Golan Levin: Thank you all so much for com­ing out this evening, and wel­come to Diversity: Seven Voices on Race, Gender, Ability & Class for FLOSS and the Internet.” My name is Golan Levin, I’m the direc­tor of the Frank-Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry here at Carnegie Mellon University, and wel­come on this Tuesday, May 26 2015 to this lit­tle sym­po­sium that we are co-hosting with the p5.js orga­ni­za­tion.

p5.js of course is one of the major toolk­its for open-source arts engi­neer­ing. Major in spite of the very small num­ber of peo­ple who are actu­al­ly work­ing on it. As part of the Studio’s desire to sup­port the tools and tech­niques that make new forms of art, par­tic­u­lar­ly new media arts, pos­si­ble, we applied for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to sup­port the arts engi­neer­ing toolk­its. We received a small grant and with it we decid­ed to invite the p5.js orga­ni­za­tion to have its first con­trib­u­tors’ con­fer­ence here this year. So the p5.js folks, there’s about twenty-five or thir­ty of them, are gath­er­ing in the Studio for Creative Inquiry this week to push forth on the lat­est ver­sion of p5.js soft­ware, which will have great reper­cus­sions enabling thou­sands, per­haps even tens of thou­sands, of oth­er artists around the world, and design­ers to cre­ate new kinds of work.

I just want to thank our spon­sors before I intro­duce Lauren, who’s the founder of the p5.js orga­ni­za­tion. As I men­tioned, I’m Golan Levin from the Frank-Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry, and some funds from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art at the Frontier have helps sup­port tonight’s event. The bulk of our fund­ing is from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Works and Artist Communities Programs. This event was also made pos­si­ble by gen­er­ous sup­port from the NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program, the Processing Foundation, a com­pa­ny called The Artificial in the Netherlands, Bocoup, Darius Kazemi, and the Emergent Digital Practices Department at the University of Denver in Colorado. 

With that, I’d like to intro­duce Lauren McCarthy, who is the founder of the p5.js orga­ni­za­tion, and its spir­i­tus rec­tor, as she talks a bit about where we’re going. Thank you.

Lauren McCarthy: When we start­ed con­ceiv­ing of this idea, Golan chal­lenged me to think about how this pan­el would relat­ed specif­i­cal­ly to p5.js, and for me it was kind of a no-brainer. 

This project start­ed two years ago when I’d been feel­ing like I real­ly want­ed to give back to the open-source com­mu­ni­ty, but I did­n’t know where to begin. I felt like the bar­ri­ers were real­ly high, and I was­n’t sure I was even wel­come. Talking to Casey one time about this, I men­tioned that I wished I could do some­thing about this lack of diver­si­ty in open-source, but I did­n’t know what, and I felt like I was­n’t ready to be an activist or have a big plan or to lead some kind of big project. And he sug­gest­ed maybe I did­n’t need to have a big plan, but if the oppor­tu­ni­ty arose I could just be one more woman con­tribut­ing, and start with that.

So I did. When a cou­ple weeks lat­er, the Processing Foundation approached me with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be a fel­low. My job was to spend a cou­ple of months explor­ing the idea of Processing on the web. At the time, I cer­tain­ly did­n’t envi­sion a group of thir­ty tal­ent­ed artists, design­ers, pro­gram­mers, activists, and writ­ers descend­ing on CMU for a week. But here we are, and this is pret­ty exciting. 

The Processing Foundation took a chance on me. I think that’s what it comes down to. I did­n’t know Javascript well when I start­ed this project two years ago. Despite being a TA for the Processing class, I did­n’t real­ly know Processing that well, either. I cer­tain­ly did­n’t know any­thing much about cre­at­ing an open-source tool, or help­ing to build a com­mu­ni­ty. But the Processing Foundation sup­port­ed my desire to learn. And this offer has been fur­ther sup­port­ed by orga­ni­za­tions like ITP, friends at Bocoup, the Studio for Creative Inquiry here, and all of you and a lot of oth­ers that have been learn­ing along with me.

So I think that that’s the spir­it that I’m hop­ing to cap­ture here this week. For me, think­ing about com­mu­ni­ty out­reach and diver­si­ty is not a sec­ondary goal of p5.js, it’s the foun­da­tion on which the plat­form is built. So I hope tonight and this week we can bet­ter under­stand what we could do to make p5 more acces­si­ble for broad­er audi­ences, to make new peo­ple feel wel­come and empow­ered, and to give every­one that is inter­est­ed the chance that I had to learn, to lead, and to create.

Further Reference

Overview page at the Studio for Creative Inquiry’s web site.

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