Friday night: Pilgrimess!

Saturday night: Urban Heat Island Effect (with members of Blxpltn and Blastfamous USA)

ACTLab Presentations

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.

poster design: For Fear the Glass May Shatter.

Caitlin McClune: The Sanctity of Sharded Beings: Machine Learning, Work, and Speculative Visions

This study explores Machine Learning (ML) in the context of what has been referred to as the ‘two singularities’, the technological singularity arising from the ambitions to build Artificial General Intelligence/superintelligence, and the economic singularity of automation. Specifically, I am looking at activist organizations in Austin TX, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Austin Justice Coalition to see how they integrate legislative work with speculative fiction or imagining radically different social-political structures in the US.

There has been significant scholarship examining the advent of these technologies and how they will dramatically affect the organization of labor and the structuring of advanced capitalist societies. However, little research puts this literature into conversation with speculative fiction that examines how these conditions will disproportionately affect certain communities, i.e. poor populations and communities of color, where algorithms are already manifesting in phenomena such as predictive policing. My interest is in bringing these conversations together by examining the use of speculative fiction in mainstream US consumption, in digitally-based, activist organizations.

My work examines digital cultural production while considering how colonization and slavery continue to influence orientations towards technological innovation in the US and abroad. As digital technologies have promoted dramatic changes in labor, distribution, and consumption, I maintain that it is important to retain a critical historical perspective while investigating contemporary digital practices.

“Artificial Intelligence & AI & Machine Learning”by mikemacmarketing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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

Make Every Media’s PRESERVATION SPACE will let users explore in virtual reality venues that no longer exist physically (Salvage Vanguard Theatre, The Off Center, and The Institution Theater) and learn about the impact they made on our city. We’re releasing a version of the app for free download this year to spread the word about the vibrancy and struggles of Austin’s arts community. “The Preservation Station Series” on Make Every Media Podcast threads together a audio/video documentary series, website, mobile/web application, and multimedia presentation centered on Austin’s uniquely shifting cultural landscape. The podcast serves to illuminate the current creative space crisis in Austin by documenting performance venues and community spaces that we have lost, as well as reporting on the struggles of existing venues we are at risk of losing and also those spaces that are thriving. The podcast, app, and documentaries all serve as a public presentation of the immense variety of art and unique culture that can be found here in Austin year-round. It’s our personal mission is to document significant touchstones of Austin’s artistic ecosphere as it rapidly transforms in order to preserve the unique cultural heritage of our special corner of the world for both current and future audiences.

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

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.

Conference Schedule

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
5pmoff-site eventsTBA
7pmkeynote presentation: Mark Dery
9pmpost-discussion, social time Butterfly Bar
Saturday, June 29
12pmcoffee, snacks, social timeThe VORTEX
12:30pmrecap and introductions
7pmkeynote presentation with demonstration:
10pmclosing remarks, post-discussion,
social time
Butterfly Bar