Lights, Arduino and Physical Computing

So here follows some images and recap on my first experiment with Physical computing and Arduino.

For this past week,  we learned how to use Digital/Analog inputs and outputs, implemented with Arduino code.
Therefore, I did a simple motion input experiment… that worked like those automatic lights we have in stairs, the ones that are motion activated.

For that, besides LEDs, wires, resistors, my Arduino and computer, I also needed a motion sensor.
So i plugged it in my bredboard and did the following circuit:

Then I added code, commanding how I wanted the lights (outputs) to behave when motion was detected (input).

Thus, my circuit executed what I programmed it to do:

 

 

Animations with P5.js

After getting started creating simple static drawings with P5, as you can check in my first Intro to Computational Media Post, it’s time to play with simple animations.

I added some fun interactions to my “Night in the City” sketch as you can check below:

In “Night in the City Animated” the main interactive/animated ideas are:

1. Every time you scroll the mouse from left to right, you change the background color from 0 to 255 (black to white) giving this impression that the night turns into morning.

2. Every time you reload the drawing (or the page — just refresh it and you will see) the stars appear in different positions, in an ever changing sky with random star positions and sizes.

3. Also, as you can see in the top of the antenna in my Empire State, there is an on/off red light. The circle becomes red every 1000 milliseconds and then goes of for the next 1000, repeating this function in a loop.
You can see the code in this link.

Instagram Fitness&Health&Beauty Hoax

In the first Faking the News Idea Project Post, I investigated the possibilities of creating my class project around the current Brazilian political scene. Still, as mentioned in the text, it has been very challenging to find a good hoax or satire that would be both original, bring a positive message and not put me in any legal complications (once trying to fake famous media platforms, Brazilian laws can be very restrictive).

I want to focus my study in the Brazilian territory, because my background and cultural experience can contribute to the creation of more effective fake news. Also, I believe in the use of social networks as the main media platform to create and spread this type of information. Accordingly, I started to look for different problems that users may face when poorly checking and over relying in digital social sources.

Instagram is an interesting media tool to create fake profiles. Recently, the story of this “Brazilian Surfing War Photographer” was exposed as fake. With around 125k followers, the impostor  made subtle changes to real images, such as inverting to avoid plagiarism detection. He claimed to be an UN photographer, and slip past the editors of several magazines and The Wall Street Journal. In this case, the hoax was to create fame, a personal goal. It is hard to understand other reason why someone would create a fake profile to plagiarize real photos of war zones from photographers who actually put their lives in risk to capture those images. I mean, it still shows the fragility of the system, the fragility of the way people rely in social media. But not in a positive way.

What if we didn’t need to steal images to show this fragility? What if we could pick a topic popular enough on Instagram in a way that would be beneficial for people to review the way they consume this type of content once they find out it is a hoax? Artist Amalia Ulman, for example, back in 2014, created social media fake personas and used Instagram as a medium to test how much people believe in what social media profiles portray. She explored not only how authenticity and identity are distorted in the social media echo chamber, but what this means, in particular, for women.

In a research made this past May by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK about how social media affects young people’s mental health and well being , Instagram had the most negative impact. Body Image was one of the topics covered in this study, particularly affecting females in their teens and early twenties. As many as nine in 10 teenage girls say they are unhappy with their body.  “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’.” – said an Anonymous around 20-24  during the survey.

Below you can check how each mental factor indicated by the research was rated in Instagram. Both for positive and negative sides.

Fitness, Health, Beauty and Lifestyle. There are so many Instagram influencers in Brazil in this topic. From big names with over millions of followers to new profiles, trying to fit into this new wannabe influencer trend. With such a vast amount of information, and many users following and looking for health and fitness content and inspiration, many of the information in such an important topic may be taken as truth. Lots of this diet trends or photoshopped images, 30 days transformations and food recommendations… is everything those Fitness, Health and Fitness influencers post real?

With that in mind, I came up with a concept idea for my Faking the News Class Project: to create a Instagram Fitness&Health&Beauty Hoax. I plan to use myself, only really photoshopped (to a point it will be really hard to identify me), and work hard on creating a fan base for the next month. Meanwhile I’ll create a story – probably of an obese person that got in shape –  and I’ll start to post absurd fitness tips, exercises and products. After this “fake” month, I would expose my real identity and tell the real reasons behind this hoax.

To execute this idea well I would need to considerably improve my photoshop skills. Also, I will need to learn a lot about hashtags, trends and Instagram hacks to generate more followers and ads. Besides, also have a great creativity to look for healthy/fitness/beauty tips that will be at the same time believable, absurd and still won’t be harmful people’s health.

 

 

 

Faking the News Project Ideas

Faking the News class got my attention because understanding the power of communication tools is a very interesting topic for me. Back in 2013 when I was doing my BA degree in International Relations I developed a sentimental analysis based study of tweets during a war between Gaza and Israel. Since then, I became very curious on understanding the impact that social media takes in this scenario.

Social media platforms have the power to democratize the production and distribution of content. On facebook, youtube, instagram, whatsapp… both content and advertisement of big brands and massive news channels are side by side with small companies and individuals that want to expose their thoughts on the world.  Still, as the same that this concept is indeed beautiful and inspiring, it can also be a powerful source of misinformation and hoaxes. Fake news, for instance, are a result of it.

Fake news are one of multiple worldwide phenomenons that have been growing in the past few years and that also contributes to this current counter-globalization scene.  Phenomena such as xenophobia, the polarization of left/right sides within societies, the rise of nationalisms. If you take Latin American countries, for example, the phenomena of corruption is an established thing. It is not something new, but it definitely grew to a point in which the parties started to fight so much over this power (the power to corrupt and not actually to govern) that finally leaks started to be investigated.

Still, the investigations are usually limited because the corrupt government is, after all, the people in power. Besides, with the overflow of information, and the doubt in the actual veracity of it, maybe for the population it became easier and follow this trend of “polarize” it in right and wrong sides, to find scapegoats, rather than focus on the corruption issue.

If you open any reliable source of news from Brazil today and read the headlines, it is actually hard to believe that the news are real. There are so many involvement of politics with corruption, lies, scandals, revealed connections between parties and large national corporation for washing and stealing money, and so on, that is hard to keep track. As a Brazilian, it is really hard to understand all facts happening in the government. It seems that most of what is going on in Brazilian politics are actually already fake.

Here are some examples of the last headlines in reliable Brazilian’s news websites, just so you can have an idea:

 

What are each one of the 9 complaints against Lula.
Former president has already been convicted in the case of the triplex apartment in the beach of Guarujá and is guilty in 5 other cases – Nexo Jornal, 09/13/2017

Blairo Maggi, Temer’s minister, is the target of the Federal Police investigations.
Operation Malebolge involves several authorities accused of obstruction of justice and receipt of “monthly” and tip to authorize works of the World Cup – Carta Capital, 09/14/2017.

Did you get lost in the news? Check what is against Michel Temer
President Michel Temer was the target of a second complaint, presented by the Attorney General of the Republic, Rodrigo Janot. This time he was accused of obstructing justice and being part of a criminal organization. – O Globo, 09/14/2017.

As Globo just put, yes, Brazilians are totally lost in what’s going on and in who to rely.

As a Brazilian who is really worried with this crazy and confusing scenario, as it is hard to totally understand it, I am also struggling to come up with constructive projects towards Fake News for Brazil. Some organizations have put together  “fact checkers” media websites such as Aos Fatos, Publica (with project truco) , and Lupa. By checking the veracity of fake news and statements made by politicians, they aim to help avoid misinformation.

Lupa, during the impeachment votes in the House and the Senate, votes that took down the former president Dilma Roussef  due to the allegiance of her involvement in a corruption fraud, would tweet simultaneously to the members public announcements, their own legal backgrounds, in which 60% were also involved in political corruption scandals. With the current Brazilian politics, it is actually shocking when we can  actually believe in “real” news and political statements.

I believe there is still a lot of space to create web visual tools that could help Brazilians overcome this gap when trying to understand political news and veracity. The biggest problem in Brazil is not actually the fake news itself but the actual government fake statements and corruption. Ultimately, I don’t truly believe that creating a fake new would have a positive impact in the scene. Also, I do not aim to make a satire, there are plenty of websites that can do that already. Thus, my Fake News Project approach should look forward  bringing actual real news, fact checking platforms or maybe creating a hoax that would bring hope for such a critical political scene.

Videogrep Script

What are Fake News? What is the issue with fake news? How to actually create a fake new?

Those are some of the topics covered in one of my classes called (surprise!) Faking the News. Throughout the next couple of weeks we will go over both theory and practice towards the subject. For the first class, we learned how to use videogrep, a script that enables you to edit a video when cutting words and automatically combining it to create new sentences – almost like putting words into someone’s mouth – from youtube videos. Accordingly, for our first week assignment, we had to create our own videogrep edited video.

The featured video is the final result of this experience.

How did I do it?

To use videogrep you need to follow the steps in the script’s page and install it in your computer.

I used the functions:

–search-type word (searching for the words ‘fake’ and ‘news’) in trump videos such as source1 and source2. This function is used to take the assigned word out of the video, for as many times as it appears, combining it automatically into one unique .mp4 file.

–search-type franken (for the ‘how many fingers’ and ‘i want the truth’) in the 1984 inquiry part from source3. This function gets the assigned sentence, taking the necessary words present in the video, and also automatically combines it.

You can get an idea from the Screenshot below, from another video I edited through videogrep and:

Final result from the input source4:

 

I was really excited with the possibility of using videogrep to create some sarcastic/humor videos with Brazilian politics. Still, the script can only trancribe english ‘speech-to-text’ videos. Still, I could use it for the word impeachment 🙂

Have fun,

Ilana

 

 

 

Getting started with P5.js

At ITP one highly recommended class to take in the first semester is ICM (Introduction to computational media). ICM is a beginner level coding class that is very effective to “break the ice”  with programming and help you get started. Personally, I do have an ok experience with JavaScript and web design, though, I don’t use it for art sketching. I am a creative human, and deeply passionate about art. Still, either physically or digitally, I have never quite found an artistic way to express myself. So, I am excited towards the possibility of exploring programming with this approach.

Furthermore, I really believe in the power of programming and its use to enable human beings to be informed and to inform, to have the power to create. Accordingly, my goal is also to be in an environment where I can see other people learning, maybe people that are programming for the first time. In Brazil, where I am from, this idea of perceiving code as a tool for everyone is not developed yet. Most people see it as something that should be used only for computer engineers and computer science experts. Maybe from what I’ll learn in this course I could help change this dynamics in my country. Who knows!?

So, what is this class is about after all?

It’s about playing to create sketches with code, using P5.js (a JavaScript library) to do that. We can create simple drawings, as this first week’s assignment, and further more complex images using loops, creating animations, interactions, making 3d images…. you can check it in P5.js art tumblr, there are a lot of awesome examples. Also, if you have any interest in getting started, my teacher, Dan Shiffman, has an AWESOME youtube channel . There are a lot of tutorials for beginners and they are a great – and fun – material.

For my first assignment I had to create a simple sketch, using basic shapes, calling basic functions of p5.js.

And TA-DA! here it is:

 

How did I do that?

The semiotics

Ok, first I looked at a bunch of references to come up with what I was going to create. I knew that I was going to use mostly geometrical forms, and I checked a couple of geometric works of artists I like. Also, I just arrived in NY, so based in my surroundings and mainly in my excitement to live in the city, I decided I would do a code sketch of it.

Usually, when go to Tisch (where my school, ITP is), I get out from the subway ride on the Broadway-Lafayette station and walk 3-4min on Broadway. By possibly getting out of the station through different exits or getting lost in the middle of fast walkers, more than twice I have already gone towards the opposite direction from Tisch’s building, loosing some minutes in the process. So, as a reference to make sure I am going on the right way, I have the Empire State Building. Empire State Building is north, so if I go in its direction I’ll surely arrive at ITP. As I have done that almost every day for the past week, apparently, this image got stuck in my head.

 

The coding

So, even though it seems like a kid’s paint brush sketch, it was not created in paintbrush – and not by a kid. It was coded! As you can see below.

You can also check the code and add your changes, colors and use it as you prefer. You’re more than welcome to play with 🙂

I read the functions here to create the shapes and add colors.

My challenge was getting used to P5.js coordinates, and by not being able to “inspect” each element, as you are able to do when using html/css.

Have fun,

Ilana

 

 

 

What is Interaction?

Earlier this week I purchased a new computer.  My “old” MacBook Air started to show an error  between the connection of its trackpad and the core, processing part of the machine. I would try to put up a website and the arrow would not click in the right folder. When editing an image in Photoshop, it would pick any tool but the one I needed to use.  I was even afraid to open the browser: imagine what an uncontrolled arrow logged into your Facebook account can do with your social life. It drove me crazy.

I tried rebooting the OS, different USB mouses, Bluetooth mouses, reinstalling…until I finally took it to a Tech Bar. They did a proper diagnosis of the issue and the results were not good. The cost of fixing it wouldn’t pay off at all (around $900), so I had to say my goodbyes and spend some considerable extra bucks on a functional new model.

Even though this first paragraph tells the sad story about the last days of my 2014 MacBook, it’s a good example for defining effective interaction. Basically, it happens when you move your mouse and the computer is able to listen to this movement, process it, and respond to you, making the arrow on the screen go to the intended mouse movement’s direction.

In this dialog there are two actors,  person and computer. And they have a continuous conversation: person speaks (input), the machine thinks (process), and speaks (output), and so on. All steps are essential to the success of it. In the case of my computer, it was not processing the information right. Accordingly, the mouse didn’t respond to my command, and this important feature compromised its capabilities to further interaction.

Still, proper interaction can happen throughout different types of technology, with mouse or without mouse, with machine or without one. Interaction is something intrinsically human and essential to our survival. We can also have a conversation by speaking with other humans, by exchanging mails, by petting an animal, by using the fridge and seeing its internal light turn on as we open it and many other ways.

In a fun experiment made in 2016 by Kamptipopen, an award winning architecture firm from Japan, employees could use colorful pipes to communicate in the office. Still, the interaction that humans have with a computer is more complex and functional when compared to the interaction with the fridge, the playfull and colorfull pipes in Kamptipopen’s office or most other machines. So, it is not a boolean quality: it has levels. And is this high level of interactivity that make computers play such important roles in our daily lives.

“People claim that the computer’s true essence lies in its ability to crunch numbers, or handle mountains of information. While these are desirable features, they don’t lie at the core of what makes the computer so important to our civilization. Remember, we had plenty of number-crunching and data-cubbyholing computers in the 1960s and 1970s, but we don’t talk about “the computer revolution” until the 1980s. The revolutionary new element was interactivity.” – Chris Crawford

The interaction between human and machine devices has grown exponentially in the past years. We all experienced the shift from VHS videos to Netflix, from home fixed phone lines to our smartphones, from mailing to Whatsapp, from buying our books in a bookstore to having them by one click in our Kindles… and the list could go on and on. It has grown to a point that it is clear that we already behave as cyborgs, we just have to accept it.

Emerging technologies aim to optimize this further.

I agree with the idea put in  Bret Victor’s A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design, written back in 2011, in which he reminds us of all the other senses such as the ability to feel, that are still “invisible” through nowadays gadgets and networking tools. Still, for something to be effectively interactive, a conversation must exist. It must be intuitive enough so it won’t be perceived as an emerging technology or prototype, but as something that improves our daily communication process.