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.
Slabtype, the text rendering algorithm I developed for Public Secrets, has been adapted by web developer Brian McAllister as a jQuery plugin. If you’re interested, you can read details about the inner workings of the original algorithm. Very gratifying to see past work live on in new forms!
It’s been a long time in coming, but I’m very happy to announce the official launch of Precision Targets, a collaboration with scholar Caren Kaplan that uses a hybrid comic/essay format to explore the militarization of everyday life through technologies like GPS. Precision Targets places the user inside a cube containing six parallel stories told through interactive comic panels that are married to threads of commentary by Kaplan.
Precision Targets was my first collaboration with illustrator Ezra Claytan Daniels, and my first experiment with digital comics. Each story consists of four panels which can be browsed by rotating a cube. Individual panels (some of which contain animation and interactivity) can be entered and navigated with the mouse. Every panel has associated commentary by Kaplan which can be expanded by clicking “more”. Clicking “more” again further expands the commentary to a full-screen view for more in-depth reading, making it possible for users to switch between visual, textual, or hybrid reading modes at will. (Be sure to try adjusting the window size; the piece will adapt to whatever aspect ratio you like.)
One element of the project that can be easily missed is the Index, a force-directed SpringGraph visualization of the image and textual elements that make up the piece (you can access this feature by clicking “Menu” and then “Index"). You’ll see the individual graphic elements that make up each panel linked together in an interactive network diagram—to my knowledge, the first time a visualization like this has been applied to the individual layers of comic book panels (feel free to correct me if I’m in error).
This project was conceived before the current “motion comics” trend, so I’m very curious what people will think of the approach, which takes a different tack than most works labeled as such.
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.
I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Anne Friedberg, a brilliant scholar I had the privilege of collaborating with on a project called “The Virtual Window Interactive,” a companion piece to her book The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Anne passed away a week ago today.
In the brief time during which I worked with Anne, I found her to be not just a brilliant thinker, but a wonderful collaborator with an infectious enthusiasm for the potential of the field. “The Virtual Window Interactive” was one of those rare projects which almost seemed to design itself, as if the ideas Anne had been exploring were anxiously awaiting just this kind of outlet. The inherent visual qualities of Anne’s subject matter, the excitement she had for the medium, and the depth and clarity of her analysis made the project a real pleasure to develop.
Most of our real-time contact during the project was via three-way videoconferences between Anne, Steve Anderson (who orchestrated our meeting and facilitated the project) and myself. I had a habit of taking screenshots during these calls, and thought I’d share an image of one of our lighter moments (see below). I remember Anne being intrigued by the “windows” of the videoconferencing interface itself; throughout the development of the project she was keen to stay abreast of the dizzying changes happening in screen space and wanted the piece to speak to those changes as much as possible.
Others have reflected more thoroughly on the breadth of Anne’s considerable contributions to her field and the positive impact she had on those who knew her personally. I didn’t know Anne well, but I’m grateful for even the brief chance I had to work with such a remarkable person. Thank you, Anne.