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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Technology as an Art form

Technology has enabled more people to be able to have the tools for creating art at their hands as well as a faster & more egalitarian way of sharing their art. Here is a beautiful video on liquids found on vimeo, shot close enough so that you can appreciate the properties of the subject. It was created by phantomcolor.com with sound by l’ascenseur.

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Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky), in collaboration with Golden Hornet Project, will be performing his Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antartica tonight at UT’s Hogg Auditorium. It is a multi-media piece created in Antartica from portable studios set up in the field to

capture the acoustic qualities of Antarctic ice forms, reflect a changing and even vanishing environment under duress. Coupled with historic, scientific, and geographical visual material, Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica is a seventy minute performance, creating a unique and powerful moment around man’s relationship with nature.

Sinfonia Antarctica will be an acoustic portrait of a rapidly transforming continent made of ice and condensation. In many ways, because there is little rain, the interior of the continent is technically one of the largest deserts in the world. What Sinfonia Antarctica proposes to do is explore the realm of fiction and ideas that underlie almost all perceptions of Antarctica – from the interior desert plains, to the Transantarctic Mountains that divide the continent, the Suite will take samples of the different conditions, and transform them into multi-media portraits with music composed from the different geographies that make up the land mass. (quoted from his website)

Earlier this week, DJ Spooky spoke and gave a visual presentation at North Branch Public Library with UT Assistant Professor Ginny Catania who has done field work in Antartica (see Events page) about the continents’ changing climate patterns.


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This summer my son & I attended the Stars at the Roughs at McKinney Roughs Nature Park for some star-gazing. As we were looking through the telescopes, a women next to me was holding her iPhone up against the night sky. On the iPhone’s screen was the night sky, with the constellations mapped out. The iPhone app, StarMap 3D (Sanville Software), allowed her to orient to the night sky based on her location. It was pretty amazing & having it on the iPhone allowed it to be really accessible.

Here are just a few of the other nature apps that I’ve come across or that other people have recommended to me:

I have a beloved Peterson Field Guide for Birds that is falling apart from use. An electronic version appeals to me because of the ease in carrying it about & durability. Birdwatcher’s might find some interesting features in iBird Explorer Pro. Features include bird calls & songs, ecological status, photos & illustrations of the birds (as well as links to Flickr photos), range maps, flight pattern

I also came across Chirp! Bird Songs USA that might work for people who are looking for something a little less detailed than IBird Explorer Pro, but that focuses on highlighting the songs.

There are geology apps Geology AZ (or Florida, or whatever state)– that contain geological maps from USGS, terrain elevation, hydrology, and geological formations among other features.

I even found an app that would allow me to create sketches for my nature journal: Autodesk’s SketchBook Mobile, or, if I decide to incorporate photos in my journal: Best Camera (Ubermind, Inc) & Snapture (Snapture Labs).

An outdoor activity that my son and I have really enjoyed is geo-caching. It should be no surprise that there is an app for that, Geocaching (Groundspeak, Inc).  And for navigating on your hike, MotionX GPS (MotionX).

I think nature apps are great, but  they have their place. They are meant to enhance, rather than replace, the nature experience. For me, it’s ultimately about unplugging. It was fun playing with the Star Map3D app for the iPhone, and it even helped me to find the constellations, but in the end, I enjoyed simply laying on our blanket & looking up at the stars-unplugged & in touch.

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The wonderful thing about the web is that we have the world at our finger tips, virtually. You can see real-time photos of locations half-way across the globe, translate text from a foreign language into your own, and never again miss an answer on Jeopardy. Most major universities have a presence on the web where they share their resources and knowledge with the general public. Recently I came across another one that sounded great,  MIT’s OpenCourseWare program.

MIT OpenCourseWare is a free publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.

Some on-line courses include lecture notes, projects, assignments, exams, online textbooks, as well as multi-media content. The program does not require registration, and MIT is quick to point out that it does not lead to a degree or certification. Still, for those of us who would classify ourselves as lifelong self-learners, here’s a great opportunity to attend college(virtually) in the field you’ve always wanted to study, whether its Environmental Engineering, Biochemistry, or even the Physics of Rock Climbing!

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Do You Arduino?

If you do, apparently you are not alone.

But if you’re like me, you’ll need a definition (and an illustration) to be able to answer the question. So, in Arduino’s own words:

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

It’s a micro-controller (plus down-loadable software) that you can use with your computer or by itself for stand-alone projects.  The user can program what to activate–lights, sounds, or motors– and by what means– flipping a switch, pushing a button, making a movement. Why is that so cool, you ask? Because, when you unleash an affordable, programmable micro-controller on the creative masses–anything is possible! In other words, it is not only mad scientists in expensive laboratories who alone can create a Frankenstein, now everyone has equal access to the power of lightning!

my artist interpretation of Arduino's creative capabilities

my artistic interpretation of Arduino's creative capabilities

Still not sold? How about some of these incredible projects that have been created using Arduino: a dress decorated with little butterflies whose wings beat in time to the wearer’s hearbeat, a touch-sensitive navigational device that guides you to a preset location simply by leaning in the direction to move in, and, a digital drawing tool that allows people with disabilities to express their creativity.

Did that do it? Are you itching to tap into your creative energy? Well here’s how to get started.

And, if that’s still not enough, because now you are not satisfied with just a light bulb that’s activated by clapping your hands, but you want to harness the power of lightening, here are a few Halloween-inspired spooky Arduino projects to get your Frankenstein up and running.

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And Technology

I never thought that I would have a job in technology. I grew up playing with lizards & nature & got a degree in Ecology/ Conservation Biology. I was called a Ludite by my computer geek brother & proudly accepted the fact that I was resistant to all things technological. But, as I came to have a career in Art, from working as an Environmental Chemist, I started tinkering with graphic design & found that it was a great way to combine my love of science & art.

And looking around, I see that there are many other artists, who I truly admire, who combine their skill in technology with their artistic vision to create powerful, beautiful messages, like this one by a Typophile Film Festival participant, Brent Barson.

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