Digital Futures in the Arts: A Ramsey Library Roundtable Discussion
♪ [opening music] ♪ ♪ ♪ >> Gene Hyde: Welcome to Ramsey Library Virtual Brown Bag Talks. I'm Gene Hyde. I'm head of Special Collections and also the host of the Brown Bag series and we're really excited about the panel today. It’s very appropriate to be doing this via Zoom, I assume, but I'd like to welcome Karin Peterson and all of these wonderful panelists. So, it's your call. >> Karin Peterson: Great, well thank you everyone for coming.
You know, I wanted to convene a sort of spontaneous and informal conversation about Digital Futures in the Arts, for a few reasons. First of all, I'm interested in this topic because I'm a sociologist of art and I pay attention to how art changes over time. And second of all because last year I was the Interim Provost at UNC School of the Arts, which is a public arts conservatory in the UNC system. And I learned a lot about the arts from being there. Among the things that I observed were collaborations between dance and film, who used a lot of virtual reality and augmented reality to create works that I didn't know were possible. There in fact, creating a new Nutcracker Ballet this year, given the constraints of COVID.
And so, I really watched that school last year in terms of technological innovations. They also have fabulous technologies in the field of lighting. And you know, and then the other thing that really hit me was when the pandemic came about, even the arts that we don't think of as technological had to have technological responses to move their students through the completion of their courses. Even if it was as simple as Zoom.
One of the faculty who trains the opera singers told me that she learned new things about her students’ voices, because she had to teach on Zoom. And so, one- while I think it could be problematic to argue that Zoom is, you know, always filled with opportunities, it certainly has problems too. I think that we learned a lot at School of the Arts about some new things that needed to happen for students, some new ways in which they needed to be equipped to live with the technological world they're in. So, one example is that the drama students at the School of the Arts do live auditions in front of potential agents each year. And these live auditions are things that the seniors prepare for all year long.
The live auditions were completely cancelled and the students had to be sent packages at home with lighting equipment, instructions about how to film and how to navigate you know dialogues over something that looked a little bit like Zoom. So, they ended up with beautiful productions, but they were definitely challenged by not really already having this kind of sense of how to navigate technology in their back pocket. And one of the things that we began talking about was the ways in which we needed to equip students differently in terms of their long-term career. So that a dancer, or a performer needs to also have a more comprehensive understanding of technology. That on the other side of the art forms that are already so technologically savvy creates a real opportunity to think about collaboration, interdisciplinary.
And also, other kinds of context such as how does this- these changes, how do they impact audience? How do they impact things like social justice? How do they impact equity and inclusion? Are these good things? Are they problematic in some ways? And so, my thought was to convene a group of people who know this much better than I do from their particular perspectives and I've invited panelists today to give a response from where they are. This is very informal. Each panelist will have three to five minutes, and I'd really like to constrain you to that timeframe. Because what I'd like to see happen is that we have some time at the end to kind of bounce ideas off about where we're taking- where we could take this conversation. And in particular how we as educators need to be engaged with this conversation. So, that's sort of the framework that I bring to this conversation and I hope that each panelist will feel free to violate my framework and claim their own. So, we're going to go in order of alphabetical order just for the sake of managing who's talking when and we're going to start with Bill Bares who's in the Music Department.
Thank you, Bill. >> William Bares: Sure. So, full disclosure. I've been dealing with recovering from COVID and it's still, it's still biting me eight months in. So, I've had a rough semester. And so, I tried to do everything from home here. And so, that's been a challenge, especially as a musician. So, there's that.
But what I've done is I’ve spent the entire time really kind of watching videos on how to do camera work and figure out how to, you know how to film overhead so that people can see the keyboard. And, it was kind of involved process, but it is- that's my phone up there and I can control it now from my computer. I can do telephoto so, oops- that and I can also do ultra-wide so you can now see that I also have a Road Caster Pro here and a Shure, SM7B which is like top of the line, so that my voice comes across and that so I can do podcasts and interviews with people and stuff and integrate that. And, I even have lighting here that kind of like sets my face off in the background.
So, like I've really kind of geeked out over this stuff because I've been trapped here at home. ♪ [plays keyboard] ♪ But, I figured out ways to make music happen for my students and that's been really great. So that's probably the first thing to let people know about. I've taught classes in jazz history this semester.
And it occurred to me that one really promising direction that I might go in, just as, like, as somebody who wants to innovate in this idiom and also address issues of social justice, you know. I'm a jazz musician. I play with you know- I think some of the best jazz musicians in town are at our university but there's like this whole world of jazz music out there that doesn't exist here in Asheville. And what Zoom has taught me, which is kind of cool is that actually the people that we normally used to pay like several thousand dollars to fly them in to be guests for our classes. Now, there's this whole new space open on Zoom where you could pay them 100 bucks to turn on Zoom and show up in your class. And so, you have all these culture bearers out there now from all over the world that you can pipe into your class for much less. And so, I was thinking about trying to start a network of those people who would be available for classes, say in rural anywhere and allow that to happen.
I think that's a huge vista that's just opened up by this experience of teaching in Zoom. And then the last thing I'll throw at you is just like I feel like as teachers, we are definitely competing with content creators out there right now. And the- some of the content is absolutely stunning. So, I'll just show you somebody that we've invited.
We're still waiting to hear back from her, but we're inviting her to be our keynote speaker this year at our faculty lecture series and she is like a self-producer. So, she's great with photography. She's great with graphics and Adobe, Adobe Creative Suite.
And, she's also a classically trained Juilliard musician who is multi genre. And so, if I can share the screen here, I'll show you Nahre Sol. And then I'll let somebody else talk.
So, this is just sort of like my lodestar right now. She’s quite amazing. Can everybody see this? So here, she's talking about- she plays Happy Birthday. She's written Happy Birthday in the style of 10 composers and she's breaking down each composer’s technique.
♪ [keyboard music on video] ♪ ♪ ♪ And, it's just so artistic and beautiful and integrating, so many different skills. And, I just think that she'd be a great person, a great resource for our students. So that's all I have to say right now. >> Peterson: Thank you, Bill.
So, we're not going to take questions right now, we're going to run through the panelists first. And the next person is Victoria Bradbury from New Media. >> Victoria Bradbury: Thank you. And that was, that was great Bill. And thanks for having me, Karin. Good to see everybody today. So, I'll talk a little bit about my artistic practice and then talk a bit about students and where I see them sitting with digital technologies right now.
And then, also show an artist that I'm very interested in right now in terms of the way he's combining ideas and media materials and the digital. So, my own artistic practice combines analog and digital. So, I'm just as likely to turn to working with a sewing machine or building an object as I am to working in virtual reality or coding in an interactive interface or working with physical computing. So, the processes are always different, but the stories that I'm telling are always the same. And I think the further I get in my career, the more I realize I'm really just telling the same story over and over again. I think a lot of artists might relate to that. But I'm going to share-screen real quick and show you a couple my projects.
So, in 2019 I finished this piece called Blue Boar VR and this was with some student researchers at UNC Asheville. It's a virtual reality project. Really briefly, there's a lot of text on my website about it. But very briefly, it retells the story of my 10th great grandmother, who was convicted of witchcraft in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts from the perspective- her perspective.
The perspective of those that accused her and the perspective of the fantastical creature, the blue boar that she was accused of having turned into. So, in VR you can play the project from those three different perspectives. So, that was shown at a conference that was at Yale.
Back in 2019, I was able to take some students to see that. So, just to show you that I can work with those- that I'm working with this idea in VR. But then recently I had an exhibition at the Front Gallery in New Orleans and I showed this same idea, but a little bit differently. So, I had a Let's Play of Blue Boar VR on a monitor. I made some prints, some digital stills of the piece. So, people can look at it that way.
And then I'm working on these digitally fabricated projection boxes with a laser cutter. And this is like basically when I was a kid, I actually got a shoe box and cut a hole in the back and stuck a flashlight in it, and drew pictures to project those. I was very interested in the idea of projection. But this is all- this is a flashlight in the shoe box basically projecting this text that goes between she's a and adding the ‘S’ to witch to make it switch.
And I also made the same project, or made- used that same idea to make a glass artwork last summer. when myself and Mark Hursty here in New Media taught a class at Pilchuck Glass School. I was able to make this version of it, which is just LEDs and a physical contact. So just thinking about, you know, pedagogy and students, and you know what my concerns are in relation to their use of digital technologies, when they come to us. I think my concerns are around the erasure of how tools work and the illusion of creativity, particularly on the internet.
The privatization of the internet and digital tools has limited people's creativity and they- and a lot of people are being creative within these commercial platforms. And, I like to teach them how to break out of those platforms, how to create their own platforms and how to think about digital creativity in a much more expanded way than creating an image and sharing that image or a video and sharing that video. So, there's a whole lot more to say about that.
But, just to wrap up, I'll show you the work of Ayo Okunseinde who was one of the chapter authors on my recent edited collection Art Hack Practice. He does really amazing work. He's based in New York, but he asked this question on this project called Slime Tech Lab. What can we learn from a slime mold that can help us create an equitable society? And so, he's creating slime and putting it into these digitally fabricated objects and there's a Raspberry Pi involved and there's all this kind of complexity of materiality digital.
That's a conversation with not only the physical project, but he always uses a workshop modality too. So, he's bringing Publix into it. Here's a little boy- this is Ayo and a little boy working on a slime mold. And so, really kind of engaging with people to bring them into the piece and think about their materiality and how they're viewing the technology and we can use the technology in different ways. So, I'll stop there. Thank you.
>> Peterson: Thank you, Victoria. That's so fascinating. Mustapha Braimah is next. >> Mustapha Braimah: Hello everyone.
Karin, thank you for organizing this and thank you to Bill Bares and Victoria for leading us, getting us started on this conversation. I think for me what has this age, this COVID era is- It has affected me most because of how dance is- the mode of teaching dance, the hands-on collaboration, contact improv. There has to be a contact physically. And then when you choreograph there has to be contact.
Without connection, you really don't have dance and some of your elements of choreography will be missing. If your student can’t lift support and help each other, physically for the audience to see what you are trying to convey. But what technology is doing for us, is not new in this era. It's an ideal element that has been with us for a very long, long time. For instance, one of the greatest tools that we use in dance is, number one is projection in the 21st century.
It has been projection where your intent- if you are creating your work, your choreography or your idea, how you want to project the idea to your audience. Projection has a way of helping you do that without pushing your dances too much. I know- I've seen videos; I’ve watched documentaries and I have read articles and talked to people. In the 19- before the 19th century, it was much harder when people like Alvin Ailey or Doris Humphrey- particular when this started, they didn't have this opportunity.
Things were much more difficult and their dances took more blow to their bodies because you have to get it done. There's nothing to help you achieve what you want to put out there. But these days, we have the projection. We have lights. We have sounds and we have all these beautiful variety of light. We have presented is we can change between 30% to 100% or if we want to get complete dark or having a student for what I- for my recent concert that I did last Saturday I had students participating from their homes. Some sent videos. Some did a live presentation and we projected it onto the wall. There was a wall.
Instead we projected it for the audience to see and it felt as if they were there with them. Let me share this- wasn't going to share screen. So, this project is from two years ago.
This is my MFA project about immigration and it's talking about dealing with immigrants arriving at the US airports to like let’s say JFK to be specific and the things they have to go through. The wait, the frustration, the instructions, and the stern and unfriendly behavior of the security, the TSA agents. So, we have this. We have this. This is all projection. The red line you see with people standing in the middle, it projects indicating that you can’t move. And then there is a green- it turns into green and then projection develops into a pathway where people go through and then while they keep walking.
There's a box, you need to stand into the box and the box when it's green it means you don't have any- you don't have a- you're clear. You're clean to go. And when it turns red it means you are in trouble or they have to search you even more they have to put you into more scrutiny. And then, this is also- these lines you see on the floor is also indicating the confusion for people who do not understand English language when you get to an airport and during the sign in. Most of these officers, they will not speak any other language but English language. And so, all these lines you see is- you can’t really trace.
Even though you trace, they all go through each other. So, these are all elements that projection is helping us understand the complexities that we face as people in the art or in dance in general. And then my colleagues in the theater will also have, they also have their fair- you know, their fair share of the era in which we live in. And they've also dwelled on projections, a lot.
So, for teaching for my classes I think the time has all- it has really slowed me down. I don't get to do a lot. I do little, I teach little but it's more impactful and intense and it’s more clear to my students because now I have to carry a camera to class every day. This is something I do not do this is- I’m real bad.
I have to carry it to class every day, every little thing that I do, I have to get a video. And uploading right there after class and send it to my students so they can- because I have some who are 100% online, some with me in person and some will be online. Sometimes when we study things, we study combination via Zoom and they come back the next day, because we are in the hybrid mode. They come back the next day and we repeat the same information.
They ask me if we've done this before, like, “oh, I've never seen this before. Have we done this before?” It's, very different. But with the video and then Zoom allowing me to record, when I send it to them, it helps with- I am now slowing down and teaching very little short phrases, but it's more intense impactful. And that has been what I've- how I've been building on in terms of collaborating throughout the semester. And it's working. Before I used to do a lot and not really pay attention. I don't send them videos.
They were asking for videos I say no, you have to learn it. Or they have to take videos on their own, but now I'm officially a videographer, and I think I'll have to develop interest in learning more about effective way of videographing for the dance. Dancing on the screen and providing the dance video for students to be able to study, even if I'm not there physically with them. >> Peterson: Thank you, Mustapha. I can't wait till we start talking but, let's move on. Marietta Cameron in computer science. Thank you for being here. >> Marietta Cameron: Thank you for inviting me.
I think that some people are probably kind of taken back that computer science is sitting- is being represented on this panel. I definitely appreciate the comments of my colleagues before me and want to point out that in terms of this era, that we’re in, one of the things that the tools from our discipline has enabled us to do is to actually keep in contact with each other. I mean, without these tools that we have, what other alternatives would we have. These tools are probably not the best as far as facilitating exactly mimicking the way things are done, but I think that one of the things that has happened is the discipline as is its custom has provoked questions about what it is, we do. Why we do it. How we do it. And is this the only ways that we can do things.
So, I think there have been some questions about computer science being on a liberal arts campus and I have always made the case that computer science is one of the most liberal arts course disciplines as far as disciplines are concerned. Because in order to create tools that are going to be used, you have to have some understanding of the domain that you're creating for. So, and I tried to make sure that my students understand that. That it's not just about the machines or just about ones and zeros on wires firing on or not firing. It's not simply about that. It's about understanding what it is we are trying to automate.
What it is we're trying to represent and then translating that into code. So, in terms of direct influences on art, let me point out some of the courses that we have that we offer in the major. We offer virtual reality which, by the way, that is definitely something that I think that education is going to have to be very much- come to deal with. I mean, look at what we're doing as far as online communicating with each other. I can foresee a time where we will have- I don't know how many of you knows about Second Life, where people can create their own avatar and have representation and virtual classes.
That has already been an ongoing activity that's out there that I think that's going to be a little bit more prevailing as we get more technology available. And we definitely have courses right now that teach students how to create these tools. But not just how to create the tools, but to understand users that are going to be using these tools or understand what emotions you're trying to evoke in the user that's using which. That's something I understand comes with the art world on that. So, virtual reality is a course. Computer graphics has been a long- time course that has been offered.
I see one of my other colleagues and shout out to Susan Reiser, who was teaching computer graphics here before I started here, but that has long been developing tools to help facilitate animations, to help facilitate images that are out there, to help create the tools that some of our, our friends in New Media and in the Arts are using like Maya. I know I used to use Cinema 4D quite a bit in creating animations out there. Let me bring up a computer vision which is my area where you're going the opposite way. Where you're trying to do image understanding. And again, think about what you're doing when you're looking at a piece of art or when you're viewing a dance of what type of motifs- what type of themes are being involved. How do you, how do you, how do you understand that as a human being? And then how do we turn around and get the machine to understand that? So, I would- I know my time is because I could talk a long time.
So, I want to talk about one particular interest that I've been recently- since I actually- since I have been here is that area of- called computational aesthetics. Which really gets into how do we make human judgment. So, it's not just about making the tools for the artists to use, but how do we mimic what artists do on that. And there's a- so how do you create a sculpture? Can we get a machine to create a sculpture? Can we get a machine to generate a painting? Can we get a machine to choreograph a dance? Okay. And I can hear some people going, “No.” But, those are open.
I can hear, “Should we be doing that?” But yeah, there's the question out there. One of the things that I would like to bring to your attention that got me into this and I too will do the little share screen here, and hopefully share the right screen for you to see. So, that's me baldheaded in this one package called FaceGen. So, what you can do is you could take a picture, get a three-dimensional model of your head from that image and do all sorts of wonderful things with that. So, one of the projects that I'm interested in is coming up with my undergraduates- coming up with an alternative measure of attractiveness. And I want to show you that this is going to get a little bit into issues of equity and social justice here.
So, this is a nice little package here that has taken my image and there's a three-dimensional model in this. And I know that it's a little blurry but I want you to notice that here's a measure in terms of what the shape is. So, it's given a measurement about how attractive my shape is. And it used to have over on this side before they got a lot of complaints, used to have the word attractive over here. And I don't know if you can still make out to the right, but notice that word is monster. Okay, so that's on the shape. Look in terms of the character.
This is like the color of the skin. So, I want you to note that over here, what's happening as far as- and again an earlier version of this, it had attractive over here and look at what's happening here, as far as the stream. So, according to this package in terms of attractiveness my color is extreme.
They used to have the word monster here too. Okay. So, according to this package, I am a monster. Okay. And as a matter of fact, if I was to move the shape of my face towards the monster in which you can kind of see, I've moved the slide over here. Look at what it's done.
It has increased the width of my nose and it has increased my lips and therefore I am a monster to it. If I was to go in the opposite direction and call myself making my model a little bit more attractiveness in terms of skin color. Guess what it will do, it would make me whiter. Okay.
And I do think that looking at skin tone alone is not a matter of what's more attractive or not. But, the shade of white that it makes me is definitely it makes me look more dead than attractive and then it calls it attractive, but anyway. My students and I was trying to- have been trying for a while to come up with another- an alternative measure for this. And I won't go through that whole process right now because I don't have time. So, I'm going to stop the share for a moment and explain that I am not sitting here, accusing the creators of FaceGen of being overt, intentional bigots.
What I am saying is that there's a representation of whatever is inside of you when you create something no matter what it is, okay. What you value goes into what you create. The way that that particular measurement worked. They got a category, a collection of faces, okay. Designated that the most attractive face is the average of all of those faces.
So, if I mean let's consider where- Singular Inversions is the creator of FaceGen. They're located in Canada. I will dare say that they probably do not have many dark skin people in Canada, that they were collecting faces from. Okay, I will say that they have some, but I would dare say that probably the majority of the representative faces in there- in what they put in as far as their model is concerned, were white, okay. And therefore, the attractiveness, it would be a measure of all of the average of that.
The way they measure attractiveness is proximity. How close you are to the attractive face. If the average of the attractive face is white, then my lovely brown skin will be further away from it and therefore would be labeled as not being attractive. It’s only mathematics. If you want to ask me what concerns me, it concerns me that people in general, accept what the machine says as gospel and forget that behind whatever has been created as far as the machine is concerned are fallible human beings, whose value systems for better or for worse, have been placed in it.
And so that's one of the things that I’m trying to teach my students about when they create but also try to teach students who are not interested in creating to understand when they're using these tools. So, I got a whole bunch of other things I could say, but I think I'll stop on that. >> Peterson: Thank you, Marietta and I appreciate your comments. Thank you very much. Jennifer McGaha. >> Jennifer McGaha: Hi everyone. I've loved hearing your comments as well.
And thank you for arranging this, Karin. So, one of the huge innovations in creative writing, which is mainly what I'm going to be talking about is the way- the shift in the publishing world, which also affects how we teach creative writing and how we prepare our students to move into that world after graduation. So, formerly you know there were the big five publishing houses and the world revolved around the big five publishing houses and the gatekeepers for those houses which are your, you know, your traditional agents. And now with the emergence of indie presses and electronic versions of traditional literary journals, there's been- it's really a lot of opportunities have opened up for writers of all levels and all backgrounds to have their work seen on a broader scale. So, you still have the big five publishing companies, you still have those traditional journals that are doing print versions, but they're also online versions for many of those now and some versions of course are now exclusively online more and more as budget concerns arise. There are also other publishing platforms.
In addition- I mean obviously self-publishing is an option. Blogging is what a lot of people do to gain an audience. But also, there are platforms like Medium where you can self-publish but there- that also- through Medium you can also- they're also curated magazines within that platform and there are many others like that. That's just one that I'm pretty familiar with. And so, I think in terms of one thing our students need to be thinking about- and we do talk with them about this some but I think that they need to be- have the tools to access, to navigate this system because it can become overwhelming.
Because there's so many journals and so many indie presses and so many agents both reputable and not. So, I think they need some sort of information literacy. How do you navigate that system? You know, just because you can publish somewhere, doesn't mean you want to publish somewhere. How do you develop a professional online social media presence related to your work? How do you start building your online resume? So, those are considerations that have arisen recently.
Also, I would say as far as the work itself, online journals have encouraged the- encourage new forms such as video essays, graphic narratives, digital stories that you can interact with or not interact with both kinds. And it's interesting to see the really cool work that's coming out. There's a- and I considered sharing it with you but I'll encourage you to look at it on your own if you get a chance, in TriQuarterly Review, which is, I believe, out of Northwestern. They've done some terrific video essays with Claudia Rankin's work. And, she's coming to speak in March. So, I'm going to have my students look at some of those.
I just noticed the other day that the Florida Review which has been around since the 1970s is- now has a whole section on multimedia stories. So, it seems that this business has very slowly come to these shifts and come to embrace other forms. Flash fiction, and flash nonfiction are also really gaining momentum with online journals, because you can read them quickly and the vignette form. Alternate forms like the vignette form or mosaic essays, braided essays that kind of thing are also increasing in popularity.
And when I think about how students read, I think a lot of them read that way. They read quickly. A lot of their reading is online and they read in these shorter snippets.
And I think that can be both an asset because they're familiar with these forms and have a lot to offer as far as- they read often a lot just not in depth in the same ways, perhaps, that I did. And they also don't- they also listen often versus seeing the words on the page which I think changes the way they interact with the things they read, which also changes how they write. So, those are some of the challenges to that form, but it's also very exciting to see, the innovative things that are happening. Oh, graphic memoirs is another thing I wanted to mention. Graphic novels of all kind but graphic memoirs are especially big right now and things that my students routinely express interest in doing. And so, I would love to see more collaboration as far as across the arts.
So, things like I can envision like capstone projects that have two advisors. Perhaps somebody in the art department and somebody in the English department where the artwork is as important as the writing. And you have advisors in both departments, perhaps. Or a collaboration between someone in environmental science and a creative writing major to do a braided essay. So those are the types of things that I thought of.
I also think this- we've sort of structured our learning traditionally around say the three big forms: fiction, nonfiction and poetry. And this introduction of non-conventional forms or experimental forms makes me think about all the possibilities of arranging classes based on- say we have a class on form where you figure out what you want to say and then figure out the form that is best to express that rather than it happening the other way around. So, more blending of genres sort of across- within our department and without. And I think the other thing that online- that moving into this more digital world, particularly during the pandemic- I feel sorry for a lot of the people who have books coming out now and have had to try to figure out how to- how to make that happen. And yet many people have done some really cool readings and have done some cool events.
But I do think with all the online readings and with moving to electronic journals that often don't sponsor readings like universities used to, I think we need to help our students think about how to collaborate, how to have a community past graduation. So, how- because being an artist is a lifelong process, right. None of us peaked at 21 and then we're done, right. You know, you're still learning your art form for the rest of your life. And so how do you help students figure out how to continue being part of those communities once they're done. And someone said something about bringing artists in from all over and I think that is a wonderful thing.
That you can take a workshop, you know, with someone in Seattle now without having to go to Seattle. So that's really cool. But, I think we need to think about ways that what they're doing here in their undergrad program is a jumping off point for what they do for the rest of their lives. >> Peterson: Thank you so much, Jennifer. We have three folks left. I'm going to ask that you try to stay around three or four minutes so that we just have a couple of minutes to you know, kind of respond to each other. The other thing I'd like to invite you to do as a way of marking conversations we might have in the future is if folks would enter some conversations or pointers in the chat, chat box. We can save that. So, if we don't get to it, we have this archive in chat that we can go back to, and we can think together.
Maybe we'll have an email afterwards and find out if you're interested in any future conversations or efforts of any kind. So, Susan Reiser from STEAM as well as multiple other departments is here. >> Susan Reiser: Thank you for inviting me here and I'm really excited just to see all of you here and I feel like over the last 40 years my interest and work have sort of evolved from computer vision, like Marietta, more to the tangible arena. My colleague and I like to call it data materialization, which we mean as data informed art.
So, keeping the computer science which will always be very close to my heart, but also adding, making and some engineering back to those EE courses that I thought would never matter, that I took as an undergrad have mattered. So, I want to talk a little bit about what I do. And then what I do in the classroom and then just say what I'm worried about and when I'm concerned. So, I'll try to limited it to four or five sentences. So, what I like to do in the classroom, whether it's New Media, Computer Science or Engineering is to show our students that the end users’ matter.
Whether we're trying to communicate a message through art, it still is conveying a message. And Victoria said it beautifully that she tells us the same story. And I think my work always talks about the same story. It's about gender. It's about equity and inclusion. Now in computer science it- I honestly think I did my undergraduate degree without ever realizing this but once I took my first job in industry, I realized, hey, I'm writing a program that is being sold to a user who is going to determine its success.
They don't care what elegant algorithm I implemented. They don't- it doesn't matter. It's what the end user thinks. And in engineering, we're doing product design.
It matters what the end user thinks. So, to pull in the human side, that is so very important and that's where I'd like to link it back to the liberal arts. Because I believe that UNCA does interdisciplinary very well.
I think that we encourage I know I have and I think, Jennifer, you brought it up so well, the idea of tag teaming on undergraduate research projects. I know I've been thrilled to co-advise undergraduate research projects with Wayne Kirby and in New Media. I feel like anytime I deal with any of my colleagues, I'm sort of the geek in the room, and I'm so thrilled to be able to work with them. And then I'm also thrilled that what came out of an interdisciplinary project with art is STEAM studio and now I get to work with Sara Sanders. So, that's what I'm really excited about. What I worry about is data privacy.
I worry about diversity, equity, and inclusion in computer science and engineering. 40 years ago, when I started, it was admittedly worse, but it's not that much better yet. We still have a long way to go.
But we've made progress and I- at least now we're talking about it openly so maybe things will move more quickly. And then finally, what I'm always excited about is my current class. And so right now I'm teaching creative fab. And we- it's an engineering course and we just installed a gallery show at the Center for Craft.
How cool is that, they’re engineering students. Like I'm so proud of their work and it stands. I think if y'all saw it, you would be proud of them too.
I was a little worried that in presenting with my colleague from Texas A&M that my- our students work wouldn't hold up to their MFA students. But I honestly think it does. I’ll stop. Thank you. >> Peterson: Thank you. So, we have two folks left. Eric Tomberlin is not going to be able to join us. So, we have Sara Sanders and Anne Slatton. So, Sara.
>> Sara Sanders: Hey, so I’ll try to keep it super brief but I guess I want to talk more about the actual digital tools that we work with at STEAM studio. And, you know, I think it speaks to the interdisciplinary too, you know, STEAM science, technology, engineering, art and math, the adaptation of STEM where we bring art into it. And you know, we- there's a little bit of a cultural rift between traditional crafts and these new technologies. And I heard somebody say one time about CNC machines, and CNC machines if you're not familiar computer numeric controlled.
So, it's these machines that are controlled by computer that take a digital file and replicate that intangible media somehow. And someone once referred to it as the modern-day apprentice, and I really love that is that you know you have a lot of traditionalists that are kind of poo poo the digital technologies. And I think when you think about any advance in technology, there's always going to be resistance to it and I personally have resisted technologies in the past and have found myself on the other side of that and really appreciating them and using them daily. But I think that if we aren't teaching our students how to use these tools, then we're doing them a great disservice because it's going to be there. It's going to be in the world.
It is in a lot of ways, creates accessibility because it you know like the CNC machines democratize the access to the tools for production. So, it gives artists and entrepreneurs access to equipment that allows for small batch manufacturing, which is a sort of gives them some economic leverage as well. So, I think that that's- I guess my quick kind of two cents about digital technologies with respect to fabrication. And so, a little bit different I think from the delivery methods I think a lot of folks talked about how do we deliver content through these technologies.
And that's something that, quite honestly, I haven't figured out yet how we do tangible work remotely. But, so I think that's something that kind of concerns me is how a space like STEAM and how projects that we do here can sustain in a remote kind of society. But also, really excited about the making space movement and about people having access to these tools and about libraries incorporating these tools like laser cutters and 3D printers. The more that- the more prevalent that they are, the better. And I think that you know one of my objectives is to try to get students learning how to use these tools as early as possible in their academic careers. So that they can leverage them throughout and beyond.
And you know that's pretty much all that I have to say in this- these few minutes >> Peterson: Thanks Sara. I'm so glad you joined us today. Thank you. Anne. >> Anne Slatton: Thanks. Gosh. It's hard- it's kind of hard going last. I think I would just say this has been a time of great innovation and great challenge for us in video and film production. It's a very collaborative art form. And like Mustapha was saying like we work together in large teams, but it is also something that someone can do alone with the phone.
So, I think it's been a- it's been inspiring to see the way that a lot of the students have reacted going from last spring, where we had these large group film projects and we were all planed and ready to shoot after break to now everyone scramble and it's you and your phone at home in your room. What are you going to do? And not even everybody had what they needed, you know, they might have a Chromebook they couldn't edit on. Not everyone had the technology. And I think the assumption that everyone does is not- doesn't hold up unfortunately.
But we know we do have more than ever before and I agree with what Sara was saying, it is more- it's a more democratic platform than we've ever had certainly in film in terms of producing your own work. So, I would say like basically that we're learning and adapting and try- and you know, doing the best we can with these challenges. I think we've all gained some strength, and I hope that we pull out of this period with those kind of added to our artistical- our artistic arsenal. You know, we have more tools in our tool belt now hopefully that we can use. I would still say that the greatest challenge for me with the students is- is guiding them to learn how to communicate. So, whether it's on Zoom, I'm still doing face to face hybrid classes.
So, I still see their beautiful faces a lot of them, not all of them. Or else I’m on Zoom being a cheerleader and trying to get them to turn their camera on, so that I can like interact with them. But it's- that is- just communication through art or whatever is still something that is a big focus of what I'm doing. >> Peterson: Wow, there is so much here and we have three minutes left. Maybe a couple of you will stay two minutes over. What are you hearing that interests you, or intrigues you from what you've heard from your colleagues? Are there any themes you think we should emphasize or think more about? >> Bradbury: I would say just how important the liberal arts are to thinking about technology like Marietta said.
Like that's exactly where computer science should be, should be within the liberal arts because people need to understand how they can work together and people who are writing the code need to understand the liberal arts piece, the humanities piece. >> Braimah: Not, and I think I was hoping this time just to add to what Marietta mentioned. I think what has happened to all of us this time is COVID has really injected the speed.
If the speed fluid for all of us to rethink and kept- go back to the drawing board and you know you're thinking about everything you can do possible to make things happen. I wouldn’t be averse to doing right now. I don't think under normal circumstance, you would think of creating such space for himself.
So, I think- and then this is happening to me too, I have done stuff in my office, I have a little classroom here which it wasn't- it didn't used to be like that. And now I'm getting students to do things on your own, which is helping develop and in terms of their development is helping them more faster than I used- before I used to massage them and do things, you know, I mean charge. And these days I'm a more careful to stand back and be like the moderator and watch them. Because you can’t touch them, you can't- you can't- before you go and you fix that right, you go. Or they do a movement, let’s say you have them to walk towards you and stand straight they walk and they are like this.
And I say, “You are not straight.” They say, “No, I’m straight.” And you have to go behind them and adjust, you know, their alignment. Now you can’t touch.
So, you have to instruct from afar from 6 feet apart. So now it’s giving me more vocabulary. It’s giving me more- It’s opening more avenues for me to really understand who my students are and how I can communicate with them effectively to understand certain things. And I'm also incorporating more videos into the class which I enjoy doing. >> Peterson: It's sort of a euphemism that the arts always you know thrive under constraint. I’m not sure that we would exactly just say, “Yeah, give us more of this.”
But, I do think that there's an opportunity to thank- to let this be a moment where we're asking questions about education. And what are- you know, to me, one of the things that's really interesting is both, you know, what does this mean about what- how we need to equip students. I hear a lot of different suggestions here, you know.
And you know some of this kind of conversation could inform how we think about our general education course work in the future. But also, you know, I sit here thinking, “Oh my gosh, I want to- I want a class with multiple ones of you collaborating with me.” Because I'm a sociologist and I keep thinking, you know what, I try to get- see, I'm a qualitative researcher. I try to get students to listen to people and to see things from people's perspectives. And I think a lot of what we're talking about is sort of how does technology facilitate that. And how is it in the way or what are the new kinds of literacies we need.
So, anyone have last thoughts? I'm going to email you- I'll give you a day to think than I'm going to email you all maybe tomorrow, and just say, hey is, you know, is there something you want to follow up on with this conversation, which has been really interesting to me. Anybody have a last comment or reflection? Anne? >> Slatton: I just have a sort of a question maybe for people to think about. And its ways to keep the students engaged so that they’re are not passively- what makes me nervous is like, it's easy to take a bunch of video in and to take lessons in when you're home in your bedroom and be kind of a passive learner. And maybe for us to challenge ourselves and think of ways that we can get them more hands on engaged during class, just to make them more active learners.
>> Peterson: Yeah. Thank you for that. >>Bares: If I could, I just wanted to express my appreciation to Marietta for that presentation that- I think that really moved me. And it sort of dovetails with a thing I read pretty recently by Yuval Harari, who's an Israeli historian and he's talking about the future that we're launching off into and he worries about that digital technologies which are accelerating at rapid paces will enable the natural stupidity of humans to become even more effective. And so, I really like the idea of trying to check our fascination with all of this new stuff with like a hard dose of like, who we actually are and what we're trying to do. So just wanted to say that.
>> Peterson: Thanks Bill and I did not realize you have- you have COVID. I'm so appreciative that you still came today. So, thank you for that. Well, I don't want to- I don't want to keep people over time.
I do want to express that I have a great appreciation for the work that all of you do and a real desire to figure out if there are contexts where we might have conversation or projects or other sort of work that we consider together. Not just- it doesn't have to be just this group or all of you even but if you've got thoughts about this, please let me know. I think there's just some opportunity to really use our experiences right now and understand what future directions make sense. So, thank you. And I want to thank Gene Hyde for hosting us today. It was very generous of you to let us use a Library Brown Bag for this talk.
So, thanks to all of you. ♪ [closing music] ♪ ♪ ♪