Audio engineering is a one-handed art

So I’ve been having fun thinking, writing, and drawing about my thesis. Lots of fun. Particularly the whole thinking and drawing aspect. When I first started down this road last year, I had no idea I’d been drawing as much as I was… largely because I had no idea that this whole studio workflow model was as stagnant as I said it was. I guess for a while there, there was a part of me that didn’t want to believe in this whole thing I was spouting off on…

Lately, I’ve been reading things on studio design. The few dedicated texts out there (here’s one) just don’t pertain a lot to what I’m doing, since the interface is NEVER the topic of discussion. Mostly I’ve been checking out photos, looking at magazines, reading interviews with engineers and looking at the photos and imagining how they’re moving around the room. How they’re moving their hands about the room.

One of the things that hit me this summer was the classic image of the sound engineer, one or two fingers on faders on a ginormous mixing console. What’s the other, non-mixing hand doing? Most likely gripping the headphones while he grooves to the mix. Something silly like that.

Last year at my original thesis presentation (no, not the one with the 12 tone music, I’m done with that…), I said the nice and very quotable: “Augmented reality is the future of audio design interface.” I’m going to go ahead an say something that’s at least as quotable:

“Audio engineering is a one-handed art.”

That classic image of manipulating those faders a few at a time, waiting for the second pass to record a couple more bits of automation into the sequence… well, that might not be true. But using the mouse on their graphical representation of that 60s era console, traversing its geography with point-click-drag eloquence, that’s just as bad. And very real, almost inevitable in this audio workstation world.

I’m reminded of a sign reminder common to family restaurant staff waiters: Both hands full at all times.

If I can make something where people are using both hands meaningfully and intuitively, whether it be through some AR paradigm or this tablet-mixer model I’ve been fleshing out…oh man. I think I’ll just explode with excitement!

Two hands!


mtvU to receive Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 2006 Governor’s Award


mtvU to receive Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 2006 Governor’s Award for its Sudan Public Service Campaign.

mtvU’s Sudan campaing encompasses various projects, of which “Darfur is Dying” is a major component.

“The highest honor given by the Board of Governors, the Governors Award will be presented at the 2006 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy® Awards on August 19. The show, hosted by Penn & Teller, will air as a two-hour special on Saturday, August 26, at 8 p.m. on E! Entertainment Television.”

Details at the 2006 Emmy Award site .

The NYTimes on the landscape of ‘games for change’


The New York Times’ Clive Thompson writes an Arts & Leisure front page article today (Sunday, July 23rd) on the current field of ‘games for change’. It is a broad study of the main objectives and arguments from within the field via the brief analysis of some examples currently out there. Our Darfur game project is discussed, as are: Peacemaker, A Force More Powerful, September 12th & Madrid, Food Force, Persuasive Games, USC’s Annenberg School’s game initiatives, gameLab’s partnership with the Univeristy of Wisconsin (and their corresponding MacArthur grant), Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, and MIT’s Professor Henry Jenkins.

NPR Morning Edition covers Games for Change conference & Darfur thesis

As is clearly evident, I am documenting many of the news items relating to my thesis project here in my blog. I certainly don’t intend to bombard this community with the news, but I do consider it a great repository for this documentation and thus I continue… thanks all for your eyes and ears and support.

Another NPR story is here, for the show Morning Edition. It’s an honor to ‘inhabit’ the same space as projects such as PeaceMaker and A Force More Powerful – meeting the creators at the Games for Change conference has been fantastic and inspirational. I cannot help deducing, however, that our project is quite modest in terms of scale by comparison – and you know… I am wondering if this is not part of its strength in some ways… I must admit, I have always considered the fact that there was so much I wanted to do but couldn’t and didn’t a flaw, a negative – but this forced simplicity and forced constraints may have lead to some undesired and yet meaningful decisions.

Ms. Ruiz Goes to Washington


I was invited last week to meet and talk about Darfur and my project with Congress members at Capitol Hill. It was an invaluable experience. You can see a video of my remarks here. One write-up of the event turned up in my own local Long Beach paper of all places. [I feel compelled to note that it contains a typo in the fourth paragraph: it should read “Honored Wednesday by members of Congress…”]

As an end note, for further information please visit – although the website is in-progress, it does help provide important context.

Kritof’s Sunday Column

From New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof’s Sunday column (May 7th). (Note: it is NYTimes Select, which (may) requires subscription, so I’ll paste the full text below).


Heroes of Darfur


Published: May 7, 2006

For three grueling years, Eric Reeves has been fighting for his life, struggling in a battle with leukemia that he may eventually lose. And in his spare time, sometimes from his hospital bed, he has emerged as an improbable leader of a citizens’ army fighting to save hundreds of thousands of other lives in Darfur.

Pressure from that citizen army helped achieve a breakthrough on Friday: a tentative peace deal between the Sudanese government and the biggest Darfur rebel faction, brokered in part by U.S. officials. We should be skeptical that this agreement will really end the bloodshed — past cease-fires and promises have not been honored — but also rejoice in a glimpse of sun over the most wretched place in the world today.

If the violence does diminish — and that will take hard work in the months and years ahead — part of the credit will go to Mr. Reeves, a scholar of English literature at Smith College who has used an arsenal of e-mail messages, phone calls and Web pages to battle the Sudanese government and American indifference. He was the first person I know to describe the horrors of Darfur as genocide, and he financed his quixotic campaign by taking out a loan on his house.

Perhaps the most striking distinction in the history of genocide is not between those who murder and those who don’t, but between “bystanders” who avert their eyes and “upstanders” who speak out. Professor Reeves has been a full-time upstander on Sudan since 1999, back when the people being slaughtered there were Christians in the south of the country. He noticed immediately in 2003 that Sudan had diversified into butchering Muslims in Darfur, and his frantic blowing of the whistle helped alert me and others. Visit his Web site,, but be careful — his fury may set your computer smoking.

I don’t agree with every bit of Mr. Reeves’s analysis, and sometimes I flinch at his stridency. But there’s no better excuse for stridency than genocide.

While Darfur has been incredibly depressing, the grass-roots movement in this country to stop the genocide is immensely inspiring. (To join, go to Web sites like or The activist kids just bowl me over: girls like Rachel Koretsky, a 13-year-old who organized a rally in Philadelphia, distributed circulars and conducted a raffle to raise money for Darfur as her bat mitzvah charity project. So far, Rachel has raised $14,000 for Darfur.

Or kids like Tacey Smith, a 12-year-old in the farm town of Gaston, Ore. After seeing the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” she formed a Sudan Club with a few friends and has raised $400 for Darfur by selling eggs, washing cars and asking for donations instead of birthday presents. Her best friend’s Christmas present to her was raising $50 for Darfur. Now Tacey is organizing a Darfur fair next month.

President Bush has been more active lately on Darfur, and without the administration’s relentless pushing the peace deal on Friday would have been impossible. But by and large, there has been a vacuum of leadership on Darfur over the last few years, and ordinary Americans — particularly young people — have tried to fill it. I don’t know whether to be sad or inspired that we can turn for moral guidance to 12-year-olds.

Then there are the entertainers. Frankly, I think it’s bizarre that we turn to movie stars for guidance on international relations. But in this case, I bow low to George Clooney, who had the guts to travel to the Darfur area last month, and to Angelina Jolie, who has visited the Darfur area twice and is pushing for action on Darfur more forcefully than almost anyone in Washington.

It gets weirder: “CBS Evening News” decided that genocide wasn’t newsworthy, devoting only two minutes to coverage of Darfur in all of 2005 — but there’s excellent coverage on MTV’s university network and in episodes of the TV show “E.R.” set in Darfur. And one of the best presentations of life in Darfur is in an extraordinary video game developed with help from MTV and available free at In the game, you’re a Darfuri, trying to survive as Sudan’s janjaweed militias hunt you down.

So that’s how the response is unfolding to the first genocide of the 21st century: a video game is one of the best guides to understanding the slaughter, and our moral vacuum is filled by teenyboppers and movie stars.

Someday we will look back at this motley army of children and celebrities, presided over by a man struggling with leukemia, and thank them for salvaging our national honor.

UC Regents Divests from Sudan


I was fortunate to be at UCLA this past Thursday and witness the vote from the University of California’s Board of Regents in regards to the entire UC system’s divestment from nine companies engaged in business with the Sudanese government.

The moment was emotional – as the thirty or so board members sat around in a circle and discussed the issue, the students rose from their seats, held up b&w photographs of Darfurians, and in an uncompromising stance waited to hear the vote.

The vote was unanimous in favor of disinvesting. “The UC students have worked diligently to achieve this victory.”  The numbers were not discussed at the meeting, but the UC system invests millions of dollars internationally, so this can potentially mean a real impact both on UC’s financial portfolio and on the reality of the situation in Darfur.

Information on the UC Divest Sudan student campaign here.