Functions | ICM #4

This week we were asked to start cleaning up our code and using functions in the main loop. I started working with the very limited game I made for week 2 “evil peeps”. While I eventually got the functions down I spent most of my time this week trying to get the Evil Peeps themselves to work as an object. I had the X location and Y location as well as the entire drawing and timing function as parts of a “peeps” object but I could never seem to get it to work. (I unfortunately can’t find the screenshot I took of this). Ultimately I settled on just organizing my code using functions as well as adding some “if” stamtents and other improvements to make it feel like more of a game. My goal for this project going forward is to get these peeps moving around on the screen once they are placed and to finally implement fail conditions.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 11.06.59 AM

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.51.03 AM

Read More

Sound and Movement | PComp #4

This week in Pcomp we looked into controlling sounds/speakers and servo motors with arduino. The first task in the lab was to control the pitch of a speaker depending on input from a variable resistor. I took the light meter I made last week and after some tweaking installed a speaker on the breadboard to provide an audio indicator along with the succession of lights. The pitch increases as the amount of light hitting the sensor increases. I was very surprised that the addition of the speaker only required a couple lines of code to be functional.

Video: Lightmeter + Audio

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.53.59 PM

The next task in the audio lab was to have the speaker play a melody. This required a library to be called in the Arduino IDE and the use of some arrays, which I don’t have much experience with. However I followed along with the lab closely and was able to get the melody playing on my arduino. The slight change I made from the lab was to assign different pins because I wanted to keep my light meter operational.

Video: Arduino melody

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 1.28.23 PM

And last up for the audio lab was to build an instrument. I had limited success here. I was able to get responsive tones from a few light sensors, however I also had a persistent buzzing tone that I couldn’t eliminate. I realized that part of this may be due to the fact that I am maintaining my light meter on the same board and that I may have unintentionally introduced some interference or error. I plan to attempt this again with a clean breadboard later this week.

Video: Arduino Instrument (Work in progress)


At this point I moved onto the servo lab and ended up successfully including a servo as another responsive element in my light meter.

Video: Arduino light meter + Sound + Servo

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 7.54.05 PM

I’ve been having a good time building around this light meter. I realize it’s fairly basic but I find it helpful to work with something thats somewhat familiar and somewhat new at the same time.

Read More

Sound Project – Sleeplessness | Sound+Vid #2

This week I worked with Carrie to make a story through sound. We used the theme of insomnia and “things that keep you up at night” to tell a story about an individual experiencing sleeplessness due to thoughts and experiences from the past day, as well as environmental sounds like traffic. We recored most of the audio ourselves but we sampled some audio from one of Tom Igoe’s Pcomp tutorials as well as some yawns (owlstorm,reitanna), clock sounds (Muk1984), and helicopters (Mike Koenig). The project was assembled in Logic where we played around with volume, left + right balance, and some effects to make a sound montage that sounds both realistic and half dreamy. Enjoy.

Read More

Signage | Visual Language #2

This week we were asked to look more closely at signage around NYC in order to identify what makes a good sign vs. a bad sign. The first sign I wanted to share was this one that hangs in multiple places around the 3rd avenue & 60th street intersection (right in front of Dylan’s Candy Bar):



This is a fairly dangerous intersection because there is a lot of bus, truck, and pedestrian traffic moving around. The proximity to the Queensboro bridge, a handful of express bus stops and the Lexington ave – 59th street subway station produces overcrowding on all the transit infrastructure here which unfortunately  seems to make most people more aggressive in their movement. To make matters worse Dylan’s Candy Bar generally caters to busloads of kids at a time and has very little sidewalk space to support this. It makes sense then that the city or some organization put this Be Aware, Be Patient, Be Sober, Cherish Life sign around this intersection. However I think this sign does slightly worse than nothing to help the situation. First of all the most basic problem is that it is oriented towards a building rather than at any lane of car or pedestrian traffic. Cars can absolutely not see this sign but its height, size and language indicate that it was meant for drivers. Though even if it were oriented at the cars I doubt it would do much besides add a distraction from the intersection they should be focused on. The red (I’m colorblind) band around the sign with fully uppercase, diagonal lettering would both attract attention like a stop sign and then be totally illegible to a driver at any sort of speed. At the same time the entire center of the sign is more folk art than than information system. Overall I think this project should have been a mural or something other than a road sign.



I spotted this sign on 9th street and broadway near ITP. I don’t have quite as much to say about this one. What struck me here was that the west side highway is quite far away from this sign and to me this sign indicates proximity. I think the goal here is to move traffic over to the west side before it hits Houston or Canal street but this seems to risk getting people lost in the grid. I think the problem is that it suggests that this is the point of decision making for someone trying to get on the highway. Maybe I’d have a different perspective if I drove this route.





This sign is trying to convey a message that should easily be required reading for anyone within 100 miles of NYC: Let people off the train before attempting to enter. A simple concept, often flouted, leads to much acrimony. This sign is ok but I think it could be much better. The color, arrows and bold text make it clear that there is a call to action and hopefully “step aside” would make that clear. However the distance from the train confuses. This is especially true when the train is not in the station since the white arrows might actually encourage someone to stand in the worst place possible. I tried to replace or supplement this sign by adding some language to the subway doors themselves. subway_doors_stand_clearMy hope is that when someone first sees the step aside prompt it becomes overwhelmingly clear what they should do when the train finally arrives. In my mock up I wrote “stand clear” on the doors (in Helvetica) to emphasize that you shouldn’t stand in front of them, while echoing the vocabulary used in the subway announcements. I also downloaded some “sign people” from a free vector image site and placed a sign person split by the subway doors with opposing red arrows with the idea that it could convey a “people will be exiting” kind of message. Then I put a “waiting in line” type row of sign people on either side of the doors to demonstrate a good place to wait as others exit the train. I considered some more text and other symbols but in the end I thought a simpler message would be best, especially in the context of a train that is trying to arrive and depart swiftly.


Finally, I found a sign I liked.

IMG_1489I liked this series of signs because of the way they communicate distance. This is on the Grand Central platform of the 7 train, which is one of my favorite stops in NYC. The distant places are high up and somewhat father to either side. Although this may in some cases indicate greater importance I think here it effectively tells you that you need to go around these staircases to get the escalator, for instance. Meanwhile as you approach the staircase the smaller sign become the only one visible and clearly labels where the staircase goes without confusing it with the messaging on the larger higher level. I liked this approach because most people walking down this platform have plenty of time to decide where there going and with these signs the information becomes available as you need it. I have some issues with the exact words and uses for these sign points but overall I thought the system used here was cool.

Read More

Musical Circles | ICM #3

This week we were asked to start working with rule-based animation, motion, and interaction. I partnered with Aaron Montoya-Moraga and worked on a series of concentric musical circles based partially on the advanced rollover button example that was made available to us ( We began by basically replicating the advanced rollover buttons but altered the shapes and drew them using a for loop:

for (var k = 0; k < 5; k++) { fill(colors[k]); ellipse(width / 2, height / 2, diameters[k], diameters[k]); This gave us a greyscale and silent version of what our final project would look like.

Each circle is always fading to black, however when the mouse hovers over any individual circle it is changed to white allowing the circle to slowly fade black as the mouse is moved between other circles. 

Eventually we were able to add in fading colors using arrays. We haven’t covered arrays in class yet but with some trial and error we got the circles to change color and opacity based on mouse position using the same kind of looped fading mechanism. 

Lastly we included sound. Aaron and I struggled with this for a while but eventually Arron was able to get some help from ITP resident Jason Segal and now the sound can fade in and out along with the color changes. Some adjustments to the starting position and fade were made to accommodate the sound functions. 

The final results (link to project)

Read More

Lab + Photometer | PComp #3

The purpose of this lab was to get a sense for how to program analog and digital input/output with an Arduino.

Examples shown to us in class

I started with the digital input example where I was able to get two different colored LEDS to alternate based on a switch button. I realized halfway through that I had switched the LEDs from what was shown in the lab but it was easy enough to change the code and have it work properly either way.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 6.58.17 PM

Video-Aurdino Alternating LEDs

Next I worked on the analog input lab which uses a potentiometer to effect a variable as the analog input and apply a range of power to an LED via the digital output. (a portion of the previous circuit was left on the board).

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 7.15.09 PM

Video – Arduino Variable LED


After completing these labs I decided to try to build a sort of photometer with some LEDs and a photosensor. My goal was to illuminate the LEDs in a sequence as the resistance of the photosensor changed. This meant reading an analog input and providing power to a series of LEDs via the digital out. The schematic I drew at the time looked like this:


I started using a potentiometer rather than the light sensor so that I could test the programming for the lights a series of precise levels.  After some trial and error with the programing I had it working roughly the way I wanted it to.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 8.32.06 PM

Video – Arduino Indicator Light Photometer

The LEDs turn on and off in sequence as the resistance changed and when the range was maxed out they all flickered to indicate that it was as high as possible. Lastly I removed the potentiometer and replaced it with a photosensor and a 10 kohm pull down resistor. I recalibrated some of the levels so that the LEDS would generally represent a range of typical room brightness and felt happy with the results.

Video – Arduino Indicator Light Photometer (2)


Read More

Observation – POS system at The Container store | Pcomp #3


Pick a piece of interactive technology in public, used by multiple people. Write down your assumptions as to how it’s used, and describe the context in which it’s being used. Watch people use it, preferably without them knowing they’re being observed. Take notes on how they use it, what they do differently, what appear to be the difficulties, what appear to be the easiest parts. Record what takes the longest, what takes the least amount of time, and how long the whole transaction takes. Consider how the readings from Norman and Crawford reflect on what you see.


Customers wait in a line to enter a bank of registers. When a cashier is done with their previous customer they call another over (sometimes this requires raised voices and repetition). Once the customer arrives at the cashiers POS they ask the customer if they have a rewards card – most don’t and don’t want one. The costumer then begins to pile mostly large plastic containers onto the counter top as the cashier scans the barcodes with a scanner gun. Each item pops up onto the display facing the cashier and occasionally they require some form of verification or confirmation (I assume this is in the case of sales or other special circumstances). Throughout this process the cashier has to stop scanning and rearrange some of the items and bag them. Once they are done scanning they focus on bagging and let the customer know they can pay. This is the trickiest part because the variety of payment options require varying levels of interaction on both their part and the customers at the same time that the cashier is trying to bag up all of the purchased products (due to the complex and large items this is a more complicated and less repetitive task than at most retailers). Eventually all the products are bagged up and payment has been made.

Some of the cashiers vary this process by being more vocal than others – I saw one of the cashiers asking ahead of time how the customer intended to pay while others waited. Some of them would prepare bags or boxes ahead of time while others just waited between customers.

It makes sense that some of the cashiers started asking these kinds of questions (they may be told to) since a lot of time and attention is lost when things like the amount of bags you want, whether you have a rewards card, and how you intend to pay all effect the speed at which the cashier can check out customers. having to bag the products while transacting the purchases seems to make both tasks less efficient. It was clear that the easiest part of the interaction and the portion of the process that seems to be done with the most confidence is the scanning and product information retrieval.

Based on the readings from Norman and Crawford, on the whole I’d say the POS system is a good design for very general use. The method of inputing information, taps on the screen and the scanner gun, work quickly, accurately and are well suited for the task. The POS system is able to associate the barcodes with a large product database and tabulate the totals with discounts and other modifications. The machine is also fairly good at making its output clear and useful using the tough screen and the payment terminal. However, there is often confusion about when to swipe a credit card and the cashier has to do a lot of verification and reading off the screen to the customer which seems like it could be improved. In addition, these kinds of POS systems are fairly standard so most customers and employees have an idea of what to expect and how to use it. Customers know where to swipe and whether or not the payment went through and most of the points of friction seem related to additional programs the store has imposed such as the rewards card. That being said I think there is a lot of room for improvement, particularly before the customers reach the machines themselves. I think that If customers were sorted before reaching the register cashiers would be able to check people out faster and the interaction with the POS system would be more predictable and intuitive for both the customer and employee. As the customers are online they should be asked if they have a rewards card and what method of payment they intend to use. In addition customers with complaints, pricing questions, and other miscellaneous issues should be sorted out of line so that they don’t have to conduct their non-checkout business with a person and platform that are tailored for checkout. Lastly the kiosks that the POS systems sit on should be rearranged so that a dedicated employee can bag things up while the checkout is happening separately. Basically I think the POS system is very good at checking people out but it is not quite so good when this activity is coupled with bagging and sorting out customer issues.


Read More

Design Analysis – The Atlantic’s Poseidon | Visual Language #1

For my Visual analysis I choose to focus on an image of Poseidon as (one of) The Atlantic’s logo(s). I thought this would be a good place to start. This is a symbol I always liked and I thought that despite its simple appearance it was probably developed very carefully as the modern face of The Atlantic.



I noticed three or four grid patterns: the first I noticed was a diagonal XY grid represented by the intersection of Posdeions trident and his shoulder. The second was another rotated grid intersection at the wave and the other shoulder.

(I thought this grid might be very dense so I only included enough lines to make the pattern recognizable)

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 12.49.09 AM


Then I saw the horizontal and vertical grid seen on the left sided of posdeions head (y-axis) and the top of the horses(?) head (x-axsis).

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 12.50.49 AM

lastly, the cirlce contains most of the scene which may not be a grid but seems to “rationalize” the image and add depth as the head and trident break out of it.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 12.44.18 AM

There are relatively few objects in the image and they all serve to relate the logo to the original and clearly provide all the elements necessary to conclude that the figure is posideon : the pitchfork, crown, wave, and long beard are all classically used to signify this character. I’m not sure about the horse/unicorn but I assume that’s there to either keep it consistent with the original or refers to another classical element that I’m not aware of.
Each of these elements is arranged in a series that creates a sense of depth despite the fairly uniform line thickness and the single shade of black. The horse head is layered over posideons left arm and pitch fork, while posideon himself is effectively in front of the wave.
The circle border heightens both the ease of recognizing this character, a crown and pitchfork may be enough for some people, as well as the sense of depth and action. I feel like posideon is just itching to fully emerge from the circle and attack the kinds of dense policy and cultural questions The Atlantic often wrestles with. It also allows the image to be read from left to right, so it can sit neatly above or adjacent to the text based logo or an article. It’s also worth mentioning that the thick black lines over white make this graphic easy to apply to a magazine cover with almost any other color or image underneath it while remaining distinct and recognizable.

Read More

Plagiarism readings and soundwalk | Vid+sound

Plagiarism Readings

This week’s readings dealt with the somewhat awkward relationship between creative works and an economic system based on individual property rights. Among the four works we were assigned I’d say that they each pointed out that the current system of intellectual property rights is at least somewhat out of touch with the creative process it self. These laws effectively grant temporary monopolies to producers of certain characters, stories, designs, and processes based on the idea that an economic incentive must be provided in order for invention and art to be a finacialy viable endeavor. Many of the articles we read suggested that this is problematic since creative output is often based on or influenced by pre-existing creative works. In addition it is clear that this system can be easily abused and produce results that stifle creation rather than support it. I’m not sure there is an easy “solution” to this problem now that so many rely on the system being the way it is and the inherent difficulty of quantifying originality and quality in creative works. Personally I’ve been interested in the idea of eliminating intellectual property entirely. While this may seem extreme I think it would be beneficial to the creative economy in the long run. The financial system around creation without property rights would be challenging however I think that we’ve already seen the ways it is possible to make money in an industry where traditional property rights have been eroded. The music industry which saw wholesale disregard for its intellectual property as digital file sharing took off has started to grow again for the first time in over a decade. The source of this growth is mainly music streaming services and the leveraging of influence that creators often have over their fans. I think this could be a model for other forms of art and creative property where the distribution and relationship between artist and consumer is the source of revenue rather than the selling of owned ideas that we currently support.

-Jonathan Lethem’s The Ecstacy of Influence: A Plagiarism

-On the Rights of the Molotov Man: Appropriation and the Art of Context

-Allergy to Originality

-Kirby Ferguson’s Embrace the Remix


Sound Walk – Her Long Black Hair

This was a really fun activity. I’ve heard binaural recordings before but never while walking around and never with such a direct relationship to my surroundings. The results were suprisingly convincing, or 3D sounding, and I often couldn’t tell whether certain sounds I was hearing were from the recording or the environment. I thought it was especially cool when comments the narrator made seemed to sync up perfectly with my visual surroundings. The recording was so accurate I thought it was continuing even after I took my headphones off. As I mentioned, when the recording synced up to the surroundings it had a powerful effect and this happened much more often then I would have anticipated. However, when the recording (or my walking speed) failed to sync up It did kinda take me out of the experience momentarily. This made clear that its possible to express a narrative without trying to dominate the full attention of the viewer/listener. In addition, having to find the points of reference myself made me feel like less of a consumer and more of an active participant which I liked. While I was only able to listen to the central park “Her Long Black Hair” sound walk for this week I think I may try to do the chinatown walk as well.

Read More

Evil Peeps Game Sketch | ICM #2

This week our goal was to create a sketch involving these three criteria:

  • One element controlled by the mouse.
  • One element that changes over time, independently of the mouse.
  • One element that is different every time you run the sketch.

I decided to make a game like program with this.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 2.32.54 PM

I started by reproducing what we had done in class by creating a “drawing” type program using my ominous figure as the brush. I took the shape of this character from my previous sketch and replaced all of the X,Y coordinates with locations relative to the mouse.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 2.42.52 PM

What eventually gave me the idea for a sort-of game was adjusting the frame rate. This allowed me to change the rate at which the ominous figures were placed on the screen and I used the mills() function to vary the frame rate over time. As the program continued to run the rate at which the ominous figure appeared increased.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 4.58.41 PM

Finally, I felt that in order to make it a game I had to provide instructions and a score. I did this by drawing a rectangle at the top of the screen and placing some text over it. The score was also a function of time – the idea is that the faster the “evil peeps” appear on the screen and the longer the program has run, the more difficult it would be to place them without overlapping the figures. I also added in some more variables so that the color of the evil peeps changed somewhat randomly as the game progressed. I thought this would make the final screen look more like a crowd of individual evil peeps rather than the same thing over and over again. Right now the game works on the honor system because  if you overlap the characters there’s nothing that alerts you or causes a game over type event. I had a really good time making this and I think I have a sense for what kinds of programming tools I’d need to really make fully functioning game.

Read More