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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Netlogo warfare

So, I spent a little time this evening with Netlogo - mostly getting to know 'er, and trying to decide if I was going to buy into 'er. At this point, it seems like a viable tool to use for my Military Reversal Of Misuse (using Military Tactics to create art). To reiterate, the idea is to use a networked Military maneuver to create art, as opposed to the military using artistic concepts to creating maneuvers.

I can already hear you say "Whatever"...

Maybe this will be more interesting: I plan to use a basic flocking algorithm (probably using this Netlogo package), but with image alterations that should provide for interesting artistic results.

First steps first, though. I need to do a little more research into the Blitzkrieg movement, and also try to establish some sort of idea of networked communications between participants. My suspicion is that, unlike the current army, there was relatively little direct communications between tank drivers; instead, they had to depend on visuals and proper spacing to prevent constant crashes and mayhem. I also suspect that, in and effort to maintain maximum forward motion, they avoided anything that was too troublesome and took the easy road to the end location.

This is all useful information for working with a simulation.

I have started fishing around about the military history of the thing. It turns out that Wikipedia is more complete than most of the crap on the net. It's section on the Blitzkrieg contains both historical information and strategic validity (which it turns out is mostly negative), and gives a pretty full view of the concept - along with a lot of links for more info. This is one of those cases where Wikipedia is a robust fount of knowledge.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll make my first Netlogo sketch that will get me on my way.


Here, let me show you the gate...

Reading that I'm approaching today includes "What is Biomedia" by Eugene Thacker. Looks like it lives a rich and fulfilling life behind the curtains of Project Muse at John Hopkins. Apparently, learning about what Biomedia is need to be restricted to a list of university sponsors that is about 40 strong; anyone else trying to access the information is surely either too stupid or too broke (i.e., $20 for a copy of the PDF) to bother with.

Project Muse: "Today's research, tomorrow's inspiration". Try adding "yesterday's monetization" to complete the thought.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


In addition to the blitzkrieg described below, I'm also working on a piece of hardware that didn't have a reason to exist prior to yesterday. This is a little bit of a mess right now, but I was able to have a little proof-of-concept party this evening, and it does its thing.

What is its thing? Well, it's a generalized audio generator that produces voltages useful for analog hardware synthesizers. What that means to me is that I can create (or gather from sensors) information that produces voltage output that could actually be called music.

My goal for this is to create an example network that will attempt to duplicate some (very) small portion of the decision making that goes on in the head of a jazz instrumentalist and produce it using any voltage-controlled synth. Will it be great? Possibly not, but it will be interesting, and it will be the first thing I've ever done that doesn't have to be tethered to a computer.

But this was a slug-fest for me. Thanks to Grant Richter for his help with Real World (vs. theoretical book-learned) electronics.


DBG kick-off call

Had a good talk with Katie today about the mixed-media+dance performance for early November. She is starting to work on choreography, and wants to also make sure that we are moving forward. I tried to reassure, but also had some questions for her (what do I need to provide for her to practice, what is the projection surface like - and, most of all, am I really in?). All were answered to satisfaction, and I'm going to pick up example fabric in the morning that should allow us to do some reflectivity testing for the long-throw projection lines.

This is going to be a tough one - the large-format display area will be a bit of craziness. Also, all attempts at text for the ceiling end up looking like the Disney Hall of the Presidents, so I still need to find out how to resolve that. I'm in the process of talking to some people about putting together a production team; hopefully I'll have that in place by next week.

I'm probably going to see rehearsals next week. Hopefully I can get the sound requirements in place so I can complete whatever composition work is necessary.


Getting Started

So, the whole point of this blog is to act as a public sketchbook of means and methods for my artwork. Believe it or not, this is actually being pushed by Tim Weaver, the professor for one of my classes. He seems to think that someone might want to see my process (or, more likely, he just wants to see that I have a process).

Today, Sept. 16 2010, I start the book. One of our assignments in the class is to begin work on finding and researching a network of some sort, then observe/abstract/sketch and prototype a network of said type. Since almost everything is a network, there are a lot of options. However, there is also the problem of being able to study and abstract it within a finite amount of time using unfamiliar software tools. Should be a hoot.

A lot of discussion in yesterday's class was about the military's use of media technologies (especially those that are biologically-based) in order to make better decapitation machines and such. It got me thinking: what if I used a network that was military in nature, but used it to create art instead?

The thought that keeps on coming up is to simulate a network of tanks in a WWII blitzkrieg-like attack. A cheap-and-easy way to simulate this would be to take a basic flocking algorithm and use care when applying the parameters so they look like a tank battalion. Of course, I'm never about the cheap-and-easy, so I need to dig further. At first blush, the differences between a bird flocking algorithm and a bunch of tanks are:

- Tanks are variable speed under their own control.
- Tanks are able to stop(!) and go backwards if necessary.
- A battalion will have externally-driven goals (radio'd in from HQ).
- Some of the goals - or at least some of the barriers - may be moving (infantry units, for example).
- There are generally "lead" tanks vs. everything having the same level of control.

So, there are a bunch of un-bird-like behaviors that need to be coordinated. Later today I'm going to go fishing for software that might be able to help. I think I'm a little hamstrung; I could get something working quickly, but Tim made it pretty clear that he wanted us to use new tools rather than our familiar favorite.