Tag Archives: computers

Experience

This novel has a great many images which are essential to the development of the story.  Probably the most important is Clay’s digital model of the bookstore, which helps him solve the mystery of the founder’s puzzle. Using his knowledge of computer programming, Clay creates an interactive model of the books in the store and the patterns in which the patrons check them out. He discovers that the order of the books reveals a pattern shaped like the face of Aldus Manutius, the founder of the Unbroken Spine. Once he solves the puzzle, he is able to delve much deeper into the mysteries of the bookstore.

This visual image was obviously so important to the story that the American cover artist decided to replicate it on the front of the book. If you pick up a copy of the American edition, the little yellow books glow in the dark, just like Clay’s model.

penumbra-cover-dark-640

 

In addition to the major image of the glowing shelves, lesser images such as Kat’s red t-shirt with “BAM!” written on it and Manutius’s dolphin and anchor symbol serve as leitmotifs which hold the story together. Overall, visuals are very important to this novel.

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Adaptation

I think my images of LEGOS and letters will guide my visual adaptation of the multiple aspect of the novel. The two units are similar in many ways; they complement each other the way natural language complements code. Both are geared towards some type of constructive problem solving, which reflects the characters’ cooperation.

IMG_0958 Again, since there is such a clear relationship between multiplicity and the visual in the novel, I don’t think it will be too difficult to adapt this experience as a blox. I will continue with my practice of making an abstract aspect of the novel concrete through use of a visual motif within the novel.

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Experience

As I mentioned previously in my blog, there is a direct correlation between exactitude, natural language, and computer programming. Nowhere is this more evident than in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. We see it especially it Kat and Neel’s work: Kat’s knowledge of code allows her to solve problems with the utmost precision, while Neel’s skills enable him to make an accurate model of the human body using software.

binary

Exactitude is not the sole domain of digital technology, however. As Penumbra explains to the three friends, Aldus Manutius and others like him developed the first book printing technologies, which required specialized knowledge and attention to detail to operate. He pioneered the field of data science by  making information available to readers in a concise, portable, easily replicated format: the book.

th-paris-1542

 

As a novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore pays homage to the pioneers, both past and current, of exactitude in language. As a work of literature in itself, the novel hopes to bridge the gap between the study of print and electronic media by bringing the precision and speed of computers to bear on the wealth of knowledge and history accumulated in print books.

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Emblem

My emblem of multiplicity is a Sierpinski triangle. It is a fractal, or self-similar geometric figure, which was first described by Polish mathematician Waclaw Sierpinski in 1915. Basically, the pattern of triangles keeps replicating itself no matter how far you zoom in. The pattern continues into infinity.

sierpinski.clear

I first learned about the Sierpinski triangle in my Java programming class, where I had to write a program that drew some type of fractal art. This project relates to Calvino’s encyclopedic novel, which is by definition incomplete, not because it is unfinished, but because it extends into infinity. Fractals such as the Sierpinski triangle are a good visual example of this.

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Analogy

When I think of exactitude, I think about grammar and syntax. These are the foundation of every language, from natural languages, such as English and Japanese, to formal languages, such as computer programming languages. Right now, I’m taking a Java programming class. I’ve never been more exact than when I’m working on a project in Java. Unlike humans, computers take language very literally and do not interpret meaning based on context.

For example, if I were to type the sentence

i luv ice cream its gr8

you would be able to understand it perfectly, even though it’s not grammatically correct. If, however, I were to type something with similar syntactical errors into a computer program, I’d be awash in error messages. I’d have to type something more formal, like this:

I love ice cream. It’s great.

See what I mean? Fortunately, despite their inability to interpret context clues, computer languages are extraordinarily powerful. I used Java to write a program that draws Albers squares, which we learned about in Graphic Design: The New Basics. 

This is what the code looks like:

import java.awt.Color;

public class albers
{
/*This program creates Albers squares. I’m an English major, and I got the
idea for this project from one of my English classes, where we’re learning about Josef Albers.
The program takes 9 command line arguments, which correspond to the RGB values for 3
separate colors. Enter the RGB values (separated by spaces) for your three colors, then run the program
to produce your Albers squares. Have fun!

Ex. java albers 255 0 0 0 0 255 0 0 0 255
will give you a square with red, green, and blue components.

A complete list of colors can be found at:
kb.iu.edu/data/aetf.html
*/
public static void main (String[] args)
{
//command line args–RGB values for 3 Albers square colors
String red1 = args[0];
String green1 = args[1];
String blue1 = args[2];
String red2 = args[3];
String green2 = args[4];
String blue2 = args[5];
String red3 = args[6];
String green3 = args[7];
String blue3 = args[8];

//convert RGB values into color variables
int redVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[0]);
int greenVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[1]);
int blueVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[2]);
int redVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[3]);
int greenVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[4]);
int blueVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[5]);
int redVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[6]);
int greenVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[7]);
int blueVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[8]);

//available colors

Color color1 = new Color (redVal1, greenVal1, blueVal1);
Color color2 = new Color (redVal2, greenVal2, blueVal2);
Color color3 = new Color (redVal3, greenVal3, blueVal3);

StdDraw.setCanvasSize (800,800);

//first Albers square
StdDraw.setPenColor(color1);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.25,.5,.2);
StdDraw.setPenColor(color2);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.25,.5,.1);
StdDraw.setPenColor(color3);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.25,.5,.05);

//second Albers square
StdDraw.setPenColor(color3);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.75,.5,.2);
StdDraw.setPenColor(color2);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.75,.5,.1);
StdDraw.setPenColor(color1);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.75,.5,.05);
}
}

To an untrained eye, it may seem very technical and abstruse, but the point is that the syntax must be flawlessly exact for the program to run.

 

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Graphics

I related Calvino’s exactitude to time and motion in graphic design. This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but I see a connection between exactitude and animation in Soundpoems. Lupton and Phillips say that “Film is a visual art. Designers of motion graphics must think both like painters and typographers and like animators and filmmakers.”

Furthermore, they state that “animation uses sequences of still images to create the optical illusion of movement. The brain retains images for a split-second longer than the images are actually before us, resulting in the illusion of movement when numerous images appear in rapid succession. This phenomenon is called persistence of vision.”

Picture 3

This relates to exactitude because a work of literature, like a book or a film, is composed of smaller elements, like letters or frames, carefully arranged to produce exactly the right kind of effect. Creating such a work of art takes a great deal of finesse and attention to detail, which Calvino would call exactitude.

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E-Lit Example

Soundpoems by Jörg Piringer is a great example of Calvino’s exactitude.  In Soundpoems, animated letters, the smallest building blocks of language, combine in particular ways to create literature. According to Calvino, literature is the fulfillment of language. Piringer’s minimalist approach to poetry takes us to the fundamental units of language: letters and phonemes. His combination of programming and sound is exquisite: the skill required to create this type of animation is specialized and exact.

piringer__soundpoems

Furthermore, by breaking language down into its smallest building blocks, Piringer asks us to consider the arrangement of letters and sounds in a new way. We tend to take language for granted: our environments are saturated with written and spoken words. The combination of letters, sounds, and animation puts a whole new spin on the phrase “poetry in motion” and reminds us that language is alive, dynamic, and exact.

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