This week we were introduced to the concept of creating our own functions, as well as being given a Processing sketch that displayed the difference between the current and previous frame from a connected video camera.
For anyone that has done any programming at all, functions will be familiar as one of the main programmers building blocks. It really opens the door to allow genuine interactivity, because without variables to store input data, a feedback loop between the program and user could not even begin.
With respect to the sketch example we were given, variables stored the information from the previous frame, so that it could be compared and contrasted (quite literally) to the current frame.
To try and understand variables more completely, I went through the Learning Processing chapter on… yep, variables. Amongst other things, I had put together a small alien creature based on Invader Zim during earlier chapters of the book. During the variables chapter, I added a few variable conditions to make him fly through the window and have his eyes flash like a crazy, hypnotic discotheque.
Move the mouse in the area below to see Zim fly through space…
Boolean expressions were the next step for my little Zim. These are seemlingly small concepts: returning either a ‘true’ or ‘false’ value. However, they lead to being able to use the powerful ‘if’ statement. IF something is true (or false) THEN make this happen. Another important building block of programming.
Here is Zim bouncing away. Again, move the mouse below to view…
Loops were the last of the chapters I went through this week (making it my most Processing-est week ever) and toward the end I began to lose my way a little bit. They are a really important aspect of Processing, so definitely something I want to get my head around properly. Unfortunately, this seems to be the beginning of when things can go wrong. Infinite loops aren’t a bunch of fun and the end result of a locked up computer doesn’t really result in a top night-in.
Looping the drawing of Zim seems to do something odd to the physics of the bounce, but just to prove it wasn’t all bad, here is the beginning of a Zim invasion (yep, mouse over to view)…
As I discovered last week, posting Java applets that use a webcam = applet death. So this week I won’t attempt that again. And in fact, I didn’t get my sketch to a point that I was actually happy with anyway. However, I was much happier that I used my time by going through several chapters of Learning Processing. I’m finding that the book really is an excellent resource and helping to solidify the concepts that we go through during the tutorials. I think i’ll be hitting the book pretty hard over the break.
My inspiration this week comes from a very different source to previous weeks: it is far more conceptual and I’m happy to feel as thought my idea for the major project is beginning to take shape.
As my brainstorming in week three was taking me into a direction of looking at the way people portray themselves online and how they utilise those information paths, I was very aware of the current debate surrounding the Australian government’s proposed Internet filter. The control of information by the government is another way that someones voice may be altered from that which they believe represents themselves.
However, it was another event that inspired the direction for my concept. During a Digital Composite lecture last week, the lecturer spoke of John Heartfield, a German photo-montage artist that made his name during the second world war. It was through his reverse propaganda imagery that he expressed his ideas.
It made me think about why I’m actually enrolled at an art school and what opportunities I have to convey a message through my work, rather than simply creating something that looks pleasing to the eye, or merely satisfying a brief. Whilst I have no interest in joining a political party, or being part of a mass demonstration, I think I have a great opportunity to voice my concern about political or social issues.
In particular, this John Heartfield image, Whoever Reads Bourgeois Newspapers Becomes Blind and Deaf: Away with These Stultifying Bandages! really stuck in my mind after the lecture.
Also influencing my ideas (as always it seems) are United Visual Artists. UVA did the visuals for the Massive Attack tour last year and they included political reference through news headlines. The following is a video taken by a member of the crowd. You can find a much better quality video at the UVA site, though it can be slow to load.
Taking RSS feeds as dynamic input is something that I have seen done by UVA in the past and definitely an idea I would like to attempt to use in my own work. I think it’s a powerful link to the concepts I am working with that this information is temporary, shifting and above all – often out of our control.
My next step will be to think about how I express these ideas. How do I show that the voice of the person(s) interacting with the work is muffled by others’ control of technology (as per the John Heartfield image) and how could this concept work with a live feed from Internet headlines?