Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Videos from Mike Wesch & Students

Before class on Thursday, March 27, please view these videos by cultural anthropology professor Mike Wesch and students of the Digital Ethnography program at KSU.

Welcome to "Cultures of EDP," Spring 2014

Welcome to our class blog!  I'm posting some material here that I refer to in our class introduction.  Please feel free to comment or ask questions in the space provided.

 "Spongebob Squarepants 300"


Grumpy Cat & President Obama Memes

Here is the link to the class website with calendar, assignments, and links to other resources:


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stranger Visions: Portraits of the Anonymous

As the technological and scientific world have been rapidly developing and the tools and technologies that are now available to us have immense capabilities, the mediums and possibilities for artists are practically limitless. We live in an age where the art world is not bound to the classical mediums of the past and can be seen utilizing the many technologies available in the modern world. Heather Dewey-Hagborg project Stranger Visions is an outstanding example of this.
It all began with a random hair stuck in the wall that provoked the artist to wonder whom the face behind the hair was. With no prior experience with biology or genetics Dewey-Hagborg got inventive and came up with a proposal, which she presented to various residency and grant programs, eventually landing her a gig with Eyebeam. She didn’t end up finishing the project with Eyebeam, however they gave Heather all the necessary training to start the project she had long envisioned.
The project was made possible by 3d modeling software. The software, later created out of the bio lab Genspace, was based off the facial recognition algorithms Heather Dewey-Hagborg and others came up with from Eyebeam. The software analyzes sequences DNA and further breaks down the DNA to find areas responsible for specific traits. Isolating these areas and recreating them, Dewey-Hagborg is able to create hypothetical reconstructions of the original proprietors of the DNA she collects.
So whom does Heather exactly decide to create? Besides all the technical and scientific aspects of the project, the creative element is really tied in with who Heather Dewey-Hagborg decided to recreate, strangers; hence the project’s name Stranger Visions. By turning to public places such as bus stops, restrooms, therapist’s office, etc., the identity of some of the collected DNA remains entirely unknown. However she did recreate herself. The results ended up being remarkably spot on.
Although the Stranger Visions project started as a clever idea, the possibilities opened from this project and from the 3D modeling software that Dewey-Hagborg and the biologists at Genspace, open up immense possibilities. Imagine how such a technology would benefit the world of criminal justice, or the benefits this technology would present to historians and so on. Softwares with these capabilities mark a tremendous accomplishment in the modern world.
The problem arises culturally when we have to decide how much credit to give to this technology. For example when does the technology become more trusted upon than the person? We tend to over credit artificial intelligence when there are faults and choices made by the artists and forensic biologist when shaping the models. I believe as this technology further develops, diplomatic problems will arise on the accreditation of artificial intelligence in our society.
Stranger Visions started as a clever idea, and was executed as a successful art project. The project stirs the viewer’s curiosity of the faces behind the DNA strangers leave behind in our public spaces during their daily routines. The project marks a contemporary development landmark with the software development and algorithms that Heather Dewey- Hagborg created during the project. Time will tell how this technology develops in the future.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Sounds of Mission Control

The International Space Orchestra is a part of a project called “Ground Control” started by French artist Nelly Ben Hayoun.  According to the article published on the Creators Project website Ben Hayoun is known as an experience designer. She is very much so equally enthusiastic about sound and outer space and decided it was time to merge the two together in an authentic way.  Now based in Silicon Valley, CA, home of the NASA Ames Research Center, she approached several members of NASA about grabbing a noisemaker and re-creating the sounds heard in mission control during various space missions.  This collective of scientists and NASA personnel, now turned “kling-klangers”, have formed together as the International Space Orchestra with a mission of playing purely for that which dwells in the cosmos. 
            The notion of playing purely “for space” and not for humans has been going on strongly before the International Space Orchestra.  In the world of popular culture, experimental music innovator Sun Ra had been doing this since he first let the hammer down on a piano string.  Although there is no doubt that Sun Ra and his Arkestra were truly beaming sonic madness off of this planet, from a scientific and physical perspective their message hadn’t truly gone into orbit just yet.  The original idea for the ISO was to merge science and sound together to produce something incredibly original.  Therefore, it made perfect sense to grab individuals who had a few tales involving dealing with the outside world.  In addition to the NASA crew, Ben Hayoun snatched some unbelievably creative, and cool musicians such as Damon Albarn from the British group Blur, and more recently known as the mastermind behind the one-man project known as the Gorillaz.  Albarn definitely seemed qualified, and someone who worked in a frame of mind perfectly paralleling Ben Hayoun’s space crusade.  The group recorded a performance at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in September and plan on having that recording translated into an Arecibo message and sent to a satellite to tickle the aural senses of the vast, dark universe. 
            The International Space Orchestra Nelly Ben Hayoun has put together is strikingly penetrative both technically and culturally.  It is interesting to put an outlet such as sound generation into the hands of the scientifically savvy folks over at NASA and incomprehensible to think about where they could send those sound waves.  There are many distinct and wonderful sounds planet earth has to offer that could quite convincingly make a perfect marriage with whatever sonic attributes the universe has to offer.  Sound is the perfect medium to use as a test subject for wide-bandwidth communication between humans and the mysterious beings to the left, right, below and above us.  There must be great level of enthusiasm not only from Ben Hayoun, but also from anyone who is interested in sound, music, extraterrestrial messages, and the cosmos.  Many times those interests occupy the same individual and there is no doubt that the International Space Orchestra is a giant step towards the primal goal of one day exhibiting and discovering rock n’ roll in outer space.

The Real Life Mario Kart

When you enter what game designers call the “magic circle” you enter the world and abide by the rules and procedures of the game.  Waterloo expanded the circle to include a real life track with power-ups. The power-ups and go-karts were controlled by compact RIO (cRIO) that receives the signals from the items and makes the according adjustments to the control of the car.  The items work with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology; the items hold a specific signal that activates a reaction when in the vicinity of a go-kart.  All the karts were connected wirelessly via a router.  Every kart’s router was connected to a central wireless router, which held the variables that each kart could use to share their information.  The system was run on LabView, a graphical programming language that allowed them to have one code for the acquisition of signal on the go-kart and one for the running of the items on the main pc.   They used this system to create a greater game framework that puts the player in the “magic circle”.
            The jump that waterloo made was a demonstration of the advancement of augmented reality over the past 10 years.  The technology needed and the ingenuity required to create a game in the real world gives only a select few who could get the funding and the tools needed to create the game.  As such there aren’t very many well-designed real-life games.  People on the Internet dream of bringing their favorite games into the real world, such as the Internet sensation FreddieW who specializes in live action videos.  Many of his videos focus on the world of gaming.  One such video is a creation of how Mario Kart would play out in the real world.  Waterloo took this innovative to a new level and made a working game.  They broke the boundaries because they adapted and used the technology that we have today.
            Mario Kart in real life is a massive technological innovation.  Technology has seen exponential growth over the past 30 years.  In the 70’s the government or companies mostly used computers.  In the late 70’s companies began to push the idea of a “home computer”.  Home computers began to sell in the 80’s and were very limited in what they could do.  Jump to the early 90’s and computers were more advanced where they were able to run CD-ROMs (introduced in 85).  Now in 2013 we are able to have small handheld computer in our pockets.  Video games have evolved a long way from simple games on a computer to large strategic games on new consoles.  Home systems were created and new ways of involvement in the games were created like wireless and motion control.  Now the next step in innovation has come, bringing games to the real world where players can interact with the game on a physical level.  Yet there are some psychological and social impacts we must consider.  Referencing the recent movie Gamer (a movie where the characters are humans in real life that die), what is the next step for first person shooters and other games with killing?  Gamer poses a problem that could occur in our society that may impact us psychologically.   Where will we draw the line on human involvement?  We as a society will have to face this problem in the near future.


Global Twitter Heartbeat

            Global Twitter Heartbeat reflects the location of sentiments that are sent out via Twitter during two specific timeframes: the 2012 US Presidential Election and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. While the project is not the first to offer a map of what we are doing in the “Twitterverse” at any given point in time, it is the first visualization that combines population, color tone, and geographic analytics to create an animated heat map. Researchers Kalev H. Leetaru and Shaowen Wang based at the University of Illinois use the SGI UV 2000 Big Brain supercomputer at to power the project. According to a press release from SGI in Hamburg, Germany on June 18, 2012, “the new design creates a level of accessibility to large coherent memory systems for researchers while enabling users to find answers to the world’s most difficult problems on a system as easy to administer as a workstation.”
            During the Hurricane Sandy Tweetbeat, the colors on the map are representative of the way Twitter users were feeling, according to the tweets that were posted. The color red was representative of a more negative sentiment, whereas the color blue represented of a more positive sentiment. Every tweet is therefore analyzed to assign location in the processing of the text itself. In the case of the presidential election however, blue represented pro-Barack Obama tweets and red for pro-Mitt Romney tweets. In a video that captures the election through Tweetbeat it must be recognized how much blue appears on the US map when Obama gives his victory speech. It is apparent that these maps are not telling us anything that we didn’t know (Obama won the election and people were concerned about Sandy…so what?). What then is the point of this project then, when “the world’s largest data-mining machine” can be doing other productive projects like “ingesting the entire contents of the U.S. Library of Congress print collection in less than three seconds?”
            This new technology allows for us to peer into the heartbeat of our society that revolves around social media and sharing. With this new “telescope,” it is expected that it will be used for other informational needs, especially advertising. With the ability to collect a general consensus on most topics on Twitter, we will not only have access to our own country’s ideas, but others as well. The development of Twitter was initially intended for media users to “follow” everything from news to specific individuals who are found to be the most compelling and interesting. It later grew to become a way of advertising and promoting for businesses towards their followers. One can see photos, videos, and full on conversations and is thus exposed to news within seconds. With just a simple Tweet, millions of people are notified when a major event has occurred in one area of the country, however it is a lot more personal than hearing it from the news. The Global Twitter Heartbeat project demonstrated how scientists, and eventually marketers, can use high performance computers to track real-time unstructured data.

Popkin, Helen. "Supercomputer Uses Twitter to Tell How You're Feeling." Technology on NBCNews.com. NBC News, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/supercomputer-uses-twitter-tell-how-youre-feeling-1C7073314>.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Is finger-painting truly an art form? What about digital finger-painting? Microsoft’s ‘Paint’ application stands alone as one of the first artifacts for creating such digital canvas works. Artist Michael Manning first began implementing such a practice into an ongoing piece entitled “Microsoft Store Paintings”, which exist online only, for any computer user to view. The work utilizes the current version of the software on the newly released Windows 8, which introduced a more versatile and dynamic version of the software, with more creative abilities and room for artistic exploration/expression. These paintings represent a contemporary development in the public conception of ‘fine art’ as well as how art is ‘intended’ to be viewed. Manning does not physically own any such device, and instead uses the new ‘Fresh Paint’ application and a Microsoft touchscreen, all housed within the physical Microsoft retail store. These works are then uploaded via social media outlets and Manning’s website, enabling an instant and almost ‘art-world’ incompatible representation of works of ‘high art’. 
Instead of forcing viewers into a gallery space, Manning allows the Internet to exist as his vehicle for the dispersal of his works to the public. This suggests a new relationship emerging between the corporate defined digital parameters within software, implementation of such software into the public sphere by such corporations, and the in-between of users and developers, functioning and utilizing the software within such a ‘defined’ parameters. Acting as an involved consumer rather than a passive one, Manning’s use of Microsoft’s Paint application, technical hardware, and physical business space for creating digital artworks successfully breaks the mold of both how users interact with such remedial design programs, as well as how contemporary digital art outlets are challenging public conceptions of what the internet is used for, how users interact and function within a digital corporate-defined reality, and especially how society defines the correct way for exhibiting and viewing artworks.
Once a single user, digitally contained and ‘lo-fi’ software, such artworks would never be widely viewed or understood after completion on a user’s PC. This implementation of such a tool attempts to push our conceptions of both how artwork is created, what tools are kosher to use, as well as how it is distributed and consumed after completion. Manning creates digital representations of physical paintings utilizing only tools provided by a major corporation, suggesting a play between the defined ‘creative’ corporate control written in the program and Manning’s own artistic abilities and understanding of the digital medium provided to him. 
Originally conceived and implemented with the first versions of windows, MS Paint introduced many first time computer users to the idea of painting on a computer. Not to say there were not such applications before, but many were designed with professionals in mind rather than for a consumer market. As technology developed, so did the program and its functionality. Users could originally paint simple colors on a single page, with only a few options for brushstrokes and artistic effects. Later developments included many photoshop-esque features such as artistic brush strokes, alpha layers, 10 undo’s (rather than 3), and even a grayscale, pushing conceptions of professional/consumer design practices. Michael Manning was not the first MS Paint artist, but his implementation of such work via social media, as well as its conception and creation within the physical Microsoft stores suggest a contemporary development in a once private and widely under-represented creative practice. If more users learn Paint, will they eventually also learn Photoshop?