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One of the nice opportunities afforded to the students in the UT Austin|Portugal program is the chance to make an short time visit to the city of Austin to get to know the UT campus and to visit faculty and research groups related to their research areas to explore opportunities for research collaboration and to prepare for a possible one semester stay as a graduate student or as an invited researcher.
I was very looking forward to this opportunity since my PhD started but I could only find the time to do it during the last week of May. The city of Austin is beautiful and very culturally active, well worth a visit on its own, especially during the Spring time.
On my first day, I had a chance to tour the RTF department's production facilities. I discovered resources for 3D projection, DCP creation, motion capture, surround sound production and reproduction, audio foley and mixing, video editing, as well as the audiovisual production material (cameras, lights, audio recording and studios). I alsoad the chance to talk a bit about my work with Keefe Boerner, the production facilities manager who kindly showed me around the place, and how it might be used to help automate the heterogeneous systems used in stage production (lights, audio, projections, smoke machines, etc.).
Next day, I met with Professor Luis Francisco-Revilla at the TACC VisLab. Professor Revilla had formerly been my instructor on the HCI Summer School at FEUP in 2012, and naturally our conversation flowed around HCI aspects of my work, especially in what regards to evaluation, i.e., how to measure success in face of the development goals, how to define what aspects we want to evaluate and how to setup user studies for it. On this day I also met Rob Turknett at the VisLab and he showed me around the lab's resources. We also had a brief chat about my work and how it parallels and complements some of the work being done at the lab. Rob is also one of the founders of the AMODA (Austin Museum of Digital Art) group and so we also talked a bit about the digital art scene in Austin. Also on that day I met fellow classmates living in Austin and visited the ATX Hackerspace.
On another day I had the chance to meet with Professor Sharon Strover and we had a really nice conversation about many topics related to my research and the Digital Media program. In the afternoon I met with Professor Donald Fussel in the CS department and I got to know a bit about the research his group is doing, especially work related to developing user interfaces for artistic creation, and he gave me some feedback on some specific aspects of my work. I also got to meet some of his PhD students.
On my last day at Austin, I briefly met with Professor Brian Evans, and we talked a bit about his research work and his experience with digital art student's projects. Later that day I met with Professor Bruce Pennycook at the Fine Arts department, and we talked mostly about open-source and creativity support tools, and he gave some very interesting critical feedback on the tools I'm developing from his perspective both as a researcher and as a practitioner.
Overall, I have really enjoyed my time at UT Austin and I met many nice people doing some really interesting work. This visit has really helped me refine the scope of my research and opened many doors for future collaborations.
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.
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).
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.