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Brenda Laurel tree hugphoto © 2011 by Hilary Hulteen

Researcher, Writer, Consultant, Teacher, Performer

Brenda Laurel has worked in interactive media since 1976. She currently serves as an adjunct professor in Computer Science Department at U. C. Santa Cruz. She served as professor and founding chair of the Graduate Program in Design at California College of Arts from 2006 to 2012. She designed and chaired the graduate Media Design Program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena (2001-2006) and was a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems Labs (2005-2006) where she was co-author of a patent for a new UI for cable television and film. Based on her research in gender and technology at Interval Research (1992-1996), she co-founded Purple Moon in 1996 to create interactive media for girls. In 1990 she co-founded Telepresence Research, Inc., focusing on virtual reality and remote presence. She co-designed and directed the Placeholder virtual reality project at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 1993, also supported by Interval Research. Placeholder was the first VR projects to decouple gaze from direction of movement, provide two hands to participants, support two participants at once, represent multiple traversable locations, capture imagery from the natural landscape, and design content in the realms of art and fantasy rather than training applications. At Apple (1988-1991), she worked on projects including Vivarium (researching narrative and programming under the auspices of Alan Kay) and Guides, a prototype encyclopedia with a storytelling interface. She began her west-coast career at Atari, first as a software strategist and then as a Member of the Research staff at the Atari Systems Research Laboratory, where she developed a theory of first-person presence in interactive environments and worked with AI to improve the quality of interactive games (1979-1983). She earned her MFA in Acting/Directing (1975) and her PhD in Drama Theory and Criticism at Ohio State University in 1986 with a thesis entitled “Toward the Design of an Interactive Fantasy System.” Her books include The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design(1990), Computers as Theatre(1991, 2013), Utopian Entrepreneur (2001), and Design Research: Methods and Perspectives (2004). Her most recent writing, Gaian IXD, was the cover article of the Sept.-Oct. 2011 issue of the journal Interactions. She earned her BA (1972) from DePauw University and her MFA (1975) and PhD. in Theatre (1986) from the Ohio State University. Her most recent publication, Computers as Theatre, Second Edition (2013), is revised and expanded to speak to contemporary interaction designers. Her current work focuses on the use of distributed sensing and augmented reality in STE(A)M learning. She teaches courses in Design Research, Critique, Methods for Innovation and Creativity, and Interaction in the Polis. She also works as a consultant, speaker and is a part-time abalone diver.

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