Category Archives: design

Preserve the Model


Van Gogh produced compelling artwork ahead of his time. This one is called "Wheat field with cypresses" from 1889. The original is in the National Gallery in London. How do we archive this kind of work? Clearly, digital scans of all varieties and wavelengths can be employed to record the static painting. But that is the final product. No art is static. It is all dynamic, time-based media, to use a phrase coined within media studies. The only reason why we think of Van Gogh's artistry as static is that there is no recorded process of how it was created over time. Contrast this situation against the products of modern cinema and video games.  These products are the result of complex models of geometry and dynamics. So, if you want to archive a video game, best to archive the process, the shape, and the behaviors. Preserve the simulation models rather than an end-product.  How something changes over time is precious and ultimately more valuable than what emerges from the end of a creative pipeline. Even with packages such as Photoshop or Gimp, there is a process that is stored as a dynamic stack of human interaction events. That is what we ought to be saving wherever possible. The focus on process, and on model, can also have an effect on how we think of art-not only from the perspective of archiving. Musicians and performers are used to modeling. Maybe, the rest of us should jump on board.

Beyond Skin Deep


What is "art science" anyway? An artistic approach to doing, or representing, science? Let's say that the science is biology or astronomy. An artistic approach might be to create new media, or highly creative, representations of dividing cells or nebula. But I'd like to go beyond the surface, beyond being "skin deep." Most science is formalized in mathematical structure. Even formerly descriptive sciences such as biology are increasingly mathematical (e.g., systems biology, bioengineering). Can the mathematics, or the computing behind these formal structures, be constructed and sensed in an artistic way while preserving the core internal mathematical relationships? Can the abstract ideas of accumulation, difference, or iteration be felt, be heard, be seen? In an artistic way--with multiple representations, sensing the mental abstraction in personal ways? A bunch of us got together in 2002 in the beautiful hills of southwestern Germany with this in mind and created a one page Aesthetic Computing manifesto. [Credit for image: Metal Skin by Rómulo Royo, 2008].

Design for a Model


The above design is from William Lawson's "A New Orchard and Garden" which was published in 1618, and available from Project Gutenberg. Note the hexagonal tree configuration labeled B. Design is with us everywhere from Lawson's garden to the physical feel and visual layout of your phone. Design is also central to the task of modeling. I was recently reading Chris Conley's Leveraging Design's Core Competencies, and was struck by the importance of three concepts: #2: the ability to work at a level of abstraction appropriate to the situation at hand, #3: the ability to model and visualize solutions even with imperfect information, and #7: the ability to use form to embody ideas and to communicate their value. These concepts are central to modeling as employed within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  In Computer Science, we employ models for many tasks. These models are designs for artificial languages. Send this information through node X, and split the result across nodes Y and Z. Plant the apple tree at node A, which is fed from stream B.