Experience Intel: An interview with Julie Freeman

Early this month Intel held a rather special event entitled “Experience Intel” which brought a creative twist to your more generic product launch events. The event kicked off with food and drinks at The Luxe on Commercial Street and expanded into the more public installation in Spitalfields Market where, among the eclectic crowd of tech gawkers and silicon geeks there was an electric atmosphere of art, fashion, data visualization and tech – all the things we adore.

Intel made this ‘an experience’ by presenting performances from AcroYoga and Xpogo and by bringing together some beautiful minds to prop up their latest product showcase with speeches from three leaders in their receptive fields;


Michelle Lesniak Franklin – Winner of the latest season of Project Runway, using tech to channel her creativity 


Matt Pyke / Universal Everything- World renowned creative studio Universal Everything created the “Gliders” game as an interactive experience inside the hub


Julie Freeman –Artist and senior TED fellow for 2013 who combines science, technology, and natural systems, in order to create work that questions how we translate nature.

We had a chance to catch up with the exceptional Julie Freeman who represented the ‘art’ category – or more accurately, the data visualization field. An incredibly expansive individual, Julie’s work bridges visual, audio and digital art forms and explores the relationship between science, nature and how humans interact with it. For the past 12 years her work has focused on using electronic technologies to ‘translate nature’ – whether it is through the sound of torrential rain dripping on a giant rhubarb leaf; a pair of mobile concrete speakers who lurk in galleries haranguing passersby with fractured sonic samples or by providing an interactive platform from which to view the flap, twitch and prick of dogs’ ears.

Was there a pivotal moment in your life that shaped your curiosity and informed your current work?

I’m sure there have been many, but a few come to mind: I have very bad eyesight that was undetected until I was around 10 years old which I think contributed to the way I like to work with environmental sound, I listen to soundscapes and environmental ‘noise’ much more often than mainstream music; I think I navigated a lot with my ears when I was young! My current work is very much influenced by my first C programming experiments – I learned about Artificial Life software, cellular automata, etc and it occurred to me that rather than just trying to recreated these natural systems within the computer maybe we should try and merge real life with the machines. It was around this time that I had the idea to work with fish, and made an early prototype of what was to become The Lake (8 years later) in 2005.

Julie Freeman - "Key Project Summary" - link
Julie Freeman – “Key Project Summary” – link

What are you doing for Experience Intel?

I’m on the spotlight stage talking about how I use technology in my work to help us reinvent how we experience and perceive nature, and how my Ultrabook has helped me to take my studio with me wherever I’m working – sketching on my touch screen one minute, video editing the next. So useful.

Julie Freeman "disperse" - link
Julie Freeman “disperse” – link

Does all data have value?

This is a very wide question… and of course the answer is yes. I would have to ask value to who? Value has different meanings in philosophical, economic, and social terms. Let’s reframe it: does all electricity have value… perhaps not if powering warfare drones, but certainly in an electric wheelchair.

Where do you see the intersect between biology and technology?

The intersect is huge, you only have to do a small amount of research to see that many of our technologies are influenced heavily by biological systems. In my own work, I am fascinated by how life can become entwined with technology in a way that gives us new ways to perceive it, ways that reach beyond our senses and into previously hidden domains.

Julie Freeman - "dogs’ ears" - link
Julie Freeman – “dogs’ ears” – link

What’s it like being a TED fellow – any particularly interesting moments or people who’ve changed the way you see the world?

Being a TED Senior Fellow is fantastic – it is a very nurturing and open community to be a part of. Not only do the fellows get to attend the TED conferences but we get to meet each other – every fellow I’ve met is doing amazing work in the fields of art, science, or technology, and many of us work across the three disciplines. Pretty much everyone has something inspiring to offer, and rather than changing how I see the world I feel like they reinforce it!


Julie Freeman – Translating Nature.org

Experience Intel

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