ACTLab 2019 Schedule and Presenters

As we move into the final weeks before ACTLab Con 2019, here is the general conference schedule. This may shift somewhat as we add some surprises and other whatnots.

Day and TimeActivityLocation
Friday, June 28
12pmCoffee, snacks, social time The VORTEX
12:30pmIntroductory remarks
Honoria Starbuck
Yamandu Ploskonka
David DeMaris
Mike Stefanik
5pmOff-site event
visit The Eureka Room!3312 Randolph Rd (1/2 mile from The VORTEX)
7pmKeynote presentation: Mark DeryThe VORTEX
9pmPost-discussion, social time Butterfly Bar
Saturday, June 29
12pmCoffee, snacks, social timeThe VORTEX
12:30pmRecap and introductions
Jon Lebkowsky and Kevin Welch
Michael Ferstenfeld
Brandon Wiley
David DeMaris
7pmKeynote presentation with demonstration:
10pmClosing remarks, post-discussion,
social time
Butterfly Bar

ACTLab2018, photo by Heather Barfield

These are some of the presentations thus far. Some include workshops and off-site activities. Some are at a podium. ACTLab often makes room for spontaneous exploration during the event, too.

Kevin Welch and Jon Lebkowsky: Making Community Real.

Online communities preceded social media as a way to participate meaningfully online – truly social spaces like the WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), supporting sustained interaction over time. This was an important aspect of community: a consistent set of members building history together, hanging out together, and potentially taking action together. This has not been replicated in what we call “social media,” a label produced as marketing professionals grappled with the increasing shift in attention from traditional media to interactive environments on the Internet. Their challenge: how to leverage the new interactive media environments as contexts for marketing and advertising. Money changes everything: when marketing engines were integrated with social spaces, online environments became less like neighborhoods and more like marketplaces – primarily for selling attention in social contexts to corporations. Given that intention, it was better to have “drive by posting,” dynamically shifting objects of attention, maximizing opportunities for exposure to marketing and advertising messages. This kind of context is not friendly to consistent focused interaction, or support for affinity and social history. However it is still possible to leverage the Internet as a platform for community. For instance, the WELL still exists, though it isn’t thriving. Some communities may exist within Facebook groups, and some email lists might still work as loose, somewhat unfocused communities. We want to consider community developments that have worked, and experiment with the creation of a new community, starting here and now, at ACTLab 2019.

ACTLab 2018: photo by Heather Barfield

David DeMaris: Oscillite: a framework for complex spatiotemporal oscillations

In the early 90s when ACTLAB was founded and in full swing, I produced an early musical app that let kids control chaos and produce music by spelling their initials on sliders controlling the network. Fast forward to 2014 – a more sophisiticated version of this software was used to generate live music in the finale of an opera looking at the historical moment when scientists considered whether mind and matter had common underlying principles. I’ll demo the application and demo framework,  with components to produce cooperative and competitive pattern forming systems, with each site representing a frequency. We’ll describe some concepts at the intersection of computer science and physics. A partition view (fancy talk for histogram) over the lattice lets us think of each frequency as an alphabet token in a communication system,  or an axis in a vector space used in machine learning scenarios. Applications include brain modeling, machine learning and robotics , formation of bubbles in social networks, and computer music.Probably we’ll look at (or listen to)  some quasi-mystical math involving prime patterns exploding into self-organizing systems.

Competition:  Canary Fight. I read a disgusting article on animal blood spots in Afghanistan.The gentle outlier involved canary fights – two canaries sing at each other until one is declared victorious.The formalism used in oscillite, was once used to create artificial birdsongs and ‘learners’.I envision a workshop where interested participants can run Oscilite with computer music libraries and play around with the built in GUI or genetic algorithms to make a fighting canary.

David DeMaris has worked in semiconductors, design automation and process optimisation software, machine learning, computational neuroscience, and a variety of art and music projects. Since 1991 he has lived and worked in Austin.  He holds a Ph.D. from University of Texas in engineering,  A member of the Vortex Repertory company.  He DJs and does visuals under the name Dr Strangevibe, and performs regularly with groups including Mongoose and Corps Multiple in 2019.

Michael Ferstenfeld: Preserving Memory, Art, and Culture in Virtual Reality

Preserving Memory & Creating Empathy in Virtual Reality

The beta release of prsrVR will give people an opportunity to explore in virtual reality three legendary Austin, TX creative spaces that no longer exist physically. As users travel from room to room, they meet the people and organizations who made art in these spaces and learn about the impact they had on this city. Our not-so-secret agenda is to not only help the hundreds of displaced artists revisit, remember, and grieve for these lost spaces, but also to inspire empathy-thru-immersion in potential strangers who might have the resources to help.

To amplify the message, Make Every Media Podcast is presenting a audio/video documentary series, website, and multimedia presentation centered on Austin’s uniquely shifting cultural landscape, how we can help struggling venues stay open, build new venues, and overcome common obstacles. It takes a whole community to figure out how to solve these issues, and we’ve committed to documenting and promoting multiple ongoing efforts by Austin citizens as they tackle the crisis head on. Future releases of the app might tackle the preservation of custom personal and cultural histories.

Bio: Michael Ferstenfeld is a 5 time B. Iden Payne Award winner, most notable for his work as an actor and musician in both improvised and scripted theater. He is an experienced producer, deeply rooted in the Austin performing arts community. Michael is also a professional podcast producer and audio engineer working in Austin’s thriving tech startup industry.

Make Every Media

Honoria Starbuck: Make Stuff is the motto of the ACTLab.

I’m making a non-textbook, a playable curriculum, teased out of my 10 years of teaching experience. Bloom’s Taxonomy, like a 1950’s horror movie, opens the hood of our brains. We can see how we learn and why it takes a number of preliminary levels before we go whole hog CREATIVE.

Make Stuff Part

Based on the non-textbook playable curriculum the participants will create an Knowledge Transfer Artifact.  What is a KTA? KTA’s are fu-qui that illustrate one or more aspect(s) of the conference.

Interactive component – Level Up

Participants will be asked to level up based on the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Level up in what? you ask. I don’t know. Whatever is happening at the conference can be leveled up in and we learn as we level.

Role Assignment Investigation

A short activity will divide the audience into 3 groups. Role Assessment to gather in guilds: Seeing Guild, Thinking Guild and Doing Guild. Socrates Guild of Researchers and Questioners – Thinkers. Illustrators and Vision Builders –  Seers.Builders/Weavers/Digitizers/Coders – Doers. The doers will select the target theme from the conference.The thinkers will research what the next level up might be.The illustrators will bring the vision to our eyes.The group will work together to create an ACTLab 2019 Conference Knowledge Transfer Artifact.The resulting Knowledge Transfer Artifact will be a testament to the ACTLab philosophy.

Mike Stefanik: Mindfultainment Experiments in Non-Reality. 

14,000 LEDs and a giant projector screen in an 8x8x8′ room. Go in with friends or join strangers and get mindfultained. There’s meditatitve passive programs and absurdist interactive ones. Programs last 5-15 minutes. 

Weird shit used to be harder to find and less accepted. Then came the internet and globalization. Now anyone with a connection to the web has access to a mountain of information that they often can’t understand. As a result some people feel more anxious. But for those that embrace or at least accept the incomprendibleness, the world can seem an amazing and magical adventure. The for this talk is how, at a fundamental level, the rules and needs of human engagement remain the same even if language and aesthetic has morphed and expanded.

Bio: Mike Stefanik makes surreal experiences of connection and play. He’s part engineer and part businessman but mostly just likes to think up weird shit and bring it to life. Like everyone else in Austin he’s in a band too.


There’s some on this page:
More here:


No Proscenium
The Austin Chronicle

Brandon Wiley: Obfuscated Exfiltration through Adversarial Networks

Exfiltrating data from restrictive networks is a skill that every hacker can use. As firewall filtering techniques become more advanced, so must we advance the methods for defeating firewalls. This talk presents decades of research on network traffic obfuscation in a format which will be both accessible to beginners and illuminating for experts. Starting with a brief introduction on the history of the approaches of those that would build firewalls versus those that would circumvent them, the talk then proceeds into the specialized area of network protocol obfuscation techniques. After this introduction familiarizes and refreshes the audience on the topic, the core of the talk discusses a practical approach to defeating adversaries that would seek to break the Internet by restricting network traffic. An overview of the full methodology will be presented, from threat modeling on through to implementation and testing.

Dr. Wiley is a peer-to-peer pioneer who creates tools to circumvent Internet censorship. In 1999, he co-founded the Freenet project to create a censorship-resistant publishing platform. Since then, he has worked on core technologies, such as BitTorrent, Tor, and OpenVPN. He has a PhD in Information Studies, specializing in the use of machine learning and Bayesian statistics to create polymorphic network traffic encodings to defeat Deep Packet Inspection filtering techniques. He is a co-author of the book “Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the Power of a Disruptive Technology”, a Google Ideas Research Fellow, and an Open Technology Fund Rapid Response Research grant recipient.

Yamandu Ploskonka

“Glória Anzaldùa described this as mestiza consciousness — a state of belonging fully to none of the possible categories.” As I age, I seem to start caring a bit about all those nonsense labels that people apply. As a response, having to fill those stupid “ethnicity/race” forms far too often, lately I have tended to describe myself, with utmost sarcasm and upset, as a total mutt. Actually, when pushed into discomfort by having to check only one button, I am declaring myself a Native American, which happens to be a label I have full rights to, at least according to the US Census. No, I don’t fit in any of the other labels either, not with peace.It so happens that lately I also have been doing a lot of research about First Nations pigments – ochres, colored earths, this being for my handmade paper and art.

Between one thing and another, I’d like to envision a presentation about Aymara Colors, the Aymara being “my” Nation, and our colors happening to be what every aboriginal group anywhere in the world has had, an all=humanity shared experience, with disquieting atavistic reactions, because somewhere inside all of us, that’s all the colors there is. This can be a sort of shared performance – including body art, coloring (cardboard,paper) canyon walls, thereabouts. We can all chant some Aymara, and/or any other First Nation speech.