Alex Barker wears several different hats in MU’s Department of Anthropology and the Museum of Art and Archaeology. One of these hats involves his research and fieldwork on the European Bronze Age and the ancient American southeast. The other involves the directorship of MU’s Museum of Art and Archaeology. Standing at the crossroads of several disciplinary fields, most of Barker’s field research has in recent years dealt with a single broad question: how social complexity grows out of egalitarian societies. His fieldwork in North America and the Old World follows this transition over different periods and regions.
So-Yeon Yoon admits that while she has always liked computer games, even as a young child, she has also always enjoyed painting and drawing. Yoon describes her watercolor paintings and how for her the creative process is “very addictive”: “I like colors and creating something beautiful, and creating things on the computer actually gives the same kind of fulfillment.” She is attracted to three-dimensional (3-D) images and experimenting with different textures and colors. Thus it is perhaps no surprise that Yoon found herself drawn to the field of architecture and interior design—“a perfect match” in which her creative desires and her interest in computers could merge. Today, the assistant professor of Architectural Studies focuses her research and teaching on the areas of Human Environmental Psychology and Interior and Architectural Design. Her current research combines information technology with interior design and architecture, a composite field in which she applies technology, particularly virtual reality (VR), to interior design problems.
Barker refers to a certain tension between curators, who have all this ‘stuff’ they want to communicate, and exhibit designers, who want to keep the exhibit as clean and simple as possible. “Ultimately, we want people looking at the art, not at the labels,” he indicates; but the Museum still wants to educate. In that spirit, the museum is experimenting with technology to showcase the art and the significance of art to everyone by creating MP3-based audio tours of the museum that can then be played on any personal audio device, including iPods, notebook computers, and even cell phones. Barker hopes this will allow greater flexibility for visitors, whom he imagines selecting a tour and walking through the galleries at their leisure while looking at the art and listening to the audio information, “instead of looking back and forth between the label and the art.”
Yoon admits she has always liked computers and computer games, even as a young child, and was encouraged because it was something she could do better than her siblings. Also engaged with painting and drawing, Yoon found herself drawn to the field of architecture and interior design, one that could merge her creative impulses and her interest in computers.
Yoon recently published Impact of Desktop Virtual Reality on System Usability: A Case Study of Online Consumer Survey Using a VR Integrated Decision Support System (2004). The book offers basic knowledge about VR technology and focuses on the dimension of human-computer interaction. For example, she addresses the utility of VR software, how users actually interact with the tools, and what kinds of advantages can be expected when adopting this technology.
Tonality refers to the tendency of music to gravitate toward or around a pitch (or pitch class). It’s a kind of harmonic vocabulary frequently used by composers, so that “as long as there’s some pitch that’s pulling everything to it, we refer to it as ‘tonal,’” he explains, playing some chords to illustrate the tonal concept that influences and is defined by Western ears. According to legend, when Mozart sat down one evening and wrote the overture to Don Giovani, the ink was still wet when he gave it to the players. We marvel at this kind of prolific genius, yet music theorist Morton Subotnick contended that “Mozart was really improvising within a tonal system that was already set for him. He didn’t have to be concerned about the harmonic function of stuff.” One chord seemed to lead naturally to another. “The problem for twentieth-century composers,” says McKenney, “is that they must design their own tonal systems.” One might see this freedom as a blessing, but McKenney contends that, as far as composing music goes, sometimes too much freedom isn’t a blessing at all: “At some point in time, you have to put shackles on yourself and limit yourself; otherwise, it can be chaotic as far as the piece goes.”
Another interdisciplinary project involving cognitive psychology, computer science, and engineering. Robotics applications of fuzzy logic and simulating human “working memory” in computers.