This year’s edition of EVA London conference took place from the 22nd to the 24th of July in the prestigious home of the British Computer Society (BCS).
The BCS is a cultural institution established in 1957, which aims to encourage the study and practice of computing, and is the leading body for those working in the Information Technology. The conference was co-sponsored by the Computer Arts Society (CAS), which is a specialist group within the BCS. Let me remind a few little notes about the CAS. Established in 1968, it represents both a forum and support for artists and professionals engaged with electronic and experimental art practices. During the 60s the institute was involved in establishing collaborations between artists and technologists for creative purposes; also has held many events, and above all the seminal exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, organized by Jasia Reichardt.
As an Italian researcher working in the United Kingdom I felt pleased and also a bit uncomfortable to enter the BCS building; that place sounded to me as the kingdom of computer art, a historical sight which delivered the first attempts to merge technology and artistic creations.
Although I’m mostly interested in the sociological and anthropological aspects of the emergence of new technologies and digital culture, and I’m neither a software developer nor a technologist, many presentations during EVA captured my attention and curiosity. Among the about thirty papers, I though several of them were particularly innovative and functional, especially for performance arts, and educational and experimental purposes.
I was extremely fascinated by Kia Ng’s presentation on Technology-Enhanced Learning for Music with I-Maestro Framework and Tools. Kia is the director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music (ICSRiM, University of Leeds ), and his project aims to explore innovative solutions for music training in both theory and performance. Building on recent innovations resulting from the development of computer and information technologies, by exploiting new pedagogical paradigms with cooperative and interactive self-learning environments, gestural interfaces, and augmented instruments, with computer-assisted tuition in classrooms, to offer technology-enhanced environments for practical-training, creativity, analysis, and theory-training, ensemble playing, composition, etc.
I’ve also found interesting a few projects about the diverse uses of the Wiimote, a fancy white interactive remote controller developed by Nintendo. From the analysis of a conductor’s gestures, to a method of interactive sonification of 2D image data, the Wiimote represents a handy and affordable tool for innovative projects and research.
More sociological oriented were the presentations New Literacy New Audiences: Social Media and Cultural Institutions by Angelina Russo together with Jerry Watkins, and On-Line Encounters: A new Method of Creating Participatory Art by Rebecca Gamble. During the first presentation Russo and Watkins reported the findings of a three years Australian research project in which they analysed whether the evolution in digital content creation New Literacy , and social media can create a new audience of active cultural participants. The cultural participant has the “digital literacy”, the skills required to use digital technologies to engage in both cultural consumption and production through interaction with digital cultural content.
The aim of Gamble’s paper is to present how the emergence of Web 2.0 technology has transferred social activities on-line, and re-arranged the way people meet and interact. This new phenomenon has led to the emergence of new platforms for artists, the creation of new ways to present, circulate, and promote art, and to encourage more participation and collaborations. In both papers the crucial role played by on-line communication is clear, what is new here is the increasing importance of the idea of participatory media, and the closer engagement with audiences and communities.
In this brief journey inside EVA London, finally I want to mention two remarkable projects made in Italy . The first presented by Irene Buonazia and Massimo Bertoncini, Emotional Interfaces in Performing Arts: The Callas Project is the result of the collaboration between universities and private research laboratories, and artists, broadcasts and theatres involved as final users. Callas aims to design and develop an integrated multimodal architecture able to take account of emotional aspects to support applications in the new media business scenario with an “ambient intelligence” paradigm.
The structure presents three main areas: the Shelf, collecting multimodal affective components; the Framework, which is the software infrastructure that enables the cooperation of multiple components with the interface addressed to the final users; and the Showcases, which addresses three main fields of new media (Augmented Reality Art, Entertainment and Digital Theatre, Interactive installation in public spaces, and next generation Interactive TV).
The second project was A new Information System for the Superintendence of Pompeii : Integration, Management and Preservation of Archaeological Digital Resources in the Perspective of Interoperability with European Digital Libraries by Rony Cesana and Maria Emilia Masci. The Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa started the project in 2005, aiming to develop the Pompeii Information System. In its final stage the System will become both the official web site and the main information system of the Archaeological Information System for the Geographic Area of Mount Vesuvius (SIAV), and will be used for cataloguing, documentation, preservation, and management of archaeological heritage, and for external communication.
This small, and absolutely arbitrary, selection of papers is to give an idea of what EVA London 2008 is about. The conference also offers a place for networking, a great platform for presenters to showcase their projects through visualisations and demonstrations, and finally the chance for postgraduate students to attend the research workshops.
Today the possibilities offered by new technologies are almost countless that we can easily get lost in it; every aspect of our life opens up new opportunities to experiment, to challenge our limits as human beings. So please please please, keep researching, keep pushing the boundaries of knowledge, and above all trust in mutual collaboration and cultural exchange. Please keep experimental culture alive!.