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Symbiotic Intertwining

The artist Joseph Nechvatal also explores a collaborative process that involves evolution in a type of work he calls viractual painting. This is a complex numeric process where Nechvatel mixes digital-photography, painting, drawings, text and computer code to allow his works to come into being.

Nechvatal submits these to his system, many of which use computer viruses to evolve, and then a robot on canvas paints these works with acrylic paint. Here the artist has created a collaborative system where the work, can be thought of as coauthored, by the artist setting up the work for evolution and allowing the work to evolve.

These works suggest a new role for computers in becoming critical participants in the design of novel solutions and plays at the edge of the emerging field of evolutionary robotics. If we look at the revisionist thinking surrounding biological evolution, which states that biological creatures evolve more through symbiotic intertwining with other creatures as opposed to just the notion of survival of the fittest than we have a time-tested model for how to co-evolve with intelligent machines. [10]

Clearly, computers are necessary for our survival and are fantastic staging centers for collecting knowledge and bringing new ideas to fruition. It is this co-evolution that makes working with electronics and microcontrollers so exciting, as it allows everybody--artists, inventors, researchers, and visionaries--to invent the future.

While this is an exciting time to be an artist and inventor, it is also a complex time. The materials we utilize and the power the technology permits must be handled with responsibility, care, and respect. The inventions we bring into the world are part of the greater dialogue of the evolution of our culture and our species and other species on this planet.

It is easy to see how the invention and evolution of the car, the airplane, and the gun are transforming our culture and planet, both negatively and positively. In his book, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, Manuel De Landa discusses the emergence of autonomous weapons and artificially intelligent cruise missiles as a profound historical shift where humans are increasingly transferring our cognitive structures into machines and allowing them to make decisions about killing biological life (us) without human intervention. [11] The magazine C-Theory gives a needed forum to exploring some of the darker sides of technology and takes a much needed critical stance on many of the promises or the benefits of technology [12]

As inventors and creators, we really do have the ability to affect the dialogue of how our culture evolves as regards both the applications and implications of the powerful technology that is increasingly at our fingertips. In Chapter 2, you will discover experimenters that created the foundations of modern physics. In many ways, these experimenters were the computer hackers of their time, testing and questioning knowledge and pushing the envelope of what is possible.

We all share a responsibility to be good citizens in a larger community of other living things and we should treat other living things with respect, as well as dispose of any electronic devices in the proper manner and with environmental sensitivity. Like many of you, I am in awe of the beauty of our natural environment and feel the power to be a better citizen of the earth by observing the proper environmental and safety hazards of working with electronics and associated materials.

The primary purpose of this book is to present electronic and mechanical techniques, ideas, and solutions that permit artists, engineers, and inventors to realize their ideas in the shortest period.

The secondary purpose is to feature artistic, design and scientific research that exists at the intersection of the arts and engineering communities, though in many respects, these communities have never been mutually exclusive. Artist engagement with technological tools has always revealed underlying themes percolating below the surface of our culture and artists, researchers, and inventors reveal the hopes, dreams, and challenges that contemporary technological tools present to our planet. Artists, engineers, and inventors are also inquisitive, and the search for solutions in a research-based approach to making inventions and artworks is more fun than I can tell you.

Rich Gold (1950—2003) of Xerox Park is quoted as saying:

Artists have always made art with the mud and water at the river's edge, though now the river is information and the mud has become silicon.

When I began to study electronics, at first it seemed a daunting task, and then I was pleased to discover that engineers have created logical languages and symbolic systems that are easily understood by artists. Engineers and artists share an aptitude called three-dimensional visualization, which can be defined as the ability to think and envision forms in three-dimensional space.

Therefore, this book will utilize three-dimensional visualizations of electronic processes, as well as diagrammatic illustrations of electronic parts. I believe it is important to visualize what is happening on a molecular level with electrons moving through the material and this will be one major theme explored!

Visualizing the electrons and how they function in both living and nonliving materials can give an intuitive understanding of why things work--and sometimes why they do not. However, we must also remember that while diagrams, illustrations, and analogies are good tools of understanding, they are also just models of processes meant to communicate particular ideas and must not be taken too literally, but rather utilized in consideration of multiple models and language-based descriptions of these processes.

This book will also feature a revolutionary microprocessor called the Arduino, Miditron and the BASIC Stamp 2 (BS2). Arduino has its own control language and code within the IDE integrated development Environment. MAXUINO is a new method of using MAX MSP and Jitter an object oriented language communicating through Firmata to allow the Arduino function in controlling things. The BASIC Stamp allows you to write code in a form of BASIC Programming called Pbasic, and download the code.


This is the Arduino Diecimila though is also the same pinout configuration as the Arduino UNO that will be featured in this book.

While the book offers a full set of control experiences and mechanical resources, artist and inventor projects and installations will illustrate conceptual concerns. The reader will also be introduced to what is currently happening in the field of interactive art, kinetic sculpture, electronic invention, interface design, entertainment engineering, and robotics. Some of the works documented in this book utilize the Arduino, Miditron or the BASIC Stamp as a platform and other artworks and inventions utilize a variety of commercial and custom computer hardware and software control. Hardware, sensors, motors, relays, mechanical capabilities, and software will also be covered.

It should be clear to the reader that these microcontrollers come from a myriad of control platforms that have been employed in the creation of unique art and invention. An extensive artist resource section and a technical resource section will allow you to use this text to access a large number of links on the World Wide Web.