LASER talks:
Evening of January 22nd, 2019

University of San Francisco

by Francsco Tisci

Evening Speakers

Patricia G. Lange
Anthropologist and Associate Professor of Critical Studies and Visual & Critical Studies at California College of the Arts on "Is Ranting Ever a Good Idea?"
Reza Zadeh
Adjunct Professor at the Stanford Institute for Computational Mathematics on "Computer Vision Made Simple"
Rhonda Holberton
Multimedia Artist focused on digital and interactive technologies on "Best of Both Worlds: Physical Ramifications of Digitally Engineered Reality(s)"
Chip Lord
Media Artist focusing on video, photography and installation on "Space, Time and Architecture"

Is Ranting Ever a Good Idea?

Patricia G. Lange, Anthropologist and Assoiate Professor of Critical Studies at California College of the Arts
Patricia G. Lange is interested in how people use media to express techical identities, share aspects of the self and how to accomplish civil engagement. She is currently conducting research to understand how the phenomenon of ranting appears and develops across the web. Early forms of ranting can be traced in ancient times, reading Cicero for example, but today it presents itself in the form of a lengthy, angry, and impassioned speech against something or someone, using platforms such as YouTube as a medium. The protagonists of the ranting videos often rail against the company managing the platform, saying they have been targeted by it or encountering frequent technical problems that affect their activity on the site. Often, this is what surprises Lange, even proposing solutions for that problem. As an example, she shows a video of the user Angry Joe, well-known youtuber. Who shoots the video and who looks at it, and then comments on it, interact empathically, so much that ranting could be considered a new and modern form of civic engagement. To learn more about Patricia's research visit her talk "Is Ranting Ever a Good Idea".

Computer Vision Made Simple

Reza Zadeh, Adjunct Professor at Stanford
Computer vision is a scientific field that deals with how computers can be made to ‘understand’ digital images or videos. From the perspective of engineering, it seeks to automate tasks that the human visual system can do. At Stanford, Reza Zedeh focuses on Machine Learning, Distributed Computing and Discrete Appplied Mathematics. In the recent years, Computer Vision has been taken over by Machine Learning, a field that uses statistical models to, as an example, make predictions, relying on patterns and inference based on data with which the algorithm is ‘fed’. A type of model that can be used are Neural Networks, namely a model made resembling the human brain and nervous system. These computational models are able to watch many videos automatically, even many at once, and can be used for a large set of things and tasks like making statistical analysis on the content streamed on TV channels during election campaigns, or detecting diseases looking at the face of the patient. To learn more watch him speak “Computer Vision Made Simple”.

Best of Both Worlds: Physical Ramifications of Digitally Engineered Reality(s)

Rhonda Holberton, Media Artist
Today we all are experiencing a kind of “crisis of reality”, where technological devices mediate a large part of our relationship with the physical world. Rhonda Holberton, through her installations, tries to rediscover the value of the biological body in that relationship. One of them, shown in the video, consists in a video installation, with prints rendered from augmented reality, a room covered in embossed textures generated by a computer, dust from the California landscape, mosquitoes cultivated from the artist’s blood, and mannequins salvaged from a liquidation. She has two visions for the future: that our biological body and the technology we use will become almost indistinguishable, and that the land could no longer support the techno-human agenda. The talk ends with an indication that it is also a warning: “If VR can create a situation in which the user's entire environment is determined by the creators of the virtual world, then it is imperative that the creators of virtual worlds take into account the collective needs of the physical one”. To find out more about this “crisis of reality” watch “Best of Both Worlds: Physical Ramifications of Digitally Engineered Reality”

Space, Time and Architecture

Chip Lord, Media Artist
Chip Lord is a media artist and Professor in the Bay Area, best known for his work with the collective known as Ant Farm. The talk is a journey through the projects by Ant Farm from the 1970’s to the recent portraits of various cities in the Anthropocene. Projects shown include “Cadillac Ranch”, an installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, USA showing ten Cadillacs half-buried in the ground, the cars together span the successive generations of the car line. In “Clean Air Pod”, dressed in lab coats and gas masks, the artists show the growing decay and militarization of the environment. And finally, with the the time capsule of ”Aerosol Arsenal”, and the Florida city at the edge of the rising sea depicted in “Miami Beach Elegy” we are confronted with the reality of climate emergency, making us feel a sense of nostalgia mixed with irony. To see him speaking about his work, visit his LASER talk "Space, Time and Architecture".