Personal Projects

It was Matt Owens who first helped me realise through his interviews and in a speech in Hong Kong a number of years ago the importance of persuing personal creative work. When I was a musician much of the “great work” that gave me the most satisfaction was unpaid and of limited appeal to many. I remember having a recital program that was full of music that gave me great challenge and interest being axed because “you will cause people to leave the recital hall”. Most of the music that I loved playing the most rarely was performed in public and certainly was never a part of a for pay engagment. It took Matt Owens to remind of this at a time years ago when I was busy with unfullfilling corporate work. Since then my personal projects are what have given me the most joy and the ability to apply new ideas and techinque to client work. The added benefit that we have as designers is that this medium allows us to share our work cheaply and easily.
For the past few years I have not spent the time on personal projects as I would like. Trying to complete a Masters degree while working can suck up alot of your energy and in a sense alot of what I did (do) at Chiao Tung was personal. Unfortunately that work hasn’t really honed my design skill. Conceptual. theoretical, research, and leadership skills have been learned but not as much hands on work as I would like.
I love the freedom that personal work brings – I don’t adhere to a process – I just work towards the end goal that I set for myself. I try to let the ideas happen and flow freely. Unfortunately free creativity with out discipline tends to lead to a great deal of wasted time. There is a lot of learning going on for sure but in these days of decreasing personal time much less gets produced. This site is a prime example of that. If I created this site like I would a client site all would be complete within a month and the content would be written on a regular basis. Instead I spend time trying new ideas, failing, and trying others. The most recent addition to this site was a the sharing of some of the projects I am and have worked on. I wanted to include work that doesn’t always get shown so completely in my portfolio and I wanted to include photographs of the work in progress. Dan Cederholm has a nice perl script to automatically create slideshows that I got to work but after thinking some more i don’t like it since it creates pages that are isolated from the rest of the site. I had thought a slide show might be more elegant than simply displaying photos as a long list on a single page. Now I am thinking the opposite. These kind of decisions are a terrific consumer of time. Perhaps the days of pure design play are over.


Chientai – Time to Know Semantic Web

Chientai is forming some thoughts on the semantic web. Some great thinking here which I will post in there entirety, unless he complains after which I will remove, just in case the company server he runs his blog on disappears forever.

“The bane of my existence is doing things that I know the computer could do for me.” — Dan Connolly, “The XML Revolution”
I do not 100% agree with his opinion. For example, the computer can record my anniversary and then order and send flowers to my wife on the very time. But I don’t think it will be a bane of my life to send the flowers by my own.
Even though that, it still tells something true. It is unreasonable to create a useful tool and you still do the jobs the tool can do for you.
If we human being want to make any progress, just like Sir Isaac Newton said, it is necessary to stand on giants’ shoulder. I think the Web is one of the giants. And what does the “stand on” mean, I think that means using, combining, integrating and recreating.
More than 10 years’ developing, the Web has gathered enormous information. People and variant systems had been cooperating to create every kind of content. It is time to think how to reuse and integrate them.
I belief that Semantic is one the easiest way to fulfill this idea. Can you imagine that internet has formed a giant tower and you want build something on it. Would you go downstairs to collect the materials you need? No, it is impossible. So you have set down some kind of mechanism to let machines (or agents) to do that for you. You have to make those materials the paths known by those machines.
To make the Web known by agents and machine-process able is “Semantic”.

@itri:::8:30~18:00:::: Time to Know Semantic Web


Sound Installation Art Systems

I have been looking for a software or development environment for music/sound installation art. In Hsinchu I feel a little isolated without any interactive artists to bring me up to speed. No places for training either. Via MacIntouch I was informed that Symbolic Composer was updated and it sounds pretty wild.
“Symbolic Composer 5.1 3D is a tool for making music with MIDI, providing a programming language for musicians based on Lisp and an expert system for music composition. It includes the MCL Common Lisp interpreter for customizing the system, over 1000 music algorithms, 300 microtonal world-music and theoretical scales, tools to explore using “advanced fractal and chaos mathematics to determine compositional elements,” and much more. The new version adds complete VRML2 support (including documentation and tutorial), making it possible, for example, to compose music based on 3D forms or design 3D spaces based on music.”
I have already purchased an i-cubex system with it’s software editor. For someone who has been extremely midi adverse for years, it’s quite a big leap to immediately understand this system. But it should be worth the effort – the sensors are amazing and the upcoming bluetooth version is something I looking forward to trying. None of this is cheap though and if I lose my current sponsor I will be hard pressed to be able to afford to try it all. The first step is to get it to work with Reason then move onto Visual programming languages like Max/MSP and if time Processing.
This is all part of the project Sme(n)ms with an initial exhibition date of December 1 of this year.
MRAC Publishing – Symbolic Composer


Choosing a website design (Stuff)

Rather interesting analogy – though a bit far removed for those of us living in the greyness of urban Aisa.
“The relationship between design and information is similar to that of landscaping and gardening – you are essentially working with the same material but are applying established principles to deliver a superior result.
The challenges presented in transforming a plain enclosure into a delightful garden, similarly, are not unlike those of turning images and information into an online experience.
While not wanting to belabour the analogy, landscaped gardens and immersible websites share another important characteristic – they are planned to be experiences, not simply places to display plants or information.”
Read the article


What is Interaction Design? (Ivera)

Going through some research articles I had collected I cam across a nicely written press release from Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. I love the final two paragraphs from this piece:
“Interactive technologies need a new kind of design, a fusion of sound, graphic and product design, and time-based narrative. Developing this new kind of design will lead to a new aesthetic: one of use and experience as well as of form. Function and information (and perhaps entertainment) converge.
In the combination of communication and interaction design the real needs and possibilities to improve human existence are given a central place.”
Lovely. I’ve included the whole page for safe keeping. Full credit goes to the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.

Read more


Eyetrack III (how average web users view web pages)

Poynter’s latest eye tracking study revealed an interesting observation that runs counter to much current practice and commonly held belief’s.
“Dominant headlines most often draw the eye first upon entering the page — especially when they are in the upper left, and most often (but not always) when in the upper right. Photographs, contrary to what you might expect (and contrary to findings of 1990 Poynter eyetracking research on print newspapers), aren’t typically the entry point to a homepage. Text rules on the PC screen — both in order viewed and in overall time spent looking at it.“(emphasis mine).
Read:Eyetrack III – What You Most Need to Know


Interfaces for Staying in the Flow (acm)

More on flow. I talked about this earlier in a previous entry. Again, reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s popular book about what he called “optimal experience” is worth the effort. This particular article discusses design user interfaces that are most conductive to allowing users to get in the flow.
“Psychologists have studied “optimal human experience” for many years, often called “being in the flow”. Through years of study, the basic characteristics of flow have been identified. This paper reviews the literature, and interprets the characteristics of flow within the context of interface design with the goal of understanding what kinds of interfaces are most conducive to supporting users being in the flow. Several examples to demonstrate the connection to flow are given.”
Read: Interfaces for Staying in the Flow


Creativity techniques

“… listed (are) a number of creativity techniques to help with creative thinking. Like most tools these creativity techniques all have their good and bad points. I like to think of these creativity techniques as tools in a toolbox in much the same way as my toolbox at home for DIY. It has a saw, spanner, hammer, knife and all sorts of other things in it, they are all very useful, but you have to pick the right tool (creativity technique) for each job. We will try and provide a little guidance along with each tool to let you know whether it’s best used for cutting paper or putting in nails.”
Read: Creativity techniques and creative tools for problem solving


The Art of Noise

“Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries life went by in silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent.
Amidst this dearth of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a pieced reed or streched string were regarded with amazement as new and marvelous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites.
And so was born the concept of sound as a thing in itself, distinct and independent of life, and the result was music, a fantastic world superimposed on the real one, an inviolatable and sacred world. It is easy to understand how such a concept of music resulted inevitable in the hindering of its progress by comparison with the other arts. The Greeks themselves, with their musical theories calculated mathematically by Pythagoras and according to which only a few consonant intervals could be used, limited the field of music considerably, rendering harmony, of which they were unaware, impossible.”
Read: The Art of Noises


Why Is That Thing Beeping? A Sound Design Primer (ba)

“While a composer or sound designer´┐Żs concerns can seem esoteric to the visually oriented design world, we can engage these team members on some familiar territory when we need to work together. In composing sounds, the basic parameters of good design and process always apply. These parameters will be key in learning how to incorporate new sounds and new team members into a project.”
Read: Boxes and Arrows: Why Is That Thing Beeping? A Sound Design Primer