In 2000, Rafael Lozano- Hemmer messed around with some computer programs, lcd screens and a dictionary and created ’33 Questions Per Minute’, an installation featuring 21 lcd screens set up in various places and positions that generate unique and absurd questions thirty-three times per minute. The text is sorted randomly together through a generator and appears on the screen just long enough for the viewer to read it, and a new one appears in time before anything can be pondered further. According to Hemmer’s website, the system would take up to 3,000 years for all randomized questions to be asked!
“This piece is loosely based on the long tradition of automatic poetry. It is full of anti-content. It attempts to underline our incapability to respond, faced with an electronic landscape made up of demands for attention. The piece provides useless and slightly frustrating machine irony. Tireless grammatical algorithms perform a romantic and futile attempt to pose questions that have never been asked.
The effect of the installation is destabilising due to its speed. The rhythm of questions excludes any rational answer. 33 questions a minute is the threshold of legibility : there is no time for reflection.”
As soon as I came across this, it reminded me of Justin’s work experimenting with arduinos a while back.
While the adventure in working on this project began months ago, I’ve finally sorted through the mess of files I made and put it all together in a nice handy zip folder. Using Arduinos, XBees, LCDs, and PHP, this project was challenging from a technical stand-point, but I think the project is now at a place where it can act as a foundation for a number of other projects I’m hoping to take on.
While the most-recent installation of this project was on view as part of SRSI, I’m already looking at the Arduino-TVOut library dreaming of what to do next.
Certainly, it’s no surprise that I really, really like working with text. I think there’s something about text that allows an accessibility to the work that isn’t always possible with an exclusively image-based presentation. So, while I had some loftier ambitious at the start of this project, it was actually the process of running into those walls that helped me to move this project into something that is more flexible and expansive (in the long-run).
I think there’s a lot of strong potential for this project — it’s possible for these to be battery-operated (though in my tests, you won’t get a hugely long run out of them), and even if you are tethered to a wall-based power source, you can still install these in a variety of situations. Being able to dynamically insert messages into public space is very fun and as this project continues to develop, it could provide the groundwork for a lot of new tactical activities.
Should you like to take on a similar project, I’ll detail the hardware/software requirements, code, and some general details below…
With some more silly mistakes behind me, I’m finally getting a better handle on how to break down the problems I run into and solve them a lot faster. I remember back in February, it seemed as though it was going to be impossible to actually get this wireless part happening, so I’m super relieved to know it’s at least partly working.
Also, there have been people asking for the code used in this project (in terms of PHP and Arduino scripts), I will upload them! I just haven’t had the time to go through and appropriately clean them up and comment them, so I’m not sure how useful they would be at this point. I just wanted to note that I will indeed be doing that soon though!
Although it’s been a while since I last worked on this project, things are continuing to move along. I finally assembled the Ladyada XBee adapters and successfully passed a message between the two XBees.
So, I’m not the best solderer and the first adapter I worked on suffered from an overusing tip on my soldering iron, which made heating up the solder with the tip of the iron next to impossible. There were also some issues (that remain unresolved) in terms of configuring the XBees, but thankfully that step seems to be unnecessary (at this point anyways).
I’ve made some really great progress on this ongoing Arduino + LCD project over the last couple of weeks — some of the two larger hurdles are now out of the way, the results of which you can see in the video above.
Since the video was shot, I’ve improved the PHP script some more to ensure that the text is properly broken up over the appropriate lines on the LCD and I’ve also removed those strange characters, which were resulting from newlines in the Twitter RSS feed, I think.
I haven’t posted for a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on the ongoing Arduino + LCD project, which is moving along towards connecting external data to be displayed on the LCD screen.
The last bit of time I’ve put into the project has been focused on printing text to the LCD screen from a text file. It’s an easy enough process using a PHP serial class that I mentioned in the last post, combined with PHP’s basic file manipulation functions.
The epic adventure with Arduino, LCDs, and PHP continues. I’ve finally made some progress in terms of breaking up the words and lines appropriately. It felt like a huge achievement, since I had been trying to figure out this line-break thing for quite a while.
You can check the majority of the progress in the video below, and all of the steps along the way are below! Don’t mind the nonsensical example texts. So first off, I figured out I needed to send Arduino very specific information to know where to line break.
My work on this ongoing LCD Arduino project has been continuing over the last couple of weeks, I just haven’t had the time to update appropriately.
So, I switched over my plan of attack from Processing to PHP. I figured this made sense for a couple reasons: first, I’m already very well-acquainted with PHP, I’ve written and hacked together a good amount of code in this language before and so I feel like I’ll spend a lot less time just figuring this out and more time actually doing; second, I don’t think I was really going to use Processing for its strengths, and instead, I was going to rely on its string functions, which pale in comparison to PHP.
I’ve made quite a lot of progress over the last week or so — all of which is detailed below. There are still some major problems I need to sort out, but for the most part things are about where I’d hoped them to be at this point.