Thesis Abstract (version 0.4)

Written by on 3rd October 2011 in "Official" Papers, Thoughts with 0 Comments

We live in a computational world with increasingly blurry lines between our physical and virtual lives. Our modern world is more orderly, more systematic, and more governed by algorithms than ever before. As technology gets pumped out faster and faster, ubiquitous networked computing pervades everything from our built environment to our front pockets. What effect does this have on our lives? Technologists often rush forward, in the name of progress, without looking back to reflect upon the effects (or missed opportunities) in their wake. Focusing on the “how” instead of the “why” these new pioneers develop faster and better ways of systemizing, quantifying, and tagging the world. Are we in turn becoming more modular and predictable like the very machines we rely on?

Within these new systems, what becomes of the role of the human? Where is the space for a diversity of human intervention, improvisation, and interpretation? As algorithmic thinking becomes an increasingly valuable skill, we must create space for capricious thinking to flourish as well. Let’s remember to humanize technology instead of just technologizing humans. Jonathan Harris’ work as a computer scientist, storyteller, and artist, has also revolved around this idea. He reasons, “people’s behavior is largely influenced by the context in which they live…When we design spaces (real or virtual), we need to take responsibility for the types of behavior those spaces are likely to encourage.”(1) What type of behaviors do the engineers and accountants of our current spaces, both real and virtual, value? In addition to these behaviors, what type of cultural identities and ideologies are promoted through the technologies we’ve welcomed into our every day lives?

It seems many of our spaces and technologies are built by people who value unquestioned logic, depersonalized consumption and cerebral objectivity. On the other hand, I value questionable hunches, personalized creation, and emotional subjectivity. With these values in mind, I want to mash up our everyday spaces and technologies as a way to create alternative uses for them, challenging arbitrary systems of so-called technological and cultural progress. I want to hack together our existing real and virtual worlds as way to explore (and exploit) the absurd assumptions that both hold these worlds together and keep them apart. For instance, I am especially interested in the space between work and play. The idea of work was once confined to the tangible real world, while play was allowed to exist in the intangible imaginary realm. Now that much of our work occurs within an increasingly virtual world, I am interested in exploring opportunities to incorporate play into our everyday interactions with technology at work. At the same time I’m interested in what aspects of working can be elevated to the status of play, and how that can alter our view of what it means to work. By encouraging the co-existence of creative free play in both our digital and physical lives, I am hoping to create new spaces of possibility for others to build upon. Other themes I’m interested in exploring include our notions of physical & virtual communities, high & low tech, and public & private property. Starting points include: combining playful games & banal applications, handicrafts & handheld computing, and the environments where we encounter these systems & each other.

I bring to the conversation my skills (in design, illustration, animation, and making) as tools for generating discussion about our everyday relationship with technology. Hopefully as the ecosystem of my experiments evolve, new ideas about progress will emerge to serve as “an alternative to the programmed myth that there is only one future on the flat graph that goes up and to the right.”(2) And perhaps in the process of exploring these experiments, I can create a scaffolding to empower and inspire a diverse group people to take control of their own experiences and relationships with technology.

1 Jonathan Harris . World Building in a Crazy World . World Builders.” Web. 26 Sept. 2011.

2 Julian Bleecker. “Design Fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction.” PDF file.


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Would you like a souvenir photo?

Written by on 2nd October 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

This is a quick comp, playing around with more street view stuff. Using street view as a way to pretend you’re somewhere that your not. I imagine dropping into street view mode and immediately being greeted with this photographer asking for access to your laptop camera. If granted, you would then get a postcard mailed to you of your visit to Google Street View, from the perspective of the photographer of course. I like the idea of the camera breaking the screen’s barrier between you and the street view version of the real world, and the result of that digital interaction leaving the digital world again to return as a physical object. Also odd is that you as a human look at Street View through the eye of a non-human controlled camera while the non-human camera is looking back at you from the perspective of a human holding a camera. *mind blowing*

I remember going on a cruise with my family in high school and immediately after getting to an island this photographer ran up and started taking our photos. When we returned after exploring the island everyone’s photos were already embedded onto these commemorative plates. We were amazed by their production speed so of course my parents bought them and so now they have a plate with me walking down the ramp of our ship. It’s not even of any sort of interesting scenery! I find the whole notion of taking tourist photos and buying souvenirs to be sort of fascinating (obviously).

This is a pic from when I went down to MacArthur Park in Westlake earlier this year. Note that there’s not one, but TWO fake LA backdrops you can get your photo taken with! Why would anyone want their photo with this instead of the real version of LA available for free in any other direction? Is it because what we want to remember about our trip is not what it was actually like? Do we prefer the postcard version instead of the real thing? Why do we send postcards with photos on them that we didn’t even take? Because they’re better than the photos we can take? Is it less credible to have a postcard with a photo taken by the street view car? Isn’t it actually MORE authentic of an image because the human subjectivity of the image composition has been removed?

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On the Street: a first person creator

Written by on 2nd October 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

SUPER rough first pass at a literal mashup of Google Streetview and Garry’s Mod. Aside from the rough key I’m pretty impressed with how well it actually lined up. I think it’s an interesting way to think about creating things in the real world.

I would say that most people who are building things for the “real” world do it using CAD, looking at things from their top-down, bird’s eye view of the structure. Sure you can get in there with a camera to sort of see what it would be like inside, but it’s not quite the same as being able to play test a structure from a first person perspective in the environment. Obviously, CAD is super useful when you’re actually creating construction documents and instructions for people to build things that won’t collapse on people. But what if you don’t mind so much if it’s not perfect? Maybe all you need is a picture and some general guidelines that you can pass on to let the person doing the constructing. Maybe they could have some freedom to interpret and build upon your idea. Or, if it actually needs to be perfect, why not remove the human all together and just let a robot print it in 3D?

This is an actual screen shot from Google’s 3D mapping site guidelines. Basically Google “lets” you model real world buildings and place them in Google Earth. But they seriously take all the fun out of it. Plus it’s still from a birds eye view anyways, which isn’t terribly interesting to me.

These are Google’s guidelines:

  • Represent real and permanent structures
  • Be better than all other alternatives
  • Be textured with photographs
  • Be correctly aligned with the imagery in Google Earth
  • Not include more than one discrete structure
  • Not float above or be sunken under the ground
  • Not include an excess of constructed terrain
  • Not include bundled entourage
  • Be the correct height and scale
  • Not exhibit Z-fighting
  • Not contain advertising or spam
  • Be complete
  • Not be too complex
I would propose a system that is more like the penguin picture. One that follows an alternate set of guidelines, that would yield much more interesting results.:
  • Represent imagined and temporary structures
  • Be different than all the other alternatives
  • Be textured with anything
  • Challenge the imagery in Google Earth
  • Include as many structures as desired
  • Defy laws of physics
  • Create new terrains
  • Include an entourage
  • Challenge the notions of “correct” scale
  • Fight z-space
  • Embrace the materiality of ads and spam
  • Be incomplete
  • Be very complex.

 

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Play Slideshow

Written by on 2nd October 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

Here’s a video of the first working prototype of “Play Slideshow” (apparently the name Keypoint is already an actual app), an alternative interface for slideshow presentation creation. The text was randomly generated using an online bullshit generator and the images are some of the many stock images I happen to actually own of “business” people.

It’s pretty rough but all the mechanics are there. Basically every 20 seconds (pechakucha style!) it goes to the next slide, restarting the process.  I wanted to put a countdown timer in there, it seems like it should be easy, but I couldn’t get it working yet. But I think that would help with making it seem less like a random jump. It’s obviously a lot like Tetris in its physics, but unlike Tetris you don’t clear anything off your screen. Instead you sort of just keep playing for as long as you can stand playing it. I actually played it for about 6 minutes. It’s surprisingly relaxing.

It was built pretty quickly in Gamesalad. I am loving how fast the prototyping is with this. I was originally going to animate in AE but I think it’s actually easier to build the working prototype and not have to deal with rendering anything! I think the best part about it is that it’s helping me understand the overall logic without getting stuck debugging stupid semantics. If I were to build it out further and for real I might try doing it in something else but at least this way I understand what I would need to do to get it going. The benefit to building it out in something else would be the ability to import the user’s own content folder, being able to save out the resulting slides, and being able to make legitimate Classes! Maybe there’s a way to do it in GS but I haven’t found it. I’ve just been copy and pasting a custom behavior onto all the dropping objects.

 

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Z-mail incremental updates

Written by on 28th September 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

Just a little incremental update to the Zombie Mail experiment. Newest part being the “Filters” page, where you could design & assign different types of zombies to different types of emails. And the Search eyeball on the bottom. Also animating my main character’s walk/shuffle cycle.

I sort of don’t want to over design the interface at this stage, but instead just get enough of it in there to get the idea across. I know there’s tons of details to figure out logically but I sort of want to keep it at a sketch phase for now, even though my sketch happens to be animated.

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Everything

Written by on 27th September 2011 in References with 0 Comments

I love this quote from Keita Takahashi, who made Katamari Damacy but has since left games for playground design (my bolding):

When making videogames, I’ve tried to develop them in such a way so they may be enjoyed by anyone. Also, I believe that things other than what’s usually considered the game, such as a settings/options screen, can be a part of play. Gameplay isn’t just inside the game; everything is the game. Everything should be part of the fun. With this approach in mind, a playground wasn’t something for children only—I want to make something they can enjoy together with their parents as well. That skill, or rather, attitude, is definitely there.

-Everything Is the Game

Also this quote from Mary Poppins, which I oddly came across at the bottom of a menu in a hotel restaurant this summer:

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You’ll find the fun, and…snap! (snaps fingers) The job’s a game!

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Jesse Schell’s Lecture

Written by on 27th September 2011 in References, Thoughts with 0 Comments

I remember watching this video last year, but re-watching it again just now it’s clear how super relevant it is to the stuff I’m thinking about. Lots of great little insights in this, particularly about our emerging hunger for reality. Jessie is also a very animated presenter and it’s full of funny little things. And I think this pic is awesome. I don’t know who to attribute it to aside from The Internet:

 

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Googmazon Fresh

Written by on 27th September 2011 in Sketches, Thoughts with 0 Comments

This was an idea the came about after meeting with Tim and the rest of our thesis group. I talked to Bora about it yesterday too cause it seems to overlap some with her interests so maybe we can do something with it together.

Basically it imagines an interface like Garry’s Mod applied to Google street view. There’s also an additional interface element to let you Do The Timewarp and see what the place looked like at a different time. You can open up an (Amazon-like) inventory of props that you can drop into the street view and interact with and rotate. You can also attach other items together to create new things. When you’re done you check out to pay for your creation. Later that evening Goog-mazon Fresh delivery/printing truck and an operator appear at the site In Real Life to spawn your purchase. The next morning you go check out the spot and it’s there! Of course it’s subject to all sorts of errors and things, but there’s no returns anyways. And since you’ve paid for it no one can take it down!

It’s inspired by some of the Garry’s Mod stuff I was playing with this weekend but I think it’s also interesting how it relates to some of the Google Street view compositing things I did for Anne’s project this summer,as well as the 3D spam printer in the spring:

 

 

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Thesis Abstract. (version 0.3)

Written by on 26th September 2011 in "Official" Papers, Thoughts with 0 Comments

We live in a computational world with increasingly blurry lines between our physical and virtual lives. Our modern world is more orderly, more systematic, and more governed by algorithms than ever before. As technology gets pumped out faster and faster, ubiquitous computing pervades everything from our built environment to our front pockets. Technologists are often rushing forward, in the name of progress, without looking back to understand the effects (or missed opportunities) in their wake. Focusing on the “how” instead of the “why” these new pioneers develop faster and better ways of systemizing, quantifying, and tagging the world, making us more modular and predictable like the very machines we rely on.

But where is the space for human intervention and interpretation? How can we humanize technology instead of technologizing humans? Jonathan Harris’ work as a computer scientist, storyteller, and artist, has also revolved around this idea. He reasons, “people’s behavior is largely influenced by the context in which they live…When we design spaces (real or virtual), we need to take responsibility for the types of behavior those spaces are likely to encourage.”(1) What type of behaviors do our current real and virtual spaces value?  I value chance, subjectivity, and platforms for discovery through research “on open water” versus “on the ground,” as Terence Rosenberg calls it.(2) Following a hunch instead of purely scientific logic is a process too nuanced to be predicted by anything other than a human. With these values in mind, I want to hack together virtual systems and physical objects to encourage the co-existence of creative free play in both virtual and physical space. I want to reshape our everyday technologies. Starting points include: our banal office productivity software, smart but homogenous hardware, and environments where we encounter these systems & each other. I choose to not accept arbitrary systems of so-called technological and cultural progress. I too believe “deep within every rational system holding societies together are assumptions that, if taken to their logical conclusion, tend toward absurdity. As such, they are highly fertile terrain for artistic exploration.”(3) Our socialized beliefs about physical & virtual communities, the separation of work & play, craft & technology, and public space are all up for grabs. I want to hack into these assumptions by modifying, re-contextualizing, and repurposing the “new-yesterday-but-now-obsolete” technologies and built environments of tomorrow.

Not being an engineer, I realize I may not have the resources to be a technological tool creator. But in combination with people like product designers, architects, game designers, and programmers, perhaps we could be more than just consumers. By collaborating and leveraging my skills (as a designer, illustrator, animator, and maker) I hope to bring to life more nuanced, personal and meaningful experiences as “an alternative to the programmed myth that there is only one future on the flat graph that goes up and to the right.”(4) And perhaps in the process of exploring these interests, I can create a scaffolding to empower and inspire a diverse group people to take control of their own experiences and relationships with technology.

 

1 Jonathan Harris . World Building in a Crazy World . World Builders.” Web. 26 Sept. 2011.

2 Terence Rosenberg. The Reservoir: Towards a Poetic Model of Research in Design.” PDF file.

3 Hou, Jeffrey. Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities. 1st ed. Routledge, 2010. Print. 55.

4 Julian Bleecker. “Design Fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction.” PDF file.

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First Person Creator

Written by on 26th September 2011 in Experiments, References, Thoughts with 0 Comments

We went to Crash Space for a class on making 3D games with Valve’s Source SDK. I didn’t realize the SDK was only available on the PC side so I spent a good part of the time downloading Half-Life 2 and the SDK for VMware while watching him go through how to get things done. By the end I was able to make a room and texture it and be able to walk around in it. It’s kind of fun but a little too much for what I want to do I think. But the part that I thought was super valuable was talking about other platforms for 3D game making, which I spent today researching/playing. Here’s an overview of the various engines I’ve messed with this weekend, from Lo-Fi to Hi-fi

Minecraft ($20)

8-bit style block based ‘sandbox’ game. You have different elements and things you can put together in various ways. Also some 8 bit monsters you have to avoid when it gets dark out. Apparently the game already has a huge following (3 million downloads) despite the fact that it’s still in Beta.  I sort of like it but of course it’s pretty limiting. Not sure if it would be useful for my purposes yet. I think I like the idea of it more than the actual game..

Second Life (free)

I have never really been interested in Second Life, but I figured I should at least give it a go to see why not. For some reason it’s just always been terribly uninteresting to me. Maybe because even though you CAN make stuff it seems like its main purpose is more about going to various worlds and hanging out with random people. Just a glorified 3D chat room. I also realized I just think it’s horribly ugly, like the old MySpace of 3D worlds, which I guess has some charm. But I dunno, not into it.

Valve Source SDK & Hammer Editor (as little as $8 for one Valve game)

What I was originally going to the class for. Super powerful stuff if you want to get into the nitty gritty of making your own maps and things. But it’s PC only and the editor is like working in CAD. And there’s a whole bunch of stuff to tweak parameter wise. In order to test it you have to “Run Map” which loads up in Half-Life 2.

Garry’s Mod ($10 + a Valve game)

Garry’s Mod is the most exciting ‘sandbox’ game to me. It’s built off of Valve’s Source SDK so it works with the other Valve game assets if you bought the original games (Half-Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress came with my pack). But there’s not actually any goals or missions or anything in the game. You just make stuff (and of course destroy stuff if you want).

Unlike other editors there is no separate “editor” view. Everything just gets spawned into the game realtime, resulting in a very bottom-up vs. top-down view of things. So if you’re placing things you have to walk around and see where it’s going to go. It’s not exactly like building in real life (you’re using a big physics gun to position and rotate huge things after all) but it gives more of a user-centered kind of view.  The rendering engine is also super powerful so things look pretty nice, and objects have physics built in already. Although sometimes I don’t understand the wonky physics. I was just trying to put some cars on the road and I kept accidentally throwing them across the way, which is only funny the first few times. I spent about 3 hours off an on messing with this today. Mostly just trying to figure out how everything worked. I had couches hanging from ropes on water towers and cars piled up and random houses and just a bunch of stuff. Favorite thing is probably the BBC radio which is just a little radio prop that streams live music from BBC. (It’d be cool to get a KEXP radio up in there too). The above screenshot is my little sculpture/playground installation : ) I like the idea of using it as a tool to prototype big interactive architecture installations.

Another really interesting thing is that you can also script things for it using Lua, which looks pretty simple. Also exciting are things like this Kinect + Gmod video example.

Unity 3D (free–till you want a commercial licene for a game)

 

I’ve heard Unity 3D come up several times in conversations. It’s obviously SUPER powerful and capable of making a wide range of games from the looks of their demo reel. And one of the guys at the workshop says they use it at work all the time to make marketing games for various movies and things. Still has a somewhat typical 3D editor view but also has a tab for the game view so you can test it out while in the editor. The above game is a free demo that come with it. Super nice graphics. And runs natively on the Mac. I think if I wanted to get more serious about building 3D games I’d dive into it more, but for now it seems a little bit over kill for my needs.

Overall 

Garry’s mod definitely wins for me.. at least for now. Unfortunately no matter what 3D first-person game I play I get physically queazy after I play them too long. There is something about the crazy control views and things that messes with my equilibrium where I seriously feel like throwing up after playing too much. Jeremy wonders if taking Dramamine would make it better. It seems like it’d be weird to take a drug to not feel sick while playing a game, though kind of interesting. But this is one of the many reasons I prefer side scrolling games. (Another downside is I think I may have inadvertently gotten Angelo hooked to Half-Life 2 now.)

The weird thing is I’m not actually even that much of a gamer, though having played when I was younger I certainly have an appreciation for them. I don’t want to make some machinima movies or anything either though. I think the most fascinating part is the weird mash up of 3rd party content in gmod, where people are just creating their own assets to share. For instance there are tons of Minecraft assets you can add. Or there was a map that was made to look like an old school NES Mario Kart track where you could race with the Half-Life 2 jeep.

I’m mainly interested in these engines as tools for creating interactive prototypes for other things, especially larger scale architectural things. 

 

 

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