One of the major perks of being a Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist are the workshop weekends we attend, where we get to go to a totally different city and meet with inspiring and knowledgable individuals that can help us on our journey towards our final exhibition and showing off our digital projects!
Last workshop we visited London to spend the weekend over with Joel Lewis at Hellicar & Lewis; a craft, design and technology studio that specialises in engagement. Here, Joel opened our minds to the wonder that is open Frameworks!
Open Frameworks is ‘an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding’. Yes, creative coding, that’s a thing! On first glances oF can seem quite intimidating with it’s countless amounts of libraries, add-ons and documentation attached to it. For us, taking a look through it all, we couldn’t help but get immediately excited about everything that oF had to offer us, from projection mapping and facial recognition to graphic rendering and animation as well as so much more! But without some guidance it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all.
Lucky for us, Joel Lewis is an open Frameworks wizard and quickly squished any negative or fearsome thoughts we may initially have had by showing us some of the inspiring work that he and his team at Hellicar & Lewis had produced using this framework. They have created work for organisations such as an interactive arctic dome installation for Greenpeace, and commercial pieces for brands such as Nike with an interactive live broadcast for of Nike’s ‘Festival of Feel’. However, what impressed me the most was how they had used what the framework had to offer to create pieces of technology to help make people’s lives better; one major piece of work being Somability. This is a series of technology applications which included interaction such as visual amplification and rhythmic interaction, these put together promoted expressive movement and collaboration among people with profound and multiple learning difficulties.
Joel explained how using open Frameworks for his projects was like putting a puzzle together. Instead of having to get bogged down with the long-winded ‘codey’ and mathematical parts of the problem, all that has to be done is to search for the different functionalities that you wish to use; be that particle manipulation, beat detection, whatever you wish! Open Frameworks is likely to have the code already there for you to use, or at least have something close to what you need. Then all that’s left for you to do is the creative process, fitting the puzzle pieces together to create something new and utterly awesome! Of course, sometimes these puzzle pieces might not always fit snugly, the code may need to be tweaked to suit our projects needs so Joel led us through the simple steps of changing an application that had already be made. From importing libraries to manipulating the design and display of the application in relative to the mouse movement, we quickly realised that there was nothing to be intimated by with this framework, it was a matter of tweaking code that was already readily available for us and, overall, having fun!
Joel also emphasised his love for the open source community during the workshop. Gone are the days where people want to hide their work and keep their findings to themselves so as to become better than their peers; todays world is all about being open and sharing with the community! Every library and add-on within oF has been created by somebody and shared freely, asking for nothing in return. That might sound crazy but in reality it’s actually very clever! Not only do you help others (such as myself) to learn how to code by looking at examples and tweaking bits that are already there to suit my own needs, you also get the benefits of the community building upon your initial piece of code, fixing bugs or even making it better than you could have yourself. Heck, somebody might even see your open source code and offer you a job from it! An open source community is also a friendly one, one where people actually want to help others instead of simply focus on their own projects, and therefore the open Framework’s forum is always full of people willing to pass on their knowledge to others and help wherever they can; which is great news for us newbs!
After the weekend at Hellicar & Lewis I’m left feeling very excited about what open Frameworks and the open source community surrounding it has to offer and can’t wait to start piecing together my own puzzle!