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An interlude.
As I am approaching the end of my MFA odyssey my schedule is something like: roll out of bed. work. work. work. work. maybe eat, most likely not. work. work. work. stress out. cry. work. question belief system. work. work. work. collapse. So when Processing creates something quite lovely out of a misplaced for loop, I can't help but go "awww, math is beautiful."

Processing 1.1 just released too. I heart Processing.

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Friday, March 12, 2010 // 0 Comments

Actually using Processing to, like, sketch?
I don't know when this happened but it is now much easier and faster for me to create certain kinds of complex illustrations with Processing than with Illustrator. Weird.

So a network in the context of the assignment I'm working on (go school!) is basically just interconnected units. This needn't have any hierarchy but for whatever reason I chose hierarchy (and now that I type that, I'm going to have to do a non-hierarchical sketch. I kinda can't stand unexplored rocks). So, right now a subunit connects to a main unit which then connects to another main unit which can connect back down to a subunit. I sketched this in my sketchbook, then immediately went to Illustrator and started putting together the sketch.

To be fair, I am quite solid with Illustrator but I don't know the nuances of it the way I know Photoshop and Indesign. There may be a macro-ish function that would allow me to use Illustrator to generate a random number of random beziers which emanate from a single point and then to interconnect each single point with x number of other sets of bezier "flowers." I don't know how to do this, however, and so I would've done the entire sketch by hand and it would've taken me a significantly longer amount of time than it took me to write a Processing program that did the same thing. (That, I wrote in 30 minutes).

And when sketching other parts of the assignment, I can take the same Processing sketch, add two lines of code and have a new sketch. Working with Eclipse lately has definitely shown me how specific (and simple) Processing is in comparison. I am certainly no expert and probably never will be and it's taken 9 months of near daily stammering and cursing to even be vaguely proficient but compare that to the years of study it takes to become a good programmer and I feel like I've found a very pleasant middle ground.

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Friday, September 4, 2009 // 0 Comments

Synesketch and Eclipse
Synesketch is a Java library that translates text into visual representations of emotion. To implement this, I had to move from the Processing development environment to Eclipse. I've heard it's easy to transition, but apparently I've only heard LIES!

What the hell is "Ant" and why does it keep popping up when I try to run something? Why did it take 15 minutes to figure out how to turn on line numbers? What's a package and why is Eclipse hollering at me for using the default? What the hell is try and why do I keep having to use it to catch exceptions? Processing is fairly easy for designers with no programming background at all. Eclipse is probably easier to work in if you're a programmer but most designers I know will look at this program and its infinite buttons and unfamiliar words, go "wah" and move on.

That being said, I really, really, really wanted to play with this library so I managed to get it working, sort of. It broke when I tried to add text fields since I'm not sure how/where fonts need to be stored.

Above are the patterns for the six basic emotions (originally defined by Paul Ekman) included in the Synesketch package. I spent some time this morning inputting text to test the patterns to make sure they worked. Then I decided to "analyze" the home pages of a couple of news sites. I use analyze in quotes because I have no idea what kinds of algorithms are used and even if I did know I probably would not understand. That being said, look what came up with the below news sites!

Fox is angry as hell. Msnbc is a little bit scared, a little bit disgusted and a little bit saaaaad. It would be fantastic fun to create some kind of standalone or web app using this library. I'd like to run something that analyzed some set of websites every day and collected that data over time. Although now that I write that, it'd be possible to hook the library through the NYTimes api so we wouldn't have to wait to accumulate that data. Oh, internet, how much joy you bring.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009 // 0 Comments

Mentions of War in the NYTimes from 1981-2009
One down, two to go. This is one of my final projects for my interactive studio. I figured I'd go ahead and document it before I forgot about it. Plus, I just got back a 42x30" poster and it's perty.

So this graph is the updated version of its little cousin. I just changed the proportions of the graph so it would fit in a traditional poster size (and was therefore cheaper to print), let the highest bars display off the chart so it was easier to see the smaller number of mentions, and rewrote the code a tad so it would display the number of mentions and the war mentioned on the actual bar as well as printing the months at the bottom of the print. I also removed the random opacity. It added a nice texture but it didn't really add any information. Instead, I made all the bars slightly transparent so it was possible to see other wars underneath it. Here's a close-up.

Yay! One project down. Two more to complete.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009 // 0 Comments

Interaction Studio Final Project - Part One
For our Interaction Scripting Studio final project, I am focusing on my data visualizations of war, films, media and probably death counts (or maybe just make puppy viewer work dynamically).

So tons of websites with large amounts of data are making APIs available to developers for application development and visualization (Flickr, Twitter, NYTimes, pretty much any next gen website, etc). There are also sites that provide visualization tools for you and encourage experimentation. The NYTimes Viz Lab is one of them. They provide a set number of datasets and a number of tools (like Wordle) and let people go crazy. Google also provides tons of tools including their Google Visualization API. IBM's Many Eyes takes it a step further and allows users to add their own data sets.

It's an exciting field and it makes my brain buzz. However, I found this article in SEED Magazine Getting Past the Pie Chart that talks about how, perhaps, the data viz explosion may not be making data any clearer. There is also a very real danger of making causal connections where none exist.

Still, data visualization done well can be a combination of design and science which becomes beautiful, meaningful and inspiring. I absolutely love it. Here is a screenshot of a project I'm working on. It's the further refinement of one of my original circle graphs. What I'd like to do is see if I can add some more stats to the graph without overloading it. In my head that means tilting the graph back to add a third dimension and perhaps including casualty data vertically from each war (and if I can find it, for each movie the films are about).

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Saturday, April 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

procrastinating student + flickr api = ?
The end of the semester is three weeks away. I have a game to program, a visualization or two to finish and a research paper and business plan to write. Yet for whatever reason, all I could do today was start making this thing. (For some context, Miss Trish is the name of a stray dog with a crazy under bite that I saw in a book called Street Dogs.)

So this is a tag search for the word "pomeranian" on Flickr. I wrote a Processing program that takes tag input, creates a url, sends it, parses the response and then spits out an html page. I spend such an inordinate amount of time looking at cute (and ridiculous) dogs on the internet that I thought it might be fun to see how many dogs I could handle looking at at once. A lot, apparently.

Anyway, it's in progress. If I have time I will figure out a way to add a web interface (so, perhaps if someone wants to look at tons of pictures of butterflies on flickr all at once, they need not go through page after page of scrollin'). Also, the images should probably link to the flickr page instead of just the image. Either way, I should probably get back to my school work, even though it doesn't involve hundreds of pictures of puppies.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009 // 0 Comments

war & film data visualizations, part two
More data visualizations. These all use Processing. The data I eventually was able to scrape includes info from IMDB and the NYTimes API. The first one pulls total instances of the wars as keywords in NYTimes articles from 1981-2008 (they don't have anything indexed before 1981 at the moment), then it spits it out into a long bar chart. The large orange spike is the beginning of the Gulf War. The subsequent yellow/orange spikes are 9/11 and the brownish color spike is the start of the Iraq War. I have no idea what the strange WWII peak around 10/95 is.

This visualization uses both the NYTimes Articles API and the scraping from IMDB. It is a comparison between word counts in the NYTimes abstracts where WWII is a keyword and the descriptions on IMDB of WWII movies. I haven't actually looked at this that much as I just wrote it today (this stuff is all due tomorrow) but the first thing I notice is that in "reality" (the NYTimes articles) Japan features much larger than Germany whereas in the movie descriptions, Germany shows up more often.

These last two visualizations are of the same data set. The most popular movies about wars (according to IMDB) from 1900-2008.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009 // 0 Comments

accidental visuals
So for one of my interactive studios (all my posts start off this way, I should think of something different to say, perhaps involving time vampires) we're doing small programs using sound and choice. Our first two projects were to make a soundboard out of a comic and make an instrument. I predictably pulled something from TekkonKinkreet and added some Buddhist chanting. Then I made some virtual bongos. Painfully simple projects as my brain needed a bit of a Processing break. We have four more projects using sound and choice to create for next Thursday and I've started slowly on a couple with ideas for more in the works.

One is an applet that takes words and plays sounds with them. I'm not entirely sure how I want this to work, or, more correctly, I know exactly what I want this to do, I just don't entirely know how to make it work so that it does what I want it to do. I've spent most of the day poking around with code (making sure a sample plays once instead of starting and restarting over and over again, attempting to split apart tracks so that I can make the applet color-sensitive, etc) and I accidentally ended up with a simple Processing music visualizer. It looks something like this:

I can't really use this for class because it doesn't involve any choice (and I think it'd be kind of lame to slap a text field on here and say "you can change the music" and have *that* be the choice aspect) but I think it's a lovely accident. Much thanks to my awesome classmate Bryan Bindloss, who provided the fantastic samples I've been playing with all day.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009 // 1 Comments

So for one of our projects for one of my interaction design classes, we have to design and program valentine's widget thingys. Sounds fine to me. I've been sketching over the past couple of days and cobbling together code and so far I have a semi-working, proto-basic sound recorder that displays different red waves based on sound input. Here's a screenshot.

I have to figure out how to take a screen shot and email it (will probably write the image to a buffer and send that) but so far, so fun!

Also, here's a screen shot of the LED clock I programmed for last week. Look at those lovely plotted out vector points that took me 2 hours to plot.

And finally, final fake Furby. The eyelids and beak-simulators move, in a way. Most people in my class did paper prototypes but I think that the physicality of Furby would not translate in paper.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009 // 0 Comments

of time and the river
I had my first week of class last week. It was mostly syllabus-going over, classmate-greeting, self-introducing business. It's strange to suddenly be constantly, insanely busy during the school term after being constantly non-busy during break. I already miss puttering around the apartment, organizing random things, playing video games and the unabashed slacking I've been doing for the past month.

One of my first assignments is to program a series of clocks using Processing (as it says "an open source programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and interactions"). It is not a super-complicated language and is fairly easy to pick up just through the web and a book or two.

But enough about that. Clocks are rad. The first two clocks we need to program are supposed to mimic an analog clock and a digital LED clock. The rest can be whatever kinds of clocks we feel like making. I want to make a clock based on the movements of my cat throughout the day. I have no idea what that means graphically yet but I find it entertaining to think of a clock that meows everyday at 5am. I also want to make a clock out of sound. It could start by following the clock tower, church bell, bong pattern, but I also want the sound itself to be expressive of time passing. At certain intervals the sounds themselves get more frantic (i.e., right before the top of the hour, the sound is crazy and/or right before midnight). Something like that.

I've finished a working version of the LED clock and I can say plotting all the points for each section of the numbers is the most tedious thing I've done in a long time. So, just in case someone ever needs to script LEDs and doesn't feel like figuring out all the points on a graph, here are the coordinates for an 8 (which should cover all numbers 0-9). It's not the prettiest but I think you could make the middle bar a little thinner and it wouldn't be so clunky.








Also of note, links for inspiration: 24 Creative Modern Clock Designs and Tokyoflash Japan.

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Monday, January 19, 2009 // 0 Comments


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