SEASON 1 / EPISODE 4 Pop Culture Tech Podcast

Art Meets Tech

Listen to Pop Culture Tech podcast episode four, featuring artist Sougwen Chung and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Renée C. Byer.


What’s In This Episode

  • Artistry and tech experimentation
  • Robot and artist collaboration
  • A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist
  • Art and technology as catalysts for change

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Featuring (In Order of Appearance)

Digital Innovation Advances Human Expression

Art is about discovery. It’s honing creative problem-solving and sparking the imagination. Combined with its analytical brethren, technology, it’s freedom to develop, innovate and experiment.

When Sougwen Chung began collaborating with machines, her drawing operations unit—a.k.a. DOUG—changed the potential of her practice. “I learned that there’s a lot of beauty in letting go of control…and [that’s] one of the takeaways from working with machines that I never really expected,” she says.

Robots as Art

Four generations of experimentation later, DOUG evolved as a collaborator leveraging AI algorithmic functions, including:

  • Mimicry, where a robotic arm mimics the artist’s movements in a real-time performance.
  • A recurrent neural network trained on a model of the artist’s own drawings to create a gestures feedback loop between her and a robotic arm.
  • A multi-robotic system linked to the flow of the city through computer vision algorithms.

In the latest incarnation, AI helps transpose moving traffic, “this organic feel of New York City, like the flow of water into a space of a canvas,” Chung says. It was an “a-ha moment.” Something that felt different from anything she’d ever done.

As Chung designs more and more of her own robotic forms, she is starting to see them as art works in and of themselves.

A Catalyst for Change

Renée C. Byer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, believes “modern technology helps you bridge the gap if you’re feeling really empathetic about the visual.” A documentary photographer, she turns pictures into immersive experiences.

Her work is focused on social issues that inform the public of important environmental and social issues, a chronicling of events in history or even everyday life.

“For me,” she explains, “It’s all about the human condition and translating other people’s lives through photography so that they can have a deeper understanding and compassion, and maybe, the ability to act and facilitate change.”

Talented Creators and Powerful Creations

Among Byer’s famous works is “Living on a Dollar a Day,” a project that began when the United Nations Millennium Goals were up for review. The internationally acclaimed book and interactive exhibit detail stories of survival in the face of extreme poverty.

When people get emotionally invested in Byer’s photographs, technology helps them make a deeper connection and take immediate action in specific ways. An app enables exhibition visitors to:

  • Listen to Byer talking about the images’ situations.
  • Scan a bar code using a mobile device to access additional resources and become more educated about the topic.
  • Act in some way, including making an online pledge or donation to the cause.

“Technology and photography,” she says, “It’s a big game changer.”

The Pop Culture Tech podcast is brought to you by VMware, the software that connects, automates and secures the world’s digital infrastructure. Learn more at VMware.com.