#1 Big Button

Due in class on Thursday 10/04

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

— Donald J. Trump, January 3, 2018

On January 3, 2018, President Trump tweeted about his button size. A button that would kill innumerable people, and likely set off a cataclysmic chain reaction of political, economic, and environemntal collapse. A button which by some accounts, would end the world, or at the very least, create a considerable catastrophe.

Your assignment is to create a button that causes a catastrophe. Taking Trump's tweet as a starting point, develop a button-like mechanism (remember too that he bragged about its size) that starts some chain reaction of terrible events. You are encouraged to make vivid use of metaphor, hyperbole, and narrative, and to look more deeply into the "Nuclear Football," its reality, and how it is depicted in film and television.

Your project should include drawings, collage, 3D animations, or video simulation of your mechanism along with a clear narrative of how your button came to be, and under what conditions it would be pressed. While the chain of events the button put in place can and quite likely will be fantastical, be specific about how the button sets these events in motion. A "button that reverses gravity" is too vague. Add details to how your mechanism works, while taking sufficient artistic license with the laws of physics.

#2 Strange Keyboard

Due in class on Thursday 10/25

The history of the keyboard, from a single button, to mechanical monsters, to smooth touch surfaces has defined how we think about writing—really interacting in general—on a computer.

For this project, you are to re-imagine the keyboard. How strange can a keyboard really be? What does a purpose-built keyboard tell us about the intended uses of it? If the keyboard really is a way to narrow and focus our thoughts, to digitize expression, can a strange keyboard expand and blur thought?

For this assignment, you are to make a keyboard that uses non-standard sensors, buttons, and inputs.

Use this project as a way to quickly test ideas and concepts and get familiar with sensors and the arduino. Your keyboard doesn't need to be able to type all 26 letters of the english alphabet, but it should be sufficient to communicate with someone else by generating text on the computer. Focus your attention on the input side of the process, on the output side, your device will just create text. Your "keyboard" should be packaged in some way that is more interesting than a breadboard with wires sticking out, this can be anything from a custom designed lasercut box, to a wodden encolsure, to a leftover shoebox with holes cut in it, but on either side of the spectrum, you must give some thought to the formal presentation of the project and how it participates in our understanding of your device.

Simple Code for Internet Keyboard

#3 Automata, Autonomy, Gesture, Performance

Due in class on Thursday December 6th

Throughout history, Automata—machines that operate on their own, following a pre-programed set of instructions to the delight and wonder of onlookers—have been written about and created. In Greek mythology the god Hephaestus is said to have created numerous automata for his workshop as well as the giant artificial man Talos. Legend has it that King Solomon used his wisdom to design a throne with mechanical animals to hail him as king, an eagle would place a crown upon his head, and a dove would bring him a Torah scroll. In ancient China, automata were so advanced that they appeared to visitors as witchcraft. And during the Medieval era automata were further refined and developed to extraordinary effect in the Middle East and China.

For this project you will create a modern automata using the techniques of motors, actuators, and mechanisms learned in class. Your automata doesn’t need to perform a useful task, instead focus on its performative qualities, make it dance, draw, create music, or just entertain. As always, carefully consider the form your machine will take. How are you going to fabricate the pieces, and what does it’s enclosure look like?

Your creation should begin it’s action at the press of a button, run for a time, and then quit. For example, if your apparatus draws on paper with a marker, you should be able to plug it in, press the button, and we will be able to see the process of mark-making. If your machine bangs on a drum, you should be able to press start and have it go to it.

You are free to use sensors to get input from the world to modify the behavior, but the key idea is that your creation has a degree of autonomy (other than the button) from humanity.

For this project, you may work in groups of two.

For more context, I encourage you to listen to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time Podcast episode on Automata.

Drawing Machines

Sound Machines

Slides From class