Art 511-Trio of Experimental Art Technologies
Stephen Wilson, Professor, Art, Conceptual/Information Arts Program, San Francisco State University
Information about the Conceptual/Information Arts program  Wilson web page

Hands-on studio art course exploring: 1. Alternative Interfaces - Sensor and Device Control ; 2. Webcameras; 3. GPS position sensing technology.  Perequisite: some knowledge of programming (Lingo or equivalent) and consent of instructor.  (Course listed in schedule as "interactive events" ).   Priority enrollment to CIA majors.  T-Th 7-10pm. Spring,2000

Artists are working with experimental technologies to define new kinds of art events.  This course will provide basic principles and hands-on techniques for working with a trio of such technologies.  It will survey experimental work by international artists and provide critical perspectives on aesthetic issues.  Students will be expected to design and execute projects that explore the conceptual and aesthetic possiblities of these technologies.  Some basic knowledge of programming such as Lingo is necessary for orchestrating these events.
sensors/actuators 1. Sensors/ Device Control:  Most interactive media events rely on the keyboard and mouse for input and the screen and speakers for output.  Experimental technologies are expanding the repertoire of inputs and outputs available for aesthetic exploration.  The course will use Beehive's "ADIO" interface to allow creation of experimental events using Director as an authoring environment.

Students will learn how to sense phenomena such as presence, motion, touch, position, heat, etc.  They  will learn how to control devices such as lights, sound makers, mechanisms, toys, appliances, etc.  The course will provide a basic introduction to electronic devices necessary for creation of events that use sensors and actuators amd address conceptual and aesthetic approaches to using these new capabilities.  No electronics background is necessary.  Students should be aware however, that the course will not be able to o provide a full introduction to electronics, kinetics,  or robotics.  Students with these kinds of expertise will be able to use the control techniques to create more extended events. 

2.  Web Cameras:  New software makes it extremely easy to set up webcameras and to design web sites that use this constantly updating visual information. This course will use the MacWebCam environment to set up web sites that use camera information.  Students will be taught the basic principles and techniques necessary to create events. They will be encouraged to develop aesthetics appropriate to this technology.   Although students will be taught basic web authoring skills necessary to create web camera events, the course will not provide extensive Web authoring instruction.
gps locators 3.  GPS location sensing technology:  The system of geostationary global positioning satilites established by the military allow individuals to identify their precise location to within 20 feet anywhere on the earth.  Inexpensive GPS receivers connected to portable computers allow for the creation of unique location sensitive media events that change with people's movements and position.  This course will teach students the basic principles and hands-on techniques for creating these kind of events. It will use a GARMIN 12xl receiver and GPSey interface software.   Students will be encouraged to consider aesthetic issues raised by this capability.

Professor: Stephen Wilson
FA 539 (new A&I annex)   Phone: (415)338-2291     Email:
Office Hours: Tues & Thurs 12-2 (Best to confirm by appointment)

Course Objectives

Conceptual and Aesthetic:

Technical: Course Requirements: Trio Course Tentative Schedule

Web Resources:

Trio Course Links Page  (technical/art resources in electronics, sensors, actuators, webcams, GPS;  course specific resources - documentation, examples)

Trio Automatic Upload and View Page

Texts:  Wilson, Stephen. Information Arts:Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, to be published Fall,2000
(Chapter 7.4 Alternative Interfaces, Chapter 3.5 GPS Art, Chapter 7.1 Digital Theory)

Evaluation: Grade will be based on class participation and the quality of lab exercises and projects. Students will be expected to maintain a systematic portfolio documenting their course activities.

Prerequisites: Consent of the Instructor  (**priority enrollment for CIA majors)

Instructional Materials Fee: An instructional materials fee of $20 is required to cover  supplies.

Description of Assignments

Technical Assignments

Research Assignments Art Assignments

Artistic Opportunties and Challenges in using enhanced sensors and device control.

Sensors:  Any event that can be converted to a voltage level can become a feature of an expanded interface art work.  Examples include proximity of persons to an object, proximity of persons to other persons, movement patterns, presence/absense, object-person contact, person-person contact, object-object contact, self touch, gesture, tilt, acceleration, switches, postions of objects, light changes, temperature changes, skin conductivity (activated via exercise, stress), wetness, pressure, presence of biological items, presence of chemical items.

Control of physical entitites:  Any device that can be controlled by electrical levels can become the focus of an expanded interface art work.  Examples include light, light levels, sound, positional control of sound, motors, robotics, liquids via pumps and valves, appliances, toys, relationships between virtual and physical objects, muscle stimulation, Internet control of physical devices.

There are several challenges:
1. Devising reliable, low cost methods of reading desired physical world events and finding ways to convert the those events into simple sensor readings.
2. Devising reliable, low cost methods of controlling physical world events.
3. Creating artistic agendas related to these capabilities.

Conceptual/Art Issues
Surveillance, Body identity, Animate/inanimate boundaries, virtual/physical boundaries, intimacy of touch, hidden meaning, ubiquitous computing

Issues in WebCam Art

Surveillance, privacy, internationalism, teleepistemology, web as cultural phenomenon,

Issues in GPS Art

Surveillance, privacy, internationalism, sense of place, mapping