What struck me first on visiting Paa Joe’s “Gates of No Return” at the American Folk Art Museum was just how vibrant and bright each of the pieces was – in stark contrast to the horrible histories they represented. If I hadn’t known the history of the sites and the people that passed through them, I would have spoken of the whimsy with which they were at times represented. One of them in particular was colored in brightly colored blobs, which I assumed was a somewhat fanciful recreation of the rocks from which it was constructed.
Joe, age 11, picking morel mushrooms A young boy in a sporty blue and white jacket and baseball cap looks directly at the camera. He holds out his right hand to show a morel mushroom he has picked. His expression is honest and unposed and shows a hint of a smile. This photo appears as part of the Coal River Folklife Collection - a collection of photos, audio recordings, and other media, which sought to record, ‘traditional uses of the mountains in the Big Coal River Valley of southern West Virginia, and explored the cultural dimensions of ecological crisis from 1992 to 1999.
A day in the life, following an hourly comic format:
This project uses reinforcement learning to train an agent to paint a picture. I wanted to see a particular effect – namely having a number of agents working autonomously (i.e. controlled by separate ‘brains’) and cooperatively to complete a task. What is Reinforcement Learning? Reinforcement learning is a method of training a machine learning model. It uses a reward structure, rather than a set of known (labelled) data, to learn how to complete a task.
This project explores real-time interactive world-building in virtual reality. Users speak and objects appear around them. They ask kindly and mountains move. Basically, it turns them into the gods of their own terrible little worlds. Voice control allows virtual reality to feel a little closer to our reality, in which spoken words have meaning and merit responses. This experience allows us to consider what might happen when virtual reality advances enough to feel truly real: will we all succumb to the temptations of complete control and live our lives in VR?
This short story presents a not-too-distant future in which people have complicated relationships with other people, with their own self-concept and with ‘virtual identities.’ In short, very little about this world feels unlike our own. The aspect of this future scenario which felt most interesting was how the main character and her (AI-native) children had a very different conception of the virtual assistant, Augusta. I was reminded of a talk from Stefania Druga (Media Lab) about her research into ‘Growing Up with AI’.
The podcast Sandra introduces a world in which the eponymous ‘virtual assistant’ is not in fact virtual, but composed of many human assistants speaking through a single anonymizing electronic voice. In this world, people hired to control this virtual assistant take an aptitude test to determine their specific sub-specialty (birds, relationships, etc.). Only requests relating to those subjects will be routed to them and their responses are relayed to the users of ‘Sandra’ through a single modulated voice.
The World of the Play John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch takes place inside an (East) Broadway theater – the Belasco – on a stage otherwise occupied by the set of the recently opened-and-closed Hurt Locker: The Musical. The stage set is composed of the bombed-out husk of a vehicle on a ‘Middle Eastern’ street with parts of the car hang in mid-air as though a bomb were currently exploding.
For my assignment this week, I made a voice controlled map! This week, I tried both two voice-controlled games – Chicken Scream and YASUHATI – on my Android phone. Both games are simple side scrollers with voice-activated character movements. The basic controls for both games are identical: - both games are volume-controlled, without regard for pitch or semantics (more on this later) - a low-volume input causes the character to walk forward - a medium-volume input causes the character to jump - a high-volume input causes the character to jump higher I found both games extremely difficult to control.
As part of our response to Carson Kreitzer’s “Lasso of Truth” we made Cornell Boxes (Joseph Cornell, not the CGI render tests…) encapsulating and expressing our feelings about the play. As an actor, the process of understanding a play often begins and ends with text. Through scene work, movement exercises and various other rehearsal techniques, we attempt to internalize the text: turn words on a page into words which ring true when we speak.