Scott Snibbe's Boundary Functions is an interactive work that shows the "personal space" between people by drawing boundary lines between them. I chose this work because I like how Snibbe uses a simple algorithm to highlight and unspoken social convention, but I also chose this work because I believe it falls short in some regards. Maybe I am coming from a jaded perspective looking back from 2019 to the technical concepts of the year I was born, but Boundary Functions seems in practice to be just an algorithm to draw lines between people. I probably would not make an immediate jump to "personal space" if I were to step on the platform myself. There's a snippet in the video where children are playing on this platform thinking no more of it than as a bunch of pretty lights, which I find telling. I guess what I'm getting at here is that the idea of "personal space" seems superimposed upon the actual interactions encouraged by this installation. But perhaps that's the point; social conventions are really just superimposed on our interactions.



I didn't start with a sketch for this piece but rather a concept: tiling. My goal for this gif was to create a grid of many shapes that shift together in visually stimulating ways. This gif was strongly inspired by the video Canon, which we were shown in class. After I finished implementing a basic unit that can rotate in four different directions, I experimented with different layouts, movement patterns, subdivisions, and layering of the various arcs before I settled with this result. I tried to encourage visual interest by obscuring certain elements and revealing others, but it was a fine line between visually interesting and chaotic. I still think I failed to create a cohesive piece, but I take this as an opportunity to experiment with these simple moving tiles. After reviewing other people's work, I almost wish I had gone a representational route instead of playing with abstract shapes. I used the doubleExponentialSigmoid easing function.


It's hard to pinpoint where I lie on the spectrum of first word art to last word art because I grew up in a very traditional view of art that encompassed representation and the gestural qualities of the hand, but since coming to CMU I have more or less abandoned that practice, not necessarily by choice. The domain of CMU's School of Art lies on the first word art side of the spectrum, but even as I have shifted to fit into that range, I still believe I lean more towards last word art than many of my peers. In Naimark's theory, all the art that is in between--including mine--have no particular lasting significance beyond the label "art". I am pretty okay with that, however. My goal as an artist is not to make lasting art, whether through novelty or through mastery. My goal is to make art that is interesting now, which ultimately lie best in the middle of the spectrum anyways.

Technology is the optimal medium to achieve things that are interesting now. I don't have anything to say about how technology and culture shape each other besides the obvious: that they are a positive feedback loop. Since technology is inherently ephemeral, our work won't persist if it is solely based on the novelty of technology. That doesn't mean technological art can't last, however. Technology is just another medium to express core ideas. If the idea persists, then the work will persist, as well. That is the one failing of Naimark's theory of first word and last word art; it fails to remember all the art in between that have persisted.


  1. The piece is square.
  2. The piece shows black lines on a white background.
  3. The black lines are the same length.
  4. The black lines are rotated randomly.
  5. The black lines are approximately arranged in a grid.
  6. Some black lines are removed from the grid in patches.


Deriving an implementation from the observations I listed above were fairly simple. I wrote an algorithm to place lines arranged in a square grid, rotate the lines by a random angle between 0 and 180 degrees, and culled lines that were located in a cell above some threshold for Perlin noise. The trickiest part of knowing how to implement this algorithm was thinking of a way to remove "patches" of lines rather than random cells, but this was solved once I remembered Perlin noise. After the implementation came tuning parameters to imitate Molnár's original. I tuned the number of lines, the length of the lines, the stroke weight of the lines, the scale of the Perlin noise, and the threshold for culling lines. The last two parameters in particular were trickiest because Interruptions displays a very specific frequency and distribution of removed "patches". Too many or too few interruptions, as well as too large or too small interruptions, would drastically change the appearance of the piece. In the interest of replicating Interruptions as closely as possible, I spent the most effort tuning these variables.


Happy Place by Jared Tarbell

Happy Place is a Processing piece formed by placing nodes along the perimeter of a circle and instructing them to move towards "friends" and away from non-friends. I can see from the source code linked in the web page that it is a fairly simple program wherein at each frame, each node moves then adjusts its position to find a "happy place" between moving towards friends and away from non-friends. All functions and objects are named accordingly, with nodes being called "Friends" and their movement adjustment function called "findHappyPlace".

Happy Place calls out to me because it evokes memories of working physically with charcoal despite being computer generated. It looks like a drawing formed by shaking a piece of paper with charcoal dust on it, which may very well be a physical analogue to this work. Happy Place is a textbook example of effectively complex because it demonstrates chaos created by a combination of randomization and simple rules. The "initial condition" is determined by random placements, but the resulting movement is dictated by clear rules. As Galanter suggests, this leads to chaotic dynamics even though the systems themselves are deterministic, and we see evidence of the butterfly effect and sensitivity to initial conditions in the images that Tarbell displays. Tarbell himself includes varying simulation results, such as when the group of friends migrate away from the circle entirely, or when two friend groups repel each other to opposite sides of the canvas.


Question 1A.

I think games with very simple rules that are played by humans are a good example of effective complexity because they are great stages for emergent interactions. Games that come to mind are the loop activity we did in class and r/place, where a rule as simple as "You can color a pixel every 20 minutes" allows for complex social interactions. I choose these as examples because they are a combination of order (simple rules) and disorder (human individuality) that constitute a complex system. Perhaps the only point of contention is whether these examples are truly generative, because the artist(s) are not removed from the decision-making in the way that Galanter emphasizes in the beginning of the text.

Question 1B.

I relate the most to the problem of meaning because I find it something that I struggle with in all forms of art. Galanter highlights generative art's inclusiveness of all forms of "meaning", whether it be presenting the system itself, invoking awe, or delivering social commentary. Because of this, I find it hard in general to evaluate the critical value of my ideas. At the same time, I find it liberating to not have to evaluate the critical value of my ideas because all delivered meanings are valid within the realm of generative art, including the lack of "higher" meaning beyond being interesting. Galanter also mentions a radically bottom-up "truth-to-process" approach, which I find intriguing but also personally difficult to practice. As an artist, I enjoy adopting a director position over my projects, which makes it difficult for me to relinquish control to the system.


For this Looking Outwards, I'd like to share a charming text-based adventure game site I found around 2009 and my favorite game from their collection. Choice of Games is a company that produces and hosts text-based adventure games created using their scripting language ChoiceScript. I like these works because they are lengthy, well-written, fantasy-esque games with meaningful choices, but there are a couple interesting characteristics about this platform that are relevant to this class.

First is how Choice of Game hosts curated user-created games written with ChoiceScript. I find this relevant to how media art seeks to be completely democratized and accessible, but I am reminded of a post I saw a long time ago complaining about ChoiceScript ruining the sanctity of text-based adventures. This makes me wonder why creative technology seems particularly prone to gatekeeping. Perhaps this is more because art in general is prone to gatekeeping, but its exclusiveness is highlighted when juxtaposed with technology's affinity for mass adoption.

Second, I cannot help drawing comparisons to Twine and wondering why Twine has become the creative's tool of choice rather than ChoiceScript. The most straightforward conclusion is that ChoiceScript is created specifically for text-based adventure games, whereas Twine broadly supports choice-based games in general. HTML, CSS, and visual languages are all tools supported by Twine. With ChoiceScript, narrative trees and eloquence are the only tools available. To me, I don't see this as a downside because these tighter constraints make for rich storytelling, but it definitely falls short on interactivity and functions more as a novel.

What I desire more from Choice of Games are narratives that are not standard fantasy-adventure stories but more introspective or exploratory. This is why I link Creatures Such as We as an example instead of one of their more popular games like Choice of the Cat. (Yes, it's exactly what you'd expect). Creatures Such as We is "a philosophical interactive romance novel by Lynnea Glasser" about video games on the moon. I don't have any justification for liking this story besides I'm a sap.


2. The Critical Engineer raises awareness that with each technological advance our techno-political literacy is challenged.

As technology becomes more ubiquitous, it also becomes more invisible. We become less aware of the sociopolitical ramifications of ubiquitous technology simply because we no longer can imagine an alternative. We are conditioned to accept technology as the status quo, overlooking its implications for the benefits that are marketed toward us. One can simply look at the rise of the Internet and social media platforms to see how a widely accepted technology has convinced many people to sacrifice their privacy without much thought.

I find it interesting that this manifesto highlights this explicitly because it brings to light an invisible yet incredibly influential consequence of technology. The point itself aligns with how much of the Critical Engineer's work is simply to expose these invisible consequences of widely accepted technology.