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For immediate release - December 3, 2004
Press Contact: J. M. Bailey (617) 971-9383

High Tech Companies Look to Artists for Inspiration Through Boston Cyberarts’ ARTCOM program

Innovative thinking, new perspectives are the hallmark of artist residencies at IBM Research and Plum Voice Portals

Boston, MA — Boston Cyberarts, Inc. is wrapping up its innovative Artists in Residence at Technology Companies of Massachusetts (ARTCOM) program, which launched in the summer of 2004. The program, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, matched two new-media artists with corporate partners Plum Voice Portals and IBM’s Collaborative User Experience (CUE) Laboratories.

“There is a wonderful forty-year history of artist in residence programs organized within American companies,” said George Fifield, Founder and Director of Boston Cyberarts. “This confluence of creativity and innovation can be as rewarding for the innovators as it is for the artists.” Fifield designed the program to be a symbiotic experience, lending artists increased access to high-tech companies’ wealth of equipment and technical savvy, while giving researchers access to artists’ expansive vision of what can be done with the technology they use every day.

During his residency, John Klima worked with Plum Voice Portals employees to perfect Train, his interactive piece that allows viewers to use their cellular phones to control an HO scale model railroad and the virtual characters riding them. Gaining access to Plum’s cutting edge telephony technology, Klima was able to reshape the back end of his project, allowing him to expand the number of people interacting with it from two to about 50.

“Even with all his technical skill, John is still primarily an artist,” said Plum’s Vice President of Engineering, Jae Roh. “It’s hard for him to keep informed about all the technology out there, let alone have the infrastructure to take advantage of it, so we were able to provide him with that.” For a small company like Plum, Klima’s presence in the office offered employees the opportunity to think about how the technology they work with on a daily basis can function in a new context.

Plum’s interaction with Klima was both fun and fruitful. “Together we identified a couple of places where we could push the boundaries — in areas like teleconferencing, for example. We’ve already started to move forward on at least one of those ideas,” said Roh.

Carrie Bodle, a Master’s Degree candidate at MIT, spent about three months working at IBM’s CUE laboratories in Cambridge. While at the IBM research center, she became fascinated with the group’s experiments with “wikis” — online web pages that can be continuously updated at any time by any user with access to the Internet. She decided to create a system of sonic representations of activity on the wiki sites that would give web visitors aural cues as to the evolution of the site in real time.

In formulating her project, Bodle spent a great deal of time attending reading groups and meetings at IBM, brainstorming with employees, and gathering data on the group’s latest projects. Bodle’s process, particularly her visual and aural representation of the group’s interactive technology, gave IBM researchers the opportunity to stretch their perception of the technical work that they do.

Martin Wattenberg, a researcher at IBM and a renowned new media artist in his own right, notes the value of bringing artists into the corporate realm: “You can go your whole career working on something and only thinking about it in a certain way. Artists have the ability and talent to blow that wide open.” That is exactly the sort of perspective that Boston Cyberarts hopes will lead to creative solutions that profit both companies and artists alike.

Boston Cyberarts is currently seeking technology companies to become ARTCOM hosts for 2005. For a more detailed description of ARTCOM and the 2004 residencies, visit bostoncyberarts.org/air. For information on becoming an ARTCOM host company, call 617.524.8495 or email .

# # #

The Boston Cyberarts Festival is an international biennial festival that brings together artists in all media who are using computers to advance traditional artistic disciplines and to create new interactive worlds. The 2005 Festival takes place at museums, galleries, theatres, educational institutions, and public spaces in and around Boston from April 22 to May 8, 2005, and on the Festival’s website. For further information about the Festival or ARTCOM residencies, call 617.524.8495 or visit the website at bostoncyberarts.org.

ARTCOM 2004 is funded in part by a grant
from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Boston Cyberarts is grateful for the support of many
generous individuals and institutions, including:

Boston Cyberarts Festival
9 Myrtle Street
Boston, MA 02130

Telephone 617.524.8495
Fax 617.524.9968


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