Joyce Rudinsky is a visual artist, UNC Associate Professor of Communication Studies, and a member of the HASTAC Steering Committee. She is also the Associate Director for the Digital Arts and Humanities Initiative at UNC’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and former domain scientist for the arts and humanities at the Renaissance Computing Institute. In 2010, she spearheaded the founding of the now annual CHAT Festival, which celebrates collaborations between triangle-area academics and the local tech industry. Her work centers on how interactive technologies changes our perceptions; she’s worked on a number of electronic art projects which utilize both gaming technologies and interactive sensors to explore how technology mediates and impacts our everyday experience.
I met with Joyce at one of her favorite spots, 3 Cups in Chapel Hill, a few weeks ago to talk about her background, current research projects, and her involvement with HASTAC.
Describe your background. How did you end up being interested in the digital aspects of your field?
In the late 80s, I got a traditional BFA in Art Studio (which focused on painting, drawing, photography, and manipulated photography). In my last year of school, the Omega 3000 computer came out, and I was able to do image manipulation. I had a little scanner and I was doing photo collages on the computer. So I began using the computer as a tool, taking photographs of the screen four times, and then assembling the pieces.
In 1991 I got an MFA in photography and became more and more interested in the digital and technology in general. I did my first computer-based installation using Authorware. My first project was called Reproductive Services, Inc. The gist of it was, if you were gay, the system would just crash. It was a simple design but I became interested in the one-on-one aspects of computing and then began using sensors in installations.
In 2000, I accepted a joint appointment between the Art Department and the Communication Studies department at UNC. I choose Communication Studies because the department was interested and willing to embrace the digital.
What are some of your current research projects?
Game engines are a long standing interest of mine – and they’ve actually become affordable and usable by artists. I’m using game engines to construct simulations – instead of having a big installation, you’re navigating the screen. Collaborations with other people bring in whole other angles. For instance, I’ve worked with Victoria Szabo recently: Psychasthenia was our first project. I’ve always been intrigued by categories and the process of how people are classified. That project set up an immersive pathological diagnostic environment using MMPI, which is a pathological personality test with a subscale called pscychasthenia; the purpose of the project was to explore how psychastenic “symptoms” can pervade our everyday life experience. Our second project, called Psychasthenia II: Out of the Asylum,explores how an individual carries on and copes with everyday life post-diagnosis. We used the same questions as the first installation but tweaked them a little.
Screen capture from Psychasthenia 2
How do you think your field has changed? What are the challenges scholars face moving forward?
Art is my field – I was just at a conference where I learned the preferred term is “new media art” – a lot of its focus is on technique. So if your work is not really high tech, you’re not getting a lot of shows. It’s hard to exist in the middle ground.
When did you join HASTAC?
I think it’s my 3rd year. There was someone from RENCI on the HASTAC board, and she nominated me. I believe in a grassroots approach to get people connected and to raise awareness about digital arts and the humanities.
Has your HASTAC experiences altered your conceptions of online community? Where do you see the most potential and growth in this arena?
I’ve been recommending that other groups I’m involved in should develop these online communities so people can connect across different parts. So you can hear what people are thinking about – instead of reading some article two years from now, you can read current blogs and such.