Saturday, December 3, 2011


Maybe it's just me, but there's a sinister edge to all that buzzing.

"August 4, Skynet became self-aware. The human fate was decided in milliseconds......"

Friday, December 2, 2011


It's been a while, so there's some catch up. I've been meaning to respond to a couple of presentations for a while now.

A couple weeks ago David Bruemmer from 5D robotics gave a talk on some pretty interesting robot/human interaction stuff. Ultimately though, it doesn't matter what your technical proficiencies or innovative technologies are if there you're unable to situate that technology in a world beyond itself. As far as I could tell from the talk, the ongoing success of 5D as a business depends entirely on ongoing war. It's not merely a matter of point of maximum impact as Max was claiming, but a fundamental issue of what you choose to look at and not look at. While I'm comfortable standing in righteous judgement of war profiteering, it does make getting a straight answer to an honest question difficult. I had hoped because of the deadly serious issues involved, Bruemmer would have thought through in a more sophisticated way what doing work that solves the 'wrong,' but technically feasible, problem, instead of the considering the actual policy and ethical issues. (diffusing mines with robots, rather than not sending soldiers to war). This is directly relevant to the work in smart surfaces.  Only looking at systemic or structural or political problems through a lens of technique, or individual practice is super limiting.  To not even see that the problem is structural or political, though, might be even worse .  Is the way to shift a paradigm in education really via tinkering within the structure and organization of one class? Is lighting up the side of a burnt out house with LEDs really of much use in solving Detroit's problems?

edit:  for a while I thought I was getting more radical as I got older, but it might be that I'm just getting more set in my radical ways...

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Trying to figure out how to control the BlinkMs we've been given.  We don't quite want to do what they seem designed for, which is to replay a single programmed sequence.  also trying to figure out if we can get as many as we need to work given the available pins on our arduino.  Above is controlling hue with a potentiometer. We'll likely control changes (as a monolith, like above) in color from the limited number of analog pins, while we control on/off from the more easily proliferated digital pins.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daily Affirmation

I think the popular perception that we’re a lot like the Victorians is in large part correct. One way is that we’re all constantly in a state of ongoing t­echnoshock, without really being aware of it—it’s just become where we live. The Victorians were the first people to experience that, and I think it made them crazy in new ways. We’re still riding that wave of craziness. We’ve gotten so used to emergent technologies that we get anxious if we haven’t had one in a while.

But if you read the accounts of people who rode steam trains for the first time, for instance, they went a little crazy. They’d traveled fifteen miles an hour, and when they were writing the accounts afterward they struggled to describe that unthinkable speed and what this linear velocity does to a perspective as you’re looking forward. There was even a Victorian medical complaint called “railway spine.”

Emergent technologies were irreversibly altering their landscape. Bleak House is a quintessential Victorian text, but it is also probably the best steam­punk landscape that will ever be. Dickens really nailed it, especially in those proto-Ballardian passages in which everything in nature has been damaged by heavy industry. But there were relatively few voices like Dickens then. Most people thought the progress of industry was all very exciting. Only a few were saying, Hang on, we think the birds are dying.

--From The Paris Review interviewWilliam Gibson on on Charles Dickens’s Bleak House

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

meet 11/3

As the project gains resolution and direction, the agenda becomes a bit more skeletal.  My proposal for tomorrow evening's meeting.

Tasks to be defined and delegated for work this weekend.

1. make a simple mock up with a series of PIRs and series of LEDs to test/demonstrate code with.  this means getting the PIRs we have to work, or deciding definitively we need to junk them.

2. complete material durability tests, including documentation (video?).  enumerate what other structural configurations we want to look at.

3. do some light studies.  devise a set of LED + coduit + acrylic + paint(?) combinations to build and then compare.  (I bought 6ft of 1/2" acrylic rod today)

4. come up with several formal design options, and represent them so that we can present a limited set of options for feedback on tuesday, and declare a winner at that time to move forward with.

5. work out how all the wires in one unit go to one wire and then the Arduino.  flex something or other that Keenan was talking about? this is proof of concept and only needs to be wire and lights.  

6. investigations with wireless stuff from John.  will it work, do we need to budget something else?

7. other agendas I've forgotten or are demanded by the schedule we put together on tuesday?