Generative Typography

Printing Code . 7/03/2013

For this week’s Printing Code assignment, I re-created the Soraya font (which is in an Illustrator file, not TTF) in code, describing each letter in terms of a unit and geometric relationships. Note to self: contact its author to let him know (and check if this is ok by him). Then I played with the number of thin lines, random placement and rotation:

Identity through Color

Printing Code . 1/03/2013

This week we were asked to represent ourselves through a color composition. The color palette had to be defined using one of Toxiclibs’ Color Strategies, and the composition should be different each time the program ran.

My thinking for this was that identity is dynamic, the same way that color is dynamic. We perceive the same gray square completely differently against a white and a black background, and, to give an example, I’m sure many fellow ITP’ers perceive themselves as artists when talking to programmers, as programmers when talking to artists, and so on.

Sharp / Wet through Form

Printing Code . 22/02/2013

Printing Code assignment: draw two shapes (using beginShape() and endShape()) that communicate the ideas of sharp and wet.
Thinking about things that change their aspect when wet (like a paper plane), I finally came across the most obvious answer: ice and water. I thought it’d be nice to represent water not through many curves but just using a straight line:

Draw an Ice Cream Cone

Printing Code . 15/02/2013

“Yes. An ice cream cone.” and: use only ellipse(), rect() and triangle(). That’s what I call a constrained problem. I went deep with Concept: What Characterizes an Ice Cream? It melts. It’s dramatic when it falls. Voilà:

First Meta-Narrative Moments

Narrative Lab . 10/11/2012

I had my first meta-narrative moments reading comic books. I really liked a series called “Turma da Mônica”, about a bunch of 6-year olds living in a suburb somewhere in Brazil. The characters would sometimes complain to the writer about their luck, who sometimes responded by erasing something, for example. You could see his hand and pencil and even his desk, but never his face. I hope to illustrate this when I go home in December (I still have tons and tons of comic books), but here is what I could find online:

On the first one, Magali freaks Mônica out by crossing over from her panel; on the second, Mônica looks at us puzzled after discovering that Donald Duck has been spying on her stories.

I see now that Turma da Mônica was inspired by Peanuts; there was even a character that kind of looked like Snoopy, although he wasn’t the protagonist and was just a dog, without any lines. Maybe he used to have a more important role, but by when I was 8 or 9, he barely appeared at all. Coming to think of it, he did have “his own show”, –shorter stories in the same book- which, I realize as I write this, were completely meta. The characters in his stories were Bidu himself –a jaded actor/former star trying to put together his killer solo show–, his stage director, and a dog who wanted to be a star and would always crash the story and try to steal the show.

Here they are:
Bidu e Bugu
(“cool! I’m in a comic book, I can’t believe this!”)

And searching for this I even found some fan fiction for him. Who knew…
Bidu Fan Fiction
Taken from here.

Week 1: Apple. Sliced.

3d sensing and visualization . 3/11/2012

The first assignment of Kyle’s class was to make a 3d scanner. Manuela and I decided to scan and render an apple, taking two approaches.

1) Milk Scan (non invasive)

We cut an apple in half, put it in a container, and covered it with milk in layers as tall as a sheet of acrylic that we planned to use to reconstruct it later. Of course this was a serious scientific experiment, and you can see in the photo that we marked registration points, measured the layers of milk, and made sure that the table was level.

The one problem that we had –the lighter lower half of the apple started to float–, we fixed by punching metal nails into it. So the scan became quite invasive after all…

Here is a sample of the photos we took:

Once we had the images, we processed them to get the outlines to send to the laser cutter, but since the machine was down, we continued with our second plan.

2) Knife Scan (invasive)

For our second scan we cut an apple in thin slices, lit from below so that the details of the texture were visible:

Then we created a gif animation of it:

, made a Processing sketch to reconstruct it in 3d:

, and finally recreated the effect using Kyle’s Slices Example code, from the Appropriating New Technologies class):

Response to A Doll’s House

Narrative Lab . 27/09/2012

(someone was wondering about Dr. Rank)
Dr. Rank’s role wasn’t very clear to me either, but now that I’m going over it backwards I’m starting to see his role better:

- Nora leaves because she realizes she must grow up. I think this happens because she sees that
a) in a moment of crisis, Helmer will not only not stand up for her but will punish her for being irresponsible.
b) after the crisis has passed, he will make sure that she continues to be so (she has “double attractiveness” to him because of being irresponsible)

- Nora only gets to see a) because K. decides not to reclaim his letter, and b) because he returns the bond.

And I think this is where Dr. Rank comes in. If Mrs. Linde hadn’t seen his relationship with Nora (he was interested, she was encouraging, she was willing to ask for his money behind her husband’s back, etc.), she might have let K. ask for his letter back. Also, the news of his dying soon seemed to affect Nora –it was after that that she told Helmer to read the letter.

I also felt the change in Nora was a bit abrupt. Not so much her decision -–and how she came to it exaclty became clearer after looking for causes and effects– but how well she articulated it. She just had this great insight and is already able to explain it so clearly? It takes me months to be able to talk like that about anything…

It’s been interesting to look into the domino effect. I had the sensation while I was reading the play that it moved forward like the gears in a clock, but I didn’t really see the connections clearly. It makes me want to draw a graph of events. I started, but didn’t get to include everything.

I was also surprised to see such a strong argument for women in a play from the 19th century. Yes: go Ibsen.

Response to Ball’s Backwards & Forwards

Narrative Lab . 20/09/2012

I had fun reading Hamlet. I’d never read Shakespeare before, and I didn’t even know the story well, so there was even suspense for me.

I appreciated Ball’s description of themes as results that emerge by themselves and cannot be superimposed a priori and, probably for related reasons, his backwards reading technique. I’m having a hard time articulating why, but I’ll try.

The first class, I was struck by the strong reactions people have to the narrative arc. To me, it seemed to be a quite harmless description of the things that the stories people enjoy have in common. That it was linear seemed to be a natural consequence of our experience of time being linear. But then I’ve never had a drama or narrative-related class before. Reading about Ball’s backwards analyzing technique triggered an association that made me understand those reactions better (I think…).

I don’t have a reaction to the narrative arc, but I did use to have a strong, visceral reaction to some software engineering processes. I am sure the series of words “Requirements->Design->Development->Test” seems harmless enough to a theatre student. To me, they feel rigid, false, oppressive. As an engineering student, I often felt inadequate. I did great, but the way I worked, compared to The Proper Methods I was taught (or perhaps perceived), seemed to be messy and unprofessional. I eventually rebelled against these processes, throwing away thesis project templates and declaring, with my team, that we would create our own. I had two surprises coming. The first one was that our teachers were completely supportive of this –their process templates were intended as guides, not forms to be filled in, as many people treated them. The second surprise came after we finished our project, and documented our year of work. Looking backwards, the open, evolving, sometimes chaotic process we followed became linear, orderly, clean. This was for the reason Ball articulates so well: “the present demands and reveals a specific [I would add 'linear'] past”.

I feel the same kind of rejection towards CV’s and titles, and other structures as well (from politics, religion…). But perhaps the linear structures we know are not bad in themselves –in engineering, playwriting, whatever else. Most probably come from thoughtful people looking back and trying to understand things. Like Aristotle in Poetics. But they do become problematic when people start presenting them as prescriptive (McKee sometimes does this in Story; Ball certainly does in some passages, he even talks about ‘sub-moronic readers’!), when they start being imposed on us or –and perhaps worse–, when we adopt them as laws ourselves, stop seeing them, as well as the alternative paths we can take.

So I think it’s worth it to study linear narrative, and whatever people who have observed it have observed. Even those who sound irritatingly formulaic (like McKee does at some passages). Even if there are no real insights there, it might be a way to start seeing structures that are so internalized that we don’t perceive them anymore. Also, I really enjoy linear narrative. I wonder why exactly. But I’ll leave that for another day.

Response to Aristotle’s Poetics

Narrative Lab . 13/09/2012

Reading Aristotle for the first time, I was strangely reminded of Brian, the dog from Family Guy who is an example in education and good sense, but has sudden dog-like behaviors every now and then. I kept reading passages that made me forget the age of this text, only to be reminded by the listing of “flute-playing” and “lyre-playing” as two distinct types of art. Very amusing.

Here are a few passages of the first kind.

“Whether Tragedy has as yet perfected its proper types or not; and whether it is to be judged in itself, or in relation also to the audience -this raises another question”. –Could this not be said about interactive narrative?

And: “Having passed through many changes, it found its natural form, and there it stopped”. This is interesting: that there might be a “natural form” for different media. My first reaction is to think that things are dynamic and evolve, and that this can’t be true. But then the fact that, so many centuries later, we’re reading this book as a reference, makes me think perhaps I should reconsider.

The only common thread I can think of between these last two is that both might be in a self-help book for us interactive narrators:

1)”(…) the poet’s function is to describe, not the thing that has happened, but a kind of thing that might happen (…) Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars”
(I’d title it “You are a poet. You state universals.”)

2) “This is now especially necessary owing to the unfair criticism to which the poet is subjected in these days. Just because there have been poets before him strong in the several species of tragedy, the critics now expect the one man to surpass that which was the strong point of each one of his predecessors.”
(“You’re not Turing. You’re not Mozart. You’re not Hitchcock. It’s okay.”)


Recurring Concepts in Art . 10/05/2012

Georgia Krantz’s prompt for our Recurring Concepts in Art project was to reinterpret a past new media project we had made, without using technology. Michael Colombo and I chose to reinterpret my project Caja de Música, and created Crossfader, “a touch-activated wireless multi-user controller for cross-culture song translation”. Here it is.