Q&A with Maya Man

Welcome to Q&A, a new series from the editors of Artists + Machine Intelligence. Each week, we’re featuring collaborators working at the intersection of art and technology. This March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting women techmakers at Google. Follow us on Medium to read new posts every Tuesday. You can always reach us at artwithmi@google.com

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Self-portrait by the artist

Maya Man is an artist and creative technologist based in New York, NY. After studying computer science and media studies at Pomona College, she joined the Google Creative Lab in New York as a ‘Fiver,’ the Lab’s one-year residency for early career creatives. Now, as a full-time creative technologist at the Lab, she works on projects, big and small, including this dream collaboration with artist, choreographer, and dancer Bill T. Jones: Body, Movement, Language. (We featured Maya’s reflections on the project in her post, ‘Mixing Movement and Machine.’) You can check out Maya’s work on her website, mayaontheinter.net, and Instagram @mayaontheinternet.

What is your current state of mind? Chaos! The recent happenings have completely altered my daily outlook. I find myself craving small, more intimate acts online, rather than large scale, far-reaching ones.

Describe a typical Tuesday: On a ~normal~ Tuesday when I am not working from home, I wake up around 7:30 a.m. and get ready for work. Deciding what to wear has become more of a creative act for me since moving to New York, so I enjoy trying to find combinations of clothes that I have never worn before. Then, I walk ~30 minutes to the office and eat breakfast, while catching up on emails/news. I’m currently working on prototyping a web game, so most of my day involves balancing coding, meeting with my team, and directing external designers over email. After work I usually head to take a dance class at either EXPG or Peridance.

Currently reading: Lurking by Joanne McNeil

Just started watching: I just watched the documentary Miss Americana, which follows Taylor Swift’s rise to fame. It’s beautifully crafted and feels raw in a way I didn’t expect. I grew up narrating my middle school crushes with her music, but watching this gave me new respect for Taylor and her career!

Album or song on repeat this month: The album Woman by Rhye

Your favorite place on ‘the Internet’: ManRepeller.com always makes me smile. Three other places on the Internet where I like to spend time:

  1. Goodreads: Social media around BOOKS! I love seeing what my friends are reading and using it to track my own reading habits.
  2. Depop: I’m obsessed with second hand shopping… it’s better for the environment and more fun when you know everything you buy has had a past life.
  3. Are.na: where you can collect specific media and organize it however you like. I have channels around Dance and Computers, Space Age aesthetics, and Virtual Gardening, for example.

What makes you happy? Moving!! I find deep joy dancing both in the classes I take around the city as well as just dancing in my room or the park while listening to music :-)

Which came first for you: art or tech? 100% tech. As a kid, I always gravitated toward math and science because I loved the logic and feeling of progressive problem solving. I initially thought I would major in Physics before I discovered Computer Science. And that was all before I even entertained the idea of making artwork.

What are you working on? Over a year ago, I launched Glance Back, a chrome extension that acts as a daily photo diary, capturing the moments shared between you and your computer. Since then, I have gotten some really nice notes from people who use it that are looking for a way to collect their photos into another kind of artifact, so I am working on features that give people the option to download a video or maybe even a book.

Artwork you’ve been thinking about lately: I HAVE REALLY been thinking about dancer and artist Michelle Ellsworth’s work. I recently saw her perform live at the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces and have been thinking about her locally running personal “internet” since. She also has this brilliant and hilarious project called Preparation for the Obsolescence of the Y Chromosome that is simultaneously an online artwork and archive of many stereotypically male characteristics and artifacts.

Artist not working with AI that should be: This is a hard question to answer because I really think that the artist’s intention is what should necessitate the use of A.I. not the other way around. But, I would love to see what Molly Soda might dream up. Her work analyzes the way that we (especially young women) represent ourselves on screen. She often references early internet culture and the ways that femme individuals use social media. It would be exciting to see what kind of language or visual images a machine learning model might generate when trained specifically within that context.

Advice you wish you heard 10 years ago: Just because you have lots of reading to do for school doesn’t mean that you should give up your habit of reading for yourself.

In 2020, I want to see more: Shows that are centered around a more specific theme within the realm of digital art. Often curations at larger institutions seem to group all uses of “technology” into a single category.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, tell us about a woman you admire: Elaine de Kooning! Not only was she an extremely talented artist and writer, but she was also a leader of the New York art scene in the 50s and 60s known for her intense curiosity, intellect, and kindness. At the time, it was unusual for a female artist to play such a central role in the community, but Elaine made space both for herself and for others.

Artists + Machine Intelligence (AMI) is a program at Google that invites artists to work with engineers and researchers together in the design of intelligent systems.

Questions? Feedback? Tweet us or email: artwithmi@google.com

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