Artists and Hackers
Art Tools: Designing Interactive Fiction with Twine

Art Tools: Designing Interactive Fiction with Twine

May 5, 2022

Chris Klimas is the original creator of Twine, a popular open source expanded toolset for creating branching narratives and interactive experimental stories and game. He talks about its creation, community and where it's going next.

episodes notes

Art Tools are our series of mini episodes with the creators of innovative and experimental software and hardware tools for creative expression.

Twine is a tool for creating branching narratives or what some people call "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style games. Originally created in 2009, Twine allows creators to make interactive stories, poems, text games or experimental prose. Twine is free and open source software that runs in a web browser or downloaded as an application, and while most Twine projects are text-only, some feature sound and images. At this point, there are tens of thousands of games, artworks and projects made with Twine, and these works are presented on websites, shared on the game distribution platform Itch.io or even shown in museums like the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Over its 13 years of existence Twine’s been extended in many different directions, with themes and example code. And it’s really easy to get started. Where other interactive fiction software is created solely with text and code, Twine features a visual design tool that feels as easy as creating an email. We talked to Twine’s creator Chris Klimas to find out more about its history and current development and community.

Art Tools: Winterbloom’s Open Source Synthesizer Modules

Art Tools: Winterbloom’s Open Source Synthesizer Modules

April 5, 2022

In this Art Tools episode we interview Thea Flowers of Winterbloom, an open source music hardware company producing hackable music modules and kits for synthesizers. And we try out the Big Honking Button.

Episode notes

Art Tools are our series of mini episodes with the creators of innovative and experimental software and hardware tools for creative expression.

Our guest today is Thea Flowers of Winterbloom. Winterbloom produces new, open source modular synth hardware modules for making music. These are devices that can do things like make far-out space synth sounds, act as a mixer, or an audio sampler. The world of synthesizers has a huge number of companies. Thea’s Winterbloom stands out for its beautiful designs, but perhaps even more notably, its commitment to creating beginner-friendly tutorials and using a hackable CircuitPython codebase, a friendly language for easily writing software for hardware projects.

In research for this episode we purchased a Big Honking Button, one of the first modules produced by Winterbloom. It is available as a kit of parts or complete. You plug it into a Eurorack modular synthesizer to make sounds with it. Eurorack is the name for an ecosystem of cross-compatible music hardware produced by hundreds of manufacturers, from large companies like Moog and Behringer to much smaller companies. Winterbloom’s unique open source hackable stance means that it publishes code and instructions on how to modify their hardware in order to tweak the music hardware to your own particular needs.

By default the Big Honking Button features a large arcade button that emits a punishing goose honk each time you press the button. We started by changing this sound. Following Winterbloom’s instructions we plugged our Big Honking Button into a laptop, where it showed up as if it was an external drive. The first step we took was replacing the honk sound file with a bell sound we had. Immediately the module restarted, and when we pressed the Big Honking Button our new sound could be heard. Next we added in more sound samples. We opened the code.py file, and using example code from Winterbloom’s website we modified the code to play a different sound sample depending on receiving different input voltage such as using a slider or a dial. At first, our module didn’t seem to work the way we had expected. We asked some questions on the Winterbloom discord, where friendly folks chatted with us and Thea pointed us in the right direction. We needed to update our Big Honking Button’s libraries to the current release in order to use the latest code features. This was simple, basically copying files over and restarting, and in short order our modified code and sound samples on the Big Honking Button were producing both cacophonous and blissed-out drones to our delight.

This experience of in essence changing the very nature of how the hardware works felt really incredible and unique. Doubly so as we started to jam with our customized music hardware. The fact that it’s possible to do this in the simplified Python-based CircuitPython, using easy-to-follow example code made this a straightforward and gratifying experience, and would be accessible even to those with a minimum of programming experience, especially with the helpful online community.

Intimate Bots and QueerAI

Intimate Bots and QueerAI

March 15, 2022

The final in a trio of episodes we’re doing on artists working with bots and conversational agents. We speak to Emily Martinez of QueerAI on their work in bots and their collaborative AI chatbot experiment trained on erotic literature, feminist and queer theory, and an ethics of embodiment. We also talk with Jessica Garson, a Senior Developer Advocate at Twitter.

Episode notes

Note: This episode acknowledges the existence of sex and includes intimate text written via machine learning.

Art Tools: Live coding with Hydra

Art Tools: Live coding with Hydra

February 10, 2022

Art Tools is our new segment on experimental digital tools of creation. We speak with Olivia Jack on her browser-based visual live coding synthesizer called hydra.

Episode notes

Today we’re kicking off a new segment called Art Tools, a series of mini episodes with the creators of innovative and experimental software for making art, music and other creative expression.

In our very first episode Critical Code we spoke with the artist Sarah Groff Hennigh-Palermo, who created her own library and language La Habra for making live visual artwork with code. Today we’re speaking with the artist and programmer Olivia Jack on her browser-based visual livecoding software Hydra.

Hydra is a web-based video synthesizer. Olivia describes live coding as writing code in real time to make visuals and/or music as part of a performance. Originally begun as a series of explorations in the browser, Hydra is now used by a large community of live coding performers who perform in clubs and other venues, as well as in online streamed performances throughout the pandemic. There are many resources for getting started with Hydra, and a number of spin-off projects including PIXELJAM, also by Olivia, which allows multiple performers to do live coding together. There are also periodic online meetups where live coders worldwide meet up to talk and show off their works created with Hydra.

In this episode Olivia speaks on her background, the experiments that led to the creation of Hydra, and the choices she’s made in its design that has led to adoption by a large community of live coders creating visual works in the browser with Hydra.

Triggering the Troll Bots

Triggering the Troll Bots

January 13, 2022

Ryan Kuo is an artist and writer creating projects that are diagrammatic and evoke a person or people arguing. In this episode I speak with Ryan and his collaborator Tommy Martinez about Faith, an 'easily triggered' AI voice assistant.

Episode notes

Feeding Oral History to Technology

Feeding Oral History to Technology

October 7, 2021

Stephanie Dinkins is a transmedia artist creating platforms for dialog about race, gender, aging, and our future histories. In this episode we speak about her conversations with the advanced AI Bina48 and her work building conversational agents based on oral history.

 

Show notes

Yes No Wave and Indonesia Net Audio

Yes No Wave and Indonesia Net Audio

August 24, 2021

Since 2007 artist Wok The Rock has run Yes No Wave, a Javanese net audio record label that makes music available for free legal download. Yes No Wave albums are released under a creative commons license allowing free non-commercial use and the freedom to remix the music.

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Reclamation and Worldbuilding in the Iyapo Repository

Reclamation and Worldbuilding in the Iyapo Repository

July 22, 2021

The Iyapo Repository is a digital resource library built to preserve the digital histories and legacy of people of African descent. Our guest is Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde (Ayo), co-creator along with Salome Asega.

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El Paquete Semanal: An Offline Internet in Cuba

El Paquete Semanal: An Offline Internet in Cuba

June 7, 2021

In this episode we talk about the phenomenon of the offline internet in Cuba known as El Paquete Semanal or The Weekly Package. Our guests are Cuban artist Nestor Siré and American artist Julia Weist who research, intervene and make art about El Paquete.

Episode notes

Community Memory and the Computing Counterculture

Community Memory and the Computing Counterculture

March 18, 2021

In this episode we're digging deep into the past of a radical history of personal computers, community networks and the rise of people's technology. Our guest is engineer Lee Felsenstein, who relates a story of activism and engineering.

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