The intersection of art and technology is here in Logan Square, in a loft space about the size of a small one bedroom. A simple black-and-white laser-printed sign is on the door downstairs. “Dorkbot. It’s who shows up and what gets shown off,” says mohawked organizer, Rob Ray.
The meeting is for those interested in engineering who design robotic art projects. Ray and two other rather trendy-looking twenty-somethings rustle around to get set up. There seem to be technical difficulties. The audience is mostly made up of young men dressed in jeans and wearing designer glasses. A self-playing guitar and drum set sits quietly in the back of the room near the beer.
There are a few video cameras floating around, trying to get a good view of the first presenter, Michael Una, who stands by a bicycle with a kids’ electronic drum machine attached to its handlebars. He describes, through a diagram on the screen, how he put the thing together and how it works. “So it hits the time generator, it’s transduced and then you hear it,” he says, pointing with a red laser-pointer toward the screen. He spins the front wheel and a simple beat emerges to the speed of the rotation of the wheel. Riding in tandem with a synthesizer is key, he says. “It rewards coordination with some pretty funky beats,” Una says.
There are prizes to give away. Software prizes. Everyone’s on their feet. “What is the encoding bit rate for a regular CD?” The answer is shouted out simultaneously throughout the room. “44.1.” Easy. “What year was MIDI invented?” Harder. “1981? 1988? 1983.” “Who did Nine Inch Nails first tour with?” Silence. The audience laughs loud and hard. (Laura Castellano)