Exemplars & Peer Review

GroundWorks: Improving and Supporting Practice in the Third Space

November 8-11, 2015

Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, VA

small 2015 A2RU Conference logo-options




a2ru issued a call for proposals for transdisciplinary exemplars that integrate arts and/or design practices with work and research across other disciplines. These exemplars will be explored during the conference as part of an ongoing conversation centered on developing new peer review methods and practice for transdisciplinary work. A wide range of research and projects was sought, with a special emphasis on (but not limited to) projects at the intersection of science, engineering, arts, and design (S.E.A.D.). These works extend beyond the boundaries and limitations of traditional peer review methods and represent new and innovative synergies that foster creativity, collaboration, integrative problem solving strategies, and exploration.

Six projects were selected to be highlighted at the conference. Prior to the conference, a cohort of outside reviewers will respond to these projects with certain criteria in mind: Does this project aim and succeed in advancing knowledge in multiple fields? Does it contribute to understanding about interdisciplinary collaboration? Does it require expertise both inside and outside of individual disciplines to achieve? These reviews, available in part to conference attendees, will help seed discussions in critique sessions during the conference where project team members, reviewers, a moderator and attendees will engage in a meta-review with the goal of developing suggestions for peer review and project development. These working sessions will help build an understanding for evaluating rigorous transdisciplinary research, curriculum development, collaborative projects, and tenure and promotion practices in higher education. Selected works and the resulting documentation will also be featured in multiple a2ru platforms and will be highlighted and presented through a partnership with Leonardo and MIT Press.

The six selected projects are below:


Ars Robotica

Lance Gharavi, Associate Professor, Theatre and Assistant Director/Artistic Director of Theatre, Arizona State University

Srikanth Saripalli, Associate Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

Matthew Ragan, Interactive Engineer, Obscura Digital

Sai Vemprala, Ph.D. Student in Exploration Systems Design and Graduate Research Associate, ASU

Stephen Christensen, Sound Design Mentor/Staff Sound Technician, School of Film, Dance, and Theatre, ASU

Ian Shelanskey, Theatre Designer and Technologist

Ars Robotica is a multi-year, ongoing project that brings together scientists, artists, designers, and engineers for collaborative research at the intersection of robotics and performance. Broadly speaking, Ars Robotica seeks to advance research in robotics and human–robot interaction, and produce creative and compelling public outreach performances that design imaginative and challenging futures for human/robot relations. The project aims to produce a robot that acts human, with a more natural and fluid movement, enhanced expressive capabilities, and greater responsiveness to human interaction.

The research is aimed at achieving a set of specific technical goals with regard to the robot’s capabilities, but the research is animated by important questions: What characterizes “human” performance as distinct from “robotic” performance? What place do context and relationships have with regard to our ability to read qualities as “natural” or “human”? How are trust and empathy linked to these qualities? For this project, the research goals and efforts drive the creative process and shape the nature of the performances.


Cultural Engagements in Nutrition, Arts & Sciences (CENAS)

Tamara Underiner, Associate Dean for Research, Arizona State University

Seline Szkupinski Quiroga, Director, Conexiones Migrant Student Education Program, Arizona State University

Robert Farid Karimi, Experience Designer and Producer, Kaotic Good/ThePeoplesCook Project

Stephani Etheridge Woodson, Associate Professor, School of Film, Dance and Theatre, Arizona State University

Raya left the doctor’s office in tears. Struggling with type-2 diabetes, she had just been told to give up things like enchiladas, rice and beans – the go-to comfort foods from her childhood. After learning about a new plate method that would allow her to better manage her diabetes without giving up those foods entirely, she asked:  “Why couldn’t my doctor have made it this easy?  Why did he have to tell me, ‘Your culture is killing you.’?” 

Raya’s experience suggests that the challenges of obesity-related chronic diseases are as much sociocultural as medical, and therefore interventions would benefit from radically interdisciplinary approaches that take culture into consideration. Since 2012, the CENAS research team at Arizona State University, representing the fields of theatre, humanities, and health sciences, has collaborated with performance artist/cook Robert Farid Karimi and his The peoples cook project in such an undertaking.

CENAS (also the word for “suppers” in Spanish) explores whether culturally sensitive cooking classes based on this plate method, when combined with theatre workshops, can do for diabetes education and prevention what other programs of health education so far have not—namely, to lay the groundwork for long-term dietary change—in a measurably significant way.  We also explore the opportunities for, and limits of, truly transdisciplinary research related to matters of health.


Dream Vortex

Meredith Tromble, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies, San Francisco Art Institute

Dawn Sumner, Professor of Geology, University of California, Davis

Jim Crutchfield, Professor of Physics, University of California, Davis

Joe Dumit, Professor, Anthropology and Science in Technology Studies, University of California, Davis

Donna Sternberg, Choreographer

Dream Vortex is a virtual, interactive environment and a work-in-progress, an ongoing, long-term collaboration among a visual artist, a choreographer, and researchers at the Complexity Sciences Center, KeckCAVES Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences, and ModLab, all at the University of California, Davis. The Dream Vortex mingles our oldest and newest art-making technologies by transforming charcoal drawings into interactive projected objects. A vortex of image fragments appears in the air before the user; with a game controller they can be “touched” and handled, although like dreams they may suddenly change following a hidden network of associations built into the programming. Work on the original Dream Vortex, conceived as an installation based on the dreams of researchers, is ongoing. The environment also has a developing daughter work, Dream Vortex: Creative Differences, a performance created with Donna Sternberg Dancers that will use the vortex methodology with new content based on the stories of researchers who bring diversity in gender, ethnicity, class, or age to the scientific community. The impact of the Dream Vortex is varied and nonlinear:  it serves as an artwork, as a stimulus to add new forms of interactivity to existing programming, and as a reminder that play is an important source of scientific inspiration.



William J. Doan, Professor of Theatre, Penn State

Elisha Clark Halpin, Associate Professor and Head of Dance, Penn State

Andrew Belser, Professor of Movement, Voice, and Acting and Director of the Arts & Design Research Incubator, Penn State

Michael Green, Professor, Dept. of Medicine and Dept. of Humanities in the College of Medicine, Penn State

Benjamin Levi, Professor, Dept. of Pediatrics and Dept. of Humanities in the College of Medicine, Penn State

Joseph Julian, M.D., Artist in Residence

When your sister says, “I saw what you used to do in the barn,” you listen. When she says it from deep inside a coma, you really listen.  A play about siblings who find a way to connect across the great divide of altered consciousness, this piece is about how they communicate beyond the mind and the senses; making it possible to dance, laugh, and say goodbye.

Drifting began as part of an interdisciplinary arts based project to investigate traumatic brain injury, consciousness, awareness, and artistic expression. Initial collaborators included a director, a movement specialist, a sound designer and sonification specialist, and a neurologist-turned-sculptor. As the project progressed, the collaborators expanded to include physicians at the Hershey Medical School of Penn State. This latest expansion was the result of an invitation to join their ongoing research efforts related to end-of-life decision-making and Advanced Care Planning. The project is currently expanding through the creation of video projections. We believe the video work has the capacity to unfold the piece toward visualizing the memories of the central character, who lies trapped in a coma. The video is about manifesting the life that was so altered, and giving her consciousness some sort of material presence in the theatrical space. This play focuses on the spaces where art, science, and ethics intersect in complex end-of-life situations.


Linux Laptop Orchestra (L2Ork)

Ico Bukvic, Associate Professor, Computer Music, Virginia Tech

Tom Martin, Professor, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Liesl Baum Walker, Research Assistant Professor, K-12, ICAT

Matthew Komelski, Instructor, Human Development, Virginia Tech

Eric Standley, Associate Professor, Studio Art

Named as one of the top eight research projects at Virginia Tech (DCist, 2014), a contemporary intermedia ensemble Linux Laptop Orchestra (L2Ork), thrives upon the quintessential form of collaboration of the western classical orchestra and its cross-pollination with increasingly accessible human-computer interaction technologies for the purpose of exploring expressive power of gesture, communal interaction, discipline-agnostic environment, and the multidimensionality of arts. L2Ork, founded by Dr. Ivica Ico Bukvic in May 2009, is part of the interdisciplinary initiative by the Virginia Tech Digital Interactive Sound & Intermedia Studio (DISIS) and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). As the world’s first Linux-based laptop orchestra incorporating extensive study of gesture and Taiji choreography L2Ork offers optimal infrastructure for creative research at minimal cost. By integrating of arts and sciences using IDEAS approach it is in part designed to bridge the gap between STEM and the Arts, with particular focus on K-12 education. Since its inception, L2Ork has helped start seven laptop orchestras in North and South Americas. L2Ork’s infrastructural backbone, pd-l2ork, a Pure-Data variant with its unique K-12 learning module has been utilized in over half-dozen K-12 Maker workshops, including a Raspberry Pi Orchestra summer gifted program introduced in 2014.


Metaverses / Seecular

Hannes Bend, Visiting Scholar and Artist in Residence, Quantum and Nanoscale Physics Benjamín Alemán Laboratory, University of Oregon

Michael Posner, Professor Emeritus, Psychology, Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences, University of Oregon

Matt Larsen, Ph.D. Student and Graduate Research Fellow in Computer Science

The art/science project “Metaverses / Seecular” at the Institute of Neuroscience and Materials Science Institute (University of Oregon / UO) emerged from the “Third Culture Conversations” between artists and scientists in early 2014, initiated by the Oregon Arts Commission and UO. “Metaverses” includes collaborations between the fields of physics, psychology, neuroscience, computer science and philosophy.

Goals are to: 1) develop a screen-based human-machine interfaced public art work, based on artistic practices, collaborative research and new computational creations; 2) contribute to research in the field of neuroscience (mindfulness research and neuroaesthetics); 3) create visualization program “Seecular,” influenced by research, subsequently accessible to screen-users to potentially support ‘calmer’ interactions with technological devices; 4) seek novel ways for artistic/scientific collaborations to contribute insights unrealizable in the specific fields alone; and 5) to explore ethical concerns for applied scientific/artistic processes, especially considering current developments in artificial intelligence. The first phase, also conducted by Hannes Bend, includes the EEG study “Correlation between Visual Stimuli and Brain States” (lab of Edward Vogel) and the fMRI study “Neural Mechanisms of Multiple Meditation Techniques within Practitioners” at the Lewis Center for NeuroImaging (with Michael Posner).