blog post by ann

The week’s highlight included philosophical discussion about preservation, privacy, generative poetry and animation. Students packed a lot into a shortened schedule this week, for example on Thursday, the morning session was held with Code Poetry track teacher Sam Lavigne, and a Q&A on OpenFrameworks with Zach in the afternoon. A busy schedule, but worth it as always!

Day 1: Poetry, Language, and Memory

For this week’s homework for their critical theory class with Morehshin Allahyari, students were asked to write a fiction piece in response to the following prompt: “Future Proof: Imagine how a museum conservator would approach preserving your work for a show in 40 years. What issues would arise?”
Students came back with poetry, a play, a day-in-the-life of a future curator, and many, many great short stories.

Students read their short stories while enjoying the beautiful weather

After reading their short stories outside on the Hudson River Parkway, the class returned to their classroom in Westbeth for presentations by Stacy Kellner, Guillermo Montecinos, and Colin Wang.

Stacy kicked off the day’s presentations with an introduction to media archeology, which is the study of new/emerging media through the past. She explained how the archive itself has it’s own meaning, that it is itself a medium. She ended her talk by asking the class to consider whether the archive could help us change how we think about time and progress.

Next, Guillermo talked about memory, first from the perspective of digital culture, and then by discussing memory and art activism in his home country of Chile. He questioned who owns the memories we store in digital archives (us? Facebook? Google?) and what it means when we need electricity to keep memories alive.

He also discussed collective and national memory. He talked about the Pinochet dictatorship, and the 1,200 people who were ‘disappeared’ between 1973–1989. He showed the work of artist Francisco Papas Fritas who, as a way to honor and remember the disappeared, tattooed a page from the Valech Report — a record of human rights abuses in Chile by Pinochet’s regime. Guillermo also asked the class to reflect on whether there are beneficial effects to forgetting, such as healing.

Finally, Colin presented on the Right to be Forgotten and the Right to be Remembered. He gave an overview of the legal base of the Right to be Forgotten in the EU. He also asked students to consider the differences between delisting and deleting, and the potential negative effects of obscuring information.

In the second part of his presentation, Colin discussed terrorist attacks and Facebook’s safety check feature as a way to explore the idea of the Right to be Remembered. He noted that most terrorist attacks do not make news in the West, and asked what it means when Facebook is able to control which events warrant the safety check feature and which don’t. Like Guillermo, he ended by asking if there is value in forgetting.

“Although much technology, especially since the Memex, has focused on enhancing human ability to remember, perhaps we need to secure our ability to forget. Perhaps this ability to forget is not our flaw, but our bliss; that which essentially makes us human.” — Taeyoon Choi, Poetic Computation Reader

Day 2: Logic Gates!

For Week 4 of Taeyoon Choi’s Handmaking Computerclass, students graduated from paper circuits to breadboards, but not without showing off their inventive paper AND, NAND, and OR gates from the week before.

Sculptural AND gate by Matt J.

After the students shared their homework, Taeyoon talked about the difference between TTL (transistor-transistor logic) and CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) integrated circuits. In short, TTL chips are truer to the discrete components, they consume more power and are a bit less hardier than CMOS chips, but CMOS chips allow a greater density of logic gates and are, therefore, the basis of many electronics products today.

Next, Taeyoon introduced the class to breadboard prototyping and the 14 pin, 4 NAND gate integrated circuit (IC). He then asked students to recreate AND, NOT, OR, XOR logic gates using only the IC and two push button signals.

OR gate
Students hacking away

Day 3 (Morning): Text manipulation with Sam Lavigne

The final day of class of the week started with a lecture by Code Poetry teacher Sam Lavigne, who gave an introduction to text manipulation with python. Sam challenged the class to think beyond art generated by a “solitary genius,” and to consider the artistic opportunities in digital collage.

How can we make use of what other people have put online to generate a statement, artistic or otherwise? — Sam Lavigne

Sam showed the class how to do simple text manipulation such as randomly changing the order or words or sentences in a text. He also walked the class through using the python libraries textblob and beautifulsoup. He explained how textblob tags parts of speech, and how students can use those tags to replace, for example, nouns or adjectives and create strange, funny, and poetic reinterpretations of an existing text.

Sam also walked the class through web scraping. He explained how to use html tags and css elements to select different parts of a website — such as titles, links, or headings. Next, using Craigslist as an example, Sam showed the class how to scrape the titles of the first 1000 posts on the missed connections page.

Day 3 (Afternoon): Ask Zach Anything

As usual, class began with a show and tell of the last week’s homework. Students shared their John Whitney recreations and talked about the difference between making a Whitney inspired piece vs. one inspired by Vera Molnar. (No consensus on which was harder, though!)

Niklas hypnotizes with his waves
Hyojin shows off her lissajous

Ying also shared a blog post he wrote about the Lissajous figures that result from combining sine + cosine at different frequencies.

Students spent the remainder of the afternoon asking Zach anything and everything they’ve wondered about OpenFrameworks so far. With two homework assignments under their belt, one exploring the concept of randomness and noise and the other about animation, they were able to hone in on a number of shared topics of interest.

First was GUIs. Zach walked the class through adding sliders to an OF sketch to control variables.

Zach shows a many-slidered GUI

Next, they reviewed animation concepts including trailing/chasing objects and easing. Zach also shared these two resources on easing functions and general helpful tips for animations.

Zach live codes an animation example

All in all, another amazing week at SFPC!

And a few more pictures from Tuesday.

School for Poetic Computation—since Fall 2013.