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Tag Archives: open source

New Media and The Digital Natives

We are no longer citizens of different nations, but citizens of the internet…

Required Reading:

  • We Are Digital Natives by Barrett Lyon – “Some Digital Natives are deeply affiliated with all sorts of interests that bring them together organically: Piracy groups, massively multiplayer online games, open source software development, cracking encryption, etc. Others become deeply interested in movements such as Anonymous, the RBN (Russian Business Network), or even terrorist organizations.”
  • The Future of The Internet and How to Stop it by Jonathan Zittrain – “The Internet’s current trajectory is one of lost opportunity. Its salvation, Zittrain argues, lies in the hands of its millions of users. Drawing on generative technologies like Wikipedia that have so far survived their own successes, this book shows how to develop new technologies and social structures that allow users to work creatively and collaboratively, participate in solutions, and become true ‘netizens.’

Recommended Viewing:

  • Born Digital presentation by John Palfrey – “As part of the Google D.C. Talks series, and in partnership with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Professor John Palfrey offers a sociological portrait of “digital natives” — children who were born into and raised in the digital world — with a particular focus on their conceptions of online privacy.”
    (you can play it in the background, it’s not very visual)

Mobile Donations – Concluding Post

1. Please text MONKEY to 89183 for a brief summary via 3 Text Messages to your mobile phone!

OR

2. Listen to the podcast and view the accompanied slides.



References:

Mobile Active Org

American Red Cross – Mobile Giving Program

US Mobile Carriers

Mobile Giving Foundation

With little knowledge of HTML, what is involved in making a Twitter Bot that aggregates & retweets geotagged info?

Hey everyone! As last week, you can read about this week’s update at @Leslie4IceCream, or in the Twitter badge below. I’m also working on setting up a WordPress blog, so everything can be better mashed together & presented. Here’s my blog so far: http://icecreamspy.wordpress.com/. I want to test everything out with a blog first, before I commit to buying a website.

As an update, I mentioned on Twitter that I was having some trouble with Yahoo Pipes, but I think I might have figured it out.

Here’s my “XL Tweet” with my question for easy reading:

Twitter / Leslie4IceCream

“Empathy, not sympathy”: DIY, custom-made assistive technology.

Early 2009, NY based artist and programmer Zach Lieberman and a group formed by members of Free Art and Technology (FAT), OpenFrameworks and the Graffiti Research Lab were contacted to help develop drawing software. The hard part? The goal was helping Tony Quan (aka Tempt1), L.A. based graffiti artist, to draw again after 5 years of paralysis caused by ALS.

The team worked on a project based on an eye-tracking system, an adaptive technology device for measuring eye positions and eye movement; which allows people with limited or no bodily movement to use their eyes as controllers instead of the hands. They then developed a drawing program to be used with the eye-tracking system just for Tony’s needs, and the EyeWriter was born.

TemptOne wearingh the EyeWriter --- a tag from the 90s --- his first EyeTag

How it works

What Lieberman’s software does is interpret the movement of the eye’s pupil as the cursor on the screen of a program for drawing. The cursor moves as the pupil gazes over the screen, guiding it over the buttons and commands to select tools and draw. The movements are recorded by a single camera mounted on a pair of glasses, with infrared LEDs that illuminate the eye and create a dark pupil effect. The software reads the image from the camera and interprets the pupil as a black dot positioned on a grid, which can move as a mouse cursor that’s been guided with the eye instead of with the hand.

This program allows you to draw, manipulate and style a tag designed on the screen. Instead of point and click, it uses a time-based interface so that the “click” effect is triggered by focusing the eye on a position for a few seconds. This way the user selects/deselects commands and tools, and initiates/finishes the traces on the grid.

The program guides the user through the process of creating a tag, taking Tag projected on Kyoto's City Hallhim step by step through tracing the letters, their size, stroke, shadowing, coloring, and special effects. The final tags are saved into an FTP to be projected on a surface; only the tag isn’t just a static, finalized image being cast on the wall. Instead, the software repeats the process of how the tag was drawn, giving the effect of it being “live painted” on the wall.


Getting a lot of attention

TemptOne's electronic tag

Tony has been able to do some amazing tag work on the EyeWriter. The designs are very complex and beautiful, and it is getting a lot of attention within the graffiti community beyond LA and the US. Since his first EyeTag on August 2009, his work is being uploaded directly from his Eyewriter to here. The project has been presented at the BLK River Festival in Vienna, CREAM International Festival for Arts and Media in Yokohama, Japan; the Nuart festival in Norway, was completely re-fabricated at the Bombay TechFest 2009, and it just won the interactive category at Design Museum “designs of the year” awards.

DIY assistive technology.

The Eyewriter links two very different types of new media: art, and assistive technology (AT)– technology used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible, i.e. a wheelchair, a hearing aid, a screen reader or an artificial lung. In general, AT is very expensive and is linked to a costly process that includes highly specialized physicians, hospitalization and health insurance.

The Eyewriter offers an affordable alternative of DIY hardware and software that is open source. The price difference is huge: regular eyetracking systems go for no less than $7,000, like the Arrington Research Monocular Nystamus Laptop System, a device that consists of almost the same elements as the EW and that costs $7,998 . The Eyewriter can be built for less than $50, depending on the quality of the material for the headset and the place where you buy the stuff.

Commercial tracker: $7,988 vs. EyeWriter: less than $50

Who is working at it right now?

Zach's class at Parsons working on their EW

The Ewewriter is an ongoing project under development. Zach’s students at Parson’s Collaboration Studios (collab.eyewriter.org) are working on it for the whole term, bringing different ideas and upgrades.

Just recently, one of the class members managed to control the computer’s cursor on the screen with the EW. This means a lot since it brings the EW a step forward to being useful for existing apps beyond the drawing program.

The main question: can it influence the field of assistive technology?

The answer is an absolute yes. The Eyewriter is gaining attention of AT developers, sellers and users alike. A lot of networking is going on around the project:

  • The developing team at eyewriter.org has been contacted by several hundreds of interested people.
  • Most of them are people that would like to use it for a loved one who is suffering from ASL or other kind of paralysis.
  • They have also been contacted by several ASL foundations.
  • There are a lot of people who would like to cooperate with the project, either by jumping in the design and programming, or with economic support.
  • The Veteran’s Authority also contacted Zach interested in the project, and he’ll be meeting with them next April in DC.
  • Mark Surabian, AT expert who has the only internet café for disabled people in NYC also contacted them and visited the class at Parsons.They’re also meeting with the people at the “Open Prosthetics Project” at Duke

    Robotagger uses the same language

    University.

  • The “Graffiti Markup Language” that was created for the Eyewriter has now been used to develop the Robotagger, a robotic arm that can reproduce tags with marker directly on a surface.

What are the EyeWriter’s limitations?

“I want an eyetracker that works just like a mouse, or at least like my headmouse – able to move freely between any programs, navigating buttons, text, sliders, keyframe rubberbanding, continuous controller data, all WITHOUT modifying the applications. I love my tools and I’m going to miss them, no matter what…”

-NuJack, comic and multimedia artist.

The project is receiving a lot of feedback: through TemptOne’s use, the student’s work, and the suggestions from outside people that have contacted Zach after trying to develop their own.

-The main challenge for the EyeWriter is that, until now, you can’t get it to control other software; it can only be used with the drawing program that was designed for. This means that it can’t substitute a headmouse, –which is what NuJack uses for now, since he has full movement of his head– and that can navigate you through any kind of application. Using the eyes for complex programs (such as Photoshop) is almost impossible—the EW needs larger buttons in order to adapt to the eye’s jittery movements, never as precise as the hand’s.

-There are a lot of people interested in the project, but as Zack Lieberman explained, it is very hard to manage a community that is very diverse in what it has to offer, the level of expertise and is also geographically disperse.

-Even though the software can be understood by a tech expert, it needs to be made even easier and more user friendly, not as intimidating.

What comes next?

-Improve both the hardware and software. The headset is designed for Tony, who can’t move his head. The next step is to adapt it so that people who can move their heads can also use it. This means finding a way to calibrate both the pupil and the head movement.

-Actively work with a ALS patient in NYC. That will help the development since Tony is in LA and it makes it so much harder to get immediate feedback.

-DIY Eyewriter kits—once the device is substantially improved, the developers would like to put together kits that contain all the necessary materials to build the EW. That would allow for a much lower unit price since the materials would be bought in bulk and they would be of proven quality.

Conclusions

“When Mark Surabian visited the class, he said something I personally found very touching, that the key to assistive tech is “empathy not sympathy”

–Zach Lieberman

That is the main challenge with the EyeWriter: to truly understand what the patient needs in order to develop assistive technology that effectively covers the necessity. It has been very successful for TemptOne’s tagging needs because it was designed exactly for him. As NuJack puts it, “when they went to make TEMPT1′s graffiti rig, they were building it from the ground up…that’s why it works!” Zach agrees with that: every case of paralysis is different and every patient has different communication needs.

The long-term goal is to create a professional/social network of software developers, hardware hackers and ALS patients from around the world who are using local materials and open source research to creatively connect and develop eyetracking systems. The idea is to make the EW code so accessible and the hardware so easy to build that each person can adapt it to their patient’s needs.

“Without the proper team in place i fear endless frustration. it may well be that in a year’s time i will be corresponding with you using a (limited) eyetracker, reduced to relating solely through text, my multimedia empire nothing but a fond memory.”

-NuJack

Zach demonstrates the EW in his Brooklyn office

Creative Commons License
“Empathy, not sympathy”: DIY, custom-made assistive technology. by Jimena Lara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at cultureandcommunication.org.

Google’s Living Stories is in a Coma at the Moment

While I have tried to seek out people who are currently trying to develop Google’s code of Living Stories I was able to interview Neha Singh, software engineer for Google and another person, we will call him Eugene, at Nature Publishing Group who is attempting to develop it further.  There is a huge silence surrounding this code if in fact it was such a success that Google found it to be.  Digging around the forum and discussion group, I was able to find Eugene and inquire about how he is working on the code:

Eugene pointed me to some scientific news stories for an online journal at Naturenews.  “We’re looking at experimenting with it to show both science news and the human stories behind important scientific discoveries published in the journal,” said Eugene.  He went on to comment about the code itself and the problems that he encountered with it.  Apparently, installing and getting the code running was pretty straightforward, however, the content manager kept timing out a lot.  “I do like the possibility of applying the system to stories that have already happened though I guess they’re not “living” any more. Living Stories is a good way to browse any sort of narrative, see the people involved, browse relevant media etc.  The default content manager makes this as difficult as possible, unfortunately – to put in dates from say 1950, so you have to do a lot of clicking on a popup date widget, you can’t just type in the year.”  It was interesting to hear how Eugene was trying to use it almost like a historical and categorical reference tool along the lines of what libraries use.  This reminds me of the historical overview that wikipedia has on many topics.  The difference would be that you would have a historical time line of scholarly articles using the Living Stories interface.

Back to Google’s representative – Neha Singh>>

Neha answered a lot of my questions, but couldn’t really answer the harder ones.  To my understanding, he has to be careful with what he divulges to the public.  For example here are a couple harder questions that were asked,

1.  How does Google benefit from this type of investiture?

Our interest is in helping journalism thrive in the digital era, because it’s important to society and an important source of the high-quality information our users turn to us to find. We’re doing the Living Stories project to learn about creating more engaging experiences for consumers of news online

2.  Because Google has been deemed by some as an aggregation thief of news, was the open sourcing of this, to some degree, a  political move in a way to win over the hearts of the publishers and people?

Cannot comment.

3.  What are those two news companies doing with it at this point since they were the two main guinea pigs for the experiment?  Are they continuing to develop it on their own?

They are currently evaluating how they want to proceed.

4.  Could you give me some contacts of people who I can talk to at the NYTimes or The Post to ask them some questions about it?

I would have to ask for their permission first. So it will take some time.

5.  Is there a list or a distribution list of developers that you released it to?

We just announced it on the Google open source blog.  You would have to solicit replies on the discussion forum.
Ok, it looks like I wasn’t able to get the harder answers out of him, but they do insinuate a sense that Google is trying to help out the traditional journalism’s journey to the online environment.  I’m kinda skeptical at such a benevolent approach without any financial incentive.  Maybe that’s why Google open sourced it in the first place.  I do wonder if Google was paid by the NYTimes and The Post for their help in creating such a format.  Yet, this wouldn’t be that plausible based on the fact that they open sourced it. 

One of the biggest questions that I tried to focus on was whether or not Google’s decision to open source the code for Living Stories was planned from the beginning or was it something that was considered after the experiment was over.  Mr. Singh had informed me that, “Open sourcing the code was the logical next stage of the experiment and was always planned. From the beginning, we had said that hosting the stories on Google Labs was temporary. We want to help interested news publishers cover stories this way on their own websites. The Times and Post had teams of reporters publishing through the Living Stories format for over two months, which helped us collect a lot of data and feedback, and improve the code.“  I confirmed his statement, by checking the Google News Blog, which had indicated back in December, when Google started the experiment, that they were going to release it to the public after the experiment was finished.  This could have a tremendous impact on the way people search for news online based on the topic.  Google News aggregates and filters the topical search, but it still takes you to the traditional news article that has stayed the same for quite sometime now.  The topic of the article would be the key ingredient rather than the publisher or article itself.  Moreover, “If you look at search behaviour, that’s often what people search for (and why Wikipedia is so popular), declares  Paul Bradshaw, of the online journalism blog, on his report of Google’s Living stories.  Bradshaw asks two very important questions that many are wondering (if you decide to peruse through the discussion forum of Google’s Living Stories).

  1. How much of the construction of the page is done automatically, and how much requires someone to input and connect data?
  2. How does this address the advertising problem?

What advertising problem you ask?  Well, d3vianted@gmail.com articulates this well in the discussion forum:

Publishers want to drive people to their sites in hopes of attaining ad impressions.  Thus the “free” content they are giving away is providing some source of income.  As more and more papers see a decline in readership and their sales decline, the money their make from their online products is becoming more and more important. Living Stories takes away any ability for the publisher to direct traffic to their sites (other than name recognition and the hopeful conversion of a curious reader) or provide any support for advertisers.  Publishers would be producing content with no ROI [return on investment] simply for the convenience Google’s users.

A counter solution to this payment for content problem has just been announced by Google’s competitor Bing.  Apparently Bing is trying to help UK newspapers better monetize their online news.  Here’s the article.

Lastly, it would have taken more time to generate the contacts at the NYTimes and The Washington Post to inquire where they are taking the project at this point.  Mr. Singh could only tell me that, “They are currently evaluating how they want to proceed.”  Even if this statement foreshadows the vague undertones that surround the future of this project, it does however, imply that Living Stories is something that we could see changing the way that we consume and experience news online in the future – however long this might be.

Will the Eyewriter influence the field of Assistive Technology?

So, after my excitement over the Eyewriter and its possibilities as artistic technology toned down a bit (and Mushon’s useful input), I focused my research on a different angle: its great possibilities as a communication tool for people that have lost this ability, either by ALS or any other kind of paralysis.

It links two very different types of new media: art and assistive technology (AT)– technology used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. i.e. a wheelchair, a hearing aid, a screen reader or an artificial lung. The Eyewriter has linked the subversive, colorful, cool world of graffiti with the often dry and no-nonsense field of medical technology. Not your usual combination.

In general, high-tech medical hardware belongs to the very expensive world of state of the art health care. As we know, this is not widely available and is linked to a costly process that includes highly specialized physicians, hospitalization and health insurance.

The Eyewriter is based on the eye tracking system, a piece of AT that already existed. One of the most prestigious manufacturers of eye tracking systems is Arrington Research, a company that used to be part of a technology transfer initiative at the MIT. One of their products is the Monocular Nystamus Laptop System, which looks somewhat like this:


Arrington Research's system

In essence, not extremely different from the Eyewriter: a camera mounted on a headset, connected to software that is installed on a computer (not included) that records and interprets the pupil movements.

EyeWriter diagram-- formed by cheap components

But there is a huge difference– the price.

Arlington Research's eye tracking, $7,998 Pricey? Yes.

The Monocular system goes at $7,998. The Eyewriter, on the other hand, can be (almost) homemade—you need someone who has knowledge in programming (easier to find and cheaper than a specialized physician), a webcam ($20), a pair of sunglasses ($5), developed camera film ($10), wire, tape & other basic hardware items ($15)—all can go for less than 50 bucks. The team that developed the software has made it open source and posted some great video tutorials on their site.

The Eyewriter definitely has gotten a lot of attention from the graffiti community, and it’s also making some good noise in the medical/A.T. world, as well as with ALS patients.

Zach Lieberman has shared some great news: that several eye-tracking companies and some great experts in assistive technology are already in contact with them [such as the ITU GazeGroup, a research group at the IT University of Copenhagen that focuses in finding accessible alternatives for gaze tracking systems and bring them to the m ainstream] as well as some ALS foundations and a lot of potential users and their families.

NewJack


A very well known case of ALS is Stephen Hawking’s, although I think he hasn’t heard about the Eyewriter… yet :) But NewJack has, a  film editor/ video artist/ photographer/ painter/ musician who was recently diagnosed with it. He has continued doing all of his amazing work aided by AT: visual art, video, original composition, comics, and a long, impressive etcetera. He has contacted Eyewriter.org and is one of the many patients who are sharing their ideas for further developing the project.

I have now contacted both NewJack and the GazeGroup, and hope to get direct input soon . I’ll also be meeting Zach Lieberman in the following days. As you can see, the live reporting for this project isn’t so direct since stuff is happening mainly outside the web (and outside NYC) and being known about after it has happened. Still, I’m on it and will surely get some more answers… stay tuned.

{Online Political Movements} – Green/Tea/Obama?

This your special correspondant H, reporting to you from the Tea Party. It’s been a crazy year. We have a new president, a new style of revolution, and a Tea Party???

Have any of you heard of the term Digital Native? This term sparked my attention during my research. I have also tagged it onto our blog. So what does it mean?

Some Digital Natives are deeply affiliated with all sorts of interests that bring them together organically: Piracy groups, massively multiplayer online games, open source software development, cracking encryption, etc. Others become deeply interested in movements such as Anonymous, the RBN (Russian Business Network), or even terrorist organizations.

The three movements I have listed in my title all POSSESS people of this type. A Digital Native as an online footprint or citizenship in the internet realm as well as the physical world.

I bring this up mainly because people tend to collaborate online more, and in much larger numbers because of the anonymity that is involved. People will voice their opinions and be free.

Currently the predominate view of the Tea Party is:

Within the Tea Party, there are separate factions with separate goals. Some activists want the various parties to coalesce into a single organization, while others want to keep it a grass-roots movement with no leader. via CNN

The idea of no leadership goes back to the “Hive Mind” or collective aspect of these group. Internet technology enables this structure to exist so no formal leadership is not required.

In this case of the Iranian so called “Green” Twitter Revolution, a repressed country such as Iran, uses only these sorts of outlets to get their messages across. Iranian’s used different tactics that the Tea Party because they had to keep their identities hidden.  No formal leadership is established on the net for the Iranian activists. It is a cause that keeps them unified. The following are list of general tactics used during the June Elections in Tehran.

1. Tactic #1 – Change your time zone on twitter, and retweet all the information coming your way.

2. Tactic #2 – Change your name on FB, Twitter, A study by social media analytics company Sysomos shows that of 65 million population, there are only 19,235 Twitter users who disclose their location as Iran. DdOS Attacks, etc.
3. Tactic #3 – Create Green photo of yourself
4. Tactic #4 – Upload videos/photos – repost, retweet and let it spread…

Now these are only a few strategies.

The Tea Party doesn’t have to be concerned with concealing their identities. They protest freely in the streets without worry of being photographed. What are some of the tactics they use? In the case of twitter, they are not on a centralized network because there are many Tea Parties depending upon the region you live in. Fundamentally, they can be categorized as a distributed network.

  • You Tube
  • Facebook – Mainly Fan Pages
  • Their Own Websites
  • Twitter Feeds

Tea Party Twitter Feeds:

These are a few examples I found on Don Mashak’s Political Twitter Tweets. This blog posts just about all the most popular Twitter hash tags, FB pages and describes each one.

The 2008 Obama Campaign:

The Presidential campaign encompassed many different tools via the internet. The You Tube debate was very popular, by having ordinary citizens post their questions online via video for the candidates to answer.

Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama created a broad grassroots movement and a new method of campaigning by courting and mobilizing activists, donations, and voters through the Internet. It was part of a campaign that mobilized grassroots workers in every state. Obama also set fundraising records in more than one month by gaining support from a record-breaking number of individual small donors.

Another example of Internet use in political movements:

Ron Paul:

On December 16, 2007, Ron Paul collected $6 million, more money on a single day through Internet donations than any presidential candidate in US history.

May called this a fundraising gimick but it worked to the advantage of Paul’s campaign.

In my final post I would like to analyze the back and forth between the Media and Online resources is occurring.

Thanks!

Busy Week for Free Culture: 3 events for you to attend

You live in NY, which means a lot is going on and you better take an advantage of that. All these events are free and open to the public, the first one requires an RSVP.

Wed, Mar 3rd – CC Salon NYC: Opening Education

Eric Frank, Neeru Paharia & more

The Creative Commons Salon NYC is back in action on March 3rd at the Open Planning Project’s uber cool penthouse space from October. The theme for this salon is “Opening Education”, and if you don’t really know what that means, think CC licenses as applied to various learning contexts and you’re off to a good start. To learn more, come by for a good time and free (as in beer) beer.

THE DETAILS (RSVP for updates!):

Wednesday, March 3rd, from 7-10pm
The Open Planning Project
148 Lafayette St
Between Grand & Howard
New York, NY

Thu, Mar 4th – Collaborative Futures Book Launch & Talk

Michael Mandiberg & Mushon Zer-Aviv

March 4, 2010; 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
Eyebeam – 540 W21st Street, New York

Upgrade! NY presents:
Collaborative Futures Book Launch & Talk
a book about free collaboration written collaboratively in 5 days

Watch the live video stream on March 4 at 7:30PM (EST) and participate in the discussion!

Over 5 days in mid January 2010 the Transmediale festival locked 6 writers and 1 programmer in a Berlin hotel room to collaboratively write a book about the future of free collaboration; the authors started with only the title, and ended the week with a book.

Transmediale Artistic Director Stephen Kovats will be on hand to join Eyebeam Senior Fellow Michael Mandiberg and Eyebeam Honorary Resident Mushon Zer-Aviv, to talk about the process of writing the book, and some of their discoveries in the collaborative process. Stephen Kovatz will also talk about the ‘Futurity Now’ concept of TM10 in general and particularly in the context of the Collaborative Futures book sprint.

Fri, Mar 5th – Trolls Among Us: From Phreaking to Trolling

Gabriella Coleman

ITP
721 Broadway, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10003

Why have geeks been compelled to protest the Church of
Scientology vehemently for nearly two decades? This talk starts with
this question to  present a cultural history and political analysis of
one of the oldest Internet wars, often referred to as “Internet vs
Scientology.” During the 1990s, this war was waged largely on USENET (a
large scale messaging board system), while in recent times it has taken
the form of “Project Chanology.” This project is orchestrated by a
loosely defined group called “Anonymous” who has led a series of online
attacks and real world protests, often using a variety of media, against
Scientology. I argue that to understand the significance of these
battles and protests, we must examine how the two groups stand in a
culturally antipodal relation to each other. Through this analysis of
cultural inversion, I will consider how long-standing liberal ideals
take cultural root in the context of these battles, use these two cases
to reveal important political transformations in Internet/hacker culture
between the mid 1990s and today and finally will map the tension between
pleasure/freedom (the “lulz”) and moral good (”free speech”) found among
Anonymous in terms of the tension between liberal freedom and trollish trickery.

Is the Eyewriter a tool for creating or rather for reinterpreting a form of creation?

“Part of our interest in technology is on technology that empowers people” -Graffiti Research Lab

Reminder– the Eyewriter project is a low-cost, open source eye-tracking system+custom software that allows graffiti writers and artists with ALS paralysis to draw with light projected on large surfaces, using only their eyes. The project was developed to help L.A.-based graffiti artist TemptOne, by a team of artists and software programmers led by Zach Lieberman. The core development team consists of members of Free Art and Technology (FAT), OpenFrameworks and the Graffiti Research Lab [GRL have a great previous project that’s related--LaserTag].

The technical stuff—how it works

The Eyewriter software has three parts —

  • an eye tracking software
  • a drawing software designed for drawing with eye movements.
  • a system that projects the tag on a physical surface

The softwarehas been developed using openFrameworks, a cross library for creative development also co-founded by Lieberman.

Eye-Tracking Software

“Eye tracking is the process of measuring either the point of gaze (“where we are looking”) or the motion of an eye relative to the head. An eye tracker is a device for measuring eye positions and eye movement.” (Wikipedia) The concept has been around for quite a while—scientists have worked with apparatuses to record the gaze since the early 20th century.

What Lieberman’s software does is interpret the movement of the eye’s pupil as the cursor on the screen of a program for drawing. The pupil is recorded by a single camera mounted on a pair of glasses and focuses on one eye, with infrared LEDs that illuminate the eye and create a dark pupil effect. The software reads the image from the camera and interprets the pupil as a black dot positioned on a grid, which can move as a mouse coursor that’s been guided with the eye instead of with the hand.

The software follows this process:

  • It detects and tracks the position of the pupil from the incoming camera or video image,
  • It then callibrates the tracked eye with its position on the computer screen, using the grid to transform the point of the gaze into coordinates.

A person wearing the glasses for the first time has to focus on a sequence of points randomly displayed on the screen. When the sequence is finished, the two sets of data are used to interpolate where the eye positions are located in relation to the screen.

Eye-Drawing Software

After the sequence is completed, the gaze is what operates the tools on the drawing stage. This program allows you to draw, manipulate and style a tag designed on the screen. Instead of point and click, it uses a time-based interface so that the “click” effect is triggered by focusing the eye on a position for a few seconds. This way the user selects/deselects commands and tools, and initiates/finishes the traces on the grid.

The program guides the user through the process of creating a tag, taking him step by step through tracing the letters, their size, stroke, shadowing, coloring, and special effects. It allows to paste in previous tags and uploads the finished work directly to both the hard drive and a FTP for projection, if desired.  The amount of work that the eyes have to do in order to complete a tag is very straining, so the team’s aim is to keep upgrading the program to reduce the amount of time spent doing unnecessary tasks.

Projection

The finalized tags are saved into an FTP to be projected on a surface. To to this, the software uses GFL- Graffiti Markup Language– created by the team specifically for this project. GFL allows the replay of the action as the tag is being “painted” on the wall, instead of just casting a static, finalized image as if it were a slide.

Here you can see TemptOne’s tags taking over L.A.


Where has it gone?

The long-term goal is to create a professional/social network of software developers, hardware hackers, urban projection artist and ALS patients from around the world who are using local materials and open source research to creatively connect and make eye art. The code is available at http://code.google.com/p/eyewriter, and they have caught the attention of people interested in donating and collaborating with design and programming.

TemptOne did his first EyeTag on August 2009. Since then, his tags are uploaded directly from his Eyewriter to here: http://fffff.at/tempt1/photos/eyetags/ The project has been at the BLK River Festival in Vienna, CREAM International Festival for Arts and Media in Yokohama, Japan; the Nuart festival in Norway, and was completely re-fabricated in January at the Bombay TechFest 2009.

YouTube Preview Image

And how is the Eyewriter impacting graffiti?

There is no doubt that the Eyewriter provides patients who suffer from ALS with a unique form of expression that allows the creative potential to flow in spite of the physical barriers. The possibilities are endless and the impact huge. But what happens to graffiti when it is executed through the Eyewriter? How is this technique transformed?

To some, graffiti is an art form worthy of display in galleries and exhibitions; to others it is merely vandalism. It is usually employed as a strong form of communication. In any case, it is a form of appropriation of the public space linked to social and political messages and moved by a subversive intention—it is an illegal activity of an invasive nature that has a competitive spirit and seeks fame.

The Eyewriter’s projections with light strip graffiti of its permanent nature and transform it into an ephemeral form of expression. The gang is expanded to include the design and production team, who may play a more important role than the fellow taggers. The act of tagging necessarily loses spontaneity to become a more planned, organized activity. The actual moment of creation is documented and broadcasted—everyone knows who the tagger is, his location and the exact moment of action. By participating in festivals, graffiti is incorporated into an institutionalized arts scene.

Seen through McLuhan’s lens, a medium can’t be dissociated from the message it carries, and the use that is given to any medium is not as transcendental as the fact that “the medium shapes and controls the scale and form of human action.” How is this new media shaping graffiti as a particular form of action? Can we understand it as a process of cultural transcoding in Lev Manovich’s sense— “To transcode is to translate something into another format. Cultural categories and concepts are substituted by new ones, on the level of meaning and/or language.” (The Language of New Media, 47)

I’m having a hard time trying to formulate this question. I guess I’m trying to understand how new media triggers change and transformation that goes beyond its immediate impact on the subject of action. I’m trying to understand, in this particular case, how is technology affecting the message?

Just in: Zach Lieberman has been super kind and accepted to meet this week to talk about the project. I hope to go further into these questions, and any other inquires that you guys can think of are much welcomed and appreciated.




Travelogue 3: Who is & What is developing with “Living Stories”?

December 09′ to Feburary 10′

Journalism has undergone a crisis in the past several years and so has the news that has followed it.  The ‘digital future of news’ is currently shaping the future of how we stay informed and connected to what’s going on in our world.  The internet with online news updates possesses the remarkable capacity to change the way we read news.  Moreover, news agencies have tried very hard to adapt to the changing climate of media within this digital era that has been underway for quite some time now.  Nevertheless, the multi-billion dollar corporation Google has once again tried to revolutionize the internet.  From December of 2009 – February 2010, it sought to experiment with the way people experienced the news online.  Since the experiment, there has been much optimism with how it could change the nature and interface of online news.

“We believe it’s just as important to experiment with how news organizations can take advantage of the web to tell stories in new ways — ways that simply aren’t possible offline.”  - Official Google Blog

So Google decided to team up with two of the most world renowned news organizations: The  News York Times and The Washington Post to see how they could develop a way in which  people could better experience reading the news online.  Like mad scientists (engineers) stuck in  some lab in Mountain View, California they created their own version of Frankenstein… they  called it “LIVING STORIES“.  It’s aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!!!  Essentially, it is  a “new format/interface for creating and consuming news online”.    Everyday the news of a particular topic or story would be covered or    reside  under one URL with a summary explaining a general overview with live updates of new material in a timeline format, which would give offer readers,  ”a different online approach to balancing the overview [of a topic/or story] with depth and context”.

On the other hand of the debate, Google has been looked at with a great deal of animosity and dislike because of how it devalues the content on the web.  Matt Asay posted one particular comment by Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson, to call into question this widespread attitude against Google:

Google devalues everything it touches. Google is great for Google, but it’s terrible for content providers, because it divides that content quantitatively rather than qualitatively. And if you are going to get people to pay for content, you have to encourage them to make qualitative decisions about that content.

Nevertheless, the question abounds to why Google would do such a seemingly benevolent thing to help out publishers and news agencies.  What is the underlying rationale or motive for helping the news agencies?  Yet, The NYTimes for example are welcoming the help from Google.  It appears as if the news agencies are following the age old adage, ‘if you can’t beat em’, join em’.  The NYTimes and The Washington Post have worked on a collaborative effort with Google so it doesn’t seem like their was any negative feelings towards each other.  It seems a big brother helping out his younger brother.  While Google has had its fair share of criticism, the NYTimes for example is trying to take its own journalistic endeavors and combine them with the ingenuity of Google.  ”It’s an experiment with a different way of telling stories,” said Martin A. Nisenholtz, senior vice president for digital operations of The New York Times Company, in a statement. “I think in it, you can see the germ of something quite interesting.”

February 10′ and Beyond

On February 17th, Google decided to open-source the code to see what people and developers can do with it.  My question and curiousity, which is basically Google’s question too, is – what are people doing with the code other than making bug fixes here and there?  In other words, How are people utilizing and improving the open-source code of Living Stories?

  • My research and journey will be to figure out what I’m able to on where the project is going since its release to the public.  I have already contacted some owners of the experiment from Google that were in charge of Living Stories and even some people at the New York Times and the Washington Post to see what they are continuing to do with the format.
  • In addition, I will try to seek out some developers who are working with it to see what they have been able to do with it.
  • Lastly, I will also attempt to contact various news agencies and inquire about whether or not they would implement such a format to their online site.

In our recent weekly readings on Travelogue 3, we saw a different viewpoint on collectivism and open source.  I wonder if this would contribute to a loss of authorship or a degradation in the quality of content.  Or would it turn into “mush” as Jaron Lanier wrote about:

Actually, Silicon Valley is remarkably good at not making collectivization mistakes when our own fortunes are at stake. If you suggested that, say, Google, Apple and Microsoft should be merged so that all their engineers would be aggregated into a giant wiki-like project—well you’d be laughed out of Silicon Valley so fast you wouldn’t have time to tweet about it. Same would happen if you suggested to one of the big venture-capital firms that all the start-ups they are funding should be merged into a single collective operation.  But this is exactly the kind of mistake that’s happening with some of the most influential projects in our culture, and ultimately in our economy.

Well Mr. Lanier, it seems as if Google did just that.  It created something and released it to the public for a ‘collective action’ to implement and improve upon the original test design.  If Lanier is correct in his assertion, than Living Stories would turn out to be a mistake in the long run.  However, I don’t think that this will be the case.  I believe that it will only be a matter of time before online news slowly transforms into this type of interface.  Only time will tell.  But for now, I’ll have to find out where the public is taking this “creative monster”.  Stay tuned for more “living updates”…