The story of ITP — the Interactive Telecommunications Program — is the story of people exploring new forms of communication and expression. It began in 1971 with the creation of the Alternate Media Center (AMC) by George Stoney and Red Burns.
Founded in 1979, ITP grew out of the work of the AMC – the AMC set the stage for the experimentation and exploration which would follow as well as the informing spirit of collaboration, and the ongoing emphasis on crafting social applications and putting the needs of the user first. A pioneering center for application development, the AMC initially focused on exploring the then-new tool of portable video made possible by Sony’s introduction of the “Portapak” and Apple II computers, and brought together academics, community activists and artists.
Red Burns and her colleagues at the AMC came from backgrounds in documentary film and traditional media — they shared a vision for freely accessible, grass-roots tools, which would enable users to create their own documentaries and distribute them widely.
Professor Burns believed that a graduate course of study was needed to train creative, forward thinking, ethical new media developers for what she saw would be a new and growing field. The first 20 graduate students entered the program in 1979 — and it grew quickly from there. In 1983 Professor Burns was appointed Chair of the department, a position she held until 2010. Under her leadership the department became an internationally renowned center for scholars and practitioners eager to engage the newest technologies and put them in the hands of media-makers.
Currently, Professor Dan O’Sullivan is Chair of ITP. Since joining the ITP faculty in 1991, Dan’s interests have involved creating more evocative online public spaces, using technology to improve education and richer computer interfaces. He is internationally recognized as having established the field that has come to be known as “physical computing” and he is the co-author with ITP Professor Tom Igoe of the seminal text on the subject “Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers.” (Muska & Lipman, 2004).
Current ITP full-time faculty members are known for their contributions to the new media field: Daniel Rozin, a recipient of the Chrysler Design Award, has had his interactive artwork shown in major museums and galleries around the world; Clay Shirky is a widely published author and commentator on social software and peer to peer networks; Marianne Petit is an artist well known for her interactive stories as well as her work in assistive technologies and social applications; Tom Igoe is one of the developers of the ground-breaking open-source “Arduino” platform for physical computing development and regularly teaches and lectures internationally; Marina Zurkow is artist whose work is shown around the world, and who is a 2011 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship; Nancy Hechinger has had a distinguished career running major projects in the museum and educational spheres, including serving as the Founding Director of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education and Technology at the American Museum of Natural History; Daniel Shiffman is acclaimed for his work in developing the open-source Processing coding language and is the author of the text “Learning Processing: A Beginners Guide to Programming Images, Animations and Interaction”; Katherine Dillon is a designer with over 20 years of experience in designing digital experiences and communications and currently Creative Director at L2 Inc.; Gabe Barcia-Colombo is an interactive video artist who has exhibited his work worldwide and was a 2012 TED Fellow; Shawn Van Every focuses on emerging technologies, specifically online audio/video and mobile devices and runs a consultancy to help companies better utilize technology; Mimi Yin is an artist and designer with a background in music, dance and interaction and currently runs the popular ITP Big Screens class; Benedetta Piantella Simeonidis is an artist and designer, turned humanitarian technologist focusing on producing sustainable solutions for worldwide challenges through the use of technology; Lauren McCarthy is an artist and programmer and the creator of p5.js; and Luke DuBois, a composer, artist and performer who is also co-director of the Integrated Digital Media program at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.
Red Burns had served on numerous boards and was the recipient many industry awards including the Chrysler Design Award, for “Design Champion,” and a leadership award from the NY Hall of Science. She passed away in 2013 but her legacy lives on in the spirit of experimentation, creativity, collaboration and community that she fostered and made integral to the success of ITP.