ATEC Prof Stages Audiovisual Exhibit in France

‘Acoustic Shadows’ Installation Explores Movement of Silent Objects

With a new exhibition in France, Dr. Frank Dufour, assistant professor of sound design in UT Dallas’ Arts and Technology (ATEC) program, has officially gone global.

Acoustic Shadows: An Exploration of Sense of Space” is an experimental interactive sound installation Dufour created alongside wife Kristin Lee through the entity Agency 5970. The piece is currently on display at The Vasarely Foundation in Aix-en-Provence, France. Dufour worked on the sound and music aspects, while his wife tackled the visual side.

Dr. Frank Dufour

Two ATEC graduate students have been working with the Dufours: PhD student Sherri Segovia as choreographer and graduate student Djakhangir Zakhidov as videographer.

Of the installation, Dufour said, “It is an immersive audiovisual environment that senses and responds to the presence and movements of the spectators on the basis of the concept of ‘Acoustic Shadows.’ ”

Dufour describes the latter as “the auditory perception of the movements of silent objects and bodies by means of the changes they cast on a background sound.”

Agence 5970

The installation was designed to exemplify the phenomenon and make it known to a wider audience.

“Exhibiting in France is great, but our ultimate goal is to present this work here in the U.S.,” Dufour acknowledged.

Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas, said, “Professor Dufour’s ingenious and vital contribution to the marriage of technology and art is its focus on the artistic possibilities of sound in not only its most sophisticated, but also its most basic aspects.”

2011 ATEC/EMAC Showcase

On April 20, 2011, the UT Dallas Conference center filled with students and community members eager to see what our fellow Art & Technology (ATEC) and EMAC students have been cooking up.

The front of the Center was lined with computers featuring interactive, ready-to-play games created in ATEC’s Game Lab (led by Dr. Monica Evans) – and they only killed the power twice! ATEC started off the show with reels featuring some of the best student projects coming out of the ATEC program; they showed off everything from 2D animation to 3D shorts and advanced 3D modeling, texturing, lighting and rigging.

Neil Garcia; photo by Dean Terry

Neil Garcia; photo by Dean Terry

EMAC took the second half of the show with projects from 10 different EMAC students. Neil Garcia (pictured above) showed a short class project video about life – and FUN – in Oak Lawn and shared a little about the challenges of finding the right interview dynamic. Meagan Dahl showed her poetic, short film about living a life you don’t love, then Samuel Lo showed his short piece featuring WFAA’s Jason Whitely on the integration of social media into traditional broadcast media models.

EMAC undergrad Keith Demele (pictured below) presented a short video piece about motocross in Texas. Undergrad Meagan Buchanan‘s fabulous stop-motion cupcake-baking film was shown, and EMAC grad student Lacy Mahone (also pictured below) showed a film documenting a bicycle trip from Dallas to Austin (available online).

Keith Demele; photo by Dean Terry

Keith Demele; photo by Dean Terry

Tommy Truong presented on the Cameras Everywhere project, which investigated the location and status of every camera on campus, and graduate student Ben Redfield introduced the audience to a concept that connects skillful ATEC and EMAC students with people who need those skills. EMAC grad students Alex Hays and Bradley Griffith rounded out the night presenting on a twitter bot that accepted anonymous tweets to build an identity (or destroy the notion of identity completely) and a fake twitter account that manipulated the source code of tweets so they appeared to be coming from all over the world.

Lacy Mahone; photo by Dean Terry

Lacy Mahone; photo by Dean Terry

See you all at next year’s showcase!

The Family That Plays Together Stays Together?

EMAC Professor’s Research Finds Online Games Can Promote Socialization

“Get off the computer and go play outside.”

So go the words heard in homes around the country as parents and children clash over the social benefits of video games.

Dr. Cindy Shen

But parents needn’t worry so much, according to Dr. Cuihua (Cindy) Shen, an assistant professor of Emerging Media and Communication at UT Dallas. Her recent research article in the Communication Research journal argues that online games can actually bolster family communication.

“Even though most people think that spending large amounts of time playing online games can be harmful to one’s social life, if people play online games with their existing friends and family, game play could actually enhance their social experiences,” Shen said. “An online game thus becomes an additional venue, albeit virtual, for socialization.”

Shen surveyed more than 5,000 gamers about how they use the Internet, their specific activities in the virtual world and their psychosocial well-being for the article, “Unpacking Time Online: Connecting Internet and Massively Multiplayer Online Game Use With Psychosocial Well-Being,” co-written by Dmitri Williams.

The most popular massively multiplayer online game (MMO) in terms of subscriptions is World of Warcraft.

According to the study, online games engage 76 percent of all teens and 23 percent of all adults in the United States. Of these games, networked games known as massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) are growing in popularity. The content of these games is based largely on social interactions, which supports the argument that new technologies create social augmentation, as opposed to displacement: “Not only could the Internet enhance one’s everyday communication with family and friends locally and over a distance,” wrote Shen, “it could also enlarge one’s existing social network by bringing together people with shared interest and values in virtual communities.”

Aion is another online game with a sizable following.

However, there are many who feel video games create time displacement, causing users to spend more time in virtual worlds and thus becoming physically and socially disengaged. But MMOs can also “foster informal sociability and cultivate virtual communities,” according to Shen, and her article illustrates more and more gamers are playing with family and friends they already know online, as opposed to playing with new acquaintances in the game. This helps strengthen the sense of family community, which many didn’t believe possible from the Internet.

Shen addressed this dichotomy thusly: “Whether Internet and MMO use were associated with negative or positive outcomes was largely dependent on the purposes, contexts and individual characteristics of users. The Internet is a comprehensive technology that affords a wide range of functionalities. MMOs also offer extensive opportunities for exploration, socialization and achievement. To a certain extent, both the Internet and MMOs are what you make of them.”

Stiegler Schools UTD

On April 15, 2011, French new media philosopher Bernard Stiegler stepped into the Arts and Technology building to a room jam-packed with professionals, educators and students awaiting his arrival.

Thanks to Stiegler’s long time friendship with sound design pro Professor Frank Dufour, he happened to be passing through Dallas and agreed to give a talk entitled Forming and Deforming Attention.

The talk centered on the discussion of the importance of education in early development of attentional forms.

Dr. Stiegler is currently the Director of the Georges Pompidou Institute of Research and Innovation in Paris, which aims to anticipate changes in human behavior brought about by the evolution of technology.

He also holds an assistant professorship at the Goldsmith College in London and at the University of Compiegne.

ATEC Wins Multiple Honors for Training Games

Two recent projects developed by research teams within the Arts and Technology (ATEC) program at The University of Texas at Dallas have earned industry awards.

One award was presented at the GameTech 2011 Conference in Orlando, Fla., in March for the First Person Cultural Traineror (FPCT), a 3D interactive training game that teaches soldiers the values and norms of Iraqi and Afghan cultures.

Receiving first-place defense gaming awards at the GameTech 2011 Conference were (from left) UT Dallas Assistant Professor Marjorie Zielke and Benjamin Jordan of U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Intelligence Support Activity. Presenting the awards was Frank C. DiGiovanni of the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness.

FPCT was honored for “designing and developing a training process that meets training objectives, engages the learner and provides creative training for our war fighters,” according to event sponsor Kristy Murray, director of the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative.

The game also earned the Cross-Function Team Award at the 2010 Modeling & Simulation Leadership Summit, presented annually by the National Training & Simulation Association and was among the top 10 finalists for the Governors Cup at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in 2009.

First Person Cultural Trainer or (FPCT) is an interactive training game that teaches soldiers the values and norms of Iraqi and Afghan cultures.

“We owe our success to our great sponsors, students and faculty dedicated to these projects and the support of our director, dean, and administration,” said Dr. Marjorie Zielke, an assistant professor in the ATEC program and the UT Dallas principal investigator on the projects. “One thing I am really impressed by is that these awards are coming from different groups, in two totally separate sectors and with different student development teams.”

She added that the awards are extremely competitive with entries from top-tier universities and private industry world-wide. The game design links serious gaming with the Army’s own combat models.

The FPCT game is supported and sponsored by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command G-2 Intelligence Support Activity (TRADOC), which develops the Army’s soldier and civilian leaders. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (TRADOC Commanding General) wrote a personal letter to the UT Dallas FPCT team congratulating contributors on this honor.

The game acquaints U.S. soldiers with village life in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Gen. Dempsey wrote, “Your magnificent work in developing this culturally-based, cutting-edge capability will help to address critical training priorities within stability operations and will ensure that our Nation’s war fighters can more effectively and efficiently accomplish their missions around the world. I am confident we will continue to benefit from your great partnership and look forward to future collaboration.” 

A second project that guides nurses through realistic simulations of pediatric care received a first place award for Emerging and Innovative Technology and Methods at the International Meeting on Simulation and Healthcare earlier this year.

This project is a collaboration between Dr. Judy LeFlore, associate professor in The University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and Zielke. The project was supported with funding from the UT System’s Serious Game Initiative, a statewide committee launched in March 2008 to explore how serious games could be used for innovative teaching and learning.

Players learn to interact with villagers with cultural sensitivity.

“This shows the depth of the talent in our ATEC program and the broad national and international recognition of our work,” Zielke said. “With the ever-growing demand for cost-effective virtual education and simulation we have good reason to hope that we are at just the beginning of our success.”

Zielke and her co-investigators have been working on game-based simulations, with the help of approximately 30 students at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level. The co-investigators have included Dr. Thomas Linehan, Endowed Chair and director of Arts and Technology at UT Dallas; Dr. Frank DuFour, assistant professor of sound design at UT Dallas; and Dr. Gopal Gupta, professor and department head of the UT Dallas Computer Science department along with sponsor Dr. Judy LeFlore, associate professor of nursing at UT Arlington.