August 21st, 2013
I recently rediscovered a video recording iPhone app called 8mm. Evidently, it makes your mobile video look like an old movie filmed with an eight millimeter camera.
Every time I go for a walk I take my phone out to record locations, landscapes, moments, or anything else that calls my attention. Last Wednesday I was walking back to the office when I saw these two guys asking the mailman to take a picture of them using a picturesque Venice wall as a background. I walked right in the middle of their interaction and recorded them as I walked by. The mailman took off in my direction and the other two guys just walked away into Rose Ave.
Then yesterday while browsing through my Tumblr dashboard I stumble upon the picture taken by the mailman in some Hip Hop blog I follow. The original post is here. The blog I follow and the original item were separated by a long list of intermediaries (more than 20).
This is the first time I find myself experiencing a moment where the following two conditions are satisfied:
1. This moment is recorded by me and by at least one stranger.
2. The stranger’s recording of this moment finds it’s way to me through an online social network.
This might already happen to a lot of people, and I am expecting it to happen a lot more frequently in the future. For now, I am just going to upload my movie somewhere and somehow connect it to that picture.
August 13th, 2013
I just came back from giving a talk in Microsoft Research about Art and Digital Technology. Andrés Monroy-Hernandez from MS Fuse Labs was kind enough to invite me, and they already have a webpage with a video from my talk. I know I say “like” too often (sigh), but the idea still comes across strong. Let me know what you think!
Here is the draft I put together as an intro to the talk:
In a little more than three decades, digital technology has reshaped human communication, causing a profound impact in all aspects of culture, where new modes of creation, dissemination and consumption of cultural value have already created and erased whole industries. I will use the subject of art to explain what happened during the 20th century, and I will show how electronic and digital media played a key role shaping a new set of “Contemporary Art” principles. Furthermore, I will show how these principles find a perfect match in the digital medium itself, where objects are replaced by systems and processes, and contemplation is replaced by interaction and participation. Inspired by these principles, I will describe a series of software pieces that deal with issues of creativity, audience participation and cultural value.
June 20th, 2013
I have to say AngularJS hasn’t been exactly easy, but there have been several times where I have been surprised finding extremely simple ways to set up certain things, especially when binding event triggered method chains across completely separate scopes. It’s kind of great, even though all those directives are driving me crazy and the learning curve has been steep as hell.
May 31st, 2013
I can’t remember the last time I officially hand crafted a website. To be precise, this is not even a website, it’s just a webpage; I plan to update the rest of the website over the next few weeks, but for now, I feel this is a great first step.
Obviously, my first design goal here is to get visitors to download theBlu, but also to learn about it, to want it, and most importantly, to believe in it as a viable platform to communicate knowledge about biological systems. I think about this branch of digital media as the the simulation of life. And there is also the geographical aspect: mapping the environment where this life occurs. If they manage to simulate life well, computer networks will be the Petri Dish of the future.
And it is also interesting to think about the Darwins of the future, combined perhaps with the Pasteurs of the future and others (of the future too, LoL). Because scale is a controllable variable, in the digital realm, looking into the microscopic drama that unfolds inside a Petri Dish can become a similar experience to sailing across the world’s oceans from Galapagos to Galapagos or whatever. Furthermore, the digital explorer is not limited to just observing and collecting samples, but he or she can control time or even manipulate or create life in a way that in the future will probably be possible in the physical world too, but the big difference is that in the physical world we learn to control nature, when in the digital world (or playground) we figure out how to create something like figure out how to create something like nature.
And on that note, looking back in history to the precursors of other media –Étienne Jules Marey and his relation to animation, for example– do you think stuff like theBlu will be faced by the same lens a few hundred years from now? Does it even make sense to think like this today?
May 15th, 2013
Just saw some guy shooting a gun on the street in front of my window. Can’t I blog in peace in the middle of the night, just once?
May 14th, 2013
You can check out their projects in the IML400 website for now. I have heard the Storm server gets wiped every once in a while like other academic servers (something similar happened to us at the Media Lab PLW), but I am hoping the class work will be online for a while and you will be able to check it out.
I am proud of most of my students’ achievements, but I’m going to point a spotlight on Alexander Swenson’s project: the SOOTHSLAYER ELECTRIC TAROT, a playful interpretation of a fortune-telling experience through the reading of a Tarot-like card deck. In his own words, he didn’t want to deliver a useful product like everyone else, where a practical approach dominated the scene. Most of the students chose to develop projects that could have some degree of professional value. Online portfolios, company websites, product websites, etc.
Instead, Swenson focused on play, and used his newly acquired interaction design skills to craft a user interface where mystery and chance are experienced one Tarot card at a time. The website becomes the cards, the shuffle and the fortune teller. The reason for this? To make something cool.
On the technical side, he combined RaphaelJS with jQuery in an interesting way, where interactions with his SVG based animation trigger a series of events that request and load the right card from the deck into sliding iframes, very smooth!
Next is a sequence of snapshots from the final project defense session.
April 30th, 2013
Ah, we finally finished this monster, an iPad game called Superfugu by WemoLab, the digital studio formerly known as WemoMedia. I can’t really say we finished it, since it seems the very nature of digital games these days is to be in a perpetual state of flux. This makes sense, since the current state of digital media gives producers access to monitor their audiences’ behaviors, permitting for almost immediate reactions to compensate for negative outcomes. This means “I’ll change what you don’t like before you realize you don’t like it”, and it is after all, what cybernetics are about: an uninterrupted correction feedback loop.
I could spend hours comparing my recent experience of making a game with my long term experience of making movies, drawing analogies and postulating conclusions about what makes things work one way or the other, but I will only do this at a personal level next to a bottle of wine with those who are prepared to indulge me. I have never been a big fan of games the way I am a lover of movies or books, but I find the production of them fascinating from the perspective of management science. I’ve learned more lessons than ever on management —and team hierarchy/dynamics— working on a game than ever before, and this includes the time I spent in the crazy social education, innovation and production experiment called the MIT Media Lab.
I first got involved with Superfugu back around September 2012, and I have been working on it full time until today. I am responsible for the User Interface design and implementation (Unity and Ngui, eek), some character designs (especially the urchins, and all the 2D character versions), aspects of the story (and I got to make the intro comic!), the design/implementation of some features like Parent Mode, and supervising the production of important marketing assets like the Superfugu App Icon (by Oscar Award winner Andy Jones and yours truly, based on Anthony Batt‘s idea).
To me this chapter is done, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Download Superfugu in the App Store if you have an iPad (available May 1st). Then you can tell me what you think.