From the Tisch School of the Arts’ Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University website:
ITP‘s philosophy of a hands-on approach to learning relies on collaboration rather than competition, fostering a creative environment where exploration, analysis, risk-taking and experimentation can occur. The department provides an open and nurturing environment in which people are empowered to develop their own ideas, no matter how experimental. ITP emphasizes the user’s creativity rather than the capability of the computer.
In 1990 I graduated with an MA in Photography from NYU’s School of Nursing and Arts Professions (SENAP) where the catalogue listed “Physiotherapy” before “Postmodern Critique” and “Printmaking” came before “Psychiatric Nursing.” One of my classmates, Michael Richards, was the Artist in Residence at the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001, but that’s another story.
The weekend after I completed the Photography coursework, I attended a workshop at a Zen Mountain Monastery with Pat O’Hara, who had been with ITP since the early days. This was before Pat became the Enkyo and a lineage holder in both the Soto and Rinzai lines of Zen Buddhism, through the White Plum Lineage. That summer weekend, we sat in a circle, each of us with a video camera on our laps to “be with the camera” before pressing any buttons. Nine or so months later I applied at ITP and have been altered for life by Bhuddist and ITPist teachings and teachers.
I was granted a scholarship and became a Graduate Assistant (GA) at ITP; I think my fellow GAs questioned my logic when I suggested that we all wear white lab coats so we would be easily identifiable to the other students during our working hours. I reckoned that if we were OFF DUTY (i.e. not dressed like nutty professors), nobody would ask us to help configure the AMIGA computer or troubleshoot the cabling in the VHS editing suite.
Required reading for Red Burns’ legendary Applications class was Michael L. Benedikt’s Cyberspace: First Steps, in which we read about Leibniz, MUDs, MOOs, and even virtual reality. Guest speakers came from ABC television (complete with gigantic laser disk demo) and from Ma Bell (he brought a child’s toy car to jog our minds about how one knows how to drive cars made by different manufacturers).
My undergraduate degree was in English, so when fellow GA Eric Nadler showed me HyperCard’s scripting window I got shivers up and down my spine and thought that I was reading an undiscovered James Joyce poem. Dan O’Sullivan was working in a closet-sized room that contained more computers than air and a single rubber tree plant. Many faculty and student were heard humming when they passed his office:
Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant
But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes…
HyperCard was exciting. Bob Stein was impressed by my first project and he offered me an internship at his budding factory called Voyager on Broadway. I put the words “no” and “yes” in a scrolling field but switched the scrolling direction on the arrows; the up arrow made the words scroll downward and vice versa. In the end, either way you clicked, it became “noyes” (I was thinking “noise” and useless arguments).
Time was flying. I couldn’t lap it all up fast enough. By the end of my first year I had learned how to scan images, edit video using Apple’s quirky DigitalFX program, program HyperCard and manipulate audio files using SoundEdit. That summer I took Michael Noll’s Technology class and got a C+ because my mind freezes when it sees mathematical formulae. Despite the low grade I learned things I will never forget, like the definition of a “nibble” (four bits). Plus I taught him that the word “sine” comes from the Latin sinus meaning the curve or fold of a toga.
Gerard Lynn, a fellow GA, and I took a road trip to see the superb Marcel Duchamp collection housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We also went to a friend’s barn in upstate NY and I had an Alice in Wonderland experience when I was inside the barn and realized that there was a peephole in the door exactly like Duchamp’s Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage . . . (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas . . . ). We made a funny little Director movie afterwards that featured Leibniz, monads, and a water source.
The following autumn brought more astounding technologies: Stacy Horn gave us each an account on ECHO; plus, all the new Macs in the labs had a MB or two of memory instead of 256 k. Red asked me to be in charge of organizing demos for visiting scouts and one time Nathan Myhrvold visited from Microsoft. Those were truly heady days.
I became active in the TISCH student government and got funding for a few events for the school. Jaron Lanier was the only person I knew who owned a cell phone in those days and John Perry Barlow blew my mind when he suggested that the computer revolution would be more important to Homo sapiens than fire (and we ITP-ites were at its very center!).
My ITP days were passing too quickly; I did not want it to end but my thesis project—The Amazing McScent™ Machine—was all-consuming so I did not have much time to wallow in the passage of time.
Time passed in earnest and I returned to the fold for ITP’s 30th Anniversary celebration.
As part of the festivities, students and alumnae were invited to give “Pecha Kucha” presentations.
I returned to my alma mater to teach this graduate level course that created opportunities for collaboration between students at ITP and a variety of people in East Africa.