Tag Archives: Making

Making and the Physical-Digital Interface

As a technorhetorician, a media ecologist, and a digital humanist, I’m becoming increasingly interested in the physical-digital interface of physical computing and interactive programming.

A lot of this interest is playing out in my exploring both the Arduino microcontroller and the Processing programming language. Arduino programming language and integrated development environment (IDE) are based on Processing, the two work quite well together.  For instance, there’s the example project that interfaces an Arduino with Processing to creating an RGB LED lamp whose color is based upon word frequency within an RSS feed, or the much more simple example of simply turning on an LED by mousing over a Processing-created image, which I was able to do in just a few minutes. You can see the results in this Vine. Apologies for the shaky video – I held my phone with my weak hand as I used my better hand to control the mouse.

And then there’s these digitally interfaced physical books, from the basic MaKey MaKey + graphite + Scratch to Jie Qi’s Circuit Sketchbook

to Waldek Węgrzyn’s Elektrobiblioteka which uses conductive paint printed using silk screening and a small embedded microcontroller to create touch-senstivite illustrations that call up and interact with digital content.

While I’m still learning both Processing and Arduino, as a digital humanist I’m often thinking of the ways in which we might harness the ways in which visualization and generative art program like Processing can process and interact with text (for instance, this visualization of Goethe’s Faust and this “tube map” that’s created by inputting  text) with the codeable objects Processing library as well as the potential for interactive books making use of paper circuit technologies and embedded microcontrollers.

Three tasks I’m working on today is organizing a session on making, making pedagogy, and critical making & design and brainstorming a possible DIY craft and making workshop, both for CCCC 2015, and figuring out if I’m ready to propose a paper circuits workshop for THATCamp DC at the end of this month.

And later today, as a last-minute addition to today’s home schooling (as in decided about 10 minutes ago), we’re going to have our first go at programming an ATiny85 chip and using it to make this paper-based microcontroller:

You can find the tutorial at Jie Qi’s The Fine Art of Electronics.

Homeschooling as a Digital Humanist

While I’m not teaching in a classroom this spring, I am teaching. My wife and I are co-homeschooling our 15-year old daughter. Since my wife is gone on a business trip right now, I’m responsible for the whole day rather than just part of it.

A major focus of this week is working through Unit 7 of the Big History Project‘s curriculum.  Big History is an interdisciplinary macrohistory approach that begins with the Big Bang and leads up to the present, placing human history within the larger history of the universe.

While today’s Big History and reading of the House of Seven Gables are largely independent work, we’ve got some hands-on work (for me) with Processing and robotics. We’re using Daniel Shiffman’s Learning  Processing: A Beginner’s Guide to Programming Images, Animation, and Interaction as an introduction to programming and we’re building Parallax’s Arduino-based BOE Shield robot for an introduction to physical computing.

Robot stepper motors
The “brains” – an Arduino and BOE Shield – and stepper motors.

We took a few weeks break from both Processing and the robot while I was at the CCCC conference and while she was on spring break. Today we’ll focus on getting back up to speed with Processing and for me to prep for testing, programming, and experimenting with the stepper motors later this week.

Here’s what the robot will look like once we’re done:

Also up for this today is some joint exploration of Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan’s First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Over the past couple of years, my daughter has been developing a growing interest in narrative-based video games, and last week I handed her Wardrip-Fruin and Harrigan’s First Person along with Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media and Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives to see if they might be something she wanted to explore. Today we’re going to start figuring out what she will read in First Person.

We’ve been homeschooling since last September, starting with 9th grade. My wife and I both have advanced degrees in English and have taught both high school and college. My wife, however, considers herself, for good reason,  a working writer – fiction, creative non-fiction, and urban and public policy. I, on the other hand, am an academic. Since I was teaching last fall and my wife has been working at home for a few years now, she’s largely taken the lead with homeschooling, but I’m starting to develop a larger presence within the curriculum, as witnessed by the programming, physical computing, and game studies.