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Trimpin’s Sheng High (dorkbotSF Tour) March 27, 2009

Posted by k0re in Trip Report.
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About 15 lucky dorks were invited by sound artist and kinetic sculptor Trimpin for a private preview of his latest installation Sheng High which was premiering the following day at the Nelson Gallery at UC Davis. It will be at the Nelson from March 26 – May 17. Viewing hours are 6-8 pm daily. The address is:

The Richard L. Nelson Gallery & The Fine Arts Collection
University of California, Davis / Art Department
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616

It’s an amazing piece where he converts music into a circular notation using 5 different software and many manual processes to create pie shaped piano-player type sheets with reflective material denoting the ‘notes’. The reflective material triggers sensors on a rotating arm to actuate motors which lift and dip several faux-boo poles into water, where the displacement of air within the pipes from the changing water depth produces the sound which is supposed to emulate a sheng which is a Chinese reed instrument. In a nod to Nancarrow who usually puts Hello into his player piano scores like an audio easter egg, Trimpin also plays Hello on the Sheng High

More images and video will be compiled in this dorkbotsf tour archive page!

Peter Esmonde has also just completed a film on Trimpin called Trimpin: The Sound of Invention which premiered at SXSW this year. For news on the movie and screening schedule, see the film’s blog

ETech09 Roundup 2: dorkspotting! plus Shelley Batts, Zoe Keating March 19, 2009

Posted by Maribeth in Events, Trip Report.
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Sasha and I were both at Etech in San Jose last week, and we thought we’d comment on some of the doings there.

Lots of dorkbotters participating in ETech: though I’m sure I missed some, I spotted Michael Shiloh and Judy Castro in the Maker Shed; the Evil Mad Scientists demoing at ETechFest; David Calkins, Ben Cerveny, Mike Kuniavsky and Liz Goodman each giving a talk; Sasha herself running a “FreeTech” session (dorkbotters, always ahead of the game, have already seen this talk on her exhibits at California Academy of Sciences), and (ahem) Timothy Childs and I talking about getting chocolate on your research: TCHO + FXPAL.

Here’s a couple of my personal high points:

Shelley Batt’s session on new therapies (stem cell, gene therapy) for hearing loss: regrow those hair cells! As a hearing-impaired person, I have an abiding interest in (relatively) non-invasive technologies that promise hearing regeneration not involving surgical installation (step away from my skull with the bone drill, please). I’ve been following her work online for a while and was delighted to see her talk listed. Her work is “related to cures for deafness including gene therapy and small molecule intervention for cochlear hair cell regeneration.”

Here’s the deal with this: many people who lose their hearing do so because the tiny hair cells on the basilar membrane become damaged and die. Loud sound, high fever, some antibiotics, a physical impact, autoimmune attacks — lots of things will kill off these delicate li’l hair cells. And once dead, they don’t come back.

Turns out, though, that birds with damaged hearing actually regrow hair/sensor cells in their ears. Mammals, including us, have lost this ability. The research seems promising: there are once-deaf guinea pigs that have not only successfully regrown their hair cells, but actually hear with them (w00t!).

Bottom line: yes, it will likely work. No, there’s no timeline; probably at least a decade or more, unless it’s really well funded. And yes, Bush’s ban on stem cell research did in fact stymie this research for way too long (grrrr).

Also hearing-related: it is my great good fortune that I can still hear cello very well. Cellist/composer Zoe Keating’s concert was, as usual, remarkable. She live/loops her acoustic cello into a lovely, living sonic architecture. I remember first hearing her perform at jhno’s Natoma St. loft (really miss that space!). If you haven’t caught her in concert, at least you can hear her work online (and see upcoming concert dates) here.

Etech09 Roundup 1: Sameer Padania, Witness, and The Hub March 19, 2009

Posted by sashahc in Trip Report.
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The Social Justice organization Witness is adding a new social media site to their domain: The Hub. Sameer Padania gave a talk called “Video for Change – The Tech Behind Building a Space for Human Rights Video”, discussing the process that Witness went through in moving into a Web 2.0 space.

Witness has been around for 16 years now. Their mission statement is: “WITNESS uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. We empower people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change.” Until recently, all of the video that they posted on their website was fully curated. The Hub is a move in a different direction. It is a place for activists to blog, post videos and comments, and organize.

With this potential, however, come dangers and responsibilites that most social media sites do not face. For instance, in the recent riots in Tibet (I believe. Correct me if I am wrong.), organizers uploaded videos and the government was able to use those videos to track and imprison the organizers. The Hub, therefore, currently does not save any IP information for those who visit or upload content. They are also moving very slowly on bringing their site public to make sure it is ready for prime time. Sameer said something very compelling in regards to this, which was essentially, “It would be disrespectful to our users’ time to ask them to beta test our site.” At the moment, they are pre-moderating everything that comes onto the site. They have been very pleased with the quality of comments, however, so they will soon move to post-moderating. The idea is that eventually this will be fully user driven, but they do not want to move too fast in that direction.

I was hugely impressed, both by Witness’ mission and by the way they are going about it. They understand the power and danger in what they are doing and are respectful of it.

A few more notes that I wrote down:
– There is huge value in broadcasting important content to the world. There is also the potential to endanger the safety of the content creator.
– Bluetooth, because of its physically localized, p2p network model, has the potential to be modern-day samizdat, passing videos on phones from hand to hand. It can also be used by oppressors to keep video out of the public eye. Sameer referenced police that passed around videos of abuse to each others’ phones.
– Human reviewership is necessary to review Human Rights material.
– In the model of Open Source, Witness and The Hub are trying to create and encourage Open Culture.
– They are specifically leveraging the power of personal stories to bring attention where it is needed.