Tag Archives: Ryan Holladay

Wall of sound: Ryan Holladay’s Fermata invites you to make space to listen

Experience art with your eyes closed and ears open at Artisphere’s recently launched exhibit Fermata.

The show is centered around a wall of speakers of every conceivable shape and size, and is dedicated entirely to the celebration of sound. Curated by TED Fellow Ryan Holladay, Fermata features the work of almost 30 artists each working with audio in some way, including sound artists (Alvin Lucier, Annea Lockwood), musicians (Ryuichi Sakamoto, Forest Swords, members of Swans, Fugazi, Future Islands), engineers, storytellers and scientists — all working with the medium of sound.

Fermata unfolds in three parts movements each featuring a different combination of six to ten sound works that cycle continuously for a month. Each movement plays on a continuous loop, with no two works playing simultaneously in the gallery. Fellow TED Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz will have work – music composed using the rhythms of starlight and planets – during the third movement of the show, from June 25 to July 20.

Ears burning? Make haste to Artisphere’s Terrace Gallery in Arlington, Virginia, through Sunday, 10 August 2014.

Everything you are looking for: A Fellows conversation with Ryan Holladay and Alicia Eggert

Artisphere curators Ryan Holladay and Cynthia Connolly, with artist Alicia Eggert, center. Photo: Artisphere

Artisphere curators Ryan Holladay and Cynthia Connolly, with artist Alicia Eggert, center. Photo: Artisphere

Just a week before TED2013, Alicia Eggert — who makes kinetic sculptures investigating the nature of language and time — and musical artist Ryan Holladay made contact for the first time. They had never met, and neither of them knew they had each been selected as Fellows. Now, Holladay is co-curating Eggert’s largest solo exhibition of kinetic sculptural art at Artisphere — a 52,000 square foot arts space located just outside Washington DC. Here, Holladay and Eggert chat with each other about their work, their process, collaboration, and life. For more on Eggert and her work, visit her Fellows Friday interview.

When I’m not working on my own work with my brother, Hays, making sound-specific installations and GPS compositions with BLUEBRAIN, I have a wonderful job working as the curator of new media at Artisphere. I was sitting in the Artispace office with my co-curator, Cynthia Connolly, when an inquiry came in from an artist named Alicia Eggert. She lived in Maine, taught at Bowdoin College and had won numerous awards and grants. But this had me pinching myself: like me, Alicia was a 2013 TED Fellow and she, too, would be speaking at the conference the following week in Long Beach.

As it turns out, Alicia is one of the most talented and inventive artists I’ve come across in some time. With a diverse body of work that ranges from simple modifications of household items to highly complex interactive sculptures, this is an artist with a highly developed vision. Alicia and I quickly struck up a friendship at TED and began dreaming about what we could do together.

After TED, Cynthia and I began discussing the best way to bring Alicia’s work to Artisphere. As curators at a sizable arts facility, we have the privilege of programming a number of spaces of varying sizes throughout the building, but it quickly became clear to us that this was an artist that was ready for something big. And so, after many months of preparation, we are excited to present Alicia’s largest solo exhibition ever in our flagship space, the Terrace Gallery.

Ryan: So you’ve just finished a marathon of an install. Is that a process you enjoy?

Alicia: I have a love/hate relationship with the installation process. In some ways, it stresses me out, because so much of my work is kinetic, and I’m always afraid it’s not going to work properly. And there’s always the chance a neon letter will break if you just look at it the wrong way. But I really enjoyed the installation at Artisphere. First of all, nothing broke or went wrong. But more importantly, it was fun to work with you and Cynthia, and to engage in a dialogue with the two of you about the work and where it should be placed in the gallery. It gave me a new perspective of my work.

R: I can imagine with so many moving parts there’d be a level of anxiety — the feeling of anything that can go wrong will go wrong. But now that it’s all up, it must be a relief.

installation of Alicia Eggert work

Installation view of Alicia’s work in the Terrace Gallery at Artisphere. Photo: Artisphere

Everything You Are Looking For (2012). A neon sign whose jumbled letters slowly reveals the phrase "Everything you are looking for is invisible." Made in collaboration with Amy Jorgensen. Photo: Alicia Eggert

Everything You Are Looking For (2012). A neon sign whose jumbled letters slowly reveals the phrase “Everything you are looking for is invisible.” Made in collaboration with Amy Jorgensen. Photo: Alicia Eggert

A: Is your working relationship with each artist completely different?

R:  Every artist is different for sure. And with new media work, it gets a bit tricky sometimes. There are artists who have all their ducks in a row. Then there are others who may be experimenting with some new technology for the first time, and it doesn’t work exactly how they planned and we find ourselves in triage mode hours before an opening. I once had to do a Skype session with an artist in Japan as he walked me through taking apart and reassembling his work.

A: That sounds incredibly stressful. But it’s great that Artisphere is willing to work with artists who are taking risks and exploring unfamiliar territories.

R: I liked walking into the gallery and hearing you listening to that Haim record! Do you usually listen to music when you work?

A: It depends. If it’s a familiar, repetitive task, I love listening to music or even watching a television show. For example, when I was working on the wiring all of the “Lost Gloves” in my recent artist residency at Sculpture Space in Utica, NY, I watched a few episodes of Breaking Bad. But when I’m doing work that requires any kind of problem solving, I prefer to work in silence.

R: One of the things about making music is that you can’t listen to music while you’re working! I get jealous of painters or architects who can get to work and go through the entire Kate Bush catalogue on Spotify. Sometimes when I want to listen to NPR or a new record or something I’ll play Super Mario 3.  I’ve played that game so many times, it kind of puts me in a trance where I can focus all my attention on what I’m hearing.

A: I can totally relate. I can get into a similar trance-like headspace when I’m driving. I get some of my best ideas on long-distance road trips.

R: Language seems to play a big role in many of your pieces. You seem to play with our notions of how language is used and often overlooked, for instance, drawing attention to how removing one word from a simple sentence can change its meaning significantly (‘You Are (On) An Island). Do you  ever think about how your work might effect someone who isn’t a native English speaker? And have you ever considered working with other languages?

A: I feel lucky that my native language is one that has become so universal. I often wonder how my work would be different if English wasn’t as widely spoken as it is, because it’s always been very important to me that my work is accessible to as many people as possible — something from my Evangelical Christian upbringing that I’ve carried over to my practice as an artist. I would love to be given the opportunity to work sculpturally with another language, especially one that’s completely different from English visually, like Arabic. But I don’t think that’s something I would pursue on my own without a specific reason, like a commission.

R: Well, as the saying goes: “سيحدث ذلك عندما يكون من المفترض أن يحدث.”

installation of Alicia Eggert work

Detail view of AHA (2013) installed in the Terrace Gallery at Artisphere. Photo: Artisphere


Present Perfect (2013). A rock sits on the keyboard of an open laptop, typing the letter Y into in infinity in Microsoft Word. Photo: Alicia Eggert

Present Perfect (2013). A rock sits on the keyboard of an open laptop, typing the letter Y into in infinity in Microsoft Word. Photo: Alicia Eggert

A: I’m really curious about your collaborative process. I love collaborating with other artists on visual projects, but I wonder how the process is different with sound.

R: Hays and I are sharing ideas all the time. Now that we’re living in different cities, everything has to be done remotely. So whether that’s some conceptual art project or an actual melody, we generally have these open lines of communication over the phone, text, email and Skype where we bounce ideas off of one another. I think we look for a reaction from the other to see which ideas might have, legs and that’s usually how we start. But, you know, we’ve worked together since we were, kids so I don’t really know any other way of doing it, honestly. It’s fantastic in some ways because you can move really quickly and it’s kind of like having two brains working at once. But on the flip side, if a disagreement turns into an argument, it goes nuclear very quickly. Siblings know exactly what buttons to press. How does it work with Mike [Fleming, Eggert’s partner] when you two collaborate?

A: For Mike and me, every project seems to evolve out of a conversation. Eternity started with a car ride. We drove past a church that had a big sign out front saying something about spending eternity in heaven, so we started to talked about that word and what it actually meant. We decided it would be a fun word to mine for an art project. Then we just started brainstorming, bouncing ideas back and forth about it. I forget who came up with the idea to use clocks to spell it, but I remember us both saying, “YES! That’s it!” And then it took months to figure out how to actually do that.

R: Isn’t that the best, when you can’t remember who actually came up with an idea? I feel that’s a sign of a healthy collaboration, where your brain has sort of relinquished the need for ownership or something and who initially birthed the concept or a part of it seems unimportant.

A: I totally agree. You have to totally let go of your ideas, and completely give them to the other person to see where they can take them. But having a collaborative working relationship with someone you love can be challenging. It’s important for Mike and me to maintain a part of our relationship that doesn’t have to do with our work, so it doesn’t feel like we’re just business partners, so we can salvage some romance. Do you and Hays have to worry about similar things, or no?

R: Well the romance died years ago with Hays and me. No, but to be serious, I think there was a period of time when I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to work together in the future. We were always able to get down in the dirt and argue about ideas and have that be separate from our friendship. But there came a point where that seemed more and more difficult, and the distinction between our personal and working relationship became less clear. And I felt like, as much as I loved working with him, it wasn’t worth damaging what had always been a really close relationship.

What changed, I think, was when we started working on these location-aware compositions because we were starting from scratch and creating something completely new that neither of us knew anything about. We were learning about software development, about landscape architecture, about interface design and so on. And so it became this feeling of discovery that I think had gotten lost somewhere along the way.

Ryan and his brother Hays performing at the Sweetlife Festival wearing masks of one another's faces, designed by Kashuo Bennett. Photo by Margot MacDonald.

Ryan and his brother Hays performing at the Sweetlife Festival wearing masks of one another’s faces, designed by Kashuo Bennett. Photo by Margot MacDonald.

A: You were in new territory together. I can see how that would change the rules. I think that’s when collaborations work best. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

R: Well, as a curator at Artisphere, I’m working on a number of projects, including putting together a sound exhibition in the Terrace Gallery for next summer. I’m trying to bring TED Fellow Christine Sun Kim down for that one! As for Hays and me, we have about 10 projects we’re working on together right now, little ones and big ones. We’re finishing up a new record — a traditional, start-to-finish linear album — that I’m really excited about. But we’ve been talking about releasing it in a different way than we’ve done before. I feel like it’s a bit early to explain much more, but I’m really excited about it. We’re also starting to transition into a slightly different way of doing these location-aware composition apps, doing them as commissions for spaces and museums, which has been fun. Hopefully we’ll have three of those done in the next two years.

A: Wow, and I thought I was busy! It sounds like you have your hands full. I can’t wait to hear your new album.

R:  Considering how carefully you chose words and how prominent they are in so many of your pieces, the pressure to pick a great baby name must be high.

A: You would think so, right? But I’ve been so busy working on this show at Artisphere that I regret to say I haven’t had much time to think about what’s coming next. I still can’t believe I’m having a baby! But it will certainly be my most exciting collaborative project with Mike to date.

R: My money’s on Eternity Eggert. Has a nice ring to it.

Everything You Are Looking For will run until February 2nd, with an opening reception on Thursday, December 5th. Artisphere is located at 1101 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22209.

Censorship, tiny robots, Mars: 20 TED Fellows on stage in Whistler

Christine Lee at the TED Fellows Retreat 2013. Photo: Ryan Lash.

Right now, TED Fellows are hard at work at the very first TED Fellows Retreat, happening now  in Whistler, British Columbia. Because the Fellows have proliferated since the program officially launched in 2009, many of these extraordinary thinkers have never had a chance to meet and conspire. And thus, the TED Fellows team created a four-day program “of, by and for Fellows” which includes workshops, art installations, tech demos … and talks. Twenty of the Fellows took the stage on Sunday morning to address a packed house with updates on their latest projects. The talks veered from charming to poignant to hilarious to chilling; TED’s Helen Walters and Karen Eng were there to capture what happened. First, Pakistani guitar virtuoso Usman Riaz set the tone with his beautiful piece, “Boneshaker.” Then, on into the program:

Chelsea Shields Strayer asks us to remember our most poignant moment. Might it have had something to do with our social environment? Most people raise their hands in acknowledgement. Shields Strayer isn’t surprised… that’s precisely why she is working to analyze the impact of social interactions on both individuals and society at large. After all, she points out, humans have evolved to be dependent on those around us, and we are extremely susceptible to external influences. She tells the story of observing a doctor in Ghana who told a boy with a broken arm not to cry, not to be a baby. The pain in the boy’s arm diminished, purely because of the psychological impact of that advice. This placebo/“nocebo” effect is powerful, and Shields Strayer warns us to be mindful of its impact.

American artist Gabe Barcia Colombo, known for his penchant for encasing video projections of people in jars and blenders, describes how he has taken a step towards packaging — and selling — the actual stuff of life. After experimenting with extracting strawberry DNA with fellow Fellow, biotechnologist Oliver Medvedik, he joined Medvedik’s public biotech lab Genspace to learn how to extract human DNA. Becoming somewhat obsessed, he began holding “DNA extraction dinner parties” with friends, documenting the results. Then he hit upon the idea of selling such specimens as limited edition art items. His DNA Vending Machine dispenses a small white box containing a vial of a DNA specimen and a small photo portrait of a random donor. Charming, quirky … and raising serious questions about the ethics of ever-increasing access to biotechnology.

Yemen-born, Sweden-dwelling professor Walid al Saqaf wants to talk about freedom. In particular, the ability to communicate across borders in a free way — and the inability of 700 million people globally who are affected in some way by internet censorship. Al Saqaf founded alkasir.com as a means to “map and circumvent cyber-censorship.” So far, he says, there have been some 85,000 installations of the software worldwide. Activists used it in Iran in 2009, in Egypt in 2011 and most recently in Syria. It’s a way of digging beneath technological blockades to find a way through to open access to the rest of the web. Al Saqaf quotes Tim Berners-Lee, who once described the internet as “humanity, connected” and who provides the inspiration for the project.

How nervous should we be about the world’s governments’ ability to tap into our lives? Researcher and online privacy activist Christopher Soghoian introduces us to a chilling world of slick private companies developing off-the-shelf hacking tools that allow direct access and control of PC webcams and microphones, browser tracking, even private documents. After the Egyptian revolution of 2011, for example, activists found in government offices documents from Gamma, a German company that manufactures surveillance software and sells it to governments, including those with atrocious human rights records. Soghoian’s research has also confirmed that the FBI has a team dedicated to hacking surveillance targets. He notes that the growth of hacking as a law enforcement technique is ripe for abuse. After all, criminals use phones and computers to communicate — and so do journalists, activists and private citizens. The only way to protect ourselves, he concludes, is to have an informed public debate.

James Patten wants to challenge us to think about moving the computer’s power off the screen and into the physical world. He makes his case by showing some of his projects, such as an interactive display of Christian Louboutin shoes for Barneys New York, or the robotic harp he helped to design for Bjork’s Biophilia tour. Or “Create a Chemical Reaction,” designed for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Patten thinks physical objects help to encourage social collaboration and learning, but he also wants to move beyond the challenge of having to redesign the electronic and mechanical wheel for each new project. His solution: the platform, Sensetable. Building off his work at MIT, he uses “an army of tiny robots” to blend the speed and efficiency of physical control along with software systems. Potential applications include a mapping system for coordinating emergency response, gaming, even scientific research. It’s early days, he acknowledges, but the computer of the future might well embody no obvious technology or touchscreen at all.

Israeli designer and artist Adital Ela is obsessed with incorporating nature into her Terra designs–practical artifacts made from organic agricultural and construction waste, easily returned to Earth at the end of their useful life. But it wasn’t until recently that Ela discovered something poignant about her grandmother, a powerful figure in a deeply patriarchal Kurdish family who had died when Ela was 12. When Ela showed her latest work to her father, expecting to be dismissed once again as “odd and hopeless” (she was expected to become a lawyer), he observed that her grandmother used to make stoves out of straw and clay. This revelation took Ela on a journey of discovery about the women of her culture, who built homes from Earth. For Ela, it was a profound affirmation of both her cultural identity and her most authentic path as a designer.

Growing up in Texas, bioarchaeologist Christine Lee was not Chinese enough at home, and yet not American enough at school — a rejection by two cultures that drove her to search for belonging in faraway places. From her family’s “name book” — a record of ancestors along a male lineage — she learned she was descended from the eighth son of the emperor and a concubine whose story included political conflict and suicide. On archaeological digs in China, she sought her own face in the remains of ancient peoples, but was perplexed to see that the skulls she examined looked nothing like her — nor did the modern-day Chinese. It turned out the truth was far more complex: her genetic origins likely include a rich mixture of Mongolian, Tibetan and native Taiwanese and, along with emperors and concubines, her identity is connected to nomads, silk traders and Polynesian headhunters. “I have spent most of my life letting other people tell me who I am and what I am,”  says Lee. Instead, we should take the time to look and listen more deeply.

In India, 20 children must share just one book. Add to that the fact that, of the 25,000 children’s books published each year, 50% are written in English or Hindi when many children speak neither, and many, many children are being left behind. Through his work with a non-profit book publisher, Gautam John is attempting to rewrite the rule book and put a book in every child’s hand. First, by throwing issues of copyright out of the window and producing books through an entirely open platform. Readers, teachers, parents are encouraged to co-create, translate, download, print, share and rethink any of the company’s original content. So far books have been viewed 1.2 million times, and published on every digital platform. And while John acknowledges that limited access to networks and the high expense of devices are still both real issues, he believes that India is “on the cusp of a tipping point where these two factors will not remain barriers any more.” When that happens, he says, “We’ll be ready.”

In Brazil, the culturally accepted practice of keeping wild birds as pets drives much illegal wildlife trafficking. But it’s not just birds. Forensic biologist Juliana Machado Ferriera says 38 million animals of all kinds, worth $2 billion a year, are extracted from Brazil. (See also her previous TED Talk, The fight to end rare-animal trafficking in Brazil.) The removal of the animals affects seed dispersal, disrupts predator/prey systems, reproductive cycles and genetic diversity — setting off a chain reaction of imbalances across the ecosystem. Some have suggested commercial captive breeding as a way to supply the demand for wild bird pets. Ferreira argues that arrangement could inadvertently make wild animals even more valuable to poachers. Her solution: a limited number of breeding licenses, compulsory paternity tests and breeding done only in association with research institutions. Above all, she calls for changes to Brazilian laws to criminalize and severely penalize wildlife trafficking.

Aparna Rao is an Indian artist who creates entirely charming works marrying technology and whimsy. (See her TEDGlobal 2011 talk, High-tech art with a sense of humor.) She’s here to show some new works, including “Imperial Monochromes” in which a viewer walking into a room triggers a jumbled group of panels to snap into perfect order. Inspired by 15th century altar tablets and the stark graphic work of Kazimir Malevich, it’s remarkable how much emotion can be imparted by simple shapes. In “Handheld,” a large piece of paper is tremblingly held by a pair of tiny hands (the shake is programmed). “Decoy” consists of a human-like creature frantically waving to get a viewer’s attention. “Clappers” comprises 996 small figures in an audience, each one programmed to clap at will. They’re triggered by someone stepping out in front of them; that person might get a rapturous ovation, or earn only feeble applause … a twist of judgement that adds a delightful layer to the piece. Anthropomorphism is again on display in “Framerunners,” in which tiny “creatures” bounce back and forth on a window grid, and rush to hide if they detect any kind of human presence. The blend of technology and humanism is utterly lovely, the perfect send-off for the first session of talks.

Usman Riaz is back at the beginning of the second session, this time accompanying the Ethiopian-born, San Francisco-based singer Meklit Hadero, who sings her original composition “Far Away.” Gorgeous.

Only a few days back on Earth from his 2,800-hour stint in isolation with five other crew members on Mars (actually a built simulation on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano) artist, biologist and crew commander Angelo Vermeulen shares his initial insights on what humans might need in order to live in deep space. First, food. The crew of NASA’s HI-SEAS mission examined the possibility of “autonomous cooking” in space using shelf-stable ingredients, which offered such benefits as collaboration and meal sharing, increasing crew cohesion. Freedom was also important: the mission allowed the astronauts to pursue individual research projects and follow a cooperatively arranged schedule — good for morale. A diverse crew with a balance of genders, cultures and skills made the group resilient problem-solvers. Finally, the role of creativity played a huge part in keeping up the crew’s spirits: one of Vermeulen’s most gratifying experiences was sprouting seeds for food, as well as working on a photography project documenting the experience. He hopes these insights will contribute to our knowledge of how to create well-rounded human life — not just survival — in deep space.

“Growing up gay in a traditional Indian family in an Islamic society in Kuwait, I experienced oppression very early on in my family and society,” says Sharmistha Ray as she takes the stage. Ray describes her evolution as an artist, from drawing self-portraits in charcoal to creating abstract paintings (such as Forbidden Pleasures) intended to evoke the beauty, nature, color of India. This year, she explains, she returned to painting human figures, in an attempt to try and understand the “terrifying narratives about women” being propagated within her native country. “I wanted to find a way of representing a woman that counters mainstream representations of her as an object, a trophy, a victim,” Ray explains. “I want to create empowered narratives.” She shows some images for the first time. In one, a naked woman reclines in a pastoral landscape — a setting, Ray says, that is a metaphor for freedom. “It’s the kind of freedom I’ve been flighting for my whole life as a gay Indian woman,” she concludes. “That kind of freedom should be the birthright of every single woman.”

When applied physicist and data visualization scientist Michelle Borkin recently compared a newly developed data visualization tool to an older one from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, she found something surprising. Male and female scientists performed with similar aptitude with the new tool, but men outperformed women on an older tool. Borkin began investigating the field of studies in gender differences in computer science, learning that small cognitive differences between men and women lead them to solve problems and process spatial information differently, affecting how we interact with software. Why is this important? Borkin points out that for the last 50 years, computer software has been written by and for men — yet we all now live in a digital world. How might unintentional gender bias be affecting us? It’s something we need to be aware of; she concludes by asking software designers to involve women in the design and development process.

Dancer and choreographer Richard Move has spent the last five years making a documentary of the dance company, The Gimp Project. He shows off some of the clips from his film, which features those we wouldn’t normally imagine being able to play much of a role in the world of dance — those who are disabled. Move passionately shows how the work of these dancers helps to destigmatize common preconceptions of the disabled by challenging our concepts of what’s beautiful and what’s possible. “Each of these dancers is deeply aware of the effect they have on others,” he says. “The dancers look back at the audience and invite them to stare.” It’s powerful work, and reminds us of the importance of questioning our reactions. “The dancers of Gimp triumph over stigma,” he concludes. “They teach all of us how to look, by showing us all how they look.”

When he was growing up, artist Ryan Holladay used to dig holes in his garden, dreaming, as many children do, of getting “all the way to China.” Sadly, even if you could dig through Earth’s core, the opposite point from anywhere in the continental United States is the Indian Ocean. In fact, only 2% of Earth’s land mass would actually tally up with land on the opposite side of the planet. Whatever, science. Adult Holladay resolved to use communication technology to dig an imaginary tunnel, completing an idea virtually that could never be done physically. His proposed project, Antipodal, asks us to imagine a hole in the ground with a live-feed screen linked to a matched-up hole and screen on the other side of the world. This way, someone in Beijing could peer down to connect with someone else in Buenos Aires in real time. Why create such a permanent, location-based installation in the age of constant communication? Such projects remind us of our shared humanity, says Holladay. And what’s more human than looking through the planet to see another person waving back?

People have talked crap on the TED stage before, and university professor Francis de los Reyes is here to add himself to that number. The engineering professor focuses on human waste, namely the way in which we deal with it. It’s a chuckle-worthy topic, he acknowledges, but it’s not a trivial one. After all, 2.5 billion people in the world don’t have access to adequate sanitation, and that has huge health implications. He shows photographs of how current systems (don’t) work, including workers immersed in waste pits, cleaning them out while wearing no protective clothing. Really, the pictures are shocking. But then again, flush toilets aren’t the answer; they can’t be. Many of these regions lack the water, energy or infrastructure necessary to install sewage lines. Not to mention, a system wasting fresh water simply makes no sense. Instead, we must reconsider the entire sanitation chain, from initial ”human interface” to how feces are collected, stored, treated, and not just disposed of, but reused. Who will pay for this? Governments, he says. NGOs can help, but they won’t be enough. “Access to adequate sanitation is a basic human right,” de los Reyes concludes. “We must stop the practice of lower caste and lower status people being condemned to emptying waste pits.”

Bipolar disorder affects around 5% of the world’s population. Captive to severely fluctuating moods, bipolar people are less likely to be able to maintain stable relationships and jobs and more likely to commit suicide. Research has shown that that keeping track of mood, sleep and social interaction can help detect early warning signs of a mood episode. To help make this task easier, computer scientist Tanzeem Choudhury demos an app that allows people to use a smart phone to track daily routines by entering information about mood and energy levels. The phone’s sensor infers and fills in information such as sleep patterns and social interaction invisibly and automatically. The app synthesizes the data to provide user feedback, showing where someone’s routine is either stable or disrupted — and offering actions to prevent relapse. Meanwhile, an animated information graphic shows overall levels of wellbeing.

NASA economist Alex Macdonald concludes the second session of talks with an uplifting history lesson, connecting the tales told by three figures of 19th century American history. Edgar Allan Poe, Edward Everett Hale and Dr. John Leonard Riddell might not have had much in common on paper, but in fact, they’re bonded by one extraordinary shared distinction: “They independently developed concepts for human spaceflight.” Macdonald shows how: an 1835 story by Poe stars a depressed character who creates a balloon-based carriage to get to the moon, Hale described a space station and space civilization, while Riddell wrote in 1831 about sending an expedition to the moon. Why does this matter? Because these authors wrote their stories despite the technical limitations of their day, meaning that no such thing was in any way possible. And the stories resonated long after the writers had shuffled off this mortal coil. They plant seeds for projects of “technological and institutional transformation.” What stories are we writing to inspire later generations in a similar way? It’s an uplifting, inspiring way to conclude the two sessions of talks.