At the end of August I participated in this year's Artropocode meeting, a gathering of digital artists that alternates every year between Galicia and Portugal. Although usually a weekend long meeting, this year the event took on the form of a ten day residency at the Baleiro lab, right in the middle of the Santiago de Compostela University campus.
The longer format of the event allowed me the time to better observe the collaborative workflow between the participants and to set up a few interviews with them, learning about their creative relationship with technology and their needs regarding the tools they use.
Artropocode2013 was a fantastic experience, I hope to meet everyone again in Portugal next year and show them what I'm building from their insights.
In order to fulfil my PhD requirements, last January I had to present a research proposal outlining my thesis topic, a rough state of the art and a research plan. Last week I successfully presented my proposal to my thesis committee and had the good fortune of having Professor Brad Myers, head of Carnegie Mellon University's Natural Programming Project, as the main jury member.
I really enjoyed the discussion that followed the presentation and I feel that it helped me focus on what could be the core contribution of my work, namely to better understand the role collaboration plays in modern digital creativity and to focus on designing tools that better support this creativity.
I would like to thank Professor Myers, all the committee members and everyone who has discussed this work with me so far, your support has been precious. Now it's time to make good on the promise of that research plan and get to work.
LGM 2013 was held in Madrid at the brand new Medialab Prado building, a fantastic venue which besides a large auditorium provided lots of work space for the developers present. The program was divided into workshops and work sessions in the morning, conferences during the afternoon and social events in the evening. Many of the participants there were also going to stay for the following week for the Interactivos production workshop.
With so many activities and so many interesting people there, it was not possible to attend every session, but here are my notes on some that caught my attention:
Camille Bissuel presented Mikado, a graph-based image editor which has a structure similar to the one I'm proposing for dataflower. It is based on a C++ dataflow library called Tempi and has a web-based UI. I had a chance to briefly talk to the presenter and there are many good possibilities for future collaboration. Tempi looks like a very mature and well designed library and when the time comes I'd like to contribute to it and support it as a backend in dataflower.
Tom Lechner presented his Laidout tool which he's been developing for some time now to do the layout of his own publications. The tool implements many really interesting ideas, eschewing most of the traditional idea of tools in favor of direct manipulation of objects in the canvas. On another related talk, Tom also presented some thought-provoking ideas on how we could share tools between Free Software graphics applications.
Dave Crossland and Ben Martin talked about the current state of Fontforge and demoed an impressive real-time collaboration feature that they would be working on during the conference and the Interactivos workshop.
Ale Rimoldi, inspired by how UNIX shell pipelines work, presented his thoughts on how we should be able to connect graphics applications to build complex workflows, similar to what we can already do with audio applications via JACK.
Danji Vasiliev presented his Hotglue project, a web framework that allows users to direcly edit their web pages in the browser through direct manipulation. He also presented his plans to create Superglue, a distributed platform web publishing platform based on Hotglue.
You can find all the talk videos in the Medialab-Prado multimedia archive.
As for my talk, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and got really good feedback from the people attending, but I'll let you be the judge of that. Here is the video and the slides of my presentation:
LGM 2013 was an incredible experience for me, as I've had the chance to meet some good friends and some of the people that develop many of the tools I use and love. I also got the chance to take the pulse on what the Free Software community is doing to support creativity, and regarding the future of these tools I can tell you, the future is Free (as in Freedom).
I just received word that my talk proposal for Libre Graphics Meeting 2013 has been accepted. The selected theme for this year is "Future Tools", so this will be a fantastic time to present my work, get in touch with the Libre Graphics community and discuss the future of Free (as in Freedom) creative programming tools.
Hope to see you in Madrid next April. Meanwhile you can already get involved in the conference and join the ongoing discussion that is being used to generate the posters for the event.
Update: the conference program is up.
SAPO Codebits is the largest technology event in Portugal. Every year, around 800 developers and technology enthusiasts apply for a chance to geek out, present their pet technologies and compete in a furious 48h free-for-all hackathon with awesome prizes.
I've been to Codebits many times but never felt I had anything inteersting to propose as a talk. In 2012, realising how little attention was being paid to parallelism in the conference and how little most developers knew about the subject, I gathered my notes and proposed an overview talk about the rise of heterogeneous parallelism, parallel algorithm design and OpenCL.
Here is the video:
Digital artists have always explored the state of the art capabilities of available computer hardware. Modern tools like Processing and OpenFrameworks, together with good online documentation and supportive communities, have made programming an approachable skill for every artist.
However, computer hardware is undergoing a paradigm shift. Pushed by increasing demands for performance and limited by costs in power usage and data transfer speeds, hardware manufacturers are gradually shifting towards designs that combine many different and highly specialised processors. Taking full advantage of this power comes with the cost of abandoning the cognitive model of the single sequential processor. For software artists, this means that their tools need to evolve.
dataflower is a novel collaborative visual development environment that makes high performance heterogeneous parallel hardware accessible for creative applications. We propose to exploit the potential of the visual dataflow programming paradigm to allow digital artists to intuitively design high performance applications, while abstracting the challenges posed by parallel heterogeneous computing systems.
Our ultimate goal is fostering real-time experimentation, bridging the gap between beginners and experts, and improving communication and collaboration in multidisciplinary teams working in creative programming projects.