Monday, April 6, 2009


It is amazing how something can be right on your wavelength, but under your radar. Though it has been around since 1979, NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program only came to my attention more recently as someone I know was applying. I even graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, which runs the program, so this seems like yet another case of me not paying attention to what is going on around me. What do you expect, as I've probably said before (because I do repeat myself) I was practically raised by TV and only have about a 30 second attention span.

While the author of one of one of my textbooks, Clay Shirky, is also on the faculty of ITP, it is the program's founder, Red Burns, that I want to mention. Professor Burns is the program Chair and teaches art and communications. She began NYU's Alternate Media Center, the predecessor for ITP, in the 1970's where she pioneered projects in two-way television and telecommunications projects for the developmentally disabled. She has been honored with many awards for her work and career.

If her career had a theme, it would be fostering the growth of new technology. She began the AMC for that purpose and expanded upon it by creating ITP, a program "whose mission is to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies — how they might augment, improve, and bring delight and art into people’s lives. Perhaps the best way to describe us is as a Center for the Recently Possible." Doesn't that just give you chills?

When I went with my friend to the program's last showcase, I was blown away by the breadth of projects and talent. There was a Twitter project that mapped out countries where people were tweeting from, an upright piano that allowed you to "play yourself a cocktail" and a window shade that sensed light to determine when to raise and lower itself. There were so many other cool projects as well, and the whole show had a feeling of intrepid experimentation, much like an adult playground.

It is interesting to me that an amazing idea incubator like this could have one of the most uninspiring names around (Interactive Telecommunications Program sounds to me like something that should be offered at ITT Tech) but then again my program, offered through the school of continuing education where you can also pursue Actuarial Science and Landscape Design isn't much better off, so I can sympathize. We communications students should really band together and demand better branding.

Anyway, ITP's spring show is coming up in May, and it is definitely worth checking out.

In "Here Comes Everybody" Clay Shirky mentions an application called Dodgeball that came out of the program. If you register and your friends register you build a social network, which you can expand by meeting your friends' friends. When you tell it where you will be, it will tell you who is around and send you their picture so you can identify them. So cool, but this is the first I am hearing about it, and now I find that it was bought by Google and is now being shut down. Very uncool Google. We could have all signed up and met up at the ITP event, bringing everything full circle.