Research updates

  • Ball run drawings


    As a grad student in architecture, I am lucky to have ready access to all of the basic tools needed to make technical drafts. I did some planning drawings of the mechanisms I’m going to build for the distance interaction machine.
  • Reflection: Hard things are difficult


    It is hard to do things that are hard, but it seems to usually be worth it. Historically, I prefer running away towards the easier things, but I’m working on changing my habits. It feels a bit unnatural, but I’m trying to be honest about the struggle.
  • Proof of pixel concept


    I made a scaled down, reasonable proof-of-concept of the magnetically driven pixel drawing machine.
  • Magnetic mechanical pixels


    I wanted to build my own totally mechnical flip-dot display for the bus stop machine, and after some experimenting I mostly figured out the mechanism I’ll be using.
  • Low-fi drawing machine prototype


    Using simple software and hardware tools, I built a very quick-and-dirty interaction prototype for my bus stop project.
  • Shelves!


    There’s nothing as satisfying as seeing a problem, identifying a solution, and fixing it.
  • White Oak Busy Beaver field trip


    I recently moved the hardware store interactive installation project forward in two different ways: I did a site visit, and I started expanding my thinking about what I’ll install there. Here I go over my field trip findings.
  • Mapping local politics


    My thesis project is focused on encouraging positive social interactions between strangers across social/political/geographic lines of division. Fortunately for those of us who are interested in public opinion, we recently did a big national survey and got about 137 million responses
  • Rest in Peace on Shelf


    My “Funny Bones” project (introduced here) relates to peculiar bones in a few animals that can be found in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s holdings. I’m also interested in how these equivalent bones appear in human beings, as well as how the museum treats their human holdings (which is certainly different in some ways from how it treats animal remains, and similar in other ways).
  • Funny Bones bird beak update


    This is an update to my earlier post Funny Bones about the interactive museum exhibit piece I’m working on for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I recommend reading that post for context first if you haven’t. Update Spent some time tonight building out an idea I’d had of how the red-bellied woodpecker’s wonderfully elongated hyoid bone could be made into an interesting physical model. It’s a bit frictiony at the moment, but for a first pass, I was able to go from drawing to realization and so far, I’m happy with the outcome.
  • Mid-Thesis Presentation


    Below is an embedded copy of the presentation I gave to my thesis committee yesterday. It was a 20-minute presentation followed by around a half hour of discussion and feedback. Obviously seeing just the slide deck leaves out lots of detail, but it provides a reasonable guide as to the main points of my presentation. I’m very appreciative to all the faculty members who took the time to listen to my ideas and respond with their own insights and questions. Faculty who were present included: Daragh Byrne, Austin S. Lee, Golan Levin, Marti Louw, and Garth Zeglin.
  • A Raven Amongst Steelers (audio)


    I have been making weekly 8-minute radio segments for an MFA class I’m in called Contextual Practice, taught by Jon Rubin. Last Sunday the whole class went down to tailgate at the Steelers game, a home game against the New York Giants. I wanted to explore the nature of antipathy directed at strangers based on their appearance, and so I walked around carrying a microphone, wearing a big purple Ravens shirt. (The Ravens, I was told, are a Steelers rival.)
  • Finding more relationships


    A few weeks ago I started playing with putting pictures of various sample projects on a table, to see how they wanted to arrange themselves. Today I resumed doing this, seeing some more emerging groups and themes, and exploring a particularly salient one-dimensional gradient: social risk.
  • Funny Bones hairy frog update


    This is an update to my earlier post Funny Bones about the interactive museum exhibit piece I’m working on for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I recommend reading that post for context first if you haven’t. Update I have been able to spend a bit of time working on the Tricobatrachus robustus (hairy frog) model that I mentioned before. I haven’t gotten to the final version of what I’d like to bring to the museum, but I was able to move through some quick prototyping because I went into it knowing pretty clearly what I wanted to work on.
  • Funny Bones


    I’m doing an independent study with art faculty member Rich Pell this semester in parallel with a class he’s teaching, Mining the Museum. I am currently progressing on my final project, which will be a small temporary installation or series of installations in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Here I’ll summarize the current plan for the project as it’s in progress. In the next handful of weeks I’ll be building these ideas out and installing and testing them in the museum.
  • Bus Stop Machine


    As I noted in the introduction to this blog I have been working since last spring to try to encourage some friendly interaction between strangers in a space that’s normally fairly fallow socially: a bus stop.
  • Finding Relationships


    Exploring with images I decided it would be useful to gather together a big collection of images of exemplary projects and installations which have been swimming inside my head. I realized that having all these pictures stuck inside the pixels of the computer was holding me back from drawing relationships between them in a more natural way. Specifically, I realized I wanted to push them around on a table and explore how all these projects relate to each other along different dimensions.
  • Outside the Hillary Rally (audio)


    I have been making weekly 8-minute radio segments for an MFA class I’m in called Contextual Practice, taught by Jon Rubin. I decided to speak with the counterprotesters who attended Hillary Clinton’s rally at Heinz Field on November 4th, 2016, just five days out from the election. There were antiabortion activists standing by 6-foot signs with pictures of dismembered fetuses, there was a man with a megaphone wearing a homemade Catholic vestment of some sort, and there was a guy who was convinced of the impending danger of what he calls “artifically generated stampedes” at a large public event.
  • Do art is art


    I decided to do some intentional meandering on the South Side today. Nice to get around and explore areas I’m less familiar with, and of course I appreciate coming across some unexpected public art along the way. (This is exactly the sort of chance finding that makes the trip worthwhile.) As I was waiting to cross Carson St. around the Birmingham Bridge I found this “modified” (how I’d put it) or “defaced” (how Public Works would put it) street sign advising pedestrians about how to cross:
  • Making parametric drawings


    After trying to figure out a few different mechanical possibilities for transmitting forces through the bus stop machine I’m working on, I decided that ball chain was a good bet. It’s a relatively strong material, I can cut it to size easily, it’s reasonably low-cost, and I like that it’s legible to many people as a way to move force from one place to another: people use it all the time to do exactly that when they raise and lower their blinds.
  • Tough Art Opening


    The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is a wonderful institution filled with interesting, creative work. It is—truly—a significant part of why I chose to move to Pittsburgh in 2014. The Museum sponsors an annual exhibit creation program called Tough Art, where artists from outside the institution are invited to submit proposals for pieces they’d like to build and install.
  • Thesis draft: background chapter


  • Research Blog introduction


    I’m currently in my second year of a two-year graduate program called Masters of Tangible Interaction Design (MTID) at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. I’ll be spending this academic year working on a thesis towards the completion of the MTID degree, and in this research blog I’ll record my progress, publicize interesting/terrible mistakes that I make along the way, and share some of what I’ve been learning.
  • Arc Printer project


    In 2014 I started a project that I called the Arc Printer. The original intention was to make a pretty simple low-cost, low-resolution, large-scale printer that could be used to make poster-sized images. I worked on imitating what these images might look like in software, and was getting ready to start making it, but I changed course and began instead making a wheeled robot version of the project, called the Roving Artist.
  • Annotated bibliography


    Here I list some writings of interest as well as a summary of my thoughts about them. The range of these pieces covers critical design, social theory, experimental psychology, research on museum exhibit efficacy, and other subjects as well. I have an always-expanding list of articles and books I haven’t gotten to yet, which appear on this page without notes. (In some cases I’ve done readings and not transcribed notes here.) As I continue my background research, the page gets longer and becomes more filled out with notes as well.
drop me a line any old time: rz@rzach.me