The ACTLab program is constantly pushing the envelope of innovation. Our strategy is simple: listen to our students and let their creativity lead the way to new research avenues/possiblities. Since its inception 14 years ago, ACTLab has facilitated projects ranging from intricate software programs to in-depth research of social/political movements such as the Zapatistas (EZLN). Below is is a list of our current research as well as completed projects. If you are interested in collaborating with the ACTLab, go to our contact page and drop us a line.

Current Research

ACTLabTV at work

ACTLab TV: ACTLab TV is a research/open source initiative between the Foundation for Decentralization Research and the ACTLab. ACTLab TV uses Alluvium Media Player, an open source peer to peer project, to broadcast video content developed by students as well as other material under the Creative Commons license. A large part of the effort involves documenting how to use the software, as well as how to create individual broadcasting stations. For more information on ACTLab TV Click Here.

Anonymous Computing: Brandon Wilely is currently researching Anonymous Computing as part of his Master's thesis. Brandon has extensive experience in Anonymous computing, not only through research, but through his involvement in the developement of FreeNet.

Peer To Peer Gaming Engine: In 2003 Brandon Wiley began development of a peer to peer gaming engine which allows Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Gaming (MMORPG) that does not rely on a single centralized server model. Rather, each user is a peer, and each peer shares its bandwidth to relay game information. More information on this project will be available shortly.

Multimedia Discourse Research: This project began with Joseph Lopez's Masters Project/Report, where he explores human intereaction in multimedia production. This project and report can be viewed in part here.

Future Research Projects

The ACTLab's New Media group is always looking for new avenues of research. A sample of the proposed future research projects includes:

3D Virtual World Research: Interaction research in online virtual worlds dates back to the early '90s in the XXth Century, with work at MIT, Xerox PARC, and the ACTLab leading the way. Back then, 3D Virtual World technologies were extremely resource hungry, and required expensive hardware and fragile, bleeding-edge software in order to work properly. Now that we can combine hugely improved hardware architecture with stabler software, increased CPU speed, and wide-bandwidth connectivity, 3D virtual worlds become practical on the consumer scale; but the actual fine structure, psychology, and aesthetics of online human interaction are still poorly understood. This is an exciting and promising field for future study. In the near future we hope to begin more investigation/design of next-generation 3D Virtual World engines and advanced in-world enviroments.

Music Reproduction Theory: In an age where we have been taught that digital sound is "perfect forever", the ACTLab New Media group plans to critically examine music reproduction theory in terms of how current discourses of music reproduction emerge in interaction with technologies and practices of recording and political discourses of class and power, and what this means for the development of future high-end music reproduction systems.

Past Research

Drew Davidson- Narrative and Multimedia Research
  Drew's work during his time with the ACTLab included his dissertation on narrative strategies in multimedia, close examination of the construction of subjectivity, desire, and humor in hypertext storytelling, and exploring other emerging technologies in relation to narrative construction such as interactive CD-ROM and other optical media. To view his dissertation, click here.
Vernon Reed- Art, Communication, and Subjectivity Research
  As a graduate student Vernon centered his research on the complex interrelations between social and technological aspects of virtual worlds. Under his direction the ACTLab hosted several cutting-edge research virtual worlds. Notable among these was ACTLab Traveler, in which avatars spoke to each other in real time using actual voices, not text. In this world Vernon studied ways in which the human voice (and other sounds) affected communication and subjectivity. Vernon was also the author of the Pirate Utopias web site, one of the very first online experiments to address the vexing political, legal, and social problems created when traditional analog media become digital. Vernon also created a series of wearable sculptures incorporating integrated circuits and LED displays which he designed and fabricated himself in a chip foundry he built for this purpose; some of these pieces were purchased by museums for permanent exhibition. In his spare time, Vernon designed and built custom lighting fixtures for the ACTLab. These are particularly notable because he fabricated them from Titanium, a problematic metal which is normally found only in such exotic applications as NASA's Space Shuttle. Vernon was also an ACTLab instructor, and taught courses that reflected his bouyant approach to tough technological problems. For more information about his ACTLab research, click here
Honoria Starbuck- Online Collaboration, Performativity and Mail Art Research
  Honoria's research while an ACTLab graduate student included creating the Electronic Museum of Mail Art (EMMA), an internationally renowned collection which can be viewed here. She also created the world's first cyberspace opera, Honoria in Ciberspazio, a collaborative online project which received international acclaim for its groundbreaking use of digital media. Honoria and her work have received awards from SXSW Interactive and the Global Stockholm Challenge, and the opera was presented at the International Shakespeare Festival by the performance group La Fura Dels Baus. for more information click here.
Heather Kelly- Gender and Cyberspace Research
  Heather's research at the ACTLab focused on the intersections of discourses of Feminism and Cyberspace. Her work led her into the video game industry, and she has been actively involved in issues of women and gaming at companies such as Girl Games, Ion Storm, and Electronic Arts. To view an excerpt from her Master's thesis, click here.
Alan Alford- Virtual Community Research
  Alan's research was technologically grounded in the foundational MOO virtual community platform written by Pavel Curtis at Xerox PARC, and theoretically grounded in Amy Bruckman's research on educational MOOs at MIT and Carnegie Mellon. In a MOO (Multiple-user Object-Oriented virtual world), objects and resources the player creates persist after the player has logged out, and are available at next login. Alan and his team created a detailed virtual model of the city of Austin, Texas, named PointMOOt. The original virtual world was lost in a malicious online attack during that wild frontier time before the ACTLab server had backup capability, but its unique legacy has inspired generations of virtual world builders and forged lasting alliances among virtual world researchers. To view a description of PointMOOt from the UT Creative Writing Research Laboratory archives, click here.
Scott Webel- Visual Narrative and Interior Space Research
  Scott's research focused on the interface between narrative and power, the consequent slippage of history, and the interface between political power and historical storytelling. In his work he examined how institutions such as museums mobilize common narrative tropes, including narratives expressed as interior space (architecture) and institutionalized shapes, such as specimen cases and vitrines (design) in order to construct the viewer as subject within a field of political power. His work, which was theoretically grounded in Donna Haraway's pioneering study of the famous primate diorama at the American Museum of Natural History, and practically grounded in the foundational work of MacArthur Fellow David Wilson, extended to large practical installations in which Scott used irony and humor to underscore his points. As part of this work Scott founded the Austin Museum of Ephemerata, which deconstructs the traditional museum narrative in whimsical and edgy ways. To view more about Scott's work, click here.

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