Here’s a clip demonstrating the Flex-based tool I’ve built to help create the physics-driven curves which shape the imagery of The Knotted Line, a forthcoming project directed by artist Evan Bissell. The Knotted Line consists of an enormous horizontal painting depicting 75 key moments in the history of labor, education, and incarceration in the United States from 1495 to 2025. The piece is simultaneously a new media art project and an educational tool, with related curriculum planned at the middle, high school, and college levels.
Coding editors seems to be a thing around here lately. From The Knotted Line, work in progress.
Moderated by Freewaves founder Anne Bray, the Digital Studies Symposium at USC (open and free to the public on Thursday evenings) has been hosting weekly conversations between pairs of digital designers about the myriad, ever more swiftly flowing currents of the digital humanities. Anne was kind enough to invite my Vectors collaborator Craig Dietrich and myself down to the Zemeckis Center to speak on February 11th, and video of the talk has been posted to Vimeo (see below). There’s also a video archive of all the prior speakers on the DSS site.
See below—an interview by Andrew Jakubowicz of the University of Technology Sydney with David Theo Goldberg, author of Blue Velvet, the Vectors project we collaborated on last year with Stefka Hristova. David has some kind things to say about my work, but more importantly the two engage in a rather deep, lengthy and wide-ranging discussion about the piece. If you’re interested in this project and the process by which it was created, give this clip a play.
In related news, we recently launched The Threat of Race, a companion site to David’s new book of the same title. The site includes a blog, as well as an interesting interactive feature called the ThreatMap—a Google Maps-based reference that locates concepts and media related to the book in both geographic and conceptual space.
LAFlashapaloozastock III was another well put-together event—I enjoyed Ralph Hauwert’s talk on Flash effects and 3D as it was one of the best at bringing some perspective outside of the immediate world of Flash. Hauwert wove Escher, Pink Floyd, and the Amiga demoscene into the mix in a talk that otherwise would have just been a sequence of “ooh, cool!” demos (though they were quite cool… fluid dynamic bump maps on 3D objects, for instance...).
It was a challenge getting people comfortable enough with “Swing” to try it out—I had only one song request ("This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan) and that came early in the day, before a lot of folks started showing up. Over the course of the day I started calling the piece “karaoke for introverts” since no singing was required, but all the same people seemed reticent to pick a song and give it a go, just as if I had brought a real karaoke machine to the proceedings.
A student asked if I had considered adding greater variety to the visuals (color, etc.)—a valid question, given the apparent simplicity of the display. I explored this both during the original development of the piece and for this new version, but in both cases found that adding additional visual elements or processing made the experience too complex cognitively. While the YouTube video makes it look easy, trying to synchronize motions, syllables and pre-recorded music is actually a pretty challenging task for a novice, and glitz just makes it harder.
All in all, I came away with three keys to a successful “Swing” experience:
- You’ve got to feel comfortable
- You’ve got to love the song you’re performing and know it inside and out
- You’ve got to be tuned into the rhythmic implications of whether your text is broken down into words or syllables
All of these things are easier to realize at home than in an installation space, so I’m planning to post the new version of Swing (which will now run in a browser for both Mac and PC users) soon, probably after Ruben & Lullaby is released.
Speaking of which, I met a lot of great folks during the event and got a lot of interest in Ruben & Lullaby (my upcoming iPhone/iPod touch game). I’ll be putting the finishing touches on over the next week or so, so stay tuned…