An algorithmic design lexicon

(or why intent & craft are more important than ever) Greg J. Smith | | @gr3gjsmith

“The Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner is a physical embodiment of Brooks’ subsumption architecture. Roomba has no room map or route plan. It has no overall view of what it is doing. Instead it functions much more like an insect: going toward things it likes (dirt, power) and away from things it dislikes (walls, stairs), moving in predefined movement routines while occasionally and randomly jumping out of a predefined routine. This random walk feature of the Roomba algorithm is perhaps what confuses people the most at first. It will seem to be going along doing the right thing when it suddenly takes off in a different direction to do something else. But for every time it moves from the right place to the wrong place, it has moved from the wrong place to the right place. On average (and if left for a long enough time), Roomba covers the entire area. In terms of time efficiency, Roomba is not the most effective, as it takes several times longer for it to fully cover a region than it would for a person with a normal vacuum cleaner. But whose time is more valuable? Roomba can work while the person does something else.” – Hacking Roomba

Random Walk(s) (raytracing simulation) (algorithm 411)

Animate Form

Greg Lynn – Embryological House (1997-2001)

Drawing Board Vertigo
Daniel Libeskind – Micromegas (1979)

Moving Beyond the Screen Moving– Beyond the Screen Lattice (2012) Marius Watz Electroplastique #1 (2005) & Probability
Marius Watz: Electroplastique #1 (2005) & Probability Lattice (2012)

Animate Form Revisited
Dev Harlan – Parmenides (2011)

Anticipatory Design
Black Mirror – Fifteen Million Merits

“If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects?” – Charlie Brooker

Perception Machines

Julian Bleeker – Apparatus for Capturing Other Points of View (2009)

Moving Brands

The Green Eyl & E Roon Kang – MIT Media Lab Identity (2011)

Print is Dead, Long Live Print
Martin Fuchs & Peter Bichsel – Written Images (2011)

As 3D printing lowers the cost of engaging in a production run, it will bring both opportunities and perils. For one thing, it is likely to encourage the production of substandard goods—what some may see as frivolous production. Surely, the world is awash in low-quality mass-produced goods today. But several aspects of 3D printing and open fabrication could reinforce this trend. First, the diffusion of 3D printing will present a fairly steep learning curve for both pro-am designers and consumers. Learning how to 3D print often involves making many useless, substandard objects. Even if most will eventually move on to more carefully selected designs for production, the broader perception of 3D printing is often likely to be associated with flawed, low-quality, disposable outcomes. Much of what comes out of 3D printers will be “crapjects” (a contraction of “crappy objects”)—unwanted waste created by unskilled designers and fabricated using inferior materials with poor surface resolution. Additionally, there is the scenario of “physical spam,” where people simply use 3D printers with abandon, producing a large number of objects of infinitesimally small value. This may be reinforced by future 3D printers that can easily recycle feedstocks, greatly lowering the perceived ecological or economic impact of overproduction. Still, the novelty of rapid fabrication may wear off as the high expectations we’ve developed around mass-produced objects’ strength and durability, surface texture, and luster prove hard to leave behind. –The Future of Open Fabrication Report

Perils: A World of Crapjects

Data Ownership
Nike+ FuelBand


Nicholas Felton – 2010 Feltron Annual Report


Colin Pinegar – Best Friends (2012)


Rachel Binx & Sha Hwang – Me (2012)


Mary Huang – Continuum (2011)

“Inscribed on the walls with the Optima typeface are the names of servicemen who were either confirmed to be KIA (Killed in Action) or remained classified as MIA (Missing in Action) when the walls were constructed in 1982. They are listed in chronological order, starting at the apex on panel 1E in 1959 (although it was later discovered that the first casualties were military advisers who were killed by artillery fire in 1957), moving day by day to the end of the eastern wall at panel 70E, which ends on May 25, 1968, starting again at panel 70W at the end of the western wall which completes the list for May 25, 1968, and returning to the apex at panel 1W in 1975. Symbolically, this is described as a “wound that is closed and healing.” Information about rank, unit, and decorations are not given. The wall listed 58,191 names when it was completed in 1983; as of May 2011, there are 58,272 names, including 8 women. Approximately 1,200 of these are listed as missing (MIAs, POWs, and others), denoted with a cross; the confirmed dead are marked with a diamond. If the missing return alive, the cross is circumscribed by a circle (although this has never occurred as of March 2009); if their death is confirmed, a diamond is superimposed over the cross” – Wikipedia

Heuristics vs. Mindfulness
Maya Lin – Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982)


Heuristics vs. Mindfulness Redux

Michael Arad & Co. 9/11 Memorial (2011) photo: Maya Lin – Vietnam–Veterans Memorial (1982)

Computationally-Assisted Design
Jer Thorp / Local Projects – Name Arrangement Algorithim (2010)

“Over several years, staff at the 9/11 Memorial Foundation undertook the painstaking process of collecting adjacency requests from the next of kin of the victims, creating a massive database of requested linkages. Often, several requests were made for each victim. There were more than one thousand adjacency requests in total, a complicated system of connections that all had to be addressed in the final arrangement. In mathematical terms, finding a layout that satisfied as many of these adjacency requests as possible is an optimization problem – a problem of finding the best solution among a myriad of possible ones. To solve this problem and to produce a layout that would give the Memorial Designers a structure to base their final arrangement of the names upon, we built a software tool in two parts: First, an arrangement algorithm that optimized this adjacency problem to find the best possible solution. And second, an interactive tool that allowed for human adjustment of the computer-generated layout. The solution for producing a solved layout for the names arrangement sat at the bottom of a precariously balanced stack of complex requirements. First, there was the basic spatial problem – the names for each pool had to fit, evenly, into a set of 76 panels (18 panels per side plus one corner). 12 of these panels were irregularly shaped (the corners and the panels adjacent to the corners, as seen in the image at the top of this post). Because the names were to appear in one continuous flowing group around each pool, some names had to overlap between panels, crossing a thin, invisible expansion joint between the metal plates. This expansion joint was small enough it would fit in the space between many of the first and last names (or middle initials), but with certain combinations of letterforms (for example, a last name starting with a J, or a first name ending with a y), names were unable to cross this gap. As a result, the algorithm had to consider the typography of each name as it was placed into the layout.” – Jer Thorp

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