Technology in the Arts

News Roundup: New Possibilities In 3D

News Roundup: New Possibilities In 3D

AMT-Lab contributors are always looking at all sorts of new technologies in the world of 3D. With the increasing popularity of technologies such as 3D printing, the possibilities continue to emerge. These new technologies and their uses in the art world keep us interested in how the intersection of art and technology impact our world.

PIPS:lab Diespace, Interactive Multimedia Experience

PIPS:lab recently made its US debut during a festival featuring Dutch artists here in Pittsburgh.  The Amsterdam group has been performing together for about a dozen years.  The work that they performed was categorized as absurdist media theater and was a short evening length work without intermission.  The use of technology for this performing group is integral.  The performance itself was noteworthy for its innovation on a number of different levels.  It is worth noting, however, the problems that PIPS:lab had in functionally executing the performance due to glitchy technology. The performance, Diespace, was essentially an introduction to a fictional new social network site that audience members were encouraged to visit after they die (or die in order to visit).  The actors polled the audience about their opinions regarding whether or not there is life after (or before, humorously) death.  These polls were conducted with a cool audience participation tool of light capture setup where the audience essentially wrote on a screen upstage.

The other insertion of tech into the performance involved video/audio remixes of various clips taken of audience member during and before the show.  These clips were then edited in real time into the performance.  This, in turn, served to engage the audience but through a pretty controlled format.  The display of the video and audio taken from the audience drew laughter and made the audience excited and was a high point of the performance lending to greater investment from the collective.  Additional audience participate was to be had through a lottery during the show where the faces of the audience were put into a virtual tumbler on the screen upstage.  Three audience members won prizes with the grand prize being a premium account for Diespace (which included significant stage time for the audience member who won it).

The performance unfolded at a relatively brisk pace with musical interludes to cover moments where the technology and content was being prepped.  The problem with this was that the performers ended up being a bit un-invested in the music and as a result it was hard to be carried away by the performance.  It was easy to check out during these scenes through the distractions on stage.  It was the sense of this reviewer that there was only one true musician on stage, a fact that was born out by the program notes about the artists backgrounds.

At least three times during the performance there were loud warnings of a computer crash each time forcing the performers on stage to repeat a few moments to a few minutes of the action.  This in turn lent to a stutter stop feel to the performance.  Execution of Diespace did not look like it was easy and to be certain what PIPS:lab is trying to do is not easy in general.  They deserve applause for attempting to stitch together so many constituent elements in the moment.  It was fascinating at times to see the failures of the technology and there was rarely a moment where the audience did not have something that they could try to be engaged in.  The relative successes and failures of this performance reinforce the point that some technologies have a ways to go before they are both accessible to independent performing artists.

The innovation of groups like PIPS:lab hopefully will be the wave of the future and it is gratifying to see media artists take the stage with musicians and actors.  The combination of talents of stage was a rich soup and Diespace was a valuable experience for the insights that it gave with regards to generation of true multi-disciplinary live work.





Creators Project in San Francisco

Last weekend the Creator's Project garnered significant attention from national media.  From the mission statement on the website "The Creators Project is a global celebration of art and technology." and "The Creators Project is a new kind of arts and culture channel for a new kind of world."   As an intersection between art and tech it seems appropriate that the blog weigh in and take a look at what they did, how they did it, and the implications.  The Creator's Project has major sponsorship from Intel Corp and VICE with significant online free content focusing on mostly short form interview of Creator associated artists.  This Project offers similar promise to other ventures to offering culture and arts online to ideas such as On The Boards TV and Jacob's Pillow Virtual Pillow but is already operating on a much larger scale than either of these.

The Creators Project offers arts and culture online at a scale that is extraordinary for such a young institution.  The levels of participation on information sharing that is happening through their website looks unparalleled and should be looked towards as a model for successful integration of technology and the arts.   The Creators Project was started in May of 2010 by VICE and seems to have two major interfaces with the public.  There is a exhibit/show that has toured around the world each year and an expanding web presence that now counts video downloads in the millions.  The content is broken out into six different categories:  Music, Film, Art, Design, Gaming, and Fashion and has engaged with artists from all of these areas to provide content online and for the annual festival.  They will be rolling out content collected from the event last weekend (March 17-19, 2012) in the coming weeks.

Current content on the website is a mind blowing array of new directions taken by artists in each of the fields.  One of the standout artists at the event last weekend was a new work from visual multidisciplinary artist Chris Milk.  The installation called the Treachery of Sanctuary incorporated user interaction with digital transformation to look at elements of flight.  Visuals of this can be found here.

Anther fascinating example that was found on the Creator's Project website was the Electronic Shadow from France.  Electronic Shadow uses imaging technology and software to generate interactive 3D maps of people places and objects.  These images then can be used and manipulated in artistic fashions.  The implication for this technology would, for instance, be a game changing one for other art forms such as dance.

Exchange of ideas such as Creator's Project bring together the bleeding edge of Technology and the Arts and as such should be a point of engagement for institutions that are looking to modernize and include new audiences (and younger audiences).  The artists involved have obviously successfully engaged these audiences already and by following the lead of these success stories arts leaders at more conventional organizations can find hope in a new direction in reshaping structure and content to address the demands of a more complex world.





The Cloud

Moving your organization's data to a cloud server might be a good idea at this time.  There are several advantages to working off of a cloud server and a few drawbacks. Some advantages to going to cloud computing:

Accessibility is generally improved through cloud storage.  You can access data from anywhere that you have internet access.

Security on cloud storage services is up to the standard of where ever you have your cloud.  Google and Amazon have some of the best experts on digital security in the world for instance and using a cloud operated by them gives you a greater degree of safety for your data.

The Capacity of cloud storage is very flexible and is expandable with comparative ease.  The fact that cloud storage servers will never need to be upgraded or replaced does save you capital expenses as well as man hours.

The downside:

You don't own it and you have to play by someone else's rules.  If you are using a smaller company, please, make sure to check out their backup plans, security measures, and records regarding downtime and maintenance schedules.

It may be hard to use cloud servers with certain types of databases or other programs and as such may present an integration issue (ticketing systems, development programs, etc).  Make sure you have a plan to get the information from point A to point B if necessary.

In event that you don't have access to the internet you are completely cut off unless you back up to a physical source onsite.  It can be distressing for obvious reasons if your internet service goes sideways and you end up with multiple idle employees until it is restored.


Mobile Fundraising Applications: The Apple policy over one year later

Apple banned fundraising apps for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod over a year ago (to much controversy) just as the first fundraising app hit the market through eBay/MissionFish.  The field of software for fundraising as a result of the ban is anemic. Until this policy is removed it seems unlikely that major fundraising will take place via mobile applications.  As the iPhone is the number one smart phone on the market developers have much less incentive to build software for fundraising purposes.  It can be extrapolated that once the ban is lifted the fund-raising/development world will be playing catch-up for years.

Here are two notable successes/efforts to do fundraising through mobile apps over the last year:

eBay and Missionfish are on the verge of offering donation capabilities through eBay's mobile application for Android (it was originally intended for the iPhone).  These donations should be relatively easy to put through and involves the user downloading the mobile eBay application and then searching for your cause.  On the organization's end the donation item has to be set up as well as the account which will interface with paypal.

In the UK a group called Marie Curie Cancer Care managed to get around the ban by setting up an app that allows users to request donations from friends through text messaging.  The application itself doesn't collect the funds but is party to gathering them.

If you want to take action, you can sign the current petition to overturn the ban here.


The Rise of Online Philanthropic Contests

Over the past couple of years or so there has been a steady rise in the phenomena of competitive voting contests for not for profit organizations to receive grants for projects or operations.  These contests are run by large corporations as well as not for profit groups.  Examples of corporate contests take different shapes such as Pepsi's with the Pepsi Refresh Project which gives grants ranging from $5k to $50k based on competitive community voting toChase Community Giving which touts donations over $600 million dollars through Facebook contests.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation has similarly put contests into place by granting to various historic restoration projects based on the number of votes they receive online.

Whether these contests sit well with critic's ethical concerns or not, the volume of web traffic generated for the recipients, the donor organizations, and the organizations who compete but do not win is remarkable.  According to Pepsi, the most recent contest in the fall of 2011 garnered more than half a million distinct registrations with over 3.5 million votes counted on the Pepsi site alone.  If you aggregate this number with all of the site visits, social network hits, and emails then you have a truly noteworthy phenomena.

Why are people so invigorated by these contests?  There are less time intensive ways to earn money in aggregate.  One can point to the idea that the contest is a game and the competition itself is what people are engaging in more than the philanthropic cause.  It could also be argued that the community effort of building a team to go online and vote for the cause for multiple days has an intrinsic value as well and that by the simple act of building this team you are building and drawing constituents deeper into the arts community.

As these online contest continue even more organizations are starting to do them. The Humane Society recently used a online photo contest to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Case Foundation has been running a voter based contest for years, and American Express has also run contests in the past.

The following are some tips that have been gleaned from articles and criticism of various contests mentioned previously:

1)  Make sure that the contest aligns with your mission.  By diverting resources for a potential pie in the sky pot of money you can detract from your organization's true work.

2)  Ask what your organization can gain from competing for these pots of money?  Set forward goals of community building and identify volunteers to assist with these aims.

3)  If you are going to market this to your patrons identify your budget for staff time and delegate a reasonably proportional amount of money to pursue getting the word out.

4)  Don't start mid-steam.  Almost all winners of these contests have strong starts and once you are behind in the voting it is hard to keep up.  If you see a contest in progress that you would have liked to take part in simply put it on your calendar for an effort next year as your opportunity may all ready have passed.