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Sha Xin Wei

University: concordia

Sha Xin-Wei was trained in mathematics at Harvard and Stanford Universities, and worked more than a decade in the fields of scientific computation, mathematical modeling and the visualization of scientific data and geometric structures. He is the Canada Research Chair in media arts and sciences and Associate Professor in Fine Arts and Computer Science at Concordia University. His graduate courses combine critical studies of computation and technology with studio work in interaction and physical computing.

In 1995, he extended his work to network media authoring systems and media theory coordinating a three-year long workshop on interaction and computational media at Stanford. In 1997, he co-founded Pliant Research with colleagues from Xerox PARC and Apple Research Labs, dedicated to designing technologies that people and organizations can robustly reshape to meet changing socio-economic demands.

In 1998, Sha Xin Wei also co-founded the Sponge art group in San Francisco, to build public experiments in perception and phenomenology. With Sponge and other artists, Sha Xin Wei directed event/installations in prominent experimental art venues including Ars Electronica Austria, V2 The Netherlands, MediaTerra Greece, Banff Canada, Future Physical United Kingdom, and Postmasters New York. These works have been recognized by awards by major cultural foundations such as the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology, the LEF Foundation, the Creative Work Fund in New York, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

After obtaining an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in 2001 at Stanford on differential geometric performance and the technologies of writing in Mathematics, Computer Science, and History & Philosophy of Science, Sha Xin Wei joined the faculty of the School of Literature, Communication and Culture (LCC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, as professor of the critical studies of science, technology and media. As research faculty in Georgia Tech's Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center in the College of Computing, Sha established the Topological Media Lab as a locus for the study of gesture and materiality from both computational and phenomenological perspectives. His research projects include the TGarden series of responsive media spaces, the Hubbub series of speech-sensitive urban environments, and gesture-based "softwear" and environments using sensate and active fabrics, wireless sensor networks and real-time sound and visual synthesis.

1. Most significant research contributions

1. Physics microworlds
In 1985-1987, led a team of physics students with Prof. Blas Cabrera to build the first micro-world simulations that exploiting its graphical interface for virtual experiments. Later on (1987) I created the first generation of object-oriented classes of physics and mathematics operators that performed lattice computation.

2. MediaWeaver distributed media authoring. 1993-1997, Stanford University.
Created a paradigm shift from ad hoc, shrink-wrapped rich media applications (like history of French theater) to a distributed, platform-independent media authoring environment that could accommodate arbitrary types of media, including streamed data and applications themselves as objects. MediaWeaver anticipated much of the innovations in network media that ensured in subsequent decade with the creation of the World Wide Web, and generated 13 projects in 6 institutions.

3. Phenomenology of differential geometry
This is work springing from the doctoral dissertation in the philosophy of science, mathematics and computer science concerning the theory of materiality of mathematical entities and the phenomenology of practicing differential geometry. This work produced two tangible results, a manuscript which is now under review, and the Geometer's Workbench, a model "magic blackboard" that interprets freehand gestures in three geometric contexts.

4. TGarden Responsive Play Space
The TGarden project is a series of responsive media spaces in which people wearing sensor-laden costumes create gesturally inflected sound and video textures as the move and dance together. The play spaces allowed people to improvise individually and collectively meaningful gesture with real-time media feedback. The TGarden:TG2001 responsive play space was realized with 26 person-years of work by a team of artists, computer scientists and engineers from 11 nations from the Sponge and Foam art research networks. It was supported by an international network of cultural and scientific institutions, including the Daniel Langlois Foundation Canada, and the Banff Centre.

5. Topological Media
A major theme of Dr. Sha' current research concerns a topological approach to media, part of a more general phenomenological investigation of continuous processes. Topological media is continuous, schema-free, dynamical, and has local structure. In 2007, research foci are movement or gestural arts, and poetic or speculative architecture.

2- Activities and contributions

Dr. Sha is an editor of the Experimental Practices book series of Rodopi Press since 2006, and an editor of the journal AI & Society, Springer-Verlag, since 2005.

Dr. Sha has been invited to advise the Rockefeller Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, Hexagram, and La Fondation Daniel Langlois in various capacities regarding media arts and sciences.

Book project: Poiesis and Enchantment in Topological Matter. A major theme of Dr. Sha's current research concerns a topological approach to media, part of a more general phenomenological investigation of continuous ontology. Sample fruit of this investigation includes the essays: "Resistance Is Fertile: Gesture and Agency in the Field of Responsive Media," "Choreographing Responsive Media Environments, Using Continuous State Dynamics within a Simplicial Complex" (2002).

Associated with this research is the Topological Media Lab, a studio-lab that fuses best practices from pre-industrial collective atelier, art studio, and the techno-scientific laboratory. Currently the TML is home to 5 undergraduate, 9 graduate, and a stream of international affiliate researchers from media arts, fiber arts, theater, electronic music, computer science and electrical engineering, architecture, industrial design, and other fields.

Thresholds of Performance:
on the boundaries between performance and ordinary gesture, the ranges between public intentional rehearsed activity and private unmarked accident. Organized as a double panel at the Performance Studies International (Brown University May 2005) with 8 artist researchers from 4 nations; a follow-up panel in Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts in Chicago November 2005); in process -- a collected volume of essays from this network of participants.

Conjuring Bodies: on the emergence of body from fields of gesture and activity. Organized as a panel accepted for ISEA 2004 with 4 artists from 4 nations, from a network originating in the Intimate Technologies Symposium (Banff 2002).

Distributed Whitehead Network: Following a sequence of invited participations at progressively more specialized panels on A.N. Whitehead (Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Austin 2003; Institute of Philosophy Leuven & Royal Flemish
Academy, Brussels, 2005), and an invited publication in special issue on Whitehead in Configurations, Dr. Sha has been invited to participate as one of 3 presenters in a distributed seminar on Whitehead netcast from Stanford, Duke, and Buffalo Universities.

Book project: Co-editing a volume on Body and Interface, Dr. Satinder Gill, Ph.D.