Computational Approaches to Narratives – Using Twine to Tell Hyperlinked Stories

I based my story on the evolutionary tree of life.The prototype is here.

You can choose an animal to begin as, and go back in time to actually become other beings you are distantly related to.

I’m inspired by the game Everything by David OReilly. In this simulation game, you start out as one animal and become others. You can become animals smaller or larger than you (in contrast to mine, in which you change animals based on evolutionary connections). I really love this game because it focuses on a non-human story.

In the future, I would like the story structure to be more complex, in which you get rerouted to be able to become one of the other original animals you could have chosen from.

 

 

My thanks to the Open Tree of Life site, which is the first accurate & complete evolutionary tree on the web.

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Approaches to Computational Narratives – First Assignment

Here is a link to my sketch that remixes the children’s book “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”.

I’m interested to see how others divided story from discourse, as I found it challenging to do within Tracery! But I liked working in Tracery and the idea of dividing the two narrative components of story and discourse from each other.


My notes before writing up the code.

Sylvester (Fanny, Joanna, Roger)

donkey (chef, librarian, junior associate)

Oaksdale (D.C., Paris, New York City)

parents (peers, enemies, pool hall buddies)

father (restaurant owner, university dean, boss)

rocks (spices, rare books, watches)

pebble (saffron, Guttenberg Bible, Rolex)

magic (delicious cooking, irreplaceable value, stock market profits)

home (desert, river, office)

lion (food safety expert, budget cuts, greed)

badrock (soup pot, paperback mystery, jail time)

picnic (restaurant family meal, book club escapade, trip up the Hudson River)

 


Sylvester was a donkey who liked to collect rocks.

One day when on a walk he found a flaming red pebble in the shape of a marble.

It turned out to be magic.

The pebble could make any wish come true.

Sylvester started to take the pebble home.

But a lion crossed his way, and out of fright, Sylvester wished he was a rock.

Sylvester was stuck as a rock for a year, unable to hold the pebble and make another wish.

One day, his parents – who dearly missed him – went out for a picnic and sat on the rock. By coincidence, the father put the pebble on the rock.

Sylvester, out of desperation and not knowing whether it would work, wished to become Sylvester again.

It worked!

His parents locked the pebble in a safe. Because what else could they wish for, now that they had Sylvester back?

 

 

 

 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Sylvester Duncan

Mother and Father

Acorn Road in Oaksdale

Collecting pebbles unusual shape and color

Rainy Saturday during vacation

Found flaming red, round, like a marble

Shiver from excitement, rain cold on back

“Wish it would stop raining”

To his surprise, it stopped!

Description of rain stopping

Never had a wish gratified so quickly

Magic must be at work

Magic must be in red pebble

To make a test, put pebble on ground. Wished. Nothing happened.

But if he held it, the magic worked.

“What a lucky day, now I can have anything I want. Parents. Relatives. Friends. Anyone”

Wished sun back. Wished wart away.

Started home. Could hardly wait to see parents.

Maybe they woudn’t believe him

Crossing STrawberry Hill

Crossed a mean hungry lion

Frightened – so made a bad wish. Could have wished for many things. But panicked. Couldn’t think clearly.

Wished he’d be a rock. Lion came over, left confused.

“I saw that donkey! Maybe I’m going crazy”

And there was Sylvester, a rock. Unable to touch the pebble.

Would have to have someone wish while putting pebble on him as a rock.

Fell asleep. Saw stars.

Parents worried.

“Won’t ever scold him again” said mother.

Asked all neighbors, animals, children.

Went to police (pigs). Could not find child.

All dogs went searching.

Even smelled rock, but smelled like a rock, not Sylvester.

A year passed.

Parents tried to be happy. But always reminded of Sylvester. No meaning in life.

Sylvester slept all the time. Endless sleep.

One day, a wolf sat on him and he howled.

Seasons passed. Spring came.

Parents went on a picnic. To try to live again and be happy.

They sat on the rock! Sylvester woke up. He wanted to shout, but couldn’t!

Set up picnic. Lots of great picnic items for donkeys.

Father saw pebble, said Sylvester would have liked it. Put on the rock.

Mother could feel Sylvester’s energy. But Sylvester couldn’t feel the pebble on his rock.

Sylvester wished out of desperation!

They embraced, questioned, answered, exclaimed.

Father put pebble in iron lock.

They might want to use it later, but now they had all they wanted.

Live Web – Live Experiences

Find a live or synchronous site or platform online. Try it out. Describe it on your blog. How is it used? What do you find interesting about it? 

Does Fortnite count if it’s a video game and not traditionally played in the browser? It is an online multi-player game, played by 3.4 million people from around the world at any given moment. That is a lot of people playing synchronously at the same time.

The most interesting part to me is the beginning. People around the world sit on their couches waiting as their Fortnite avatars on “Spawn Island”, essentially a series of air strips from which flying buses land and depart. The Battle Royale, or main game, can’t begin until 100 of these avatars are waiting for the bus. Once a “Battle Bus” arrives, it drops them over a much larger island to which they parachute and begin the Battle Royale.

Image result for spawn island fortnite

A player lands on Spawn Island, with the flying bus waiting in the upper right.

Waiting on the air strip, avatars stand still, move around to look at each other, make aggressive gestures like shooting off their guns, and most hilariously, show off the famous Fortnite dance moves.  This is also a free moment to check out each other’s purchased outfits (some people spend $20 on a new outfit).

 

Players dance with each other. One player barges in whipping his battle instrument, but then runs away. The dancing continues.  The battle bus is departing in 9 seconds.

To me, these unscripted moments are the most interesting. I think these moments contribute to the cultural phenomenon status of the game. They are, in some ways, the most “synchronous” moments of the game, in that people are very aware they are waiting for real people to start the game and join as avatars, and they have no game to focus on yet, and only have each other and the views to look at.

While this isn’t a browser experience, I think it would be interesting to imagine scenarios in the browser where people arrive at a pre-destination before the main event.

For example, a meeting in one browser tab, before people go on a treasure hunt around the web, and meet back in their shared tab? People could establish different identities for different purposes, and enact them with each other and elsewhere on the web.

 

Live Web – Self Portrait

My code is LIVE ! You can try out my self portrait at the link. Turn the sound on. Take your time doing the following, because the browser can take a moment to respond to you.

You can:

  • Mouse over media to hear sound.
  • Mouse out to stop sound. Mousing back over restarts the sound file.
  • Click media to change live feed in the background.
  • Drag media to create new shapes.
  • The mouse cursor’s shape changes to a hand to suggest to the user to drag the media.

I used the npm forever package to have this live online without opening up my terminal.

This was a great first assignment. I feel much more comfortable using javascript to manipulate the HTML DOM and CSS.

Here’s a video showing the interactions built into my self portrait.  Turn the sound up high to hear the audio.

 

 

 

 

Temporary Expert – Research for Plant-Based Diets as a form of Energy

Update as of September 18th:

I’ve gathered more research (see very bottom) thanks to Marion Nestle’s incredible and very active blog “Food Politics“. Nestle is an academic at NYU who specializes in the politics of food and dietary choice.

I’m beginning to think my Energy Field Guide on Plant-Based Diets will be focused on using one’s diet to contribute to preventing climate change by choosing how one participates in many kinds of energy that are part of the U.S. food production system.

My field guide might have entries with a multi-layered taxonomy: 1) A thing or location 2) a Higher Concept that is a Form of Energy 3) a Feasible Alternative Reality.

For example my field guide will suggest you take your guide and do these things.

  • Go to Whole Foods owned by Amazon (Taxonomy: Thing/Location)
  • In order to learn about Capitalism (Taxonomy: Higher Concept / Form of Energy)
  • And consider participating in an alternative solution like a grocery store cooperative that buys from local farms and mission-aligned companies (Taxonomy: Feasible Alternative Possibilities).

Or

  • Pick up the container for the last thing you ate (Taxonomy: Thing/Location)
  • In order to learn about Food Labeling & Consumer Choice (Taxonomy: Topic / Form of Energy).
  • To imagine being able to see a second label reporting how much environmental energy was required to make that single serving.

These don’t have to do with plant-based diets yet…. but I will orient the field guide user by beginning with two introductory entries about plant-based vs meat-based diets, and all the energy forms they participate in.

 


Update as of September 11th:

My Energy Field Guide topic is “Plant-Based Diet”. This topic can quickly become about US food production, and how we prioritize land, water and energy.  I now see a plant-based diet as a way to individually influence energy management nationally, and to directly control my own body’s energy.

Below is my draft of a systems map. I’m considering a focus on one system component of “decision-making systems” related to the Plant-Based Diet.  Who decides what about diets and food production, and what is within their control? The individual, the restaurant, the grocery store, the government, advocacy groups, etc.?

Everything is so interlinked. I can see the challenge of having to really force oneself to remove sub-topics from your focus in order to really communicate a message. And within eating habits, US food production, and energy management, removing topics may in the end undermine the ability for someone else reading my Field Guide to find a compelling argument to reconsider their own diet. A decision like changing what you eat relies on many influences. But ultimately the reason why  one person changes their food habits is different from the next person.

Further below are my list of answered and unanswered questions.

And lastly, I include a list of links that I’ve read or not yet read.


Systems Thinking Map

Plant-Based Diets (several kinds)

vs what exactly?

  • Meat-Based Diet.
  • Different types of plant-based diets.
  • Fasting.
  • What else

Energy –  Four forms:

  • In the form of land, water and energy (“natural resources” // more abstractly, properties of matter that manifest as capacities to perform work
  • Converted into plant-based food (grass (“forage”), grains) What about insects?
  • Converted into US livestock (chickens, dairy cows, beef cows, turkeys, lamb)
  • Converted into animal products (eggs, chicken, milk, beef, turkey, lamb)
  • Converted into human energy (calories, protein, nutrients // strength & vitality // physical or mental powers // properties of matter that manifest as capacities to perform work)

Human population

World population

US population

Livestock populations – in US and in World

US Food Production System

World Production System

Environment

Natural Resources

Land

Water

Energy

Fossil Fuels

  • Coal
  • Oil
  • Natural gas

Non-fossil fuels (is this renewable energy? or specifically what is this?)

  • Wind
  • Sun
  • Water
  • What else

Sustainable

Renewable

…The opposite of sustainable – “one time use” … what are the common phrases for this?

Food consumption

  • Human culture, comfort, taste, habits
  • Socioeconomic status (allows different purchasing powers and access)
  • Obesity, diabetes
  • Whatelse

Types of Food

  • Plants
  • Grains (different than plants? do legumes and soy count?)
  • Animal products
  • Sweets and Fats
  • “Fake meat” like Seitan Meats, Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger
  • What else

Food Shopping

  • Different kinds of grocery stores
  • CSAs
  • Park Slope Food Coop
  • Your own garden
  • What else

Jobs

  • Long list
  • What is employment in US Food Production, and what % of that is total jobs in the country?

Efficiency

Waste

Higher or lower energy & protein content

Direct costs vs indirect costs

  • Direct costs
    • Production of the harvest animal or plant or grain
  • Indirect costs
    • “Maintaining breeding herds”
    • Environmental – overuse of lands, uncontrollable animal waste, C02, toxins in the land and water, poor health of humans and animals nearby

Pesticides

Toxins

Human and Animal health issues

Morality

Ethics

Stakeholders

  • Consumers
  • Citizens
  • Food companies
  • Policy makers
  • Researchers
  • Journalists
  • Bloggers
  • City, state, federal government central offices and agencies
  • Animal rights groups
  • Environmental groups
  • Plants, grains, and animals themselves
  • Who else?

Decision-making systems

  • Elections of people to political office
  • Research committees who approve or deny new research
  • Consumer choice
  • Food stamps policy?
  • What else?

 

 

Answered Questions

Q: What share of energy used by US food production comes from fossil fuels?

A: “The share of U.S. food-system energy from fossil fuels was 93 percent”

January 2017 USDA Report: https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/82194/err-224.pdf?v=42804

Q: What is fossil fuel?

A: Energy that is “one-time use” and therefore not renewable within a human timescale. Is formed by natural processes that take millions of years (e.g. 650 million years). There are mainly three kinds of fossil fuel: coal, petroleum/oil, and natural gas.

Unanswered Questions

Q: What makes up that remaining 7% – what are the examples food production companies using non-fossil fuel energy?

Q: How much of food policy is politicized? Is there much of a difference in opinion among stakeholders as to whether there are problems or not?

Q: Which research journals are neutral, liberal, or conservative? Reports from policy groups? Government agencies?

Q: Who agrees with Pimentel, the author of the linked report? I have to check again, but he seems to mostly reference his own research in his footnotes. Is this common?

Q: Why doesn’t Pimentel explain fossil fuels, and whether they are good or bad? There is no explanation which makes the research appear biased.

Q: The report brings up world and U.S. population growth. In particular, U.S. population growth over the next 70 years is presented as extreme. But how does this compare to the amount of livable land available in the U.S.? And how does this ratio compare to other regions in the world?  The U.S. experienced huge immigration on top of native peoples living here, which naturally would increase its population over its 242 year history.

Q: The report makes a good point that U.S. food production uses up large percentages of land, water, and energy. It also implies this production is mainly eaten by Americans. Is this true? What about food imports?  And what about food being exported to other countries?  Would either of these increase the problem?

 

 

 

To Read:

Marion Nestle’s Blog (Food Professor at NYU)

Tagged “Climate Change”

https://www.foodpolitics.com/2008/12/agriculture-and-climate-change/

Eat meat and reduce carbon emissions. How? Feed cattle on grass.

Eat less meat: more evidence from climate change and health

USDA Secretary issues guiding principles for farm bill

World Resources Institute report

The U.K. food industry fights labeling efforts, successfully

Milan Food Expo: A highly preliminary assessment

Meat arguments: health, climate, taxes

Livestock and Climate Change?

 

Tagged “Sustainability”

Livestock and Climate Change?

Agroecology: it’s the hot issue in agriculture, but what does it mean?

Rotating crops in Iowa–a better way to farm

What ag schools really need to teach: a report

Weekend reading: a how-to for sustainable food systems (again)

World Resources Institute report

The bizarre saga of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines: Continued

Weekend reading: Grass (the green kind)

 

Searched for “Power”

Weekend reading: Concentration and Power in the Food System

Proposition 37 take-home lesson: the power of money in politics

https://www.foodpolitics.com/2018/08/weekend-reading-overcoming-barriers-to-the-sustainable-development-goals/

The French food industry v. public health: front-of-package label

Weekend action: Advocating for organics (Toolkit!)

Farm Bill #1: Earl Blumenauer’s bill

 

Search for “Capitalism”

Weekend Reading: Seven Cheap Things

Weekend Reading: Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism

Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods: a roundup

 

Marion Nestle’s Books

Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat

Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics

Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics

What to Eat

Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health

 

Blog post about how much animal diets are based on oil/fossil fuels : http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/how-fossil-fuels-are-used-to-produce-meat/

http://web.mit.edu/dusp/dusp_extension_unsec/reports/polenske_ag_energy.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2935130/

 

https://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/smart-energy-solutions/increase-renewables/renewable-energy-and.html#.W5XfDZNKjMI

 

Wander Watch – Fashion Technology Final Project

Wander Watch is a compass that lights up in the direction of your destination. You can use an app to enter where you’re going, and then put the phone away. This is part of a series of products I’m creating that help undo our overconnected lives.

This project was created for a course titled Expressive Interfaces: Introduction to Fashion Technology, and taught at ITP at NYU.

A slide deck can be found here.

Role: Ideation, concept development, physical design, fabrication, and coding.

Tools: Bluetooth LE, Cordova Phone Gap app, Don Coleman’s Bluetooth library, Javascript, Google Maps API, Tinkercad, 3D printers, Flora microcontroller, Flora Bluetooth LE module, Neopixel ring, webbing, velcro, thread and needle for strap.

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How It Works

The user opens the app, selects a destination, and sends it to the watch using Bluetooth LE. The watch lights up in the direction of the destination. The watch itself is 3D printed and encloses a stack of components.

 

 

Creative Process

Stage 1 – Concept development

  • Brainstormed what a wearable navigation piece might look like.
  • Illustrated the look and feel of the watch.

Artboard 1-100

Stage 2 – Research

 

Stage 3 – Code

  • Step by step, I assembled together my working code:
    • Confirm bluetooth connectivity using Flora microcontroller & Bluetooth module with Bluefruit app to confirm connectivity
    • Send commands to turn on and off specific Neopixel ring LEDs
    • Download and set up Don Coleman’s Cordova Phonegap app example
    • Use app to send commands to Neopixels
    • Insert Google Maps API Heading code into Bluetooth app.
    • Replace one map pin with phone’s actual location.

Stage 4 – Fabrication

  • Meanwhile, I developed and printed the physical design of the watch.
    • Research 3D printed watch designs online.
    • Create my own unique design in Tinkercad, including a tailored closing mechanism and opening for the strap.
    • Print test examples on the Ultimaker 3D printers at ITP.
    • Print a final prototype at NYU’s LaGuardia print shop on the Mojo printer.
    • Assemble strap by sewing velcro for an adjustable fit.

 

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Next Steps

I hope in the future to add the GPS and magnetometer on the watch itself. In addition, I’d like to add three buttons on the side, so that a user can pre-program a few locations at home and leave their phone behind!

 

 

Collective Play: Final Project Playtesting

How might we create something intentional out of the unintentional? For this play test, Hadar and I asked people to leave behind something in their pocket and to leave behind a thought they want to get rid of.

 

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Thought Process

We discussed emotions and dynamics we wanted to create in people. We liked the idea of turning a random action into a purposeful action.

Playtesting

We set up a table underneath one of the TVs in the lounge area with paper and pens. The monitor above gave play instructions. Folks started to leave behind objects and thoughts.

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