Prototyping 2013-09-16 (Networked Media)

From XPUB & Lens-Based wiki

<slidy theme="aa" />Date::2013-09-16

Plan for day

... break ...

  • Python intro: Talking Turtle


Prototyping is about:

  • Decomposable Systems not Suites (building a toolbelt / toolbox)
  • Software as something inherently social
  • Promiscuous Pipelines

From Suites to Systems

Conscientious decision to avoid teaching "suites" or particular environments / frameworks / IDE as exclusive or ideal for learning & practice environments. Instead interest in decomposable systems and the interrelated parts that can be deconstructed, inspected, and rebuilt.

Universal Machine

File:Universal Turing machine.svg

see: wikipedia:Universal Turing machine

In Turing's case, the "machine" was purely conceptual, a "Universal Machine" articulated as a mathematically sound description of machine based on an "infinite tape" and kind of operating manual that strictly defines what the machine does at each moment.


Software as a term can be traced to Alan Turing.

"Soft" and "hard" refer then to the interplay of malleable code (formed typically in text), and rigid hardward (typically implented in chips and circuit boards).

Interesting Turings machine broke the mold of the "machine" as being literall hard-wired to purpose. New functionalities / new kinds of machines as it were, could be sculpted by virtue of carefully constructing a new sequence of symbols on the tape that would produce the desired "computation" to occur when the machine would run. In describing this model, Turing also realised the potential profesion for writing the "software" of such a malleable/programmable machine.

Shared and networked practices

  • Authorship
  • Sharing
  • Work practices / Professionalisation/Amateurism

Sociality of software: Four Freedoms

To summarize the idea of Free software, people sometime refer to the "four freedoms":

  • Use
  • Study
  • Share
  • Improve

Factory Pipelines

File:Ford assembly line - 1913.jpg

As epitomized by Henry Ford and the concept of the factory assembly line

  • Efficiency, Optimisation
  • Elimination of Redundancy
  • Rigid, Fragile

Promiscuous Pipeline

  • Construction through making novel connections
  • Working in a network (tools that have history, social dimension of use)
  • Exploiting richness of different practices to multiplicatively produce and suggest new practices, expose hidden "inner" realities of existing ones
  • Cross disciplinarity
  • Interrogability / Editability at all stages
  • Parallelism / Simultaneity
  • Embrace Redundancy / Overloadedness

Corsets and Skeletons

In the French Open Source content management system Spip, the set of scripts which define the lookandfeel of a site is called Squelettes (French for Skeleton). This is quite a different understanding than template (sjabloon in Dutch), the term commonly used in English speaking systems such as Wordpressv, Drupal or Zope.

While templates are molds, defining the border around what is in or out... skeletons are backbones, core structures that can hold very different bodies. Corset, Skin, Skeleton, Femke Snelting


Coding a Template

Coding a template is an interesting design exercise because unlike traditional designon paper, specific connections between image and text are hard to realise. Design choices have become fixed rules using conditional language (every second title should be red); and its resulting grid systems do not allow for any exception to the rule.

When design decisions are based on nothing more than a global sense of the nature and format of the data that will appear as header, footer, or body... than templates end up as collections of clichés, essentially functioning just like stock photography – because all you can do is prepare for the mediocre, the common denominator.

Corset, Skin, Skeleton, Femke Snelting

Playing the template

Zvezdostella Mission to the Magellanic Clouds, Lialiana presents the adventures of the cryonic space traveller in a breathtaking cadavre exquis.

Corset, Skin, Skeleton, Femke Snelting

(See Also: Form art of Alexei Shulgin)

Mixing Identities

“You shouldn't mix up your identities” warns the handbook for Smarty, a templating language. “Most often, designers are also programmers to some extent and vice versa. While designing you must totally forget that you are also a programmer and look at things only from a designer's perspective. If you mixup your identities, there will be a great risk of nonstandard designs.”

Corset, Skin, Skeleton, Femke Snelting

Cutting the word up, open and into process

To imagine yourself in another place might save you from the all to tight corset of conventional forms of use, reinscribed by conventional forms. To be able to shift the work of template design away from 'setting restraints' to 'making possible', from setting borders to creating flexible backbones. We need to develop imaginative practices of trial and error, messy interdisciplinary work between programmers and designers.

Matthew Fuller, who wrote amongst many other things a must read analysis of Microsoft Word, formulates it much better: “This strategy of focusing on precise technical conflicts needs now to be intensified by drawing in antagonisms from supposedly separate fields. Geek drives to innovation must, as awkwardly and confusingly as it will happen, be coupled with the drive to make language, to cut the word up, open, and into process” x

Corset, Skin, Skeleton, Femke Snelting

Mixing Media

Agglomeration of media? Pick a Web site, any Web site: you are process- ing text as ASCII, text as code, text as a graphic file or textual symbols gen- erated by a script using vectors; images as bitmaps or vectors; video and audio streaming according to different coding and decoding protocols, themselves multilayered aggregations of algorithmically switching decision-trees, vari- ables and loops coming into layered composition with other such protocols; data as data, formatted and interrogable by the conventions and procedures of naming, sampling, addressing, encoding, compressing, decoding, sending, receiving, storing, encrypting; movies, animation front ends unwritable without a compiler, unreadable without a decompiler. What happens to media when they are mixed? One first has to ask whether they mix at all. Perhaps, rather than the anticipated fusion of all media, the disturbance of digitality is its inherent scalar differentiation of parts. Perhaps, just as misplaced con- creteness reifies the world to make it work in certain ways, a system built on bits can call into being only its same?

Media Ecologies, Matthew Fuller (book:p117/pdf:p132)

Seamly Sites

What the Cctv site exploits is the combination of these elements. Their combination occurs in the interpretation of the webcam feed by the viewer. In the comprehension of the image as an image in real time comes also that of the image as a process. Digital images—especially in such a visibly raw, low-bandwidth state—demand to be understood as a computational and algo- rithmic process. The computer cannot be seen simply as a seamless personal media player for all media nor as the ultimate coding and decoding appara- tus for the GKW. Here, if Hilliard’s A Camera Recording . . . demonstrates the geometrization of vision and the camera’s function as a thickener of the inter- play between extensive and intensive qualities, we can say also that Cctv allows for such findings to be brought into relation with Virilio’s mapping of the apparatuses of sight and their inherent conjugation of scalar fields of percep- tion with dimensional relations of control.124 The image cuts into the flow of life, detours it into an object and into a memorial trace, but also gives it a new opportunity to be launched.

Media Ecologies, Matthew Fuller, (book:156/pdf:171)


An introduction to Python

Following OpenTechSchool's Introduction to Python

  • Talking Turtle: Video
  • Python: Code Swarm
  • Why Python?

For next week

Make sure you feel comfortable with the Python/Turtle Exercises (Namely combining function+loop)