In this episode of Press Play, we talked with Eyebeam about Digital Day Camp (DDC), an intensive, multi-week, youth arts and technology program for NYC high school students. We interviewed Programs Associate Yidan Zeng, artist in residence and professor LaJuné McMillian, and student Fawziyah Khan. They are based in Bushwick, Brooklyn and you can see their videos at nyxt.nyc/eyebeam.
I think that's why it’s really important to use these tools because once you realize that they are just tools it can really expand your outlook on what can be made, and also we can change a lot of the content that is being made too.
NYXT: What is Digital Day Camp?
Yidan Zeng: DDC is Eybeam’s longest program, established in 1998. It's a summer arts and technology-intensive for highschool students. It challenges youth to apply creative thinking strategies across a whole range of technological tools and topics that are very relevant to our world today.
NYXT: What is your Intro to XR course about?
Yidan Zeng: The workshop Intro to XR, or Intro to Extended Reality is taught by one of Eyebeam’s residence artists, LaJuné McMillian, which stems from her project, the Black Movement Project.
NYXT: What is the Black Movement Project?
LaJuné McMillian: The Black Movement Project is an online database of motion capture data and character base models from black performance artists. I have been working with different black performance artists, interviewing them and learning about their movement practice, and then taking that data to craft an online library space where people can see their movement data using motion capture technology and performance as well as a tool that people can use to create their own extended reality projects.
NYXT: How was the teaching experience at Digital Day Camp?
LaJuné McMillian: I wasn ́t just teaching them about the tools that we were using, but we turned the use of those tools into more of a discussion about how the tools are made and how some of these tools might have implicit biases embedded within them. From that we were able to deconstruct the tools themselves, rather than just use them. That's really important because you are able to really learn about the group of people or the person who made the tool and you can really tell a lot about the tech community as a whole as well because a lot of these problems pop up in a lot of different areas as well. We were also able to deconstruct the base character, this idea that there is a base, that is this abled body, slim, a white character that pops up in a lot of these different characters modeling softwares, and basically how that is not representative of a community of people. So, how do you think about ways in which maybe we can reach out to this company and talk about that, but also, think of ways in which maybe we can begin to make tools that are more representative of who is really in the community.
NYXT: What were your expectations coming into Digital Day Camp?
Fawziyah Khan: Coming into DDC I didn't really know what to expect. I just assumed to be in a classroom setting where everyone would sit in rows and just typing on the computer following along with what the teacher was saying, but I found that is was very different. Even though we did listen to the teacher and followed along with what she or he was doing, we were given a lot of time to use what we have learned and create something on our own that was unique to ourselves and present it to the rest of the class, being able to bounce ideas with each other. I really appreciated the dynamic learning experience.
NYXT: What was the learning process like at Digital Day Camp?
Fawziyah Khan: Each day we were exposed to different types of technologies, for example, one day we learned about alt text, the next day we learnt about intro to XR, augmented reality, today we are learning about different dance forms and motion capture. Even though we were being introduced to so many different types of technologies, we were constantly being supported in making our projects, in presenting them with our peers, during the entire learning process.
NYXT: Why is it important to know about these tools?
LaJuné McMillian: In today's world there is this sort of huge barrier between the tech community and society as a whole, and it makes it difficult for people to believe that they have agency, that they have power to be able to build this world for themselves. I think that's why really important to use these tools, because once you realize that they are just tools it can really expand your outlook on what can be made, and also we can change a lot of the content that is being made too.
Technology Should Be In Service Of Poetry
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