The Dawesome Digest #11
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The Dawesome Digest

Knobs.

I guess the theme running through a lot of this issue of The Dawesome Digest is one of tactility. Whether it's a console made of knobs and switches or data you can pick up and hold in your hands, there's something still wonderful about being able to hold things in your hands. Maybe it's because I grew up spending my days pressing buttons on Space Invader machines in the local video arcades that I still love the physical nature of buttons, so much so that right now I'm building a big chunky wireless remote for my self-made presentation software even though I already have a remote control via my iPhone. I still need those buttons. I still need to hear that definite clunk of the button press from time to time.

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States of Mind

Created at Nexus for the Group Therapy exhibition at Fact, States of Mind lets people create abstract 3D shapes in response to the question "What does your mental heath look like right now?"

For the piece I created two pieces of software; one that allowed the creation of the shapes through seven physical rotary controls and another used on the Tilo screen in the foyer at Fact that displayed the rotating 3D creations in various formations. 

One of the personal hilights for me was working with Robin Crowley – a wonderful props designer and maker whose past credits include work on The Fantastic Mr. Fox. In the brief to Robin I mentioned how I love the art direction in the film The Double, especially the lovely analogesque  machines that appear throughout the movie. Robin really ran with the idea and created a beautiful looking console which someone commented on seeing it for the first time "when computers looked like computers". I purposefully chose different knobs for each control to add to its quirkiness, spaced equidistant from the only button on the console, which was used to save your creation. 
The interaction is nice and simple. On screen you see the question "what does your mental health look like right now?" overlaid above a blurred object in the distance. On turning any of the controls the question dissapears and the object comes into focus and you can start manipulating the object, changing its shape in a myriad of ways as well as altering the colors. When you're done you just press the big yellow button labelled done. I love that there's no instructions; there's no "do this to start" or any of that rubbish. The question itself is enough to invite people to begin.
To date there's already been hundreds of creations made using the console and displayed on the Tilo screens in the foyer at Fact. The exhibition runs until 17th May.

Find out more about the exhibition via Fact's website.
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Doris Le Bot installation in Paris for Twitter

Commissioned by BRIGHT for Twitter France, Doris Le Bot creates unique digital creatures from real-time tweets, born from various properties of the users' Twitter profile.

During the event in Paris on the 27th January 2015, people could tweet to @dorislebot and watch as their digital creature appeared on screen and swam with other creatures. The shape of each creature was generated from their unique user ID using a Superformula algorithm. The amount of favourites in their Twitter profile acted like food, governing their size.

Colours were mapped to how many years they had been on Twitter, whilst Power Users were given multiple coloured special stripes. Curious users – those that were following more than they had followers had various size antennae with their eye sizes dictated by this ratio. Users with more than 5000 followers were also given special jagged tails to differentiate themselves amongst the others creatures.

Occasionally Bots would appear in the form of simple cubes, chasing and hassling the Power Users.
Because each creature is a 3D mesh created in Open Frameworks I was then able to export each creature as fully textured models which I then took to Hobbs Repro who run the 3D printing bureau at Manchester Met Uni to have them printed in full colour. These things that were once digital were now analog things you could hold in your hands.
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Exhibition at Dog & Pony in Munich

I was honoured to be asked to put on a small exhibition at Dog & Pony, the personal Wunderkammer of Alexandra Lukaschewitz and Mario Klingemann, in Munich. Mailchimp and Electric Imp were very kind sponsors of the show.

The small but perfectly formed space was host to some of my data machines, various 3D prints and a selection of my prints including the work for EE and Cinema Redux. I also made a new piece just for the show; a small speaker connected to Twitter that broadcast messages from fans of One Direction's Harry Styles, desperately asking him to follow them. I called it Love in One Direction. 
Love in One Direction used a text to speech module to convert the text on Twitter to audio. The speaker was something I ripped out of a old speaker cabinet I had laying around.
I think one of my favourite moments was when these three ladies stood outside the window for ten minutes reading the output from The Happiness Machine.
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Majestic Landscapes

Created for Majestic, a UK based company that analyses Internet data, Majestic Landscapes create physical representations of their link data that they then send to key clients.

Dixon Jones from Majestic explains:

"We use the Internet so much, we miss the mathematical beauty within. We decided to capture that DNA and bring it into the real world. Every link profile is made up of thousands – or in Google’s case billions of links. Each link has its own Trust Flow and Citation Flow that we call Flow Metrics."
Google.com
3ders.org explains:

"The algorithm behind Flow Metrics denotes a Trust and Citation value between 0 and 100 to every link to your website, generating a cool 101 x 101 graph. Links with high Citation Flow end up more to the right, while links with more Trust Flow end up higher on the chart. In short, the more links that score a top-right result, the better your website is positioned on the web."
Wikipedia.org
Rather than create individual models for the client, I instead created a piece of software that they could then use to generate these landscapes by themselves and then print them out on their own 3D printer.

In an interview about the work on Forbes I explain my thinking behind making data physical:

"I’m reminded of physical souvenirs that you might buy when on holiday. Souvenirs are often artifacts that are designed to remind you of an event, a journey or places you’ve been. So if you think about it they might represent a date or a period of time – which of course is data, though it’s data that’s not unique to you. By using 3D printing coupled with bespoke software it’s now possible to create such “souvenirs” to a highly detailed personal level and not just around events or time. They could represent for example your Fitbit progress for a year; imagine having this thing sat on your desk or on your shelf, ready to spark conversations about how you’ve been doing in your new exercise regime, or maybe it’s just a personal reminder to yourself of what you’ve achieved so far – a reminder that is always present, sat in a physical space rather than a digital one, yet it’s born from digital data. That’s just one example of how this could be used – there’s a thousand others when you start to think about data in physical form."
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The Internet Connected Cocktail Cabinet

My Brother-in-law, Philip Robbins, has a fabulous cocktail cabinet on which he makes fabulous drinks. My usual drink of choice is a Manhattan though a Gimlet goes down a treat too. This is all great, but in the same way everything is better with bacon, pretty much everything is better with the Internet too!

So we hatched a plan. Philip already had the website isphilipsbaropen,com which he manually updated to show whether his bar was open, physically signified by the light being on or off. But this is the 21st Century and these days nobody should have to manually update their bar open/closed website. So I put together a little light sensor, wired it to an Electric Imp, mucked about with some server stuff and boom - now when Philip switched the light on it automatically tweeted that his bar was open and updated his website. And of course his followers are also informed when the bar is closed when he turns the light off.

Some people question what the point is of the so called Internet of Things, but really, what more could anyone want? Now the only question that remains is is Philip's bar open?
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Upcoming Talks

I have a few talks coming up in the next few months. On April 9th I'll be at the one day Dot York conference. There's still some tickets available so if you're in the area and fancy coming down then use code BRENDANDAWES to get 10% off tickets. 

Manchester in May sees the first ever TMRW conference, featuring a keynote from Professor Brian Cox. I'll be speaking on a panel at some point during the day.

Big Bang Data has now moved to Madrid and you can see Cinema Redux as part of this amazing exhibition.

Whilst it's at the end of the year I thought I'd mention that I'll also be speaking at the always great Beyond Tellerrand in Berlin which takes place 2-3 November.

Elsewhere

A few things I've bumped into since the last issue...
Completely fallen in love with the work of BÄ›la Kolářová, wonderful short film on the work of Dominic Wilcox, The Data Viz Catalogue, Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, Timo Arnall's No to NoUI, Light Blue Bean - Bluetooth Arduino.
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