Archived entries for Applications

M5 Circuit

I decided to take a recent Applications assignment and design it as a book project. The premise is a bus trip through Manhattan, observing some of the city’s neighborhoods by way of public transport. A PDF of the book is available here for you to download.

M5 Circuit Book Cover

How Are We Learning?

That is the question we posed to ourselves in response to a presentation given by Eric Siegel of the New York Hall of Science. His talk revolved around the concept of “informal learning” and the position that museums—particularly science museums—occupy in mediating both play and education. According to Siegel, primary school constitutes only a small fraction of the average lifespan, college even less so. That leaves approximately three quarters of our lives, when sleep is factored out, available for the informal learning process, supported by resources like museums, libraries, the internet, friends, and family.

In Front of the New York Hall of Science

Our response to his discussion solidified with our own visit to the New York Hall of Science a few days later. While the educational experience remained central to the conversation, we became keenly interested in how this plays out within important social structures—particularly the relationship between a parent and child. As we bounced from exhibit to exhibit, playing and trying to glean knowledge along the way, we also took note of those around us who were similarly drawn together. A father and his sons laughing in front of curved mirrors or a mother and her children bending light with prisms also brought to mind our own experiences of fun and learning. How might we share a similar channel of communication with our classmates?

Learning as Play

We decided to invite those individuals who have played such an influential role in each of our lives into the classroom itself.

The following week, as each student entered the room, we provided them an envelope containing a piece of paper and instructed them to pair off in preparation for our presentation. With a brief introduction, we proceeded to model a phone call that our classmates would soon follow. Each student then proceeded to call a close relation—preferably a parent, but if unavailable a spouse or friend would suffice. Once contacted, the student then gave the phone over to his/her partner who asked the parent of the student four prepared questions.

Presentation With Questions

1. Tell me about a time this person learned something from you.

2. What is something you hope for this person to learn?

3. What pushed this person to learn what they’ve learned?

4. What is this person up to at graduate school?

This provided an unusual context to pose somewhat personal questions to a stranger and invite them to share the answers with their son/daughter by way of the partner. Aside from an opportunity to make contact with someone important during a busy time such as grad school, this was intended to be a gift for the student. As the conversation progressed, the partner would write down the parent’s answer on the paper we provided and, in the end, give it to the student, folded into the envelope. The roles were then reversed and the exercise repeated for the other person.


In all, over one hundred classmates participated in the presentation simultaneously. After these phone calls wrapped up and the partners had a chance to share the answers with one another, we projected a video of campfire on a large screen and proceeded to discuss the insights and responses to the situation we had arranged. While many people felt vulnerable, they also appreciated the chance to reconnect from a different angle, even in the midst of an institutional learning environment.

Guest Speaker: Maya Lin

For our second week together, Maya Lin joined us for the latter half of Applications of Interactive Telecommunications Technology. Working at the intersection of art, science, and advocacy, Lin exudes a staid passion for the causes that premise her diverse memorials and installations. Her work today is deeply concerned with the environment, consumption habits, and envisioning a more sustainable future. Lin’s studio is primarily artists and architects who, together, use scientific data to build installations that raise awareness and inspire action. She also spoke of her interest in using the internet as a site for memorial.

It’s not difficult to see why Red would have Maya Lin come speak to us. She’s bringing together a variety of disciplines in her practice and using media to influence positive social change. I think the vast majority of people in this year’s class either come from or are interested in non-profit work and Lin has specifically requested ITP students to work in her studio. What really substantiates these projects is a level of scholarship that allows her to be conversant with researchers in their respective fields. I also appreciated that she’s not taking an overly dramatic or cynical approach to what are pretty dire issues. She believes that the reality itself is enough to move people and you don’t need shocking images or ominous music to convey that message. In fact, Maya Lin really embraces beauty in her work—sometimes to inspire action, other times to lament what has already been lost.

Guest Speaker: Vito Acconci

On the first day of Red’s class, artist and designer Vito Acconci spoke to us about his work. The presentation followed a linear trajectory of his development from a poet in the 1960’s, through his conceptual work in New York galleries in the 70’s and 80’s, and culminated in an embrace of architecture for all of its potential to engage the public with more universal language. Relentlessly contemporary, Acconci always seeks to position himself in the present and reject nostalgia. He said he likes listening to Alva Noto, for example.

Still, Acconci’s work follows a very particular kind of artistic evolution, one that’s always building upon itself. I like how his work in architecture flows out of a similar thought process as his previous incarnations. It also allows him to work differently than a traditionally trained architect would. His forms are a little too trendy for me but the model of a studio that can respond to a variety of commissions, like Olafur Eliasson’s, is one of the most compelling intersections of contemporary creative practice.

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