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SEPTEMBER 21, 2009   

Interacting with Golan Levin

Golan Levin in front of screen during lecture at University of AkronEven after a couple of invitations from former Kent grad school buddy Tony Samangy, I wasn't sure I wanted to face the 45 minute drive to Akron at the end of the school day.

The event was a lecture by some guy—Golan Levin—to start the Collider: Interactivity and New Media show at the University of Akron School of Art. When 5:30 rolled around it seemed like it was worth a trip, even if just to say hello to Tony and see the exhibition. If the lecture wasn't totally boring, so much the better.

My bad.

This Levin guy is doing great stuff, and I'm ashamed to admit I'd never heard of him before. He directs the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University School of Fine Arts. You can read about his work and see the videos he showed during his talk—and many more—at his flong.com site.

What caught my attention was his comment about the way we primarily interact with our computers: using a mouse. He described this as "a narrow straw through which we try to suck all of human experience." Bingo! I've felt for years that the mouse/keyboard interface is a huge drawback to true interactivity.

Well, Levin has done a whole lot more than think about this.

He's developed all sorts of interfaces and applications that translate human speech and motion into shapes and patterns using the computer as the intermediary. This video shows a small bit of one called Hidden Worlds of Noise and Voice.

This, and virtually everything else he showed and talked about, got me pumped up about the possibilities for more fluid, enjoyable and meaningful interactions between us and our computers.

Now all I need to do is to learn how to make this happen. Fortunately he mentioned the upcoming Mobile Art && Code conference in November at Carnegie Mellon. Sounds like a good place to start.

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