As a TA for Dr. Joseph Lopez‘s New Media Narrative courses at the University of the Incarnate Word and as part of my Alternative Pedagogy independent study, I actively participate in the planning of the Convergent Media Talk Series, instruction seminars, as well as the general syllabus planning process.
The CM@UIW students check out what’s going on at SXSW on their mobile devices. Pictured (left to right): Charlie Young, Joel Pena, Cameron Redus.
With the shadow of Spring Break looming over the campus and the students shifting anxiously in their seats anticipating the long-awaited reprise from their studies, I began to plan another extra-curricular learning-experience for my fellow Convergers.
Myself and my good friend, Joel Pena had been looking forward to the break for quite some time with the intention of visiting the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival just down the road in Austin, Texas. We originally planned on attending during the Wednesday of Spring Break, but we later decided to add Monday to our list after hearing about the Sennehiser+Paste Interactive Studio & Lounge.
We set out for Austin along with two New Media Narrative students (graduate student Charlie Young and undergraduate student Cameron Redus) who were anxious to visit the festival and experience all aspects of SXSW. Before departing San Antonio however, Dr. Lopez entrusted me with two of his Tocaro drivers to take back to Creston Funk, the owner of Austin Hi-Fi and one of Dr. Lopez’s exceptional mentors. So, after entering the Austin city limit, I headed towards Austin Hi-Fi located in the heart of downtown Austin.
Creston Funk (far right) talks hi-fi with CM@UIW.
A long time hi-fi enthusiast, I really enjoy visiting Creston’s shop and listening to his new stock of audiophile equipment. This week, we previewed a pair of dual-driver Tocaro 45D loudspeakers valued at $28,000. For Joel, Cameron and Charlie, this was their first time experiencing the wonders of high-end audio and they were truly amazed, commenting to me afterwards that it was one of the highlights of their trip. After hearing Dr. Lopez discuss the value of having good quality, clear audio in class, I felt it was a benefit for them to hear exactly how good recordings can sound.
SENNHEISER + PASTE INTERACTIVE STUDIO PARTY
Charlie outside the Sennheiser + Paste Interactive Studio Lounge.
After saying our farewells to Creston, we departed Austin Hi-Fi and headed towards downtown Austin and the heart of the SXSW Festival. Our first stop in our SXSW journey was the Sennheiser + Paste Interactive Studio Party located on Rainey Street.
The CM@UIW students listen to the talk via Sennheiser wireless headphones.
Our timing could not have been more perfect. Over the past few weeks, Dr. Lopez had given many lectures on The Pirate Bay and had even organized a guest lecture by Dr. Patrick Burkart of Texas A&M University who spent a year in Sweden studying the politics of the Pirate Party and who is currently writing a book on the subject. Now, it just so happened that one of the many people to be interviewed at the Sennheiser lounge was none other than Simon Klose, the director of TPB AFK, a recent film about The Pirate Bay and the trial of it’s founders in Sweden. The film was released on Youtube, the Pirate Bay, and many other download sites on the day of its initial showing.
Taking a break after Simon Klose’s interview.
Having viewed the film many times ourselves, Joel and I were especially interested in Simon’s reflections about producing a film through crowd-funding. The talk also piqued the interests of Cameron and Charlie who decided that they would definitely watch the film when they arrived back in San Antonio.
Simon Klose being interviewed at the Sennheiser Lounge.
Another benefit of spending a few hours at the Sennheiser Lounge (aside from the free Red Hook beers) was getting to see DSLR’s used in a professional setting. Having recently acquired a slew of Canon DSLRS in the Convergent Media department at UIW, this gave the students a chance to view them in action and inspired them to produce DSLR short films of their own.
MEETING UP WITH BRANDON
The CM@UIW Crew hangs out with Brandon Wiley (far right).
After giving the Sennheiser Lounge a complete and thorough run through, we headed out in search of more free (or shall I say “open-source”) tech adventures. While roaming the streets of Austin, we happened to run into Brandon Wiley, who had just given a talk at UIW a few weeks prior to the break. A SXSW legend himself, Brandon had no trouble making recommendations for our next adventures. Taking full advantage of Brandon’s suggestions, we headed off towards Audodesk‘s SXSW Create Pavilion and the Indie Game Dev Happy Hour.
AUTODESK’S SXSW CREATE PAVILION
Cameron investigates the MakerBot Replicator 2 3D Printer.
Upon entering Audodesk’s SXSW Create Pavilion, we became immersed in a world of high-tech innovations, creative ideas and high-end production tools. After exploring the tent for a while, Cameron took an interest in the 3D printer, which has become the source of much controversy in recent months. Having discussed 3D printing extensively in class, I was glad that he had a chance to see one in person and witness its unique capabilities.
Cameron watching a demonstration of the MaKey MaKey circuit board.
Cameron examining the MaKey MaKey circuit board.
After checking out the 3D Printer, we moved on to a few Arduino-type circuit boards, such as the MaKey MaKey board, developed out of the MIT Media Lab, and the LaunchPad board, developed by Texas Instruments. At UIW’s Convergent Media Lab, we recently acquired a couple of Arduino boards and Raspberry Pi‘s and it was great to see all of the other circuit boards that are available and witness them in action.
Video of Cameron riding the Boosted Board outside the Autodesk Pavilion.
Cameron flashes a “thumbs-up” after riding the Boosted Board.
Cameron, who is known for being one of UIW’s most enthusiastic skateboarders, discovered the Boosted Board, a fully-electric, remote-controlled skateboard outside the Pavilion. While conversing with the board’s inventors, Cameron was itching to give it a try, so he strapped on his helmet and gave it a whirl. Carefully camoflauged behind his wide-eyed grin, Cameron was truly amazed by the device and remarked that he would like to create something like this one day in our Convergent Media Lab at UIW.
INDIE GAME DEV HAPPY HOUR
Charlie holding a Tumble Words promo sticker at the Indie Game Dev Happy Hour.
After setting off form the Autodesk Pavilion, we headed towards the Indie Game Dev Happy Hour at the Brixton, sponsored by Tumble Words, the innovative iOS game developed by Brandon Wiley and Minicore Studios. Here we were able to witness what happens when you commit yourself to a project and stick with it from start to finish.
Myself hanging out at another SXSW backyard lounge.
Throughout the course of the evening, we visited many more lounges, studios and tech events, and by the end of the trip everyone was thoroughly exhausted. In the Convergent Media Program at UIW, our motto is “Make Stuff, Take Risks, and Be Awesome,” and as we departed SXSW and we began discussing potential projects we could create involving skateboarding, Arduino boards, and 3D printing, I knew that making the trip to SXSW was a risk well worth taking.