Conversations with Machines: Lecture & Workshop Series

Friday, February 2, 2024
Room with blue lighting and spotlighting set up with standing piano and other equipment.

Conversations with Machines

With Vernelle A. A. Noel (Situated Computation + Design Lab, CMU ), Madeline Gannon (PhD-CD ‘17, ATONATON), Jake Marsico (MTID ‘14, Deeplocal), and Audrey Desjardins (University of Washington, Studio Tilt)

Join us for a weekend of two lectures and four workshops that build “Conversations with Machines,” exploring our relationships to computation, materials, intelligences, and designed interaction. These workshops consider how we might resolve these dynamic relationships through architectural space and practice.

Curated by Daragh Byrne, Associate Teaching Professor in the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University.

Supported by the Computational Design Program, the 2023-2024 Sylvia and David Steiner Speaker Series at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry and the CMU Open Source Programs Office.

Apply for Workshops: All lectures and workshops are free and open to the public. However, the workshops are limited to a small number of attendees so applications are required. The application form below will close on Tuesday January 23. You’ll be notified of your registration status by Friday January 26.

Overall Schedule

Friday, Feb 2 2024
Lecture: Vernelle A. A. Noel, 1:30–2:30pm, Tepper 1403, in conjunction with the HCII Seminar Series.

Lecture: Madeline Gannon, 5–7pm, Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, followed by conversation with Vernelle Noel and Jake Marsico, moderated by Audrey Desjardins.

Saturday, Feb 3 2024
Hands-on Workshops: 4 workshops led by Vernelle A. A. Noel, Madeline Gannon, Jake Marsico, and Audrey Desjardins. Registration required. Lunch and materials provided.

Sunday, Feb 4 2024
11am–1pm: Showcase. College of Fine Arts Room 211 and 214. Open to all, sharing the outcomes of the four workshops.

Talks & Events

The weekend will kick off with two public lectures on Friday Feb 2nd: Vernelle A. A. Noel will present a lecture as part of the HCII Seminar Series from 1.30-2.30 in Tepper 1403. Later, from 5pm-7pm Dr. Madeline Gannon will share “Breathing Life Into Machines” at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry (CFA Rm 111) at 5pm. After the lecture, Madeline will join Jake Marsico, Vernelle A. A. Noel and Audrey Desjardins in conversation.

Lecture: Vernelle A. A. Noel

In conjunction with the Human-Computer Interaction Institute Seminar Series
1.30-2.30 pm, 
Friday February 2 2024, Tepper 1403
Info & Livestream Link

Lecture: Breathing Life Into Machines

Madeline Gannon
5-6.30pm, Friday February 2, 2024
STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, College of Fine Arts Room 111
After 50 years of promises and potential, robots are beginning to leave the lab to live in the wild with us. But how should we coexist with these intelligent, autonomous machines? In this lecture, Dr. Madeline Gannon shows how we can push robots beyond their limits as tools of automation or collaboration, and explore new models of companionship between humans and machines.

Following Madeline’s lecture, join us for a conversation across our workshop leads. Audrey Desjardins will moderate a conversation with Madeline, Jake and Vernelle about the ways in which their practices engage and question our relationships to computation, materials, intelligences, and designed interaction.

Conversations with Machines Showcase11 am–1 pm, Sunday February 4, 2024

College of Fine Arts Room 214 and 111A conversation with Madeline Gannon, Jake Marsico, Vernelle A. A. Noel, Audrey Dejardins, and workshop participants. 
If you can’t make it to the workshops or the lectures, you can still join us on Sunday morning between 11pm and 1pm in CFA 214 to hear about the outcomes of each workshop. Each group will share a short overview of their workshop and the outcomes they arrived at.


Koriobots: Choreographing Cable Robots

This workshop invites attendees to discover the anatomy, affordances, and creative opportunities that cable-driven robots can bring to architectural robotics. Attendees get hands-on with a fleet of custom-built cable robots, interactive control software, and sensors to learn how cable robots can be combined to create engaging 1D, 2D & 3D motion. 
Workshop Lead: Dr. Madeline Gannon (ATONATON, PhD-CD ‘17) is a multidisciplinary designer blending techniques in art, design, computer science, and robotics to forge new futures for human-robot relations.

Light & Code

This session invites participants to explore the subtleties of working with computation and pixel-based lighting and designing site-specific interactive moments. Attendees will learn how simple implementations of computer vision and audio analysis, applied to dynamic lighting systems, can reveal new possibilities for activating public space and aiding novel communication approaches.

Workshop Lead: Jake Marsico (DeepLocal, MTID ‘14)

Tradigital Wire-Bending: Conversations Between Craft Practices and Machines

Design and build large-scale light sculptures by employing different approaches to the craft of wire-bending specific to the Trinidad and Tobago carnival. You’ll learn traditional techniques in wire-bending, and explore computational and digital methods of reconfiguration of the craft for design and making. 
Workshop Lead: Vernelle A. A. Noel (Situated Computation + Design Lab, School of Architecture, CMU)

Zine Making with Small Data

Workshop Lead: Audrey Desjardins (Associate Professor, School of Art + Art History + Design, University of Washington; Studio Tilt)

In this workshop, we will reclaim personal and domestic data by critically translating, materializing, and reworking our own datasets into zines. We will look at Small Data as an approach for troubling the domesticity of home data and to attend to the dramatic imbalance between the site where data are collected and the power and control that large corporations gain via this data. Zine making will bring a tactile, material, and imperfect side to data—offering an important alternative to discourses of big data, data economy and digital capitalism.

Speakers & Workshop Leads

Madeline Gannon

Dr. Madeline Gannon is a multidisciplinary designer blending techniques in art, design, computer science, and robotics to forge new futures for human-robot relations. Also known as "The Robot Whisperer", Gannon specializes in convincing robots to do things they were never intended to do: from transforming giant industrial robots into living, breathing mechanical creatures, to taming hordes of autonomous machines to behave like a pack of animals.

Dr. Gannon is a World Economic Forum Cultural Leader, a Knight Foundation Awardee, a former Robotics & AI Researcher at NVIDIA, and a former artist in residence at ETH Zurich, Autodesk Pier 9, and the Carnegie Mellon STUDIO for Creative Inquiry. She is known as one of the 'Top 10 Women in Robotics Industry' and 'World’s 50 Most Renowned Women in Robotics’ according to Analytics Insight. Gannon holds a Master of Architecture from Florida International University, and a PhD in Computational Design from Carnegie Mellon University.

Jake Marsico

Jakob Marsico is an Executive Creative Director at Deeplocal, a creative innovation studio that invents, designs, and builds experiences for the world's most progressive brands. Jakob leads a multidisciplinary team of creative technologists, designers, and engineers to invent and deliver playful, interactive experiences that foster meaningful connections between people and technology.

Jakob has a Master of Tangible Interaction Design from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science in Religion from The George Washington University. He also founded and ran Ultra Low Res Studio, an arts-engineering firm that collaborated with developers and architects on experiential projects. Jakob's work has been featured in various publications and exhibitions, and his projects have received multiple awards and honors for their creativity and innovation.

Vernelle A. A. Noel

Vernelle A. A. Noel, Ph.D. is the Lucian and Rita Caste Assistant Professor in Architecture and Urban Design at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture. She is a computational design scholar, architect, artist, and Director of the Situated Computation + Design Lab. She investigates traditional and digital practices, and their intersections with society. Using interdisciplinary approaches, she builds new frameworks, methodologies, and tools to explore social, cultural, and political aspects of computation and emerging technologies for new reconfigurations of practice, pedagogy, and publics. Her work has been supported by the Graham Foundation, the Mozilla Foundation, and ideas2innovation (i2i), among others. She is a recipient of the DigitalFUTURES Young Award for exceptional research and scholarship in the field of critical computational design, and gave a TEDx Talk titled, “The Power of Making: Craft, Computation, and Carnival.” Dr. Noel holds a Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Science in Architecture Studies from MIT, a Bachelor of Architecture from Howard University, and a Diploma in Civil Engineering from Trinidad & Tobago. Noel has held positions at Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Stuttgart, the University of Florida, Penn State University, MIT, the Singapore University of Technology & Design, and has practiced as an architect in the US, India, and Trinidad & Tobago. Noel is currently a board member of The Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA).

Audrey Desjardins

Audrey Desjardins is an interaction designer who speculatively and critically examines how people live with technology. She designs interactive artifacts and systems that reimagine the familiar co-existence of humans and things. Her current projects touch on ways to inquire and reclaim Internet of Things data through crafting and materializing ways of living with that data. As a design scholar, she believes that the design and making of artifacts is a rich site of knowledge production. She designs to articulate questions, to propose alternatives and to provoke reflection.

Audrey is an associate professor in interaction design in the School of Art + Art History + Design at the University of Washington where she directs Studio Tilt, a design research studio. She is also adjunct associate professor in Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) and Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) at the University of Washington. She holds a PhD and Master of Arts from the School of Interactive Arts + Technology at Simon Fraser University, and a bachelor degree in industrial design at Université de Montreal.