Art, technology collide into eDream

By Alissa Groeninger

A new organization, the Emerging Digital Research and Education Institute (eDream), is aimed at pairing the arts with technology.

The institute will launch at the Krannert Center, one of its partners, in April. Krannert director Mike Ross said he feels strongly that Krannert should play a role in eDream because Krannert is one of the world’s elite performing arts centers.

He said the idea for eDream came out of one of the chancellor’s initiatives that sought to explore how to include technology and research in the future of art. Ross said that after the initiative was successful, he encouraged eDream director Donna Cox to create a program for students to get involved.

“It is a digital world,” said Vernon Burton, director of the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science.

Burton said schools and universities will require students to be more familiar with technology because jobs are relying more and more on technology.

The institute seeks to promote digital arts media, which are forms of art created and conveyed through digital technology, said Kelly Searsmith, assistant director for the institute. She said eDream is designed to foster research, education and public engagement.

A doctoral degree, an online professional master’s degree and an undergraduate degree are all in the works for the institute. The doctoral degree could launch in the fall of 2009, while the other programs are possibly still years from opening. Searsmith stressed that the programs will involve collaborative work between different disciplines.

“It gives everybody on campus, faculty and students, a lot of opportunities,” Searsmith said.

During a Krannert dance performance, faculty members who are now working on eDream created 3-D visuals of water and digital music to supplement the dance. This is an example of a potential eDream project, Searsmith said.

eDream can join a list of University organizations that work to combine technology and academic disciplines.

The Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science is one of five organizations, including eDream, on campus that work toward this goal.

“(We’re) bridging both sides,” said Jennifer Guiliano, a history doctoral student who works with the computing institute.

Guiliano said the Institute works to develop tools to be used in the humanities, to research ways to apply technology to academics and to provide workshops for University faculty. Guiliano said the five organizations that are aimed at combining technology and humanities allow students, faculty and staff access to the University’s supercomputer, which otherwise would only be used to advance science and technology.

The groups also combine researchers from diverse disciplines, allowing the projects to advance multiple sectors of academia.

“We’re sort of a weird think tank,” Guiliano said. “All of us have the same overriding goals.”

Kevin Franklin, executive director for the computing institute, said students can use the technology to do research. He added that students bring different perspective than many of the researchers at the center because students grew up in a digital world.

This technology will eventually be adopted by the general public, Franklin said.

The computing institute is working on projects that put writings and historical artifacts into databases so researchers can catalog and study correlations similarities. The researchers are also hoping to create digital museums where historical figures or scenes could be recreated. Guiliano said the University’s organizations already have the technology to create these museums.

“We’re trying to push the boundaries of what people can do with computers,” Guiliano said. “It’s sort of the future of education.”

Craig said these technologies allow people to interact with history.

“Hopefully it means we are able to connect information in new ways,” Franklin said. “It has amazing possibilities for learning and collaborating.”

Franklin said the Institute and other organizations are unique because no other centers in the world are partnered with supercomputers. He said the computing institute hopes more students have the opportunity to utilize this technology.

“We can dream very large,” Franklin said. “We can dream big.”