Life as a new media student

Stress Ulcers

I’ve had quite the week so far. I finally have my English essay over and done with, unfortunately I let it screw with my sleep schedule – which means I slept through class on Tuesday (13 hour sleep, woot?) I hate missing anytime to talk to Steve about my project, it would have been nice to try and get some photo cells working along with my pressure pads but we’ll see what Friday brings. Hopefully he won’t be too busy…which I’m afraid will happen, last day to meet with him and 40 other students freaking out about their projects – chaos at its finest. I still haven’t gone to activ surplus yet to pick up different motors, tonight I’m going to the Art Gallery of Ontario for another assignment so I think tomorrow I’ll walk over to Queen West and see what I can pick up.

Not much progess has been made since last Friday with my project. I think though I would like to keep my piece very raw by not hiding much, keeping wires visible etc. much like the Electronic Life Forms. I really hope to achieve something fun/cute/creepy in the end.  Creepy as in the way Philip Beesley’s work is…although my piece would be more creepy if it took over an entire wall, perhaps this is something I can work towards in the future with my installation.

This will probably be my last process blog until friday (when its due) . I would definitely like to keep updating it until its actually complete…



I’m procrastinating for another course by doing a blog entry, yay!

I had another meeting with Steve this afternoon were we basically made a circuit with a 122 Transistor hooked up to the arduino that allowed the pressure pad to turn on and off a pager motor. I think I’m going to keep it two motors to a pad, but maybe if I get a multiplexer and figure that our I’ll be able to hook up more. I also would like to talk to Steve next week about adding a Photo Cell into the mix to hopefully create and even deeper interactive experience. A photo cell would probably catch users off guard as they will probably figure out the pressure pads trigger an event very quickly, the small photo cells would probably go unnoticed. As per Steve’s suggestion I’ll be taking a trip to Active Surplus to explore the use of some different motors, but this probably won’t happen until Monday. I definitely need to start thinking about the final look of my project, the colours of the pressure pads really aren’t my thing…bright primaries arrggh, maybe I can sow together some slip covers for them soon.

curcuit with a T122

From this afternoon, hopefully I can re-create this myself sometime this weekend

Moving right along…kind of

Updates update updates, I know if I don’t keep up with my process blog I’ll leave to the night before it’s due for grading and I will suffer the consequences.  I’ve got quite the week coming up, unfortunately my elective gets in the way of my concentration on my production classes and specifically Steve’s.  I have another meeting with Steve planned for Friday hopefully I can take his guidance and get work done that evening, a Gothic horror essay requires my time on Saturday and may carry over until Sunday…I should have taken my electives during the summer – noted for next year.

In Tuesday’s class Steve and I talked about taking the next step in my project, building my wallmounted-pagermotor-girating-moving-reacting-thing. Each mat will have its own wall panel that it will effect, therefore I’m looking at creating a piece about 8 feet in length (damn!). I went out yesterday and bought a huge sheet of foam-board to mount my motors on, tomorrow I’ll be putting the circuits Steve drew for me together and hopefully get some cool stuff happening. Steve suggested I think/work on taking my piece to its next level in terms of “What can I add to build on the experience”, photocells may be the answer to that…and fabric…light airy fabric that wiggles in a creepy way. We shall see.


These are visualizations of what I’m aiming for with my final project for Production with David.

an overall view of my 50 top listened to artists in the past 3 months

an overall view of my 50 top listened to artists in the past 3 months

you can click on one of my artists to see recommended artists and how they relate

you can click on one of my artists to see recommended artists and how they relate

click on a recommended artist to see even more recommenations and relations through a connecting web

click on a recommended artist to see even more recommendations and relations through a connecting web

The Switch

In class today I talked with Steve about my final project. Last night I did some research on which sensors I would like to use for my project, and I think I may just be using pressure (force?…am I using the right word here?) sensors in the floor to activate my piece. Here are some websites that I found where people have made their own pressure sensors:

A group of designers that made a punching bag that contains a matrix of 9×7 sensors

A group of students make their own sensors for a project, I assume

I want the pressure sensors to cover quite a lot of floorspace therefore I’m looking for guides to make my own. Pressure sensors we looked at in class were tiny, relatively costly, and hey it would probably be a whole lot cooler if I could make my own, right?  So I talked to Steve and since I’m not going to be tracking where people are walking he suggested I make the simpler one (second link) …and when I say suggested I make it he told me to go and get aluminium foil and fibreglass mesh…we (more so he) literally made it in 5 seconds. The switch (two floor pads touching) actived an LED  and that is where I’m at right now. The only issue at this point is the switch getting stuck – turning on and staying on or not turning on at all. I’ve tried to resolve this by putting another layer of fibre mesh on one side of the flooring pads…this however didn’t work as the switch wouldn’t turn on at all. I think I should just risk it getting stuck rather than having it not work at all.  Here are some pictures of what I’ve got so far.

Flooring provided by the school (thanks!!), aluminium foil and fibreglass mesh (drywall tape)

Flooring provided by the school (thanks!!), aluminium foil and fibreglass mesh (drywall tape)

close up

Step on the floor and the led will turn on, woot!

Step on the floor and the led will turn on, woot!

“We Are The Wind”

I had my meeting with Steve this afternoon to discuss my final project for his class. At first I was worried he wouldn’t understand my ideas or maybe even think I’m heading in the wrong direction with it, but he was definitely on the same page! Steve gave me some great ideas and a possible title for my work (see post title), he also showed me Electronic Life Forms which relate to my project in that I’m trying to make something that immitates nature.  This weekend I’m going to Activ Surplus to buy some pager motors (as recommended by Steve) then bring them into class on Tuesday, I’ve seen videos of Bristle Bots so I think for fun I’ll make one of those. The pager motors will hopefully be mounted on the wall in a rectangle and will be activated by a sensor. Now I’ll I need to do is decide which type of Sensor I’ll use, its between a pressure senor in the floor or using photocells to manipulate my piece with light/shadows.

Research Blog Numéro Deux

For my second and final research blog I decided I would look at network visualizations on the topic of music, as I would probably find more inspiration for my final project. While digging through I found the Last.FM Taste-o-graph:, which was awesome because I am also using the API for my project.

This application uses the API and SpringGraph Flex; an Adobe Flex 2.0 which links items together that share a certain component through lines and data can be outputed in XML or Actionscript.  The Tasteograph essential shows a user’s ‘web’ of most listened to artists, those using the application can choose other users through a screen name search and hopefully have them link up to the first user shown. The application will then link which artists the chosen users have in common, the artist’s are displayed through small avatar-esque pictures which have applied to them surrounding the user’s screen name.  Thin lines are then used to form any sort of connection in the information shown.  The viewer can use their mouse’s scroll button to either zoom in or out on the application screen.

Aesthetically this application isn’t very appealing to me, I would have liked to seen something more abstract to represent the artists and taste similarities between users, but generally speaking it visualizes a very concise message.  I found that once more then three users are added to the Tasteograph the application becomes cluttered and you really have to search to spot the muscial connections between the users, perhaps this could have been fixed by allowing the user to click on two screen names and have those two expand while the others fade more into the background for a more up-front and clean analysis.  Overall though the applications works, it’s fun to see which musical artists you and your friends have in common through a simple visual network, although does provide its users with a musical compatability meter…images are always the best way to display information for us ‘visual learners’.

Final Project Proposal – Data Visualization

For my final project in David’s production class I have chosen a subject I’m quite fond of and that is close to my heart – music! Listening to music is one of my favorite past-times, I never grow tired of finding new artists or going to concerts. I guess you could also say I’m quite the collector of music…erm bit torrents. In terms of data collection for this project I will be using my account. is a music community website where users can download a plug-in for their music player and “scrobble” – transfer music to the website’s database. After music is scrobbled the data will appear on the users profile, this allows for a detailed page of the users music taste and listening habits. I’ve had my account for closing in on two years now so I feel it is a reliable source for my project.  My inspiration for this project came from another data visualization that utilizes called “Extra Stats”. After downloading this application you can type your username into it and from there it will collect you musical information and create a colourful sort of waveform…thing where each colourful blob represents an artist. You can change the colour palette, zoom in or out, display albums/tags/tracks, show more/less items etc etc. Extra Stats was based on another visualization by Lee Byron.

Extra Stats displaying my music listening for the past couple of months.

I will be using processing for my project. At this point I don’t really know where I’m going aesthetically yet, but with processing I can hopefully create a beautiful interactive piece. I won’t be using all of the musical artists I have scrobbled onto my profile, I think it would make things easier just to visualize artists I have listened to in the past 3 months.  I still consider myself fairly ‘green’ with processing, but I would really like to use even more information provides to me by creating a network between the artists I have listened to and the artists recommends for me to listen to.  Once the project is finished I hope those who view it can come to a conclusion of the type of person I am based on the music I listen to, feel compelled to listen to my favorite artists, or explore my music listening habits chronologically in a visual environment.

Here’s my profile, feel free to stalk me through music:

Experience Analysis – FIELD TRIP!!

The “Weston Family Innovation Center” at the Ontario Science Center was amazing, I have many memories from my childhood of the OSC and now more than a decade since my last visit I can add another. At first I was skeptical about what we would be seeing at the OSC, works of new media? Really? YES, we did!! Many of the pieces in exhibit did not have names, I find this really interesting to note first. What makes it so that a group of twenty something students feel the incessant need for a proper “title” before feeling as though they can actually know, understand and criticise a piece of art? Moving on…

This piece, which I will call the “Ferrofluid Piano”, was the first I interacted with when we entered the exhibit. For some reason even after considering all the other works to write a blog response about I always came back to the FerroFluid Piano.  Essentially it is a vat of ferrofluid placed on top of a white pedestal covered by a clear plastic dome, probably five feet in diameter at the most…definitely not as large as some of the other pieces.  At the far end of the Ferrofluid Paino facing away from the entrance of the exhibit is a digital keyboard and beside that is a button, a microphone and a input jack for an ipod. Inside of the dark black ferrofluid appears to be twelve neatly arranged ‘squishy- spikey balls’ –much like the one seen here:

Here's a baby with a squishy-spikey ball

These balls are all uniform in size and seem to be the size of a small palm, they are only seen when the piano is played — the ferrofluid appears to be calm and flat otherwise.

Through the course of our hour and a half wandering through the Weston Innovation Center the Ferrofluid Piano held a certain amount intrigue for me, the concept of it was overall very simplistic but what was that liquid in the middle? What were those balls in the center of the dome? Why did they look like that? Is the liquid hot? could it be tar? It was not until we were all preparing to leave did it suddenly hit me. I’ve seen liquid move in that way before…MAGNETS(thanks Discovery Channel!). After approaching a staff member about it I had my confirmation, the liquid was call Ferrofluid and it was in fact being manipulated by magnets as this fluid is composed of nanoscale particles that are made of some sort of compound containing iron.  Intrigue aside, I think the texture of the gooey looking fluid and also the spiked balls the magnets transformed it into drew me to the piece. I also LOVE music and the fact that I could make my own music by either playing the piano (which I can’t actually do) or singing (…nope I suck) into the microphone in order to interact with the piece gave me a rush of happiness. I think I icing on the cake and what was most exciting to me was that I could hook up my own iPod to the FerroFluid Piano…unfortunately the only problem I could find with this is that the users were not able to hear the music being played out of the iPod, only see the ferrofluid ‘balls’ moving randomly over its organized grid of magnets.

When the group approached the Ferrofluid Piano many first saw the keyboard, this was attractive to them (probably because some of them could actually play it) they wanted to make music and didn’t really expect their music making to create and interaction with the fluid in the dome. I sat back and observed the other users, mesmerized by what some of them were playing and the fluid moving. After others had moved on to different pieces I began to test out the microphone and connect my iPod, I had already seen how the piano as an interface worked and wanted to visit new paths of interaction.  The Ferrofluid Piano is probably one of the more structured pieces in the center in terms of its output or affect, you will receive the same feedback every time you play or sing a note aside from the positioning of the magnet. This structured output has a lot of repeatability, which helps to convince the user that they are in control (your actions create a familiar result). The user input offered is free-form, you can play any song you want from a piece of Mozart on the keyboard to heavy metal on your iPod.  The user’s sense of touch, sight and hearing are all stimulated by this piece, your hands are the main performer in this interactive piece; your eyes and ears are the audience.

During my time spent with the Ferrofluid Piano I overheard others brushing off the piece, saying it wasn’t as interesting as the other pieces. I think their reaction may be a result of the simplicity of the interaction and that it did not really utilize any new technology. It was simply a keyboard and some liquid iron being manipulated by magnets.  We’re over stimulated new media students, I’m sure to anybody else the Ferrofluid Piano was just as interesting and beautiful as the other pieces in the exhibit. I personally find the combination of science, music and interaction found in the Ferrofluid Piano magical. Enjoy random ferrofluid images!!

ferrofluid on top of glass

ferrofluid on top of glass

The Ivy Wall

Um um its October! Which means we’re nearing the end of the semester….which means our major projects are due soon…which means I’m freaking out.

Thankfully for a Monday English class in Kerr Hall I’m fairly certain that I’ve actually made strides in my final project for Steve’s class. I’ve really been trying to brainstorm a wonderful project idea for the past little while, but I find most of the time you need to chill out and let things come to you.  While I was sitting in KHE 216 by the window in class my idea finally came to me. I was watching the ivy covered walls of Kerr Hall being blown by the wind and I though to myself, “What if we are the wind?” …essentially we can be interpreted as the wind in many ways; everything we do has a huge effect on the world.  In class we’ve been learning about sensors in class so perhaps my idea isn’t so far-fetched? Right now I’m thinking of something that can be wall mounted (I originally thought of something on a large scale but cost and time create barriers right now)made up of tons of motors (maybe?) that move in the same way the ivy does when the wind blows on it. There will be an interaction involved between the object and the user, this is where a sensor would come into play but I’m not quite sure how/what yet.  The objects reaction to its environments and movements will be organic at its essence – moving in waves/ripples during an interaction. That’s all I have for now…hopefully this is something I can stick with, I’ll definitely be needing to talk to Steve to get this ship sailing.  Shwoooooosh (sound of ship sailing…maybe)

Some Ivy on a building at Princeton

Some Ivy on a building at Princeton