Graduate Student Symposium Proposal

Graduate Student Symposium Proposal

I am presently completing my final year of study in the Joint Communication and Culture M.A. at Ryerson University and York University, an interdisciplinary program within which I am investigating the potential for Augmented Reality (AR), an emerging technology, as a new form for artistic expression. AR is the convergence of the real and the virtual, consisting of the overlaying of computer-generated images onto a physical environment, which is interactive in real-time. The potential for various artistic applications of AR is tremendous and can be extended to immersive environments and narrative, including interactive cinema and performance, as well as three-dimensional digital painting, sculpture, and montage. Narrative elements and the opportunities for immersive dramatic experiences in AR are beginning to be explored for educational uses and entertainment purposes. The visualization of the medium itself is also a new area of investigation; computer engineers are experimenting with non-photorealistic imaging, including painterly and abstract visualizations.

This research will seek to identify what types of projects artists aspire to create using AR, how existing tools and software can be improved to better support creativity, and how greater access can be granted to artists to work directly with the technology, without the need of an intermediary such as a computer programmer. The advent of the AR Toolkit software library created an opportunity to enable greater access to individuals outside of industry to experiment with AR. One limitation of the AR Toolkit, however, is that it requires knowledge of computer programming, limiting accessibility to artists without the said experience. This research will seek to identify potential solutions to transcend the technical barrier of computer programming knowledge to create such work.

Throughout my M.A. program of study I have created interactive artistic works in AR. My approach in forming creative work in AR has been one of acknowledging the limitations presented by the software tools available to me (possessing minimal programming knowledge), then using the set constraints as parameters to develop possible outcomes. This has entailed a process of continuous sketching and brainstorming independent of the computer and software to imagine and evolve opportunities. My process has been one of rapidly prototyping sketched concepts into physical objects which then integrate AR technology.

This research will entail observing and documenting how artists work directly with AR in order to enable and support the creation of better tools to further foster creativity and artistic practice within this new media form. An action-based research methodology will be applied, as well as qualitative research utilizing questionnaires, interviews, and journals across a series of workshops and artist residencies where artists will develop creative projects in AR. A case study will be written based upon observation and data collection conducted under the framework of the following research questions: What is 2 the nature of AR Art and the processes utilized to create such work? How do the selected artists conceptualize AR Art? Will artists identify AR as an expressive medium that affords new possibilities in the realm of Art? Do current tools meet the needs of what artists aspire to create in AR? How can existing AR tools be improved or redesigned to better meet the needs of artists? What challenges can be anticipated for artists working with AR? What new tools can be developed in the future to support creative practice in AR? How can the knowledge gained by observing artists working with AR be applied to other disciplines and industries?

The opportunity exists for artists to drive innovation in the field of AR in parallel to current investigations by industry, and to aid this emerging technology to reach its full creative potential. As AR is still in its infancy, this research will be framed by previous studies and discussions concerning art and technology, connecting theory and practice across Fine Arts, Computer Science, and progressing into the realm of Human Computer Interaction (HCI). This research will be informed by the work of Ben Shneiderman and his writing on software tools that promote, accelerate, and facilitate creativity. My work will also look to the Computer Systems for Creative Work (COSTART) case studies of Linda Candy and Ernest Edmonds at the Creativity and Cognition Studios in Sydney, Australia, who have documented the creative processes of art and technology collaborations, addressing the design of digital systems for creativity support.

This research is being conducted under the supervision of Dr. Caitlin Fisher, Canada Research Chair in Digital Media, and Founder and Director of the Future Cinema Lab at York University, which is scheduled to open in February 2007. AR is one of the primary research focuses of the Future Cinema Lab. This lab is unique in Canada in that AR facilities typically reside within Computer Science departments; the Future Cinema Lab has been founded within the faculty of Fine Arts and will be interdisciplinary in nature, which is a central aspect to my work and research.

I am also presently working in collaboration with the Ontario Science Center in Toronto to assist in conceptualizing and initiating an emerging technologies usability lab. The lab initiative, spearheaded by Ana Klasnja, will feature a collaborative experimental working environment within the museum where the public can engage with real world research in art, science, and technology at various stages of development from early prototypes to end products. Visitors to the Ontario Science Center will have the opportunity to learn about and interact with current innovations in new media. In turn, such public engagement will provide critical information for further iterations of the research or artwork evaluated and exhibited in the lab. With over a million visitors to the Science Center annually, this lab will yield valuable research outcomes in areas such as interface design, as well as provide a unique opportunity for deep insights into usability, the creative process, and the nature of interdisciplinary work bridging the cultures of science, engineering, art, and design.

My professional experience working in design and technology also provides insights into my current research. From 2002 to 2004, I was Project Coordinator at the internationally renowned Bruce Mau Design studio in Toronto, responsible for managing and producing 3 Massive Change: The Future of Global Design. Massive Change maps the possibility, power, and promise of design, investigating the newfound technological capacities and contemporary innovation in imaging, information, manufacturing, transportation, urbanism, health, energy, markets, and materials. Massive Change featured an internationally touring 20,000 square foot exhibition, an accompanying book published by Phaidon Press, a series of public events and symposia featuring global leaders, and an on-line forum. I was actively involved in all of the project’s components and phases of development, from inception and creative conceptualization through to research, design, production, and completion.

During my tenure at Bruce Mau Design, I also played an active role in founding the Institute without Boundaries, an interdisciplinary post-graduate design program in collaboration with George Brown College. The aim of the Institute without Boundaries is to produce a new type of designer, one who is, in the words of visionary and global thinker Buckminster Fuller, a “synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist”. Projects presented new learning models that dissolved the line between learning and practice, between work and the world. Involved in all stages of the program’s inception, including mission, curriculum development, student recruitment and admissions, I served two twelve-month academic terms as Program Coordinator at the Institute without Boundaries from 2002-2004.

Participating in the Graduate Student Symposium will present me with the unique opportunity to receive feedback and guidance from experienced practitioners and academics as well as gain inspiration and new perspectives from peer graduate students. I am highly interested in learning more about various approaches to designing and evaluating computational creativity support tools, including interdisciplinary methods, ethnographic analyses, and empirical evaluations. I look forward to meeting and discussing my research with the key individuals who have inspired my work including Ben Shneiderman, Ernest Edmonds, and Linda Candy.