Good and stuck

Recently, I figured out that I really don’t know where I’m going with my thesis project. The original idea was to explore the difficulties machines have in understanding the world, or in helping us to understand the world. There’s already a lot of great art that does this. Thomas Ruff is one of my most recent favourites. His Jpegs are amazing.

I got really lucky in my last production class. I managed to produce a pretty slick piece of work: a photo book consisting of every thumbnail iPhoto’s facial recognition system pulled out of Robert Frank’s The Americans. It talks about some of the things I’ve been thinking about – about how all this information we have to process can still end up stripped of its context and detached from whatever meaning it first had, often at the hands of the technology that’s supposed to be helping us deal with it. (I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – I think information is very useful like that.) That was a lucky accident.

Now I have to produce something else, and I haven’t had any lucky accidents recently. I don’t exactly know what my final project’s going to look like. I’ve got the book, and it’s a great starting point, but where do I go from here? The temptation is to get into a practice exercise – just work on producing some things and worry less about the ideas. One thought was to try out a bit of data “sonicization.” I’d like to work out ways of turning information into music. Of course, people have been doing this forever, but I think it’s still worth playing with. It has potential to be really interesting, and I’d love to be making more music.

On the other hand, I have a box containing 10 of these:

Split flap digit

Split-flaps are, of course, the coolest things ever, and I’d love to do something with them. Wondering about the feasibility of making a Jpeg machine that compresses incoming images and “displays” them on a 3×3 split-flap grid. Sort of leaning in that direction; it seems like a lot more fun, and less didactic than any data-to-music scheme I could come up with.