Monthly Archives: February 2012

MMJ4M 03: Math and Music

I’m going cross-eyed now that I’ve finally finished working through the fourteen thousand exercises in Chapter 03 of VJ Manzo‘s book Max/MSP/Jitter for Music. (Well, it felt like fourteen thousand. And, as VJ may drop in on this post, I’d like to emphasize that it’s an excellent book and very thorough. I think I just tried to do too many at one go.) Anyhow, after an extended break to work on other pressing matters (like an academic job application), it’s nice to be back into things. I can tell that Max has many, many more things in store for me.

That being said, here’s my progress report in pictures and video.


  • Max/MSP/Jitter for Music, Ch. 3: Math and Music (15 exercises)
  • Patches can be downloaded from (Dead Link)
  • UPDATED LINK: Patches can now be downloaded from
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Atari on the Too Big Screen

[Above image from]

So my Intro to Video Games teacher, Corrinne, told us that she and her husband have this enormous 90-inch (!) plasma screen TV and that she hooked up her circa-1979 Atari 2600 game console to it. I think that would make each pixel about six inches square or something like that. I just hope she was able to sit more than three feet away from the screen.

I think I’d be throwing up in about two minutes.

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Real Social Influence: Machinima and tiltfactor

So I’m learning all sorts of things these days. The world, it turns out, is a much bigger and amazing place than I though. (Now, some of you might say “You live in Utah; duh.” I’d like to remind you that I spent over half of my life living in cities of several million: Los Angeles, Paris, and New York. So don’t gimme no flack.)

Anyhow, I’ve learned about (a) Machinima, or movies created with video game software, which allows for real-time animation; and (b), a research/game lab at Dartmouth University (and formerly at Hunter College in NYC, where I taught). And then I learned that the two intersect, as seen above.

This led me to a conclusion recently about social influence. I’ve spent the last 22 years of my life in Psychology (Social Psychology, in particular), where social influence is a big topic of interest and where many people hope to influence people to do good things. (See, for example, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues – better known as SPSSI or “spissy” – which is all about psychological approaches to activism.) My conclusion is this: Psychology – and academic work in general – is probably not a very effective way of influencing people. Almost nobody reads our papers; I remember seeing an unverified factoid on Twitter (here’s the link) claiming that the average number of readers per academic article is five, leading one writer to refer to academic research as “write-only articles.” (A nice play on “read-only memory,” you know.)

No, I think the places where messages get out and possibly make a difference are in the popular media: movies, television, music, and video games. I don’t have any data to back this up at the moment, but I’m willing to bet on it. So, what this means, my dear academic colleagues, is that if we want to actually have an influence on what people think, feel, and do, then we probably would do well to follow tiltfactor’s example and get started on making movies and video games. Better yet, making movies with video games.

As my son, Quinn, would say: “I’m just sayin’….”

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“A Contribution to Statistics” by Wislawa Szymborska

[This is a cross-post from my data blog, Here’s the link to the original entry there.]

Poet and Nobel Laureate Wisława Szymborska — that’s her, right above — died last week at 88 years old. I have included this poem in my data analysis classes for a few years because: (a) I love poetry; (b) it has statistics; and (c) as a social psychologist, I believe it summarizes human nature wonderfully.


Out of a hundred people…

those who always know better:


doubting every step:

nearly all the rest

glad to lend a hand

if it doesn’t take too long:

as high as forty-nine

always good

because they can’t be otherwise:

four, well maybe five

able to admire without envy:


suffering illusions

induced by fleeting youth:

sixty, give or take a few

not to be taken lightly:

forty and four

living in constant fear

of someone or something:


capable of happiness:

twenty-something tops

harmless singly, savage in crowds:

half at least


when forced by circumstances:

better not to know

even ballpark figures

wise after the fact:

just a couple more

than wise before it

taking only things from life:


(I wish I were wrong)

hunched in pain

no flashlight in the dark:


sooner or later


thirty-five, which is a lot


and understanding:


worthy of compassion:



a hundred out of a hundred.

thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

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Serious Games (No, Really)

Disaffected! is a serious game developed and produced by Persuasive Games, a company co-founded by Ian Bogost and Gerard LaFond that creates “electronic games for persuasion, instruction, and activism” (“Persuasive Games”). The Disaffected! homepage links to downloadable versions for both Windows and Mac OS X. Ian Bogost is also associated with Water Cooler Games, a research blog about serious games.

I love the whole idea of using videogames to accomplish something beyond entertainment, especially something about social consciousness raising. Go Ian and Gerard!

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New media and video game activism at the New Frontier exhibit

[Above: Stills from two critical video games by Molleindustria: “Oiligarchy” and “The McDonald’s game.”]

Woo hoo! The Sundance Film Festival is getting frisky! They’ve included non-film art — new media video work and video game art, to be particular — in this year’s festival and, Holy Moses, there’s some amazing things going on. The exhibit, entitled New Frontier, is on display at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art through May 19.

Excellent large scale data visualizations about wildlife encroachment, a participatory Kinect piece about a disaster at a Los Angeles food bank, a 3-D celebration (sort of) of aggression in Hollywood, people raging at their computers, and video games that you always lose no matter what. It’s all from what you might call “the art of discomfort” but it’s amazing.

I’m so glad to see this in Salt Lake City!

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My Arduino goes blink, blink, blink!

This was a long time coming for such a minor accomplishment but I’m thrilled nonetheless. I have successfully gotten my Arduino Uno board out of the box (about a year after I bought it), hooked up to my Mac (with my fancy, clear USB cable that I stole from my Blue Snowball microphone), and — lo and behold! — it’s blinking. It’s alive! Woo hoo!

Next up: Actual programming.


  • Getting Started with Arduino, Ch. 3: The Arduino Platform (1 exercise)
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The Loveduino: A circuit board for your Valentine

Oh, this is so sweet I just want to cry… It looks like Takumi Funada has created a heart-shaped, Arduino compatible circuit board called the Loveduino. Awww…. There are even instructions on how to make one yourself, although they’re in Japanese, I think.

Just the think for the geek in your life.

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Bart Discovers Machinima

[Above: Still from From “Dear Fairy” by Tom Jantol aka Madame Zhora. In this short film, Pinocchio wants to be a wooden toy again. See it on YouTube.]

Oh, my, it turns out that there’s yet another Brave New World out there. I just found out about “machinima” (a concatenation of “Machine” and “Cinema,” as you might have guessed), which is basically movies made with video game software. It’s a way to get 3D animation without actually having to be able to animate. Fascinating. While machinima apparently has its roots in first-person shooter games like Doom, where gamers would record the action to show how quickly they could get through a level, people soon found they could write their own scripts and action. The comic series “Red vs. Blue,” which uses characters from Halo, is a good example of such adaptation.

On the other hand, as far as I can tell, there are a couple of video games that seem almost created for machinima, the most familiar of which is Second Life. It looks like there are entire (online) film festivals dedicated to Second Life machinima, such as the Ma Machinima International Festival. Also, a quick Google search for “Second Life” Machinima reveals a number of tutorials and videos on how to get started.

But it’s even easier in the simulation game The Movies, which really was created for making movies. I even got a (miniscule) book on how to do this called Machinima: How you can use The Movies to produce your own animated films by David Mark. I’ve installed the game on both of our MacBooks so my son Quinn can hack-and-slash at it on one while I go through my overly-methodical, start-at-the-beginning approach on the other.

Anyhow, it’s a fascinating discovery for me. I can’t wait to see what I can do with it. I’ll let you know.

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