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Media Arts and Technology

Graduate Program

University of California Santa Barbara




This talk will present a series of work that blends computation, digital fabrication, and traditional ceramics making. I will explore ways that computation and fabrication can integrate with, rather than supplant, existing craft practices. More specifically, I will discuss how I use computationally generated designs and a laser cutter in conjunction with traditional slab building techniques—techniques for constructing ceramic structures out of flat sheets, or "slabs", of clay—to create novel surface patterns, textures, and 3-dimensional shapes.

This project also explores the larger topic of the relationships between technologies and cultures of making—between people and their materials and tools, both new and old. Craft traditions, rich with material and technical expertise as well as cultural meaning, are often overlooked by technologists. I will argue that we should pay much closer attention to the longstanding making traditions of different communities as we investigate new approaches to design and fabrication. Doing so presents underexplored and vital technical, aesthetic, cultural, and even civic opportunities.


Leah Buechley is an associate professor in the computer science department at the University of New Mexico where she directs the Hand and Machine research group. She is a designer, engineer, and educator. Her work explores integrations of electronics, computing, art, craft, and design. She is a pioneer in paper and fabric-based electronics and her inventions include the LilyPad Arduino, a construction kit for sew-able electronics. Previously, she was a professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she founded and directed the High-Low Tech group. Her work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Boston Globe, and Wired and exhibited in venues including Ars Electronica, the Exploratorium, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 2017, her work was recognized with the Edith Ackerman award for Interaction Design and Children. Leah received a PhD in computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a BA in physics from Skidmore College. At both institutions she also studied dance, theater, fine art, and design.

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Deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have become one of the most commonly used machine learning tools. Their ubiquity, however, has also given rise to a new class of technical images: images that are not processed but produced by such networks. Parallel to the unprecedented rise of image processing with deep convolutional neural networks, CNN-based machine learning systems have emerged that act as image-making machines. However, rather than picking up on the analytical challenges that these systems present, research in media philosophy and the digital humanities has been almost exclusively preoccupied with broad and general critiques of artificial intelligence as a speculative technology.

At the same time, neural network images have become an essential part of the public perception of artificial intelligence because they act as image interfaces, as gateways to otherwise inherently opaque technical systems that are not only complex but which require an entirely different set of analytical tools. Exactly because of this inherent opacity, generative machine learning in its current form started as visualization - "deep dream", for instance, is really feature visualization without specific optimization targets.

From this hybrid origin emerge significant questions of representation and interpretation that are not only aesthetic in nature: with the increasing utilization of image-making CNNs in the sciences they turn into epistemological questions about invention, discovery, and the location of knowledge.

Neural network images should thus not only be considered a "natural" domain of humanist inquiry, but their analysis and critique is as relevant - and increasingly as political - as the analysis of explicit bias in AI systems that has received much more recognition in the past few years. The dissertation thus presents the first comprehensive analysis of neural network images and their epistemic, aesthetic, and, by extension, political implications, from the hybrid perspective of media philosophy and the digital humanities.


Sensing the World – Exploring Wearable Technology through Soft Robotics

Disciplines: Biomimicry, Pneumatic Architecture, Media Arts & Technology, Human-Computer Interaction.

Conventional wearable robots designed with rigid materials, such as metal and hard plastic, are often limited by their lower flexibility, functionality, and biological compatibility. With sensory technology and novel materials, can we rethink the wearable device as a soft and organic interface? Sensing the world is connecting the body (or mechanics), the brain (or controller), and the environment. In this course, we will focus on the emerging field of soft robotics, bringing together research and applications of wearable technology. We will introduce the concept of computational morphology in soft robotics and study the design principles using 3D modeling tools. Specific topics include body architecture, pneumatic architecture, soft mechanism, smart material, biomimicry design, geometrical morphology, sensory technology, embodied intelligence, wearable computing, and human-robot interaction. We will also discuss the soft wearable applications in art, communication, fitness, entertainment, medicine, and sports, and so on. Through a series of hands-on activities, students will explore digital fabrication, soft motion mechanisms, soft actuation, and wearable sensors. By the end of the course, students will design, modeling, and build of a wearable device, and analysis the human-robot interaction.

Director Dr. JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, chief designer of the three-story facility on the UC Santa Barbara campus, says the intersection of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics has facilitated exciting new avenues for scientific discovery.

"But it is their strong desire to welcome research partners and collaborations of all kinds, that leads the AlloSphere to make a real difference in the local community".

Goleta’s Finest is a 70-year old tradition honoring remarkable individuals whose contributions have enhanced the Goleta community.

The 2019 award recipients will be honored with a formal celebration on Nov. 23 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Bacara.


Photos: George Legrady. James Bay Cree, Fort George, James Bay, 1973, Quebec, Canada.

The award is for an upcoming publication titled "James Bay Cree Culture & Architecture", a monograph of documentary photographs created in four coastal Cree First Nation villages in sub-arctic James Bay in 1973. The publication is to consist of introductory texts, approximately 180 black and white photographs of everyday scenes in the Cree communities just prior to their legal negotiations over infrastructure autonomy and land rights in response to the construction of the James Bay Hydro-electric project on traditional hunting lands.


"System 319" at the Venice Biennale.

Marko Peljhan’s work revolves around two fundamental aspects of the world today: the technological developments in communication, transport, and surveillance; and the highly complex systems of political, economic, and military power driving such developments and employing them in administration, control, production or military applications. The potentials of technology are introduced into art as a way of confronting the systems of governance and their strategies. Peljhan’s art has thus evolved into a process involving a cartography of "signal territories," an analysis of the role of technology in society, particularly as it relates to power structures, a reflection on the possibilities of a different, creative and resistant use of technological means, and, ultimately, the creation of socially useful models of resistant behaviors in the contemporary social system. The theatrical dimension of Peljhan’s art plays a crucial role in this; his best-known project Makrolab can in this sense be interpreted as a technological laboratory and a social stage based on the concept of micro-performance.

At the Venice Biennale, Peljhan will present a work from his Resolution series. This series, which has evolved over some 20 years, proposes some specific material and applicable solutions to certain problems in society. It is the artist’s response to the state in which the world finds itself today, calling for a rediscovery of space and a utopian response to the rapid changes in the environment. In this sense, the autonomous vessel produced as part of the "Here we go again… SYSTEM 317" project is a colonizing, apocalyptic and pirating tool of sorts. In it, Peljhan brings together his vision, the potential for and the impossibility of a final exit from our rapidly deteriorating planetary conditions in a process he calls “reverse conversion.” He first employed this methodology in his "TRUST-SYSTEM" series, which focused on the conversion of cruise missile technology and later, unmanned systems for civil counter-reconnaissance. The artist proposes the construction of a counter-privateering machine intended for the days when the world’s great empires find themselves, once again, in confrontation—and one characterized by a grave lack of responsibility together with great destructive potential.


The X-43A Hypersonic Experimental (Hyper-X) Vehicle in Benefield Aenechoic Facility at Edwards Air Force Base radio January 2000. Photo: Tom Tschida. Image courtesy of NASA.

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About MAT

Media Arts and Technology (MAT) at UCSB is a transdisciplinary graduate program that fuses emergent media, computer science, engineering, electronic music and digital art research, practice, production, and theory. Created by faculty in both the College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Science, MAT offers an unparalleled opportunity for working at the frontiers of art, science, and technology, where new art forms are born and new expressive media are invented.

In MAT, we seek to define and to create the future of media art and media technology. Our research explores the limits of what is possible in technologically sophisticated art and media, both from an artistic and an engineering viewpoint. Combining art, science, engineering, and theory, MAT graduate studies provide students with a combination of critical and technical tools that prepare them for leadership roles in artistic, engineering, production/direction, educational, and research contexts.

The program offers Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Media Arts and Technology. MAT students may focus on an area of emphasis (multimedia engineering, electronic music and sound design, or visual and spatial arts), but all students should strive to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and work with other students and faculty in collaborative, multidisciplinary research projects and courses.

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