SP.237: The Artist in the World

Instructor: Graham Ramsay, Bldg 24-604, xt. 8-0481

Spring 2007: Class #6, March 15, 2007

Amanda Parkes, electronic media/ installation artist


Amanda Parkes is a designer interested in the relationship of gesture, form, materiality, and computation in the context of hybrid physical-digital objects. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab with a research focus on developing intuitive and investigative learning and design tools.  Before joining the Media Lab, Amanda developed exhibits at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, freelanced internationally in multimedia design, and developed installations and programs for the Science Museum in London and the the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (Product Design) and a B.A. in Art History from Stanford University and an M.S. in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT. Her work has been featured in various internationally recognized design and art awards including the ID Magazine Annual Design Review and the Prix Ars Electronica.  Outside the lab, she likes to sew, surf, and amass exquisite shoes. 




Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Media Lab Cambridge, MA
Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences, Tangible Media Group - expected June 2008

M.S. in Media Arts and Sciences, Tangible Media Group - June 2004
Master’s Thesis: Topobo: A Gestural Design Tool with Kinetic Memory
Stanford University Stanford, CA

B.S. Product Design Engineering
B.A. Art History focus: modernist design, Italian Futurism
Coursework: 3D design, mechanical engineering and structural mechanics, drawing and
rendering, graphic design, history of art, architecture and design, physics, calculus,
material science, electrical engineering and computer science

Centro Linguistico de Brunelleshi Florence, Italy
Intensive Italian Language Curriculum

Work Experience

9/02 - present MIT Media Lab, Tangible Media Group, Cambridge, MA research assistant
Research and development of tangible computer interfaces, focus on kinetic interfaces

6/05-9/05 ART+COM Berlin, Germany concept designer
Concept design for interactive installations for cultural institutions and public art.

6/05=9/05 History Unwired Venice, Italy interation designer
Development and implementation of interactive installations in public space to complement
a mobile-based walking tour.

1/04 - 5/04 International Fashion Machines Cambridge, MA design intern
Developed initial concepts for a line of products incorporating the company’s patented
technology of electronic color change textiles

9/99-8/02 Exploratorium San Francisco, CA multimedia exhibit developer
Developed interactive multimedia exhibits from initial concept to final floor installation
including concept research, prototyping, and building digital, electrical and structural
components while collaborating with scientists, artists, writers, graphic designers and

9/99-9/00 West Office Exhibition Design Oakland, CA exhibition designer
Designed exhibition components including scale models, 3D fabrication design and graphic

1/98-8/99 DIA Interactive London, UK multimedia and graphic designer
Designed concepts, graphics, and multimedia and structural components for interactive
kiosks, CD-Roms and Websites.

9/97-6/99 National Science Museum London, UK exhibition researcher
Researched concepts and material for exhibitions, evaluated design and communication

of exhibitions for level of public understanding and expectations of content using visitor-
orientated methods.

10/97-5/99 Beresfords Design London, UK multimedia and graphic designer
Designed concepts, graphics and multimedia components for interactive displays and
Websites. graphic design for retail interiors, packaging, brochures, and presentations; art
direction of product photo shoots.

3/97-5/97 The CDM Consultancy Newport Beach, CA product designer
Worked on the design of a new line of infant toys including sketching, rendering, choice of
color palette and materials, and costing concerns.

10/96-11/96 Venice Biennale Venice, Italy exhibition assistant
Duties included assisting curator with installation and condition reports, with 2 others
maintained pavilion - liaised with press and visitors and aided in exhibition de-installation.

8/96-2/97 Peggy Guggenheim Modern Art Collection Venice, Italy museum/head intern
Duties included assisting curators with installations, researching exhibitions, helping with
public relations, leading tours, delivering a lecture, and maintaining galleries. As head
intern, in charge of coordinating fifteen interns, organized and designed a museum education
project to help children better understand the collection.

7/95-6/96 The Trauma Foundation San Francisco, CA product designer
Designed safety medical products for controlling disease transmission based on research in
hospitals and in consultation with medical product manufacturers.

7/95-6/96 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts San Francisco, CA gallery representative
Led tours on contemporary art exhibitions, helped run and organize gallery openings.


Parkes, A. and Angesleva, J. Physical Interventions in a Location Based Cultural Narrative: A Case Study
of Embedded Media in Pubic Space Installations. Proceedings of Conference on Tangible and Embedded
Interaction (TEI’07) ACM Press, Baton Rouge, LA February 2007
Parkes, A., LeClerc, V., Ishii, H., Glume: Exploring Materiality in a Soft Augmented Modeling System, in
Extended Abstracts of Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘06) Montreal, April 2006
Raffle, H., Parkes, A., Lifton, J, and Ishii, H. Beyond Record and Play — Backpacks: Tangible Modulators of
Kinetic Behavior. Proceedings of Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2006). Montreal,
April 2006.
Parkes, A. Topobo: A Gestural Design Tool with Kinetic Memory. Master’s Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, August 2004.
Raffle, H., Parkes, A. and Ishii, H. Topobo: A Constructive Assembly with Kinetic Memory. Proceedings of
CHI 2004 ACM Press, April 2004.

Exhibitions & Runway Shows

Unravel: SIGGRAPH Fashion Show curated and produced runway show, July 2006, The Roxy, Boston, MA
SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies exhibited Topobo in ‘Tangibles at Play’. July 2006, Boston, MA.
Threads group show, exhibited Topobo at Artspace Gallery, May 2006 New Haven, CT.
Seamless: Computational Couture 2 muk.luk.flux on the runway, January 2006, Boston Museum of Science,
Boston, MA.
Artbots: The Robot Talent Show. exhibited Curiously Strong in group exhibition. July 2005, Saint Michael and
John Church, Dublin, Ireland.
Seamless: Computational Couture Nomad Pneumatics on runway, May 2005, MIT Media Lab,Cambridge, MA

Collision Six: Senses. exhibited Curiously Strong in group show at Art Interactive, Oct 2004, Cambridge, MA.
Artbots: The Robot Talent Show exhibited Topobo in group show Sept 2004 The Mink Building. New York, NY.
Ars Electronica Interactive Art Awards Exhibition Sept 2004 OK Centrum, Linz, Austria.
ARS Electronica Center. 2 year installation of Topobo. 2004-2006 Linz, Austria.
Wired NextFest San Francisco May 2004, exhibition of Topobo in new technologies world fair
Collision 5, Boston Cyberarts Festival group show, April 2003.MIT Gallery, Cambridge, MA.
Traits of Life, Exploratorium, permanent exhibition of 2 multimedia works, opened October 2002. San
Francisco, CA.
Seeing - the interaction of Physiology, Culture and Technology, Exploratorium permanent exhibition of 5
multimedia works, opened June 2002. San Francisco, CA

Selected Presentations & Lectures

iCampus Symposium, MIT/Microsoft Alliance for Education, workshop with Topboo, Dec 2006
Harvard Graduate School of Design, guest lecture in Kinetic Architecture, Dec 2006
Samsung Corporation, workshop on the future of consumer electronics, Seoul, Korea, Oct 2006
Rhode Island School of Design, presentation in Textile Futures, April 2006.
Glasgow School of Art & Design, presentation on Educating the Innovator, Glasgow, Scotland, April 2005
Boston Museum of Science. Presentation of research (Topobo) Nov 2005.
MIT Graduate Arts Forum. Bio Art. Panel discussion of artwork and research, April 2004
Harvard Graduate School of Design, guest lecture in Interactive Spaces, March 2004.
Cooper-Hewitt Summer Design Institute, Workshop: Reinventing Froebel’s gifts, July 2004 New York, NY.
CAMPUS-TI, Lecturer, workshops on design of tangible interfaces. Valencia, Spain, July 2004.
Ivrea Interaction Design Institute, guest lecture on interaction design, Ivrea, Italy April 2004
Trading Design Spaces, panelist at Conference on Human Computer Interaction (CHI’04), Vienna, 2004
Motorola Corporation, presentation at MIT Fellows Day, Dec 2003.
Tufts Center for Engineering Educational Outreach presentation on Topobo, Nov 2003.
Lego Corporation presentation on Topobo, Billund, Denmark, August 2003.
Future Lab, Ars Electronica, presentation on Topobo Linz, Austria, August 2003.
Best Practices in Exhibition Design Conference presentation on Interactive Technologies for Museums,
Exploratorium, San Francisco, April 2003.

3/05 iCampus Grant, award from Microsoft Corp. for design, community outreach and education
research with Topobo.
11/04 MIT Director’s Grant, Office of the Arts grant for ‘Curiously Strong’ Installation
7/04 Prix Ars Electronica, honorary mention for Topobo in Interactive Art
8/04 Designing Interactive Systems, Interactive Design Awards, Honorable Mention for Topobo
3/04 ID Magazine Annual Design Review: Design Distinction (silver) for Topobo
9/02-6/05 Motorola Fellowship, MIT Media Lab, directed funding award for graduate research
6/96 Undergraduate Research Grant, Stanford University, for excellence in undergraduate thesis
work on Shaken Not Broken: Earthquake Safe Museum Display System
6/92 Fine Arts Scholarship, Manhattan Beach Friends of the Arts, Manhattan Beach, CA awarded
annually to an outstanding fine arts student to further her/his art education

Software Skills
High level languages: C++ (basic level), Pic C, AVR C, Lingo, HTML, beginning Java & Python
Interactivity: Processing, Director, Flash, MAX, Nato
Video/Sound: Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Aftereffects, iMovie, SoundEdit, Cleaner, QuickTime Pro
Graphics: inDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, Quark, InDesign
Web: Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Frontpage
CAD: Solidworks, Vellum

3D: Rhino, Cobalt (basic) 3DStudio Max (basic)
Other: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Acrobat

Hardware and Electronics skills

microcontroller programming (PIC, AVR), PCB design and layout (Protel & Eagle), analog and digital circuit
prototyping with a variety of devices including sensors, motors and pumps, PC integration with interfacing
technologies and peripherals

Machine shop skills
Tools: lasercutter, waterjet cutter, 3D digital fabrication (StrataSys & Z Corp), Mill (CNC), lathe, table saw,
band saw, router, chop saw, drill press, Tig and Arc welding, various sanders and grinders, hand tools, sand
blaster, sandcasting
Materials: steel, aluminum, bronze, wood, acrylic, delrin, polyester resin, rubber, various foams


italian: partial fluency
spanish: working knowledge


Work Samples



1. Topobo

Article (PDF)





2. Backpacks: Tangible Modulators of Kinetic Behavior

Article (PDF)


©2007 Experimental Study Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology