Computational Arts

Session 9: More Markov Chains, Speech Synthesis and Crystal Punk

Unfortunately, Diane was unable to make the session, but she did send updates on what she’s been working on recently. She’s been concentrating on writing her dissertation but also finding out more information about Markov Chains. She’s also been looking into Rebecca Febrink‘s Wekinator project. She’s hoping to use some of the data sets from the Human Microbiome project and using those to train Wekinator to turn out endless streams of Biome sequences – so that then never repeat. She’s going to explore possible outputs and bring them to the next tutorial.

Jayson, Jules and I had a discussion about how planning for the end of year show is going. Jayson went to a show discussion meeting with Atau Tanaka. This year they have both ground first floors of the exhibition space, but positioning within the spaces will be decided at the next meeting. Jules is keen to have a large dark space to show her projection. Jayson described how last year everyone drew onto a large floor plan diagram of the space, and then revisions were made. I suggested that it would be great if they could all be close to each other – that this would be better than all having disparate separate rooms.

As Jules was absent from the last tutorial, we started with her homework from the previous tutorial:

  1. Gather more content, dependent on Tumblr responses.
  2. Make a prototype with:
    1. p5.js
    2. Data files in json for conversations
    3. Physics based chains of conversations, similar to this Matter.js example.
    4. Voice synthesis with p5.js-speech.
    5. iPad swipes via osc using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  3. Keep chasing the technical team for projector resolution
  4. Set up your own GitHub.

She’s still trying to get more content from other people, but is happy with working with her own content for now. We went through the setup of Git, Github source hosting and Github webpage hosting via Github pages. I pointed her in the direction of various tutorials on Github setup and Git in general. She’s successfully pushed to GitHub.

We took a look at saving her text content in external JSON files, but realised it was faster for her to save the data directly in the source code of her p5.js project for now.

Jules is still going through the setup of Matter.js and p5.js-speech. She’s been in Japan recently and noted that they have a very different form of online intimacy there – it feels faster there, whereas in the West people build slower. She found people using Tinder and Grindr depending on their preference, but the Pairs dating app was also popular.

In terms of her dissertation she’s been reading “Control and Freedom” by Wendy Chun again, which was her original inspiration for this project. She’s fascinated by the idea of aura from Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. She stated that Tinder or other social dating networks diminish the aura of relationships – they aren’t your waking, walking life. The only way to get to aura is by sitting down with people in the real world and communicating with them.

Moving on to the coding of her project, I suggested prioritising speech synthesis first, then physics simulation and then finally interaction with a tablet computer to allow for the familiar swipe gesture to be used to navigate her curated dataset.

I suggested drawing out all the text to an image and then redrawing that every frame, rather than laboriously redrawing the entire ellipse of text on every frame. We went through the p5.js-speech library, which seemed straightforward, although she did follow up with me later stating that she’d been having some problems. We are going to have a separate coding only meeting before the next tutorial.

Finally we moved on to securing the Android tablet computer that she’s going to be leant for the exhibition. We found a suitable device to secure it. Finally we discussed how much explanation is going to be visible at the exhibition, something which still needs to be resolved. Is she going to be there to talk it through with visitors for the duration?

I set the following homework:

  1. Get going in speech
  2. Send me dissertation proposal and bibliography, as well as project proposal
  3. Get going in matter.js (less important)
  4. Keep chasing the technical team for projector resolution and borrow Android tablet
  5. Work on getting swipe interaction working via OSC using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  6. Make a kit list for the exhibition

We then moved onto Jayson’s homework from the previous tutorial:

  1. Experiment with lasers, LEDs and other electronics in the crystal growth structures.
  2. Read the Curious Lore Of Precious Stones.
  3. Think more about the overall look of the exhibition.
  4. Send me his proposal for her dissertation and the bibliography for it

In between this tutorial and the previous one I had sent Jayson an article from the Washington Post on how human activity has caused a whole new layer of minerals to form around the world.

Jayson showed some of his experiments with trying to grow crystals around electronics components:

I suggested covering the contacts of the electronics with wax and then removing it using a hair dryer after the crystals have grown. He’s going to continue experimenting.

He ran out of copper sulphate, so he bought a 25 kg bag! It seems that it’s used in the sheep farming business. He’s also been thinking about covering an entire PC case in crystal, so has also bought one of those:

He’s also been experimenting with growing crystals on lasers, but has been having similar problems to those that occurred around LED’s. I suggested trying wrapping the components in clingfilm and then carefully removing afterwards if the previously suggested wax technique was ineffective.

We moved on to his thoughts on “The Curious Lore of Precious Stones“. Jayson has been steadily working his way through the 500 odd pages of fairly dense writings on crystal lore. He discovered an amazing image of what appears to be a magnetically powered spaceship:

As he was reading the book, the idea of “Crystal Punk” came to him – similar to Steam Punk, but mineral related. He imagined crystals growing out of technology and being utilised by people. He referenced Tiberium in the Command and Conquer series of games. I referenced the idea of the Cargo cult after an apocalypse or collapse – people not understanding how computers worked, but remembering the protocols around them.

I challenged Jayson on what his narrative was – is the idea that post collapse people are trying to cargo cult computers to make them work? Or do crystals become a commodity? Jayson stated that JG Ballard’s “The Crystal World” was his starting reference. The idea of post apocalyptic societies worshiping crystals.

I challenged Jayson on how the installation would love? Is he a Crystal Punk? Is he a future shaman? Is he going to make a performance? Is he going to look through crystals to see the future? Grow a crystal garden?

Jayson stated that he’s worried the project isn’t computational enough. That crystal lore is the thing that fascinates him. I suggested that the over saturation of computing resources could give rise to spontaneous crystal growth as an unexpected side effect. Or perhaps that a future AI grows crystals in order to create a physical form for itself – Conway’s Game of Life gone amok – cellular automata as a method for growing into the real world.

We then went online to search for other Crystal Punk references:

I suggested that he reach out to his course leader, Theo Papatheodorou to discuss the relevancy of his project.

We discussed what he would exhibit in his final show, and came up with the following elements (in no particular order):

  • A game of life simulation
  • Crystal punk artefacts
  • The narrative idea of computing waste getting to a critical point and an AI emerging at a certain point in time when cloud computing got to a certain density
  • A cargo cult of humans trying to understand what is going on? crystal lore?
  • Perhaps a space like an obsessive room of the man that realises that it’s going to happen – maps of all the data centres in the world and game of life of them spreading
  • A timeline of events

I referenced a cut scene from ET, where Elliot draws the circuit diagram of the customised Speak and Spell machine on the walls of the school nurse’s office:

Jayson talked about using a crystal to gaze into the future and seeing crystals everywhere. He found an amazing film from the 50’s that showed crystals growing everywhere: “The Monolith Monsters“:

I referenced Mark Lombardi’s work on networks of people and that he could use a similar visual style to show the progression of his work. Jayson admitted that he’s been dreaming of crystals! I suggested making a crystal mask to express that feeling. I also referenced Francis Bacon’s studio being relocated to Ireland from London after his death.

After the session, Jayson sent me an image of the beginning of his work on the crystal mask:

I set the following homework:

  1. Continue to experiment with Experiment with LEDs in the crystal growth structures and computer case – wax protection? Clingfilm?
  2. Send dissertation proposal and bibliography
  3. Send over the narrative of the space
  4. Speak to Theo about your concerns about computation relevancy