'Virtual institute' brings scholars together to advance responsible innovation

September 23, 2013

The National Science Foundation recently announced a grant of nearly $500,000 to establish a new Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation (VIRI) at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU (CNS-ASU). In a global marketplace that thrives on technological innovation, incorporating ethics, responsibility and sustainability into research and development is a critical priority.

Responding to this need, VIRI will work to ensure that knowledge-based innovation in academic and corporate settings integrates broad concepts of responsibility. Download Full Image

Interdisciplinary and wide-reaching

VIRI is a part of an NSF initiative called “Science Across Virtual Institutes.” Virtual institutes are designed to facilitate worldwide collaboration among scientists and engineers on topics of common interest.

VIRI’s goal is to enable an international community of students and scholars who can help establish a common understanding of responsible innovation in research, training and outreach. By doing so, VIRI aims to contribute to the governance of emerging technologies that are dominated by market uncertainty and difficult questions of how well they reflect societal values.

VIRI founding institutional partners are University of Exeter (UK), Durham University (UK), University of Sussex (UK), Maastricht University (Netherlands), University of Copenhagen (Denmark), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany), University of Waterloo (Canada), Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (Norway), and State University of Campinas (Brazil).

VIRI founding institutional affiliates are the US National Academy of Engineering’s Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society, IEEE Spectrum Online and Fondazione Giannino Bassetti.

VIRI’s activities will also be tightly connected with a new, international peer-reviewed Journal of Responsible Innovation, which will begin publication in 2014 with Taylor & Francis.

Years in the making

Led by ASU faculty members David Guston and Erik Fisher, VIRI will bring a social and ethical lens to research and development practices that do not always focus on the broader implications of their research and products. Guston, director of CNS-ASU, co-director of the Consortium of Science, Policy and Outcomes, and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies, has been pushing for the establishment of academic units that focus on responsible innovation for years.

"We are thrilled that NSF has chosen to advance responsible innovation through this unique, international collaboration," Guston said. "It will give ASU the opportunity to help focus the field and ensure that people start thinking about the broader implications of knowledge-based innovation."

Fisher, assistant professor in the School for Politics and Global Studies, has long been involved in integrating social considerations into science research laboratories through his NSF-funded Socio-Technical Integration Research (STIR) project, an affiliated project of CNS-ASU.

"Using the insights we've gained in the labs that have participated in the STIR project, we expect to be able to get VIRI off the ground and make progress very quickly," Fisher said.

Impacts inside and out of the academy

VIRI is designed to make an impact in academia and in the marketplace. By designing curricular activities and programs, VIRI will insert responsible innovation into students' graduate and post-doctoral work before they begin their careers. Through industry partnerships, VIRI will be well positioned to bring concepts of responsible innovation directly to corporations engaging in the research and development of emerging technological products.

More information on the project can be found on the CNS-ASU website at http://cns.asu.edu/viri

Dance and Media Arts and Sciences Graduate Students Explore the Struggle Between Perception and Reality in Vertigo

September 24, 2013

“Vertigo,” an original choreographic and sound score by two Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts graduate students at Arizona State University, shuffles the content of consciousness, eliminates our linear perception of time and transforms the space into a responsive environment. The use of interactive media and sensing systems allows the performing bodies (dancers) to transport the surrounding environment into their perception of the experience.

The artists – Michael Krzyzaniak (composer and Media Arts and Sciences PhD student in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering) and Julie Akerly (choreographer and Interdisciplinary Digital Media and Performance MFA student in Dance) – define the performance this way: “In a state of vertigo, the internal perception of movement differs from the external perception of the experience. The dancers in ‘Vertigo’ attempt to separate the mind and body by ignoring stimuli perceived through their senses or by attempting to eliminate habitual patterns, inhibition, and the sensation of passing time from their awareness. Throughout the piece the performers will wrestle with a struggle between perception and reality.” Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Download Full Image

The choreographer Julie Akerly says, “My graduate advisor is Becky Dyer, a faculty member in ASU’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and ‘Vertigo’ – the performance – is created out of ‘workshops’ that I did with a pilot study group.” The original project was a blind study with somatically aware dancers using the systems that were designed for those workshops.

When Akerly first came to ASU and entered into an interdisciplinary media design and performance degree, she thought she would be making films and static projections that played behind dancers. Never did she think that she would be learning to design interactive and responsive systems that have the potential to create a real sense of interaction where not only is the dancer responding to the media, but also the media is responding to the dancer.

Akerly says, “Arts, Media and Engineering (AME) at Arizona State University has introduced me to other graduate students with similar interests and provided me with the theoretical and technological resources I need to experiment with designing interactive performances.”

Akerly and Krzyzaniak met in the AME class “Understanding Activity,” where they worked in a team with other AME students to design a performance project. They – along with Arts, Media and Engineering PhD graduate student Muharrem Yildirim – continued to work on that project beyond the class and developed "Separation: Short Range Repulsion," which premiered at Slingshot Festival in Athens, Ga., in March 2013.

Krzyzaniak – the composer – says of writing for dance performances, “At its heart, composing for dance is very similar to composing other forms of music. However, dance additionally offers the possibility of translating the aesthetic experience of improvised movement in real time. Sensors can be used to evaluate the aesthetic content of the dance as it unfolds, and that information can be used to control the aesthetic content of real-time music. In this model, the composer becomes a meta-composer. Rather than composing music that has a particular aesthetic quality, the composer builds a system that is capable of maintaining aesthetic synchrony with the dancer.”

You can see Akerly’s and Krzyzaniak’s “Vertigo” at its opening reception on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 from 7 – 8 p.m.


Oct. 2, 2013, 7- 8 p.m. 
Digital Culture Gallery 

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Felicity Snyder