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By JAMES ESTRIN

Haunted by memories of his father's long hospitalization for depression, Johan Willner turned his childhood visions into photographic tableaux.

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It’s been a while since the last installment of Animated Fragments so here’s another random assortment of short animation tests, exercises and other brief pieces that I’ve run across recently:

AD by Adam Dedman (UK)

Bassawards “Call for Entries” spot by Lobo (Brazil)

Animated walks and runs by Michael Schlingmann (UK)

“Cuckoo” by Alexander Pettersson (Sweden)

Run Cycle by Matt Abbiss (UK)

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It starts as just another toy to play around with in a few minutes of distraction in your Web browser – as if the Web were short on distraction. But then, something amazing can happen. Like a musical Turing Test, you start to get a feeling for what’s happening on the other side. Someone’s stream of colored dots starts to jam with your stream of colored dots. You get a little rhythm, a little interplay going. And instead of being a barrier, the fact that you’re looking at simple animations and made-up names and playing a pretty little tune with complete strangers starts to feel oddly special. The absence of normal interpersonal cues makes you focus on communicating with someone, completely anonymously, using music alone.

Dinah Moe’s “Plink” is the latest glimpse of what Web browser music might be, and why it might be different than (and a compliment to) other music creation technology. You can now create private rooms to blow off steam with a faraway friend, or find new players online. It’s all powered with the Web Audio API, the browser-native, JavaScript-based tools championed by Mozilla. That means you’ll need a recent Chrome or Firefox (Chrome only at the moment; this is a Chrome Experiment), and mobile browsers won’t be able to keep up. But still, give it a try – I think you may be pleasantly surprised. (Actually, do it right now, as you’ll probably be doing it with other CDM readers. I expect greater things!)

http://labs.dinahmoe.com/plink/

Thanks to Robin Hunicke, who worked with multiplayer design and play at That Game Company’s Journey on PS3 and now on the browser MMO Glitch. I think her friends were more musical than most, because the place came alive after she linked from Facebook.

The browser is becoming a laboratory, a place to quickly try out ideas for music interaction, and for the code and structure that describe music in a language all their own. As in Plink, it can also benefit from being defined by the network and collaboration.

Dinah Moe’s experiments go in other directions, as well. In Tonecraft, inspired by the 3D construction metaphor of Minecraft, three-dimensional blocks become an alternative sequencer.

http://labs.dinahmoe.com/ToneCraft/

There are many reasons not to use Web tools. The Web Audio API still isn’t universal, and native options (like Google’s Native Client) have their own compatibility issues, stability concerns, and – because of security – they don’t do all the things a desktop application will. Desktop music tools are still more numerous, more powerful, and easier to use, so if you’re a reader out there finishing a thesis project, you might look elsewhere. (Actually, you’re probably in trouble, anyway, by any nation’s academic calendar, given it’s the First of May, but I digress.)

But think instead of this as another canvas, and the essential building blocks of interface design, code, and networking as shared across browsers and desktop apps. Somehow, in the light of the Internet, its new connectedness, and its new, more lightweight, more portable code and design options, software is changing. That transformation could happen everywhere.

If you need something to help you meditate on that and wait for a revelation to occur to you, I highly recommend watching a soothing stream of dots and some pleasing music as you jam with your mouse.

Of course, in the end, like a digital mirror, it might inspire you to go out to the park with a couple of glockenspiels and jam the old-fashioned way. But maybe that’s another reason to make software.

(Here’s a video, in case you’re not near a browser that supports the app!)

More, plus reflections on adaptive music:
http://labs.dinahmoe.com/

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Artist illustrator Kilian Eng illustration
Wonderfully surreal works by Kilian Eng. Stockholm, Sweden.

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The scope of humankind’s relationship with nature is the subject of a new exhibition by photographers Inka Lindergård and Niclas Holmström, on display from Nov. 5 to Dec. 17 at the Swedish Photography Gallery in Berlin. The exhibition is comprised of two series that share the same concept of human observation.

For the first series, Watching Humans Watching, the Stockholm-based duo spent the last four years capturing the dynamic between humans and nature by taking an objective approach to their subjects, much like the way landscape photographers document wild animals. Lindergård and Holmström had no interaction with the people they photographed. Each picture explores man’s disconnected relationship with nature, as if there were a wall between them and the environment. The images show people standing back, distant from the land, with some viewing nature through binoculars.

The other series, SAGA, which was developed shortly after Watching Humans Watching, deviates from pure observation and explores the natural world as mythic, foreign place from a first-person perspective. Each picture captures the artists’ imagination of nature as make-believe wilderness, which they say was stirred by stories of the supernatural wild. “[The photographs] can be seen as small building stones: sets, scenes, props and characters from an unwritten story,” say Lindergård and Holmström. “A mood board for anyone creating a fairytale.”

Together, the projects seek to present a full exploration of the relationship between people and nature. While Watching Humans Watching aims to show the physical act of human observation, SAGA offers the artists’ perspective on what is it that humans actually see and imagine when they watch nature.

Watching Humans Watching and SAGA will also be published together in a book by Kehrer Verlag later this year.

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Click here to read Bankrupted Studio Says Square Enix Demanded Code by Fax, Didn't Recognize <em>FFXII</em> Screenshots

In a feature story published today in Sweden, the founders of GRIN lay their studio's precipitous demise at Square Enix's feet, saying the publisher reneged on payments during the development of a Final Fantasy game and saddled them with ridiculous requirements as the project went sour. More »

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