• Gabriella Garcia

ICM Week 1 [Pt 1: Computational reflections]

Updated: Sep 13, 2018

Ok so I started this week's p5 assignment, got totally frustrated, and decided to take a break and start my blog instead. I'm neither a coder nor graphic designer, so wrapping my head around the two ideas at the same time ended up with me playing with curves and arcs until I gave up. My current portrait looks like a brown egg on a cyan background, and I'm planning to come back to it with a much simpler geometric style once I do a little ICM soul-searching here. This isn't my first attempt at coding; I took a FEWD course at General Assembly, but once I hit JS it felt like my brain just... stopped absorbing. So here I am, at the beginning of ITP, picking up at exactly the point my brain exploded. I'm intimidated, but determined to make it stick this time. The Coding Train has actually been an excellent resource for demystifying the whole experience, and I definitely felt ready to dive in again after watching the set of intro videos. SO dive I did and I sunk (for now).

So why am I here?

I think the driving force behind my attendance at ITP is getting people to *want* to know the truth. It's more obvious than ever that people literally don't care about facts, so my question is, how do we make them want to? Can we make empathy-seeking information devices? Can fact initiate oxytocin response rather than limbic response? What enables people toward doing the research, taking the time to listen to data, seeing beyond the emotional gut-punches that seem to drive them toward making decisions that ultimately hurt them and the greater good? How do we use technology to get people who are taught to hate each other to actually touch each other, maybe even dance together?

I'm really interested in going toward data visualization and computer vision/deep learning techniques. But the reality of that seems so incredibly far away considering I can't even figure out how to make an arc or curve for a mouth. I come from a design/culture journalism background, focusing on how people use technologies and design to impact society around them. It's people like Moon Ribas (my interview with them is perhaps my favorite article ever published), Steve Lambert, and Rhizome that have drawn me toward getting my own hands dirty, as I see how they use programming or physical computing to engage with their audiences.

I'm currently absolutely enamored with Ekene Ijeoma, who mixes programming, data vis, art, and reality to get people to think about the world they walk through every day and what they don't see on the surface. Some examples of his work that just floors me:

Ijeoma's 'Deconstructed Anthems' which loops the National Anthem while removing notes at the rate of incarceration (Screenshot from ekeneijeoma.com)

Ijeoma's 'Heartfelt' which changes lighting by means of audience members touching each other to create closed circuits (screenshot from ekeneijeoma.com)

The thing is I'm truly starting from square zero here, and I don't even know how to think about thinking about projects; it all looks like magic to me. It's hard thinking of what projects I want to work on this semester when I feel so utterly defeated by a first assignment. I know however that getting the fundamentals of programming down is absolutely necessary for going further into what I'm trying to do, whatever that is. I don't think this is something I'm going to be able to do alone, and need to find some sort of supplementary education here for sure.

Note: I'm throwing in the link to my assignment here, which I plan on continuing to work on post-submitting this entry. I will also add documentation either to this entry or to a Part 2 before class: https://editor.p5js.org/medusamachina/sketches/HkTOakL_7


Ok I came back to the assignment after classes Wednesday eve (I get out late, finish off at 9) and some sort of structure must have been coming together in my mind while I wasn't thinking of it because it all just started clicking? I didn't get very far in the hours this first attempt took, and there is definitely some jerry-rigging in there... here's where I left off before realizing it was getting late:

Much better than the brown egg on a cyan background. I figured if I could just get the most basic triangle nose in the middle of the egg, I would start to see a face. The background color started to annoy me so I chose something softer on my eyes. Giving the nose shape was fun; I "popped" the tip of the nose with a stroked ellipse and rekt'd off the top, it's all fairly primitive, but that's what we're studying, so.

Continuing, for cheek structure I decided to figure out arcs. I didn't find the references on the p5.js.org very helpful in terms of describing the base properties(?) of arcs and ended up looking elsewhere for more information. That's where I discovered that their points are measured in radians measuring clockwise from zero. This is where math started becoming useful for me, especially when I decided I could figure out symmetry. I found Meri Engel's tutorial helpful, as well as this Lynda tutorial. There was quite a bit of argument-nudging, but I'm pleased, especially since I killed an hour of my morning struggling to understand arcs. This led me to wanting to figure out curves for eyes (arc-based eyes were a little too buggish), and landed on the Coding Train 9.22 Custom Shapes tutorial and popped together. I sketched out simple eyes inspired by the cartoon tv show Daria, and basically messed with points and curveVortex for one eye curve and then figured out the symmetrical math for the second. Hoping those types of measurements get more intuitive.

Lips are triangles, maybe I'll make her smirk.. looking forward to learning vertexes for shapes like these. Speaking of, I was checking out some other assignment posts and noted a program that students are using to map out vertexes? I'm interested in checking that out.

I started thinking about hair, but then I remembered by jerry-rigged cheekbones and my brain fried for the night. Another attempt in the morning.