Interactive Projects

Computer culture was interesting back before we took it for granted

I can still remember when the very first home computers started coming out. My dad and I were pretty excited. We used to look through newspapers and magazines for articles about the Tandys and the Osbornes and Commodores and the like. But for some reason we weren’t earliest adopters. My friends all had Radio Shack computers. We’d go to their houses to play Dungeons and Dragons and they’d be writing simple programs on the old iridescent green and black screens.

My high school science project was a computer algorithm of sorts. My partner and I did a primitive assessment of simple Bach and Mozart compositions. It was a statistical analysis really. And we used this to reverse engineer an algorithm for automatically generating music based on composers tendencies. It wasn’t very rigorous or scientific but conceptually it wasn’t a bad idea.

At Dartmouth all of the entering class were required to purchase early Macintosh machines. Everyone used them for typing up papers and simple graphics. There were some primitive games like Lode Runner. We also had an early form of chat and chat rooms called XYZ. Some people developed early internet addictions and actually failed out of school for spending too much time on it.

My dorm mate “hacked” the system by hijacking the front door of the program and replacing it with a dummy. We messed with people for a while before we realized it was something you could maybe get expelled for.

I did some experimentation with early Mac paint programs. It’s likely what drove my later interest in making computer interfaces with woodblocks and creating real world virtual painting.

I also experimented with some virtual projects. They weren’t very successful but hey, at least I did it.

Avoid Nevada

Avoid Nevada was a fun experiment. Way back in 1997, singer/poet Lisa Verlo and I hit on the idea of doing a cyber-performance art piece. We’d spend about two weeks in a Westfalia doing everything we could to avoid Nevada while creating and collaborating on various forms of art. We equipped ourselves with an early laptop and quickcam, created a quick web site and determined to let site viewers dictate some of our actions.

This was pre-Facebook and wireless, before ubiquitous internet. We stopped at cybercafes to make updates and check suggestions for the activities in which we should engage. Unfortunately technical difficulties and a late start left us without time to complete the circumnavigation of the state and “Avoid Nevada” quickly became “Bisect Nevada.” But that’s art. Rudimentary by today’s standards, “Avoid Nevada” was an interesting experiment and one that I’m proud to have participated in.

View The Avoid Nevada Project >

Note: The site design is archaic and was developed on the road back in a time when you had to keep images to like 30k. Everything is very tiny.

Regent’s Shrine

One of the things I most enjoy about creative projects is the synchronicities that can arise as you begin investigating tangentially related ideas. In the Art Center Media Design program we were asked to read a Michel de Certeau essay about maps. The piece, “Tours and Maps” describes two means of describing places: “the ‘map’ and the ‘tour.’ The first is of the type: ‘The girls’ room is next to the kitchen.’ The second: ‘You turn right and come into the living room.’”

I started thinking about the idea of maps in terms of the virtual places and those we imagine. What if we could use a physical device like an MRI visualization machine to represent a map of a place in our minds. I put this together with the idea of a spiritual young man who took mental trips to a shrine in his imagination to meditate before suffering an injury that makes the trip impossible. How would he find his way back? Could a new route be determined?

My research identified a wealth of online information on experiments with visualizing mental processes.

View Regent’s Shrine >

Driving Into Traffic

Traffic sucks, right? Especially in California. Who in their right mind would purposefully drive into it?

I’ve had some of the worse commutes imaginable. Los Feliz to Long Beach on three major freeways. San Francisco to Redwood Shores down the Peninsula. Heck for a while, I was commuting from Menlo Park to El Cerrito. Try that some time.

You can find ways to cope with traffic: books on tape, zen implacability. Or you can give into the outrage… fill up on angry talk radio, scream at your fellow road warriors, flip the bird like mad.

Rob Prideaux and I were looking for something interesting to do. We thought it might be fun to explore how people feel about traffic and make a little interactive art piece about it. I drove through the mess while Rob snapped photos of focused drivers. Later we explored the internet for people’s ruminations on traffic and connected them with some of the photos in a flash piece. Well, take a look.

As it was built in Flash, I have included a video walkthrough. The screen recording software doesn’t capture the mouse on Mac, so you won’t see the clickthrough. The little cars were links and as you clicked them the car display changed. Mousing over the image then displayed the text.