EquityBot @ Impakt

My exciting news is that this fall I will be an artist-in-residence at Impakt Works, which is in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The same organization puts on the Impakt Festival every year, which is a media arts festival that has been happening since 1988. My residency is from Sept 15-Nov 15 and coincides with the festival at the end of October.

Utrecht is a 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam and 45 minutes from Rotterdam and by all accounts is a small, beautiful canal city with medieval origins and also hosts the largest university in the Netherlands.

Of course, I’m thrilled. This is my first European art residency and I’ll have a chance to reconnect with some friends who live in the region as well as make many new connections.

impakt; utrecht; www.impakt.nlThe project I’ll be working on is called EquityBot and will premiere at the Impakt Festival in late October as part of their online component. It will have a virtual presence like my Playing Duchamp artwork (a Turbulence commission) and my more recent project, Bot Collective, produced while an artist-in-residence at Autodesk.

Like many of my projects this year, this will involve heavy coding, data-visualization and a sculptural component.

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At this point, I’m in the research and pre-production phase. While configuring back-end server code, I’m also gathering reading materials about capital and algorithms for the upcoming plane rides, train rides and rainy Netherland evenings.

Here is the project description:

EquityBot

EquityBot is a stock-trading algorithm that explores the connections between collective emotions on social media and financial speculation. Using custom algorithms Equitybot correlates group sentiments expressed on Twitter with fluctuations in related stocks, distilling trends in worldwide moods into financial predictions which it then issues through its own Twitter feed. By re-inserting its results into the same social media system it draws upon, Equitybot elaborates on the ways in which digital networks can enchain complex systems of affect and decision making to produce unpredictable and volatile feedback loops between human and non-human actors.

Currently, autonomous trading algorithms comprise the large majority of stock trades.These analytic engines are normally sequestered by private investment companies operating with billions of dollars. EquityBot reworks this system, imagining what it might be like it this technological attention was directed towards the public good instead. How would the transparent, public sharing of powerful financial tools affect the way the stock market works for the average investor?

kildall_bigdatadreamsI’m imagining a digital fabrication portion of EquityBot, which will be the more experimental part of the project and will involve 3D-printed joinery. I’ll be collaborating with my longtime friend and colleague, Michael Ang on the technology — he’s already been developing a related polygon construction kit — as well as doing some idea-generation together.

“Mang” lives in Berlin, which is a relatively short train ride, so I’m planning to make a trip where we can work together in person and get inspired by some of the German architecture.

My new 3D printer — a Printrbot Simple Metal — will accompany me to Europe. This small, relatively portable machine produces decent quality results, at least for 3D joints, which will be hidden anyways.

printrbot

After Thought at Art in Odd Places

Last Thursday, I exhibited After Thought, a performance-installation that I developed while at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center at Art in Odd Places in New York (check out their AIOP website, there’s some great projects there).

As the name implies, these performances that happen in unusual spots in the city, this one being at the 14th Street Y.

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We scheduled this to happen during the CSA pick up where folks were picking up their weekly organic veggies.

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Here I am posing with my two assistants: Minha Lee and Zack Frater. We used the lab coat + eyeglasses props to reel people in.

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I began with a short intake form with questions such as “What is your greatest physical fear?” I discovered that an inordinate number of people are afraid of snakes.

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After completing the intake form, people wear a brainwave-reading headset — I use the Neurosky Mindset — to capture stress and relaxation levels. They turn over flashcards while I monitor their reactions.

I can’t see what they are looking at. If their their stress or relaxation responses spike, I ask them for the card, then note it down on my result form. This person was especially negatively triggered by cockroaches.

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And this gentleman was relaxed by the guys hanging out in the hot tub. Give me that flashcard!

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Minha, who interned for me at Eyebeam also administered tests. This subject has no reaction, good or bad to the image of the police car.
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Here you can see how the intervention occurs. People had no idea why we were there. Many were suspicious, thinking that we our Scientology-style relaxation/stress test was trying to sell them something or lure them into a cult. Others were immediately intrigued. Some needed convincing. One respondent offered us a bundle of swiss chard for barter.

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Afterward, I would sit down with each respondent and we would talk about their results. “Why did you get stressed out by the cute puppy?”

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In the background here, you can see one of the two curators, Yaelle Amir, who demonstrates her ambidexterity by texting while typing.

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One of my last tests of the day was with Stephanie Rothenberg, a good friend of mine. I knew her too well to provide unbiased analysis. The image of the crying baby was one of her stress indicators. Hmmm.

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01SJ Day 5: Public Viruses

Today we shifted to the virus-making portion of Gift Horse, where anyone can assemble a virus sculpture to be placed inside the belly of the Trojan Horse. The gesture is to gather people in real space, give them a way to hand-construct their “artwork” and to hide hundeds of the mini-sculptures inside the horse.

The first virus to go inside, the Rat of the Chinese zodiac, was The Andromeda Strain, an imaginary virus from the film. This father-daughter team cut, folded and glued the paper sculpture together and she did the honors of secreting it inside the armature.

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It takes a long time to cut each virus from the printed sheet. This is where the lasercutter from the Tech Shop came in handy. In the afternoon, we traced the outlines of the Snow Crash virus and tried cutting it out. After about an hour of fiddling around with settings and alignment, I was able to get a batch done.
lasercutter

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Hurray for mechanized production!

This halved the assembly time from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, bypassing the tedious cutting step. Perhaps this is a compromise in the process of hand-construction techniques, but I’ll gladly make the trade-off for practicality.

The next person to sit with us was Jeff who worked on one of the freshly-cut Snow Crash viruses.

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Once finished, it joined The Andromeda Strain. Come on down to South Hall (435, S. Market, San Jose) and check us out — we will be holding workshops on building viruses all weekend.

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After Thought goes to Flux Factory

I just finished writing the software which tracks your emotions using brainwave analysis. From a flashcard-style test, it creates a custom video for each participant from a melange of silent clips such as balloons floating in the sky, a tapping foot and an angry dog. This weekend Flux Factory along with The Metric System will be presenting The Science Fair, (New York), where I will showing After Thought, which I developed as a resident artist at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center.

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This project expands my deep interest in personal emotional spaces created by video. My first exploration was with Future Memories in 2006, which sources the “in-between” shots from Hollywood cinema to create a series of black-and-white videos which evoke feelings of displaced familiarity.

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With my Home Stories (2008) project, which I call an “experimental narrative,” I use a silent, looped 5 minute edit from assorted 8mm home movies (including my own parents, now deceased) and invite 5 different storytellers to come up with narratives for the video.

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I’m excited to see the possibilities. If you are in New York this weekend (June 5-6), you will be guaranteed a memorable experience by coming to The Science Fair.

The Great Avatar Challenge

Live from New York this Saturday: The Great Avatar Challenge. This mixed-realities performance is a collaboration with Stephanie Rothenberg for Eyebeam’s Mixer: Olympiad in New York. Get your tickets now, as it will be certain to sell out.

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Our performance is one of many spectacular events going on in this two-night series. We will be conducting races where real-life contestants will compete against my Second Life avatar, Great Escape. The course winds through Eyebeam’s main space and is a hurdle-sprint, in a gesture of pure physicality against a simulated one.

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Projected against the real-life wall at Eyebeam, our Second Life track will be an extension of the real-life space.

Hatch and Afterthought

New documentation! During my 6-month residency at Eyebeam, I worked on about 6 different projects. Two of them: Hatch and After Thought are now documented on my site.

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Hatch is the first of a series of acrylic plexiglass installations. This one depicts a mass of sperm (up to 200!) which swarm around a doorway. This was cut with the Eyebeam’s lasercutter, can be site-specific in its installation, and is cheap to ship.

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After Thought is the most experimental of my individual works. Here, I use a Neurosky Mindset to test people while they look at flashcards of charged imagery. I monitor their responses in a subjective application of science, noting their responses on an indicator sheet (below). After their test, I feed their results back into video generation software that I wrote which makes a custom video (5 minutes) that reflects their emotional state of mind.

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Another artist that I am close friends with, Luther Thie, uses the same headset for the Acclair project in compelling but conceptually different repurposing of the brain to computer interface (BCI).

Apple’s Jailhouse (part 2)

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

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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.

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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.

Astronauts without a home

As part of the Postgravity Art: Synaptiens event which invites hour-long interventions into a 50-hour performance cycle, I will be enacting a two-person performance: Space Age Love.

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Here, Victoria Scott and myself will be floating in space — in Second Life space — and communicating via chat, while our cameras point at one another and our astronaut avatars perform acrobatics. The two viewpoints will be projected onto the Synaptiens structures at Eyebeam. This is happening today (Nov 12 2009) along with performances at 2:30 by Jamie O’Shea and 4:30 by Rashaad Newsome.

I call this an auto-biographical performance as the two of us are floating between San Francisco and New York, working out opportunities, desires and finances to find a home. The chat will be entirely improvised, discussing these issues in live space at Eyebeam.

Better Diagrams

This is a more readable diagram than the chicken scratch one I wrote last Friday.

Print

This shows the Open Hardware modular component design for the custom LED projectors that I have begun  prototyping at Eyebeam.

The gray boxes are the mandatory components and the white ones are optional, depending on the design. The idea here is to let others come up with better battery systems and LED bulbs but still keep the structure of this project intact.

Incidentally, if you are looking for a good Arduino startup kit, check this one out from adafruit — just $50. I just ordered one as a prototyping tool for things such as the PWM for the LEDs.