A constructed language.

For my Master’s dissertation project in the New Media program at the Tokyo University of the Arts, I quickly devised a small constructed language, something that would be a tool for me to explore language itself in abstraction. Before I undertook the subject of human communication languages, I had been researching programming language design, and in that process came across a paradigm that was new to me, called concatenative. This paradigm is mathematically very elegant, structurally very simple, and in superficial appearance very similar to human written languages. I thought I could use it as a basis for a simple human language, and so I took the main ideas of it and applied them to my design.

My language is not really a language in most traditional senses, if you compare it to existing languages. It does not comprise a lexicon, nor does it have any inherent writing system, or phonetic system. It consists of just a set of rules, and they can be applied in many ways in any pertinent medium (written, oral, electric, etc.,) and is purposely unspecific about other things. It is, if you will, a framework for communication, or a protocol, more than a language as they’re most often thought about.

[…]

A ‘metaclass’.

Kanji metaclass posterEspañol

I was invited by the center I formerly studied Japanese at (Ceija, here in Santiago) to give a short workshop. It was an open invitation, as I could suggest what the theme for it would be. I decided long ago that I’m no good as a teacher, so I almost rejected the request, but finally decided to propose a non-traditional program in which I would not be a teacher but just someone who’s been studying longer (a senpai, as a Japanese person would put it,) and turn the classroom into a more level place for discussion and discovery. The themes to discuss would be the Japanese kanji writing system, and self-study. I called it kanji metaclass, loosely using the ‘meta’ prefix the same way it’s used in the word ‘metadata’: that is, to suggest recursiveness, learning about learning.

Although I haven’t found the teacher in me, I do think about education a great deal. I’ve been teaching myself lots of things since I can remember. I am largely frustrated by the way in which education has been institutionalized. And I work developing ludo-educational software.

I strongly believe in intrinsic motivation as key to learning. Extrinsic motivation would be grades, rewards and punishments; that is, how most schools nowadays work. Intrinsic motivation would be doing something because it is its own reward, or because it leads naturally to our reward. Put another way, I think that mainstream education teaches us to hate study and learning, by making those the hurdles we need to hop over to get to the carrot they put in front of us instead (or to get away from the whip behind.) But, of course, there’s no better stimulus to learning than just wanting to know.

So this class I’m about to finish offering this week reflects my views on education at large, and experimental as the format is (for someone inexperienced like me,) it’s been, from my point of view, a great success. My main priority was to make everyone curious, invested, and in charge of their own learning. I got everyone enjoyably (even excitedly) discussing varied subtopics, once they got comfortable enough with me and one another (that is, by the second session.) The flow of each session is almost entirely freeform, it leading wherever the discussion takes us. I prepared beforehand a long document full of little packets of (largely personal, even anecdotal) information, though, which I use as a resource to plant new ideas and questions. It still remains to see how this influence impacts their learning, but first I just felt the need to impact their mentality.

So that is one of the things I’ve been up to. And to end this post, here’s a little bullet-point manifesto I wrote for myself, to keep me focused on my goals for this workshop:

  1. The classroom is a place for active discussion, exploration, and exchange of knowledge and ideas by and for all.
  2. Our themes are Japanese kanji, self-study, and the intersection of the two.
  3. When leaving the classroom, study has just begun.
  4. A student questions, asks, errs, researches, teaches themselves, shares their knowledge.
  5. The teacher is but a guide.
  6. If one must teach, teach that which is elementary and general.
  7. Better than teaching is suggesting.
  8. Better than suggesting is asking.
  9. Better than asking is listening.
  10. Anything can be debated.

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Bye bye Pixelpost.

Spambots were having a field day with my neglected piclog Pixelpost installation (old picture blogging CMS, not updated in several years), and it was getting hit so ferociously that it was hogging resources and my host complained. So I took it down. But since I have a few blog posts that link to pictures over there, I fixed it. I basically scrapped Pixelpost, downloaded the database, and implemented a super simple version of it that uses YAML files as a database and PHP. And no commenting, since it wasn’t getting anything other than truckloads of spam anyway. The design and all, I couldn’t be bothered to update. I did, however, change the URLs to make them a tiny bit prettier, taking care to redirect links written in the old format.

The Japanese countryside.

I just came back from Japan, after spending six months improving my Japanese there at a language school and generally enjoying being in such a culturally interesting environment. I made tons of friends, Japanese and from countless other countries; it was extremely stimulating.

The place I lived at was a small city called Ueda, located in a valley in the mountainous Nagano prefecture. If you asked someone from one of the bigger cities in Japan, they’d say where I lived was what they call inaka, the countryside. But would you ask the people who had lived there their whole lives, or in one of the surrounding, smaller cities and towns, they would say no, that’s not inaka. Of course, me coming from a pretty large city, the place was small and cozy; refreshingly so. I started using Vine —the short video recording app— during this trip, so here are some of the best ‘moving photos’ I captured from those places.

This blog now looks different.

I have made this blog look different from how it looked yesterday. It is also used somewhat different. I pressed many keys during several days to make this happen.

The design is a relic from 2010 which I never finished implementing, because back then I didn’t know much PHP. Now I decided to finish it, for the large part eschewing WordPress’s redundant, confusing, ill-documented and inflexible functions, which made me give up that time, and rolling my own code. Also for the first time I’ve tasted what it’s like not pulling so many hairs in the process of getting letters and boxes where you want them to appear on the screen, thanks to Less, an alternative to plain CSS.

Below is a picture of how this blog no longer looks. And here is the whole, long first page.

Charade.

The game I posted last about, Ascension, was made by talented game author Jonathan Whiting.

I will ramble. Please forgive.

One day, on a whim, I contacted a few fellow game makers to see if they would be interested in taking part in a little experiment. Following up on my whims has been my modus operandi since I started making games, so this just seemed appropriate. A few caught on, and what we set out to do was make a game each, and then switch around the credits, so each of us would release a game that was not of our respective creation. […]

New portfolio page.

When agj​.cl first went live, the only thing that was there was my old portfolio website, made in Flash. It was my first experience with actionscript, back in 2007. I took it down a while ago because it had grown too outdated, and since it was so hackishly conceived, I wasn’t planning on updating it. Well, I’ve finally made my new portfolio page. Things have changed enough that only two of the works I selected for it remain from the old Flash portfolio.

I’ve archived the older one (in Spanish) for posterity.

Tenth twice.

I forgot to report back then, but my game, Viewpoints, got tenth place in the competition it was created for, TIGSource’s Cockpit Competition. Considering that there were 41 entries, that’s not too bad.

More surprising is that Sheets, the game I entered in TIGSource’s latest, the Adult/Educational Competition, also got me in tenth place. This is so surprising due to my making the game in a rush to get something in at all, and it being mostly just a ‘choose your own adventure’ interactive story. More so, because there were a few very good games that didn’t even make it into the top ten, such as Gregory Weir’s Silent Conversation. All I can say is that I got lucky, this time.

Cities of Jem Cohen.

I had the opportunity to hear Jem Cohen talk three times in the past three days. The first was a supposed ‘master class’, which was really just a talk, where he was accompanied by Guy Picciotto (of Fugazi) and Todd Griffin, both musicians. The talk was called Another kind of music, and it was about the way he approaches filmmaking in relation to sound and music. One of his insights was that making films can be a bit like making music; there’s rhythm, texture, and other sensory elements in the mix, beside the more evident aspect of narrative that is most films’ core. He also said that the way he shoots his footage is akin to a musician’s improvisation.

He showed some of his short films/videos, or fragments of them. One of those was Little flags, which will give you an idea of what he does. The truth is, I went to this talk not knowing anything about this man, other than him being a filmmaker, and his link to music. For, you see, he seems to often work with musicians, or simply make sound a vital part of his work. The day before that talk, I was seeing Avi Mograbi’s Z32 while one of Jem’s works was being screened elsewhere, called Ciudad de México por azar, with simultaneous live music by the aforementioned musicians, plus DJ Rupture and Andy Moor. I didn’t know this event was taking place, or I would have been there, especially after seeing Chain the evening after the talk, which was already a day too late anyway. Chain is a feature-length, sharp, documentary-like view on the culture of consumerism. After the screening of that movie, he was there to answer questions and talk a bit about it.

He’s here in Chile because of Sanfic, the Santiago International Film Festival, which has been my chance to see some new films, and also hear the directors talk about them, which is quite an interesting experience. The final time I saw Jem was after a showing of a few of his shorts, including Lost book found, most likely the highlight among the bunch. In this short, he tells his story of what it was like being a push cart vendor in the city, and his discovery of a notebook that was filled with a strictly categorized, but seemingly nonsensical, list of numbers, places, things, situations related to the city. I asked him whether the story was real, to which he said it partially was. He refused to say if the book ever existed.