The Art of Domains19

There was a lot to love about Domains19,  and I’m just starting to get my head around the event. But I think the most gratifying part of the conference for me was to see the art exhibits really take. I’m at heart a frustrated artist, I desperately want to be one but I lack much of the talent and work ethic required, so I just reproduce 80s living rooms, VHS stores, and soon video game arcades. It’s a kind of art I guess, if art is a bad imitation of life.

Anyway, all this to say I was thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with Ryan Seslow on his featured art piece around accessibility for the conference, namely “The Art of Accessibility.” The development of this piece is worth documenting a bit. We had Ryan down to Fredericksburg twice before the conference as a way to both brainstorm and let the piece gestate a bit. The first visit was in February. Ryan came down and we spent a Saturday playing around at CoWork. We had in our mind that we would try and get screens to highlights his various GIFs as part of the piece, but this is where serendipity and being together worked its magic. We had a bunch of old TVs and VCRs laying around the office that we picked up or folks had given us for Reclaim Video, and Tim had the idea that we could repurpose them to show off Ryan’s GIF for the exhibit. This started us down a really fun path of playing with the Raspberry Pi Video Looper setup, and soon enough we had a pretty solid sense of the piece:

View this post on Instagram

Make art with @ryanseslow, dammit

A post shared by Jim Groom (@jim.groom) on

That was a few hours one weekend, and we decided then that one more trip down would allow us to spend another weekend to finish the piece together. So, to that end, we brought Ryan down again in late May and actually built the pyramid of 9 monitors and mapped out all the other pieces like which Raspberry Pi would go with which TV. Also, to work around the fact we had more TVs than Raspberry Pis, we actually recorded 6 hours of a looping GIF onto two different VHS tapes and had two of the 9 screens actually running a GIF via VHS. We also introduced the video projector which would feature a whole wall of GIFs and then, finally, we got not only a GIF running in an Internet Explorer browser on Mac OS9, but also used one of the TVs to act as a monitor for a 1999 Apple Quicktime camera George Meadows had donated to Reclaim Video. 

The whole thing was really fun because Ryan was so damn easy and awesome to work with, and he just let Tim and I shoot ideas about how to highlight his art, and together we built a piece I am inordinately proud of. Tim was a master at adding a number of cool features (the Apple spy camera, the Mac OS9 browser GIF, etc) as well as making things work, and this exhibit is testament that most good things are a collaboration of many people contributing what they can. I think it’s awesome, and it highlghts what my work life has felt like fo the past 15 years, I have been very lucky in that.

More importantly, I do think the piece does justice to Ryan’s attempt to capture the chaos of making sense of the digital world as a deaf person, and the array of dead technology highlights the prison house of form and style of that defines our media landscape.  It was a truly a generative collaboration, and folks seemed to appreciate the resulting product. In fact, while setting up the night before a group of young artists were digging on it pretty hard, and it made me happy:

But pretty much everyone brought their A-game to Domains19 when it came to art. The TmCertified crew consisting of Matt Roberts and Tommy Birchett were educating the Domains community about the real value of the new derivative art on the global exchange market known as the web. I may, or may not, be able to get a version of the art Tess and I collaborated on for their installation, but they were nothing short of awesome. It was performance art and interactive, creative fun. I loved it.

Also, Zach Whalen‘s Glitch Art frame was amazing. He built the frame and stand that encased the GIFs though two monitors and each day a new combination of Glitch GIFs. It was mesmerizing, and reminds me how awesome Zach is!

Speaking of UMW, they really brought it hard for the art fair, Jess Reingold and Jennifer Hill’s Battle for Silicon Valley triptych hat maps the techno-plutocrats of our era on top of the an historical painting from the 18th or 19th century (not sure which one though):

There was a visit from the good Dr. whose drone could put to sleep an entire room of folks.

While not a Domains19 art work per se, it was good to see SPLOTs represented in the general collection ?

Martin Hawksey and Bryan Mathers teamed up to create a photo booth where folks could use the Fabulous Remixer Machine or create a GIF from back to the future with McFlyify.

And Martin Hawksey out did himself with one of the best keynotes I have seen in a very long time. He actually built a the  “They Live” generator that “lets you relive the seminal moment [in They Live] when Nada walks down the L.A street and the real truth is revealed.

They Live

Martin used Kairos to demonstrate how accurate that software is at detecting if you are wearing sunglasses, it also returns other demographic data such as age, gender and ethnicity. 

And then there were sava saheli singh and Tim Maughan‘s Screening Surveillance films, which were an awesome addition, you can hear them discuss A Model Employee in the video above.

I am thrilled so many folks took the idea seriously and brought made this little experiment possible. It built on the Domains Record Fair last year in some important ways, and I really love the idea of highlighting art and creativity as part and parcel of good edtech. 

Hey McFly, Register for Domains19!

I spoke with Martin Hawksey about his talk at Domains19 a few weeks back, and I got even more excited than I was already—which is saying something. And now you can a small glimpse as to why, namely the McFlyify site which is facial detection experiment that captures and animates your face on top of Marty McFly’s in the disappearing heads of the McFly family photograph from Back to the Future.

Martin describes the whole process in depth in this post, and the short version is how simple it is to use free web-based tools to capture, recognize, and manipulate images of yourself. The implications of this technology are both fascinating and troubling, and the McFlyify experiment is just a small teaser of what he will  explore in order to frame how these technologies work and their broader implications for better and for worse. How sick is that? It promises to be a remarkable talk, and I’m over the moon that it will be happening at Domains19. Which should server as a timely reminder for folks to register sooner than later given we are limited to 120 seats and they are going fast.

Berg Builds Community

It’s been a week of travel and on-the-ground work at Reclaim’s Headquarters in Fred Vegas, but I would be remiss if I did not share the awesome community portal the folks at Muhlenberg College have built with their Domains instance.

Community site for Berg Builds

It’s a beautiful thing, scores of featured sites  around the community that can be filtered by a few key categories such as research, travel, portfolio, student, staff, faculty, etc. The screenshot above does not capture the long scroll of sites that provides an instant sense of just how much work is happening in the Muhlenberg community, and for me that is everything. I continually return to the idea that these educational publishing platforms are at their core a way to reveal the life of the mind of a community, and Berg Builds has nailed it. From what I understand the great Tim Clarke is behind this project, and he has really done a brilliant job, simple, elegant, and sensitive to the issues that surround be out there in this day and age. 

The opt-in/opt-out form does a nice job of inviting submissions as well as providing a place for users to remove their work if need be. And the blurb introducing the form lays it all out:

We try to keep up with all the great work happening on Berg Builds domains. But sites come and go, people wander, the world forever marches onward. If we’ve missed your site and you would like to be included in this community, please use the opt-in form below and let us know!

Working on the open web adds our voices, knowledge, and experience to the greatest collection of human creativity ever known. But we understand that folks seek visibility of their work on the web in different ways. While we encourage everyone to share their creations within our Berg Builds Community site, we also understand that you may have reasons why this doesn’t feel right. If you would like to have your site removed, please use the opt-out form below and we will honor your request.

I remain a true believer that working on the web can provide a unique space to share our work, and I also believe there is a special place on the web for higher ed given its foundational role in help shaping the internet. That said, we know the other side of that coin all too well these days, which makes the work Muhlenberg is doing to highlight the good work folks are doing all the more special. Opening up the inscrutable black box that is web hosting for discovery and connections is an act filled with hope and promise—it’s hard not to feel inspired.

I am looking forward to a play-by-play of this project, and imagine it’s either already published or on the way. And hey, there may even be a presentation in the works for Domains19—ya never, never know!

Back to the Future: The Mothership or The DeLorean?

Cropping from book cover of Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond

We are thrilled to finally announce the first keynote presentation at Domains19, which will be co-presented by Chris Gilliard and sava saheli singh, who will be asking the question: “Back to the Future: The Mothership or The DeLorean?” Chris jokingly wrote when describing the talk: “Think George Clinton, Octavia Butler, and The Mothership meets Domains.” I can’t think of anything cooler, and the abstract will give you a sense of what’s to come:

A common (yet searingly accurate) lament is that so much of our current tech and visions of the future are based on the limited imaginations of the small segment of the population that fits within Silicon Valley’s ideal of “innovation.” Thus we are often burdened with tech (and ed-tech) that suits the vision and needs of people who are overwhelmingly white and male. As we live the consequences of this vision, it’s worthwhile to think about Black and Brown visions of “the future” to inform how we might move forward in a way that looks decidedly different from our current path. This keynote aims to complicate current ways of thinking about privacy, security, accessibility, and ownership, drawing on Afrofuturism and 80’s funk to imagine ways of operating outside of our current paradigm of surveillance capitalism.

You can read more about both Chris and Sava’s work here, and if you are considering coming to Domains19 on June 10th and 11th, it might be high time to submit a proposal or register for the conference. The proposal deadline has been extended out to February 15th, so there is world enough and time to submit and/or register!

You’re Invited to the Domains 19 Conference

Nothing makes an event feel more official than when the website finally goes live. And the Domains19 website has been official since last Thursday, so I think it is fair to say this conference is definitely happening. It will be taking place on June 10 and 11th at the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina. The site art is a throwback to visions of the future during the 80s (hence the “Back to the Future” theme for the conference), and we are fortunate enough to have Ryan Seslow working with us to define the overall conference aesthetic. I’ve found imagining the aesthetic for Reclaim’s various projects over the years some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.* I’m biased though, I always feel the coolest and most compelling work comes out of art projects rather than papers. 

So for Domains19 we are hoping folks will explore various topics the event will focus on through a more experimental, interactive proposal of some kind. I’m planning on bringing back to my “Data is the New Flesh” installation from OpenEd 2013 featuring Dr. Oblivion (despite the fact no one has asked for it), and we’re really hoping others follow suit so I’m not entirely alone. In fact, I’ve a sneaking suspicion our keynote speakers, which will be announced over the next few weeks, will be eschewing traditional presentations formats for a more interactive and immersive series of experiences. 

All that said, more traditional presentations and panels are also fine … I guess ? You can find the  call for proposals here, and if you are planing on coming but not presenting the registration page is also live. So, if planning on presenting or just coming to take in the Art of Domains, consider yourself officially invited! We would love to see you all in North Carolina this June to explore a wide variety of pressing themes that will hopefully transport us back to the various possible futures of EdTech.


*The tradition goes back to the myriad design work we’ve done with Bryan Mathers for severla years now, as well as the more recent building out of the Reclaim Video site with Michael Branson Smith.