Sophia Brueckner

Often I hear people lament that we are being consumed by tech­nology.

Indeed, interacting with technology is a cultural necessity, and our enmeshment with it is an inevitability. I question whether it is possible to have an expressive signature as a human being within this enmeshment or whether we are being subsumed into a strange feedback world within the machine.

As a programmer in the software industry for many years, I have particular insight into this compelling force. I too am seduced. I too am skeptical. By playing with this power dynamic, I investigate and bring awareness to it. I adapt programming and software originally designed for utility to expressive ends, creating algorithmic writing and generative sound and video compositions.

This work invites users to be more mindful in their interactions with it, and asks designers to consider ethical ramifications as a part of its development. In these works and this thesis, I propose that the boundary line between human and machine is malleable—suggesting that we can take back our control.

Enraptured && Encoded

Rafael Attias

I remember going to the men’s bathroom a long, long time ago—this is very early—and somebody had scrawled “D+M: The Department of Loose Association.” It was kind of funny and also true. And I should have taken a picture of that because it was quite funny, and I just realized that it was before the iPhone was invented, so we were not walking around with iPhones yet.

But I always loved that quote. In some ways D+M has actually remained that. It is a department of loose association, where people could be into this or be into that. Drones and CNCing or painting and performance, as is evident in the variety of work D+M showcases during the thesis grad show. So it’s hard to deny, and I understand the impetus to try to define it, but at the same time it’s also the thing that keeps Digital + Media so vibrant, this variety of non-definition. I know it’s a contradiction, but it is at its core…

Hye Yeon Nam

Many new media artists choose to include interaction within their work for a number of reasons.

For one, the world itself is interactive and by incorporating these qualities into a work, it both mimics and considers how the everyday operates. New media work tends to question high art, such as painting and figurative sculpture. This questioning comes in many forms.

For example, new media often uses new technologies, and therefore asks: Are there limitations to what medium art can exist as? Does art have to be tangible? Why is art so prevalently commodified as objects?

Traditional artwork exists as independent of the viewer; new media claims instead that the viewer’s involvement completes the work. In fact, the viewer is actually no longer a “viewer” anymore, just looking at artwork; with new media, the viewer becomes a “participant,” actively engaging with the artwork and adding meaning to it. Viewers act upon interactive installations and immerse themselves in the work relatively intensely.

Self Portrait

Jane Long

How could something be happening right in front of you but perceived notions of what is happening are affecting what you do or understand? What you believe? What you perceive?

Jane Long: Subjective Object

On Everything and Nothing

Eva Sutton

Digital Media isn’t just about art, it’s also about science or media in a public sense; mass media. I think there’s inherently a research component too, depending on what you consider research.

If an artist is trying out different things in their studio, even with very traditional technologies like paint, aren’t they in fact engaging in research? It’s not research in the scientific sense, in that we are trying to figure out what a fact is. But we’re researching towards another end, right? We’re posing our own problems and coming up with variations that we consider to be “solutions” to those problems.

Ebe Odonkor

 2007_Odonkor_LAND_TECH_Studio1

Unfamiliar Voices

As a Ghanaian designer and artist in digital media, it is my personal goal to utilize available modern technology, such as the Internet and the cell phone, to empower other Africans to tell their own stories, thereby helping to bridge the gaps in African history.

With the aid of digital recording (sound and video) devices, my thesis, Unfamiliar Voices, is geared towards collecting personal stories (facts and legends alike), and making them available to the masses. Although the concept is to start small, with one story or event, the goal is to foster a wide range of online and wireless participation that will grow into a social network of contributors and users.

As a Ghanaian, it’s only appropriate to start this project from familiar grounds. Adopting a thematic approach to soliciting stories, I have decided, as starting point, to collect and share personal stories from Ghanaian WWII veterans like my great-uncle Emma, who fought in WWII and whose stories have been passed down to me through my mother.

Many Ghanaians fought with the Allied forces as members of the Royal West African Frontier Force in WWII. These same WWII veterans also played a major role in Ghana’s fight for independence from British rule in 1957. It is my hope that other Africans who watch or listen to these stories will be inspired to participate by adding comments or telling their own stories. My ultimate goal for this initiative is to mesh the collected stories with existing history to begin creating a solid sense of identity into our past, so future generations will be better informed.

The gap between the Old and New ways of thinking need to be bridged with dialogue that identifies us as one people.

Ebe Odonkor: Unfamiliar Voices

Mark Milloff

Students came in—usually more technically adept—with varying and limited degrees of design knowledge, and we worked to transform them into artists, in a broad sense of the term. In my case this involved intensive instruction in design concepts.

A frequent issue was a student would have achieved skill in some digital technique and would look for something “art like” to create with that technique. The cart was before the horse. The critical push there was to get the students to arrive at some vision—something that they were passionate about and wanted to say—and then find the proper vehicle to express that. Even if that work involved NO digital technology whatsoever. We wanted them to make art. We wanted to give them the same freedom as any other grad program at RISD. And they produced amazing work.

Maralie Armstrong

Corpus Callosum

I perform once again in a sound generating costume, this one called Corpus Callosum. Corpus Callosum is named after the anatomical structure that bridges the right and left brain hemispheres in mammals. It is a biological mediator, a translator from one extreme to another. It unifies various functions each brain is capable of.

…burdened with anatomy long, squishy, flesh colored appendages suspend from my hips, my body swathed by intestinal, phallic and bosom-like extensions the weight of which slows my pace I press these to my wired chest to coax electrical pulses into white noise my voice comes forth an incantation…

The performance was an intense 2-hour dance corresponding to the electrical sounds of the costume. Immediately following, I arranged the sweat drenched costume, the artifact, onto a mannequin and placed it in my stead.

Engendered Machines and Humanbeasts

Eva Sutton

I’ve observed some of the work and I’ve gone to some critiques and what I think is very interesting is that instead of becoming more virtual, a lot of the students are producing work that’s deeply physical.

So that’s kind of a reaction to virtuality. Which is not to say that virtuality isn’t addressed, it’s just that the presence of the physical object has not waned. In fact it’s become kind of doggedly more solid and more present, which I think is very interesting and curious.

Bill Seaman

Perhaps the most difficult question for the graduates (and ourselves) is how do we go beyond what we know? This is actually a matter of personal courage.

I have used my own methods to help guide students through this very process. I must also admit that this set of processes continues to foster my own growth and learning. I often do my own research related to the student’s inquiry to keep well-informed about new development in the field. The exploration of such generative processes in the service of creative production is a lifelong concern. Working with top students is a deeply fulfilling way to live, continue to learn and study multiple fields.