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User Preferences: Tech Q&A With JK Keller

Still from Realigning My Thoughts on Jasper Johns

Each week we chat about the tools of the trade with one outstanding creative to find out exactly how they do what they do. The questions are always the same, the answers, not so much. This week: JK Keller.

The Creators Project: Who are you and what do you do?
JK Keller:
I’m an artist and designer working out of Baltimore with my wife, Keetra Dean Dixon, and our two pups, Frankie and Tilda. My background is in interactive multimedia and I used to create these things called CD-ROMs back in the day. I’ve since broadened my horizons and my work spans all kinds of mediums, though most of the work has some connection to technology and our mercurial relationship with it.

What hardware do you use?
I’m working with a fairly old MacBook Pro hooked up to an even older cinema display and a few too many external hard drives. I’ve been trying to convince my arm to learn to use a Wacom tablet, but for some reason I end up having worse forearm pain than with the mouse. It’s most likely user error, so I’ll deal with it. I recently grabbed an Arduino but haven’t devoted enough time to really do anything useful with it. But the most important piece of equipment I have is a sketchbook and drawing utensil that I take pleasure in using. Investing in these two things is of the utmost urgency.

What software do you use?
Like most people, I’m a slave to the Adobe Creative Suite, though I’ve been attempting to utilize it in unique ways through its ability to run JavaScript. Lately I’ve been using the canvas capabilities in HTML to create some generative systems. For some reason I just can’t seem to get into the groove with Processing and all the wonderful things it can do for users. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to sit closely next to the Arduino as a “coulda, shoulda, woulda” as the years progress. There are a number of exciting things happening with Blender, and I’m itching to get my hands dirty in that environ soon.


Living My Life Faster – 8 years of JK’s Daily Photo Project

If money were no object, how would you change your current setup?
I’d invest heavily in specialized meatware, humans who have made the investments of time to become expert craftspeople. Specifically, I’m very interested in CNC milling equipment, but uninterested in the machines themselves. A robotics specialist would be amazing as well, engineers and scientists of all kinds. Kind of like my own MythBusters crew, tinkering and exploring new technologies and materials but without the disproving of popular myths. Oh, and since the cash is no object, a really fine barista and espresso setup would be divine.

What fantasy piece of technology would you like to see invented?
I know we’re getting closer to this becoming a reality, but a device that can visualize and store dream sequences would be amazing. Granted, I’d probably end up like a character from the film Until the End of the World caught in an addictive disorder, obsessed with the imagery portrayed.

Is there any piece of technology that inspired you to take the path you did?
Macromedia Director. When I was an undergrad at RISD, I was working in a computer lab and saw these two guys, Karl Ackermann and Paul Kim, working on an interactive CD-ROM called LOVEDISK. It was the first time I had really heard of interactive multimedia and it became a clear marker of where my trajectory shifted. I have fond memories of its language, Lingo.

What’s your favorite relic piece of technology from your childhood?
A simple toy, Stompers. They were small toy trucks with electric motors that were geared really low so they were slow but high torque. They only had on/off. If you put the battery in backwards they went in reverse. I seem to remember that if you got some wire and taped two batteries together they would go twice as fast, but the truck top wouldn’t fit. At my grandma’s one time, my uncle modded a wired remote control so that it could control a Stomper truck. I thought that was soooo cool.

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