Archive for May, 2013

Friday, 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 nature.

I don’t want to be all over the place but who cares: so CSS and HTML and Javascript. To me, this combination is as relevant to us as Gutenberg’s printing press. Am I right?

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?



Wednesday, 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?

IML400 Spring 2013: Done

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Today I finished the second iteration of IML400 at USC. It was a delight to sit through the final project presentations and witness my students walk us through the culmination of their semester work. Most of them tried programming for the first time in my class, and managed to express themselves using javascript in the web by the end of the semester. I guess I must be doing something right.

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.