SFPC Fall 2019—Week 6

blog post by Gia Castello & Esther Bouquet. video by Olivia Ross.

Day 1: Credit the artists that inspire you

Today we had our first code-poetry class with Fernando Ramallo. Fernando is a creative coder whose work focuses on making playful interactions like games and tools for making games. Fernando opened us up to a whole new universe by showing us that we can make our own tools! It’s as easy as adding a ‘save’ functionality to something we’ve created. One of the advantages of making your own tools is you can build something for your particular needs. Fernando reminded us to use narrative structures, like tracks or liner notes in a compact disc, to help us put context around our tools.

The most interesting examples we saw in class were collaborations between two or three artists like Oikospiel or Content Creator Simulator because you could see the collaboration between the artists. For example in Oikospiel, you could see the separate influences from the artist and the storyteller come together to form an experience that complimented each others work to form something larger then could be created independently.

Fernando teaching and Zai making a tool.

We used P5.js to create our own painting tools creating arrays of circles, making lines, adding color pickers and sliders. It was a wonderful experience to play with the tools our fellow friends had made as you could really see their personality shine through.

Day 2: Biometric data used in civil society

How do we perceive our bodies so that they are not understood as data? What are the underlying assumptions about surveillance in modern culture?

In Simone Brown’s book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, she references the writings of Sylvia Wynter who noted that surveillance systems that classify and cast out citizens are becoming increasingly automated. She proposes biometric consciousness, and the need to consent and to also be able to opt-out of these systems for our own freedom.

We were joined in class by Rashida Richardson, who is the Director of Policy Research at AI Now. Rashida talked about the need to have regulatory frameworks to mitigate loopholes in existing technological applications regarding the use of biometric data. She also gave us action items and recommendations to actively and collectively address them like:

  • Pay attention to local policies being debated
  • Be actively part of the open calls to discuss applications of these technologies in your communities
  • demand full transparency to the organizations using biometric data from civil society, to be aware of who and how is using this information.
  • Companies are experimenting, so we should be always updated on the topic by attending summits, conferences and meetups to learn how they are being applied, and most importantly, how to take care of ourselves and others.
American presenting in ‘Dark Matters’

After class, our fellow student Mathilde, gave a workshop on recording sounds. We learned about the different types of waves that make sound, understanding amplitude and frequency, and we experimented with microphones, instruments and recording on different channels. Finally, we recorded a song together and had an amazing time.

Mathilde leading a workshop.

Day 3: You gotta keep the motor running

DC, AC, brushless DC, servo, stepper, linear, there are so many motors! Today we learned the basics about them, and talked about best practices to work with them: mount it somewhere safe, and never ever use glue or tape.

We also understood the mechanics of different cams like drop cams, snail cams, box cams, and linkages. There was movement everywhere.

Che-Wei and Taylor making motor magic.

Day 4: Coding class

Today we learned about Nancy Burson’s interesting and controversial work. She designed an artificial intelligence used to age images of faces. Later, this was used to created the aging images of missing children that were put on the boxes of milk. This technique was based on taking different points on a face and moving them based on aging patterns.

Said Nancy, “I want to age people by computer to answer some frequently asked questions of others, but also my own.” This way of composite photography is today being used to create artificial intelligence capable of tracing patterns among humans. We had a deep ethical discussion about the weather it was a good practice, and how it has been approached through time by artists, governments, enterprises, and tech companies. Later we learned how to make different composite images using python tools to scrape images off the web, create arrays, and fed those images to our algorithms to create composite photography pieces.

Later we used face trackers to create images by aligning the position of the eyes on pictures, and understood how to anchor those images using the face tracker’s data.

Making composite images and playing with face trackers

Day 5: Showcase preparation

Showcase preparation classes are never easy. We had a class with Lauren about how to manage our time while building projects. She introduced us to tools and methodologies like how to manage our calendar by making Gantt charts, the Pomodoro technique to give ourselves focused time blocks of work, the importance of asking for help, and how to give help in more structured ways so it won’t eat into our own time. We then used the Pomodoro technique to give ourselves 25 minutes of uninterrupted writing time to develop our ideas for our showcase.

In the afternoon, Robby Kraft gave a workshop about origami. It was inspiring to match mathematical concepts with origami forms, and see the intimate dialogue between them. We were inspired by Robby’s examples. They were full of beauty and complex structures.

We learned to read guiding lines to fold paper on origami instructions, and we were introduced to different types of papers to get different results. We also experimented with straight lines and curved lines, and had a lot of fun making our own paper creations.

On Sunday, our professors CW&T invited us to their house & studio. We explored their place and were inspired by the machines and materials all around the house. We had tons of fun with their kids, and we were also moved by their stories, their journey to get where they are now and how consciously they have built their lives around care and respect for each others’ work, time and processes.

That afternoon we also were invited by our friend Mark Hernandez to The labor party party to discuss co-working spaces, why they don’t add real value, and how to design better coworking spaces centered on community and the people who inhabit the community. Sharing ideas is one of the nicest rituals we’ve experienced this semester.

See you next week!

School for Poetic Computation—since Fall 2013.