Whilst we are pretty much all aware of the implications of 3-D printing as a process of making any arbitrary object at the push of a button, it is exactly what living organisms have been up to since the invention of multicellular life.
Designers at IDEO have teamed up with scientists at the Lim Lab at the University of California, San Francisco to envision a “provocation” (that’s designer-ese for thought experiment) in which they explore the possibilities of exploiting known properties of microorganisms to literally “grow” the products we use every day.
What is particularly interesting about these future scenarios is where we once thought about computer systems that evolve through immense network of both physical and conceptual parameters, where one influence the other as in the case of Nervous System’s process of “growing objects”, the process of printing may eventually evolve into processes of actual physical growing. These two systems, of digital creation and of the biological one may eventually merge, creating an ecology of both digital and physical networks that communicate and feed of one another.
“One day if we understand how to program [living organisms,] we can encode things beyond software–we could encode materiality” says Carey. “That’s already happening in nature, but we have no idea how to do that ourselves.”
Time to move away from mimicry?
Read more on Fast Company >Training Bacteria To Grow Consumer Goods
More on this topic at syntheticaesthetics.org
- Patch Schematics – The Aesthetics of Constraint / Best Practices [Theory] Visual programming languages, languages that create programs by the manipulation of graphical elements, as opposed to specifying lines of text, have seen an increased popularity in recent years both in audio and video synthesis. Some of the more well-known environments, ones that are regularly used for projects that are featured on CAN, include VVVV (real-time motion graphics and physical IO) MAX/MSP (real-time music and multimedia), Pure Data (ostensibly an open source equivalent of MAX/MSP) and Quartz Composer (video synthesis for MAC). Visual programming owes its many of its conventions for the representation of information and programs from Flowcharts - a lesser used term for these kinds of environments is Data-flow Programming. VPL's date back to the late 60's. A good example is the GraIL system (GRaphical Input Language) a flowchart language entered on a graphics tablet developed by the Rand Corporation in 1969. DMX-LED Patches - Kalle Karlen A program (Patch) typically consists of a set of objects (Nodes) that are connected to each other via their inputs and outputs (Pins). In this case I've used the specific terminology of the VVVV environment, but the essentials are the same for other VPLs. The constraints of patch-based visual programming can give rise to some interesting aesthetic configurations. Various factors such as the legitimate connections between nodes, types of information flow paths, the arrangement of input and output devices are some of the constraints that drive the schematic of the patch and the spatialisation of the elements within it. In one sense these kinds of environments could be seen as self-organising systems – where functionality drives local behaviours and interrelationships of nodes and connections. While ruminating over the aesthetics of patches I wondered what were the equivalents (in textual programming) of best practices and programming design patterns and if there were any models? If there were such models being implemented on a wider basis we would see similarities in the schematics in different programmers patches. More so an agreed system of placement of nodes and connections would render patches universally readable by the developer community as a whole. In textual programming there is a long history of best practices, optimisation techniques and standardisation – ways to make the code modular, reusable and manageable over large teams of programmers. Languages such as C++, Java and Actionscript 3 have settled on the Object Orientated Model. Programming Patterns are the paragon of optimisation - ' general and reusable solutions to a commonly occurring problems that 'typically show relationships and interactions between classes or objects, without specifying the final application classes or objects that are involved'. PerfMeter - Kalle Karlen (shows strict top-to-bottom data-flow with horizontal groupings of nodes with similar functions) I talked to some of the VVVV community, as well as some other well-know visual programmers to gain some insight into their preferences for optimisation and the importance of 'visual programming design patterns' if indeed such a thing existed. I've also outlined some of my own personal methods for optimising the layout of patches. Well respected user Kalle Karlen of the VVVV community, who has a VVVV node named after himself, generously sent me screen grabs of many of his patches. Some of his key points were: - The dataflow in the patch should be arranged vertically. - Comments are absolutely necessary if you patch in collaboration with others. - Showing only important pins helps keeping track of data flow. [Pins can be set to zero visibility in VVVV] - A preference not to use curved and VHV (Vertical-Horizontal-Vertical) connectors as design elements until a patch is very close to final perfection – and then only use curved connectors to indicate data feedback loops. Using the GUI to map out a project - Kalle Karlen An interesting additional to Kalle's working method is his his use of the UI to create a block diagram of empty sub patches that act purely as a visual aid in the early planning stage of a project. Joreg, one of the developers behind VVVV, and who was responsible for developing the GUI as part of his diploma thesis also mentioned the importance of using top to bottom data flows. Since visual programming is so much more about data flow than text-based programming languages a clearly discernible top-to-bottom structure for the direction data-flow should be applied. It makes logical sense to have inputs (such as communication with external devices, keyboards and XML) at the top of a patch and outputs (such as a renderer and sound output) at the bottom. In general nodes of a similar function should be aligned on the Y axis. It further makes sense to group nodes that work together in a tight configuration indicating their interrelationships. These groupings can also be considered as possible candidates for subpatches. Nearly everyone I talked said that they would first get the algorithm patched and then, if time permitted, do some re-arrangements to tidy the patch up into a readable format. Eventually any complex patch will outgrow the size of the screen without scrolling the window. In this circumstance it is probably a good time to start thinking about sub-patching especially if a part of the patch can be made into a module and reused in other projects. Joreg mentioned that in VVVV one of the most wanted features is the ability to 'make selected nodes into a subpatch' which would increase the efficiency of modularizing a patch. Parhelia subpatch group - Paul Prudence When a system becomes very complex its often good to implement the finite state machine model to describe the systems state(s) at a particular instant. David Brüll a lead VVVV software designer who usually works with different teams of patchers, programmers and designers on professional projects recommended the use a state designer such as QFSM when planning a patch. He also recommended that all logic related to states of the system to be place in a top level sub-patch. In this sense the structure of a patch might already seem to mimic a design pattern seen in OOP languages (such as MVC) where different aspects of a program are separated and isolated from one another. Semaspace - Woeishi Lean Not everybody works in a rectilinear fashion, and VPL's allow much more liberty in regards to personal style than textual programming. Woeishi Lean works with a dense and extreme clustered style which he says enables him to keep the data flow as exposed as possible. He prefers not to create deep hierarchies of sub-patches as he feel this can cause him to lose the overview of the data flow. 'The main data starts at the upper left and the flow moves down vertically, additional data comes in from the right side. My nodes are often edge on edge and grouped to logical functions so it's easier to grasp all the node names from top to bottom” Video Feedback Loop Patch. In considering the configuration of patches I wondered if there was any examples of isomorphic similarities between spatialisation of elements in a patch and the functionality of patch. One contender for this is the simulation of a recursive function by creating a video feedback loop. Clearly in the above patch you can see a cluster of nodes that generate an 'input', a circuit of renderers which represent the recursive loop (as the 'output' of the renderer is fed-back to another renderer, and so on) and then a final output, as the branch of video-data flow is directed out of the loop to another renderer. 0xA – expr~ (Bass Section) – Chun Lee Moving away from VVVV to PureData we arrive at Chun Lee's lesson in austerity. '0xA – expr~' is musical release, the entirety of which was generated nearly exclusively with one object in PureData, the [expr~] object. The tracks vary from saw-tooth drone to noise systems music all with an 8-bit chip-tune feel. Regarding optimisation Chun had this to say 'I tend not to think of patterns - Pd was never really designed with scalability in mind, so ultimately any effort in trying to enforce some kind of pattern so that codes can be easily reused/organised, would seem a bit like a work around (or too much effort for very little gain)', FastBreeder - Dave Griffiths All thought not written in a VPL environment Dave Griffiths genetic programming synthesizer, FastBreeder, works backwards creating a visual representation of the users 'grown' code structure. The sound generated is therefore related to the structures of the nodes which are automatically generated using an algorithm implementing a form of a nested two-pi layout. Paul Prudence is a audio-visual performer and installation artist working with computational and generative environments. His work, which had been shown internationally, focuses on the ways in which sound, space and form can be combined to create live-cinematic visual-music experiences. Paul maintains the research weblog Dataisnature in which he writes about the interrelationships between natural processes, computational systems and procedural-based art […]
- Kinematics – System for 3D printing complex, foldable forms Kinematics is a system for 3D printing that creates complex, foldable forms composed of articulated modules. The system provides a way to turn any three-dimensional shape into a flexible structure using 3D […]
- Morphogenetic Creations by Andy Lomas Morphogenetic Creations is a collection of works that explore the nature of complex forms that can be produced by digital simulation of growth […]
- Meanders – Generative system by Giuseppe Randazzo Meanders is a generative system driven by the interaction of growing agents. The agents are governed by conditions, allowed to wonder and their paths converted to object, outputted as OBJ and […]
- The Kernels of Chimaera – Living Artefacts by Stefan Schwabe DI RCA 2012 "Living Artefacts" is a project by Stefan Schwabe, a student of Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art. Stefan is exploring the subject of "natural" and "artificial" by using bacterial cellulose to harvest artefacts. It is during these times that myth may become reality. The creation of composite beings no longer remains a chimerical matter of our ancient tales. As a result of modern scientific advances, the combining of different life forms has become routine. Where might this lead us? Are we indeed able to extend our minds, not only into material culture, but also into living artefacts? “The Kernels of Chimaera” is an chamber constructed by Stefan which maintains the growth of a living material and performs an automated production of these hybrid living artefacts. Each day, the machine automatically harvests a layer of bacterial cellulose that has grown in one of the nine reactor jars. The cellulose is then picked up by a vacuum arm and placed within a small wooden clamp to be inflated by a syringe. Finally, once the inflated cellulose has dried, it is carried upwards by a flow of air flow of air and begins to levitate. The disc with the nine reactor jars moves constantly, but very slowly and reaches one complete rotation every nine days. Inside the structure sits one Arduino Mega which is programmed to control the full cycle. The main chamber is driven by a stepper motor and speed is reduced by worm gears. The vacuum arm is driven by two DC motors (one for the rotation and one for vertical movement). Sensing is done with Hall sensors. Pic and place is solved with vacuum suction, solenoid valves and a pressure sensor. The syringe that inflates the form is driven by a DC motor. The inflation itself is done with an air pump. There is a constant air flow in the whole column which dries the cellulose once it is inflated to a Kernel. This also prevents flies etc to enter the chamber with the reactor jars. Read more about Stefan on stschwabe.com and about the project on di12.rca.ac.uk Previously: Troblion [Objects] “The Kernels of Chimaera” is currently on display at the RCA, Battersea campus. This year, the Royal College of Art’s annual summer show will include work by the greatest number of graduating students in the College’s 175-year history. Show RCA 2012 is to take place simultaneously in six buildings across the College’s two campuses in Battersea and Kensington. Design Interactions is located in Battersea. Click here for […]
- Paul Prudence Interviews Mitchell Whitelaw [Theory] Mitchell Whitelaw, #climatedata proposal (2009) One of the most articulate and accessible voices within the generative art scene is undoubtedly the Canberra-based scholar/practitioner Mitchell Whitelaw. Given his relative (internet) silence over the last year, news of an interview—conducted by Paul Prudence, no less—published in the most recent issue of Neural magazine, is cause for minor celebration. Mitchell posted the transcript of this conversation to his blog last night and it is noteworthy for several reasons. First, the opening response about the utopian nature of software art acknowledges some ideological underpinnings that are seldom discussed – and Paul's query as to "where is the dystopian software art?" is both provocative and on point. Secondly, the comments about look vs. process and how even the glossiest eye candy often embodies a "narrative of systems" is a useful means of considering the 'performative' capabilities of generative art. Finally, Mitchell's description of algorithm popularity as 'a memetic ecology unto itself' is exactly the kind of meta-commentary that is desperately needed in (generally) uncritical software art circles. A particularly sharp passage on system design and pedagogy: The link there for me is a sense of "procedurality" or "processuality". In Casey Reas' work we can see a strong relationship between computational and non-computational procedures such as those of Sol LeWitt. In teaching programming to designers, I have students write and execute a LeWitt style procedure, with pencil and paper. Digital generative systems are just formal procedures, executed by machines. Treating processes as human-executable helps unpack the black boxes of generative systems mentioned earlier, and hopefully reveal them as contingent and hackable. This notion of "human executable" procedures is a handy frame of reference in introducing agency into system design... Otherwise: the joy of materiality. Generative art and design covets the lush tangibility of traditional media; and with the wave of interest in fabrication we are seeing ever more generative work realised in "off-screen" forms. The challenge then, for pasty code-artist types, is to match the craft skills of hands-on makers in realising the work. ...and serves as a perfect segue into Mitchell's thinking about transmateriality (craft/making/material culture). Read the full conversation between Mitchell and Paul […]
- Faith Condition 2012 by Lukas Franciszkiewicz – An ‘out-of-body’ experience.. Faith Condition by Lukas Franciszkiewicz is a project that attempts to address the understanding and applications of technology within the religions circles of current "media society". Lukas is interested in the transformation of religion and technological reproduction of the religious phenomenon of an 'out-of-body'-experience. The initial aim was the manipulation of human self-perception by blurring the boundaries between the real and a virtual body. Derived from these experiments, Lukas experimented with few scenarios for a disembodied sense. Todays‘ technologies tend to convey security and confidence rather than functional transparency. In order to its illusional potential, technology is strongly connected to mechanisms of faith and religion. Based on this awareness, I created a fictional scenario for faith-conditioning objects. The first object is a camera device which is pulled by an attached cord. It addresses the personal demand of an objective view in a world scattered with digital artefacts and acts as constant reminder of technological dependence. The user connects the device to a pedestal that invites you to kneel down - a faith-based interaction manifests itself in a technological ritual. How does implicit trust in technological products changes our behaviour and moral? The first few series of perception-experiments included head mounted webcams, video glasses and vvvv prototyping to portray the "disembodied sense". The later proposals include more 'completed' and objectified experience complemented by a film about the project. The project including the making of is fully documented on: frnkwz.de/thingsandthoughts | See also Project Page Lukas Franciszkiewicz is a 'subversive' product-based designer further interested in fields of interaction design, speculative design and conceptional products. His approach is informed by ideas that challenge the autonomy of design to extend it to its broadest contexts. Focused on research and experimental concepts, he deals with the impact of technology on human perception and behaviour. Using a wide variety of media from models to prototypes and video, he aims to encourage people to develop a critical view of their relationships with technology and design. Fiction enters his work as a tool to rethink our behaviour as a framework for […]
- Delineating the Future – an interview with N O R M A L S CAN goes in-depth with the Paris-based 'anticipatory' design studio N O R M A L S to learn about their forthcoming dark, dense, and dizzying graphic novel series. Working process, representational techniques (that bridge illustration and code), and a critical reading of contemporary design […]
Posted on: 22/11/2011
Posted in: Theory
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