Event Review: Art and Code

view of the art and code crowd during the processing session

photo by everyplace

I attended Art and Code this past weekend. It was billed as “symposium on programming environments for artists, young people, and the rest of us” and it was held on CMU campus.

I was only able to attend on Sunday and it was one heck of an information-filled day. Golan really managed to fill the schedule with some amazing folks talking about some amazing programming tools. Sunday was an overview kind of day: 45 minutes to hear about each programming environment.

Some recurring themes of the day included the importance of programming literacy and how to teach people programming. This doesn’t mean that everyone should become computer science majors. It’s actually the complete opposite. The idea is to empower everyone to make software that does what they want it to do, not necessarily the narrow definition of tasks it was meant for.

One interesting statistical trend that came up was that there’s been an overall drop in the number of people going into computer science majors. All the speakers suggested that this didn’t mean fewer people are interested in programming, but instead means that there is a definite demand to learn programming skills for other things. Like artistic uses.

There was also some Adobe bashing going on throughout the day which was definitely not something I usually hear at the conferences I go to.

A bit about the sessions…

I have to admit, I knew pretty much nothing about the environments covered in the morning sessions going into it. But I was still really glad I dragged myself out bed to see them. Pure Data was the morning session gem for me. It’s related to MAX/MSP but it’s free… and there’s a version you can run on your old ipods. Super cool. Hans-Christoph Steiner also did a quick presentation at the dorkbot event on Sunday evening bout reusing old devices that was great.

Why the lucky stiff was also a highlight of the morning sessions. He’s a freelance professor. Hard to explain.

I don’t think I can pick a favourite for the afternoon. Both Ben Fry and Casey Reas were there to talk about processing together which was pretty cool all in itself. I should probably just sum up the afternoon’s presentations by saying people are making absolutely amazing things with processing, openFrameworks and MAX/MSP/Jitter. Everything from interactive installations to printing on fabric and knitting with code. Yes, knitting with code.

Were you freaked out by Adobe bashing I mentioned earlier? You’ll be happy to know that Dr. Woohoo did a session on using Adobe products in totally unconventional ways using ExtendScript and the like.


On Sunday night I headed out to the brillo box to check out the dorkbot meeting. This was a special meeting especially for art and code attendees. They went with a format that allowed each presenter to sign up for a 10 minute spot. I was pretty psyched to catch a dorkbot meeting, they’re usually on the same day as PittMFUG meetings so I’ve never made it.

There was talk of code battles, robots, and an amazing project where Zach Lieberman collaborated to set a massive amount of LEDs on a building facade to music.

Dorkbot will be posting video from that meeting on their site in the next few days. Definitely worth checking out.

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