REGISTER for Eyebeam workshops. Web Hacking, Virtual Sculpture, RGBDToolkit, and more!
APPLY NOW for Eyebeam Residencies and Fellowships. Open Call deadline is June 14.
Mockup of قلب’s new Scheme inspired syntax. I’ve been trying to arrive at a syntax that translates better into calligraphy than the first mockup, and with the parentheses removed, this syntax is nothing but words and numbers.
The parentheses are needed for the code to run correctly, but there is a precedent in leaving off dots, vowel markings, and punctuation in calligraphy, sacrificing readability for elegance.
The Scheme-like syntax is also easier to write an interpreter for.
The code was typed into TextMate, so it is unhighlighted and left-aligned. The English equivalent would be:
(def (swap lst a b)
(def aval (get lst a))
(def bval (get lst b))
(set lst a bval)
(set lst b aval))
(def (sort lst)
(loop n (length lst)
(loop m (length lst)
(get lst m)
(get lst (+ m 1))))
(swap lst m (+ m 1)))))))
As many of you probably already know I have been working hard over the past 6 months on a new project Stranger Visions. I am working on the piece as a resident at Eyebeam and in collaboration with the DIY bio lab, Genspace in downtown Brooklyn. I recently gave a LISA talk describing this piece and I thought I would elaborate on some of the details from my presentation through a series of blog posts. In this post I will describe where the idea behind Stranger Visions came from and how I am producing it in general terms. Future posts will delve into more details about lab work, 3d programming, 3d printing and ethics.
Much of my work begins with a question – In past works I have asked questions about language, AI, creativity and machines. The theme that really connects all these varied questions spanning so many different physical media is an interest in how algorithms both reflect and influence the way we see the world around us. Algorithms are designed by people and like all human-designed things they embody the generalizations and biases of their creators. I find this fascinating!
The question behind Stranger Visions actually came to me as I was sitting in my shrink’s office. I was staring at this generic print of a painting above the couch I and I noticed that the glass covering the print had a crack in it. As I looked closer I observed that in that crack was lodged a single hair. Now, as I am sitting there, ostensibly with the purpose of introspecting and talking about my feelings, my mind wanders to imagining who this person might be… Where are they from? What do they look like? How crazy are they?
And all the forensics shows I‘ve watched on tv since I was a kid flash through mind…
And suddenly I imagine that I’m a forensic biologist, and I’ve captured this hair as evidence and extracted its DNA, and I’ve analyzed it to create a literal, figurative portrait of what this person looks like.
And the funny thing is that once you start thinking about it, you start seeing evidence – everywhere: public bathrooms, the sidewalk, a bar- people are leaving their DNA all over the place all the time!
This began to touch on a topic I have worked pretty extensively with in previous projects, which is surveillance. I’ve worked with face recognition and speech recognition algorithms in the past but I had never considered the emerging possibility of genetic surveillance; that the very things that make us human: hair, skin, saliva, become a liability as we constantly face the possibility of shedding these traces in public space, leaving artifacts which anyone could come along and mine for information.
So I decided that I should make this piece – that I should collect “forensic samples” I find in public spaces, I should extract DNA from those samples and use it to make sketches like a police artist would showing what that person might look like. And the more I thought about the physical form of the project the more I wanted to get away from the kind of corny “DNA portraits” companies are trying to sell online.
I didn’t want this to be a “visualization” of the DNA. I wanted it to be a literal, figurative bust of the persons head in 3 dimensions.
Of course, while the technology to do this was emerging it wasn’t quite available (to artists) yet.What was openly available were protocols for extracting DNA from hair, a database of what regions of DNA we know code for certain traits, and a morphable model of a 3d face. So these are the components I have been expanding on, experimenting with and attempting to glue together!
More in depth about each of these components as well as some reflections on the ethical dimension of the project in future posts…
Eyebeam is renovating its entrance to turn it into a more public, multi-use exhibition and presentation space as well as a bookstore. Donate!
My Language Canvas is live!
It uses a lightweight syntax to specify its highlighting, local storage to save your work seamlessly, and of course its completely live. It still has a bunch of issues, but it works well enough that I’ve been using it every day.
Head over, check it out, let me know what you think of it. Code will be on GitHub soon.
Untyped lambda calculus represented by cut out alligators. A great reminder of how computers aren’t necessary for computation, just convenient.
Two projects of mine, All-Salt and Spice Trade Expedition, are part of the Surface Tension exhibition at Eyebeam curated by Science Gallery at Trinity College, Dublin.
I’m putting together this language design tool that lets you specify basic syntax highlighting for a fictional language as you develop it. It helps avoid staring at unhighlighted code during a language’s initial sketches. It is built on CodeMirror.
The top pane is where you sketch in your language. Write whatever you want there. The lower pane is where you specify the syntax highlighting as
pattern, token pairs.
I’m working with friend and legendary web designer Chris Driscoll to rebuild the documentation platform from scratch. This Heroku URL is where we’ll be developing the site. What’s up there now is an initial prototype, so stay tuned for changes coming soon!
قلب’s site is online with a description of the project and some sample code. It will grow into a full site soon, so keep an eye on it!
For those having trouble with the internationalized domain name, the site is mirrored at http://qlblang.org/, although this is certainly not the preferred method of access.