Synthesis: timelapse of sc evolution in iStage 10-11 Nov 2017, SLSA

Time-lapse of sc system evolving its state according to events in iStage all day during SLSA 2017 at ASU,  November 10 & 11, 2017,

Friday 10 Nov 2017

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM
3G “Game Studies 1: Roundtable with Ian Bogost” 
Ian Bogost (GaTech), Alenda Chang (UCSB, Edmond Y. Chang (Ohio), Heidi Coleman (Chicago), Patrick Jagoda (Chicago), Patrick LeMieux (UC Davis), Timothy Welsh (Loyola)

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Synthesis Open Atelier: Serra Vegetal Life and Other Scenarios  
Oana Suteu, Todd Ingalls, Sha Xin Wei, Brandon Mechtley, Chris Ziegler + Synthesis


9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Synthesis Responsive Environments / Time Out  
Immerse yourself in a rich media environment, talk with our researchers and artists, or relax in our playful, poetic atmospheres.

11:00am-12:30pm
8F “Beyond Plant Blindness: To See the Importance of Plants for a Sustainable World” Chair: Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir 
Giovanni Aloi (SAIC), Dawn Sanders (Göteborgs, Sweden), Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir (Iceland Academy of Arts), Mark Wilson (Cumbria UK)

2:00-3:30 PM
Responsive Environments Roundtable
Sha Xin Wei (ASU Synthesis), Tom Lamarre (McGill), Todd Ingalls (ASU Synthesis), Oana Khintirian (Montreal), Stacey Moran (ASU), Chris Ziegler (ASU Synthesis) and guests

Thanks to Dan Jackson and Megan Patzem (AME) for producing the video documentation.

_________________________________________________
Sha Xin Wei • Professor and Director • School of Arts, Media and Engineering + Synthesis
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts + Fulton Schools of Engineering • ASU
Fellow: ASU-Santa Fe Center for Biosocial Complex Systems
Affiliate Professor: Future of Innovation in Society; Computer Science; English
Associate Editor: AI & Society Journal
skype: shaxinwei • mobile: +1-650-815-9962
Founding Director, Topological Media Lab
_______________________________________________________

David Morris, on bitcoin, and the attempt to impose scarcity on integers

David Morris:

As I've noted for a while, the Bitcoin is beautiful with regard to abstract cryptographic design, but a lunatic nightmare with regard to concrete environmental realities. This is because its decentralized ledger is predicated on a proof of work verification step that must cost, more in electricity and computational costs, than the value of what's in the ledger--and multiple miners are competing to do the verification step, to earn mined coin. That's what keeps someone from forging currency and ripping people off: it costs more to do that then what you'd earn. As an analogy, imagine that it would cost more than $100 dollars in energy and computers to forge the $100 dollar bill in your pocket; you wouldn't bother to try and forge. What keeps forgers from forging dollar bills is that it's hard to produce the materials. What keeps forgers from forging bitcoin is that proving that bitcoin is real bitcoin takes enormous amounts of energy. But as the total value of bitcoin grows, the total amount of energy needed to prove it and ensure forgery isn't worth it, grows. AND THAT PROOF NEEDS TO BE DONE EACH TIME A BLOCK OF TRANSACTIONS IS ADDED.

NB, more precisely, it is energy together with and required by the computational time and power required for doing the proof, with current computing technology (as well as the energy for cooling the computers); AND the energy wasted, because the miningsystem is itself market driven, with multiple competing miners working to (in effect) solve the SAME PROBLEM, and only the first one to solve it earns Bitcoin, so the electrical energy spent by miners who don't earn the coin doesn't do anything useful, as if in a car you design it with multiple engines that generated heat, and only the first to turn over a gear moved the car forward. If you want to have decentralized ledger, the design of Bitcoin is elegant. If energy per currency exchange were a measure of the worth of the currency, the design is terrible. You could also make a currency that is hard to forge because you make it from paper from a trees in a particular forest that you then burn down. But nobody would think that makes sense, I hope. In this case the cost of energy becomes a way of proving and security an identity in an abstract realm of numbers that don't have identities, when you don't want to allow a central authority to monitor identities. Is it worth it? Why not seek to solve the human side of the equation: figure out how to build human institutions that one can trust and do not corrupt or abuse, instead of trying to bend numbers to purposes they do not serve well, except when we cost out the numbers in terms of computation costs. That's it in a nub: we make it hard to forge numbers by leveraging the energy, time, and computing cost of computing certain numbers. Bitcoin should come with a logo that says "In primes we trust." And be prepared for trouble when quantum computing gets to the point of finding prime factors quickly.

As well, if one had the thought that speculation on the house market had become a problem in, say, 2008, and speculation in third order derivatives that nobody understands and that become decoupled from underlying value are a problem that contributed to market crashes are a problem, and that in general financialization that is decoupled from actual economic productivity, since it is just bets about market movements, is a problem, and that financilization facilitates wealth accumulation and inequality, then one might be worried by speculation in currencies whose value is simply speculative. It's not for nothing that some governments are saying that companies issuing cryptocurrencies are in fact issuing securities. 

One could think that what cryptocurrencies afford is the securing of a new domain of betting. Not one houses, stocks, productivity, or changes in the values of those, but bets on how people value certain numbers that can be owned and not duplicated, or how people value the exchange of those numbers. (And yes, also means of exchanging value in ways that aren't exposed to monitoring or corrupt institutions; but that, as far as I can tell is not what is driving the bubble that appears to be blowing at the moment.)

But of course this could be wrong, they could end up becoming important to new economies, as in the libertarian scifi scenarios. Or crash everything.

(Personal communication, retrieved 8 Dec 2017. Emphasis added.)

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Business Insider article:
The electricity used to mine bitcoin this year is bigger than the annual usage of 159 countries

Excerpt:

Bitcoin transactions now use so much energy that the electricity used for a single trade could power a home for almost a whole month, according to Dutch bank ING.

The bulk of Bitcoin "mining" is done in China, where energy costs are comparatively cheaper than in places like the UK or US.

"The top six biggest mining pools from Antpool to BTCC are all largely based in China," Mati Greenspan, an analyst with trading platform eToro, said in an email earlier this month. "Some rough estimates put China's hashpower at more than 80% of the total network."

Wekinator, machine learning engine; ontogenesis; lightspot games

Connor and others who are considering using machine learning.

(1)

Rebecca Fiebrink, a computer scientist @ Princeton now Goldsmiths, has created a very popular machine learning engine designed specifically for media artists: Wekinator - which can be used as a blackbox from Max or any client via OSC.   I think Lauren Hayes and several AME students have tried it out.  (Tell us what you think!)

http://www.wekinator.org/

Treat Wekinator’s machine learning engine like a power tool — it’s very useful for what it's designed for, but it can hurt you ( in mind and soul if not body ;) if you try to use it against its design.   Take appropriate courses from Pavan (or Suren, Robert…)  to learn when and why to use these tools.

Wekinator is not a research tool for those interested in inventing new methods in machine perception or signal processing, but Fiebrink has taken a great deal of care to user test, design and implement the best of known methods to 

 

            • Create mappings between gesture and computer sounds.

            • Creation of gesturally-controlled animations and games

            • Control interactive visual environments created in Processing, OpenFrameworks, or Quartz Composer, or game engines like Unity, using gestures sensed from webcam, Kinect, Arduino, etc.

            • Creation of systems for gesture analysis and feedback

            • Build classifiers to detect which gesture a user is performing. Use the identified gesture to control the computer or to inform the user how he’s doing.

            • Detect instrument, genre, pitch, rhythm, etc. of audio coming into the mic, and use this to control computer audio, visuals, etc.

            • Creation of other interactive systems in which the computer responds in real-time to some action performed by a human user (or users)

                        • Anything that can output OSC can be used as a controller

                        • Anything that can be controlled by OSC can be controlled by Wekinator

 

(2)

Having said that, these methods are also a trap in a fundamental sense: they can only recognize / categorize the given, and cannot produce novel, artful, living gesture.  (The non-prestatabilty of potential is the central thrust of the ontogenetics group.)  That’s why we make human-in-the-loop systems, technical ensembles.  

(3)

On the third hand, it could be quite fun to implement two ETUDES leveraging Wekinator’s power:

            Sha’s Follower-to-Leader game: Follow-spot tries at some point to anticipate and lead the human walker)

            Rawls’ N-1 game : Train on n walkers, remove one person, direct lightspot to move with the remaining n-1 walkers.

I’m pretty sure the Follower-to-Leader game would do something interesting.  I don’t see how to constrain the (repetition of the) walking to make the n-1 game work.

brittleness of code + complexity theory => topological media is worthy enterprise

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/09/saving-the-world-from-code/540393/?utm_source=fbb

In 1995 I argued at Stanford & Berkeley that the master Wicked Problem in computer science is NOT NP≠P, but the brittleness of code. 
Instead of arguing with over-confident and under-informed colleagues during the dotcom boom, I started with some courageous, playful souls the Topological Media Lab* to create realtime, gestural media, and hybrid matter that can evolve with the robustness of analog materials, but with continuous (indefinite-dimensional) & multivalent state behavior that can be designed to suit the phenomena of interest, and admit ad hoc intention.   

To do it right is not trivial, requires a head for physics as well as a nose for irreality and poetry…

It’s time to reap…

* Georgia Tech / GVU / 2001-2004, Concordia University 2005-2013

_________________________________________________
Sha Xin Wei • Professor and Director • School of Arts, Media and Engineering + Synthesis
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts + Fulton Schools of Engineering • ASU
Fellow: ASU-Santa Fe Center for Biosocial Complex Systems
Affiliate Professor: Future of Innovation in Society; Computer Science; English
Associate Editor: AI & Society Journal
skype: shaxinwei • mobile: +1-650-815-9962
Founding Director, Topological Media Lab
_______________________________________________________

Research_Practices_in_Digital_Design.pdf


Attached is a useful survey of how to design computational media things : tools, apps, services, even events, and performances with an aesthetic intent.

Some points / caveats:

• No one article can adequately represent all the different techniques, but this one serves as a good index.  (I'm sure Stacey K could point to a lot more :)

• This addresses the practical matter of how to design a sociotechnical thing: software application like a mobile app, a service like an augmented reality platform for use by curators or academic game developers, or an immersive responsive media environment for exploring Mars or terrestrial ecosystem, or an immersive environment for modeling buildings and streets, according to criteria that can be stated in advance:  for such and such a demographic, for a specific purpose -- like helping ASU seniors create scenarios about climate change for high school students.

• Such digital design methods are a practical and technical matter.  Research in digital design is NOT the same as using digital design to do research (which could be any inquiry to expand human knowledge -- eg why are we here?   Why are we mortal?  What is a gesture?   When should we replace some human work by machine work?   Etc etc etc)

• Digital design method is also NOT art.
 (Despite the authors' citation of Lev Manovich. )

• Experimental studies of experience, and (non-anthropocentric) experiential experiments, and in general any scientific (vs engineering) research  are NOT well served by pre-packaged methods.  I can talk about that.

Having said all that, the design methods surveyed are extremely useful when the sociotechnical context is stable, and it's time to make something work robustly enough to be used and useful.   Please study this carefully if you aim to making something "usable" by "other people."

The most valuable aspect of this article is its concrete observations about accommodating the putative "users" of (engineering lingo) / "audience" for (art lingo)  what you make in the very process of inventing and designing what you make.

Neither engineers nor artists are very good about this.  

That's why the Topological Media Lab was set up with a different ethical stance : NEITHER as an isolated engineering lab, NOR as an isolate artist but as home for fundamental inquiry that uses art and engineering research techniques.   So, can we do engineering or art research reflexively  (the makers are their own subjects and objects of study as well as the people they purport to help) and abductively?

Xin Wei



_________________________________________________
Sha Xin Wei • Professor and Director • School of Arts, Media and Engineering + Synthesis
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts + Fulton Schools of Engineering • ASU
skype: shaxinwei • mobile: +1-650-815-9962
_______________________________________________________

current Synthesis projects + etudes


Dear active Synthesis researchers and students,

Just a reminder — our weekly campfires are Mondays 2-3

Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons, Todd and I plan to hang out and work around the Matthews Center (iStage, Fishbowl, 240B)
Thursdasy 4:00 - 5:30 I have office hours 

Connor will be in residence as our technical lead.
Ben will be in residence for a number of hours as well.

See attached for a list of current Synthesis 
projects (research leading to exhibition or publication) and
etudes (short 1 week exercises leading to a fun demo)

The best way to pick up technique, savvy, and judgment would be hop aboard one of these existing projects… a la atelier model of apprenticeship (good for making everything from bridges to cathedrals and feature films)  

So, take a look and come talk with me, Todd or one of the experienced Synthesis researchers about working on one of those…so we can coordinate our intelligence, and impetus for impact.

Till soon,
Xin Wei




_________________________________________________
Sha Xin Wei • Professor and Director • School of Arts, Media and Engineering + Synthesis
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts + Fulton Schools of Engineering • ASU
Fellow: ASU-Santa Fe Center for Biosocial Complex Systems
Affiliate Professor: Future of Innovation in Society; Computer Science; English
Associate Editor: AI & Society Journal
skype: shaxinwei • mobile: +1-650-815-9962
Founding Director, Topological Media Lab
_______________________________________________________