Mechanical Olympics at the Dallas Museum of Art

The Fifth Mechanical Olympics (2008, ongoing) is underway. This year I will be presenting videos from the past and present games to viewers at The Dallas Museum of Art’s Late Night event on August 19th, starting at 7pm. At 9pm I will deliver an artist talk about the project, tracing my interest and expectations of the project as they have shifted throughout the past eight years.

One thing I came to realize during the process of drafting my thoughts for the 9pm talk is that one Mechanical Olympian, Shamik Ghosh, has been participating in this crowdsourced game since its infancy–and he has recorded his son for each iteration of the games.

Here is Shamik’s son six years ago:

Here he is in 2016:

If you want to make a video, we’re doing that too but you have to stay up late. From 10-11pm we’ll be making videos and voting on gold medalists in the Center for Creative Connections.

I considered ending this post with some kind of joke or reference to making up a story about being robbed after you attend the DMA to participate in the Mechanical Olympics, but I thought better of it. I’ll make no guarantees about what happens when you leave the DMA, but I think you’ll have a fun time while you visit for Late Night.

Help The Women of El Toro Launch this Friday at the Orange County Great Park

Download The Women of El Toro from the app store for free.

The Women of El Toro (xtine burrough and Dan Sutko) pairs stories told by female veterans and military wives stationed at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro with locations on the same ground, in the Orange County Great Park. Originally recorded by the Center for Oral and Public History from 2007-13, these stories are now made available in a free iOS app to bring the voices of the women whose experiences in or with the Marines to visitors at Great Park locations. In broader terms, Dan and I are excited about the poetic way that The Women of El Toro lies at the intersection of locative GPS technology, digital oral histories of female veterans, and digital humanities work emphasizing the creation of new human experiences through new media, space, and place.

If you are planning to attend, please download the app on a trusted wifi connection before arriving at the park and find us in front of the Visitors Center! 

We hope to see you this Friday, where our special guests include some of the women whose voices are embedded in the app.

California Humanities

Dan and I would like to extend our gratitude to California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This project is the result of a Community Stories grant, 2015-16.

Life in the Iron Mills/The Laboring Self



This semester Dr. Sabrina Starnaman and I continued our collaboration on a project that I have been calling a “recovery through mediation.” We worked with Dr. Starnaman’s class, Rebels, Reformers (and Recovery) to create a participatory media project that further recovers the text, Life in the Iron Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis. Published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1861, Life in the Iron Mills was first recovered—a once lost text now considered “a point of origin” for social realism–by Tillie Olsen on the Feminist Press (CUNY) in 1972. Students created a Mechanical Turk HIT (job) that asked Turkers to create self portraits expressing what they would imagine the Korl woman to look like. We sent these Turker selfies to a Fivver worker who created a 3D object file that we in turn fabricated as a larger-than-life portrait of a “digital Korl being.” The students then re-inscribed the sculpture with text from Davis’ novella. We are grateful for the support the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology showed us with a grant that put this pilot project into action.


ATEC graduate student Philip Barker helped us fabricate our 21st Century, mediated version of Davis’ Korl woman. Phil made this documentary video of the project as it unfolded in Spring 2016.


Interview with California Humanities about The Women Of El Toro


The Women of El Toro is a #CalHumanities funded project that Dan Sutko and I are working on in collaboration with the Center for Oral and Public History (COPH) at Cal State Fullerton this year. For the project we are developing a site-specific iOS app that augments The Great Park in Irvine, CA with oral histories told by female marines and wives of Marines who were stationed at El Toro in the 1940s (which happens to be on the very same ground as The Great Park). The interviews with these amazing women were created by COPH during the transition between the military base and the new park circa 2007 and have since been stored in an archive on campus at CSUF. Our app brings the important cultural history and community stories that COPH archived to the public while they might be experiencing a balloon ride, farmer’s market, children’s play area, soccer game, or even more banal infrastructure (the bathroom, the parking lot, or even just looking at the sky) in the Great Park.

The app should be available from the Apple Store this summer. For now, you can read more about the project in our interview with Cal Humanities.



Twitterbots automate the process of tweeting, proliferating the social tweet-scape with messages crafted for specific hashtags, themes, or replies. @IKnowTheseWords is a ‘bot I created to assist me in nearly automatically generating a wordhord from the OED Word of the Day (WotD) database in a “live” online environment. My ‘bot is a helper-agent. In order to develop my own database of known words it is essential that I talk back to my ‘bot, letting it know (and anyone else who views these tweets and replies) which words should be included. This process will take years as my ‘bot and I perform the tasks: tweeting an OED WotD, sorting each word, then capturing those that are part of my current vocabulary using a Twitter archiving Google spreadsheet. With two “I”s involved in the process of knowing—or not—these words, @IKnowTheseWords speaks predictably and intelligently as a ‘bot and randomly, with culturally specific musings as the “I” who replies to each tweet.

End of the Fall Semester, Best Student Work

Omar Mustafa's Meta Website

This was my first semester with students in UT Dallas’ Emerging Media and Communication program. I had a blast working with two groups of engaged students. My favorite projects are archived on a Tumblr page I set up for the EMAC creative courses. Projects include video remixes, meta narrative animated GIFs, interactive plays on conceptual art works, and more.

Platform Cooperativism

platform coop

I’m in New York for the Platform Cooperativism event at the New School and the buzz is in the air about an upcoming internet revolution. Will there be a revolution? Radicals here suggest alternative paradigms for sharing and owning the way we collaborate online. Other radicals (maybe with a different history or experience) talk about the potential for creating change within the present capitalist system. Yes, there is a lot of talk about capitalism, and yes, it’s time to get down to it. The event is free and it is being live-streamed. So, you can see me on this channel on 11/14 at 11am EST.

I’m delighted to be included in this monumental coming together–the third in a series of conferences at the intersection of the internet, society, and labor hosted this year by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider. I’ll be providing an introduction to the “Worker’s Voice” session, with a brief nod towards some of my creative collaborations with Mechanical Turk workers and some survey findings of an experiment I ran on Mturk to determine which dimensions of online work were important to the workers. My presentation is not as great without my voice over, but you can see the visuals (including some survey findings) here.

Hi-Res at VCFA

A quarter, covered in silver paint, was payment for participants in my offline (conference) version of Mediations on Digital Labor.

I’m sitting in the Burlington airport, awaiting my flight home from a sweet time in Montpelier, Vermont during “Hi-Res.” In opposition to the MFA low-residency program that alumni undergo at VCFA (some from as long ago as 1992!), Hi-Res is the first annual, multidisciplinary alumni conference for VCFA MFA students. In the good company of visual arts grads who presented works such as Ambivalently Yours by (I was going to include her name but remembered how she likes to remain anonymous online…let’s just say a 2012 graduate) and Cards Against Brutality (Kristin Serafini 2014), I presented my recent project Mediations on Digital Labor. MFA grads from the writing programs as well as a spectacular presentation made by Beth Bradfish from the Music Composition MFA program all centered on the theme of advocacy in the arts.

I’m still abuzz from my Vermont experience. VCFA never fails to deliver a sense of belonging, community, and commitment to our practices that fills the soul.