In a kind of professional
360 2π, I just gave a 2-day workshop of
algorithmic art at Viitaniemi School, my former employer. Such an event had
been on my mind almost all the time of Algoristo, at least since Kristof
took me over the Bridges. So far, it had seemed both bothersome and
practically difficult, but apparently it was enough that my past colleagues
asked me a favour for their multidisciplinary days — both to provide
something new, and to substitute them during their visit to my Alma Mater.
The principal (pun intended) technical difficulty lies with the computing platform, and minimal expectations of computing ability come a close second. Early on, I decided to provide a simplified system of what I do: example scripts using proper languages, rather than toy systems or programming from scratch. In some sense, it is the same concept I also used as a project during my teacher training in physics: learning by taking electronics apart. Here, I provide a setup for doing (linear) IFS graphs, and let the students play around with the function definitions. It is essentially what I do, since it is often hard to predict the artistic outcome from a given function system.
A fundamental technical challenge is having the programming tools available. I settled on Python and gnuplot for a bunch of reasons, and looked for a suitable Linux LiveCD; Scientific Linux turned out the only obvious one with gnuplot (plus Numpy for the complex extras). This would be manageable, but besides the hassle of booting up, students would probably be unfamiliar with the system. In a great turn of fortunes, Viitaniemi School had expanded its previous usage of Linux thin clients, and their Lubuntu setup included gnuplot.
Overall, the workshop feels like a huge success, given all the positive feedback and tangible results, including apparent conversions of non-IT people into my spiritual world. Personally, I was reminded of the past teaching days with their off-the-flow-axis parameters: a huge intensity of goings-on with menial mental exertion. It was a worthwhile pointer into my current lifestyle selections, and I'm even thinking of franchising this out to other teachers and other programming applications; the general concept works nicely, but I have better things to do than herding puppies, no matter how cute.