SFPC - Looking Forward, and Back

Admittedly, I've not been as active as I've wanted to be on this blog - especially over the last two months - but a lot has been going on! The Public Radio went live on Kickstarter, I'm designing a 150 sq ft permanent lighting installation with my friends, Studio Indefinit, I finished up my time poking around in the world of residential acoustics consulting AND, decided that pursuing a career in architectural acoustics via my planned approach through RPI's program was not for me - at least not right now.  

Through a few great suggestions from friends and being tangentially involved in the interaction design world recently, I landed on The School for Poetic Computation and this past week began classes.  SFPC is led by an amazing group of artists, technologists and makers, but foremost is promoting itself as offering a type of residence/research/education space, where ideas can incubate around things like the pedagogy of computation and programming, and specifically this term looking at assistive technology.  

We really only just began, but the approach so far has been exciting for me in unexpected ways, like an early rule established - no laptops out during class unless we're specifically working in code. Yes, I like it! 

A handful of the exercises we've focused on in the first two days actually didn't involve a single keystroke. In The Human Fax Machine we were challenged to encode a set of drawing instructions to members of our group through a handful of unique sounds. Two members would tap and shake random objects in the hopes that the other two members of the team were sketching out a desired, simple shape. In essence, we've been breaking down the foundations of computation by exploring of the elements and approaches to teaching it. What are the basic elements of a language, it's syntax, it's rules and contradictions?  In a similar exercise we were asked to come up with a game to teach binary numbers to kids.  I came up with a kind of 'Binary Two-Step' dance. 

Two Step: 8 people shoulder-to-shoulder. You can only step forward or backwards and only move to one of these alternating positions when the person to your right, takes a step back.  


I've also been thinking a lot about my time in undergraduate studying music. While I'm absolutely thrilled to be at SFPC, I'm a little bit nervous about spending time thinking about pedagogy before (at least for me) developing a solid vocabulary and expressiveness with programming languages. At Bard - almost 8 years ago - I went from thinking I was going to study photography and science to becoming a music major, and cramming in technique, and ear training, and composition all in 4 years. What sounds like a lot of time is basically nothing to go from 0-100, i.e high school rock bands to jazz composition, improv and 20th century music.

It took me a long, long time to digest everything from Bard (music and otherwise) and to really feel comfortable about getting an education on education - what would become years of teaching myself how to learn new things.

I stopped playing drums this past fall. And that's huge for me given that it's defined me as a person for the last 15 years of my life. After my dad passed away a year ago I buried myself in circuits, The Public Radio project, and programming more seriously (i.e. less Arduino IDE). I'm completely hooked on these new things, but admittedly there's a kind of desire for instant gratification that anyone staring at a steep learning curve ahead maintains. I trust though that this oscillation between the micro and macro at SFPC will ultimately pay off, and any desire to learn how to make really pretty particle systems in D3 or processing, would be kind of a waste of time - at least right now.  

Focus on concept. Continue to develop better tools to teach yourself.  Carry on.  

More soon.