Stewart Ziff joined the faculty of the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design in August, 2011. His background is broad and varied having worked for over twenty five years as a practicing artist, as a teacher of art and design with a base of experience as both an academic advisor and with classes in studio/critique, theory and the workflow of production. Stewart also has experience as a systems professional in academia and industry, engaged with the technology of new media in both production and research. Project assignments have addressed a diverse range of problems that include the engineering of haptic interfaces for traditional puppeteers to marionette the real time animation of virtual characters, and the design of a high bandwidth systems architecture for the projection and immersive display of space science phenomena at a leading planetarium.
As an artist, Stewart explores the ways in which we see through an interest in the relationship between what we see and how we see. His ideas reflect on the phenomenology of sight, the space we occupy and with notions about perception, knowledge, history, memory and vision. Stewart has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, and has lived part time in Athens, Greece, where he helped manage and coordinate Personal Cinema, a non-profit arts organization he co-founded. Personal Cinema sought to promote peace and dialogue in the Balkans, bringing artists, writers and film-makers together from within its disparate environs through opportunities they developed for exhibition and collaborative exchange.
With his current work and direction, Stewart is asking whether or not empathy and pro-social behavior can be taught and if so, whether that can be augmented with the tools and technology of computational media. His aim is to establish an incubator/think-tank for the research and development of educational games and interactive technologies with an initial focus to games and interfaces that can contribute to the pedagogy and therapy of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Stewart’s long term interest is in the potential for new forms of narrative story telling from the application of computational models of emotion and intelligence, in an affective computing environment, to the research and development of semi-autonomous, animatronic, theatric puppet actors.