In June 2019, Stamps students Sindhu Giri (BA ‘19 and BS ‘19) and Willa Hua (BFA ‘21 and BSI ‘21) served as volunteers at the Eyeo Festival, an interdisciplinary, four-day conference on art, design, and technology held at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
With presentations from a range of speakers to spark conversation, from creative industry professionals to independent artists, Eyeo is ideal for formal and informal networking. Here, Giri and Hua share their experiences at the festival and provide tips to students interested in getting the most out of this type of professional development opportunity.
Q: How did you learn about Eyeo?
Hua: I learned about Eyeo one year ago having coffee with professor Sophia Brueckner at Mujo Cafe on North Campus. At that time I just started to learn Processing, a creative programming language, and was ready to dive more into the field of creative technology. Sophia kindly pointed me in the right direction, recommending countless books, forums, blogs, artists, and of course, Eyeo! It is still today the largest gathering of creative technology and I’m grateful that I heard about it early in my career.
Q: Tell us about your discoveries at Eyeo.
Giri: Attending Eyeo occurred at the best point in my academic career. I’ve just graduated from the University of Michigan (dual degree in Art/Design and Information Science) and I’m considering the next steps in my professional path. After my graduation, I also started to question my interests in art, design, and technology (which I didn’t expect to do). My frustrations stemmed from wanting to pursue a fulfilling career while also building products with positive impact—I didn’t feel it was possible to achieve both. However, at Eyeo, I was able to meet practitioners with successful careers who also maintained critical independent practices. Additionally, practitioners readily broke disciplinary silos: computer scientists developed generative paintings and graphic designers worked with virtual reality. I soon realized that most of my frustrations were self-imposed and I didn’t need to limit my future plans to one career path. I left Eyeo feeling refreshed and eager to take my creative practice in a new direction.
Hua: When I heard about Eyeo one year ago, I was actively exploring the many fields of creative technology, and when I attended Eyeo I’ve set myself on the path of becoming a data storyteller. Listening to this year’s speakers was a dream come true: I learned what has been a motivating factor since childhood for the chief editor of FlowingData, Nathan Yau; I heard about the systematic process that went behind the scenes in Moritz Stefaner’s long-term data projects—as well as his beekeeping experience. I heard talks by Catherine D’lgnazio the author of Data Feminism, Stephanie Dinkins the artist who trains equitable AIs, and so many others. These are people who I follow on social media and read their works vigorously. And yes, I got to a selfie with Daniel Shiffman!
In addition to the speakers, I met so many people who share the same data viz vocabulary as I do, and are far beyond me in their careers. Talking with them was an absolute pleasure. They humbled me and introduced me to possible futures that I never would have imagined otherwise. Since data visualization is such an emerging field, their take on academia and the industry are priceless to me. In fact, I can now see myself a couple more steps ahead now, instead of just hanging out in the industry as I’d previously imagined. Again, really grateful and inspired.
Q: What was your main takeaway from the festival?
Hua: Many Stamps students find creative technology a little intimidating because, well, coding can be challenging. What I learned from talking to artists at Eyeo is that one’s career path is flexible. No one is good at everything, but the wonderful thing about Eyeo is that it brings people from various fields together and we inspire each other. One artist was from an oil painting background, worked as a web developer, and is now creating generative reproductions of masterpieces with his keen sense of color. Just as you are nervous about technology, many people from tech are at Eyeo nervous about their experience in art, but they’re still here, hoping to witness the potentialities of how their career can unfold. So, Eyeo is for you. It’s a casual, fun experience. Just reach out!
Q: What tips do you have for other students interested in attending conferences?
Giri: Working as a student volunteer is a great way to attend the Eyeo conference since your conference ticket is paid for through your service. Student volunteers closely interact with conference organizers and speakers in order to create a memorable event for everyone. Apart from attending the conference talks, the main benefits of attending Eyeo are the networking opportunities. I found it most beneficial to network with my fellow student volunteers to learn about their degree programs and interdisciplinary interests. Additionally, many industry professionals and independent artists attend Eyeo. While it may seem intimidating, I would recommend students introduce themselves to attendees they look up to — it can spark an engaging conversation which can lead to something further down the road!