Category: Open Source

Creative Code Fellowship: Water Works Proposal

Along with 3 other new media artists and creative coding experts, I was recently selected to be a Creative Code Fellow for 2014 — a project pioneered by Gray Area (formerly referred to as GAFFTA and now in a new location in the Mission District).

Each of us is paired with a partnering studio, which provides a space and creative direction for our proposed project. The studio that I’m pleased to be working with is Stamen Design, a leader in the field of aesthetics, mapping and data-visualization.

I’ll be also continuing my residency work at Autodesk at Pier 9, which will be providing support for this project as well.

My proposed project is called “Water Works” — a 3D-printed data visualization of San Francisco’s water system infrastructure, along with some sort of web component.

grayarea-fellowship-home-page

 

Creative Code Fellowship Application Scott Kildall

Project Proposal (250 limit)
My proposed project “Water Works” is a 3D data visualization of the complex network of pipes, aqueducts and cisterns that control the flow of water into our homes and out of our toilets. What lies beneath our feet is a unique combined wastewater system — where stormwater mixes with sewer lines and travels to a waste treatment plant, using gravitational energy from the San Francisco hills.

This dynamic flow is the circulatory system of the organism that is San Francisco. As we are impacted by climate change, which escalates drought and severe rainstorms, combined with population growth, how we obtain our water and dispose of it is critical to the lifeblood of this city.

Partnering with Autodesk, which will provide materials and shop support, I will write code, which will generate 3D prints from municipal GIS data. I imagine ghost-like underground 3D landscapes with thousands of threads of water — essentially flow data — interconnected to larger cisterns and aqueducts. The highly retinal work will invite viewers to explore the infrastructure the city provides. The end result might be panels that snap together on a tabletop for viewers to circumnavigate and explore.

The GIS data is available, though not online, from San Francisco and already I’ve obtained cooperation from SFDPW about providing some infrastructure data necessary to realize this project.

While my focus will be on the physical portion of this project, I will also build an interactive web-based version from the 3D data, making this a hybrid screen-physical project.

Why are you interested in participating in this fellowship? (150 word limit)
The fellowship would give me the funding, visibility and opportunity of working under the umbrage of two progressive organizations: Gray Area and Stamen Design. I would expand my knowledge, serve the community and increase my artistic potential by working with members of these two groups, both of which have a progressive vision for art and design in my longtime home of San Francisco.

Specifically, I wish to further integrate 3D printing into the data visualization conversation. With the expertise of Stamen, I hope to evolve my visualization work at Autodesk. The 3D-printing technology makes possible what has hitherto been impossible to create and has enormous possibilities to materialize the imaginary.

Additionally some of the immersive classes (HTML5, Javascript, Node.js) will be helpful in solidifying my web-programming skills so that I can produce the screen-based portion of this proposal.

What experience makes this a good fit for you? (150 word limit)
I have deep experience in producing both screen-based and physical data visualizations. While at the Exploratorium, I worked on many such exhibits for a general audience.

One example is a touch-screen exhibit called “Seasons of Plankton”, which shows how plankton species in the Bay change over the year, reflecting a diverse ecosystem of microscopic organisms. I collaborated with scientists and visitor evaluators to determine the optimal way to tell this story. I performed all of the coding work and media production for this successful piece.

While at Autodesk, my focus has been creating 3D data visualizations with my custom code that transforms public data sets into “Data Crystals” (these are the submitted images). This exploration favors aesthetics over legibility. I hope to build upon this work and create physical forms, which help people see the dynamics of a complex urban water system to invite curiosity through beauty.

 

My GitHub Instructable (while convalescing)

While a resident artist at Autodesk, we are supposed to write many Instructables. Often, the temptation is to make your projects and then write the how-to-guides in a haste.

Since I broke my collarbone, I really can’t make anything physical, but I can type one-handed. Besides the daily naps and the doctors’ appointments, and slowly doing one-handed chores like sorting laundry, I have to keep my mind active (I’m still too vulnerable up to go outside on my own).

Here is a new one: an Introduction to Git and GitHub. I originally found this source-control system to be weird and confusing, but now I’m 100% down with it. Feel free to add comments on the guide, as I’m a relative Git/GitHub nOOb and also have a thick skin for scathing Linux criticism.

Full Instructable here:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Introduction-to-GitHub/

And here is my post-surgey selfie from yesterday, where they put the pins in my collarbone. The doctors told me it went well. All I know is that I woke up feeling groggy with extra bandages on my shoulder. That’s how easy it is these days.

post_surgery_selfie

WikiWars Reportback

I just returned from Bangalore, India as part of the WikiWars Conference (see previous post). Organized by Nishant Shah and Geert Lovnik as part 1 of CPOV: Critical Point of View (as opposed to Wikipedia’s NPOV), the conference featured speakers from 27 different countries.

wikiwars

Nathaniel Stern and I presented Wikipedia Art: Citation as Performative Act in the final session of the 2-day conference, where we performed the presentation, based on the impetus behind the Wikipedia Art project, performative citations and used examples from The Miracle on 34th Street and The Digital Dark Age.

Part 2 will be in Amsterdam in March and the result will be a free book featuring a compendium of writings from the two events, which will be distributed to universities and libraries worldwide — a unification of academia and open culture philosophy.

This was one of the best conferences I’ve been to: well-organized with thoughtful presentations, plenty of time for in-depth discussions and a warm group of people, which resulted in some new friendships.

I was particularly impressed with Stuart Gieger’s discussion of bots in Wikipedia culture as well as Mark Graham’s analysis of uneven geographies in Wikipedia.

Stay tuned for the Amsterdam session and you can follow the CPOV blog here.

I have many more photos from the India trip on my Facebook page.

Apple’s Jailhouse (part 2)

We are making good progress on the Open Video Sync project. It’s buggy but the syncing code works!

iphone_photo

After some thought about how to best make this available to a wide set of users and support some of Apple’s undocumented APIs — ones that are basic like pausing a movie or playing it back on an external device, (see this thread for the geeks out there) we have decided to release two versions of Open Video Sync, one for App Store which will be a slimmed-down version and one for the Cydia Store — for jailbroken phones, which will be a full-featured version.

I’m still disappointed with Apple and their closing down of the iPhone. But apparently I am just one of many.

Apple’s Jailhouse (part 1)

Open Video Sync is one of my Eyebeam projects and will be a way to turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a cheap and wireless video synchronization tool.

We have unfortunately come to the conclusion that we will have to release this as a jailbroken application which means it will be released on the Cydia Store rather than the Apple Store (here is a glossary of what these terms mean) which means restricting the audience to a more tech-savvy group, but there is no other way.

televisor

The bone of contention is the use of undocumented interfaces and there is specifically one called the MPTVOutInterface which lets you playback video onto an external device. Apple doesn’t support this for the development community which is a foot-shooting maneuver.

First of all: any video player should have a direct-to-device output. In fact, here is a great iPhone hardware hack that will let you do just that.

Second: this is already something that works for Apple’s own iPod video player. It is well-tested and should be folded into the general API.

The shoot-in-foot problem is this: it is only a matter of time before the open source Google Android phone catches up. Right now, it still lacks the necessary inter-phone communication via Bluetooth/wireless API. And also the phone is too expensive, requiring a service plan. The iPod touch is an excellent model: cheap, great UI and a lot of application support. Hopefully the Android will come up with a similar model sooner than later.

Apple could profit from iPhone-as-gaming device such as this example.

In the meantime, my co-developer, Eric Brelsford and I have decided to jailbreak and go Cydia on this one.  Stay tuned.

OVS & GPL & BSD

This week I’ve been researching what type of open source license to use with the Open Video Sync (OVS) project — one of the many things I’ve got going on at Eyebeam.

ovs_logo_white_300px

Open Video Sync will do amazing things for video artists (and others), namely the ability to synchronize video playback across multiple cheap video players, such as the iPod touch.

The legal issue is that OVS is an iPhone application and is therefore running on an essentially developer-unfriendly and closed environment. In addition to the numerous restrictions that Apple imposes upon developers, including esoteric developer’s certificates and provisioning profiles, programmers have to pay $99 fee to download their custom programs onto their mobile devices.

After meeting with Fred Benenson today, it became clear to me that iPhone development presents problems with the GPL namely that it is not free software. This means that I will end up deploying the software with a more liberal, BSD-style license.

Why not Google Android — a device that is open? Simply: iPod Touches are cheap, require no service plan and  the iPhone SDK supports inter-phone communication. Some day, I’d like to port Open Video Sync to a more open platform, but not until it is cost-effective for users.