From the Archives: Jonathan Harris – Man of the Hour

I have been promising that I would like to upload all of the articles I have written over the years so that they might be of use for people rather than them languishing on my hard drive, but I’ve been a bit slack at actually doing so because converting them to decent HTML and fixing it all up takes a bit of time.

But Regine’s post on Visualizing: tracing an aesthetics of data inspired me to find the article on Jonathan Harris that I wrote a while back in 2004.

So, the plan from here on in is to upload one article from the archives per week (which would mean about two year’s worth of posts!).

Man of the Hour – Jonathan Harris

If recent world events have taught us anything about the media it must surely be that it is relentless organism. We have seen live videophone feeds from the frontline in Iraq, the explosion of blogging and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) news feeds and recently mobile phone camera images on the front pages of newspapers. Use any RSS news reader and you will see stories being updated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With all this information flying around the Web, how can we make sense of it all and what would an hourly snapshot look like? That is exactly the question Jonathan Harris set out to answer with his 10×10 project. In an ironic twist the site held the number one slot on Blogdex for several days as news of its representation of news spread around the Web.

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20,000 Processing Particles

I’ve played with Processing a fair bit over the years, but never really got stuck into anything solid – most of my time has been spent fixing up my students’ projects!

Over the break I’ve been playing with some other ideas, working through the very good book by Casey Reas and Ben Fry, Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in terms of introducing and explaining how to code for people without a computer science background.

Inspired by Robert Hodgin’s wonderful Processing work I thought I’d have another crack at particles as they seem to be all the rage at the moment. The particle creation part is easy, but getting them to interact with decent physics was getting too much for my mathematically challenged brain. Thankfully I came across the Traer Physics Engine by Jeffrey Traer Bernstein, which handles a lot of that maths for you.

My “Hello World!” code for any platform tends to be a bouncing ball (or an array of them) because it covers most of the structures – if…then, variables, arrays, etc.

So I started building and engine that has a bunch of particles that are all attracted to each other, but more attracted to a single one which is following a target invisible bouncing ball around the screen. (It would make more sense to collapse the particles into the ball code, but at the moment I’m just plugging stuff together.)

It’s very simple at the moment – just an ellipse as the graphic with some trails going on. The above is a version that rendered out in non-realtime with 20,000 particles. I like the way they seem to rope together and struggle to break free. Sometimes there’s a kind of breakaway flare.

There’s also a bit of gravity going on, which drags everything down. Any particles that go off the bottom of the screen are simply recycled up the top (you’ll see this in the initial explosion). A interesting upshot of this is that sometimes the tail of the flare/rope falls off the bottom and those particles make a break for it from the top.

You can play with a 2,000 particle version of it here (and view the source code)..

There are also a couple of other versions on Vimeo.

[tags]processing, particles, generative, video, vimeo[/tags]

Podcast with Matt Clark from United Visual Artists

Matt Clark from UVA at Core77 Broadcasts

Following on from my last post about Hereafter, my podcast interview with Matt Clark from United Visual Artists is now online at Core77.

We chat about a range of UVA’s work, process and interactivity. Matt gives some great insights into working across disciplines and the exciting and emerging field of interactive installations much more tightly integrated into architecture rather than being a last-minute add-on, as well as using their skills and techniques to create stunning visuals for video. My thanks to Matt for his time – have a listen and let me know what you think.

Podcast of Creative Collaboration and The Future of Education

If you have been missing the sound of my voice (or have no idea what my faltering, mumbling sounds like) the podcast of my seminar at Urban Learning Space about Creative Collaboration and The Future of Education that I posted about a couple of weeks back is now available from ULS’s iTunes feed.

There’s a PDF of the presentation (which also had a lot of animation not in the PDF) that accompanies it.

It’ll be almost like you were there.

Speaking at Flash on the Beach

Flash on the Beach 2007

I’m very pleased to have been invited to speak at Flash on the Beach in Brighton. FOTB runs from 4th- – 7th November and my session is on the last day.

I feel a little bit of a cheat here as I’m not really known as a ‘Flash guy’ (and my students will know that I’ve railed on Flash plenty of times before – but, hey, the latest version really is a lot better). But as many of the speakers are going to be going into depth about their Flash work and techniques, I thought I would instead talk about approaches and a bit of history.

So, I’m going to be giving a presentation called Playful Revolutions, which really came out of the presentation that I gave at magneticNorth that Brendan Dawes invited me to give. He said “antirom were revolutionary, tell them about that!”, which is a bit like being invited to “tell people how great you are”, which I’m not and can’t.

However, looking back over all those projects (good and bad) as well as things-I-wish-I-had-done turned out to be an interesting process. I think there is always a danger of re-inventing the wheel now that so many Wheel 2.0s are out there, so a bit of history (albeit short) is probably a good thing.

If you’re going to be a Flash on the Beach, or just live in Brighton really, let me know. It would be nice to catch up.

Creative Collaboration and the Future of Education Seminar

I’m going to be giving a seminar called Creative Collaboration and the Future of Education at Urban Learning Space in Glasgow who have a number of really interesting projects concerning future ways of working, playing, thinking and learning.

I’ll be presenting the Creative Waves 2007 – VIP project in detail, talking about the using a design process and creative collaboration for cross-disciplinary projects as well as a look at the issues facing the future of education. Much of which I have developed since writing about these issues a while back. I’m planning a bit of a brainstorming session with the attendees too. There will hopefully be a podcast and a download of the presentation on the ULS website afterwards.

It would be great to catch up with any of you there and if you want to get in touch before hand, please do.

Details are: 30 August 2007, 10am – 12.30pm. It’s free, but you need to contact Yvonne Kincaid to register.

Another Antirom RGB performance

I was clearing out some old CDs and found a Videobrasil XII one with this Antirom RGB performace on it. I think Gisela may have shot the footage as there are also some interviews with us at the Antirom office (looking very young). But I’m not sure where this performance was and have no doubt violated someone’s copyright.

Sorry about the ultra-compressed low quality, it was a Cinepak, tiny QT movie and the framerate seems a bit broken too, but it gives you a good idea of the flavour and atmosphere of the performance all those years ago.

[UPDATE: I’ve re-compressed and re-uploaded the video above (and removed the old one). It’s still pretty rough, but the frame-rate is better.]

A new set of design principles

<img src=’’ alt=’Stefan Sagmeister’s designs for a touring protest about US spending’ />

The latest issue of Desktop is out with an article by me called A New Set of Design Principles. It’s based on interviews with Stefan Sagmeister and [Milton Glaser](] that examine the role of graphic design (and design in general) in dealing with ethics, sustainability and the general cultural shift that is happening (or needs to happen). Like it or not, designers are intimately bound up with a culture of seduction and consumption and we all need to think about how that can work positively rather than just selling toys to children made by children.

The Desktop version online is the short version. You’ll have to buy the mag for the full one or wait a few months until I can put it up here.

(Image: Stefan Sagmeister – Designs for True Majority who are trying to cut 15% of the Pentagon budget and move that money over to education.)

Creative Waves 2

Creative Waves 2 - VIP

Omnium, the research group that I am part of (now online) in Australia, has just launched its next ‘Creative Waves’ global e-learning project ‘Visualising Issues of Pharmacy’.

The ‘VIP’ project is the first fully online international education initiative designed to link students and teachers in pharmacy and Graphic Design departments from universities and colleges around the world, and will challenge a diverse body of students and educators to address important global health issues that are of critical concern in Kenya. These include malaria, tuberculosis, immunisation and sexually transmitted diseases.

I’ll be taking part in this one too and it’s great to see some of the philosophy behind the Omnium Creative Network coming together with the educational aspect of Omnium. The details are below:

April – June 2007

More info and sign up on the Creative Waves website.

Yahoo! Mail Championships

Yahoo! Mail Championships

A few months ago I spent a very fun couple of weeks doing some work for the folks over at Poke where my friend (and ex-Antiromer) Nik Roope is one of the partners. I was directing (though it was a collaborative effort) the video for the Yahoo! Mail Championships microsite as well as doing some of the compositing. It has finally gone live so I can write about.

The basic premise is that Poke really don’t do Nike Pro style sites, not because they can’t but because, well, we all think they’re totally overblown examples of ad guys ‘doing web’. Now that Flash actually handles video well, it’s their dream come true – the ad folks can make shiny videos again.

The Yahoo! Mail Championships was a great chance to make a spoof of one of these and do it really well. The games are very addictive and really communicate the product well and we spent a lot of time with the characters and the shoot, and then making them look completely radioactive purple. The sarcasm of the copy was toned down a little by the end, which is a shame. Iain and a few others wrote some real gems.

I still think it’s pretty amusing though and it was nice to get back into a studio and do a shoot instead of being stuck behind a keyboard all day. Also good to know those studio and After Effects skills weren’t too rusty after all.