Prepping for a talk from Johannes Birringer

Over the past year or so, I’ve been mulling ideas over in my mind surrounding the confluence of dance and movement, technology, business, psychology, anthropology, design, architecture…just many, many ideas. Not only has it been hard to keep these ideas straight for myself as I develop them, it’s also been very difficult for me to articulate my thoughts to others or to find research articles that reflect my thoughts. At one point, the best I was able to do was to create a semi-affinity diagram on notebook paper, with lines connecting all my terms to each other. Sadly, it just looked like a very sophisticated, yet abstract word find.

Searching for justification of my ideas was frustrating, and it was hard to find any information relating to what my interests were developing into. I knew there was something out there that must have had some relevance to my interests, but it was discouraging to come up empty so much. I had never come across it anything combining movement, performance, business, technology, and design it in any of the literature I was familiar with relating to human-computer interaction, or even user experience design.

Finally, sometime last year I found an editorial written by Johannes Birringer. It had been published in the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, on the Digital Cultures Lab, held at Brunel University in London in 2005. After I read it, I think I’m pretty much convinced that the man is a genius. Not only was he able to completely articulate everything that I had been trying so desperately to articulate, he had also figured out how to practice his theories, something that I can still barely imagine.

Tomorrow, in an event sponsored by Barnvelder Movement/Arts and Dance Source Houston, he will be in promoting his new(est) book and giving a presentation on the interrelationship of digital media art, performance, and choreography in his own choreography. In his talk, “he will address the recent history of dance and technology and the emergence of interactive art and bio art in an international context of art & science collaboration.” I had to reschedule my going away dinner, but this is an opportunity I cannot pass up.

Here’s what I had to say on his article, after sitting on it for months.

From the within the perspective of a cultural acceptance and embrace of digital technology, Johannes Birringer (2005) discussed the aesthetic impacts on traditional notions and classically held assumptions regarding dance and performance disciplines. The 2005 Digital Cultures Lab attempted to more clearly define the cultural effects of digital technology, “what digital cultures are, how software, design, programmability and discrete digital coding transform older continuous media, and how we can grasp art and performance within increasingly technological and globalised contexts in which we live” by facilitating “provocative” collaborative projects between disparate domain practitioners – e.g., interaction designers, fashion designers, choreographers, dancers, and software. It appears that although these collaborations produced interesting and intriguing projects, the lab concluded with lingering questions regarding the cultural and definitive meanings behind these collaborations. Despite this, I mark the Lab as a successful attempt at collaboration between dance and performance, and design and technology, and I seek to add to this work.

Tomorrow, I expect to be wowed.

“Birringer is artistic director of the Houston-based AlienNation Co. and directs the
Center for Contemporary and Digital Performance at Brunel University, London”

More info…

Watch 50 Categorized Dance Animation Videos

One of my favorite websites/blogs that combines technology and dance has put up a list of 50 animation videos featuring dance and movement. Something to do while my cable gets cut off.

Below you will find categorized links to more than 50 posts on Great Dance that include videos of many different types of dance and movement animations such as 2D and 3D, stop-motion, visual effects, interactive performances and installations, computer games, machinima, live action and CG, motion graphics, visualizations, pre-cinema and many other types.

Pearls Before Breakfast

Recently a colleague sent me a link to an article about a social experiment run by The Washington Post. I thought it would be a nice thing to post it today, on the anniversary. In the experiment, on January 12, 2007, the paper stationed an incognito Joshua Bell, arguably the best violinist alive today, in a Metro stop in Washington D.C., playing some of the most difficult violin music ever composed on his own $3.5 million dollar violin. It was all set up for what could have been a great display of humanity appreciating the beauty of music.

“In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by…Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape…Do you have time for beauty?”

As it turned out, Bell made $32.17. There were no crowds and no applause. (Lucky for him that he is an exceptional musician. It turns out that the shoeshine woman calls the cops on all the other musicians.) The catch of the experiment was that they placed in the Bell in the station at 7:51 a.m. during the morning rush hour, when people would be the most unlikely to stop, precisely to see how many people would actually slow down to appreciate the beauty around them. Most people barely slowed down while they passed. People on cell phones talked louder. It was only the children who paid attention. Unfortunately it was their parents who dragged them away. Only one person recognized Bell. She had seen him in a recent concert where tickets cost over $100 each.

Practically speaking there are a couple of unsurprising reasons for the outcome of this experiment, which I’ll try to take on using a user experience point of view. First, the context was completely wrong. A concert violinist playing a solo performance at rush hour in a busy Metro station in D.C. is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Second, not everyone likes classical music, or would recognize the songs he played. If they had placed him right outside of a music conservatory there would have been a riot. I also can’t help but wonder if people who wanted to, but didn’t stop did so because they just wanted to fit in with everyone else ignoring street musicians. Such is urban life, but that seems to me a cop out.

Philosophically, the whole thing arises within me an existential argument. I can’t help but question the value of my work when people seemingly don’t even have the time to stop and appreciate beautiful music on their way to work. In fact, some homeless man had died in the corner in that same station a few year before. No one had stopped then either. On my Facebook account, one friend admitted that he wasn’t sure if he’d stop just due to being preoccupied with work. Are our American priorities misaligned so much that we can’t even stop to pay attention to such beautiful art, or is it just that he was so much out of place?

Well, I believe that my friend’s priorities are aligned properly, but I do worry about our ability to stop and enjoy all that life offers, and not get too preoccupied with work and money. It is important for User Experience designers to keep these aspects of urban space and society to keep in mind when we are producing our work, so that our work remains accessible. In any case, getting people to stop and appreciate the art around them is what I hope to accomplish with my future work and to explore more in this blog.

The article is here. Pearls Before Breakfast – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html Check it out. There’s video.