Like Buying Banality Offsets: LUCID NYC

Like Buying Banality Offsets: LUCID NYC

Concepts about reclaiming public space, conversation design and human-centered technology were discussed at a small idea sharing night recently.

Nate Graham
  • 10 november 2009

PSFK was in attendance at this month’s LUCID NYC, held on the lower level of the Bowery Electric.  Though the event’s organizers playfully waffled about how to describe what the evening would entail, LUCID NYC is more or less a “platform for people doing interesting things to share with interesting people.” As their website explains, this monthly program is “like buying banality offsets.”

November’s collection of presenters was an eclectic one, including Jordan Seiler, Heather Gold, and Dan Paluska (with a performance by “the Genie“). Here is recap from the night:

Jordan Seiler:

Jordan Seiler is the man responsible for the urban intervention known as Public Ad Campaign.  This project, which expands curatorial responsibilities in the city, is aimed at exploring a citizen’s relationship with public space. Specifically, Seiler and a team of volunteers have (twice now) reclaimed illegal advertising space around New York City by whitewashing it and then turning it over to eager artists. We’ve covered Public Ad Campaign a number of times before on PSFK, but it was particularly interesting to hear the details, process, and methods behind the movement.  Seiler advocates a passionate belief that altering the city gives the public a new connection to — one of responsibility, protection, and ultimately community engagement — and Public Ad Campaign helps to foster this.

Heather Gold:

Ms. Gold is a comedian, performer, and an ex-Canadian.  This “the turkey baster love child of Sarah Silverman and Rachel Maddow” was up on stage to talk, more or less.  Demonstrating “tummling”, or design for conversation, Heather effortlessly engaged the audience on a first name basis, interspersing her talking points, and comedy.  In what was a remarkably fluid conversation with a roomful of strangers she touched on her beliefs of authenticity and truth, while revealing herself (one choice soundbite of the evening: “I came out in the 80’s, pre-Ellen. All I had to look up to was Velma on Scooby Doo”). In retrospect Ms. Gold’s conversation clearly had an outline and an agenda, but her expert understanding of conversational tactics masked this.

Dan Paluska:

After studying robotics at MIT, Dan Paluska decided to take a slightly different route and explore the intersection between art and technology.  In a relaxed tone that took away the ivory tower glare one might expect from a well-known MIT roboticist, Dan explained the evolution of his work.  Despite beginning his art career with an incredibly elaborate music device, sponsored by Absolut, he has slowly been shifting to works that are simpler and less complicated.  Instead of spending hours fine-tuning, trying to figure out where a failed connection or servo is, his newer pieces are increasingly concerned with human interaction.  Brooklyn Mobile, which he dubbed a “public information appliance,” is his most recent.  This modified photo booth exists at the opposite end of the tech spectrum from his earlier robotics initiatives.  It involves a small handmade stage surrounding his computer and a button to activate the webcam.  He rolls it around town on a cart and anyone interested can take a video, which is immediately uploaded to youtube.  Perhaps what is most interesting about Dan is his evolution of thought.  It’s surprising to see his relationship with technology evolve from lab sciences to something much more human centered.

Overall, LUCID NYC was a great event to attend.  Its relaxed, unpolished attitude, combined with genuine, engaging speakers, made for a night, that for us, will hopefully be one of many more to enjoy.


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