Monday, December 6, 2010

The Helicopter Screensaver & Bouncing Creatures

Last Tuesday we had to present our screensaver for Motion & Modeling. Our group, consisting of Jelle Galgenbeld, Dmitri Kazachkov, and me, have developed a screensaver where a helicopter tries to take down soldiers on the ground. These soldiers in turn try to reach an anti-air gun, located at the opposite side of the screen. When all soldiers have manned this anti-air weaponry, it will shoot into the air, and when it hits the helicopter, it will spin down to the ground and explode, resetting the screensaver.

Before the helicopter can shoot though, it first has to detect a soldier on the ground. The helicopter will then track this soldier, indicated by the red colour of the floodlight, continuously firing at him until he dies or reaches the anti-air equipment. All soldiers will keep on respawning until they reach the anti-air gun, so in the end the helicopter will always be brought down. To keep things interesting the soldiers get a random speed every time, so you never know in advance whether a soldier will reach the other side.

During our presentation, which you can find here, we have shown the different stages of the development of the screensaver we have been trough. The first step was to make a helicopter that flies from one side of the screen to the other side, and back again, since the helicopter is the most important element of our screensaver. After having accomplished this, we gave the helicopter the ability to shoot. In our first implementation of shooting, the helicopter started shooting at a fixed x-position, thus always hitting the same soldiers on the ground, who at that time were represented by blue balls that turn green when hit.

One step beyond that was to make the soldiers on the ground able to move, so the helicopter has live targets to shoot at. If a soldiers walks in the floodlight of the helicopter, the helicopter will target this man, indicated by a green orb around the soldier. Because we wanted to improve the floodlight, we made it able to actively track down the soldier that had walked trough it. This change causes the helicopter to follow a targeted victim and shoot at it until it dies or reaches the anti-air gun.

In the end we put all these development steps together, along with animations for the walking soldiers and animations for the flying & exploding helicopter and last but not least some atmospheric music: the Airwolf theme! I hope to be able to show these development steps by the end of the week.

Another thing we had to finish last week was the first end assignment for “Programming for CreaTe”, where we had to display our animal designed for the course 20 times, and they had to be able to bounce into each other. You can see my version on my portfolio website.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to work on my portfolio last week, so you will be updated on the improvements another time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Alive!

For those of you wondering why there have been no updates for almost one month: don't worry, I'm still alive and I'm back to write about my experiences with the CreaTe programme. It's just that, since writing for this blog is not required anymore, for the course "We Create Identity" has ended, other tasks have taken priority over posting here. But because I think it is still valuable to update this blog once in a while, both for myself as well as for other people interested in the CreaTe programme, I will start doing so once again.

So, what have I been up to for the last couple of weeks?
Most importantly, we have gotten yet another timetable. The course "Web Technology" has ended, "Programming for CreaTe" has become more hardware-oriented (it is now about programming for the Arduino board instead of designing graphical applications, although we still use Processing), we are now producing a screensaver for "Motion & Modelling" instead of learning about mathematics, and last but not least, we have a new course: "Sketching for CreaTe".

In this course we practice sketching in perspective, and learn various techniques to get skilled in drawing and toning shapes. After we have successfully mastered these abilities, we will be able to use them in the development stage of products: in the end you can use sketching skills to test product designs on paper, before picking one and putting it into production.

In the meantime I have also been working on improvements for my portfolio website, but most of these are "behind the scenes": I'm working on a page where I can view all existing articles, edit them, and post new ones. For now I'm using phpMyAdmin to edit my articles (they are in a MySQL database), but this is far from efficient, so that is why I am creating a custom page.

Next week, I will update you on the screensaver project (the presentation of the final product is on Tuesday) and I hope I will finish improving my portfolio as well, so expect to read about the changes to it shortly. For now, have a nice weekend, and here is some funky music to start it off properly:

Tower of Power - Credit

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Essays for "We Create Identity" & "Web Technology"

I have completed my essay for We Create Identity, as well as for Web Technology. They both deal with how I experienced the subjects, as well as which decisions I made in the assignments we had to do for these courses. The essays can be found in my online portfolio: here is the "We Create Identity" essay, and here is the "Web Technology" essay.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bad, worse, worst

This Monday, we had to present our worst page, after which we would decide who has created the best worst site. You can find my worst page here. The first thing that you see when you go to my worst page is a loading screen, 'cause what it more annoying than waiting for something to load? As you get to the real deal, you are greeted by a flashing background, the atrocious Comic Sans font, a fake prize contest, and, if you still live in the 90's or adore advertisements, by some pop-ups, that ask for your confirmation when you try to close them.

The philosophy behind making a worst page is that by doing something as bad as possible, you will be able to do it in a very good way because of the lessons you learned from making this awfulness. While this may sound cool I'm not entirely sure about whether this works or not, but this can also be due to the fact that I like to make nice things instead of ugly things. Let's put this discussion aside for now though, because I would like to talk about the results: they were awesome!

Christopher Berg's worst page was the winner by a huge margin, and deservedly so, because his page takes the meaning of the word "annoying" to another level. The second place was for Duuk Baten's page, who used the principle "it is better to copy a good design than to come up with a crappy one yourself" to create a collage of worst pages from all CreaTe students. I do hope the philosophy has some truth to it, since we will end up with a lot of terrible portfolio's otherwise...

Do you wanna B-U-M-P?

Last week we discussed Matrices in Motion & Modelling. To demonstrate how they can be used, our teacher showed us how a simple screensaver, in which a ball flies to a wall, and bounces off of it, can be created using them.

This week we discussed Ordinary Differential Equations, which are one level higher in abstraction than formula's: they basically give you a formula of a formula.

We also have a starting point for the screensaver we will make for the final assignment. In the screensaver, a helicopter fires at people on the ground, and it will hit the person that is closest to the foreground. To spice things up a bit we also want to add an Anti-Air cannon, controlled by the men on the ground, used to demolish the 'copter. The question is of course: who will win, the Anti-Air cannon or the helicopter? For decoration purposes we want to included trees that change depending on which season it is. To us it seems this plan can be realised in Processing within the given time frame in 2D, but in the project meeting this week our teacher actually asked us to try it in 3D as well. We will first think about all the formula's needed to get this to work, and demonstrate that in 2D, and when there is time left, we will make the transition to 3D.

I'll be back

On Monday the 25th, Anton returned after a two week holiday in Portugal. In the morning, we had to present an almost working version of our interactive video. To some groups this wasn't really a problem, but to others, our group included, this posed a challenge, as there was no Ximpel-app ready to show. Our group had just finished editing, so there was no Ximpel code written yet. As Anton pointed out, this is not a smart strategy to follow, since you don't get the most out of Ximpel by starting late. Instead, it would have been wise to do some tests with Ximpel early on in the project, in order to deliver a professional result in the end. This is indeed the danger of perfectionism: when you wait with providing something presentable until the very end, because you think what you currently have is not good enough, you end up with something that hasn't been tested thoroughly, and hasn't had a lot of feedback.

In the afternoon, we discussed the exhibition on the 29th. After some discussion, we agreed on having one table per group, so that every group could present their own interactive video, with a decoration fitted to the theme of the product. As it turned out though, Inéz and Heleen had already proposed this format, but it turned out to be impossible to set up the event in this way. Due to the fact that Anton made us think that we had some choice in how the exhibition was organised, a lot of negative critique was outed to them. The thing I have learned form this is that it is best to either let a couple of people organise an event, without any interference from anybody outside of that group, or you could be transparent about what choices are being made and for what reason from the very start, adjusting things according to feedback. I think that for a study like CreaTe, the last method is preferable, because profiling ourselves is one of the things we have to learn.

The exhibit itself was, in retrospect, a success, since everybody got the chance to show their work, and people didn't loose their attention, since changing groups every half hour kept things fresh. After our demonstration, I was fairly happy with the end result, as the audience seemed to have fun with our product.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Motion & Modelling week 1 + 2

The course I haven't introduced you to yet is Motion & Modelling, in which we learn about different mathematical theories that we later on put to use by creating a screensaver. In the first week, we have learned about manipulating functions (shifting them up & down, left & right, making them bigger & smaller) and about differentiation and integration. In the second week we have learned how to work with Matlab, a program designed for mathematical computing but also suited for animation purposes. For the screensaver I have teamed up with Dmitri Kazachkov and Jelle Galgenbeld. We're not entirely sure what kind of screensaver we want to make, we will decide on that next week.

Also, it's weekend again, so time for some nice music. I recently found out that the music to the song "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", performed by, amongst others, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel, is also used by Amy Winehouse, but with totally different lyrics, for the track "Tears Dry On Their Own". You can watch both of them below. Enjoy!

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Amy Winehouse - Tears Dry On Their Own

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Programming for CreaTe

In Programming for CreaTe we learn how to make an animation with Processing, a visually-oriented programming language based on Java.  The advantage of Processing is that a lot of things are done for you, while you would normally have to program these things yourself. For example, to create a window for the output of your program, all you have to do is specify a size, and the rest is taken care of automatically.

In the first lesson, we learned about the drawing functions, and the final assignment for that day was to make a create that can be animated by moving your mouse. You can find my creature here. Today, in the second lesson, we learned how to use variables and loops to animate something. To check whether we understood the explanation properly, we were asked to make an animation of a ball that bounces between the left and the right of the window it is displayed in. It is up to you to judge whether I succeeded with this...

Here it is!

Let the video editing commence!

After we finished filming last Tuesday, editing has come to full force. So far, I have edited the first scene, as well as the meeting with the park manager. There are a couple of things that struck me during editing: firstly, it is difficult to get your movie to tell the story you want it to. You want to give the viewer enough information so that he or she understands what is going on, but not make it too obvious, for example by putting in a text explaining what happens, because this breaks the immersion in the story and is also a little insulting to the viewer, since it is a way of saying that the viewer is unable to figure out what the message is without any further help.

The best way of conveying a message clearly is by good dialogue, but the person who edits the video has no control over that, since you have to work with material that is already there. What can be done by the editor is putting in a voice over that explains the situation to the viewer. Another thing that is possible is to zoom in on a certain part of the video to emphasise its meaning.

The second thing that became apparent is that music is of huge importance for the atmosphere of the movie and the message it sends out to the viewer: it has the power to make or break your video. As a result, a lot of thought goes into finding music that fits with what you want the viewer to experience. For example, we have a scene in which a fisherman tells about the problems with the lake. What kind of music would fit with that? This poses a great challange, but it is a fun one to solve, since you get to listen to lots of music, which, in my opinion, is always a good thing.

I'm looking forward to presenting our final product on the 29th, and as always, be sure to check the project website to watch our progress.

Portfolio Progress & Worst-page Weirdness

This week I have added a connection with a MySQL database to my portfolio page using PHP. The message on the main page, as well as the links in the left sidebar are requested from the database behind the scenes. I have also added the first assignment for "Programming for Creative Technology" to the portfolio.

What I plan to achieve in the end is a homepage, with a word of welcome, some information about myself, and the most recent assignments, and next to that a page per subject. In the end I also want to make a search function for the website, so users can easily find my work. Another thing I'd like to add is an editor to upload my work in an easy way.

Next to the portfolio, we also have to create a "worst page" for Web Technology, and I have started with that assignment this week.So far, I have made a page with ugly colours (plain yellow and red), that generates a set of pop-ups, but I don't think it is presentable yet. As soon as I have something presentable I will update this blog to show off the "worst page" in all its atrociousness.

Long time no see... - redux

It has been a while since I posted anything here (again), but since I want to continue to write down my experiences with Creative Technology, I thought it was a good time for a brand new post.

Last week we started with a new set of courses. I have already introduced you to Web Technology, for which you have to make a "worst page" and your portfolio. The second new subject is Motion & Modeling, which is a combination of mathematics and programming. At the end of the course we have to present a screensaver that is based on physics / mathematics. The last new subject is Programming for Creative Technology. This course is actually related to Motion & Modeling, since you have to program animations as well, so in the end we can combine the knowledge we gained from Motion & Modeling with Programming for Creative Technology.

Although we have started new courses, we are still working on two assignments for We Create Identity. The first one is the interactive video project, which will be presented on the 29th of October. The second assignment is the essay, which I still have to start. I have a couple of subjects in mind, but haven't decided which one to write about yet. You can read about the new subjects as well as the final assignments for We Create Identity in more detail in the upcoming posts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

First portfolio website concept

Didn't I tell you that I would update my blog as soon as I had a presentable portfolio website ready? Well I'm going to live up to that promise today by presenting you my first portfolio website concept. You can find it at Leadhoster, which, by the way, is a great free host with support for PHP.

One note of caution though: the version you see when opening it in Internet Explorer is not as fancy graphically as the version you will see when using Opera, Chrome, Firefox, Safari or any other modern browser that adheres to the W3C standard properly, since IE likes to ignore CSS3 code, and as a result, it is impossible to display rounded corners with that piece of crap browser.

To solve this, I have made a custom style sheet for IE which presents the viewer with a box with sharp corners. Hope is near though for IE users: it seems that IE9 finally interprets these round corners correctly, so when the final version is released, IE fans can experience the rounded corners in all their glory. I hope you like my design! I will add some proper functionality to the website during this or next week.

The pathfinder & doubts about the story

Today we concluded filming the "problem areas" in our interactive video by shooting the scene of the pathfinder. During filming we came to the conclusion that our story in its current form doesn't really make any sense. Because of this, we decided to alter the role of the evil force in the movie, and next to that we changed the end scene(s). I would like to tell you about these changes in more detail, but that means spoiling the story and revealing who the evil force is, while discovering the story and unraveling who this force is, is part of the fun of watching / doing the interactive video. With these changes to our story we feel more confident we can deliver an interesting and unexpected experience to the viewer. I'm looking forward to the end result already!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Creating your own place on the World Wide Web...

"Nowadays, anyone who cannot speak English and is incapable of using the Internet is regarded as backward."  – Al-Waleed bin Talal

If you extend this quote, anyone who is incapable of making his or her own "place" on the internet is a backward creator. With this in mind, it is necessary to learn about Web Technology, and we started with that yesterday. A quick introduction to HTML was given to get us started on experimenting with webpage design and in the end make our own webpage.

The end goals for this course are to make your own portfolio and to create the "worst page", a showcase of bad web design. I'm currently experimenting with different layouts for my portfolio, when I have come up with a layout that looks good enough I will mention it here. I'm also really looking forward to the worst webpages, so everybody: do your worst!

The CreaTe Postcard

For Graphic Design our final assignment was to design a postcard to promote the Creative Technology curriculum. Last Friday everybody got the chance to show their design. The ones that stood out most to me were the postcard from Roman, who came up with an idea that very much resembles the design language used by the University of Twente, the postcard from Nick Byerly, who created a postcard showing that pen + mouse = pen tablet, and the postcard from Isa, who realised a postcard is not just a 2D object to look at but can also be used as an instruction to build something else.

This is what I created:

Front Back

The idea was to show that our study is heavily based on cooperation with each other, so in the picture you see different people collaboratively working on drawing a human hand, using a brush as well as using code. To add another element of technology I included a robot hand (thanks for the tip Isa!) that is put together by two people. I tried to give the viewer the feeling that the back of the card really belongs to the front of the card and is not some random addition, so I used the same background for it. To make the text more legible I used a gradient from black to transparent on the left side and a gradient from white to transparent on the right side.

The VECAP Project

Our final assignment for Introduction to Computer Science was to study the documentation of the VECAP project and give an advice to one of the parties involved based on our findings. In this project, three companies, namely The Dinkelland Research Institute for Rehabilitation, Virtual-Fit and ExercITe, work together to produce home training equipment that can send and receive information over the internet. Additionally, an online community aspect is added to keep the users motivated to do their exercises. Soon it became clear that communication between the parties is very bad, and because of this deadlines are missed and the project doesn't evolve as planned.

While this assignment isn't related with Computer Science at first glance, there are some lessons to be learned from it that also apply to Computer Science. Firstly, the principle of a "black box" is also seen in this project. For instance, one party has a trainer with a connection to the internet, and the other parties don't have to know how this works internally, they are only interested in what the input is (a user who trains, resulting in training data) and what the output is (training data via the internet). How this training data is acquired, for example, is not relevant to the other parties. Because of this, the party that manufactures the training equipment has to make sure the input and output are clearly defined for the other parties, since they won't know what is going on internally.

Secondly, it is extremely important to have proper communication between the parties involved in a project. If this is neglected, components are build that aren't compatible with each other. Not only internal communication is important, communication to the press and unions that represent the users is also essential. If you don't report anything about the progress of your project to the press they will come up with their own stories that often don't depict your product the way you want, and if you don't communicate with unions they will feel left out and as a result approach your product with care.

Thirdly, in Computer Science it is important to be able to grasp what exactly a company wants. Often specifications for products will not be complete, simply because certain requirements are deemed too obvious to mention or are forgotten. Building a product to these incomplete specifications will result in a product that seems fine to the creator but isn't acceptable to the company who requested it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Long time no see...

I have not updated my blog in more than a week, because last week was an extraordinarily busy one, due to the fact that our first set of courses were coming to an end, thus resulting in a lot of final assignments that had to be done. Firstly, we had to write an advice on a(n imaginary) project called VECAP, as well as give a presentation this, for the course "Introduction to Computer Science". Secondly, the teacher of Graphic Design wanted us to present our final design for the promotional postcard today, and we also had to correct all the previous assignments we have done for Graphic Design. The final assignment for We Create Identity was to present a Ximpel proof of concept, to show that we know how to make the user-input part of the interactive video. Sometime this weekend next week I will write some posts about the assignments in more detail.

Update:How could I forget this part! This week, most of the peer reviews were handed in, so I got some compliments on my work as well as some tips for improvement. One tip was to put more visual content on my blog. Let's start with a nice music video to help you relax after this stressful week: George Benson with "Affirmation". Enjoy!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I'm fishing in the rain...

Today we filmed the fisherman scene for our interactive video. In this scene, a fisherman will argue that the lake he is fishing in should be enlarged by removing the barrier in it, allowing for more water and oxygen, with more fish in the lake as a result, because he hardly catches fish nowadays.

Since none of our group members had fishing equipment readily available, we asked Jelle Galgenbeld, who is in the Alien Invasion group, to bring his fishing gear and pretend to be fishing in the lake. Having somebody from another group in our video is actually an advantage, as there are now more unique characters in the video and the viewer will be less confused as to which actor represents which character. The weather today was overcast and drizzly, but this might actually add to the dramatic qualities of this scene.

In the first take Jelle only presented his arguments to the main viewer, but we thought that this version lacked action. To improve this, we asked him to start the scene by casting his fishing rod, followed by his arguments in favor of removing the barrier restricting the lake. You can see how our project is coming along on our website under "project progress".

"Let It Be"

On Wednesday we have started filming our "problem areas". The first problem area in which we filmed was the reed land. On this reed land there are puddles of water. As a result, it becomes problematic to maneuver harvesting machines on the land, making farming on this ground economically nonviable. Another problem this poses is that harvesting is not thorough enough, causing some crops to keep on growing, which results in overgrown land. To solve all those problems the farmer who works on this lands wants to remove all the puddles of water from the land.

Another point of view is provided by the hippie, who wants nature to follow its own course. The hippie states that, by removing the water, the flowers will not be able to survive, and the birds won't be able to drink water on the land anymore, thus decreasing the bird population.

To make abundantly clear that the person maintaining the land is a (real) farmer, we have dressed Alina in a stereotypical way, with an apron, a fork in her hand and a straw in her mouth. Another element which we thought is typical to farmers is talking indistinctly. So in the final video she will just mumble and occasionally utter a comprehensible word. To convey her actual message, we will use subtitles.

Our hippie will also be represented in a stereotypical fashion, having a "let it be" attitude, as well as repeatedly making the peace sign during her appearance. We also have a shot of her just naively hopping around, although we do not know whether it will end up in the final product. You can follow our project progress here.

Concepts for the CreaTe postcard

On Tuesday we had to show our first proposal for the postcard we have to design to promote Creative Technology. Since this was our first assignment for Graphic Design in which we had to create something from scratch, it was a quite a daunting task. As a result, a lot of people were insecure about presenting their work or didn't want to present anything at all.

Nevertheless, there were some truly great concepts with much potential. I was most impressed by the designs of Inez, who had made a flower out of words (related to Creative Technology), Sharah, who had created a collage of products and items related to Creative Technology and Thomas, who made a collage of technical products with the word "Create" as a white shadow on top of it (see the fifth/sixth lesson header).

A smart way of presenting your concepts was provided by Tom, who only presented sketches and not fully fleshed-out designs. When you present your ideas in this way, you focus the viewers attention on the thought behind the picture, and not on the realisation of it.

Unfortunately, I hadn't presented anything as I was not quite sure what to draw, and I thought that my sketches were not in a presentable state. As I mentioned before though, I was not the only one who was insecure about my proposal, so at the end of the lesson some people had to come to the teacher to at least show their drafts because they hadn't present anything. Chris assured us that when you have to present a piece of work you have created from the ground up it will never be easy, but of course the only way to overcome this fear is to just do it. I hope to get more productive next week for the final presentation of our postcard.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Creating the trailer

This weekend I have created the trailer for our interactive video, which you can find on YouTube. This trailer has a couple of goals. Firstly, it has to make the viewer interested in the concept of our interactive video. Secondly, it should show a piece of the content we have filmed so far. Thirdly, it mustn't spoil too much of the story, because otherwise the viewer has no reason (or less reason) to watch/play the interactive video.

To accomplish these goals, I first had to select some content from the things we have filmed so far. I thought that the scene of the "Farmville-freak" playing Farmville like an addict was the most useful scene for showcasing our progress so far, as well as the scene that is most suited to present our concept, so I decided to use that. I edited the video in such a way, that the viewer notices that the freak is passing a lot of time playing Farmville - you see the camera zoom in on a clock indicating that the time is 12:43 at the start of the gaming session and zooming out from a clock showing that the time is 19:43 at the end of the gaming session - and that he is only interested in his game, therefore ignoring the mess in his room - the fact that he throws the cans on the floor is emphasised by the close-up and tracking of one falling can afterwards.

After I had edited the video, I complemented the action with a bit of text. I wanted a minimum amount of text before the video content, otherwise the viewer is confronted with a lot of words without any action and loses interest. So the only text you see before some action takes place is the name of our group, followed by the text "Thousands of people are addicted to video games..." After that, the scene of the freak follows. Hopefully, this will grab peoples attention and make them want to see more. Of course they won't see more in the trailer, but instead they will just see text highlighting the story of our interactive video: "What happens when they get in touch with Nature?", followed by some information about the video: the title, The Fairytale of the Farmville-freak in the Peculiar Park, and when it will be available (unfortunately we couldn't be more specific than "soon").

In the end I had to put some music behind the trailer. This proved to be the most difficult part, because on the one hand, I wanted the trailer to show a part of our actual interactive video, which meant I had to use the Farmville Theme Song during the gaming session of the freak, but on the other hand I wanted a very coherent video, which means only using one piece of music during the whole trailer. I uploaded both versions, so that the other members of the group could decide, and in the end we took the version with the Farmville music.

Status updates!

On Saturday (25/09/2010) we got an email from A. Eliens, who told us that he had written something about everybody's performance over the last couple of weeks. Eager for feedback, I checked my status update.

First of all, it turns out that he is pleased with my blog so far: "excellent blog, extensive, well written, and informative, with sharp observations." Thank you for that, Mr. Eliens. I always thought that the majority of the blogs are stupid, because they just aren't very well written or interesting to people who do not directly know the person writing it. Because of this, I always do my utmost to write in a way that is interesting not only to me, but also to everybody doing this programme or thinking about doing it, and perhaps even to people not really interested in Creative Technology at all.

Secondly, he thinks that I should talk more in class: "good presence, but could/should speak out more!?" I have to agree with the fact that I haven't spoken up a lot in class until now. For me it always takes a while to get comfortable with speaking up in front of people, but as you get to know them better, it becomes a lot easier. So I hope that at the end of this course this remark will be a little more positive, and I will keep updating the blog as frequent as I did over the last weeks.

"My wife bought an iPad, and I love it"

Today's lesson started with a confession from our We Create Identity teacher: "My wife bought an iPad, and I love it". After this confession and some warm-up videos, it was time for each group to present the concept of their interactive video. We were the first to present the concept behind our interactive video, you can see the presentation here. I was intrigued by the wide variety of concepts that were presented today, although it turned out that we were not the only one using the lazy gamer nerd as a starting point for the video, as Reality Interacts Gaming (awesome concept by the way) uses the same starting point for their video. I'm really looking forward to all the interactive videos that will be produced!

In the afternoon everybody had to tell the audience (individually) about his or her role in the process of making the interactive video. My role is mainly maintaining the website, which of course you can find here, and I have also made the trailer for today's presentation, which I will discuss in another blog post. When everybody was telling about their role in the project, it became clear to me that a lot of people hadn't started with Ximpel yet, either because they thought it was too difficult or because they didn't invest time in it yet. Unfortunately, our group is also guilty of this, but I hope that problem will be solved by the end of the week, as Tom said he will look into it. The fact that people had trouble was confirmed by the question of Sven at the end of the lesson, who just bluntly asked "How do you start using Ximpel?". I hope that everybody will get Ximpel working in the end, because it is a shame to see all those great ideas hindered by some technical nuisances.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shooting in the mud

On Wednesday we filmed the second scene for our interactive video. The main character cycles to the park, falls into the mud, meets the Park Manager and hears about the problems in the park. We also tried to film the prologue with the "unknown evil force" in daylight, but in the end we decided that it will probably work better when shot in the dark, because that gives a much scarier atmosphere. Last but not least, we have picked a name for our video and our group. The video is called "The fairytale of the farmville-freak in the peculiar park" and it is produced by "La Rev Film", which is an anagram for Farmville. You can watch our project progress here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Yesterday, we had our fourth lesson of Graphic Design. The assignment for this time was to pick two photographs, and two infinite verbs, and put them in a 2x2 grid, like so:

Photo 1 / Verb 1 Photo 2 / Verb 1
Photo 1 / Verb 2 Photo 2 / Verb 2

It turns out that it is very difficult to find a verb that fits both images, and isn't just an obvious description of what happens in the picture, but enhances, changes or narrows down the meaning of the picture. When you have finally found the right verb, the hard work is not over though: you still have to pick the right design for the verb and the right place. When you don't pick the right place for the verb, it will interfere with the message of the image, or the verb won't be noticed at all. When "designing" the verb, you will have to take the following things into account: legibility (colour and brightness of the verb in relation to the background), typeface (must enhance the meaning of the verb) and size (the verb must be seen, but not cover up too much of the image). In the end you must also think about an interesting contrast between the first row (different pictures, same verb) and the second row in terms of meaning.

Designing in this way actually is somewhat similar to designing a billboard: you want to give a photo a new meaning by using one word (or at least the minimum amount of words), and the text has to be easy to spot, but not deduct from the meaning of the photo. You also don't want to confuse your audience, but instead the meaning of your visual language should be immediately clear, and it should tell the same story to everyone, instead of having a different message to every viewer.

The assignment for the next two weeks is rather exciting: we have to design a postcard that promotes the Creative Technology programme. The advice of our teacher was to sketch, sketch, sketch, cry, doubt and sketch again. Next week we have to present our first proposal. I'm looking forward to what everybody comes up with!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Recording the first scene

Today we finally got to shoot our first scene for the We Create Identity project. Everybody had really been looking forward to starting with the actual filming instead of just sitting down to brainstorm and design the scenes.

In the first scene, a boy, or a girl, depending on the choice of the viewer, is sitting in front of the computer, and passes many hours there playing Farmville, striving to get the highscore. When the main character reaches the second position on the Farmville score chart, he or she gets a message from the Park Manager, asking for help. But since the main character is obsessed with and addicted to Farmville, he refuses to help the Park Manager out and decides to keep on playing instead. Unfortunately for the main character, right at that moment the Farmville server breaks down, which is coincidentally located in the park. The first scene ends with the main character furiously biking towards the park.

As luck would have it, I ended up being the male main character for this scene, and I had a great time thinking of ways to make the main character that much more emotional and interesting. Due to our approach to script writing, the scene we filmed was not fully fleshed out before we started filming, but it got additions or alterations on every take based on the quality of the take before. When we were all happy with the end result of one shot, we moved on to the next one.

At the end of the day I think I can say that all of us were pretty happy with the outcome of the first scene, and I am really looking forward to shooting the next scene on Wednesday. You can see how far we have proceeded with our project here.

CreaTe meets...

Today we got the chance to meet some people from the industry. Each professional told about his experiences in the field and how they could be relevant to us. The point of this meeting was getting acquainted with some people who work in the industry, in order for us to set up projects in the future that are both interesting and relevant to society, with their help. You can see the list of speakers here.

After this our teacher told us about the goals for the We Create Identity course, and that he doesn't like to have strict assignments, but rather wants us to use our own initiative and creativity to create something original and worthwhile. He then proceeded to ask whether we had all designed a logo for our groups and whether everybody had read the Ximpel documentation, and both of these questions were answered negatively. For our group the reason for not designing a logo was that we consider a name and a logo as a last-touch element, something you only create when you know what your final product is like and when you are ready to present it to the world. Maybe we should learn to be more like (proud) artists, and put our identity on our ideas, even when they are not finished yet. As to not reading the Ximpel documentation, this is due to the fact that the website is not really the epitome of user-friendly and logical website design in terms of being easy to navigate. It is sometimes really difficult to find the exact content you where looking for in this maze of links. A suggestion from my side would be to use a sidebar for easy navigation, just like on the Google site. Another reason for not reading the documentation is the fact that we were focusing on using YouTube with annotations instead of Ximpel for our interactive video. In this way, the interactivity can be designed in a visual / what-you-see-is-what-you-get way instead of by typing code.

In the afternoon we had a so-called open podium where everybody is allowed to freely express his or her ideas. The problem was that nobody had prepared anything to talk about, so most people wondered what to say once they were asked to get up on the stage. I think it is easier to speak to a crowd when you have gotten a topic beforehand, so that you can look up information regarding that subject, and thus are able to speak in an informed way. Nevertheless, it was interesting to experience that out of nowhere, a discussion about the amount of friends people have listed on Facebook arose. It was also interesting to hear everybody's opinion on the Creative Technology programme so far, and everybody seemed to agree that we had a little too much Technodrama's in the Introduction to Computer Science course.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The script for our interactive video

During this week we have completed the first part of the script for our interactive video. We have decided that the video will not be too serious, but more like a comedy. Since nature is a seen as a serious topic, we try to keep the viewer entertained by being a little silly about it. An example of this is the first time you meet the park manager. He will say to you: "I'll be back", and after that, you will get asked whether he will really return or not.

Another thing we want to achieve with the video is a sense of immersion, so that it doesn't feel like another person is making the choices in the story, but it is really you who decides. We do this by offering the viewer the choice between being a boy or a girl right at the start of the video, and also by (hopefully) filming most of it from a first-person perspective. Our script can be seen here.

The Little Man's Computer

On Thursday we learned about computers on the lowest (machine) level with Introduction to Computer Science. The lesson started with the assignment to name devices that are computers, and of course they are all around us. It turns out that 90% of all processors that are manufactured today end up in so call embedded devices, from washing machines to cars.

After this introduction we were told how programming code is handled by computers. There are three terms that are important to this process: Compilation, Interpretation and Emulation. With Compilation, so called higher level code (programming code that is easy to understand for humans) is first translated into machine code or low level code. When an application is executed, the machine instantly gets this low level code to work with. With Interpretation, on the other hand, applications are saved in high level code, and when they are executed, the high level code is translated to low level code on-the-fly. The advantage of using this method is that you don't have to compile the high level code for every different architecture you want to use it on, but you can just use one piece of high level code on all architectures, since it will be translated on the moment of execution, specifically for the architecture you use it on. When however Interpretation can not be used, for example, when the high level code is not available to you, you can use Emulation. An emulator translates from machine code suited to one (processor) architecture to machine code suited to a different architecture.

At the end of the lesson we got to try our hands at low level programming ourselves. Using the Little Man's Computer we had to program a couple of simple applications such as adding two numbers. For the last assignment we had to program an application that could divide one number by another number, and the result had to be split into two parts: the "whole" part and the fraction part. While this may sound easy enough, it proved to be quite difficult, because we could only add and subtract, and couldn't multiply or divide. By doing this assignment it became clear to us that using low level code is overly complex, and it is far more convenient to use a high level programming language.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Move the cursor to the right...

I don't feel like explaining yet another Technodrama today, so I'm going to keep this post short.

Today we took our first look at Operating Systems with Introduction to Computer Science. We did this by acting out two Technodrama's.

In the first Technodrama, the actors were asked to move the cursor across the screen by moving the mouse. In the first take of the Technodrama we had a user, the cursor display and the mouse, but in the end we had established that the mouse needs a mouse driver to translate its movement into relative coordinates, which the cursor display can than use to position the cursor.

In the second Technodrama, the actors were asked to click the icon that had been selected in the first Technodrama. This assignment proved to be pretty difficult, as we couldn't agree on how this should happen. We ended up with a cursor display, a window manager, and the actual application that will launch when the icon has been clicked.

At the end of the lesson we had to break down both these Technodrama's in steps, telling which instrument performs what action in each process. You can see my version here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Enjoy your panic

The assignment for today's lesson of Graphic Design was pretty difficult: we had to choose a picture that we had affinity with. This picture had to be put in a 3x3 grid, constantly altering its meaning, like so:

Enhance the message of the photo Change the message of the photo Diminish the message of the photo
By adding an element By adding an element By adding an element
By taking out an element By taking out an element By taking out an element
By exchanging an element By exchanging an element By exchanging an element

We learned that it is very difficult to pick a photograph that is right for this assignment. Some photos are fine the way they are, and do not easily benefit from adding, taking out or exchanging elements, since it doesn't help to enhance their meaning. With these kind of photos, it is difficult to find the right element to add or take out. When adding or exchanging an element, you also have to be very careful not to alter the meaning of the photo when you only want to enhance it. For example, there was a photo of a woman leaning against a wall, apparently waiting for something or watching something. The person who showed this picture decided to add a bus stop sign above the woman to enhance the message. What he actually had done was deciding for us what the picture should mean. In the original, the viewer would wander what the woman is doing: is she waiting for some friend of her? Is she watching a fight? Is she looking at her children walking away? All those scenarios would have been possible with the original picture, but not in the "enhanced" version.

Another lesson we have learned is that it is very difficult to diminish or erase the message from a photo, because every visual object has at least some meaning. For example, when you have a picture portraying a man standing in front of a building, and you take out the man, the picture is still about the building, thus having a meaning.

Our teacher was glad that we had had difficulties with the assignment, and told us to "enjoy our panic", because it shows that graphical editing is not an easy task.To illustrate this, he ended the lesson with a lecture on the book he had created for Industrial Design. Some seemingly simple pages would take him three days or more to get exactly right. He had completed the whole book in 2 years time. This lesson really made me appreciate the layout of books and other forms of visual communication more, and it helped to open my eye to the small details that are present everywhere in graphical work just to make the visual presentation feel right.

Next week we have to combine our second assignment (which was to fix a letter in a typeface) with the current assignment. We have to choose two photos and two verbs and put them in a grid of 2x2. The result is two different photos with the same text on the first row, and those same photos with a different text on the second row.

The story in 12 steps

On Monday we started with some video clips on editing. The message was that editing is what makes or brakes a video. It is the editing which gives a movie a certain atmosphere. An example was the Americans taking down the statue of Saddam Hussein. Due to the close-up shots of cheering people, the viewer perceives that the Iraqi people are very happy with this "act of liberation". When wide-angle shots would have been used for this news item instead, the viewer would have gotten a totally different impression, because most of the people watching the action weren't cheering at all, just watching silently. This proves how strong editing is, and how big the influence of the media is.

In the afternoon we had to present our story in a 12-step format, our version can be found here. This provided everybody with a different way of looking at their own story and theme. We all learned a lot from the way the different groups tackled the assignment, as well as how they presented themselves. One group had one or two members read from the computer screen, while the others just stood there. Another group just told their story, without really sticking to the 12-step format. Some groups had all people telling some steps, while others even used a powerpoint presentation to bring their ideas across. We decided to let everyone in the group present a few steps, with Isa introducing our group and the characters in the story. We decided against using a powerpoint presentation, because we didn't have enough time to create a suitable presentation, and Eliens had told us that he thought it wasn't really necessary to use one anyway.

Most groups created a linear story especially for the 12-step format, based on their theme. We, on the other hand, used our story as a basis for this format and added some things where necessary. This resulted in some steps of the 12-step format being rather vague, because the actual end result (the interactive video) isn't linear, as opposed to the 12-step format. For example, the 7th step, approach to inmost cave, was the 1st choice in our interactive video. When we got comments on the fact that we didn't come up with a linear story for the 12-step format, but used our interactive video as a basis instead, Eliens remarked that if someone was to judge whether we completed the assignment satisfactorily or not, it would be him, and he said that our approach was also OK. He also liked the fact that we combined the virtual world (farmville) with the real world (the server of farmville is located in the park).

This example proves that the Creative Technology is set up in a way that doesn't limit people in the way they cope with the provided assignments, but instead stimulates them to approach a problem in their own way. The result of this is that everyone will handle an assignment in a different way, giving material for a discussion on which way works best, and what can be learned from others.

Languages & Representations

On Friday (10-09-2010) we finished the subject "Languages" by learning about different web development languages. The most basic way of creating a webpage is by coding in HTML. When you want to have a more advanced layout, CSS can be used, a language specifically suited to webpage layout.

The problem with only coding in HTML or HTML+CSS is that the content on the page is the same for every user. When you want to display a different page for each user, you have to use PHP (or a similar language like ASP) to display content based on user input. A common use of PHP is a login system. The user has to provide his or her credentials, and somewhere in the PHP code a database server will be asked to look for a record with the matching user name and password. When this record exists, the user will be directed to a personal page, and when this record doesn't exist, the user will be asked to log in in again.

Web developers nowadays want more than just a static page though. To be able to update the page without refreshing, Javascript can be used. Due to the increased need for user provided content since Web 2.0, an extension had to be build on top of Javascript, which makes it possible to put data in a database or read data from a database without refreshing the page.

After "Languages" we discussed "Representations". Representations are a very important subject in Computer Science, because it affects file size, ease of use and accuracy. The examples that were provided for representations were JPG and GIF. Both are image formats, but they have a very different way of keeping file size reasonable. JPG uses macro blocks at the smallest level. In these blocks, the pixels only differ in brightness, and not in colour, which results in smaller files, because it isn't necessary to storage brightness and colour for each individual pixel. GIF does store brightness and colour for every pixel, but uses another trick to keep filesizes down: the palette of colours is limited to 256 colours.  Although this results in small files, it also limits the file format in its use. A photo, for example, can't be properly displayed in the GIF format. When you only want to show a drawing with a limited amount of colours, however, GIF is a viable option.

We ended the lesson by looking at the representation of numbers, which is often binary in the digital domain.

On sending "beer" and receiving "ber"

Let me preface this post by apologising for the fact that I haven't posted for quite some time. Let me try to make it up by posting four articles at once ;)

On Thursday (09-09-2010) we learned about the AB protocol. We did this by acting out a Technodrama again. Two people participated in the Technodrama: one of them was the sender, and the other one acted as the receiver. The sender had to send a message to the receiver, and this could only be done one letter at a time. The problem was that the medium they use to pass their messages is unreliable. This means that once in a while a message doesn't reach its destination. The only guarantee they had was that when you send an infinite number of messages, not all of them will be destroyed.

At the first attempt, the sender would just send all the letters to the receiver. Unfortunately, the unreliable medium made sure that a lot of messages didn't end up at the receiver, but were destroyed instead. To circumvent this problem, the sender just kept on sending the destroyed letters. In real network communication though, it is impossible to see which messages are lost on the way to the receiver, so the result of just sending all the letters to the receiver would be that the receiver might have some letters of the word, all of them, or end up with no letters at all.

At the second attempt, the sender put a number next to each letter she sent out. In this way the receiver would know that either she got all the letters that were send to her or that she missed some letters. When using this method there are two problems: first of all, you can't do something with the information that the receiver has not got all the letters. Moreover, the receiver has no way of telling that the word has ended. In other words, there is no way to tell the communication has ended.

Both these problems were solved in the final attempt. This time the sender would send a letter with a number, then wait for confirmation from the receiver for a certain time, and when this time has ended without confirmation, the sender would send the message again. At the end of the word the sender would send an “end mark”, signifying that the communication has ended.

In the second part of the lesson we discussed languages, mainly the difference between natural languages and formal languages. The most important difference between them is that in a natural language the meaning of the words are not strictly defined (one word can have multiple meanings), while in a formal language a word can have only one meaning. Another significant difference is that a natural language evolves because the community “owns” its definition, while the definition of a formal language is “owned” by one company, and as a result has little to no change in definition (of course new words can be added to formal languages, but the meaning of existing words are seldom changed).

At the end of the lesson we had to design a formal language, in groups of 4 or 5, with the purpose of describing how to draw buildings. All the groups that presented their ideas ended up with a system based on lines, their length and their direction. Our group ended up with a system of shapes, drawn in a size relative to the other shapes.

After four groups had presented their ideas, our teachers made clear that we could have designed a language that doesn't describe how to draw lines, or even shapes, but perhaps common elements in buildings (windows, roofs, doors) or maybe even complete buildings, which makes the language specifically suited to the task it must perform. This made clear to me that we hadn't paid attention to the sheet about designing a “proper” formal language, which contains the following points:
  • understand the purpose
  • understand the domain
  • capture the essential concept
  • identify the basic "compositional mechanisms"
  • understand the users
Lesson learned: read and understand the sheets before you try to "reinvent the wheel".

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Do you have some money for me?

Today we had Introduction to Computer Science. The subject for this lesson was Protocols. The lesson started with some examples of protocols, to make us understand what a protocol is and what its use is. This was demonstrated by an anecdote about the French Court, and by a scene from the "Family Guy".

After we had some idea of what a protocol is, some volunteers had to act in a Technodrama, with which we had to find out the protocol for withdrawing money. A Technodrama is a kind of mini-play in which technology that employs a protocol has a significant role. We start off with a protocol that left a lot to be desired, but by continuously interrupting the play, and offering suggestions for improvement, it became more and more refined. We ended up with a protocol that is more or less "the real thing". After this piece of interactive entertainment, we had to make a timeline on which we had to put every step in the protocol. The final assignment was to create a workflow taxonomy for cash withdrawal, using your timeline as a guidance. You can see my version on my wikipage.

The usage of a Technodrama to understand the protocol of cash withdrawal has really shown to me than if you want to understand how a certain protocol works, it is often more useful to act out the protocol, instead of writing it down on paper, as you will become aware of its problems much more quickly. It was also interesting to see that, with a little help, we were able to construct this protocol without actually knowing what problems can arise when withdrawing cash.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The quick brown fox...

Today started with a discussion about the "We Create Identity" project. We eventually came up with the idea that you would meet a park manager in the interactive video, who asks you to decide how the problems with the park should be solved. The consequences of this choice will then be shown in a video. We also wanted to incorporate the concept "Enjoying Nature" and "The Power of Nature", for example by having a picnic in the park and by water surfing. Since we didn't quite know how to link those ideas, we decided that it would be best if everyone works out one (or more) of those ideas and then link all the best options in the end to create one coherent story. You can see the discussion about this project on our Google Doc.

In the afternoon we had a Graphic Design class, where everyone had to pick a font, look for a letter in this font that somehow doesn't feel right, and then correct that letter. This resulted in the observation that all typefaces follow a certain set of rules, and this exercise makes us look for the letters that don't follow the rules. In practice, however, we found that sometimes it is necessary to break the rules in order to make the typeface better: sometimes breaking the rules creates a certain identity for a typeface, at other times the typeface might become more legible by doing so, and in some cases it improves the balance between black and white in a printed text.

After most people had presented their work it was time for a lecture on visual language. We looked at several visual messages, identifying their meaning, judging how clear this came trough, trying to work out how you "read" an image and offering suggestions on how to improve those images. This lecture made it very clear that you have to take utmost care when creating a visual instruction. Viewers must be able to see what it means in a couple of seconds, there can be no ambiguity, viewing the image must give the viewer a feeling of comfort, and the image must respect the viewers knowledge and level of development by not having too much explanation of the message of the image. When you consider all those requirements, it becomes apparent that creating a proper visual message is not as simple as it might seem at first.

Following the lecture, there were a few more presentations of typefaces. At the end of the lesson we received the assignment for next week: we must pick a photograph, put it in a grid of 3x3, and add, remove or exchange elements from those 9 pictures. I will explain the assignment in more detail next week after the Graphic Design course. I will also update this post with my own fixed typeface at the end of the week, after I have used all the knowledge I have obtained today to improve my version of the typeface.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The start of our "We Create Identity" project

Today we had our second lesson of We Create Identity. The morning session started with some videos about creative projects (a guy walking trough the USA showed as a timelapse, lampposts displaying art on the road and a game trailer for example) to get our creative juices flowing; a kind of warm-up. After that it was time to get down to business. We were told that we had choose a theme for the upcoming project: creating an interactive video. Besides that, we also had to figure out what our skills are. We would have to  present our theme and skill(s) in the afternoon in a 20 second pitch.

Excited by the prospect of starting a project but slightly nervous about the 20 second talk I came to the afternoon session. We were told that we had 5 minutes to investigate which people had chosen the same theme.  This resulted in people sitting together as groups for the project, making it useless to give a presentation in which you have to "sell yourself". The teacher cleverly adapted the assignment by giving us a choice between presenting yourself, your theme and your skills or presenting your theme as a group. Everybody chose to present as a group in the end. It is interesting to experience what it is like to have to come up with a presentation about your group in less than five minutes. Due to the on-the-fly nature of the presentations, content and structure varied greatly. Some people only introduced themselves and told us what their skills are, whilst others had a more or less fleshed out idea about how to complete the project. Others cleverly used their minute of fame to recruit people with a skill that nobody in their current group had.

I teamed up with Tom van den Berg, Isabel Pfab & Alina Rommerskirch, and we have chosen the theme "nature". We want to explore a moral dilemma: should you let nature be for its own good but with disadvantages to humanity or should you alter the course of nature in a way beneficial to us, but with negative effects on nature itself? The webpage for the project can be found here.

Concours d'Elegance

On Sunday I went to the Concours d'Elegance at "Paleis 't Loo" near Apeldoorn. This is an event in which owners of classic cars present their cars in the best way possible. Hours of maintenance, looking for original parts and polishing are spent before the cars are finally shown at the gardens of the royal palace "'t Loo". A very strict judge will then decide which car is the best of show. Besides this competition focused on aesthetics, there is also a sprint with pre-World War II cars. Not only must the competing cars be very quick, they must also have proper and accurate brakes, because the contestants have to stop their cars with the front wheels in front of the finish line and the rear wheels behind it. Last but not least, there is also a parking lot reserved for visitors that come to the event with a classic car.

Bugatti 110EB. Source:
The fun of the event already starts before you reach the royal palace; as soon as we exited the motorway we entered a row of classic cars, all driving to the event. One car owner with a Bugatti 110EB wanted to impress everyone by overtaking some cars. This resulted in a spectacular noise and even flames from the exhaust pipes. Unfortunately though, this action seemed a little less impressive when the car broke down not to long after this, causing a small traffic jam.

Citroën DS. Source:
Since my father has a classic car himself, a Citroën DS, we were allowed to park at the special parking lot. In front of us was a Ferrari that was also allowed on this parking lot, but it couldn't get there, because it had too little ground clearance to drive over the ramp leading to the grass field.This shows how extreme the design of these cars is, compromising practical use in order to get as much speed as possible out of the car.

Before we went to the actual show we couldn't resist to take a walk around the parking lot to see the great variety of cars parked there. Most cars were in great condition and a real sight to see, which made me think: "If these cars aren't even part of the actual show, the show cars must be exceptional!"

Classic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
After our tour of the parking lot we went to the cars on display. The first stand we came across was the "Mercedes-Benz 300 SL coupes & roadsters" stand. It consisted of a few vintage Mercedes 300 SL's as well as the new Mercedes SLS, which is inspired by the 300 SL. 

The sprint
Suddenly, we were distracted by a loud noise: the sprint had started! We hurried to see this amazing showcase of speed. No efforts were saved to go as fast as possible: some cars were swaying heavily, and the course was filled with tire smoke. Since these cars do not have an Anti-Lock Braking System, a lot of them ended up sideways at the finish line. Immediately after this sprint there was another run. At first we wanted to move on, to see the other cars on show, but the temptation to see the sprint again was too big. We observed the second sprint from the starting point. There you could see that the drivers want to accelerate so quickly, that in some cases the rears of the cars were lifted off the ground! 

Brutus. Source:
The most impressive car at the sprint was certainly Brutus. This monster houses a 750 bhp V12 airplane engine with a staggering capacity of 47 litres! These kind of cars were built after the first world war. Because Germany wasn't allowed to have any airplanes at that time, airplane engines were built onto old undercarriages to perform races with. You can find more information about this one-of-a-kind car at the website of Museum Sinsheim.

The condition of the cars was exceptional
At the end of the second sprint we could finally see all the other cars. The condition of all those cars was certainly extraordinarily well, it seemed as though they had just come from the showroom. The production year of the cars ranged from the 1900's to now, so you could also get a sense of the development that the automotive industry has gone trough in the last century. I hope to post some pictures of the cars on display at the end of this week.
Update: I have added some pictures I took on this day. Enjoy!

Workflow Taxonomy

Due to a weekend that was packed with events I was not able to update my blog until today, so my apologies for that. Let me start with what we did this Friday for Introduction to Computer Science: we learned about "workflow taxonomy".

In a workflow taxonomy you break down a certain workflow in the following categories: order, recipe, recipe step, process, processing step, object, instrument and service (See the create wiki). You can use this to carefully study complex workflows.

First, we went trough the example step by step, so that we got a good grasp of what exactly a workflow taxonomy is. Secondly, we were asked to create our own workflow taxonomy for a different workflow, and we had to put those examples on the wiki afterwards. I made a workflow taxonomy for a cleaning company, as you can see here.

After a few of us had presented their own taxonomy workflow, we had to construct the workflow taxonomy for fetching a webpage with the whole class. I experienced that, while I have quite a good grasp of how this works, it is difficult to break the process down step by step for a workflow taxonomy, because you have to know the process inside-out and you also have to be aware of what the role of each component in the workflow is. Luckily, most of us participated enthusiastically, so we finished the taxonomy in no time, after which it was time for our weekend break!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The start to Introduction to Computer Science

Today we had 4 hours of Introduction to Computer Science. The lecture consisted of 3 parts: a part about networks, a part about in which ways the internet can be used and a part about the basics of the internet.

In the first part we have learned that networks, however different they may be from each other, always consist out of 2 things: nodes, which receive the product that is sent over the network, and the thing that is sent over the network. The nodes might be machines, companies or people, and the thing that is sent over the network might be information, goods or money.

In the second part it became apparent that the internet can be used in various ways, but most applications require a model with a server/database and a viewer. Web 2.0 added user interaction to this model, so the user is not only a passive viewer but actively contributes to the website he or she is viewing. Furthermore, we have seen more intuitive / more creative uses of the internet, such as the Internet Furby, a Furby doll which can be controlled via the internet.

Lastly we got a basic explanation about how the internet actually works. This was later demonstrated by a video from a German TV programme.

I found it intriguing and exciting to see how the internet can be used in a more user-centric and intuitive way and think we are now only scratching the surface of how internet can be used in a way that really feels natural.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You can all go after you have created your wiki page...

Today the only course was Introduction to Computer Science. The lesson was more of an introduction to the course than the start of the actual course itself, though. We were first told what to expect of the course. The course aims to get students familiar with how a computer works. It starts at computer networks and goes gradually to gate level. This overview of computers is provided to give us a framework for when we start programming later on this year.

Our assignment for today was to create a wikipage with some information about yourself. Since this isn't a very hard task, I expected to get some more information about the course or the first lesson of the course after we had finished the assignment. Instead, the teacher told us that when you had finished your wikipage, you could leave. Some students weren't all that happy that they had come to the university just to create a wikipage, because some students haven't found a room yet and have to travel quite a while to get to the university.

Tomorrow we have 4 hours of Introduction to Computer Science, so I expect the actual course to start then.


A post about a tuesday posted on a wednesday? Yes I should have posted this yesterday but I hadn't really decided what I would post on this blog: only things regarding the course "We Create Identity" or all Creative Technology related matter. I have now decided to do the latter, and because of that I still have to write a post about yesterday.

Tuesday started with the course "We Create Identity" but the teacher wasn't present. He kind of told us so on monday but it wasn't exactly clear whether we had to be at the university or not so I decided to go anyway. About half of the group was in the classroom, waiting to see if someone would show up to give us an assignment. When it turned out that this was not the case, most of us left to do something else. Others decided to play videogames or watch movies together. I decided that I wanted to use the time to prepare our course of the afternoon, Graphic Design. There was a PDF file on the Blackboard page of the Graphic Design course about, amongst other things, the development of our alphabet. I found this to be very interesting, also because I already knew some of it from the Greek and Latin courses in secondary school.

In the afternoon we had the Graphic Design course itself. It started with an introduction to the course as well as to the Creative Technology programme in general by the teacher. After that we had to look at photographs from each other. The person presenting the photograph would not tell anything about it. Instead, everyone in the audience was encouraged to say what association he or she had with the photograph. This resulted in the following observation: some photographs have a very clear focus. They tell the story of only one object. With these kinds of photographs, most people will agree on what it is about. Other photographs lack this clear focus, and as a result, everybody has a different association with this picture, because there is a lot of visual data available in the picture. Lastly, photographs can also be associated with something that is not actually visible on the photograph itself. For example, somebody showed a picture of her sister and herself sitting in the desert, wearing a sweater. For some people this picture represented loneliness, because no sign of human life can be seen anywhere around the two people on the photograph. For others this picture represented a contradiction: wearing clothing suited for a cold environment (a sweater) in a very warm environment (the desert). But to the girl who presented the photograph it brought back the memories of a happy holiday with her sister.

This was the photograph I had intended to present to the class, but unfortunately there was not enough time to show all photographs. It is a photograph of my parental house in Driebergen, near Utrecht. In retrospect I think this photograph isn't very well suited for the exercise, because there are not a lot of different associations people can have with it. When you have a photograph that everyone has another way of looking at, you can discuss why each person has this association, and that is where things get interesting. Another flaw with the photograph is that I have associations with it that no-one else can have, because the memories I associate the picture with are not represented in the picture itself. If I had to choose a photograph for the assignment now, I would choose a photo that I like because of the atmosphere it has, a photo I like because of its aesthetics, rather than a photograph of an object I have fond memories of, because somebody who doesn't know what that object means to you will never have these memories attached to the photograph.

The next part of the lesson consisted of a presentation about various typefaces, and how they came into existence. It helped us to be aware of the aesthetic side of letters instead of just looking at their meaning. It was really refreshing to look at letters in a completely different way. I also liked the fact that the teacher himself was very enthusiastic about the subject.

Our assignment for the next time is to pick a font which you like. You have to find a problem with this font and present the fixed version to the class.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First post, first day of CreaTe

Today was the first day of the Creative Technology programme. We started with the course "We Create Identity", which is divided into a lecture class and a collaborative / interactive class.

In the morning we had the lecture part. As the teacher of the course himself admitted later on, the course is pretty vague. He showed us some videos on an experiment from the New York Times in which people have to "disconnect" themselves for a few days: they have to take a break from using social media / technology, such as Facebook, Twitter, cell phones and email. He didn't tell us what we had to do with the information we gained from watching these videos, but I think the message is that it is sometimes necessary to take a step back and look at what the influences of these new technologies are. While there are no doubt a lot of advantages to using all these new forms of communication, there are also some disadvantages. One problem with constantly having to stay connected to the digital world is that it takes up a lot of time and distracts us from the things we are working on (e.g. our jobs). Moreover, because most digital "connected" devices have clocks, a constant air of urgency is created. So by not using these devices for a while the subjects got calmer and more aware of the real world around them. One of the subjects even described not bringing a phone along for two days as "a little adventurous and spontaneous". While this might seem to be a bit of an exaggeration, it illustrates the grip social media have on our lives.

The afternoon was spend in the Smart XP lab, in which the teacher elaborated a little on his presentation in the morning, after which it was time for us to come to the front and tell each other about our dreams in 20 seconds. Although 20 second may seem like a very short period of time, most people including myself were struggling to fill the time. The problem for me was that it is very difficult to just stand up and talk about your dreams when you don't have a strictly defined idea of what they are exactly and what is relevant to the audience. I think this exercise helps getting you comfortable with presenting your ideas and coming up with them on the spot.

At the end of the day it wasn't exactly clear what lessons we had to learn from all this but I think the main goal of today was to give everyone some food for thought and to set a creative mood.

Up tomorrow: Graphic design, for which you have to bring a photograph that means a lot to you.