Thursday, April 12, 2012

GIMPshop: my exploration into the open source world

So for this class I have been assigned to be one of the graphics editors for the class... which means that the pragmatic scientist that I am needs to take the back seat and allow the creative Marissa to flow through. This means, naturally, that I have to create something. My co chair is wonderful, a competent and capable photoshop ninja who can throw posters and infographics together in her sleep. I have never done anything more digitally creative than draw a fish in paint... it was a beautiful fish, mind you. I got the award for best fish in my 6th grade year. But to do something well I was going to need to get more equipment. So I went to the internet to look up how much this was going to cost me to make a collage comic for the class.

Photoshop: $695 USD
InDesign: $849 USD

No choice there when you are on a college budget and can barely afford housing and I made the plunge (and disabled several notes from my computer that complained that I was downloading something evil from the interwebs)

However my little GIMPshop hated the fact that I had the latest and greatest Mac product. (MAYA had the same problem when I attempted to get into the Animation program) So I looked up 'hacks' or pieces of code that would make the program talk to my computer, but to no avail. I went to my Fiance, as I always do when my computer has decided to hate me (or I have flubbed up in Terminal when I am calculating my astronomy data and broken something in my system) And he tells me the most interesting story about what happened with the creator of GIMPshop.

Apparently he had taken GIMP, the open source version of a photo editor and changed how it was oriented to make it function almost the exact same way as Photoshop. While the opensource creators of GIMP were not impressed, the general public were. This became popular until a mysterious man bought the domain name of and linked it to the creator's web site and required people to enter their e-mails so he could sell them to spam companies before they could download the problem. This angered the developer so much that he refused to update the software with the new operating systems that were being developed... hence my unfixable problem.

But there is a happy ending to this story, for me at least, because my Fiance found a different opensource program that does the same thing and I was able to make the comic for my class. but it was an excellent example of why openness can be exploited by some for the detriment of the entire system.

Living and learning in a digital world

It's that time of the year again, the turning point of the semester. A time when you look back at the semester and realize what you have (or have not) learned over the past 4 months of your life.

With new classes and trying to adjust after my mission and getting engaged...a lot has happened in the last 4 months. But this post isn't about that, it's about what I have learned from my strangest class this semester: Digital Civilizations, where regurgitation is not the end, nor required in the class in the slightest... The class is more about creation... about working to make something worthwhile for the world to digest and to think about...

Dear America: Please be Politically Literate

This weekend I explored the dangerous abyss that is political forums. I was disgusted to find nothing but name calling and chinese spam (good study for my chinese class though, 太厚了!). I decided that maybe if I tried another political party that I might find some more intelligent discussion on politics, rather than discussion on how terrible the other side was. But to no avail.

Maybe politics is a taboo subject to talk about because we cannot speak about such things as learned people of reason... most people who talk about politics seem obsessed with demonizing their opponent instead of telling the general population what they stand for in the area of policies. If you don't agree with you about a movie and I have a good argument, you and I can still be friends... if the same two people don't agree on politics, you have to survive a huge barrage of name calling and stupidity before any cognizant conversation can be said.

This said, for the last two years I have taken a break from politics in general, in part because my little sister is planning her presidential campaign and I got tired of talking politics with her... and in part because the types of people who talk about politics in forums and social networks seem to not have any grasp on how our national government (or world economics) works at all.

Now I'm not advocating one side or the other (both presidential candidates are being rather childish in my humble opinion), but I would like to have the American public be a little more politically literate. Back in the early days of the USA there was something called a political literary test... a test that was forced on the colored voters after they got the right to vote. This doesn't mean that I advocate someone being forced not to vote because of the color of their skin... this means that EVERYONE should have some knowledge of the system they are voting on. This literacy test was a way to ensure that the people who were taking it knew enough about the government that they would be able to think about the candidates and make an educated decision. The Founding Fathers made this country a representative democracy in order to stop the mob mentality, or people voting because of factors rather than their policies and how they are going to serve the country.

We don't dare send people out in cars without a test, why not have the same requirement for people to be able to vote in elections. The questions don't need to be difficult, but knowing what are the responsibilities of the people we are electing into office would definitely help us recognize the claims that can he worked out from the claims to change things are in the arena of an entirely different branch of government.

Please please please be informed before you vote... try your hardest to see what the candidate is going to DO rather than focus on what they claim the other candidate is going to do this next election... if more people did that, less muck would be thrown about and debates might actually be more educational than ill disguised verbal sparring.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Inviting others/ Event Parcipitation

One of the most important things that we have learned in this class is how important to have social proof. As we were working towards our larger event I talked to my friends about it on facebook, inviting them to the event... picking my friends who were already starting to work in the digital world themselves... My friend Paul, for example, who has started his own business teaching others to dance, using social media to help him find new clients. Another friend from my mission, who loves learning and developing the next new thing. Another member of my CHinese class who was interested in Open Government... plenty of people who would have a stake in the concepts that were being presented.

Try as I might, personalize as I will... this event cannot dissuade them from other wednesday night parties, or final homework attempts to finish everything before the deadlines of a dying semester. I branched out, and started talking to my friends personally. Talking to the varied people in my chinese class... some are very interested in going, but alas no one has that night free.

Determined I continue my quest to invite someone to go, but again and again I am turned down ... for a club party or for homework or a date for engagements photos. I invite them to watch the video stream, and even that is too time consuming for them.

The time of the event was exciting. I arrived, excited to see which of my friends had actually shown up, and realized that none of them had made the time to attend. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I interacted on twitter (my first time on twitter, sans the practice in class) I got to answer questions and ask questions and attempt to make everything more interesting for the people sitting next to me, even writing down their questions on twitter for them.

I then had to leave early to prepare the snacks for the trip... enjoying the presentation with the two people who I was helping prepare the treats. We enjoyed the presentations on the ustream, even though our hands were too busy to actually interact over the ustream.

It was a fun event, lack of friends notwithstanding... but as soon as I was about to leave, my little sister came in panting, she had forgotten about the event and had been racing to make it in time. Which meant that at least someone had paid attention to my invitations. Then she told me she remembered because two people had invited her, me and David Perkins (one of her students she TAs for in the Physics dept)

Next time I am going to try and have two people invite my friends to activities so they become more interested in attending.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Symbolism and Art:Comic

I've been working a bit on our class project, trying to help people understand more about our digital concepts. I took the images together like this artist did below... where each image means something (bands) 

Where to see the solution

I love the symbolism here, allowing us to see what they are trying to get at with the more complex concepts.... the same problem that we are  having with tying together our concepts for the book.
This is what I have so far... see if you can see some of your concepts in the comic....

Friday, March 23, 2012

The 'Limitation' of Creativity

One of the things that interests me is the fact that people seem convinced that creativity only applies to things like art and music. If you create a beautiful piece of prose or artwork, you are creative. If you design an elegant experiment, you are brilliant. However, if a scientist tries art, they often give up, because they have no creativity.

But what is creativity? For me creativity is that ability to think outside of the box...any box, artistic or otherwise. One of my best friends is one of the most creative people I know, writing programs that creativity resolve problems like a computer talking to a communications device, or fixing physics demos when I can't even identify a problem. However, because I can do artistic things like draw a picture that looks like the object I am attempting to draw I am automatically considered the more creative one.

Why the limitation? In the old days creativity was attributed to the Gods. People were not geniuses, they had geniuses... akin to the little muses. When you came up with a good idea, your genius gave it to you. Does that not happen to scientists as well? Do they not have an idea for an elegantly designed experiment that can be just as hard to properly execute as a play? Maybe we need to redefine the definition of creativity and imagination.

Creativity is critical thinking ability to resolve problems that can't be solved in the normal way. Copernicus was made famous because he thought creatively and discovered another solution to a common problem. I look at several nobel prize winners in virology and was surprized to see what they studied before their prizewinning research. Wendell M. Stanley was a football player who became the chemist who crystalized viruses and discovered the fact that they had characteristics of organic and inorganic matter... John Enders discovered how to grow viruses outside of the body and he started life as a pilot. Their ability to think outside the box made leaps and bounds in science that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

What is the benefit of thinking outside of the proverbial box? You can think outside of conceptions of a field and come up with something new. One example is found in the video below...where a computer engineer discovered a way to find life in ways that we would expect with computer viruses and statistics. Amazing to think that using creative juices in science as well as art can bring us further than anything else.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Comic Collage

So there have been a lot of concerns about how to connect ideas visually, especially since our ideas are rather diverse for the e-book. Now what artforms compile many different ideas into one image? Collages.

In a collage you can take hundreds of different images and combine them to make one image. For example, the image you see to the left is actually a skyline from about 4 different cities that has been compiled into one whole metropolis.

This is what we are going to do for our e-book. Through taking images from different sources and compiling them together to make a whole image from the composite parts. 

The 'comic' characters are going to be students in the class who are interacting as line drawings with the compiled background of real images, like the character to the left and the music notes, or the character above and her cardbox.
Each little piece of the collage will represent a different aspect of the content of the e-book. As you can see with this little detail this artist added a scene from one of his favorite movies into the little windows...(rear window anyone?) As the book starts out we will only have a little bit of a background and it will become more complex as we learn more digital concepts.

 Another example of a little detail that  can make the environment more applicable to the concepts that we are talking about, enabling the reader to start connecting the content visually. (eg meteror attacking metropolis) In this image you can see how the artist added details that add a new dimension to the image and make it meaningful.

So each piece of the collage will be images representing our digital concepts and content. Instead of having a scene from rear window, we can have a Radio with a family listening to a fireside chat from a president or a business meeting done with interpretive dance. Choose ideas that will demonstrate your content and if you have more than one idea then we can use more than one piece of background.

images were mostly taken from Jamie Kinroy's blog