ITP: The ICM/Pcomp Chunnel

Wednesday, October 5, 2005


One of my Processing projects.

This morning a homeless woman pulled down her pants right in front of me in Washington Square Park and proceeded to urinate right there, right in the middle of the sidewalk, right in front me and a dozen-or-so homeless guys who yelped and hollered and what-the-fucked at the sight. This happened near the chess corner of the park, the southwest corner, where most of the off-the-gridders (ie, the scruffy homeless) seem to linger. I was walking to my Game Design class from a small diner on 6th Ave where I’d had an omelette for breakfast.

Yesterday evening after dark on 3rd street right by the Stern Business School I accidentally stepped on the corner of a trash bag that sat next to a mailbox. And it yelled at me. Turns out it was a foot. Of another gentleman-without-house who had made his bed for the night under some old bags and blankets on the sidewalk. So he shouted at me and rolled back into his stuff to try to get back to sleep.

I neither urinate nor sleep in public, unless you count watering the plants in the Washington Square Village quad on the way home from a bar or nodding off for a sec during one of my classes on my over-packed Tuesdays. But even in those cases I do my best to keep it to myself.

Today I nodded off in my Intro to Computation Media (“ICM”) class. For just a few moments. I barely slept last night and, well, even a good breakfast and a quick morning run couldn’t make up for that energy deficit. And this is unfortunate, because we’re getting into some cool shit.

We’ve been learning how to program graphics using a Java front-end called Processing for the past four weeks. And I’ve been kicking ass and having some fun with it since I already have a decent programming background. Check out what I’ve already done: squares, boxes, sticks, circles, tubes. I’ve been playing around with simple algorithms that lead to fun and unpredictable outcomes. In my Game Design class we’ve been exploring developing simple rulesets that lead to fun and engaging gameplay and I think that same mentality can be applied here to make engaging visual art. At least that’s been my general approach. With added inspiration from Jared. Yup.

Now, though, we’re getting into some new turf: Building our own hardware interfaces for Processing (and for software in general). For example, building a controller with some sliders that control the position of a box on the computer screen and, say, a light sensor that affects how light or dark the box on the screen appears. (This is the example Dan O’Sullivan, our prof, demoed for us today in class. The light sensor bit was especially effective when he moved his hand over and away from it and the box limmed and brightened.)

In my Intro to Physical Computing (“Pcomp”) class we’ve been learning about the other side of this, about soldering together components and prototyping projects on a breadboard and writing little programs for our PIC 18F252 microchips. (Teacher Scott Fitzgerald called this “electrical engineering lite” on our first day.) I’ve learned how to make an LED illuminate and blink and go off-and-on when I push a switch or turn a dial, but that’s Oreo cookies next to the tiramisu of making a piece of hardware that can control a piece of software. Max/MSP can even accept data from one of these homemade controllers, which means that after one month of classes I’ve already reached the point where (if I had the time and exact inclination) I could start designing my own musical instruments. Which sounds nerdy, for sure, but look who’s talking.

So this is kind of where we’re at with these two classes. We’re coming at the same problem of interfacing computers with homemade hardware from both sides at once. And just like the builders of the English Channel Tunnel, we met up in the middle this week to shake hands.


My workshop the first two weeks of school.

Butt Crack

Posted Wed, October 5, 2005, 11:06am EST by Brian

Gee, are you thinkin' of joining the local Electrical Workers Union. Toolbelt and all.