New Lab a Meeting Place for Technology and Art

Nick Baker’s student workers are helping students and faculty from across campus blend art and technology in the Art Building’s new pop-up media lab.

Taking advantage of the unused space in the slide library in Art 211 and existing technical resources, the lab will provide a location for interdisciplinary faculty and student collaboration, said Baker, instructional technology consultant for the arts.

"We hope to give our student workers some great work experience, while supporting faculty use of technology for teaching and learning," said Baker. A further goal is for the media lab to display a growing portfolio of projects that showcase student creativity.

With the help of his eight student workers and the support of LITS and faculty from the arts and computer science, Baker launched the media lab in January. It’s open weekdays and until 9 pm on Tuesdays during the spring semester. The lab will be officially opened at a launch party on Wednesday, February 29 at 4:30 pm.

The lab is already being used by students and faculty to develop interactive media projects and art installations. Using laptops, webcams, face recognition technology and some open source code, Baker’s student workers are designing installations that involve people in an emotional interaction with a computer.

“Right now we're working on a large eye projected in a window that will follow you as you walk along outside the Art Building, and a long exposure photograph that will incorporate you into the scene over time,” said Baker.

The pop-up media lab “seems like the kind of space that has been missing from the Art Building,” said Tatiana Ginsberg, visiting artist in art and art history.

“We're already seeing good things happen in the space,” she said. “The art history majors are crossing paths with studio arts more. My digital art class is doing a vinyl installation on the lab windows using the new cutter/plotter we got for the department this winter.”

Audrey Lee-St. John, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science, has visited the lab several times to collaborate with art faculty.

"I'm very excited about the possibilities that the pop-up media lab will bring to the MHC community,” she said. “Nick has already facilitated brainstorming sessions that have sparked ideas for creative new projects, such as iPad apps with the Art Museum and architecture department, and I feel like we're only scratching the surface."

“The lab will hopefully encourage more cross-pollination between all the disciplines in the Art Building and bring in the possibility for more interaction with computer science,” said Ginsberg. “We have many students who are interested in the intersection of art and technology, and we'd like to encourage the computer science majors to collaborate with students in the arts.”

Although the lab is an experiment, Baker has high hopes for its role as a place where faculty and students can share resources and knowledge to create interactive media and art installations.

“As a cross between something like MIT’s media lab and a hackerspace, I hope that this will evolve into a community-driven space for experimentation between disciplines,” he said.