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Punchcard, a project by Caroline Brown, Peter Horvath, Catherine White, and myself, came in runner up at the NYU/Microsoft Design Expo competition yesterday.

Punchcard is a proposal for a membership service targetting freelancers, independent workers and others who do not work in tradition offices.  Punchcard membership would give members access to a network of coworking spaces.  In addition, Punchcard membership would offer access to an online “dashboard” communications/social networking platform, that appears on members’ computers when they log into the WiFi at a Punchcard location.  The platform draws on elements of Twitter, social networking sites, and instant messaging, but is location-based, so that members can see who else is in that space at a given time, and view their profiles.  Punchcard platform is meant to facillitate serendipitious interactions between Punchcard members with the goal of potential networking and collaborative opportunities.

The dean of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Mary Schmidt Campbell, was a special guest during our final pitches.  She noted in the post-presentation Q&A that the Punchcard platform could also be adapted to other applications besides networking for laptop-nomad freelancers.  She said that something like it could be implemented in a university context to build community and interdisciplinary collaboration between students in different departments.

While team Punchcard will not be continuing on to the next stage of the competition at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA this summer, we would still like to continue to develop the project in some way, perhaps in the Stern Business Plan competition in the fall.

Download PDF of the Punchcard presentation deck.

team punchcard

Photo: Team Punchcard is Catherine White, Lee-Sean Huang, Caroline Brown and Peter Horvath.

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ICM: Sakura (Revisited) and Koyo

This week in Intro to Computational Media @ ITP, we learned how to add text into a Processing sketch.  I used my Sakura (cherry blossom) sketch from week 3 as a departure point and added the Japanese characters for sakura さくら into the new version of the sketch (above). I wanted to create a kind of “digital calligraphy” that explored the relationship between words and abstract shapes and set everything in motion. I also made an autumn leaves (koyo) sketch with the Japanese characters for koyo 紅葉 and an autumn color story.  To make things more visually appealing, I increased the size of the triangles and added some transparency to the background to create a more stylized sense of the passage of time in the animation and to create an illusion of three-dimensional depth.

There was a slight problem in getting the sketches to execute correctly though.  Although Processing is able to deal with Unicode-8 character sets, I was unable to get the Japanese characters to display correctly in the calligraphy font that I wanted.  The Japanese characters were showing, but in a default san-serif font and not the font that I created and specified in Processing.  I realized that I had to import the full character set and not just the default characters that Processing turns into bitmaps when you create a font.  However, when I checked “all characters” in the Create Font menu and clicked on “Create”, my computer froze up, probably because Japanese fonts have literally thousands of different characters, unlike the 26 letters and handful of punctuation marks we have in English.  Since I was only using 3 different characters in the Sakura sketch and 2 different characters in the Koyo sketch, I thought I that I might try creating SVG files in Adobe Illustrator for each character and then importing the Candy SVG library into my Processing sketches, which would then allow me to import the Japanese characters as vectors instead of bitmapped fonts.  Also, I only had to load the characters that I needed, and not the entire character set of the font.  As you can see from the screenshots, this approach worked!  I got the Japanese chracters to display in the calligraphy font instead of the default Processing font which didn’t work in the context of the sketches.

Click on the screenshots above and below to play with the sketches.  Drag the mouse around the frame and hold down any key on the keyboard to scatter cherry blossoms petals/autumn leaves.

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Grad School

I’m going back to school!

I have been accepted into the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). I will be starting the two-year Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) program in September 2008. According to their website, ITP is:

A graduate department dedicated to creativity and critical thinking applied to new technologies…More than just a graduate school, ITP is a creative ecosystem – a living and interdependent flow of people, projects, ideas and applications all dedicated to exploring and expanding the ability of real people to use media to connect to one another and influence the world around them.

I learned about the program from my former Avaaz colleagues Ji Mi Choi, who worked at ITP, and Paul and Milena Berry of Talacon Social Software who are ITP alumni.

While I concentrated in Government (Harvard-speak for majoring in political science) in undergrad, I have always wanted to go to art school as well. ITP deals with the intersection between technology, art and society, so I think it is the perfect fit for me. I hope to build up some technical chops and make some good connections so I can further develop the multimedia production, technological consulting services and music production wings of my company, Hepnova Multimedia.