Sculpting (energy) data into (light)

This semester I have been working with datasets related to world energy consumption to create a light that allows people to view a physical representation of this data. I chose to pair the energy data with the form of a light because it is a sculptural object that allows for a lot of freedom creatively. Pairing something so abstract and free with a large dataset requiring such care in representation presented an interesting challenge. I also wanted to move past the form and to use the function of the object (in this case light) to represent something about my datasets.

Here I used five years of UN Electrical Power Consumption per Capita data from 41 countries from the years 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011. To add another layer of meaning to this dataset I sorted the countries by the percentage of renewable electrical energy each country uses. Each data point has a pyramidal structure that was printed in clear plastic to represent the former dataset. Each the 205 3D prints was sorted and then glued to a CNCed wooden frame.

For the final show at school I will be milling a circuit for each data point with a surface mount LED. These will be wired into 41 independently controlled circuits. Peak energy usage occurs between 4-7PM and I will be condensing a day worth of world consumption down to 10 minutes to show where in the world and in what volumes energy is being consumed by controlling the intensity of the LEDs over time. Combining the static data with this sort of dynamic data should be enlightening!

Looking at my model as it is currently, I am surprised that we are still largely consuming energy at the same rates we were 20 years ago. In fact, since this is per capita data and the population over the past 20 years has grown by hundreds of millions of people, the damage is actually much worse than is visualized here. I have been reflecting on what factors could be contributing to this stagnation. Our appliances are more efficient than ever. We feel like we are doing the world a real favor when we install our outrageously efficient light bulbs and program our Nest thermostats. My guess would be that the rise of personal computing means that these small improvements are being negated by the proliferation of digital stuff in our lives that draw power. As a designer who is working in that realm, seeing our impact in these terms is striking. As we send more things into peoples’ lives to draw the worlds’ power it’s important to understand what systems we’re contributing to on a larger scale.

This is my first iteration of a 12 tone music generator. Right now it is just a monophonic composition but I would like to add chord handling in and to control the arcs of the dynamics and tempo rather than just relying on random in the next week.

I made a version of this sketch that allows you to speed up and slow down the tempo and included a couple of simple representations of the sound.

representation I

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Soil as Medium Final Proposal

Description
I am going to be pursuing the idea I presented as a part of Knit Your Own Drug Test. I have collected four urine samples (and am expecting two more) from anonymous donors and myself. I am now fermenting these samples for a couple of weeks. I have dyed with mushrooms in the past and have been debating whether I should continue with that or choose something new such as beets or carrots.

Ideally I would be able to grow my own vegetables but time won’t permit that for now. It could be interesting to grow two batches of vegetables: one that is fertilized directly with the urines and one that only has the urine applied later, as a mordant.

(Update: I am now collaborating with Ken Amarit on this project! Depending on the results of our tests this weekend we are considering planting and conducting more tests in his backyard garden.)

Objectives
I am hoping that the metals and other substances in the urine samples will be concentrated enough to alter the color of each dye bath. I will be dyeing yarn that I can then knit into a sort of data visualization scarf or other object.

I am also gathering data about diet and drug use from each donor in hopes that I can discover some loose correlations.

Audience
This project is about making people aware of the alternative uses of parts of our current waste stream. Thus, if the thought of wearing something dyed with your urine or the urine of someone else is upsetting to you, this project is for you. The reactions from people I have discussed this project with have been mixed and it has already led to some interesting discussions about privacy and waste.

Eventually, we could open an etsy shop where we sell inks made from urine, fibers dyed with urine, and even prints.

Production details
I am going to allow my samples to ferment for one more week. I will then be dyeing the yarns next weekend (5/3) and knitting my final during the next week (5/5-5/8)! The dye baths may then be composted or applied directly to plants as a fertilizer.

Materials
Fermented urine (6 samples)
Completed questionaires
Wool yarn for dyeing
Knitting needles

Experiments with 12 tone serialism

For my final project in Coding for Emotional Impact I have decided to continue working with sound. In high school I took a music theory class in which we spent a month on composition. As a math enthusiast and violinist I enjoyed experimenting with 12 tone serialism. I would like to revisit this method of composition - a sort of algorithmic composition before we even had computers - and employ some of the functions we have learned to programmatically adjust rhythm, dynamics, and the voicing of the work. I have randomly generated my primary sequence and worked out the corresponding matrix.

12 tone matrix

I also recently ordered a ton of surface mount microphones. It might be interesting to bring this work into the physical world and do a twist on Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music that uses the relationship of the speaker to the microphone to “play” the piece.

12 tone works "kill tonal perception". By giving each note an equal share of the piece the piece drifts along and challenges our harmonic expectations. I would like to try to harness this effect. I would like the piece to begin with a playful feeling but to then devolve into something seemingly unordered / out of control / unpleasant only to be once again redeemed.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Compost

I love these illustrations from The Rodale Book of Composting. I had read previously that urine is compostable but this reading helped me to better understand how it functions in compost (as a source of nitrogen and organisms to activate the compost). It is also exciting to see that NYC is beginning an organic waste collection pilot program! This paper was quite enlightening about the politics in NYC that are holding composting back. It’s difficult to believe that there could be any barriers or opposition to diverting compostable waste from landfills but apparently that’s the world we live in. I have been collecting my own food scraps for the past few weeks and it is already a natural part of my routine. I hope that the pilot program is successful - the main barrier for me is the inconvenience of having to tote the scraps around the city to a drop-off location.

Sculpting (energy) data into (light)

Over the past month, I have been working with world energy data from 41 countries over the past 20 years to create a light. The countries are sorted into a circle based on the percentage of energy they use from renewable sources. Surface-mount LEDs will illuminate each of the 205 data points to demonstrate when a country is at their daily peak energy usage (4-7 PM). The brighter the LED shines, the closer the country is to these hours, creating a map of when and where energy is being consumed.

The data was processed in Python then brought into Rhino via RhinoPython. I will be 3D printing the final design in the next week!

Polyphonic composition

I have been wanting to do some algorithmic composing so this seemed like the perfect week to get that started while experimenting with polyphony! I used Mimi Yin’s Chorus sketch which uses the SoundCipher library. I played around with the various parameters and changed the voicing. I like the sound of the natural cycles that occur - the way it builds and falls off is nice, though unexpected. I thought it would be much more chaotic and difficult to control. I think playing more with dynamics and progressing past just an ocarina sound would help. I’d enjoy combining these generated sounds with my wave graphics from earlier in the semester as a visualizer. Play with the code on Github and listen below.

Polyphonic composition

I have been wanting to do some algorithmic composing so this seemed like the perfect week to get that started while experimenting with polyphony! I used Mimi Yin’s Chorus sketch which uses the SoundCipher library. I played around with the various parameters and changed the voicing. I like the sound of the natural cycles that occur - the way it builds and falls off is nice, though unexpected. I thought it would be much more chaotic and difficult to control. I think playing more with dynamics and progressing past just an ocarina sound would help. I’d enjoy combining these generated sounds with my wave graphics from earlier in the semester as a visualizer. Play with the code on Github and listen below.