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Week Five: July 22 - July 28, 2010

This was last week for the REU students. The final requirements that the REU students have are mini posters and a presentation. The University of North Carolina wants everyone to share what they have been doing this summer they require the DREU people to do the presentations too. They make a whole competition out of it and some labs get really competitive, but because I have only been here for part of my DREU I was not required to do the presentation. I volunteered to help Charlotte with hers and fill some of the time talking about the work that I will be doing.

At the beginning of the week we had a group of High School students come in and we presented the Dance.Draw project to them. These students were part of a musical theater camp at UNCC. We showed them the software and let them play with some of the hardware. They really had a good time! It was fun seeing the kids play with the mice and see them make the connection between their bodies and the visuals displayed. We also asked them if they thought that they would use these tools and if they could think of any other ideas for how they could be used. The kids had so many ideas, some of them the project is implementing and other we have not. This proves that creativity is a group effort, even the most creative minds cannot invent on their own. They have years of others creating before them and often a team of people working together. I hope that the professors that are doing research realize that even these kids could change this project completely just based on one comment or good idea.

This week I met with my mentor and I expressed my difficulty working with the Notebook because of the structural issues. We decided that I should write up a plan for the restructure and present it to the graduate student working on the project. I have been studying Flash Builder and ActionScript, but only for specific issues that I needed to solve. I found a good book that walks through building a web application using Flash Builder. So far this resource has been really helpful because it gives a good example of how to structure a web application. I have done a lot of back ground research for many of my projects this summer and much of my time has been spent finding good resources. Before I leave I would like to compile good sources and documentation for all the things that I have worked on. This way the next intern that works on the project will not have to spend as much time finding the resources that they need.

This week I went to two dance rehearsals. Charlotte, the other intern, was teaching a UNCC student her part of the dance so that it is something that we can use during school year. These rehearsals were fun to go to and made me wish that I was taking dance classes this summer! I took a notebook and I watched them rehearse. I wrote down anything and everything that came to mind while I watched them and I listened to their ideas about the piece. After the first rehearsal I read through all my initial thoughts and I accumulated all the best ideas. During the second rehearsal I kept these ideas in mind and added new ones. I tried to pick out movements that they do during the dance piece that would be something that the visualization could pull from. I want the fact that the dancers movements are influencing the visual to be obvious, but I do not want the visual to be overpowering. I believe if we think carefully about how the dancers are moving we can create art that meets these requirements.

A fun thing that we did this we was going to an improve show at a local theater. One of the professors in this lab does this improve show and so a group from the lab got together to go and watch him. Before hand we go Mexican food and drinks. I had never been to improve before and it was really fun!

Week Six: July 29 - August 4, 2010

This week I wrote my proposal for the visualizations that I want to create for this dance piece. One thing that I am learning from this job is that it is important to structure your plans if you want to get anything done. I also know that before starting a work of art it is very important to write a proposal. This is not to limit your ideas, but to solidify and defend them. I wrote about a page and a half and sent it to my professor and the choreographer/dance professor. After not getting a responses to these emails, I sent it to another undergrad student who has worked on this project before. He responded right away and was very enthusiastic to help me and work on some visuals together. I was glad that my ideas were valued because I believe that this project is lacking an artist and I hope that I can bring my artistic skills to the project. I hope that I can assist this project in creating good art, that implements technology. After this I attended one more rehearsal. I watched the dance piece with my solidified proposal ideas and I felt that they added to the dance piece.

For Choreographer’s Notebook I finally found a great source for building an rich internet application with Flex. What is good about the book is that it goes step by step through the development of an application called Flex Grocer and it has code examples to work with at every stage of the processes. This is the perfect book for me because I need to see how Flex could be used to create a complex web application because I had never created one before. This week I went through half of the book, doing all the exercises and I have learned so much. This will be something that I give the graduate student as a reference that he can pass on to other students that may come and help him in the future.

For fun this week there was a final DREU cookout for the students that had not left yet. We went to a REU’s apartment, swam in the pool and grilled outside. A professor from the game lab came and I got to talk to her. I want to go to this conference in the fall called Grace Hopper and it is for women and computer science, but did not apply in time for funding so I need to find other means to pay for the conference. I explained this to her and she gave me three or four more ideas about where to look for the money. She told me to ask the computer science department at my school and I told her that I already had. She said, ask again. The next day I wrote another email to my department chair and ask again (nicely of course) and now the department is putting $300 dollars toward my trip! This will probably cover the hotel or part of a plain ticket. One thing about DREU is that you are surrounded by many good resources, students and professors that know about computer science, but they also know about the practical stuff, like money for conferences and time management on research projects.

Week Seven: August 5 - August 11, 2010

I finally started restructuring/refactoring of the Choreographer’s Notebook. I do not know if I will be able to finish by the end of my time here, but I am going to try. I first went through all the methods and sorted them out into categories. Then I created a completely new flex project. Wanted to start with a blank project so that I could just copy over the parts that I needed and make them work before copying over more things. The main goal will be to make some of my own components, basically adding my own features on to existing components. This will greatly simplify the main application file and make it easier to read.

The two graduate students doing research in China this summer from the HCI lab came back this week. One of the them is working on the Dance.Draw project. He gave me an overview of the Dance.Draw software. This was a good start so that I can start making some of my own visualization.

I also got some feed back from the choreographer on my proposal. It sounds like she appreciates some of my creative decisions and I hope that this will help me in the workshop next week. If I have a few advocates that like my ideas during the workshop maybe I will be able to get help seeing them through.

This week one fun thing was I went to an early dinner with a few of the guys from the lab. Now that these graduate students are back and the other DREU interns have left , the men once again out number the women in the lab. We went and got pizza and beer in North Davidson, which is the artsy part of Charlotte. Then we went to a crepes place for dessert... I was so full after that meal! It was fun getting to know a few more people in the lab.

Week Eight: August 12 - August 18, 2010

This week we had a two day workshop with all the technology people and the dancers. We met in the rehearsal space and started off by showing what everyone had been working on for the summer. They showed the dance and this was the first time that I saw all tree parts together. It was really beautiful. We started a brainstorming session and I started by explaining my proposal ideas. I realized quickly that this was not the way that my professor wanted to go during the next too days. I think that we need to decide a concept, not something specific, but still have some constraints for ourselves so that we accomplish something. After a few minutes of creative discussion we got shut down to talk about the technical aspects. I believe that it is important to talk about both, but the problem is that everyone sees them as separate things when in reality they go together. We need to make technical decisions based on the creative constraints and we need to make creative decisions based on the technical constraints.

We broke into small groups and brainstormed ideas and then shared them with the whole group. In the end none of my ideas made it through to the end, which is really frustrating because I am the only one with a visual art background, but I learned to handle this. I have to remember that this is not my project. I am helping my professor and all the decisions that are made, good or bad, will be traced back to her. After I made the realization that it was out of my control, I was able to let go a little and not worry too much if I felt that my ideas were being valued.

I think that the biggest benefit that will come out of this is my creative influence. I made many good points and talked about art with many people on the team. All I can hope is that I taught a few of the people some of the things that I know and hopefully influenced them to understand the value of studying art. I also hope that I taught a few technology people that art is not that different from science and that, at least in this project, one is not more important than the other.

Unfortunately I do not feel like my technical side was employed as much as I had hoped it would be. I have never worked with their software before and I needed some really help to get up to speed with everyone else, but no one seemed willing to help me do this. I am not the kid of person who has coded enough to look at thousands of lines of code and understand how it works. At the end of the first day of the workshop one of the graduate students took me home and said that she would help me figure it out. She and her husband helped me get the software working on my computer and helped me download and run example code. We order pizza and hung out. It was really nice to finally have some real help and I felt better because I had something to show for the next day and work on for the rest of the week.

Week Nine: August 19 - August 25, 2010

This is my last week at UNCC. I am finishing up my work on the Choreographer’s Notebook and preparing to hand it over to the graduate student working on this project. Tonight there is a performance of the dance piece and some of the visualizations from the workshop this summer. We will be showing the dance in a few ways, as a trio, a duet and a solo, each time with different music and different visuals. This way we can sample some of the work that we have been doing this summer in an interesting way and also show off the flexibility that this dance has to mold into many forms.

I am also working on finishing up my final paper about The Choreographer’s Notebook. If it is interesting they may use it as a reference for a paper they are submitting to a conference.

Photo from the August 2010 Dance.Draw workshop.