eDream’s Commitment to the Greening of Digital Arts Media

Environmental aesthetics–the greening of digital arts media–is a theme much on our minds at eDream.

The Advanced Visualization Lab at NCSA–our applied research partner specializing in scientific visualization for public outreach–has already developed significant climate change visualizations (compliments of Alex Betts) in collaboration with the esteemed Don Wuebbles and his colleague in the meteorological sciences Katharine Hayhoe for the Planet U Conference: The Human Story of Climate Change, which was hosted here at the University of Illinois back in April. The visualizations contrast two scenarios that show the degree of global warming over the next hundred years depending on the amount of human-generated impact on climate systems (i.e., whether human societies continue to produce negative effects unabated or whether they enact policies to reduce their negative impact).

AVL has another environmental project slated for Spring, Dynamic Earth: an original digital fulldome show–to be created with Thomas Lucas Productions and NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio and premiered at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science–that addresses the need for greater public understanding of the science of climate change by diving into the inner workings of our climate engine and by visualizing the complex simulations that are the basis of scientific predictions about our warming world.

AVL has also produced global climate visualizations (compliments of Bob Patterson and Alex Betts) for the Cyprus Institute‘s Energy, Environment and Water Research Center, using data provided by Dr. Andrea Pozzer.   Climate change and its impacts in the Mediterranean and Middle East are of special concern to the Cyprus Institute.  The National Center for Supercomputing Applications has established a far-reaching cooperative agreement with the Cyprus Institute.  It will include student fellowships in cooperation with eDream as well as continued work on environmental visualization.

In addition to this valuable work in scientific visualization, eDream and its affiliates have also collaborated with University of Illinois Dance professor Jennifer Monson, whose Mahomet Aquifer Dance premiered at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Reimagining the Proscenium event last November.  Our partner AVL’s multimedia specialist Jeff Carpenter developed a virtual surround for the performance environment, which included scientific videos of water movement across particle beds and Illinois Water Survey graphic data representations.   Jeff reworked this surround for video formatting, to be shared on the Mahomet Aquifer Dance‘s roadshow, a tour that combined outdoor performances at local events in our community over a week in October with in-Airstream displays and information about regional water conversation concerns.

eDream has also recently visited on campus with Dartmouth’s Lorie Loeb (co-director of the digital arts minor and research assistant professor of computer science) to discuss her Green Lite Dartmouth project, which “aims to educate Dartmouth students, through real-time feedback, on how much energy is used” in daily living and building use.”  The project sought to create awareness of and emotional consequences to the global impact of small, personal choices through the icon of a polar bear affected by the climate change of melting polar cap ice.  As Dartmouth media states, “The most visible aspect of the initiative will be real-time, animated displays in the common spaces of [selected]…residence halls. The displays, broadcast on low-energy monitors, will show an animated polar bear, designed by Sonia Lei ’08, at various levels of comfort or distress, depending on the amount of energy being used in the building. Low energy use equals a happy, healthy polar bear. High usage results in the bear suffering the effects of global warming.”

Recently, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications installed 7000 Oaks and Counting, a public art commission by multimedia artist (and Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) Tiffany Holmes on its fourth floor, which eDream leaders Donna Cox and Bob Patterson helped to select.  The installation is a brushed-stainless steel kiosk with a touchscreen graphical user interface that displays building energy use and encourages employees to donate personal sacrifices (such as choosing to eat only organic for a specific number of days) in order to offset it.

We are looking forward to continuing our environmental advocacy in future work.  It provides us with incredible inspiration, as well as the opportunity to collaborate around a shared cause that cuts across disciplines.

— Kelly Searsmith