Master classes Interfacing Realities

Interfacing Realities is a Culture 2000 project initiated by V2_ and realised in collaboration with EncArt. EncArt (European Network for Cyber Arts) is a longterm collaboration between the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Ars Electronica in Linz, C3 in Budapest and V2_ in Rotterdam that started in 1997.
Interfacing Realities covers a series of four masterclasses that focus on new concepts for information management in general, and the usage and creation of databases and archives in contemporary art practices in particular.

Master class with Lev Manovich
C3, Budapest, 22 November - 26 November 2002
MASTER CLASS with Joel Ryan
ZKM Karlsruhe, 27 November - 1 December 2002
more info about these two master classes below

MASTER CLASS with Lev Manovich
C3, Budapest, 22 November - 26 November 2002

Human cultures have developed rich and precise systems to describe oral and written communication: phonetics, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, narrative theory, rhetoric, and so on. Dictionaries and thesauruses help us to create new texts while the search engines and the ever present "find…" command on our desktops help us to locate the particular texts already created, or their parts.

Paradoxically, while the role of visual communication has dramatically increased over the last two centuries, no similar descriptive systems were developed for images u at least not on the same scale. So while the number of different types of images we routinely create today is extremely large, if not infinite (and it has become ever larger after computer tools made possible to more easily combine photographs, graphics and text, and to apply operations previously reserved for each of this separate medium to all the other media u blurring text, etc.), the systems we have to describe these images are very poor. For instance, stock photography collections divide millions of images into a couple of dozen categories, at best, with names such as "joy" "business," and" achievement"; professional designers typically use even more limited range of categories to describe their projects ( "clean," "futuristic," "corporate," "conservative," etc.)

As computerization dramatically increases the amount of media data that can be stored, accessed and manipulated, we are gradually shifting towards more structured ways to organize and describe this data. For example, we are moving from HTML to XML (and next to Semantic Web); from MPEG-2 to MPEG-7; from "flat" lens-based images to "layered" image composites and discrete 3D computer generated spaces. In all these cases the shift is from a "low-level" metadata (the fonts on the Web page, the resolution and compression settings of a moving image) to a "high-level" metadata that describes the structure of a media composition or even its semantics.

What about images? Computerization creates a promise (which maybe only an illusion) that images that traditionally resisted the human attempts to describe them with precision u will be finally conquered. After all, we now easily find out that a particular digital image contains so many pixels and so many colors; we can also easily store all kinds of metadata along with the image; and we can tease out some indications of image structure and semantics (for instance, we can find all edges in a bit-mapped image.) Yet visual search engines that can deal with the queries such as "find all images which have a picture of " or "find all images similar in composition to this one" are still in their infancy. Similarly, the metadata provided by a image database software I use to organize my digital photos tells me all kinds of technical details such as what aperture my digital camera used to snap this or that image u but nothing about the image content. In short, while computerization made the image acquisition, storage, manipulation, and transmission much more efficient than before, it did not help us so far to deal with one of its side effects u how to more efficiently describe and access the vast quantities of digital image being generated by digital cameras and scanners, by the endless "digital archives" and "digital libraries" projects around the world, by the sensors and the museums…

The theoretical part of the Master class will develop in more detail the paradigm sketched here. We will discuss the key modern attempts (in cinema, graphic design, art history, psychology, and other fields) to make images into a language – i.e., to develop formal techniques to describe images and to predict their effects on the viewer. Against this background, we will look at the history, the present research and the emerging trends in computer research which pursue the similar project: visual search engines, the new hybrid forms of cinema which combine cinematography with a more structured way to represent space borrowed from 3D computer graphics, the state of the art in computer vision applications, and so on. We will also look at the works of a few new media artists that engage with the politics and poetics of image metadata (Joachim Sauter, George Legrady, and others).

Finally, we will also engage with some larger questions about the functioning of images in a global information society. For example, is it true that we live in a predominantly visual culture, or does computerization in fact downplays the role of an image in favor of other representations such as text and 3D space? Will our visual culture be still dominated by photographic-like images in the twenty first century, or will other kinds of images eventually take their place? While computers allow us to manipulate old media in new ways, creating new hybrids and new forms, do they also enable any completely new and unprecedented types of visual representations?

The practical projects developed during the Master class can pursue one of two directions. A project can present an analysis of some existing (and socially important) system for cataloging and describing images and their contents – for instance, the categories used by stock media collections, the categories used to classify facial expressions of human emotions in computer research, the categories used by graphic designers to talk about the styles of Web design. If possible, these projects should address the following two questions: (1) are there any conceptual shifts which can be observed in the logic of image description systems as they become implemented in a computer, thus turning into software? (2) What are the relationships between image description systems and the descriptions used by software for other type of media?

Alternatively, a participant can develop a conceptual proposal for a software interface to record, describe, access, or manipulate images in a new way. While new media artists have extensively critiqued existing software interfaces in general and developed many particular alternatives, surprisingly little energy has been spend so far thinking on how we interface to images. And yet the computerization of visual culture opens all kinds of interesting possibilities waiting to be explored. For instance, if it already possible to record and store practically unlimited number of still and moving images of one's existence, what kind of interface can we use to organize and navigate these images? Or, given that we now can use database software to classify, link, and retrieve images and image sequences along with other media, how can a database structure be used to represent the life of a modern city, the history of a place, etc. In other words, behind the difficult problem of visual metadata that has become more pressing in computer age than ever before, there is also an exiting promise – the promise to represent reality and human experience in new ways.

The projects created during the class will be featured on a Master class Web site and will be published in a new book by V2 (Rotterdam). Therefore, regardless of whether a participant chooses to pursue analytical or practical project, the final files should be ready to be put on the Web and to be published in the book. Therefore the project should be presented as a single panel (similar in style to architectural proposals), available in Web-ready and print-ready versions (for instance, an HTML file and an Illustrator file).

date: 22 - 26 November 2002
location: C3, Budapest, Hungary
participants: 10 (a maximum of 6 students)
costs: 200 euro, students 100 euro (traveling and lodging must also be payed by the participants)

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MASTER CLASS with Joel Ryan
ZKM Karlsruhe, 27 November - 1 December 2002

The application of new tools for scientific visualization to music
with Joel Ryan
for composers, media artists, mathematicians, and computer scientists

Navigating detail in musical real time

Modern music attempts to manage an unprecedented plethora of detail. The massive data problem is as much the nature of contemporary culture as it is the gift of our new computer based tools. This quest is not unique to music and mathematical tools have recently emerged to deal with understanding complex heterogeneous systems of data. The workshop,s goal is to find ways to coordinate the recognition and recovery of states of complex real time instruments. A target example could be called the "Preset Mapping Problem". The workshop focusses on music, but the solutions might be directly applicable to the control of any real time system. The focus will not be on the musical time line or score problem.

The workshop is prospecting for new tools for composition and music performance suggested by innovations in the visualization and navigation of scientific data. Methods are emerging in fields as diverse as immunology, protein synthesis, chaotic dynamics and data mining of texts, all fields which have come to life since computational based techniques have brought their complexity with in grasp. The sheer immensity of the problems attempted has stimulated the search for intermediate tools for sifting multidimensional avalanches of detail. Perhaps our faculty of visual analysis can add to what our ears tell us.

The workshop is addressed to participants:
+ who have expertise in practical music platforms like SuperCollider or
+ Max and musician/composers who need this solution
+ who have experienc in one of the sciences which already have practical solutions for large data space problems
+ who can act as mathematical references

The workshop is limited to 10 participants. The language is English.

Joel Ryan
is a composer, inventor and scientist. He is a pioneer in the design of musical instruments based on real time digital signal processing. He currently works at STEIM in Amsterdam, tours with the Frankfurt Ballet
and is Docent at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague.

The fee for the 5-days workshop is 200 Euro (for students 100 Euro). The deadline for the application is 13 November 2002.

Please, fill in the application form:
+ Name, Address, E-Mail, Telephone:
+ Student: yes/no
+ Profession: / Subject of Study:
+ Curriculum Vitae:
+ Motivation (short text why you want to participate):

To be sent to:
ZKM - Institute for Visual Media
Postfach 6909
D-76049 Karlsruhe

Fax: 0049-(0)721-8100 1509
Tel: 0049-(0)721-8100 1500

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