Further Developments… The Monomyth & Generative Design

generative design, Processing, Thesis

The Monomyth or Hero Story

In the development of an interactive environment with any authenticity, it becomes necessary to have a particular point of view. It is imperative for it to express my own life experience, which is not so different from the experience of all people.

One of the benefits of growing older (I will soon celebrate my 42nd year of life on planet Earth) is that you can finally have some perspective on yourself and your past — both the positive and not–so–positive. You begin to see that the tale that we were told of being unique snowflakes is only partly true. At some point, you realize that we are all not so unique and unusual at all. You begin to understand that while the cast of characters, scenery and dialogue may change from person to person, we each play out strangely familiar plot lines in our individual lives.

“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Aiding me in peeling back that layer of the onion, has been an understanding of the Monomyth (or Hero Story) by Joseph Campbell. Campbell wrote a great deal about the power of myth, and how the Hero Story is written into the most famous of fables, religions and literature. In dissecting these, Cambell explored how these timeless themes have shaped the lives of humans from the beginning of time. Campbell divided the Hero Story into 17 distinct stages which can be grouped into the phases of Departure, Initiation, and Return.

Generative Design

Generative Design is a completely new design system that utilizes modern computer languages such as Processing, vvvv, JavaScript and others to provide a framework for development of unique design systems with opportunities for multiple types of output.

In a 2012 lecture, Cedric Kiefer of onformative gave a brief overview of Generative Design — the captions are my own notes on his presentation:

Create a system to process inputs (data, sound, images, vectors, motion, video, etc) into outputs ( other data, sound, images, vectors, motion, video, etc.)

Create a system to process inputs (data, sound, images, vectors, motion, video, etc) into outputs ( other data, sound, images, vectors, motion, video, etc.)

There is no limit to the type of input you can use with a generative design system.

There is no limit to the type of input you can use with a generative design system.

Likewise, there is also no limit to the type of output produced in generative design.

Likewise, there is also no limit to the type of output produced in generative design.

It is even possible to use the output of a generative design system as an input through the system again!

It is even possible to use the output of a generative design system as an input through the system again!

In one example cited by Kiefer, using properties of physics, and data they were able to create a visualization of concept linkages.

In one example cited by Kiefer, using properties of physics, and data they were able to create a visualization of concept linkages.

They first started with programming the physics and physical properties so that the groups of concepts would "unfold" and not be blocked from view.

They first started with programming the physics and physical properties so that the groups of concepts would “unfold” and not be blocked from view.

This would create a concept tree.

This would create a concept tree.

They then were able to develop to same concept in 3D space.

They then were able to develop to same concept in 3D space.

They could then export the data for 3D rendering for other purposes such as motion graphics or film.

They could then export the data for 3D rendering for other purposes such as motion graphics or film.

The basic idea is that you can create infinite variations of designs by simply changing the inputs or the parameters of the software that will get tremendously different results from very small and simple changes. Those outputs can then be used in many different ways to examine or infer relationships, analyze and develop possibilities, draw conclusions, etc.

It is therefore at the discretion of the designer to create the design system and the manner in which information is processed and how the output is expressed.

 Incorporation Into The Thesis Project

In delving into the concept of the Monomyth, it could potentially serve as a backdrop for my thesis presentation. In creating an environment, I could potentially work to develop a “learning tool” through creation of a generative design environment. This would take a participant on a “Hero’s Journey” with accompanying stages. Through gamification, each person could work towards achieving the quest, and along the way learning small lessons, that can be put into practice at various stages of the environment.

With each phase of the game, the graphics would change and provide feedback to the participants of their progress and development. In addition, the challenges would become greater and more difficult as the game progresses.

As with all Monomyths, each individual could be on an individual quest. The lessons of which could be different from others. Ideally, I would like for all participants to understand the value of working together towards a common goal, and experiencing a sense of coming together to achieve a common goal.

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Update 02.11.2015

Interactive, Processing, Thesis

Today, I met with my Processing Professor, Michelle Harris. In addition to teaching Processing and other computer languages, Michelle is a performance artist exploring issues of gender, race and beauty in her performances through Processing, Leap Motion, Kinect and live video.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 3.00.58 PM

A screenshot from W.M. Harris’ ‘Barbie Mirror’

I sat down with Michelle to talk a bit about my thesis project, and what she thought of it. I was afraid that what I am presenting may not be “new” or “groundbreaking” enough. She put my fears to rest – even if it has been done before, I am bringing my own artistry to the table. (Whew!)

 

So I laid out a really rough diagram sketch of the process and interconnection of the various parts of the type of experience I want to put together.

Schematic Workflow

Draft schematic workflow and integration of components for a diagram / flowchart.

I explained that I wanted the software to be the central brain – analyzing the music, working from a database of assets and receiving environmental feedback from a VJ (an iPad controller interface) and kinesthetic inputs. “This is all very do-able.” Michelle also explained that there are some existing software out there that helps to do some of the heavy lifting such as the database integration, music analysis, projection mapping, etc… Some are even free! So I need to investigate isadora, vvv, MaxMSP and PureData more. Michelle warned that PureData can be a bit difficult to deal with, so I will need to get my head around these applications

 

Schematic iPad controller interface

Schematic wireframe of iPad controller interface with a color picker on the left and various mood categories on the right.

The important thing for me is to focus on the hard coding of the project – basically, getting it right in Processing, and setting up visual assets that will work. So at this point, I will first need to focus on getting code setup and moving and first figuring out how to get this moving forward. I will need to watch both of Josh Davis’ tutorials again on using the HYPE framework to get back into that…

Progress So Far

Interactive, Kinect, Leap Motion, Planning, Processing, Thesis

In the Fall of 2014, I started my graduate studies in Visual Communication Design at RIT. My first semester was a big shift back to school after completing my Bachelor’s degree in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Illinois nearly 20 years prior. The first semester was challenging, and provided some foundational knowledge to prepare me for later courses.

This semester (Spring 2015), my classes are more specific to my interests in Interactive Design, Processing and Motion Graphics. In addition, one of my courses (VCDE 718) is a Project Planning and Implementation course. It is designed for students to develop a semester-long project or provide a starting point for thesis development.

The Thesis Idea

I have been thinking about my graduate thesis for several years. I began working in Processing around 2009. I also fell in love with work by Joshua Davis and have taken two courses he offers via Skillshare using the HYPE framework for Processing.

In order to produce something new and different, I would like for my project to go beyond an interactive experience and become an integrated sensory experience of music and movement. This can be achieved using live music, Processing, motion detection through cameras, Kinect or Leap Motion, and a database of images that are tagged to specific rhythms or beats per minute (BPM). Using these various environmental inputs, the images will be projected into the surrounding environment. The BPM will control the speed and pacing of the graphics, and the motion detection system will provide the finer dynamics.

I Don’t Know Jack

This project is beginning to snowball as I delve deeper. The more I dig into it, the more I realize that there’s a lot that I will need to learn in order to pull this off. So here’s a very short long-term to-do list I have for myself so far:

  • Learn Processing and coding for natural system movements (such as particle dynamics, flocking, etc.)
  • Coding for visualization of music.
  • PHP & SQL database integration
  • Projection Systems (possibly even projection mapping)
  • Coding for Leap Motion/Kinect/Cameras
  • Asset Creation
  • Contact existing visual environment designers for more background

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and there will be innumerable additional items that will crop up and need to be addressed later such as locating a venue, locating a DJ, etc.

Next Steps

From this point, I will need to put together a plan of action and schedule for the next year so that I can complete my thesis by next spring (2016). There’s a great deal of learning necessary to figure out how I can put all this together, and I will need to develop a timetable for everything.