Digi Notes - Winter 2018

Digi Notes is a monthly digital learning newsletter put together by our Director of Digital Learning, Hillary Kolos. Each Digi Notes offers examples of digital learning-focused program examples, articles, and resources.


Spotlight: Mafe Izaguirre, DY Art Center Digital Artist-in-Residence

I am a Venezuelan visual artist and graphic designer based in New York since 2016. I came to the U.S. to enhance my technical skills and learn new technologies. I have been working in digital media for more than twenty years, and I have been working with groups of 16+ Years as an Educator in this field since 2002 and I have some experience working with art workshops with groups of 8+ Years. My entire career is deeply involved in technology and education.

What is a current artistic project that you are working on? Can you tell us about it and maybe a bit about what you are learning in the process?

My recent artwork is in cybernetic art, a field in contemporary art that involves the communication between humans and machines. I build machines using sensors, programmable lights and microcontrollers (microcomputers). My research as an artist is about transhumanism, a scientific and philosophical trend that studies the enhancement of humanity through technology. I’m working specifically with the poetics of the senses and perception. This is a challenging journey because I have to learn computer languages and face the quick pace of our technological evolution but at the same time is a compelling way to understand better our body and the way that technology is impacting our lives. You can check more about my work here: http://mafeizaguirre.com/

What is a current artistic project that you are working on? Can you tell us about it and maybe a bit about what you are learning in the process?

My recent artwork is in cybernetic art, a field in contemporary art that involves the communication between humans and machines. I build machines using sensors, programmable lights and microcontrollers (microcomputers). My research as an artist is about transhumanism, a scientific and philosophical trend that studies the enhancement of humanity through technology. I’m working specifically with the poetics of the senses and perception. This is a challenging journey because I have to learn computer languages and face the quick pace of our technological evolution but at the same time is a compelling way to understand better our body and the way that technology is impacting our lives. You can check more about my work here: http://mafeizaguirre.com/

How does technology support your artistic practice? OR Why do you work with technology in your artistic practice?

I think we created technology to evolve, so I want to be part of the conversation. Beyond the Hollywood image of technology, there is a vast realm of innovations that are bringing positive changes to our civilization. The advances in science and health are enormous and the role of the artists that can envision the future is becoming increasingly important. But there’s also some aspects of technology that we don’t fully understand, and I want to explore those areas from the aesthetic and conceptual perspective to bring that part of the conversation to the table. I stand for the use of technology with a purpose, as well as the importance of promoting the ethics, design thinking, and critical thought to our youth as part of our social commitment for a positive change. My work is all about this.

Why do you think it's important for us to teach young people about technology in connection with art and social justice?

No one can deny the ubiquitous use of technology in our everyday life. It is a fact. I am from a generation that experienced a world without the Internet and smartphones, from that perspective I think we need to be there for young people to walk through these changes in the social experience. Sometimes we don’t need to teach them how to use the devices —they surely know better than us— but we can be there to have an in-depth conversation about how the electronic era is impacting our lives. More importantly we can discuss how they can use these tools to make a difference in the world not just from the artistic perspective but as a useful tool for social change. We are already past the time that technology was understood as the artist’s brush. Today, technology is a medium available for everyone.

What are you excited about doing this year at DreamYard?

Since the first time that I stepped foot in DY, I was in love with the people involved and the purpose. The most beautiful thing about working in DY is feeling part of a very tight-knit community. In its foundations, there is first love and empathy. Then there is the involvement and the action, and this is why the change happens. Everyone here is working hard to make the world they dream real. First within the walls of its headquarters, but also going beyond there to every person and generation that is part of the project. What ends up happening is that we all leave empowered, day by day. I am learning more than what I am supposed to be teaching. It is the kids who are teaching me every day. I really think the way a creative process works better is sharing ideas and working together to make them possible. I also think using digital media is a powerful way for sharing our stories with the parents and the rest of the community for posterity. It is very important to build our digital memory.


IRL (in real life) Examples

Visual Artists “Hijack” Puerto Rico’s Museum of Art With Digital Exhibition - Remezcla

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Several weeks ago, I saw DY TA Vincent Toro share this article (Thanks, Vinnie!!) about artists in Puerto Rico who digitally hacked an art museum using augmented reality and mobile devices. The artists collective called Contrabando wanted to make "invisible art visible" and raise awareness around young Puerto Rican artists and issues of access and representation in the art world. 

The artists secretly planned their project over several weeks and used the app called Layar to allow visitors to view digitally superimpose works of art from local artists on top of the art hanging on the walls. They launched the project during one of the free admissions nights at the museum. 

There is a video at the end of the article that shows how the Layar app works and what the experience was like. 

Hmm, where could we use the Layar app to share our young people's work to new audiences?


Good Stories

Want to build tech for good? Understand people’s needs first - Fast Company

Wilneida Negrón challenges the Facebook mantra - Move fast and break things - in this article about working with communities to design technology. 

By then, my experience working as a therapist, social worker, immigrant rights advocate, and social movement researcher had made me deeply skeptical of Mark Zuckerberg’s “move fast and break things” ethos, which has defined Silicon Valley. While this mantra is credited with ushering in an era of incredible innovation–the products, platforms, and tools developed by “tech giants”–I saw how it reinforced the ways our social, economic, and political systems and institutions can privilege some groups over others, and reproduce bias and inequality.

Negrón is working as a Technology Fellow at the Ford Foundation in the area of public interest technologies which build "bridges across issues, sectors, disciplines, and communities." Public interest technologies matter "because today we not only need to be talking about how technology is developed and used, but also about its broader socioeconomic and political impacts."

As DreamYard supports more creative career pathways in the area of Design - this article can be a helpful re-framing of the dominant approach we see coming out of Silicon Valley and help us keep the work rooted in the history and values of our community. 

Resources

#PublicInterestTech Videos - Ford Foundation

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Speaking of the Ford Foundation and Public Interest Tech - they have released some great videos recently that thoughtfully introduce complicated topics like artificial intelligence and algorithms

Below are three videos that might be helpful conversation starters about digital equity for young people in any classroom: 

Fighting the “Coded Gaze:” How we make artificial intelligence benefit all - Joy Boulamwini

Conversations with a robot - Stephanie Dinkins 

Can computers discriminate? Spoiler Alert: Yes - Kade Crockford

DroneBrella - Augmented Magic 

OK this is just to make you smile - check out this new prototype of a drone umbrella

Isn't that so cool? Show this video to your young people and see what else they dream up! 

And... now you know what to get me for the holidays.