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Supercomputing 07

November 10-16, 2007
Reno, Nevada
Conference website: http://sc07.supercomputing.org/.

Reviewed by Jack Ox


Artists who collaborate with scientists have increasing reasons to attend Supercomputing. This year the conference, SC07, was held in Reno, Nevada and held much that should be of interest to the Leonardo community.

For starters, during the education program, preceding the massive floor exhibition, there was a session on Humanities/ Arts and Social Sciences. It should be revealed that during this panel I gave a demo of the Gridjam, a collaborative project with which I am deeply involved. I would like to describe the other two presentations in the afternoon session. First, there was Social Explorer, found at http://www.socialexplorer.com/pub/home/home.aspx. Ahmed Lacevic, a software engineer, delivered the demo. He showed how one to access myriad demographic data from 1940 through the year 2000 starting at a national level and digging down the layers to streets. Social Explorer is interesting on two different levels. The first is the information that is so easily displayed, and on a simple level is available for free. For an individual subscription price of $300 this information can be saved, re-accessed, and used in a quite convenient way. This data can be used in art works depending upon social data. Information available includes gay couples that have, for the first time in 2000, reported themselves as living together. The second point of interest is the notion of creating a user-friendly program platform that manipulates public data systems. This activity is one that should be of interest to artists teetering on the edge of science, as so many of us are doing. And this is a natural intersection of design and meaning, a point of interdisciplinary collaboration.

Stephen Beck, the Director of the Center for Computation and Technology’s (CCT) Laboratory for Creative Arts & Technologies at Louisiana State University’s Center for Computation & Technology (LCAT), is exactly the kind of person from the Arts that you would expect to see at Supercomputing. He is a composer and was a researcher at Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). LCAT is an interdisciplinary lab that functions as a place where artists, musicians, scientists engineers and writers are encouraged to collaborate across boundary lines and utilize supercomputing power in their realizations of complex collaborations. This group is also on the National LambdaRail (NLR), a dedicated optical network linking consortium members from all over the globe in a low jitter zone, 10 Gigabit per second connection, aiding collaboration with similar institutions, e.g. the ARTS Lab at the University of New Mexico where the author is located, or the Electronic Visualization Lab (EVL) at the University of Illinois, Chicago. This is a growing community that comes every year to Supercomputing.

Beck presented, both at the education demonstration and at LSU’s impressive booth. He spoke about the real estate acquired by LSU in Second Life. As many of Leonardo’s readers know, SL is a virtual environment using content created by the residents. It functions as a massively multi-player online game, and is also a marketplace that has actual transactions in its own money system (Linden Dollars). SL has also become a virtual collaborative environment including the Arts, Humanities, Science and Education. Bowling Green State University in Ohio has art exhibits in their SL gallery. LSU uses their High Performance Computing resources in their SL functions, and these include visualization simulation, landscape design, musical performances, installation art, and of course virtual classrooms. Professors are able to hold their office hours in SL rooms inside of LSU’s real estate.

Another collaboration that LSU has made is a video game design class with the Electronic Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Jason Leigh, a computer science professor at UIC and the director of EVL taught this weekly course at LSU from UIC, over the National LambdaRail. The final project was a marathon game online, which was graded by the professors.



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