As I watched the video for “Art, Craft, and Technology” by Leah Buechley, I was interested in her discussion of taking seemingly un-electronic objects like paper and stickers and embedding them with circuits and other fiber optics. With the depictions in the video of origami-like constructions with embedded circuits, I was inspired to research into ways of drawing on these constructions that are in their own sense conductive as well. I discovered a research project from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at their Materials Research Laboratory where a student, Jordan Bunker, had figured out how to produce conductive ink. Utilizing a combination of silver acetate, formic acid, and ammonium hydroxide, Bunker concocted an ink formula that “won’t clog print heads!” and adheres to the conductivity of silver at just “194 degrees Fahrenheit.” For a look at the entire formula and process, you can read his post here: http://jordanbunker.com/archives/41.

I think the creation (invention?) of conductive ink could prove groundbreaking in the fashion world. Garments could be printed with conductive ink graphics, opening up lots of interesting utilizations with forthcoming wearable technology. It would also be amazing to see a version of this conductive ink be produced for use in tattooing (as Bunker notes that the current formula proves very dangerous to exposed skin). Science is already spearheading a movement into nanotechnology that can be weaved into or below our skin, but what if we could simply print circuits onto our skin instead?

In class on Monday, we went to go and make paper by hand for the most part. In this video, it shows how paper is made via technology for the most part. It clearly feels different to see this compared to what we did ourselves, but what’s the difference in the feeling? We have our own paper we made versus the paper we use everyday that we both own, and obviously we’ll like the paper we made on our own due to our efforts, but what other feelings will we have for it? We have attachments to feelings of things that are special to us and not as common while typically seeing common things we use everyday as regular material possessions. I feel however this isn’t the only difference in how we feel about them and am curious what else there could be. At the same time, the process we use to make the paper was far simpler than the complicated process to make the perfect paper shown in the video. After watching it, how do we feel of this perfect paper that takes a more complicated process compared to the simple paper we created on our own? Do we have a greater appreciation for it? Do we still feel more attached to our own paper? I feel our attitude can change when seeing the creation of such material objects, but in what way for each person I’m not entirely sure.

When thinking about media, getting swept up in digital technology is easy since that is our default form of communication today (ie. smartphones, email, tablets). Rarely do we think about forms like paint and paper also being forms of media that can be formed into systems that we also can interact with. At the paper studio, the primary function was creating paper but Virginia mentioned while we were working that the paper-making space was a community with many working parts that formed the paper. Not only was the pulp, water, felt, press, and dryer available to make the paper, but we needed to work together and communicate to move the process along. Can we say that paper is an “interactive” medium?

According to the video, the answer would be “yes.” Leah Buechley shows examples of paper blended with electronic and digital components to create simple, yet responsive, craft that opens up creative and educational “entry-points.” People who have not been open to learning (or liking) circuitry and programming before may be engaged instead through arts and crafts. The projects we see in the video work because a person is interacting with the piece in some way, such as drawing, touching, folding, etc. so that it can transform.

Between visiting the museum and watching Buechley’s presentation, I could conclude that this week’s course theme has been paper and how technology has elevated the medium into a creative and learning tool. In addition to that conclusion, I would also argue that underlying take-away has been the impact of communication and community on building and transforming media.

After watching the Leah Buechley video, I was struck by how my interest level rose as she demonstrated each idea for paper circuit interaction in succession. Thinking about this for a little while led me to realize that the reason I became more excited was because she began showing projects that included more and more interactivity. As the user does something with the materials, they react. I have very fond memories of my parents taking me to a children’s museum in Indianapolis where children could go from exhibit to exhibit learning about different scientific concepts in a hands-on way. Something as mundane as a ball falling through the air became an object of fascination when one could pick a ball that was small or big, heavy or light, and watch the differences in speed as they fell. I remember understanding how pendulums worked at a very young age because of an enormous pendulum that would knock over big foam dominoes as a video played, explaining the rotation of the earth and gravitational forces. I think that Leah Buechley hits the nail on the head when she explains that there is a world of possibilities for learning through interactivity. I strongly believe that learning by doing is one aspect of education that could be improved immensely, both creating interest and providing actual knowledge for learners of all ages.

This idea of learning through interactivity is also what reminded me of an incredibly interesting art installation/architectural theory exhibition that combines machine learning with physical interactivity to provide a tactile experience with guests. The exhibition, Minimaforms, presents many different types of architecture and other interesting exhibits, but my favorite is one they call the “Petting Zoo.” The zoo consists of strange-looking, tentacle-like robotic constructs that interact with visitors through touch and sight, reacting differently to the guest’s location, gentleness of their touch, and so forth. The link below leads to a better explanation than what I have given, but one interesting takeaway is the idea that the “creatures” learn from the people interacting with them. While a programmer could ostensibly sit at a desk and program them to act a certain way given certain conditions, they were designed to learn and grow based on the types of environments they are presented with. It is an incredible concept and one that I think illustrates very well the idea of interaction and the melding of computation with physical artifacts.

http://minimaforms.com/#item=petting-zoo-frac-2

Leah Buechley’s video and the High-Low Tech projects made me think of Iris van Herpen’s Transforming Fashion exhibit I saw last year at the High Museum. In the same way, Buechley combines art and technology Dutch fashion designer Herpen blends art, science and technology to create visually stunning pieces. Her work has been worn by and debuted in music videos like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. She mainly focuses on the manipulation of unique materials using technology like 3D printing and stereolithography, along with more simple power tools to create wearable fashion that visually represents abstract concepts.

This video shows the process of her Crystallization collection, a collaboration with architect Daniel Widrig. The collection employs different materials to represent the movement and properties of water. The dress in the video was made starting with video photography of water being thrown onto a model and then using pliers and hot air guns to manipulate polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a malleable resin commonly used to make plastic bottles, to capture and create a water-dress.

Leah Buechley’s work focuses on the manipulation of paper and as I was thinking about the paper making fieldtrip yesterday and materiality, I was reminded of the Herpen exhibit and the diverse materiality of these pieces. They each change the experience of an interaction with these materials.Buechley and High-Low Tech’s and Herpen’s work is both similar and dissimilar. Buechley hones in on the technological possibilities of paper. I am intrigued how introducing currents can change the materiality of paper, something that is arguably pretty cut and dry, and the experience you have with said paper. However, you are aware it is still paper. Additionally though, now it is a new material, one that can conduct electricity and one that could be used as something other than paper. Herpen’s work completely transforms the materials into something undistinguishable from the beginning. She attempts to give particular materials particularly different materialities while still presenting them as clothing.

P.S. The exhibit is still on display at the High Museum until May 15, 2016.

 

The video about paper circuits really interested me, and it made me wonder about how the idea of simple to complete, do it yourself technology crafting may permeate throughout our culture in the coming years and incorporate itself into different mediums. While considering the possible changes that may follow this simple technology merging with craft, a few ideas in particular interested me: increased circuit crafting among children leading to better understanding of circuits and DIY circuit technology / crafts extending into other media. While searching, I stumbled upon a website called fashioningcircuits.com, which is described as “a public Humanities project related to Fashion and Emerging Media.” On this website, I found two articles I really liked that were related to the topics I was thinking about. Here is the link to the first: http://fashioningcircuits.com/?p=2960 which is an article with instructions on making a light up pet vest, which touches on the topics of crafting your own circuits and circuits being crafted in different media. The other article that I found interesting was one where they had a workshop with a brownie scout troop and taught the girls about computer technology, showed them projects that combine both art and programming, and did activities teaching them the basics of programming and circuit crafting. Here is the link to that article http://fashioningcircuits.com/?p=2981

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the class field trip to the Paper Sciences Museum yesterday. Earlier today I was attempting to compensate for this by doing a little research about paper science. Having googled very generally, “paper science,” I was immediately stricken by the headline “Paper Science majors have 100% job placement.” I was initially incredulous, having noticed that the the article was from USAToday, so I then looked into it further to see if this number was corroborated by any more credible institutions. It did not take long to find out that it was. The bellow link is to a presentation by the University of Wisconsin Steven’s Point School of Paper Science and Engineering. Similar stats are also noted by an analogous program at the University of Miami. Among these, an average starting salary of 66,000 dollars per year. Who would have thought?

 

http://www.uwsp.edu/papersci/Documents/NewFiles/Recruiting%20Panels2.pdf

Leah Buechley, the director of the High-Low group, talks about combining traditional paper craft and arts with computer science and engineering. These have artistic implications as well may inspire new innovative designs and applications. We can use science to create more personal and touching pieces of art, such as the origami crane that flapped its wings using currents with the folding techniques, and the musical interface created with the special conductive pen.

I believe that art and technology should always be considered together, you cannot have one without the other. Great art still needs a medium (technology) to be portrayed in order to be successful. And technology needs creativity and aesthetic appeal to garner attention against everything else that is out on the market. When you increase possibilities for mediums you can allow for artistic techniques that may not have been possible due to constraints by previous mediums. I think these new possibilities are more engaging as they encourage interaction and activity rather than just passive observation. Some may argue that the art loses materialization, but instead I think technology can be used to further highlight the different aspects of an object. Things you might not have noticed in a traditional medium would be emphasized using advanced technology.

Personally, I have seen this distinction in my own education at Georgia Tech. I am a computer science major, so a lot of my focus has been placed on programming. However, talking with other students and working on personal projects have made me understand how design are arts can affect the way your software is used. User interface is all art and creativity. The way your robot is designed requires art and creativity. We must increase both artistic capability and engineering skills for best results.

After watching the video on Art, Craft, and Technology, I was curious to see how people had taken these advancements and developed them over the years. I found this video, in which Lea Buechley gives a demonstration of an electronic pop-up book made by mechanical engineering student Jie Qi. This book bridges the gap between the technology and the art and craft of being able to draw and create unique circuits with pens, paints, and papers. Without the technology, the pop-up book is already beautiful. With the technology, the work becomes an exhibition piece. Jie Qi used the technology to create art, and created art that compliments the technology.

Jie Qi used many of the techniques mentioned in the Art, Craft, and Technology video and combines them with standard techniques that someone would expect to find in a pop-up book. The book has switches embedded in its pull-tabs, allowing the user to complete the circuit and light up the book as they move the characters around the page. There are also pressure sensors that help the user control the electronic functioning of the components, as seen on the outer space page. Jie Qi also uses speakers, such as on the skyline page, to create sounds that correspond to the lights. In a way, this piece of art is a type of hypermediacy. The artist has combined many different types of media (paper cutouts, moving parts, circuits, batteries, magnets, lights, sounds, vibrations, etc.) to create a piece that not only marries the electronic and the non-electronic, but at the same time draws attention to the differences between the two.

The YouTube video “Leah Buechley: Art, Craft, and Technology” explores the work Leah Buechley, the Director of the High-Low Group, has done with the group to combine arts, crafts, and technology through embedded computing. As Buechley explains three different methods of embedded computing through taping, sketching, and folding, with paper, we get to a see a synthesis of the arts and technology coming together to create something amazing.

I was very intrigued by the work Buechley and the High-Low Group have done with this innovative form of technology, and it got me thinking about education when Buechley talked about the workshops, lessons, and experiments she does with different groups throughout the year. In recent years, we have seen a trend of moving toward STEM fields as the ones that are most important in society (and most likely to bring in the big paychecks). As our society has moved toward these STEM fields as the “correct” fields to pursue, we have forgotten about the arts and the roles they play. Personally, I get questioned at least once a month about why I chose a liberal arts major instead of a technological degree, especially at a technology based school like Georgia Tech. Even though I do a lot of art, my degree in LMC is synthesized with technology in the same way that Buechley’s research and work with High-Low is a combination of the arts and technology. As Buechley and her team have worked, they’ve brought Art to STEM, truly turning it into STEAM.

By combining all of these elements, we can really grasp the ways that art and technology work off of one another. Even in our degrees in LMC and CM, we get to prove to ourselves and those who doubt us that life isn’t all about STEM, but incorporating the arts to make it STEAM is essential to our education. By incorporating all of these elements, we can truly move forward into the world to work creatively with technology and engage a new wave of students to have strengths across STEAM.

 

 

First Reader