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!