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katefarina.com blog

Things I'm working on and thinking about

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This is a nifty little board that can be programmed in the Arduino environment. It’s basically an Arduino with a bunch of pre-installed components, like LEDs, a Piezo buzzer, potentiometer, phototransistor. Very handy for those of us who struggle to compute resistance.

This is probably too pricey to use with my project (it’s around 50 bucks, where the regular Arduino is more like 25), but super fast to program because you don’t have to get out jumper wires and a breadboard to start experimenting.

This isn’t really much of anything, aside from me experimenting with different materials.

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Very high creep factor, though. Basically, I’m currently thinking through different frames/shells to build on. I’ve always liked the idea of using familiar objects and cyborg-ing them, rather than creating some pile of metal and wires. This crazy doll concept reminds me of playing Operation.

So this is a few weeks old, but I wanted to address it anyway. A pretty cool example of the WWE taking a set of opinions espoused by many WWE fans and having it articulated by a “superstar” (er, I mean “diva”) happened recently. I’m referring to AJ Lee’s “pipebomb.”

A few months ago, WWE began promoting a new “reality” series called Total Divas that purported to show the behind-the-scenes lives of seven female performers. Now, the show itself is pretty fascinating because it operates at a level of reality that is somewhere in-between the scripted WWE “universe” and the “reality” of the Kardashians. The series shows some aspects of the performers lives that were previously NEVER mentioned “in-universe,” particularly the romantic relationships between performers in the company. In other words, the relationship between “face” John Cena and “heel” Nikki Bella is definitely not a part of an WWE storyline, except in Total Divas.

Last month, WWE started featuring more of the Total Divas cast on Raw and Smackdown. Suddenly we saw matches featuring only the “Total Divas” and not regular old divas (the WWE name for female wrestlers) like AJ Lee or Kaitlyn, both of whom are usually considered favorites of the IWC (internet wrestling community). Did fans  have a reason to care about Brie Bella versus Naomi or Natalya? Not really. There were also many discussions about why  or why not certain divas were part of Total Divas Actually, there have been a lot of discussions, in general, about the show and its place in the WWE universe.

So when AJ Lee came out on a recent episode of Raw and delivered a lengthy rant about whether the Total Divas cast really want to be wrestlers or actresses, the IWC got pretty excited. AJ not only used the term “wrestler” (rarely spoken in WWE), but she not-so-subtly accused the Total Divas of sleeping with higher up WWE performers to gain status and attention (and a reality show). Although it’s likely that the speech was written by a WWE creative staffer, it was delivered as though AJ was simply channeling the feelings of the most vocal fans. People called it a “pipebomb” and got super excited about the very idea of a woman getting so much mic time. Fans reminisced over the days of Trish and Lita, when women actually main evented an episode of Raw (basically unthinkable these days). I went back and watched that match and was surprised to see both women wearing pants.

Of course, those were also the days of bra and panties matches and a whole host of other stuff that wouldn’t fly in the PG-era. And I’m not up for a discussion about sexism in WWE, because whoa, that would take days.

The point is, WWE introduced yet another level of “reality” in their storyline. The whole thing is so ridiculously meta that you’d need an infographic to visualize exactly what you’re supposed to “believe” at this point. In even promoting a reality show that undoes some of the fabric of the WWE universe, WWE is asking fans to believe two different narratives at once, and then to agree or disagree with another character’s commentary on the whole thing (which possibly exists on its own level of reality?)

Either way, I’m confused, but interested.

via http://myrobotlab.net/tutorial-hack-a-toy-for-your-first-arduino-project/

 
Tutorial : Hack a toy for your first Arduino project

 

I’ve been experimenting with different hacks and a sort of frame/cage for a simple Arduino project. I’m rather fond of the idea of Arduino-hacking a Barbie or baby doll, and lo and behold, there’s an Instructable for that:

VIA http://makezine.com/2010/03/26/an-actual-turing-machine/

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make the concept of computation concrete and physical. Although this machine was clearly built by an expert, I wonder how non-experts could begin to build a mechanical device in the style of a Turing machine and then transfer those concepts to a simple digital prototype.

Turing Machine

 

I have a relatively long commute from Manhattan to Stamford where WWE is headquartered. On the train I’ve been reading the last fourth of Neal Gabler’s Walt Disney bio. This book is massive and I’ve been reading it on and off for about a year. Anyone who knows me knows about my fascination with Disney theme parks and that my ultimate dream job is to be an Imagineer. But I’m also fascinated by some of the negative aspects of Disney. I’m no apologist and I like to know how the sausage is made. Disney’s story is very complicated. He was no angel, but he certainly can’t be reduced to a racist, sexist, overly nostalgic, hyper-conservative dictator. The truth is always more nuanced than the ridiculous rumors and accusations that have been lobbed over the years.

       

So, what does this have to do with WWE? Well, one of the things my group of fellow interns were told at orientation was that WWE is a “paternalistic” culture. [Note: This was not an official statement, just an off-the-cuff remark by an employee. Nevertheless, it was telling.] Any fan knows that Vince McMahon is hands-on, to put it mildly. Reports of him re-writing the live show just before airtime are a weekly tradition. Furthermore, like Disney, he’s a character in his own universe, but still very much in charge in reality.  If you think about it, there’s a ton of overlap between Walt and Vince and the way they’ve developed unique, game-changing, merchandise-heavy entertainment companies.

One thing I’ve noticed since I got into wrestling fandom is that people are always interested in why I’m interested in it. I’ve said many times that wrestling is its own world. You only “get it” after you get into it. Therefore, most people simply see it as a “fake” sport for dupes. This assessment is ridiculous. Being a wrestling fan means processing events at several different levels of “reality” at all times. It means evaluating the wrestler’s performance based on a complex set of metrics that often has nothing to do with a W/L record. People often talk about baseball in terms of math and stats. Wrestling is sort of the opposite. It’s subjective. It’s both real and unreal. Sometimes it’s purposefully unfair. And it’s as much about personality as technical ability.

My favorite WWE Tweeter, Big E Langston and his super friends.

The WWE is typically referred to as a “universe” these days. It’s a fictional world that operates within the real world. There’s some very blurry overlap with some performers playing characters and some simply playing exaggerated versions of their real personalities. In the internet era, more and more cracks in the universe have started to bleed into reality. While this could negatively impact the “separateness” of the universe, it’s actually created some interesting possibilities, in terms of keeping the fans guessing. If the lines are blurry (and if wrestlers are encouraged to write their own Tweets, for example), the fans are constantly debating what aspects of the show are “in-universe” versus real life. In fact, I got into watching wrestling during one such moment (the infamous CM Punk pipe bomb).

“How ya doin’ Colt Cabana?”

By and large, I think that WWE has dealt with the digital world in a fairly progressive way. They’ve embraced a bunch of different online formats and relentlessly push their app, Tout, and other forms of digital content. Wrestling has always been an extremely participatory form of entertainment and this tradition is thriving online. Moreover, the WWE is happy to receive negative comments from fans. Booing has always been part of the game at wrestling shows. “Heat” = passion. Unlike a lot of companies, WWE doesn’t need to worry about doing damage control when fans get rowdy online. Almost anything can be worked into a storyline as necessary.

Over the past few years, I think Disney’s been getting a bit more…meta. They’ve developed more links between their film division and theme parks and Pixar has brought a more sophisticated sensibility into their animated features. Epic Mickey (despite the camera issues) was a pretty unique funhouse-mirror look into the mythology of the theme parks. The next few years will see at least two Disney films that use the company as subject matter (the upcoming “Saving Mr. Banks” about the development of “Mary Poppins” and Damon Lindelof’s mysterious project that purports to give a backstory to the Tomorrowland section of the theme park).

Secret files in the Disney archive that Lindelof is using for his Tomorrowland project. What the F is inside there?

Both companies provide entertainment in person, on TV/film, and in interactive media. Both companies enjoy a strong brand identity and unique relationships with fans. Both are (now) kid-friendly. And both have started to play with the edges of their “universes” in different ways. I’m really excited by the kind of experimentation that’s possible when reality is blurred.

 

I’m still working on the final documentation for this project, but I made this as part of my lab at Georgia Tech, DWIG, where we concentrated on digital interventions into craft processes. We each worked with a craftsperson to create a digital project that would alter an existing craft process. This is a quick video I made for my crafter, Laura Meyers, who is an accomplished nature photographer and weaver.

 

 

This is a project I just completed for my interactive narrative class. It’s a retelling of one of my favorite creepy novels, House of Leaves. The first video is a quick teaser. I went back and created a slightly longer video with some voiceover narration to really explain the “game.”