What Does 'Poetic Computation' Look Like? Here are Six Cool Answers
While it may not seem like a natural pairing, technology and the arts mingle in museums and galleries and even universities these days. The latest forum for experiments in mushing the disciplines together doesn’t quite fit any of those categories — but a year in, the School for Poetic Computation has already spawned an array of impressive work.
Based in New York’s Lower East side, the school is itself something of an experimental take on the term “school” — it offers no degree, college affiliation, or even training that’s likely to port neatly to the job market. “The goal,” its mission statement explains, “is to promote completely strange, whimsical, and beautiful work.”
More practically, co-founder Taeyoon Choi explains the idea is to explore “code and hardware as an artistic medium.” Doing so in the form of a school run by artists, outside traditional academic structures, is part of the point.
Choi and co-founder Zachary Lieberman met through New York’s Eyebeam Art & Technology Center (both are former fellows), “and the experience of being [in an] environment dedicated for open-source art and technology definitely inspired making of the school,” he says.
Courses have ranged from “The Poetics of Circuitry” to “Computer Vision and Image Process,” and mix practical mastery of the latest hackable hardware to more poetic concerns, all taught by an impressive crew of instructors and guest lecturers. Currently funded by way of student tuition, the school is actively seeking sponsors and donors as it works toward nonprofit status.
The first program lasted 10 weeks, in the fall of 2013, and a second, intensified, two-week version concluded late this spring. Dozens participated, including students from Chile, Australia, Japan, and elsewhere. Here are some highlights of student projects from the school’s first year — from the charming to the chilling.
1. The True Emotion Indicator
Jessica Wolpert created the True Emotion Indicator. An arduino-controlled, spinning wearable, it allows the user “to indicate their true emotions during a social interaction,” by way of handheld buttons — thus foiling less reliable “socially-conditioned facial expressions.” It’s an interesting comment on use technology to route around human behavior that often (involuntarily) hides the truth.
2. An Air-Pollution Sensor for Your Face
Paul Chang’s Haze project involves strapping a hilariously huge proboscis to your face — but its improbable function is quite serious: It measures air quality, and lights up to indicate heavy pollution. “A wearable air quality detector,” he suggests, “a strong appeal for people to pay attention to issues of air pollution, a very serious issue facing China today.”