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ANU Laptop Orchestra

One of the coolest parts of my job is doing livecoding gigs—here’s a recent set I did at Smiths as part of Soundscapes #21. A big shout-out to Ushini Attanayake (not in the video, sadly) who did a fantastic job of her first livecoding set.

Somehow I’ve managed to make that stuff part of my day job as a (cough) respectable computer science lecturer, because Laptop Orchestras (or LOrks) are a thing. Seriously, look it up on the internet. But ANU doesn’t have one—sadface. And it’s time to fix that.

  • if you’re a current ANU undergrad or coursework-postgrad student (any ANU student, not just in computer science) and you’re into

    1. music: hi-tech DJing (including livecoding, live patching e.g. Max/MSP, PD, live loop manipulation e.g. Ableton), and other instrumentalists who want to perform live with the laptop orchestra are invited too

    2. visuals: VJing, projection mapping, 2D/3D graphics e.g. shaders, Unity, etc., and other drawers/dancers/painters/glassblowers who want to perform live with the laptop orchestra are invited too

    3. organising, managing and promoting these sorts of gigs and bands so that people actually show up and have an awesome time (because even laptop orchestras need agents

  • and you want to get together with like (and unlike!)-minded folks and play some gigs for university credit, and you have 6–12 credit points (1–2 courses) of room in your ANU degree in S2 2018 and S1 2019

  • then you need to get in touch with me (ben.swift@anu.edu.au), perhaps with a link to some of your creative work, and we can try and make this happen.

I’m putting together a Laptop Orchestra (or, alternately an Algorave group) as a TechLauncher project. Don’t wait till the start of semester 2; the groups might be full up by then and you’ll miss out!

Even if you’re not sure if you’re the right person (e.g. you’re not sure how to fit it into your degree program) if you’ve always liked technology, creativity and live performance but never found the right outlet for those passions, then get in touch, there might be ways to make it happen.

Centre for the Public Awareness of Code

*What’s your favourite movie? Most folks already have an answer to this questions (because they’ve been asked before). Mine’s The Castle.

Cast of "The Castle"

What’s your favourite band/album? Again, a pretty standard “dinner party” line of questioning. As a muso (at least in the loose sense of the word) I find this a much tougher one to answer, partially because I have so many favourites, and partially because I’m trying t

What’s your favourite scientist or scientific theory/fact? This one is harder, but thanks to great work by many gifted science communicators people increasingly have an answer to those questions.

What’s your favourite bit of (software) code? What’s your favourite algorithm? I reckon that most people will struggle to have an answer for this one. In fact, most folks probably won’t understand the question. Yet code (and the algorithms they manifest) does impact the world today. Mark Zuckerberg is still travelling around with a suit and a haircut apologising for the way his code changed the course of history. It also true that a naive “code doesn’t kill people; people kill people” techno-dualism doesn’t really stack up in practice. The modern world is a complex, socio-technical assemblage (a glorious hot mess!) and everything affects everything else.

This isn’t about setting up a dichotomy between those who “get” code and those who don’t, and it certainly isn’t about adding a moral dimension to code literacy (so that if you don’t code, you’re a bad person). There are some amazing code communicators out there—check out Dan Shiffman on the Coding Train. And there’s stuff like Critical Code Studies (CCS), although that’s more about understanding code-as-text deeply rather than raising awareness of what code is currently doing in the world.

What we need is a Centre for the Public Awareness of Code, with a bunch of folks doing for code/software/algorithms what Carl Sagan did for space science with Cosmos. I’ve got some ideas about how we could do it (musical livecoding is one of them) but I’m sure there are other ways as well.

I know that there are a lot of people (and organisations) who are working hard at this problem right now, all over the world. Which angles are they attacking the problem from? Who’s doing it best? What can we all learn from each other? Let’s discuss on twitter :)

The Other Side: Algorithm as Ritual in Artificial Intelligence

Tomorrow morning (Wed April 25, 9am Montréal time) Kieran Browne and I are performing an Artificial Intelligence divination ritual as part of the alt.chi session Scary, Sporty, Ginger and Posh.

This is not a talk about the ritual; we will be performing the ritual live at CHI, using an analog computing apparatus to communicate with an artificial intelligence to divine the answers to our questions.

The ritual will start on time at 9am in room 514B—it’s a small room, so please come a touch early to make sure you don’t miss out on a seat.

See Kieran’s blog for more details about tomorrow’s ritual, and read the paper for the full story.

Telopea Hour of Code

Welcome, Telopea Hour of Code students. Here are a couple of links you’ll need today: the p5 web editor and the slides for the presentation.

Have fun!

Science Week gig

I’m playing a livecoding set at the ACT Science Week launch party tonight. Sorry about the late notice to anyone who uses this blog to come to my gigs—I really should set up a newsletter or something. I think there are still a few tickets left ($5, available from the website linked above).

COMP1720 teaser

If you’re an ANU student and you want to learn how to make art with code, then sign up for COMP1720/6720 in semester 2, 2017. Taught by me and a bunch of internationally recognised artists (there’s a weekly computational artist guest lecture) it’s the best way to scratch the art+code itch at the ANU.

No previous programming or artistic experience is required: we’ll teach you both things from the ground up, then we’ll teach you to put them together.

Here are 5 reasons you should take COMP1720 this year (number 4 will shock you!):

  1. the course has been tweaked from last year’s version: this year we’ll make art in the browser (with javascript and the p5 library)

  2. the major project theme this year will be ANU Grand Challenges—here’s your chance to say something about the big problems facing the world

  3. if you’re doing a CS degree but find some of the programming stuff a bit difficult, here’s a secret: making art with code is how I learned to program. This course is the perfect chance to make sure those fundamentals are solid, and will teach you skills you can use in all of your CS courses (even the non-arty ones)

  4. this year we’ll be doing more sound/music stuff than ever before (because, as you’ll know if you’ve seen me perform or clicked around this site a bit, I love me some code + music)

  5. if you’re not a computer science student, but you’ve heard that computers are going to eat all of the jobs in the future and you want to get on board, then this is a perfect “intro to programming” course, and you’ll learn about how to communicate through interactive digital media

So head on down to student services and sign up.

benswift.me update (July 2017 edition)

Well, benswift.me has been given another coat of paint. The content’s still a bit sparse, but hopefully this time it’ll be the place to go to keep up with my adventures in livecoding, research and just generally making thing with computers—and teaching others to do the same.