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robert f. nideffer [nigh·dif·er] - interests: virtual environments and behavior, interface theory and design, technology and culture, game studies. education: ph.d. sociology '94, mfa computer arts '97. employment: full prof. and head, dept. of arts, rensselaer polytechnic institute.

      short bio       full bio       nideffer@gmail.com
 moves:




























Title: "WTF?! SDK", '09-'11
Technology: Flash, XML, Adobe AIR
Description: "WTF?! SDK" is a FREE Software Development Kit comprised of a suite of Flash modules for creating WoW inspired side-scrolling, Flash-based, action games. It is a complete overhaul of the earlier tools written to facilitate development of the "WTF?!" project ('07-'08). The SDK now provides a user-friendly graphical front-end to the game development process.
Title: Spew, '09-'11
Technology: Flash, XML, Adobe AIR
Description: Spew makes use of the vast repositories of static and real-time data - CIA world factbook, World Health Organization, Stock Market, health, population, traffic, weather, twitter, news feeds, etc - as core drivers for the game simulation environment. Spew draws on World Systmes Theory/Modelling to deal with questions of globalization and sustainability.
Title: Data Arcade, '09-'10
Technology: Flash, XML, PHP
Description: Data Arcade is a series of three classic arcade knock-offs - Stock Invaders (Space Invaders), Pipe Mania (Pipe Dream/Mania), and Oil Kong (Donkey Kong) - that use real-time data mined from the net to determine game-play mechanics. These games are also incoporated in a larger project called "Spew" which utilizes a wide range of real-time and static data feeds to drive a game/sim environment.
Title: 2007 BC, '09
Technology: Giclée Print on Wood Panels
Description: 2007 BC is a triptych that draws heavily from the work of Hieronymus Bosch, particularly The Garden of Earthly Delights (late 1400s-early 1500s), and The Temptation of St. Anthony (early 1500s). It depicts an epic battle between the top two World of Warcraft raiding guilds, at a particular moment in the game's history. It is loaded with symbolic references specific to the contexts, both "in-game" and "around-game," within which the battle was waged.
Title: WTF?!, '07-'08
Technology: Flash, XML
Description: WTF?! is a WoW inspired side-scrolling Flash-based RPG. In WTF?! lots of smart (mostly) dead people enlist you to help figure out WTF is going on in Azimuth. Think WoW meets social theory meets, well... tabloid journalism... since you discover lots of dirt about these characters along the way. WTF?! was built with "!" - a custom set of tools made freely available to facilitate others' abusive game designs. WTF?! is another collaboration with Flash code guru Alex Szeto. Collectively we've lost several years of our life to WoW... and figured it's time for a little payback.
Title: WoW AddOns, '07-'08
Technology: LUA, XML, HTML
Description: Custom "metagame" addOns scripted for World of Warcraft, an 11+ million player MMOG.
Title: The Grinch Who Stole Office, '07
Technology: Flash, MYSQL
Description: The Grinch Who Stole Office is the result of my foray into learning Flash/ActionScript - which was long overdue. I hired coder extraordinaire Alex Szeto [former student and present collaborator] as my teacher, and this little book is what emerged. Three embedded Flash games accompany the Seuss inspired narrative.
Title: DICE, '06
Technology: Flash, PHP, MySQL, XML, HTML
Description: The Domain Independent Collaboration Environment [DICE] is a collaboration portal developed in conjunction with the University of California Humanities Research Institute [HRI] at UC Irvine. The goal was to design tools for collective scholarship and sustained collaboration with limited face-to-face interaction. We built a custom CMS to support activities such as browsing, searching, reading, watching, listening, writing, annotating, collection building, mapping, communicating, collaborating, and playing. This included implemeting services such as: 1-point registration, wikis, blogs, RSS, version control, teleconferencing, data repositories, search and crawl, location awareness, mail, tagging, translation, and motivational techniques to facilitate participation such as scoring and rewards. My roles were project PI and management [~$100k grant].
Title: Dino Quest Online, '05-'07
Technology: Flash, PHP, MySQL, XML, HTML
Description: Dino Quest Online is part of an interactive museum installation where kids learn about life sciences via paleontology. The project consists of an on-site exhibit with life-size dinosaurs, fabricated dig-pits, creatures, caves, and quest update/completion stations, accompanied by an online environment. Players use a gesture-based infra-red emitter to trigger events tracking their on-site progress. The goal is to recover DNA samples from dinosaur remains, uplink the data collected to "collaboratories," login to DQ Online to complete various game modules extending the on-site game, and learn enough to bring the creatures back to life. My roles were project PI and creative director [~$300k grant].
Title: unexceptional.net, '03-'06
Technology: MySQL, PHP, Javascript, HTML, J2ME, MIDP 2.0, C++, Torque Script, Flash, XML
Description: A multimodal, pervasive, location-aware, net-centric game that deals with love gone bad, political conspiracy, and spiritual transformation. Complete 21 quests to open 7 major chakras and achieve "enlightenment." Play involves use of a Blog, a GPS-enabled cell phone [or applet if no phone is available], and a 3D game client.
Title: ALT+CTRL, '04
Technology: Exhibition - too numerous to list
Description: Co-Curated with Antoinette LaFarge and co-organized with Celia Pearce for the Beall Center for Art and Technology. ALT-CTRL provided a venue for some of the most innovative new concepts in computer games by independent developers, artists and game modders. Sponsors included the National Endowment for the Arts, Entertainment Software Association, Game Face Magazine, Blubber Colors, Montana Paint, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [CalIT2], and the Claire Trevor School of the Arts [~$40k in grants].
Title: Creepy Comics, '02
Technology: Coldstone IDE, HTML
Description: Creepy Comics was an attempt to create an episodic role-playing adventure game designed as a cross-platform digital comic. It used the Coldstone Game Engine released by Ambrosia Software, and suffered an untimely death when development on the game engine stopped. The web-comic trailer and a few in-game screenshots are what's left. The front-end visuals of the two primary characters [Pustule and Fester] made their appearance in the Perth Biennial of Electronic Art, and later became 8 foot by 10 foot vinyl banners for an exhibition at the UC Irvine Beall Center for Art & Technology.
Title: PROXY, '99-'02
Technology: Java, GL4Java, MOO, VRML, HTML
Description: A head game about about knowledge discovery, file-sharing, and information mis/management in relation to networked identity construction and collective behavior. Deployed using a Java-based multi-agent system interfaced to a MOO and Web portal. It dealt with personalizing information discovery; designing multiple interfaces into shared information spaces; facilitating distributed and collaborative data processing; and enabling synchronous and asynchronous modes of communication and information exchange. PROXY debuted at the Whitney Biennial of American Art in 2002.
Title: SHIFT+CTRL, '00
Technology: Exhibition - too numerous to list
Description: Co-Curated with Antoinette LaFarge for the inaugural opening of the Beall Center for Art and Technology. SHIFT-CTRL was a collection 20+ international media works installed in over 2,500 square feet of exhibition space that were either actual computer games, experientially functioned as computer games, symbolically referenced computer games, or were influenced by computer games in their making. Sponsors included the Rockwell Corporation, Connexant Technologies, Microsoft, Antenna Design, Rare Medium and many others. Over $100,000 was budgeted for the show and accompanying events, which ran from October 17-December 3, 2000 [~$250k in grants].
Title: Search & Retrieval, '00
Technology: Exhibition - too numerous to list
Description: Search and Retrieval: Information Navigation as Art was commissioned by LA Freewaves as an online component to the "7th Annual Festival of Experimental Media Arts." LA Freewaves is a nonprofit multicultural media arts network committed to community empowerment that is comprised of a coalition of some 65 arts organizations, 68 schools, 74 libraries, 32 cable stations, and thousands of media artists and activists in the greater Los Angeles area. Search and Retrieval consisted of over a dozen international contemporary media artists, and though primarily designed for an online audience, was also selected for presentation at the California Museum of Photography during the month of November, 2000 [~$35k software grant].
Title: Secret Agent, '00
Technology: Custom Lipstick Cam/Mic, Portable Server, Streaming Media, HTML
Description: Secret Agent was commissioned by the Institute for Studies in the Arts at Arizona State University for a workshop and exhibition entitled "Digital Secrets: New Collaborations in Visual Art and Technology." It was the first piece produced by members of the UC Digital Arts Research Network [UCDARNet]. Participants included: Shawn Brixey [UCB], Sheldon Brown [UCSD], Sharon Daniel [UCSC], Lynn Hershmann [UCD], Louis Hock [UCSD], Victoria Vesna [UCLA], and Fabian Wagmister [UCLA]. Actress Karen Black played the role of the remote controlled, semi-autonomous secret agent. Secret Agent took place from November 9-11, 2000.
Title: Tomb Raider, '99
Technology: Perl/CGI, C++, HTML
Description: Tomb Raider was authored for "Cracking the Maze," an on-line exhibit of computer game patches, modifications, and add-ons. It consists of a patched patch, a hacked mail server, and an appropriated Web site.
Title: Alexandria Digital Library, '97-'98 v1.0
Technology: Java, JIGI, Oracle, HTML
Description: The Alexandria Digital Library [ADL] is a consortium of researchers, developers, and educators, spanning the academic, public, and private sectors, exploring a variety of problems related to a distributed digital library for geospatially-referenced information. The undertaking was sponsored by NSF, NASA, and DARPA. I directed the User Interface Design and Implementation component. My team built a Java application suite to provide a public interface to the ongoing R&D to help secure additional funding. I also drafted the visualization component of the successful second-round NSF proposal effort [~$7 million in grants], and was listed as a Co-PI.
Title: Life in the Universe, '96-'97
Technology: Macromedia Director
Description: Life in the Universe with Stephen Hawking was released as a CD-ROM in March of 1997, with planned translation into five languages. The project was formed around an essay written by professor Hawking entitled "Life in the Universe," and five articles from a special issue of Scientific American also entitled "Life in the Universe." Due to the richness and density of the information we attempted to make exploration of environments, and the acquisition of knowledge through those explorations, the driving forces behind the user's investigations. My roles were co-designer, art director, and production manager.
Title: Fine Art of Appropriation, '97
Technology: Perl/CGI, C++, HTML
Description: The Fine Art of Appropriation [submit as the written portion of my MFA Thesis] is an online artist's book that explores fair-use in the context of the digital domain. It was authored entirely from found material. When submit to the library for binding, the "book" - including all images and sounds - was printed out as binary code for archival purposes. The library was pleased.
Title: Bodies© INCorporated, '95-'96
Technology: Perl/CGI, VRML, HTML
Description: Bodies© INCorporated was a collaborative project produced and directed by Victoria Vesna. Participants constructed virtual bodies out of predefined body-parts, textures, and sounds. Bodies© INCorporated was exhibited internationally and received numerous critical reviews and awards. My roles included web interface design, body modeler, and writer.
Title: ASCII Alphabet, '96
Technology: HTML
Description: ASCII Alphabet was one of the earliest Web projects to experiment with the text to speech synthesis built into the Macintosh OS. To hear it prperly required a plug-in called "Talker." I composed 26 ASCII images illustrating my mouth speaking each letter of the alphabet, which then got read back by Talker. Stutters turned into word fragments, which turned into words and phrases, as the letter being stuttered was "learned" by the machine. Done for the Terminals: Considering the End exhibition.
Title: Terminals, '96
Technology: HTML
Description: Terminals: Considering the End was an online exhibition comprised of individually curated galleries accessible at several of the UC campuses [Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Irvine, and Riverside]. Funded through the University of California's Intercampus Arts, and Directed and Produced by Victoria Vesna and Connie Samaras, Terminals investigated how ways of "knowing" death have been culturally encoded. Terminals was released [1999] as an artist's book/CD-ROM. My roles were editor, interface design for the Web, CD-ROM design and production, and participating artist.
Title: Some Bits Of My So-Called Life, '95
Technology: HTML
Description: Some Bits of My So-Called Life is the result of a two week period, during the Fall of 1995, when messages recorded onto my personal answering machine were fed back out to the World-Wide-Web. Remember, this *was* web circa mid-'90s, so such public displays still felt pretty new and exciting!
Title: analAT&T, '95
Technology: Video, HTML
Description: analAT&T was a performance/video project [done in collaboration with Adam Zaretski] that tried to draw attention to the ways in which a particular corporate culture circa mid-90s was projecting in a seductively fascist/humanist kind of way ["YOU WILL"] the relationship of the body to pipelined technology. My dungeon-slung body served as transducer caught in the circuitry of this informational flow. What the video-short shows is that what the body produces, as it's forced to interface and merge with new technical forms, is not necessarily representative of what it consumes.
Title: HIStoric Inserts, '95
Technology: HTML
Description: HIStoric Insertions is a series of tongue-in-cheek studies in technique. The images were created by scanning in photographs of famous paintings, then digitally altering the works by inserting myself into the scenes, mimicking the style of the appropriated artist.
Title: SPEED, '93-'97
Technology: Perl/CGI, Java, VRML, HTML
Description: SPEED was a critical forum for the investigation of technology, media, and society. The journal was founded in '93 with Bejamin Bratton while still graduate students. I first implemented SPEED as a Gopher site in '93. We migrated to the Web in '94. Between '93-'97 four issues were produced: "Myths of Electronic Living"; "Science and Re-Enchantment"; "Airports and Malls"; and a special issue devoted to the work of French architect, military historian and media theorist Paul Virilio. The goal was to provide an open-ended architecture, where text, image, and sound based materials could successfully marry form and content in an online environment. SPEED received numerous awards, including being chosen [in March 1997] as one of the "Top 100 Web Sites of All Time" [meaning the prior 2.5 years - heh] by The Net Magazine, where it was also the top pick in the Humanities category.
Title: BNAatWar, '91-'94
Technology: HyperCard
Description: Bodies, No-bodies, and Anti-bodies at War: Operation Desert Storm and the Politics of the "Real" is an analysis of the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf, authored as an interactive CD-ROM. It was an attempt to do media studies that actually incorporated the media being studies, as well as a critical response to a popular and academic discourse that was claiming Operation Desert Storm heralded a new era of high-tech combat that served only to remove us from the horror and reality of war. In the thesis I attempt to challenge that position by asserting that it was no less "real," it simply represented a new type of "reality," one that was in large part the result of the technologies used to re-present it. My hook was that we needed to learn how to more effectively use those technologies, as opposed to letting ourselves be used by them. It was reportedly the first CD-ROM submit as a Ph.D. in the social sciences.