‘To The Top’ – My MEDA102 Iteration/Variation/Repetition Assignment

My initial concept for this project I had thought of pretty early on in the session. It was to create a program that would functionally reinvent the gameplay pioneered in the classic video game ‘Tetris’, coupled with some functions of the more contemporary BIT.TRIP VOID.

BIT TRIP VOID by Choice Provisions

BIT.TRIP VOID by Choice Provisions

Tetris by Vladimir Pokhilko and Alexey Pajitnov

Tetris by Vladimir Pokhilko and Alexey Pajitnov

It would have the blocks spawning randomly on the four sides of the screen and converging in the center to form a roughly circular object (had you not touched the controls) and it would be a product of your input and unique to you, based on your decisions. No other object would ever be the same. This would be yours and yours alone, a unique product of your brain. I’d wanted a print function that could physically print the shape after each ‘game’, so to speak, that would bring your digital construction to the real world and you would leave with something inherently you that you hadn’t come in with. Discussing this concept with my tutor Mat, we whittled it down to the core idea of a process that, while repetitive, also varied entirely based on the presence and input of an operator. Below is my artist’s statement with hyperlink to the completed work.

To The Top‘ is an interactive project inspired by Alexey Pajitnov and Vladimir Pokhilko’s ‘Tetris’ (1984), and Choice Provision’s ‘BIT.TRIP VOID’ (2009) designed to exhibit the thought process behind a ‘player’ when given a set of blocks and a vague instruction: ‘To The Top’. Whether they proceed by forming a disfigured mountain or a surgically concise obelisk, it’s nevertheless an expression of the self at play and what minute, individually inconsequential choices you make every second that define you. Incorporating elements of games I grew up loving, with Processing I was able to turn my initial bloated, complex idea into an easily accessible and ultimately more meaningful piece.’

MEDA102: Computer Coding Exercise

I wanted to make use of the variation and iteration values in a simple, visual way with my dynamic program. Having previously taken part in a group task of recreating an exercise similar to the drawings Sol LeWitt described himself, and it resulting in interpretations and visuals different from the instructions and each other’s end results, I thought it interesting to create a very similar idea (with only straight lines running vertically/horizontally/any angle between as long as the line is straight) in software environment, it would be a fun exercise and help me understand the syntax of the ‘Processing’ language.

Making heavy use of Matt help get me off the ground, I found myself with a structure of ‘for loops’, arrays, translate and rotate functions that allowed me to realise what I’d been aiming to when I set out to undertake the task. I researched other functions such as ‘drawCount’, use of ‘Matrix’ calls, and ‘mouseClicked’ to name a few, but found them unnecessary and bloating.

Each frame of the program drawn results in a, randomly coloured, random number of parallel lines. While this doesn’t sound much like iteration or variation; there’s set parameters that ensure it doesn’t appear too random and does look cohesive and often appealing. Set coordinates for drawing, width and breadth remain similar if not the same. Screenshots and raw code below:

:processing sketch screenshot

screenshot 2

Raw code:

void setup(){

size(1872,860); // defining program window’s resolution
background(255); //defining colour of window background (255 = white)
frameRate(0.91); //no. frames drawn per second

}

void draw(){

lineLoop();

}

void lineLoop () {

stroke((int)random(255), (int)random(255), (int)random(255),(int)random(200)); // ensures a random colour is chosen each frame, but is never fully opaque
int Iters = (int)random(6,78); // Chooses between 6 and 78 the no. of lines in each set of drawn frame
int progression = width/Iters; // how much space divided by no. of lines; width between the lines in a drawn set
int angleArray [] = {0,45,90,180,300}; // selection of different degree angles selectable in array by next line
int angle = angleArray[(int)random(angleArray.length)]; // summons a value from the array to draw the lines at the selected degree angle

translate(width/2, height/2); // centres drawing to 0,0 coordinates, ensuring every set originates there
rotate(radians(angle)); //converts from angle to radian value for program to plot
for (int x=0; x < Iters; x++){ //enables an infinte looping, utilising the ‘int Iters’ line to repeat the drawing process

line(x*progression,-height/2-400, x*progression,height+height/247); // identifies where (x,y) to begin drawing the sets of lines

}

}

Gutenberg’s Printing Press – ‘Instructions and Procedure’

Johannes Gutenberg, or as his friends liked to call him ‘Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg’, was the pioneer responsible for the revolutionary ‘printing press’ system that would go on to have enormous ramifications in Europe and then the broader world. The procedure now required to print was relatively straightforward:

  1. First, inking the type matrix with leather balls.
  2. Paper placed against the ‘tympan’ to be held in place by small pins.
  3. Tray closed, paper between ‘frisket’ and the ‘tympan’.
  4. Paper rolled under the platen’, pressure applied via lever.
  5. Rolled back out, the paper was taken from between the tray.

Prior to this groundbreaking method, the established technique of producing print media was either hand written or made with the hand operated block method, which were both laborious, slow, and expensive. Now the process could be done with just a few comparatively quick instructions.  The printing press wasn’t developed overnight however; Gutenberg leveraged an assortment of both his own and established designs and methods in an act of remediation, as Proff. Jay Bolter remarked. An accomplished blacksmith, Gutenberg developed his own metal letterpress matrix’s which allowed characters to be mass produced, arranged and grouped endlessly to achieve desired words and sentences.

gutenberg_typemaking

Diagram depicting basic facilitating components of a template.

To facilitate this, he cast the characters individually with a unique alloy of molten tin, lead, and some other additions to create a quick cooling typeface that would also survive thousands of presses if needed, and so the ‘movable type’ process was born. His process of casting individual metal types could produce an estimated 4,000 letters a day. Adorning the type was a perfected oil-based ink that stuck well to the metal ‘punches’ (seen in above diagram) and dried print quickly which was instrumental in facilitating the expeditious printing process. The main factor making this a mechanical printing system is attributable to the screw press that Gutenberg adapted from it’s original purpose of making wine, which he modified into a simple pull-able lever that pressed down on the matrix to imprint the paper and leave a relief.

printing-press-invention-2

Illustration of a man operating the lever of the screw press component.

These innovations all culminated in a system that could efficiently and speedily create between 3,200 and 3,600 impressions a day, greatly outpacing the 2,000 that the block printing method could muster. The printing press was a force of social constructivism, as Brian Street would argue, as it emerged from and helped usher in the ‘literate age’, as Marshall McLuhan once claimed. On that note, the phenomenon of the printing press neatly demonstrates McLuhan’s proclamation that ‘the medium is the message’. Contributing to, and benefiting from, the emergence of an educated middle class desiring to experience literature as a leisurable activity and as a source of information lead to the widespread production and adoption of books in Europe. Books subsequently emerged as the first form of mass media, and a new communication method.  As such, ideas, beliefs; information: they were all now distributable, archivable, and referenceable. Once only available to the literate few in the bourgeoisie class, books were now cheaper due to their mass manufacturing and as side-effect, texts were now easier to read due to a standardization of font, writing and grammar. Notably, the Bible was also now freely accessible in the form of Gutenberg’s own magnum opus: the 42-line ‘Gutenberg Bible’.

guten-pageB

Exert from ‘Gutenberg’s Bible’, showing immaculate typography and uniform grammar.

Education was revolutionized, as now compendiums with information from a variety of sources could assist an educator or inform an eager student compelled to discover the world and it’s content at their own pace, changing the student/teacher dynamic from a strict master/pupil didactic relationship. Noted historian Elizabeth Eisenstein rightly regards the printing press as an indisputable factor in the success’ of the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the state of modern scientific and scholarly understandings. While one of Neil Postman’s ‘five things…’ states that ‘technological change is not additive’, thankfully as a result of the printing press knowledge now was. Information, notably scientific, was much less likely to be simply forgotten or lost. With the advent of books, this knowledge was no longer, as Eisenstein said, ”…subject to the cycle of rapid decay and loss.”

Parchment Writing Sample

Parchment was now obsolete. Incidentally, this sample contains a portion of the U.S Constitution.

However, there are arguably some drawbacks that come with such a watershed invention. Not everyone could just show up with something they’d written and get it printed, there was still a need to be a reputable author and go through a publisher. Additionally, there can be criticization of the ease with which errors or incorrect information was so easily circulated and perpetuated. A ‘Second Edition’ of a nonfiction book was rarely published within a year of the initial release, and so misinformation would be hard to quash and buying an updated edition mightn’t always have been an option. First editions, practically, lost value as more updated revisions surfaced that highlighted flaws. For better or worse, copyright law was soon created to grant exclusive publishing rights to certain printers, and this as a concept has dominated the literary and artistic world ever since. Printing presses also weren’t run ‘by the people, for the people’. The bourgeoisie class still arguably controlled output and publishing, and the advent of mass media also brought with it some of the first instances of mass propaganda. Consequently, strong feelings of colonialism and patriotism were achieved, as well as the spread of capitalism. The Vatican continued to make bank by selling indulgences with the aid of the printing press, as well as issue propaganda of their own to counter the message of Martin Luther.

lutherdevil

‘Luther’s Game of Heresy (1521)’ published by the Catholic Church

However, it’s worth noting some of the detriments, like the Church propaganda, are circumstantial and can’t be blamed on the medium, as they aren’t reflective of the invention as a whole. Observably, we can safely say that the benefits afforded by the printing press far outweigh the disadvantages. Despite being the culmination of various established combined with new components, it irreversibly molded the course of human history. It enabled revolutions, established industries, and allowed broader education the world over.

Martin Luther believed the printing press was God-given. Obviously, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, and the medium genuinely was the message.

References:

  • Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (viewed 18/08/15)
  • Jensen, Carolyn. Sandiego State University (2001) Review of the printing revolution in early modern Europe. LORE: Rhetoric, Writing, Culture. (viewed 18/08/15)
  • Allen, N., Graphic Design History, The Mechanization of Writing, Available at:
    http://www.designhistory.org/Type_milestones_pages/Gutenberg.html, (viewed 19/08/15)
  • Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences, A Very Brief History of Propaganda in Times Past, Available at:
    https://www.physics.smu.edu/pseudo/Propaganda/history.html, (viewed 19/08/15)

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