involved; in particular also because they did not provide sufficient potential for social interaction.

Creativity and (through, Supporting, ...) Cognition

Washington, D.C.
I'm spending the next couple of days at the Creativity & Cognition conference here in Washington. Ernest Edmonds begins by noting that the conference series itself (which has been running since 1993) started from the intention to bring together artists and scientists, and that it's been successful at setting the seeds for increased collaborations between the fields; indeed, questions around creativity and innovation have become highly central to many projects and programmes in scientific research and beyond.

Developments in Visual Art

The penultimate plenary here at MiT5 has started, and I'm afraid I walked in a little late and missed part of the introduction to Reproduction, Mimicry, Critique and Distribution Systems in Visual Art. The first speaker is Michael Mittelman from ASPECT, who founded the group out of a frustration with the lack of availability of contemporary video art in useful formats. He began by collecting such works and documentary videos about them, but then also began to develop DVDs collecting such works and offering optional voiceover tracks of the artists speaking about their works. Such DVDs needed to be affordable and comfortable, and are designed for home use rather than simply for use in exhibition spaces, which are traditionally very ill suited to longer-form video content. However, galleries make a percentage off low-volume, high-cost DVD content; they are poorly equipped (and generally disinterested) for producing such DVDs in higher volume for a home market.

Web2.0 Critiques

(I'm afraid I accidentally deleted a couple of comments here last night - please repost them if you can!)

It's the last day of MiT5, and we're in the first session of the day. Mary Madden from the Pew Center is the first speaker, on Socially-Driven Music Sharing and the Adoption of Participatory Media Applications. She notes that the term Web2.0 is imperfect but convenient for summarising many of the current developments in the online world. Tom O'Reilly defines Web2.0 as harnessing social effects; it may not be a revolution, but there have been important changes. We now need to think critically about how and why it emerged as a major force in the first place.


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