Friday, March 24, 2017

Working Title: This App

Communicating with aliens could get pretty tricky if they don't know any Earth languages.  And by the same token, it can be very hard to communicate with other people who don't know any languages we know.  Sometimes, we might not even know what language or languages the people near us know.  This gave me an idea: What if there were an app that would detect the language most chiefly spoken in proximity to your location?  I don't have nearly the skill-set necessary to execute on this idea, but I'd like to lay it out here.

Above you can see a photo of an exercise from the Steal Like An Artist Journal.  As I wrote at the beginning, lack of language knowledge could ultimately render such a letter moot.  Unless the aliens learned how to read English or designed some sort of program to translate for them, they wouldn't be able to read it.

Say that you're backpacking through Europe and you stumble into Switzerland.  Well, Switzerland has a lot of language diversity.  You could always Google the names of towns to figure out what language they spoke most chiefly, but in certain places, that language might vary depending upon the neighborhood.  Even in the U.S., it can be unclear in certain cases whether you're in a predominantly English-speaking or predominantly Spanish-speaking "part of town," at least at first.  If you want to have the highest chance possible of communicating with the people around you in these cases, you'll want this theoretical app (once it, theoretically, exists).

This app would also work with dialect.  Type in something you would like to say in your native or favorite language, and the app will use GIS systems and databases (or something) to determine what language and dialect is utilized most often within, say, half a square mile of your location.  The app would then translate what you type in into that language and dialect and help you pronounce it.  You could also just point your talking phone at someone, but that might be rude to some people.  This app could also offer some culture tips to help you avoid unwitting offense to the local populace.

With this app (Working Title: This App), communicating with people in your immediate proximity just got/will get/could plausibly get easier.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Nuclear Family: Remixed by Patrick Stahl (and You!)

(You can read about the spark for this project here.)

The first story that came to my mind when I decided that I wanted to make an interactive remix story was "Nuclear Family."  After asking author Alex Shvartsman for permission to use it, I went ahead with my piece.  I crafted twenty-seven pages in Sublime Text 3 using HTML and CSS coding.  Then I uploaded the files to my UPJ server space with WinSCP.  "Nuclear Family: Remixed by Patrick Stahl (and You!)" contains twenty-six remixes of "Nuclear Family," some with subtle changes and some heavily rewritten.  The first four sentences are maintained throughout the piece.

Some of the remixes of this story are meant to be manipulative to the user, making them think there will be major changes when really there aren't.  This story is pretty brutal, and often the remixes are too.  It's possible that none of the remixes are quite as horrifying as the original, but I think a couple might be even worse.  Several, on the other hand, have a relatively happy ending.  Still not great, but sometimes more comical or soft.  Certain remixes are based upon differences in situation or character, while others change effects by changing causes (like the first option on Page 3AA aka D.html).  I made many of my specific decisions for this project on the fly.  Some remixes are more entertaining within the context of this project than as stories standing on their own.  In fact, many of them probably are, and that was my intention.  I think this project turned out just as well as I had hoped.

Sorta Pie Memes

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word "meme" is: "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."  Most of the time, memes are presented as images overlaid with words; however, this need not be the case.  The idea that I am about to present borders on memehood.  The individual pieces may not all be memes, but some of them would convey parcels of culture, and some could potentially enter into popular culture themselves.  Below is the exercise I was inspired by:

This exercise was left undefined.  There are pie charts that are wont for labels.  So I labeled them.  I tried to take them and turn them into charts of frequency.  The proportions are approximate.  Then the one broken to thirds forced my hand.  I've cut cat food into various pieces, but when I first started it was always two cans, each split into thirds.

Check out this cool pie chart that, coincidentally, exemplifies my idea!

I think it could be interesting to start a new sort of "sorta meme" site.  Have a "Sorta Pie Meme" generator that allowed users to break a pie into as many pieces as they wanted (up to maybe ten), each in whatever size they would like (with the minimum being a one-pixel line).  Different sorts of ideas could be conveyed in this manner than can be conveyed by standard memes.  I don't have the technical know-how to execute on this idea right now, but it's possible that I will some day.  I sorta like it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Of a Thing Writ

The entry I did for today's post (for my Writing for Digital Media course) is a Moby Dick black-out poem.  The Steal Like An Artist Journal printed two pages from the classic novel with the request to black out words to make a poem.  I only ended up using the first page.  You can see it below.  (I've also typed it out at the bottom of this post.)

I used this prompt as inspiration for my idea for my next project in the class.  The project is an interactive narrative.  I'll be selecting a flash fiction piece or a passage from a longer story (or even a poem, perhaps) to use as my base.  To start, there will be a few words, phrases, or sentences toward the beginning of the base that'll be hyperlinked.  Clicking on the hyperlink will dissolve those words on the next screen, as well as change the text that follows, based upon the absence of those words.  That next page will also contain options for the second round of transformations.  The transformation process will repeat at least once more.

This project will require a good number of pages.  I believe I will be using HTML and basic CSS to make them.  Because of the time required to rewrite the text and determine where the hyperlinks should go, I'll probably limit myself to around 25 total pages, maybe a few more.  This idea takes the interactivity of a black-out poem and strips it of some of its freedom, but instead allows the player to look into the writing process, to see how decisions made in storytelling affect a story as one writes.  It should be interesting and entertaining as well as interactive.

Below is the poem from above, typed out for easier reading:

see a space
the light to spread
faster than
top-gallant sails
kept on 'tis but
the rush
pertinacious pursuit
into night, and through
no means
confidence great
observation of
circumstances, pretty
for a time
while out of sight

losing of a coast,
return again,
this pilot
of the cape
with the whale
gently daylight,
wake through the
darkness sagacious mind
of a thing writ in
water, a wake
steadfast Leviathan

Friday, February 24, 2017

Extra, Extra, Meme All About It

Throughout this post are memes that I created by taking an image and a bit of text from the #RemixUPJ tag and putting them together.

Remixing/"uncreative production" is a fun and interesting way to be creatively productive (as oxymoronic as that may sound).  By taking material developed by another artist and repurposing it, you can give new life and meaning to old art.  Alternatively, you can turn something that wasn't originally thought of as "art" into something more traditionally (at least in a contemporary sense) "artistic."

Originality is a complex question in the arts.  When you use a trope in a creative work, can it still be original?  What if you based a new work off of one specific old work or a small subset of old works?  More controversially, what if you take someone else's content and reuse it in a different manner?  In the Digital Age, taking content is often very easy, but it doesn't need to become a pirate's game.  If a work is repurposed effectively, its stolen material broken down into raw components to be rerefined, it can become quite legitimate.  It may or may not be legal, but it may very well be valuable.  The memes we made took inert chunks of text and interesting images and lassoed them together to make new miniature narratives that ask questions, tell stories, or make comments on human topics.  Or they might just be funny.  That can be fine too.

This next meme below was made by @ashleypgh.  She took one of Professor Landrigan's images and combined it with one of my bits of found text to make an interesting meme.  It invokes the edges of a story without giving any details beyond what can be seen in the image.  I think it's pretty cool.

I took both inspiration and content from my peers for my memes.  They provided the raw materials, and those raw materials carried with them some inherent values.  The second image from the top of this post, for instance, has a certain level of grandeur to it.  I decided to pair it with "I think my soul just threw up a little bit" (actually one of my own text-bites) to make a joke.  The meme could've gone a different direction with a message like #VacationGoals, but it chose to be over-the-top and shocking instead.

Creativity in the field of mashups is all about selection.  In the same way that a poet must select just the right words in just the right order to build a poem, a mashup artist must steal just the right pieces and arrange them in just the right way to create a project with new life and soul.

To maintain a sense of originality with my memes, I tried to take images and texts that don't immediately seem to fit together and turn them into memes.  I had to come up with original ideas that I hoped would be born out of the juxtaposition of certain images and words.  They might not be perfectly original as concepts, but they at least take old ideas (like the phrase "mind blown") and give them a fresh face (a skeleton on fire).  Placed beneath the phrase "Imagine, if you will, an America without hippos," the image should invoke a strange response in a viewer whereupon they are momentarily dazzled by the idea of a hippo-less America, despite the fact that there are few places in America that hippos have any reason to be at, if any.  Then a neat little mental conversation can start in the viewer's brain.  What fun!