November 10-16, 2007
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
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
Stephen Beck, the Director of the Center
for Computation and Technologys
(CCT) Laboratory for Creative Arts &
Technologies at Louisiana State Universitys
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 LSUs impressive
booth. He spoke about the real estate
acquired by LSU in Second Life. As many
of Leonardos 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 LSUs
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.