Military Issue video, code & audio sources

Thriving in a military environment requires a value system that is very different from that of the civilian world. It requires that you give up a part of yourself. The process of reclaiming the lost pieces when reintegrating after service is one of profound confusion, anger, and grief. How can you focus if your mind constantly runs through the procedure for correcting a malfunction in an M16 rifle? How do you respond to folks who gush about how fashionable military uniforms are? How do you connect with those around you when you’re overcome with guilt at leaving friends behind, friends that continue to spend every day in harm’s way? How do you cope with the realization that these questions have no clean, simple answers? Military Issue is an installation that exists as an artifact of my own exploration of these and many other questions. It seeks to capture the fragmented nature of this unpacking process. It demands a long attention span and a willingness to confront discomfort and confusion, just as the reintegration journey does. It begs users to consider that service doesn’t end when a person takes off the uniform for the last time.

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Military Issue prototyping and testing process

Once I had decided to use a collection of objects, photocells, and audio, my first task was to make the technology work with a single object and audio track. I started with the boot, as it had been an object I had been working with through several past iterations of the project, and felt I had strong sense of what it meant to me. I’ll be honest, it didn’t take long and wasn’t difficult to get it working. This isn’t terribly surprising, since the technology was no more complicated than one of the first labs we did this semester, the analog input lab. When the reading from the sensor exceeded a certain amount (when the flashlight was shining on it), the audio played. Otherwise, it paused. I tested this with several people, and received a positive response: Continue reading

Military Issue Brief

Thriving in a military environment requires a value system that is very different from that of the civilian world. It requires that you give up a part of yourself. The process of reclaiming the lost pieces when reintegrating after service is one of profound confusion, anger, and grief. How can you focus if your mind constantly runs through the procedure for correcting a malfunction in an M16 rifle? How do you respond to folks who gush about how fashionable military uniforms are? How do you connect with those around you when you’re overcome with guilt at leaving friends behind, friends that continue to spend every day in harm’s way? How do you cope with the realization that these questions have no clean, simple answers? Military Issue is an installation that exists as an artifact of my own exploration of these and many other questions. It seeks to capture the fragmented nature of this unpacking process. It demands a long attention span and a willingness to confront discomfort and confusion, just as the reintegration journey does. It begs users to consider that service doesn’t end when a person takes off the uniform for the last time.

Using a government-issue, red-bulb flashlight, users will be able to explore a cutout silhouette of a soldier that has various military objects attached to it. Photocells on or around each object will trigger related audio when the flashlight shines on them.

BILL OF MATERIALS

SYSTEM DIAGRAM:

MISystemDiagram

PComp/ICM final conceptual development

Since I initially listed my project ideas and topics of interest for my physical computing final, I haven’t been able to get my interest in war, trauma, and memory out of my head. I’ve also come to realize that the interest is about much more than war, but about the experience of being in the military in general. Since exploring these issues in the first conceptual iteration, WEIGHT, there have been several ideas that have led to my final project. Continue reading

WEIGHT: A PComp/ICM combined final

“They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing—these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight.”

-Tim O’Brian, The Things They Carried (p. 20).

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have officially ended; Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2013, Operation Enduring Freedom in 2014. In the minds and bodies of many of those who fought them, however, the wars continue and will continue for decades to come. Despite this, we as a collective have forgotten. For most, the wars are in the past, the time for political activism come and gone. For my final projects in PComp and ICM, I want to create an interactive experience that forces users to remember, and to consider the invisible weight many combat veterans continue to shoulder.

PHYSICAL COMPONENTS

The project will ask the user to wear a heavily-weighted rucksack. This will not be connected to any physical computing mechanism, but is a standalone physical object to enhance the user’s empathy with the invisible weight present in many stories used in the project.

Several sets of dog tags will be hung from an apparatus (TBD) and will act as touch sensors. Dog tags, which are used as a casualty identification tool in war, have been co-opted by brands and fashion for commercial purposes. This disassociation has aided in America’s collective amnesia regarding the ongoing physical and mental cost of wars that many consider “finished.” When touched, individual dog tags will be connected to specific stories that will play through a JavaScript program.

DIGITAL COMPONENTS

 When a dog tag is not being handled, the names of fatal casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will display (in a method TBD) alongside unfiltered images/videos of war. When a dog tag is touched, this will temporarily stop to be replaced with a story of trauma in text, audio, or video form. Throughout the course of the interaction, users will be forced to choose between confronting the visible or invisible destruction of war, all while carrying a large weight of their own on their backs.

This is very much a work in progress, even on a conceptual level, and any feedback would be appreciated.

Music visualization

This week, I had an opportunity to explore ways to combine code and live instruments, something that I’m fascinated with. I didn’t have the time this week to do anything too crazy, so I just picked my favorite piece of music for bassoon (one of the main instruments I play) and created a visualizer for it. The piece is John Williams’ The Five Sacred Trees. I created a button for each movement and used p5.FFT() to create a visualization of frequency in the canvas.

I edited the HTML file directly to get a video background of a tree. The same thing would be possible to do from within my javascript file, but with HTML and CSS I have set it up to be automatically responsive to screen size without reloading. The same can’t be said for the other elements, unfortunately, but I’m pretty happy with the results.

Listen to the soothing music and see the visualization here.

Data – Computer & Internet Access

For my project with external data, I really wanted to try leveraging social data in a compelling way. I started by looking for good government data sources, since they are usually the body responsible for collecting and organizing large social data sets. The Census Bureau has a yearly survey they do that utilizes sampling in addition to the collection every 10 years without a sample. It’s called the American Community Survey, and I decided to explore its API for the most recent year. Continue reading

Gravity – Where Physical Meets Digital

The challenge: in 90 minutes, create an interactive experience utilizing javascript, an arduino, and a single digital or analog input.

Today was a really exciting opportunity to blend material from PComp and ICM, and to create a program with javascript that responds to input from a physical button. I had an opportunity to work with Yue Hu for this challenge. She has a much more PComp-oriented mind than I do, and I have a more ICM-oriented mind, so we complimented each other quite nicely. We decided to use the single-ball iteration of my gravity program, but to replace the on-screen switch with a homemade physical switch that also tied into gravity.

Working with a 90 minute time limit and the materials we had on hand, we came up with a prototype that works, but not as consistently as we would have liked. Much of that, we feel, can be attributed to the need to use tape to create connections instead of more permanent methods like soldering, as well as the unavailability of a copper sheet. This meant we had to line the top of the box with strips of cooper tape instead.

We placed a large metal washer inside a small box and connected it to ground, and connected the strips of copper tape on the top to power. This caused the two to act as a switch that would close when the box was shook. It was incredible to watch people’s faces when we opened the box and they saw how the switch was constructed. It was a fun exercise and was certainly the most creative thing I have done with physical computing so far.

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User interaction:

Gravity – Where Physical & Digital Meet from Ian Gibson on Vimeo.