Thursday, December 17, 2009

Group 1's Creative process

Hey guys,

I told Arturo I would do this because our group had be absent on some post during our creative process so I tried to sum up all of what we did because it seems has though we never had a right idea.

Group 1's Creative Process

Interactive Storytelling has been one of the most interesting classes I have taken at UF, possibly because of vagueness the concept. Not until I finish writing the paper, at the end of the year, did I really understand the connection between interactivity and storytelling. At the beginning, I believed it was just creating random outputs from a story, but it is more than that. It is creating a environment in which the user can choose different their own path.

In our final presentation, our (at least my) intentions were to create this alien like atmosphere where the audience is involved with multiple stories: the story of being taken on a tour, the story of an alien invasion, and the story of being creative. After hearing the constructive criticism from our audience, I realized, yes I would have done things differently next time, but the surprise element to our project may have thrown people off. Obviously aliens weren't really attacking, but we were trying to appeal to their creative subconscious, with the use web camera and creative story making and collaboration. Honestly, I do not believe that message was portrayed to its fullest based off initial crowd reaction, which we can definitely take part in.

Coming up with an idea for this project was definitely the hardest part of this class. In the beginning our group consisted of Ed, Logan, Shamar and I. Ed immediately took lead on the project because he was the only one with an idea, for which he already had some background knowledge. His idea was to create an alternate world around campus where the user had free path choice cued from clues. The story for the user was they were part of a group that was involved in a experimental demonstration that would open a portal into UF's past. Somehow something goes wrong and the group is sucked back into the past. Now it is up to them to figure out the clues to get back to the present. If they fail to do this in the correct amount of time or the clue were wrong they would be stuck in past or transported to a incorrect time. We were going to have a film to explain this then the group would have to go around campus and find clues. The clues were going to be fiducials that would either open up more videos or give you part of a map to get back to right location.

We each had our roles in the project: Ed- history/ fiducial coding, Logan- film and production, Shamar- pictures/ history and I – artwork for fiducial and filming. Everything was going smoothly for a few weeks. We had deadlines, assignments and a clear idea that we could work on. Then, like all group work, we started to hit a few problems. Our first problem arouse when we had to re disperse the work load after we receiving a new member, Michael. Then came the introduction of new ideas and people not wanted to work on the original idea anymore. And to top it off, our leader Ed had to leave the class. We then had to decide do we want to continue with Ed's idea or do something we all are interested in. We chose what we were all interested in...

It was time again to re-evaluate our skills and determines our individual interest. Lucky we found out everyone had an affinity to music whether it be creation, manipulation or dance. So our new idea was to create this musical web interface where the user was allowed to learn about music. The user would be able to click a genre type and it would have a list of artist in the genre, their information, influences and contemporaries. Here we wanted to create a non-fictional story about how each artist and genre came about. Not only would the user be able to get information, they could post new information or genre or people we didn't cover. Though it would take years, at the end of the interface, we would have an entire list of every artist and every genre or a complete look at the history of music.

We again divided up the work where: Shamar was blog maintenance, which she created, and south america music; Logan was head of the interface design and R&B music and classic; Michael was suppose to do programming and rap music and I was over rock/punk music. This project I would say we were most excited about, but of course it had its problems. According to our professor, this idea was just a multimedia experience and not interactive storytelling. So we were there again, left with the task of coming up with a new idea.

Our next idea was inspired by Logan. The audience was suppose to be there for some event but somehow this guy from the future hacks into the REVE. His back story is that he is from a future where no music or artwork is allowed. It is up to him, his refugees and the audience to break into the

central building where they have warehoused all this information. Through out the story the audience would be giving codes to unlock the last door and depending on how they arrange it, it would have given them different outcomes. We went in this direction because we had already collected musical information from our last idea.

Slowly but surely that idea morphed into another. The next idea was a play on previous but it was an alternate reality sort of like the matrix. A man wakes up on his birthday and sees he alone has one email from his mother wishing him happy birthday. He falls back asleep and woken up in a rush by a man in a black suit urging him to go to the peer. He then travels on this boat to these four views an audience member can choose from. Basically in the end there are things you're suppose to collect and depending on how many you collect determines your output.

We erased the latest idea completely after discovering this wasn't interactive storytelling we moved on. We tried a new idea by creating this interactive music video making space. The audience would be allowed to type words, make a musical patterns with different instruments and change the images. This/ my idea didn't make it three days without us having a new idea. Our next idea out of frustration was a cartoon representation of us where an audience member would type in phrase or ideas and the program would respond according. We obviously didn't have the time or skill to pull this idea off so we went back to something like Logan's idea from before. We ended up with the idea we performed in the REVE on presentation day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Eye Writer


We live in interesting times, no question about that. Plague, famine, kids killing people in remote villages from their drone playstations in Las Vegas, sipping RedBull. It is quite difficult to know how we can provide an ounce of balance to a ton of misery, so that ounce must be something really special to rescue our impossibly damaged spirit.

The influx of very damaged very young humans, the broken byproduct of that biggest business which is war, ends up in the landfills of society, the eternal superfund from which some people pick up the pieces and try to put things back together, albeit in a very different way. A leg here, an arm there, an eye or two, perhaps a brain? Can we pull us back together?
I will call him Luis

While searching for an appropriate picture to help me cut through the fog I had trouble finding one of the millions of miserable children which survive doing such a thing, because Corbis Corporation, the photo "service" owns most of them. I wonder, do those children get a percentage directly deposited to their pig accounts?

I guess you get the point. What triggered all this diatribe was me thinking about what we do on a daily basis, our "job" in other words. Do we really do something useful, something that tips the balance and creates a positive change? I think one of the reasons that the Open Source movement is so important is that it is a sort of groundswell, difficult to perceive because it is so pervasive and widespread.

But this movement, so dangerous to the monopolists of the world will tumble the most arrogant of them. There is no corporation, not even the most technically sophisticated that can evolve as rapidly as thousands or millions of people working together for a common cause.

As a little sample, I offer this movie about such an endeavour, one that ends with a call to hackers all over the world to collaborate, in this and any other way that might become the glue that binds us together again, into our cyborgian future.

The Eyewriter from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

Open Frameworks, F.A.T., Graffiti Research Lab, graffiti legend Tempt1 and of course EyeWriter got together to produce that ounce of energy for each and everyone of us...

Here is the how to and all the good monopoly-breaking stuff for those DIY's among us. Keep on DIYing...!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Weaving the collective and the self in art

Indigenous art has the power of a mirror where the collective and the self, the ancestral and the re-signified meet and interact. It's incredible to think about the infinitude of layers of meaning embedded in a single object that has also passed to be a marketable item. And knowledge endures, transforms, erodes, but still persists. Kaiabi basketry for example, topic of my research, brings a symbolic and mythical language encoded in the more than 30 different designs still woven by Kaiabi men. They are symbols who provide constant ethnic reiteration, just like an ethnic brand.

Many of graphic designs produced in basketry refer to Kaiabi myths, such as the design named awasiayj (maize grain), which is mentioned in the myth of Origin of Cultivated Plants. There is another design that represent enemies killed in battles, named "Tangap". Another one refers to frogs (Kururu), important animal mentioned in many Kaiabi myths.

Kaiabi basket with design named Kururu'i (little frog).

Traditional ways of learning how to weave a basket include observing somebody; observing a ready made basket;and also by taking a piece of woven basket from garbage and copying it. This is also in Kaiabi mythology. In a very interesting and funny myth, Kaiabi ancestral hero Tuiarare was traveling to fetch some natural resources for many, many years, until he arrived in a snake hut. The snake was mean and wanted to eat him. He started to mention names of animals to distract her, but she would not let him go. Until a moment, in the morning, he called the name of the great hawk who eats snakes. She got afraid and let him go. On his way out, he got a piece of skin of the snake that was hanging from a wall. He took that piece of skin back to his village and learned to weave baskets copying from the snake's skin. And then he taught the Kaiabi people how to do it. And this happens since...until nowadays. Men learn by observing a piece of "skin". Myths are fascinating because they tell an ancestral story that has perpetual meaning...just like an apparent "simple" basket...who said there is no magic in the real world?

Drawing of ancestral hero with snake and hawk done by the student Iwa Kaiabi in Kururu Village, Xingu Indigenous Park, 1999.

Myths and Animation in the work of Virgilio Vasconcelos

The work of this animator impressed me greatly, and shows the creative use of technology in the service of Art, with the tech part downplayed through the look of mechanical stage devices. Brazilian animator Virgilio Vasconcelo is responsible for the 3D images in a project which included other artists. It is a series of animations based on myths from the Amazon. See also one called Cobra Grande on YouTube, and his homepage which allows for downloading examples of his animations as short Quicktime movies.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From the 'Uncanny Valley' to the Mountain of Manifest

In my term paper I discussed digitial visual effects in film compared with video games, giving an overview of the history of CGI. Furthermore because CGI is so prevalent in video games I looked at gameplay vs. narration and gave an overview of the trend and the difficulties in creating photorealism in video games. The problem with photorealism is what I'd like to discuss here. On October 13, 2009 an article was published by Science Daily, showing that not only do humans react to the Uncanny Valley effect, but so do monkeys. Okay, now I'm sure some of you will know what the 'uncanny valley' is, but I had no idea until I began this paper. The 'uncanny valley' effect was theorized by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori. The 'valley' refers to a dip in a graph that charts a human's positive reaction in response to an image on one axis and a robot's human-likeness on the other. Based on scientific findings by Princeton University’s assistant psychology professor Asif Ghazanfar and research specialist Shawn Steckenfinger, the ability to distinguish nuances in facial expressions as theorized in the uncanny valley effect are evolutionary adaptations. The research showed that macaque monkeys, when shown an image of a CGI monkey instead of a video of a real monkey, quickly averted their glances and were frightened. So, people and even monkeys, can tell the difference between CGI and real. What does this exactly mean for video games? Well, we're going to continue pursuing photorealism until we achieve realism beyond the point where we can distinguish the two or we can rely on non-photorealistic techniques and develop a more stylized approach to CGI characters. Because, interestingly enough people react more positively to non-photorealistic characters such as the disproportionate ones in "The Incredibles" than they do to more photorealistic ones like those in "Polar Express." Either way we will continue down this track until we reach the point where a new technology is needed to express ourselves and when we get there and have crossed the 'valley,' we will begin a new adventure, climbing the mountain of manifest.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hip-hop - a musical style, a grassroots movement, a cultural community?

I was writing my paper on urban tribes and searching the virtual world on hip-hop, finding this interesting artist named Bomani D'Mite Armah and his work. I have always been attracted by art that is powerful enough to create a cultural movement and somehow change the world, bring joy, awareness and beauty to the world. Especially in music, the truth is that the strongest and most powerful contemporary musical styles have their roots in the streets, slungs, in the dispossessed, powerless and "forgotten" social groups in urban centers. What also strikes me is the unpredictability of these styles, in terms of endurance, possible mixing and development of new styles and real strength as a social movement. There is also the not so beautiful side of it, such as commoditization of artists and art, vulgarity and, above all, low quality productions that always find audiences to keep them going. This is the case with Hip-Hop. While it has a noble and beautiful character of speaking about the social injustices of our world, it has its vulgar side too. The interactive quality of hip-hop, as well as the stories under the improvised, said-as-sung rhythm are so contagious that the style is performed, re-created and reaffirmed elsewhere in both real and virtual worlds: thank you hip-hop poets, rappers, dancers, and social movement crafters!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Our Interactive Storytelling project is finally coming together. A big part of this project was audio production and I couldn't have done it without Audacity. Audacity is a free downloadable program that allows you to manipulate sounds such as wav, mpg, and recorded clips.

Upon opening Audacity, to those who aren't accustomed to audio editing, it can be a little overwhelming. There isn't a start up help menu or sample audio to help you learn the program. I recommend just recording yourself to get some practice and a feel for how it looks. Ensuring the recording has come to a complete stop, highlight the clip with the default I shaped tool. This will allow you to analyze and use the effects, and generators. Once you get a good grip on some options, you're ready to start importing really audio clips from either you're itunes or any other sounds on your computer. There is no limit to how many clips you can have on one project and you move and manipulate all of the individually.

The one down fall to audacity is doesn't really export clips as mpg files, only wav. It uses a special tool from your library that converts it to a faux mpg. It you don't have it the special tool in your library it won't work.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HOME the ultimate interactive story

This is a story where interactivity does really change the outcome...are we listening, participating, storytelling?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Interactive Storytelling Experiment Using Twitter

Here's a link to an article about a little experiment in which Twitter will be used to create a story. People will post sections to the story via Twitter and the best parts will be compiled into one story and then available for free download on BBC audiobooks.

Betterverse For A Better World

There is a website called Betterverse which publicizes projects utilizing the potential of virtual worlds for the benefit of non-profit causes. One such project is Farmville, a game based on a Facebook platform, that has raised $300K for Haitian charities. By selling virtual "Sweet Seeds for Haiti", gamers can enjoy the game while doing a good deed for one of the most impoverished places in the world. What a good idea!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Storyworlds are a new form of computer entertainment developed by”>Storytron , Inc. Using our free authoring tool, SWAT, creative individuals with a story to tell can script their own sets of Actors, Stages, Props, and a web of potential interactions known as Verbs. Players seeking a unique new form of computer entertainment can play those storyworlds, engage with the Actors, and explore a wide range of choices and behavior in the dramatically rich environment developed by the author of that world.

You can either play or create a storyworld. One blockbuster storyworld created by Chris Crawford is called The Balance of Powere, which gives you a list of problems beginning with Al Qaeda launching terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (9/11) and as the world leader for the US you have to solve the problem and deal with contending powers and politics. Based on your rating in the world with the EU and other world powers, you either win or lose. After making decisions in the storyworld a set of outcomes are posed and you have to weave in and out of the questions, in order to create the best outcome possible. My only problem with this storyworld is its lack of anything visual. You're presented with a list of text and you never visually see the results. A big problem in my point of view. Otherwise it's very complex and interesting to try your hand at. Hope you like Storytron.

Here's a video for a Storytron tutorial once you download the program SWAT to generate/ create your own storyworlds:

The Art of Storytelling

I've been reading the Art of Interactive Storytelling by Chris Crawford. His take on interactive storytelling and explanation of what it means is very insightful and has probably been the best explanation I've heard yet. One way he described it was through a Romeo and Juliette analogy:

The difference between an interactive Romeo and Juliet omeo and Juliet is the same difference as that between Chris Crawford and a portrait of Chris Crawford. Yes, the portrait contains a single truth, powerfully made. (Who knows? Perhaps Ms. Mona Lisa was really just a dull Italian housewife, nowhere near as intriguing as her portrait.) But ultimately, it presents a single truth, where interactivity provides many viewing angles to truth. Some of those viewing angles will not be as dramatic or as powerful as others. We should not dismiss interactivity as inferior because it fails to winnow out the less revealing angles. Interactivity shows all of the viewpoints on a truth, strong and weak. Its catholicity of viewpoint is its strength; its undiscriminating nature is its weakness. Let us not condemn it for its weakness without also recognizing its concomitant strength.

He goes on to describe interactivity in storytelling as a complex relationship between storyteller and audience where instead of the outcome being singular, such as X led to Y, the outcome of the story relies on if X, then Y. Where X is largely imagined by the audience. He then writes of his site called Erasmatron. The engine actually executes the interactive storytelling; the Erasmatron is the development environment used by the author to specify and edit the data and rules fed into the engine. The Erasmatron includes editors, navigational aids, and rehearsal tools. The big idea behind the Erasmatron is to make interactive storytelling technology directly accessible to artists. What makes this radical step possible is a transfer of the programming task to the artist in a form that is comfortable and accessible. I have created a special programming/storytelling language that jettisons all the picky trivia that make programming such a tedious process.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sharing World Myths

This project called Big Myth offers myths from around the world, and includes a way for users to submit myths for future inclusion in the website. The interface is Flash based, and viewers can progress through the myth at their own pace. This one is from West Africa.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

AR to treat fear of Cockroaches!

I was reading in Yahoo - Brazil about a project in which they are using AR to treat fear of cockroaches in people - see below, it is in Portuguese but you can check the technology. Then, I found this project (above) from people in Poland on a game that you use AR to "catch" the cockroaches - found pretty cool the idea of "catching" an object on the screen using AR, thought of how much we could incorporate in our project on Myths in the future, using different tools related to AR technology. But no cockroaches, pleaase...I had enough of them in the jungle (so many we would no bother killing...) I like them only in virtual worlds...


Vague Terrain

Hey everyone please check this new Digital Arts Related blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Digital Visual Effects

Plato’s philosophical musings in the allegory of the Cave, Republic, imparts a teaching that from an understanding of form arises a better understanding of sense perceptions. In our modern age images bombard: televisions flicker, flash and fade into our periphery and ads proliferate across billboards and in magazines. Imagine now the prisoners of Plato’s Cave, where humans sat, their torsos fettered and fixed, able to see only what’s in front of them as puppeteers project shadows of objects made of every material onto the cave wall. The prisoners scope of the world narrowed to monochromatic, two dimensional shadows. Digital Visual Effects (DVFx) are similar to Plato’s Cave, since they enhance our perception of a given story.

Digital Storytelling: McClean
Computer graphics emerged from scientific studies in the 1940s and 1950s, when computers were used to drive mechanical means of producing graphic images. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, several short films using computer-assisted-art techniques were gained recognition. However, it was not until Tron (1982, Lisberger) that computer graphics were a main component of a movie. Frank Foster's documentary The Sotry of Computer Graphics (1999), Richard Taylor, one of the CG team members involved with Tron, observes that " if (a film) doesn't grab you by the heart, it doesn't matter technically how it looks. In the end, a film is a sotyr and... the density of visuals in films or the look of the film doesn't guarantee success at all.

For instance, in the film Fight Club (1999, Fincher) the viewer is taken through a forest of neurons, as dendrites fire electrical currents, traveling through the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, and passing through various outer layers, the surface of the brain, layers of skull, then skin and a hair follicle and out to the barrel of a gun. These DVFx give the viewer a perspective of the story that would normally be left out and not until the film is over do we understand the meaning behind this 95-second shot: that the scenes and story we are about to see takes place mainly inside the nameless narrator's, Edward Norton's, mind. Such perspectives, similar to the invention of the microscope or telescope give allots us insight into the subatomic or cosmic worlds, allowing us to better understand a story, film, our sense perceptions and ultimately our daily interactions.

I will explore the use of digital effects in film and how they accentuate storytelling, starting with an overview of photography: On Photography by Susan Sontag, looking at the development of timelapse images through Edward Muybridge and photographs by Dianne Arbus, which highlight the odd and unusual, 'the freaks' during a time of cookie cutter homes and families, illustrating that another world exists. Then I will explore films like Citizen Kane, Tron, Star Wars, Fight Club, etc. and how the use of digital effects enhance and progress the storyline.

Interest Curves, Indirect Control, Transmedia

I enjoyed reading every page of the book 'The Art of Game Design' by Jesse Schell. Some of the highlights that was of interest to me in Chapters 14 through 17 were:

-It is fascinating to know about Interest Curves and how same performance but altering sequence according to Bang, Backoff, build bigger and bigger and the grand finale changes the perspective audience.
-It is also fascinating to know almost all so called historic heroic tales have the same 'Vogler's Synopsis of the Hero's Journey
- Art of Controlled Freedom with Constraints and how Jesse made up his own flavor list was funny and a great marketing tool - "We have just about every flavor you can imagine, but our most popular flavors are Cherry, Blueberry, Lemon, Root Beer, Wintergreen and Licorice" - A list just made up by Jesse often and how well it worked!
-The concept of Transmedia Worlds and how companies use the fantasy world to market their product and to build more fantasy and sell more as a repeated cycle!

Sample Code (Not Final Version) for 'Myhts from Amazon' Project

In the previous blogs, details about the Software installation, marker creation, 3D Model and links to resources were posted.

The following is the Code (Not final version - Needs tuning for performance and some changes to include the overall scope of the project ) for the Interactive Story Telling Project - Myths from Amazon.

(Thanks to the developers that support open source and posted sample code at various sites.
The sample code from: was used as the basis for this project)



Software as practice

Just as, for example, literature is not only what is written, but all cultural practices it involves—such as oral narration and tradition, poetic performance, cultural politics—software is both material and practice. As the verb “to google” for using the Google search engine shows, or in their computational sense, “to browse,” “to chat” and “to download,” human practices are born out of the use of software.

Googling is nothing but the shorthand for using the web-based clientserver software written by Google corporation’s programmers. In this sense, software is no longer just machine algorithms, but something that includes the interaction, or, cultural appropriation through users. This appropriation is more than just a cybernetic human-machine interaction and what computer science and media theory often reduce to pointing, clicking and other Pavlovian responses within the restraints of a programmed system.—The same reductive understanding of interaction has turned “interactive art” in its common phenomenon of behavioral video installations into an artistic dead-end.—True interaction with technical systems involves creative use and abuse outside the box, metaphorization, writing and rewriting, configuring, disconfiguring, erasing. All these practices also make up software. It wasn’t just artistic appropriations that inscribed metaphors into software. High-level, machine-independent programming languages and operating systems such as C and Unix gave birth, around the same time, to a culture that gradually detached software from the concept of code running on a machine. Through program code listings in books and computer magazines, source code snippets and patches exchanged in electronic networks or even oral conversations, software took up a life of its own. The results were political-philosophical movements like Free Software, programming puns such as recursive acronyms, hacker slang that mixed English and computer language constructs and poetry in computer languages such as Larry Wall’s first Perl poem from 1990. Free software—in the GNU understanding of an embedded value that is not only engineering freedom, but ontological freedom—is perhaps the strongest example of a cultural and philosophical notion of software. An artistic understanding of software also abounds in computer science from Donald Knuth’s Art of Computer Programming to Paul Graham’s recent Hackers and Painters, 3 although it might be based on a narrow understanding of art as high craftsmanship. To no longer define software as just algorithms running on hardware helps to avoid common misunderstandings of software art as some kind of of genius programmer art. If software is a broad cultural practice, then software art can be made by almost any artist.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Communities of Practice

I was reading CH 22 in Schell's book of lenses, about virtual (and real) communities. In that case, he talks about communities in game design. In my case, I want to explore how communities of learning and social networks thrive or collapse. I think that researching on-line and real communities is the topic of some of our papers for the class. It would be nice to have everybody share their ideas for the paper. I miss interacting more with other people in our class, as we did in the beginning of the semester.

Anyhow, I went to Etienne Wenger's talk at UF last semester, which I totally enjoyed. He is one of the forerunners in the theories of social learning and communities of practice. One of the ideas is that we learn much more by doing and by socializing knowledge (he said: learning is a social phenomenon). The more networks and opportunities to share knowledge, the more we learn and are able to share, like a cycle working in feedback.

Keeping a virtual community alive is a real challenge nowadays, and Wenger mentioned that people need to feel that there has to be meaning and value associated with their membership. That value might be an ethnic/religious value, or a perceived power, or a sense of belonging, or a rope you feel you're attached to, otherwise you might fall in the limbo. I believe everybody needs to feel part of some community, and the nice thing about on-line communities is that you can expand your horizon so much in terms of what is there and what you want from what is there...the limit is almost the infinite...almost overwhelming but good to know it is there...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Visual Storytelling

The name of another favorite artist of mine is George Tooker, and he is known as a Magic Realist. His tempera paintings also give us a view into a private world, whether disturbing or incredibly beautiful. The two examples below show these directions in his oeuvre. One is "Government Bureau" from 1956, and the second is "Window VII" from 1963. In both these pieces he suggests a storyline, but retains the mystery and sense discovery as our eyes travel around the picture while taking in the details. Surely this gives the painting an element of power as we try to make sense of the implied psychological situations.

Painting Virtual Story Worlds

Arturo introduced me to the work of a painter named Remedios Varo. Her paintings create a very personal vision which melds fantasy and psychology. Over the last few days I have enjoyed learning more about her work, and though she died in Mexico in 1963, it remains vibrant. They caused me to think about one of the oldest forms of interactive storytelling, that which takes place in worlds visualized by painters. As in Varo's work, the narrative may not be clarified by the painter, inviting the viewer to fill in the story themselves. Who is this figure in Varo's painting, "The Vagabond", with his mysterious air and gadgetry? Her work is clearly influenced by that of Hieronymus Bosch, but also reminds me of another artist I admire. (see next post)

Icons and Avatars: Religious and Esoteric Elements Mirrored by Digital Culture in Interactive Storytelling

For the final paper, I will discuss various ways in which digital culture incorporates elements of religion and esoteric beliefs into new story environments. Included will be examples such as avatars which are taken from Hinduism as well as Reincarnation as a tenet of video games, the animism beliefs of religions like Shinto, and parallels with Lucid Dreaming.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Amazon Queen's outline paper on Urban Cultural Groups


This paper will discuss the appearance, endurance and fading of different cultural and ethnic groups, or “tribes” in the urban scenario. I’m interested in exploring the relationship between some urban groups and art expression such as music, fashion, dance, design and graphic arts to name a few. Also, it will be interesting to know what motivates people to ingress into these groups and what kind of value is perceived as being part of such communities. What types of stories underlie the formation and disappearance of diverse groups such as punks, emos, gothics, tattooed and pierced peoples? How these groups have used different media to communicate their stories, feelings and ideologies? I will also comment on the historical roots of some musical styles which have created a cultural and political movement, such as Hip-Hop, Reggae and the Mangue Beat movement from Brazil.

Below, a video-clip of musician Chico Science (deceased) , one of the forerunners of the "Mangue Beat" musical, cultural and political and movement of northeast Brazil.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

If You Love Something, Give it Away

ROBORTO (one of my micro sculptures)

As I grew up in my grandmother's shack, I was exposed to many new things on a daily basis, things that I would have never learned at school, at least a conventional school. Very early on I developed an interest in puppetry because I found that this miniature storytelling world enabled me to do practically everything that I was already enjoying, such as painting, constructing things with my hands, telling or creating stories etc. As I was the only one that did these things among my friends I became sort of popular and started to put up shows for the kids in the "neighborhood", although we lived in a pretty isolated place that could not yet be called such.

Some kids became interested in learning how I did some things, some "effects" that I had discovered... but I guess in a natural reaction I became secretive, not wanting to reveal what I consider was mine, my secret power.

My grandma, who was an old and wise native woman noticed that and called my attention. She made me see, in her very clear way something that I have never forgotten, and what has become a rule throughout my life. She said, if you ever learn or discover something new, share it and give it away. Otherwise you will become a slave to it and while you keep it to yourself others will simply go ahead and leave you behind.

There is a lot more to this idea, and I know it can be interpreted in a number of ways. Later on in my life for example, as I worked in the special effects business, my associates were very distraught by me explaining how I created my effects, which they though were our "assets", that gave us an advantage over the competition.

It soon became clear that the strategy worked, because, like kids with a new toy, competitors would spend a lot of time learning and "selling" the new effect to clients, while I was free to pursue new ideas without worrying about being ripped off.

There is of course a big controversy about this approach, dealing with copyrights, patents and such. To me, it became just a simple thought, If You Love Something, Give it Away.

Tools and links for Virtual Reality Project and Interactive Story Telling for "Myths from Amazon"

I created a new blog called My Fun Projects to include the details of the VR aspects of our class Project - VR with Interactive Story Telling for "Myths from Amazon".
The link to the Blog is:

I have given a brief intro to the Project, SW, Resources and Tools used for VR.
In my next posts I will include details of the Marker, the setup and code used in the Project so far.

- Suresh

Monday, November 2, 2009

No words needed: Communicating through Interactive Drumming

I found this interesting project on telematic drum circle, in which you can play drum from your computer sharing a drums orchestra with people from around the world. I find interesting the idea of remote communication through art, where words or language are not needed, art itself is the language, in this case music.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Alex Grey: Art as Language

Alex Grey is coming to UF. Grey will be speaking at the Health Professions and Nursing and Pharmacy Auditorium on Tuesday, November 10 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Alex Grey is a visionary artist, and mystic and co-founder of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in NYC. His paintings take on an "x-ray" multidimensional reality, illustrating human anatomy through the lens of a much more subtle world. He often paints chakras and draws electronic glowing grids which depict an ethereal plain of consciousness. His images have steadily progressed throughout the years as well as his performances and speeches. Grey's performances have gone from egocentric to worldcentric as he involves larger and larger communities into the spiritual, artistic and medicinal realms.

One of his largest installations, the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors is a series of 21 framed images, consisting of 19 paintings and two etched mirrors, examines the anatomy of body, mind and spirit in rich detail. Each painting presents a life-sized figure facing viewers and inviting them to mirror the images, creating a sense of seeing into oneself. The images portray the human body physically and energetically, each increasing in evolutionary complexity. This installation is unique in the way visistors participate: by mirroring the images depicted, the visitor can connect to the world of ancient wisdom, which Grey recreates. Some view the images of the Sacred Mirror to be the visible ascension of man into the spirit world/ into life.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seeing Story as a Mystery Box

I was talking with an African writer and professor recently at a meeting that we had some trouble scheduling. We met at my request to discuss a story idea that I was working on. Instead of getting to the point, this professor began to tell me stories of her family in Ghana, stories about her health and her problems with her insurance, and stories about her students. Because I was the one seeking her assistance, I began by being polite, puzzled, and struggled to be patient. When I attempted to bring the conversation around to the matter at hand, she would go off on another tangent. Finally I realized that her stories and her references were oblique, that I was required to listen actively enough to make the connection between what I had asked and what she was answering. The indirectness of her methods lent a unfamiliar pattern and a subtlety to our conversation which, when it finally wound around to the exact topic I had come to discuss, was the richer for it for I knew more about her and how she thinks. It made me realize how often in this culture we hurry toward what we think should be the point of the story, when wandering off track and having to reconcile the distance between where we are and where we were heading makes for a more complex and nuanced chaining of ideas. Listening to answers from directions we don't expect leaves us more room for discovery in stories, and opens us to the possibilities of mysterious connections.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hype cycle and project design

I was reading about the Hype Cycle on Schell's book chapter 26, which let me thinking that our class project might be going through a wave of disillusionment. I had a peak of excitement in the beginning, but my ignorance on the technology needed to achieve the results we dreamed, as well as to dominate the process, let me go down in the curve. As Schell points out, though, some depression moments are important to make you think realistically and take your project back with more realistic objectives and renewed breath. Below, a hype cycle figure modelling or predicting tendencies related to emerging technologies.

Second Life applications in public health

I was doing some research in possible applications of second life media technology, and sincerely I was struck by the potential of second life in education. Here is an advertising video on possible applications of second life in public health done by University of Michigan. According to them, "an active public health community is simulating disaster scenarios, creating interactive health games, offering people with disabilities a place for support and social networking, and providing a space for professionals to view presentations and attend international conferences". I imagine how much second life is going to be used in universities as a learning tool in diverse disciplines. The only problem is people getting disabilities for staying in front of computer too much leaving their second lives, sometimes more than their "first lives", real ones or the carbon physical world that Arturo mentions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shamar's IST Paper Outline

For my paper I will explore new story environments as a powerful medium of entertainment, social and political organizing and business strategy. I will give a general overview of the way in which such emerging technologies are being used and will reference specific artworks and/or advertisements which 1) call the ethical ramifications of these emerging technologies into question 2) show new possibilities for the future that could arise due to these technologies.

I will then explore how the emerging technologies could be coupled with communal face-to-face interactions so that the collective body can experience community not only in cyberspace and digitally networked environments, but also in the actual real space where bodies reside. This research will investigate how ancient techniques used for communal and individual healing/celebration can be brought into the present and re-interpreted (in these interactive story spaces) to solve modern day problems and imagine new paradigms for the future. I will explore how to create meaning and connection in such interactive story spaces and will seek to understand how this could lead to inspired actions - be they personal, political, social, etc. I will be looking at Barbara Hubbard's Syncon Process, Rah's Hip Hop Mental Health Project, and Julia Butterfly Hill's organization, What's Your Tree, in addition to referencing Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Dancing in the Streets. And last, I will be exploring the possibilities that these models present for the continued cultivation of BAM.

Elephants Dream

I was going to post this animation when I saw

Sunday, October 25, 2009

3D modeling

I'm working on modeling a hand for the Night myth. I've been using a tutorial that I found at, tried posting the video but can't because of copyright reasons. So, if you go to the site above you can see what I'm talking about. Anyways, modeling a human hand is a challenging task. Both to create a natural-looking hand and to create one with good topology. This tutorial address both of those issues. The whole process is very tedious and time consuming. I'm unsure if this model has too many vertices and would be difficult to read in FLARtoolkit or ARbuilder. And I plan on animating the hand, so whether or not it can open on these programs without crashing is a concern. Should I make it more cartoonlike and reduce the complexity of the mesh?

I posted this tutorial so you could get an idea with what I'm working on. This tutorial is more simple and efficient than the one done in blender. However, he's using a 3D modeling program called Maya, which costs over $3,000. Still, the basic premise behind the tutorial is enlightening. There are so many methods to make a 3D model. I think it's key to use a reference and decrease the amount of vertices. A few pointers made in the tutorial were very helpful as far as detailing your model goes.
anyone has suggestions I'd appreciate you sharing them. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Building An Interactive Story

For many years I have been an admirer of the great Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi, ever since making a pilgrimage to Barcelona to see his work in person- but one does not simply “see” Gaudi’s work. Walking around the cathedral he designed, La Sagrada Familia, felt more like a of game of discovery as my eyes picked out surface details among the masses of shapes. They appear like the accretions on an undersea castle. I remember noticing a life-sized fir tree amid the human and animal figures, all of which look as if they are cast from life.

The idea wrote about that Gaudi that I find most intriguing has to do with a metaphor. He said that he was interested in designing buildings so that, for the inhabitants, the space felt like the inside of a dragon. Using sculpted forms and curved walls, even his apartment buildings create an experiential shift as one moves through the twists and turns. His metaphor is underscored by the ceramic tile finials running along the ridges of the roof, and textures on the exterior walls that look like scales.

By entering a building by the great Catalan master, we enter a virtual world in which we must provide the protagonist- ourselves. Whether we think experiencing space in a surprising way is disorienting or intriguing, we are shown that the standard flat floor and walls are a cultural assumption, and perhaps an unnescessary limitation for our imaginations. Exploring the inside of a dragon, albeit virtual, makes all things possible.

Image of Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Markerless Laser Tracking

Thanks to the link that Pink Ninja (thank you!) left on the Interactive Architecture post below, I was able to track the technology to the Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory , A. Cassinelli, S. Perrin and M. Ishikawa developed this Smart Laser-Scanner for 3D Human-Machine Interface.

This was presented at SIGGRAPH 2004 in Los Angeles, but their first paper was presented in 2003 in New Zealand, so I imagine that this technology has evolved sufficiently to be integrated as a wearable computer interface to soon become ubiquitous.

Notice in the credits below the use of MAX/MSP and Super Collider. MAX/MSP is the commercial version of PD, which you have used in class. And SuperCollider is a sound synthesis OS program that we will explore shortly as well.

Markerless tracking is of course something of great interest to us, since that is the nature of our motion-capture system that some of you have utilized already.

This video is quite fun as well, specially towards the end.

It reminds me of the Oasis project done in Processing by Yunsil Heo and Hyunwoo Bang from the Everyware Creative Computing Group. Take time to see their work. It is fascinating.

Credit details:

Alvaro Cassinelli: concept (smart laser scanner, sticky light and scoreLight) / custom hardware and software (C++, early MAX/MSP demo)
Kuribara Yusaku: latest software developement - contour tracking & improved dynamics (C++) / interface (C#)
Daito Manabe: sound concept and sound programming (MAX/MSP,Super Collider) - in progress.

Additional credits:

Stephane Perrin: participated in early development of the smart laser scanner technology used for tracking.
Technology developed at the Ishikawa-Komuro Laboratory, under direction of Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa.
New contribution: Alexis Zerroug (electronics).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interactive Architecture 2

What do buildings do? Well, they define the space around us. Once we look beyond the functionality of a place—the mechanics and objectified experience, which is defined by the structure of architecture—we find the reality (objectified world) and actuality (experienced world) of our interactions. An infinite number of possibilities are limited by the structure of architecture. As people interact with the architecture they bring a subjective point of view and become participants, rather than users of space. If a building were to have an interactive multiple loop system where a sort of ‘conversation,’ or exchange of interactions, could take place between person and place, then we have interactive architecture.

Some may take that concept and employ digital projections that can interact with the surfaces upon which they are projected. If you project these illustrations within an urban landscape you then alter the perspective of that landscape. This of course is a great method for spreading messages of social importance before the eyes and in the minds of your fellow city inhabitants. All it is is trial and error.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Some ways to create 3d Models - How we did it for "Myths from Amazon" Project

Creating and Using 3D Models

We downloaded several models that suite our Project from Google's 3D Warehouse.
We modified them to our needs using Google Sketchup and then converted those Models to .3ds Models (Using Export feature of Google Sketchup Pro)


Though .3DS, Collada, .KMZ files and many other 3D Model formats are supported by FLARToolKit and FLARManager, we choose to use Collada (.dae extension file names), version 4
Models as many code samples were/are available in the web for Collada Models.


Using Blender (Program from we imported the .3DS models, saved them as blender files and then converted them to Collada models using the Export option.
These Collada Models (From 3D Warehouse to .3DS to .dae) were/are used for the Project.


After converting to .dae files, open the .dae file using notepad (or any text editor or your choice) and search for .jpg or .png files.
These are the Texture of the 3D Model. You have to make sure the Texture ( .jpg or .png) files exist in the directory path specified in the .dae file. You can modify the path if needed.


original value (after exporting from .3ds to .dae using Blender)


After manual editing (Editing with text editor)



Note: The path to the image texture file created in the .dae file can be absolute (e.g. C:\Project\..\..\images\3ds\banana1.jpg) or relative (e.g. \images\3ds\banana1.jpg) depending on the option you choose with the export using Blender. (Please choose relative at that time of export)
After manually editing the path to say


make sure the file banana1.jpg is in the same dir as the .dae file (say banana3d.dae).


- Suresh

How to create Markers and Patterns for VR/AR

1. To create your own markers please review the following:

2. To have an understanding about Markers please review "Marker File" in


You can use Paint Brush, Adobe Photshop, Gimp etc (any tool you are comfortable) to create the images/pattern for the markers.
Save the file as .jpg or .png with not greater than 278 X 278 pixel.
Then print a copy of the images/pattern.
Use the online marker generator at
to generate the Marker Pattern (.pat extension) file. (You can either use the printed copy and a Web cam to get the .pat file or use the saved .jpg or .png file to get the .pat file using the online Marker generator Program)

For good performance and easy tracking:

- Have the outer Black square about 80mm and the inner White Square about 40mm.

- If you use the online maker from the link given in item 1 above, choose 8X8 as the Marker Size.
Also if you want to use a stored .jpg or .png file with the image/pattern to make the Marker (.pat file) using the online maker program given in the URL of item 1 above, make sure the Pixel size is less than 278 X 278 for the program to fully select your Pattern as a Marker.

Example of the Marker images that our team member Esme created for the Project are shown here:

Note: The Picture shows 4 different Markers used in the Project to track 4 different 3D Objects.



Testing Basic Setup of FLARMANAGER after installation

After you have installed and setup as given in the previous post, review the
Loading Collada Models example in

Run the example in your computer and make sure you see the scout march at standing position.
If this works then you have the basic setup.



Installation and Setup for VR using FlashDevelop

I. Using Flex Builder

1. If you want to use Flex Builder please follow the 7 Steps given under Quick Start in the link

II. Using Flash Develop (Note you need Flex Builder also indirectly)

2. If you want to use Flash Build please follow the steps given in the link:

The literature in above link is in French.

The following is its translation in English:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

FlashDevelop and FLARManager

As promised here's how to install and configure FlashDevelop to work with FLARManager.
Our goal is to "compile" the package example FLARManager v06. Most blogs you say FLARManager v05 can not run under FlashDevelop "It is not really a solution." Implied, we must work with Flex Builder. Perhaps, but there is a possibility. Here it is.

Install FlashDevelop

Go to the site and download the latest version in the category 'All Downloads'.

Double-click the installer, follow the instruction. FlashDevelop is installed.

Installing Flex 3 SDK

Go to the Adobe site and download the Latest Milestone Release Build from the Adobe Flex SDK:

Create a directory named flexsdk in the Tools directory of FlashDevelop
(C:\Program Files\FlashDevelop\Tools).

Unzip the downloaded archive into the newly created directory.

Install Flash 10 Debugger

Personally, I downloaded the full package ( and I installed all debuggers.

Setting up FlashDevelop to FLARManager v06 (and reverse)

Go to
and download FLARManager v06 from download FLARManager
Unzip in a temporary directory (I'll call "source").
Open FlashDevelop and create a new AS3 project (I'll call the project).
You should have three directories in the project: bin, lib and src.

You will transfer files and directories from the source to the project:
- html_doc => bin
- resources => at the root of the project (ideally later to put your resources and assets in bin)
- files in libs => lib
- files in src => src

In FlashDevelop, right-click each *. swc files in lib and choose "Add to library"

Finally right-click
src / and select "Always Compile".

You can delete your

Project window should look like this image:

In the top menu, choose Project > Properties and change the values:
- Target: "Flash Player 10”
- Test Movie:" Play in external player "

In the top menu,
choose Project > Test Movie (F5)



- Suresh

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Simulated Consciousness

Thinking about my upcoming talk on the "augmented reality" ISMAR seminar I reviewed somewhat at random, if there is ever such a thing, texts that I had not visited in a long time, to see how some ideas held out or not. Sometimes we tend to think in this age of the new, that anything that is a few months old, let alone years is not really worth it. What can the past tell us anyway?

I went back to that visionary icon, Marshall McLuhan, who said in Understanding Media:

"After more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man--the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media."

Who is the Vannevar Bush of today, that immersed in virtual, augmented or mixed realities, is capable to imagine the world just 10 or 15 years ahead, let alone 50 or 60? The AR apparatus of today are the equivalent of the room-sized computers that prevented the great majority to even dream what was to come. Yes, we can extrapolate in terms of Moore's law, and then the singularity like Raymond Kurzweil does, but the only thing we can see is a dense fog, populated by utopias or apocalyptic scenarios.

Francisco Gómez de Quevedo

Since reality is that which our brain perceives through the senses, it comes to reason that any enhancement of such inputs qualifies as AR. I think for example of Quevedo, one of the pillars of Spanish and World literature during the Spanish Golden Age whose Conceptismo, a metaphoric style of rapid rythm conveyed multiple meanings in a very precise manner.

He would have been an excellent interface designer in our time. But I am not talking about him for his literary genius, rather because in the early 1600's, he was a geek of sorts. Not only in mind but in looks as well. He wore one of the earliest examples of an augmented reality device, the pince-nez, or as they became known until very recently "quevedos" in honor of his name, better know to us as glasses!

In our time, our glasses are electronic, transforming the world into data that has become almost our second language, and for some others, their mother tongue. These magical-like glasses allow us not only to overlay information on our "reality" (sometimes totally obscuring it), but very importantly, they allow us to subtract information as well, revealing the substrate in the process, the structure of our very selves from where our extensions have become.

We still must choose

Urban art:Flash Mobs

What are flash mobs? you might ask. Well, visiting this site on urban crazy unusual art, I found that flash mobs are groups of people that "form and dissipate as a type of spontaneous-but-organized urban performance art. Groups of friends (or strangers) coordinate their efforts online and gather at a pre-defined time in a public space – seemingly out of nowhere. Flash mobs can be planned to do almost anything, from hijacking a furniture store to throwing a train-station dance party."

Below, watch a video of the biggest Freeze of a Flash Mob carried out in Paris of 2008, with 3000 people. Just for the fun of it.

Architecture and Storytelling: World's Tallest Tree House

I found this site about design and architecture, where they show contemporary and unusual design and architecture pieces of work and art. The story behind this tree house, the tallest in the world, is interesting: the author dreamed about it and 15 years later he turned his dream concrete, building this amazing house which is now a touristic visiting site in Crossville. Imagine the many natural "inhabitants" of the house, and what you do for "cleaning" it? Or you don't need, it's already a merge between home and nature. Cool!

"It looks downright dangerous … yet its creator claims it is divinely inspired by a vision he received in which he was told to begin building a tree house for which he would never run out of materials. 15 years, 10,000 square feet and 250,000 nails and a lot of scrap wood later, this amazing structure towers up over the very trees that support it."

View From The Front Porch

Image of a bicycle messenger delivering a message to game participants from one of the game characters,
courtesy of the website

“Building an ARG is like running a role-playing game in your kitchen for 2 million of your closest friends.” This is an observation by Sean Stewart, the principal writer an early and influential Alternate Reality Game called “The Beast”, developed to support the opening of the Spielberg film “A.I.” (2001). The story-based game was developed to be followed across a range of media, including telephones, email, fax, and a website. Stewart states that the hallmark of ARGs consist of story fragments that the audience must find and assemble, a story not bound by a medium or platform, an audience that is massive and collective which works together through the advantages of information technology, and a story which allows a key role in creating the way it progresses.

Some of the most interesting points Stewart makes about ARGs are based on metaphors. He compares Alternate Reality Games to Opera in saying,“ARGs carry on the impetus of film, and opera before it, by gathering and deploying any other artistic resource- music, costume, drama, lighting, graphics, games, clowns on unicycles with their hair on fire- to deliver the story. In fact, one of our alternate names for ARGs is ‘search operas’.” Considering the appearance of the clown, perhaps he should have added Circus, or perhaps the "Bread and Circus" of the Romans.

Another metaphor is one that he makes when discussing how computer console-based video games, requiring expensive labor-intensive graphics, are missing out on using what he calls the “Infinite resolution renderer”, the imagination of the players. Thus ARGs can use the physics and resources of the real world to support the created reality of the game world.

By giving participants an opportunity to interact with each other while playing an ARG becomes an experience, one that is both personal and shared. This Stewart likens to the old fashioned Front Porch, where neighbors could chat and share gossip, an earlier form of social platform. This analogy gives a psychological framework which makes sense in explaining how ARGs can attract many thousands of participants no matter what combinations of technologies they employ. Whether it’s a new murder mystery game called Breathe due to take place in London clubs in upcoming weeks, or a game called Something In The Sea which has been sending telegrams by bicycle messenger lately to announce news from the main character, people will want to see what’s going on from their technological front porches.