Saturday, April 30, 2011

52-Posts: Mash-up potential…

This week I am excited by my latest (new to me) exploration of something referred to as Generative Art 
Folks working in Data Visualization are likely familiar with this.  I am having fun specifically with something called processing; described in a Zenbullet blog post as, the entry point to generative art.  “Processing” uses an artist/user friendly version of Java to write algorithms that then execute in a browser or application window, dynamically drawing and/or animating an image constructed based on the parameters you set in the Java code functions (think scripting in second life with lsl) and on your interactions (some is mouse click/movement driven) .   Obviously, you can see from my confusing definition that I barely know what I’m talking about.  Still, I see a ton of possibilities.  Some of the images animations are so beautiful, some of the interactions are mapped to live action film and sound (Think Dizzy Banjo and his immersive sound installation at Dynafleur).  The possibilities are exciting.  First an example:
Extrude sample from processing. from Alexander Zats on Vimeo.
Extrude example from processing taken to the next level. Original:

See more on the Zenbullet blog or here. Very cool stuff I think.

I can’t help but wonder if there are ways to embed some of this coding and interactivity into the Linden Scripting language… maybe not… but what about using some of the dreaded Viewer 2.x style media functionality?  Similar to AM Radio’s (IDIA Lab "Destination"); in which, perhaps we could pass a few parameters (background colors/images, stroke color, speed or number of iterations – similar to particle scripting) then trigger an existing algorithm.  Imagine some shapes (orbiting, rotating, etc) textured with media loops of these animations that respond to mouse clicks… set them semi transparent and to phantom and immerse your avatar in a hallucination of sorts.  

At this point,  I’m excited about something I don’t know much about… perhaps some of the scripter’s out there have or will consider the possibilities (Oberon? … Glyph?.... others?).   I’d love to see some explorations of this in world. 

What are the tools?  Want more info? The Zenbullet’s page is a good inspirational jumping off point.  It was there I found the link to  Download the free development environment.  It comes with text editor and testing window – complete w/ automatic html generation for posting to the web).  Be sure to check out the examples at both sites.  Lastly see the tutorials and wiki (if the wiki loads saying there is no content - click the large P icon on the page to load the content - In Firefox 4.x I ran into this).

Below is a machinima clip I created in the past using a somewhat different tool that is more slider based vs writing code, called Chaoscope.  I played with it a while back, but didn’t really connect its possible mash-up possibilities until my recent JavaScript, html and css explorations.  

Chaos, Entropy, Order & Decay from Robward Antwerp on Vimeo.

Music by - Airtone... sampled from their song called Cricket soup.
 airtone / CC BY-NC 3.0

Don’t be intimidated by these tools… the Processor tool is very friendly and specifically aimed at non-programmers with some good tutorials.  Here is a simple example I completed after my first brief tutorial. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

52-Posts: Chasing Threads...

I have always been fascinated by ‘acts’ of creativity.  I have been thinking a lot about this lately.  Over time I’ve come to realize that acts of creativity are evidence of a larger and often wondrous process.  My starting point for this wonderment was the belief that I was not particularly creative.  Sure I’d accidentally done creative things, but rarely with intention. For a long time I viewed creativity as a sub-conscious process that in a "Tao of Physic’s" sort of way could not be truly identified.  If you grabbed it long enough to examine and identify it you somehow destroyed its purity.  

As I became more involved in virtual worlds, I became less comfortable with how I thought about creativity.  I found as I played in Second Life (see Reflections on Play)… I developed a delicious combination of discomfort and desire - to create.  As my years in the Metaverse evolved, I found myself actively pursuing and developing creatively.  Today, thinking of myself as not a 'creative type’ is not acceptable.  (I know ‘creative types’ out there are impatiently sighing at this too common lack of faith).   Now, I respond to this internal  dissonance by seeking to change how I think about and behave creatively. 

In that light, today I ran across a nice thread of thinking about the nature of creativity.  It started with the blog post in Dispatches from the Imagination Age referencing a piece that Rita J. King wrote titled “What is Creativity?” for  (In general, I’ve noticed that Ms. King does a wonderful and thought provoking job of approaching the idea of creativity from, for me, unexpected directions; such as, the commercial, business and science worlds via her work on the nature of Innovation). In her piece at she pointed me in a number of directions. 

A "take-away" for me is the affirmation that while creativity is about innovation, thinking, seeing, and expressing ‘new’ thoughts, ideas and concepts… it is also ‘grounded in what you already know’.  Yes thinking ‘outside the box’ is evidence of creativity, but creativity is also based on an understanding of ‘the box’.  Creativity is connected in time and content to all those who came before, either to define or defy ‘the box’.  Knowing one’s own relationship to and understanding of this history is a prerequisite for intentional creativity. 
I found this idea (mundane to some I am sure) helpful to understanding the current state of my evolving creative process.  My ‘studies’ over the last year, while quite tool based; but they are also part of my understanding of both how ‘the box’ is constructed as well as of the multitude of possibilities both within and without  ‘the box’. 

I can see I’ve spun myself up into a bit of an over-analytical lather about this; however, I feel a falling into place, or a better understanding of my own creative process.  To paraphrase Rita J. King - Creativity is not something elusive and removed from the regular stuff of life… creativity is within and a result of the regular stuff of life… or to put it in a more rarefied manner as Elizabeth King says at Stay Out of “Truly, creativity is the natural reciprocal of critical thinking”

As for my creative output this week… more fine-tuning of my Homepage project.  I’m learning JavaScript and noticing how it’s basic programming concepts connect to my previously less connected understanding of Linden Scripting Language.  I am also working on some new images… several of which will likely replace some of my stale imagery.

Enough rambling for now… enjoy chasing your own creative threads… may you wrap yourself in its wonderful cloth.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Music tip...

I love seeing, hearing, listening to and talking about music; thus, my impulse to share the music of Y La Bamba.  I was catching up on my blog reading today and ran across the mention of them. They are a ‘local’ Portland band and are rapidly gaining a wider audience.  At times, their sound elicits such an ethereal  feeling… I close my eyes and my ‘view’ almost floats then flutters slowly along.  The song that does this most powerfully (for me is) is “Winter’s Skin” on Lupon.  Luz Elena Mendoza’s hypnotic voice has such a graceful sense of movement.

But words do not suffice.  Consider these links and listen:
Alt.latinoblog post
Interview with Luz Elena
Y la Bamba

Luz Elena Mendoza of Y la Bamba

Y la Bamba

Music more than any other form of creative expression resists my ‘need’ to see what is ‘behind the curtain’ or to expose and sift thru its bones in an effort to ‘understand’ it.  For me music remains a fundamental and most powerful magic. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

52 Posts: Week 3 - Reflections on Play

Lately it seems many of us have been driven to reflect on our role(s) in and in relation to Second Life.   For me this reflection was kicked off when I ran across an article in January/February (yes I am behind in my reading) Technology Review.  In the magazine section was an article titled Serious Games * by Julian Diebell.  The tag line to the title captures the topic well:
“The online world of Second Life seemed like the next big thing, only to be largely written off.  Neither hypers nor detractors understood it.”

(*This article requires a paid subscription or use of ‘reading credits’ with a ‘free’ subscription.  I find the review fascinating and worth the cash.  I did think about just copying it to this blog post - too long to quote; however, if you are curious about the article I will be happy to email it to the email account of your choice.)

Despite the use of the past tense “understood” implying Second Life is some long buried artifact of a rapidly changing digital world, I was surprised to see it was a reasonably well balanced discussion of how Second life is fundamentally an arena for Play:
“Second Life as it is really lived doesn’t even gesture toward the broad utility its creators aimed for.  It’s not the promise of the Metaverse. It’s just a lot of people giving rein to one form or another of a basic human impulse: playing.” 

As a social worker & educator I am gratified to see the concept of play acknowledged as a basic human impulse.  In my opinion Play is one of our most devalued impulses.   Play tends to be thought of as ‘child’s play’ (on the devaluing of children – don’t get me started).  When I speak to others about the importance of play I find it often helps if we define it.  I see Play as the unstructured* exploration of our world AND our role in that world.  (*there is not the necessity of a predefined specific goal… while not mutually exclusive, just because it is a game doesn’t make it play.) In this sense children do have a lot to tell and show us about the value of play.  In the way they try on adult roles, navigate social boundaries and seek the pleasure of fulfillment in the act of exploration.  If you ask me children are our true scientists.   Yes the science of play… consider the following links.
In this light, it saddened me to read of the impending departure of two of Second Life’s most prominent artists (Feathers Boa & AM Radio).  Both going on to other areas of play I am sure, yet still leaving this one.
It was in this state of melancholy that I read sororNishi’s post from last Monday in which she discusses the mixed feelings we ‘veterans’ of Second Life rightly may have regarding our role in supporting new comers – should we be doing the work Linden Labs should be doing by...
...going down to the Arrival Hell and helping”… to rescue newbies… “…as they arrive, unprepared, into a pack of idiot griefers” ? 
Perhaps it is time for me to visit a ‘welcome’ area.

Reports from the my creative side – no pictures to post, but I have been enjoying continuing my reading about Web Design, thinking about user experiences and enjoying the problem solving process; mostly, this week has been about tuning up and validating the code on my single homepage.  (Tripping before walking before…). 

As for appreciating the creative efforts of others… I must say I found Bryn Oh’s Rusted Gears to be deeply moving and painfully beautiful.

With that bit of inspiration... Onward...