Students use technology to spark creativity

March 21, 2008

Most people would likely first look at “Archie” merely as a large stuffed-animal child’s toy. They would be so mistaken.

Archie is a soft, 6-foot-long blend of cotton and polyester fabric formed into a rough replica of a squid, with an elongated head and 10 tentacles. Embedded within are small electronic devices that make Archie something special: the Sensor Squid. Download Full Image

He is a tool to achieve what his makers call “tangible interface design,” “interactive tactile collaboration,” and “computer-human interaction,” all designed to enable “creativity interventions.”

Sensor Squid creators Becky Stern and Lisa Tolentino are among the first class of several students in a new media arts and sciences doctoral degree program. The degree is offered through Arts, Media & Engineering (AME), a joint program of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and the Herberger College of the Arts.

Archie – the name is based loosely on the genus name for a giant squid – was conceived by Stern and Tolentino as a device to spark playful collaboration and thoughtful communication among teams of AME students.

He essentially is a wireless input device that allows students to collectively operate a computer by using various control functions embedded in different tentacles.

“It’s like a shared computer mouse that several people can use together, rather than one person at a time,” Stern says. “Nobody has complete control, so it makes us develop working relationships and learn team decision-making.”

The AME students are using Archie to keep each other updated on their various research projects.

To use the Sensor Squid, “people have to get close and hold this soft, plush object,” Tolentino says. “It shapes the whole group working environment. It’s different from people sitting apart with their own laptops. It’s friendlier. It builds cooperative relationships.”

Stern and Tolentino see Archie as a first step in an evolution toward realizing one of key the goals emphasized in the AME program: making technology people-friendly.

“We want to build tools that will help people become more educated about and comfortable with all the information technology in our lives today,” Tolentino says.

Stern came to ASU after earning a bachelor’s degree in design and technology from the Parsons the New School for Design in New York.

Tolentino has an undergraduate degree in computer science and a master’s degree in contemporary music performance from the University of California-San Diego.

They are part of the Reflective Living Group at AME. The research group’s goal is to develop media technology environments that provide resources for increasing community awareness and sparking constructive social interaction and creativity.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


War correspondent addresses Iraq war

March 21, 2008

The war in Iraq has been going on for five years now. When will it end, and what will the ending mean? How will it end?

John F. Burns, a New York Times reporter who covered every aspect of the Iraqi war from a heavily fortified compound on the east bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad for more than four years, will address those questions in a free lecture, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, titled “The Battle for Baghdad: What the Outcome Will Mean for America, Iraq and the World," at 7 p.m., March 26 in Armstrong Hall’s Great Hall on ASUs Tempe campus.

Burns also will speak to students from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m., March 26 in Physical Education Building West (PEBW) room 148 on the Tempe campus.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Burns was Baghdad bureau chief for the New York Times from 2003 to 2007. He now is the London bureau chief.

Burns, who watched the bombing of Saddam Hussein's palaces from the roof of the Palestine Hotel on March 20, 2003, subsequently went into hiding in Baghdad after escaping arrest by Saddam Hussein's secret police.

Burns is the long-serving foreign correspondent in the New York Times’ history. He has reported from the major “hot spots” of the world, including South Africa during the last phases of apartheid, China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s, the Soviet Union during one of the harshest periods of the Cold War, and Afghanistan during the Soviet military withdrawal.

In July 1986, Burns was imprisoned by the Chinese government on charges of espionage. After an investigation, a trial was averted when the Chinese deported him to Hong Kong. The Chinese authorities subsequently apologized to The Times, stating the charges had been false and concocted by "bad elements" in the country's state security police.

Among his many awards, Burns has won two Pulitzer prizes, in 1993 for his coverage of the siege and destruction of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, and again in 1997 for his coverage of the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He has been a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize on several other occasions, and is also a dual winner, in 1979 and 1997, of the George Polk award for foreign reporting, in Africa and Afghanistan.

The lecture is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. Though the lecture is free, tickets are required. For more information or to reserve tickets, see">"> or call (480) 965.7187. Download Full Image