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weekend reading

Hello Human,

welcome to December 1st! Not only the year 2019 ends soon, also the 2010’s will be over and the 2020’s will start! Some time ago, maybe it was 2017 or 2018, I said to myself “this month I’m going to learn Python!”. Which was great because after this month I said “this year” and now I am at “this decade”. How time flies! But now I’m actually in it for quite a while now and become more and more familiar with this language. 

But how? And, why?

I started to google “learning python as c++ dev” and found the best quote I read so far. I can’t find the link anymore but it was sth like:

“If you learn a new language, try to learn it as you’ve never coded before. That’s how you get the spirit and soul of the language. If you want to code Python like C++, you don’t need to learn Python.”

Of course!! 

I tried different tutorials on youtube and finally came up with buying this book. Online-Tutorials are great, but I still like to make notes in books, putting post-its on the pages and organize my brain in this kind of way. Otherwise I’m only on Google crawling myself through tons of answers – with the book, I kind-a know where the answer is. Still, searching the internet, especially stackoverflow, is the way to code:

So, why did I want to learn Python? For programming microcontrollers it’s almost useless. Games? I’d always recommend Unity or Unreal. Dataviz? vvvv or Processing, maybe also Unity. Interactive installations? Depends, but I mostly did them with vvvv. 

But for everything big data and AI-related, Python is the way to go. There are the libraries.

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It’s fun to test Yolo v3 in Python and I’m looking forward to find time to try CornerNet-Lite, which seems to be the state-of-the-art right now for realtime object detection(?). Of course these libraries get adapted and wrapped for other languages as well, but I sometimes just don’t want to wait.
I recently did some tests with NLP (Natural Language Processing) and tried to make a chatbot to “talk with Sarah Kane” or at least, with what she wrote. My first attempt was also to do it in Python, and as Python has a really big community, it has the library Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK). I read this tutorial on towardsdatascience.com and the hardest part was to convert Sarah Kane’s scripts from pdf to txt (and you could also read pdfs directly to python, of course). Again, my body was filled with dopamine because this worked out so well! 
Coding on the Raspberry Pi, using the GPIOs, Sensors, building web-applications? From now on I’m doing it in Python! Ha!

Another great multipurpose toolkit for coding I unfortunately neglected in the past two years is vvvv. vvvvhat you can use it for is nicely shown in their brand new 8-minute showreel:

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It’s a node-based language, meaning you don’t type any code but use blocks aka nodes, that you connect. The basic concept is easy to understand and yet you can make great visuals and almost everything with it. The lead developer of one of my favorite companies in the current media-art-scene, marshmallow laser feast, told me recently while eating a Schnitzel that he can’t code. He’s doing it all with nodes in vvvv. Jaw-drop.
Great thing about vvvv is also it’s community. Not as big as the Python community, but some really talented people doing a great job. Some of the contributions are free to use, for some of them you have to pay (fair!). Same with vvvv, by the way: If you use it for non-commercial projects it’s free, if you make money with it it’s only fair to pay the developers for this great tool! By the way, vvvv is developed in Berlin and they give free introduction workshops!

Next chapter, what happened during this week?

The Spiel && Objekt students were happily in Essen at the Next Level Festivals for Games 2019 presenting their works! Even the television (even the television!!!) was there to make a short clip about it, check it out:

https://www1.wdr.de/mediathek/video/sendungen/lokalzeit-ruhr/video-reporter-stefan-goeke-berichtet-vom-next-level–festival-for-games-auf-zeche-zollverein-in-essen-100.html

So far so good. Take care for yourself and the people around you!

Julian.

Artist Talk: Hannah Perner-Wilson

Please join us tonight for an Artist talk by Hannah Perner-Wilson about uncommon materialities in electronics, making as a way of perceiving the world, and her artistic practice.

Hannah’s work combines conductive materials and craft techniques to develop new styles of building electronics that emphasize materiality and process. She creates working prototypes to demonstrate the kinds of electronic artifacts we might build for ourselves in a world of electronic diversity. A significant part of her work goes into documenting and disseminating her techniques so that they can be applied by others.

Where: Ladenlokal, Zinnowitzer str. 7, 10115 Berlin

When: Monday, 25.11.19. – 19:00 Uhr

weekend reading

hello human,
today it’s gonna be a quite short weekend reading. I’m preparing a workshop / game jam for the upcoming week and I want to give you a brief insight of at least a small part of my inspiration.

First are Megagames like Watch The Skies. The genre looks actually a bit like what we call participatory theatre. But these are just names and I think it’s really nice to see how boardgamers developed in the same direction as we at theater! In Watch The Skies every group plays a nation, everyone has a role, Aliens are arriving on Planet Earth and you have to communicate quite a lot! Enjoy the (long) video by Shut Up & Sit Down:

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A game we want to play next week is Two Rooms And A Boom by Tuesday Knight Games. As No Pun Included says, “What if you have too many people to play a game with? In that particular case you play Two Rooms And A Boom!”

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Another great inspiration for me personally was last week’s workshop “Spekulative Objekte” at Spiel && Objekt with Clemens Winkler. Be sure to check out the section “narrative materials” on his website! Though I couldn’t attend the workshop it was fun to see the objects and materials they experimented with like.. clouds!

And that’s it already! Have a lovely sunday and see you soon – Julian

weekend reading

Did you ever wonder what’s out there, what even exists? Lots of people asked themself this question. A brief anecdote: When I was in 8th grade I hold a presentation concerning our universe. The main question was “is life out there?” and by the end of my cute 10-minute-talk I made clear that there are quite a bunch of stars out there and almost every star has one or more planets just like our solar system.

When I, romantically, in a warm summer night, gazing at the stars, talk to another person next to me, I often realize that lot of people don’t know that all the stars we see are suns like ours (more or less). Lots of these dots are also galaxies, each one again containing billions of suns. And it wasn’t until 1990 that we discovered that each one of these suns has planets like ours. There are more stars out there than planet earth has sandgrains on all it’s beaches and each star has planets. What’s the chance that at least one of those planets also has “life” on it?

Quite sure you know that our solar system is part of a galaxy called the Milky Way. You can cleary see Milky Way during one of these romantically warm summer nights mentioned earlier and our solar system is somewhere in the outer spiral of this galaxy. Milky Way however is part of a supercluster called Laniakea. A superclaster is a bunch of galaxys. Some weeks ago I found this video about Laniakea:

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Sorry if your ego just got a little smaller, at least mine did when I watched this video.

As I can see on OK Cupid, travelling seems to be one of the most important things for people like us. We all should have become astrophysicists because they travel the most – or at least the things they build do so. From superclusters we now go back to our galaxy and back to our own solar system. The end of the solar system is the greatest journey humans took so far with a space probe called Voyager 2. It took 42 years to reach the end of our solar system (and get into interstellar space) and was worth every second:

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So there are uncountable other planets in our universe, unreachable for us with our current state of technology, and we wonder if there is another – or even intelligent – form of life out there. What I hardly understand: we’re checking the sky for alien signals, but it seems like this question forgets the time-issue so very often (in fact there is no such thing as time in quantum physicists vision, but that’s another story). Maybe there was a highly intelligent alien life only 10.000 years ago, that sent radio signals to planet Earth. The aliens extinct because of climate change on Planet Alien or something, but their radiofrequency signals passed planet Earth unrecognized like a fresh breeze of air. We just weren’t able to receive these signals back then. Maybe there was alien life two hundred billion years ago and they watched our dinosaurs with intergalaxy-cctv-cameras? Let’s take a look at the cosmic calendar to get a feeling of time in our universe. The Cosmic Calendar does something like this:

map(time, bigbang, now, 01.01.2019, 31.12.2019);

Cosmic Calendar

Now back to planet Earth. We’re living here like a cancer on it’s host thinking about how important we are. When I get in the mood to see this big cosmic picture of where we are, I often start to question the importance of human life. But enough of that now. It’s weekend and weekend means happy feelings!

So the answer for the simple question “is human life worth living?” is Hell, Yes!! Let’s go full circle with this life and realize for a minute that this universe created something like a “self” for matter! We humans have a “self”, a consciousness, how crazy is this! It’s the best drug a carbon based life form could ever get. Science still doesn’t know where this self awareness comes from, but let’s just breath in deep and take it to the max! I AM and for this gift we all should be so very thankful. But I’m also responsible for what and who I am. So I’ll end with a TED talk by Shannon Lee talking about her father Bruce Lee:

Click on the button to load the content from www.ted.com.

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Thank you.

Artist Talk: Clemens Winkler

Please join us this coming Monday for an artist talk (in German) by Clemens Winkler (www.clemenswinkler.com).

Clemens´ gestalterische Arbeit beschäftigt sich mit Wegen der Artikulation und Erfahrbarkeit, vor allem im Wiederbeleben und Erzeugen materialbasierter Sprachen. Aktuell ist er neben seinem “Laboratorium für Narrative Materialien”, im Exzellenzcluster “Matters of Activity” der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin tätig. Er ist aktuell ebenfalls Gastdozent an der “University of the Underground” am Sandberg Institute Amsterdam, und dem “Interaction Design” an der Zürcher Hochschule der Künste.  

Where: Ladenlokal, Zinnowitzer str. 7, 10115 Berlin

When: Monday, 18.11.19. – 19:00 Uhr

weekend reading

Hello Humans,
nice to have you back here! As always, relax, get into the right mood and enjoy this free weekend reading on a cozy sunday morning during your first cup of coffee, while you’re on the way to a nice exhibition or on the wiggling way home early in the morning from an afterparty.

On last weeks reading I left you a bit alone with the comment that Steward Brand is now an advocat on nuclear energy – “huiuiui, a good hippie that likes bad nuclear power?” you might have thought. Also on the big strike for climate in Berlin on September 20th I saw someone with a sign endorsing nuclear power. Thinking of the catastrophic impact nuclear fission can have on our ecosystem I wonder how environmentalists can support this technology.  Coincidentally I also saw this post on subreddit theydidthemath:

The question there was if the information given with this lollipop is true, and yes, it seems to be. One tiny uranium lollilop per Human Life is the way this “ad” is trying to sell it and it’s really crazy to imaging: If me as a newborn was given this energy source, I would still cook and work with this energy and would also do for the rest of my life. A personal life-lasting energy source that size to carry around just like you do with your smartphone sounds really convincing, indeed.

Sweet, and I start to sweat: Worldwide, 59 329 031 died in 2018, which would be the amount of uranium-lollilol-waste we would have after one year assuming every human has a loppilop her/his entire lifespan. Quickly do the math: one of those pollilop’s weight is, according to the reddit mathmagician, 56.22g. 56.22g times 59.329.031 deaths equals *mental arithmetic* roughly 3.335 tons ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Some numbers to compare it to: All over the world 12.000 tons nuclear waste are produced each year and 300.000 tons are already produced [source]. So the pollipop-solution would produce even less waste? Or do all these numbers forget the energy we need for our whole infrastructure? If you just compare these numbers, nuclear energy seems quite good.

One thing are the numbers and before going down in a mathematical-equation-suicide I quickly switch to stories. Radioactivity was such an unbelievable great thing some decades ago, you could buy radioactive drinking water, toothpaste with radium, get radium injections and this future was so bright and shining! One a-hunderd-years-old story is the one about the radium girls:

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And did you ever get information where uranium does actually come from? Today Canada is one of the biggest producers but the standards of the mining industries are quite different among the world:

“Bergarbeiter*innen in Niger und Namibia dürfen offiziell einer Strahlenbelastung von 20 Millisievert im Jahr ausgesetzt werden. Das ist so viel, als würde ihre Lunge zweitausendmal geröntgt.” – Uran Atlas p. 11

If you are interested in this topic I highly recommend this Uran Atlas which you can download for free (or get a printed version).

One powerful last video that still jars me:

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Ok, enough of that now. It’s weekend and weekend means happy feelings! Are you a gamer? I am *just a bit* and when I bought a PlayStation some years ago I realized how hard it is to play a AAA game like The Last Of Us. YouTuber Razbuten did a nice experiment with his wife who played for the first time which is hilarious to watch! It’s interesting to realize how gamers make games for gamers. 

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And #mauerfall30! Today, 30 years ago, the Berlin Wall fall after 28 years and lots of things are happening this weekend. I wish all these projection mappings, events and parties would be seen by the people in power around the world and show them how a revolution can be peaceful and bring humans together. I have to think of the people that are currently fighting for a better life, hold on for a minute and start into the weekend. See you and always remember that dreams can become reality!

“Wir woll’n doch einfach nur zusammen sein”

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Artist Talk: Geraldine Juarez

Please join us this coming Monday for an Artist talk by Geraldine Juarez. She will talk about different forays and stages of her practice over the past 10 years (and other recent forays into the stage, color and ice).

When: Monday, 11.11., 19:00

Where: Ladenlokal Zinnowitzer str. 7, 10115 Berlin

Geraldine Juárez is a Mexican artist working with time-based media, sculpture and performance about stories and histories of energy, materials and technics.  She will talk about different forays and stages of her practice over the past 10 years (and other recent forays into the stage, colour and ice). Some of her recent exhibitions and performances include The Ice Club (2019) and Colour Set (2018) in Skogen, Monoskop’s Exhibition Library (2018); 100 Years of Copyright, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (2018); For the Record, ifa galerie (2018);  University of Disaster, Bosnia Herzegovina Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale; and Situations/Placeholder, Fotomuseum (2017). 
Her book Flux until Sunrise was published by Rojal in 2018 and her texts have been published by K.Verlag, Constant, Continent, Scapegoat: Journal for Architecture, Landscape and Political Economy, and Sink.
PROSPEKT, her recent VR-essay and performance about the data-prospecting of public art collections, was premiered in Botaniska, The Gothenburg Botanical Garden in 2018.  You can read a recent interview about it in We Make Money Not Art. (https://we-make-money-not-art.com/prospekt-organising-information-is-never-innocent/)

Geraldine graduated from the MFA in Fine Art of Valand Academy and studied ceramics in HDK-Academy of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg. She lives in Berlin. https://geraldine.juarez.se

weekend reading

Hello Humans, welcome to a new weekend reading! My name’s Julian and I work here at this school, mostly found somewhere between coding, our beautiful workshop (which I want to introduce in a further weekend reading) and somewhere in the sun. Dreaming about the latter: it got quite cold and grey in Berlin this week. So let’s get into the right mood (← music to listen to in background) while I’m still thinking of this article in le monde diplomatique, Why Trump wants to buy Greenland. Main reason, easy to guess, the natural resources hidden under the ice. Nobody had real interest in this before, because there was no chance to access them. Spot on climate change, which Trump’s government denies to exist. With the melting of the ice the chances are really good that the production of natural ressources can soon start in the Arctic:

To solve this kind of political challenges in the arctic region in a diplomatic and peaceful way, the Arctic Council was founded in 1996. Nice idea, but it doesn’t seem to be the way Trump’s foreign minister Mike Pompeos liked to handle it during their last meeting in Rovaniemi, Finnland:

The great and depressing article goes on a bit and if you want to read (in german) just text me. In the end you get a clear idea that Trump’s government not only denies climate change but more is looking forward to it. 

Ok, enough of that now, it’s weekend and weekend should also mean happy feelings (← again, listen in background)! So I was quite happy that Friedrich mentioned Douglas Engelbart last week, who I always connect with Steward Brand. Those guys were real hippies back in the 1960s/70s, folks! They totally saw the power and social benefits of technology and wanted to share this knowledge and wisdom with everybody! So Steward Brand became the author of the Whole Earth Catalog, a book that describes the functionality of all important technology (and more) in this time and, as Steve Jobs mentioned, was “the bible of his generation”.

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Another great thing Brand made is the WELL, Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, the world’s first online forum or, to add one last thing: the Long Now Foundation, where they’re building for example a clock that will last for 10.000 years. I can’t even imagine what our world will look like in 200 years and they’re thinking of the year 12019! Whatever those hippies took, I never know if it was too much or exactly the right amount of it. However, just always keep in mind how this counterculture is deeply connected with cyberculture! And today? Hm, Brand is also an advocate of nuclear energy.

To recap last week at MA Spiel&&Objekt: Arturo Castro, one of the core developers of openFrameworks, is currently teaching this great open source toolkit to our students. Programming gets even more serious now and words like “compiling” and “machine code” were mentioned more than once in the last couple of days. So in addition to last week’s Assembler-Video I want to show you the lovely book Machine Code For Beginners  by Lisa Watts and Mike Whartion.


That’s it for now. Christian and I have this video installation running in Berlin since Friday till Nov 10th (come and see, of course!) and I’m at Science Hack Day.

weekend reading

Following last week’s course on code and its materiality, here is a list of video, image and text resources on how computers actually work:

We start with “The Evolution of CPU Processing”:

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Next, for some history, I recommend this series on historical computing (in Germany) – WDR Computernacht. A lot of the examples shown here are eerily similar to the projects we do in class:

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Somewhat more historic, there’s a recording of Douglas Engelbart’s most famous presentation, aptly titled “The mother of all Demos” from 1968, in which most of today’s computing paradigms are being presented for the first time:

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For some more theoretical points we have touched upon, here is a link to Claude Shannon’s and Warren Weaver’s Model of Communication:

Shannon-Weaver model.png
By OTA – Global communications: opportunities for trade and aid, Public Domain, Link

A quick reminder of the pioneering role of women in computing:

The first algorithm intended to be executed by a computer was designed by Ada Lovelace who was a pioneer in the field. Grace Hopper was the first person to design a compiler for a programming language. Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, and up to World War II, programming was predominantly done by women; significant examples include the Harvard Computers, codebreaking at Bletchley Park and engineering at NASA.

And on a more theoretical note, on the materiality of media, here are two texts on (by Sybille Krämer) and of Friedrich Kittler and his concept of media (links to PDF):

(from The Cultural Techniques of Time Axis Manipulation: On Friedrich Kittler’s Conception of Media (2006) ) “Analog media – and optical-technological media in particular (Kittler 2002) – mark the beginning of a development that ends with digitization and the computer. In the age of handwriting and of the printing press, all forms of writing are bound up in a symbolic universe – which in its most basic variant is that of everyday speech transcribed by notation. Technological media, by contrast, attempt to select, store, and produce the physical realities themselves.”

(from “There is no software”) ” Programming languages have eroded the monopoly of ordinary language and grown into a new hierarchy of their own. This postmodern Tower of Babel reaches from simple operation codes whose linguistic extension is still a hardware configuration, passing through an assembler whose extension is this very opcode, up to high-level programming languages whose extension is that very assembler. In consequence, far-reaching chains of self-similarities in the sense defined by fractal theory organize the software as well as the hardware of every writing. What remains a problem is only recognizing these layers which, like modem media technologies in general, have been explicitly connived to evade perception. We simply do not know what our writing does.

Since we talked about the assembly language in class, here’s a video on the esoteric nature of programming in the late 70s:

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And, of course, you can build computers within videogames, within computers (via boingboing):

“This monumental build contains 672 pumps, 2000 logs, 8500 mechanisms and thousands of other assort bits and knobs like doors and rock blocks.
I believe this is the first programmable digital computer that anyone has built in DF. I believe it is turing complete, for anyone who cares.”

That’s it from me for this month!

weekend reading

When working in the arts, one is often confronted with an urgency to address current political and social events. Doubly so, when working internationally, be it through collaborations with international artists or by working in a foreign country. Doubts about your own Efficacy are manifold, even more so as a student, and even more so if the issues that are politically and emotionally close to home happen thousands of miles away, or in a context that is alien to your own surroundings.

How to respond, artistically, to international political events, remains a deeply individual decision. However, knowing of, and discussing those same events are part of any reasonable cultural discourse. Art and cultural authorship always has a political component to it.

Political action often originates from young people in their early 20s or sometimes even younger. Those of you who see themselves part of this new generation of activists face a tougher challenge than I ever had to face in my twenties: there is more information, and faster information transmission than ever before. This adds to the burden of emotional investment in actions that happen live, right now, while at the same time, it generates a perceived lack of power to meaningfully engage in any of them.

In no particular order, here are some of the civil unrest events (excluding outright war) with profound impact for our students, staff, faculty and often their family and friends from around the world, just from last week’s social media (twitter, facebook, instagram) timeline:

Protests in Lebanon:

Protests in Santiago de Chile:

Continuing protests in Hong Kong:

There are many more. I am aware that leaving out any single one is negating the emotional impact of violence against a group of people we should feel solidarity towards.

This newfound, mediated agency, often shows itself in the most unexpected places, and both in unexpectedly wonderful and horrible ways (Zeynep Tufekci in Wired):

“Somewhat paradoxically the capabilities that fueled their organizing prowess sometimes also set the stage for what later tripped them up, especially when they were unable to engage in the tactical and decision-making maneuvers all movements must master to survive. It turns out that the answer to “What happens when movements can evade traditional censorship and publicize and coordinate more easily?” is not simple.”

As a Professor, I am not in a position to advocate for or against individual political action of others (except when a certain, very German, threshold is crossed). But I see it as my professional duty to provide space for political discourse as an entangled necessity to artistic work. As a media scholar, I am aware that this discourse often seems to lack the immediacy of direct action. Reading texts and learning about technological systems is seemingly the antithesis to direct engagement. Yet it provides an understanding of contemporary possibilities for agency in evermore mediated communal spaces. And I argue that without this thoroughness, and without a layered and detached understanding of this very entanglement, action will fall short.

I have many issues with the following text, mainly its argument rooting, as always, in Walter Benjamin, and its rigid systemic structuralist views, but it is a good starting point for a discussion of art and artistic agency (Boris Groys in e-flux):

“But art activism cannot escape a much more radical, revolutionary tradition of the aestheticization of politics—the acceptance of one’s own failure, understood as a premonition and prefiguration of the coming failure of the status quo in its totality, leaving no room for its possible improvement or correction. The fact that contemporary art activism is caught in this contradiction is a good thing. First of all, only self-contradictory practices are true in a deeper sense of the word. And secondly, in our contemporary world, only art indicates the possibility of revolution as a radical change beyond the horizon of our present desires and expectations.”

Another text, as good a contrast to the above as any, and outlining the limits of political art would be this one: (Cristina Bogdan in Revista ARTA)

“In fact, Transmediale succeeded in making the digital turn seem like the least radical event in history; it became an excuse for scared Europeans to mourn their loss of privilege and mimic an engagement with social issues all over the globe, specifically the migration disaster. Between these two poles – technology and society – the only connection I could pick up was, you guessed it, capitalism.”

This is all for today and obviously not enough. This will never vanish and is part of everything, always, right now.

Impressum