Author Archive

May 4, 2012

Are Internet Memes creative?

by nketas

Yes! that’s right. The title says it all. This post is about the all ubiquitous memes. (what else do you expect from me!). I have been saving this one up for last.

Example of multipanel memeSo What are memes?
A Meme is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.

The word meme is a shortening of mimeme “something imitated”, from μιμεῖσθαι (mimeisthai), “to imitate”, from μῖμος mimos “mime”)[4] and it was coined by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976) as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. [Source:Wikipedia]

Internet memes are no different. Internet is nothing but the mixture of cultures in a microcosm and memes the sign language of this subculture.
Ahemm! …Creativity?

Alright! I am getting to it! Mentioned earlier the language of memes is universal. Just like so many creative things are possible with writing, the same applies to memes. Memes are nothing but a type of art or sequential art. Just like comics, memes give a visual appearance of something while leaving the rest to imagination to create a emotion.

world's most interesting meme Meme’s can be anything from statement of a fact, satire, wordplay, philosophy or remediation of textual content or context. It is always interesting to see how people use memes and how they are perceived in different situations. Even interesting is the mind of an average meme “artist” and how common place things can be converted to something very funny and interesting. Doesn’t that make it creative? if you think satire is creative, then memes are. If you think funny wordplay is an act of creativity, the same applies to memes.

So what makes a meme?

Even if they are just images and text, The process of meme making is an interesting process. Based on my “expertise”, I am able to identify a few aspects of meme.

Image: Choosing an image is everything in a meme. The image and the context in which it appears or presented sets up the theme for the entire experience. The meme dictates the usage, situation, context and most importantly verbiage. The image is like the chekov’s gun in many aspects.

Yo Dawg!Verbiage: As much as an image is important, the verbiage is the quintessential part of a meme. The choice of words have to correspond to the central theme dictated by the image. The sentence structure has to resemble the original pattern and finally the content should be apt. It can represent the premises or a fact or any wordplay. The possibilites are endless. If you get it right you will almost always be complimented with “excellent adverbiage bro!” comment in the internet forums.

Context: a meme-maker has to understand the context of the meme. If not it completely spoils the experience. You need proof. go here:

Reproducibility: The ability to reproduce or repurpose a meme is very important. If a image with a sentence structure can be repurposed for multiple situations, it will have a longer shelf life and sometime considered a very versatile and creative as well.

and finally LOLability: Laugh out loud. According to me, anything that can emote a user and make him laugh or smile is a winner. One of the major factor of meme-making is the ability of the meme to generate laughter.

U mad bro? now go make a meme about me and vent your anger. See it helps anger management too. If you found this post interesting and funny, leave a few memes in the comments will ya.

Interesting Links:
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April 22, 2012

Origami:A science with many applications

by nketas

Origami is the traditional technique of Japanese paper folding. Modern science agrees there’s a lot they couldn’t do with out this ancient art form. Innovations developed in pursuit of the art find application in multiple fields, including applied mathematics and engineering. One application is the use of folding algorithms to pack air bags

Can a piece of paper save your life? You probably don’t know one modern invention was derived from the science of origami, the ancient art of paper folding. “Science, technology, space, automotive, medicine — all these different fields have benefited from origami. Believable?  How can folding papers have these effects?

“There has been some testing that shows that after students have done origami, that they have a higher appreciation or understanding of various mathematical geometric concepts.It’s an ancient science that uses mathematics for modern day miracles. The twists and bends in an origami turtle may just make their way into your cell phone’s circuit board. And how can a paper scorpion actually save your life? The origami algorithms used to fold bugs are the same ones behind the invention of the air bags in our car.

An algorithm that origami artists had come up with for the design of insects was the right algorithm to give the creases for flattening an airbag. So that has now been adopted into airbag simulation code, and presumably automotive engineers are now using those codes to design airbags.Cal Tech says the applications are endless. From consumer programs to the space program, the options have yet to unfold.

April 22, 2012

How are comics a metaphor for screen interfaces, whether that’s games, multimedia, or the Web?

by nketas

I started reading the books ‘Understanding Comics’ & ‘Reinventing Comics’ as part of my masters project on designing comics. I found that the book became relevant not only to that world, but first to interface design, then to web design, then to game design. And as I talked to more and more people , I found basically that I was becoming very interested in it and that people in their respective fields were becoming interested in the book. The great irony of course is that Understanding Comics doesn’t mention computers once.

When I wanted to know more I came across a video of  2 hour long interview from 2002. Here’s an excerpt of interview witth Scott McCloud .

McCloud: Most people’s ideas of how the book was relevant to digital media weren’t the same ideas as mine. They focused on certain chapters of the book dealing with the ways we process certain imagery. For instance, in chapter two I talk about the combination of very cartoony characters in very realistic environments. This was an idea that a fellow named Bumgardner picked up and created a chat interface called The Palace. He’s been quoted as saying that pretty much came from an idea in Understanding Comics.

It’s strange, that wasn’t really where my focus was. My focus was back at the beginning of the book where I talk about definition. I was interested in finding out how comics would evolve in a digital environment. And I was finding some very exciting stuff when you take that idea of comics and drop it into a new petri dish.

But this wasn’t what people were picking up from the book. They were talking about the nature of cartoons, and they were talking about the combination of words and pictures. That one comes up a lot. And they were comparing the experience of surfing the Web to the alchemy that occurs between the panels.

Sims: I recently had an experience where I was trying to explain a Sunday comic to my 3-year-old daughter, and it was a two-row Sunday comic. And I understand where the geography was when someone on the lower panel looked to the left and they were actually looking at something that in the layout of the page is in the upper right. But it did take some time to explain it to someone 3 years old. And it made me think that there’s some complicity between the comics and a reader, that we’re going to start at a baseline, that you’re going to understand this much, then I don’t have to explain it to you again.

McCloud: Yes, it is a deeply collaborative art, even for a very sophisticated user. It still requires a much more conscious participation than, say, film. Film also requires a series of still images, but we string those images together involuntarily. Even somebody who is not at all sophisticated in film will still see that motion.

Whereas somebody who isn’t steeped in the protocol of comics, will approach that page as a collection of still images until they understand that as you move across that page, you’re actually moving through time.

What’s interesting is that printed comics require a fairly sophisticated protocol. They operate on this idea that as you move left to right or up to down, you’re moving forward in time.

But you have to actually have a pretty sophisticated notion of when to go down, when to go to the right. The panels are all sort of jumbled together. And it’s easy when you’re looking at the Sunday page. When you’re looking at a lot of modern comics, though, the panels are in almost a jigsaw puzzle fashion, and you have to have a pretty complex understanding of where to go next.

The funny thing is that in studying comics as this simple idea of sequential art. I found that there were a lot of comics that predate print. Of course, obviously not called comics. But, if you take comics as this idea of placing one image after another to tell a story, a kind of temporal map, really, that as you’re moving across the space you’re moving through time and using that to tell some sort of story, you can actually find examples of that going back. …

Sims: The Bayeux Tapestry.

McCloud: The Bayeux Tapestry, Trajan’s Column, certain Egyptian wall paintings, not hieroglyphics—people often misunderstand me there, I’m not saying hieroglyphics are comics—and pre-Columbian picture manuscripts are very much comics. And the more you look at them and actually read the things, you can see that they’re using the exact same visual language. The only things missing are really quite superficial, things like rectangular panel borders and word balloons—although even word balloons go back hundreds of years. But the funny thing is that the complex reading protocol that print demands from us in comics is absent in all the pre-print versions. Because in all these proto-comics, these ancient comics, the idea was much, much simpler than that. Just that whatever moment you were on in time, the next moment was right next to it. You mentioned the Bayeux Tapestry, that’s just one long straight line. Trajan’s Column, you move in a spiral up that stone column. In pre-Columbian picture manuscripts, it’s a little jumbled, but what you actually do is move in a backward zigzag, all the way back through this long screenfold, really something like a mural, although it can be folded like a book.

They approached this simple idea of sequential art with a very open-minded and simple approach of simply saying, if space equals time, then the more time you need, the more space you give it. So Trajan’s Column, if you wanted to tell a story ten times as long, you’d need a column ten times as high. Or the Bayeux Tapestry would have to stretch all the way across Europe if you wanted to tell a story that long.

But there’s a limitation to physical matter. There’s not a limitation to the length of these constructs in a digital space. And you can actually reclaim some of that magic from pre-print comics in a digital space, get the best of both worlds. Because I think in some ways we actually betray the strength of comics when we chop it up, slice it, and dice it to fit into these flat and rectangular wood pulps we call books. I think in some ways we’ve actually done the idea of comics a disservice by cutting them to fit.


April 22, 2012

Typoflat – experimental typefaces & then some

by nketas

I came across this website when one of my hipster friend insisted that I take a look at it. (I would mention his name, but you’ve probably never heard of him). TypoFlat is a personal & experimental project of designer Branislav S. Cirkovic ( In his own words,  The idea of TypoFlat  is to have this free flow of creation where no clients or money are involved, just a pure passion for creation and form experimentation. Now that we have the official statement, Its time to rant about why i like this particular website and how it relates. This experimental project is an attempt to validate an idea which emphasizes one view on creativity. The idea of creation as a free flow process without secondary or external constraints. This is also resonates in one of McCloud’s famous quote: “Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts: survival and reproduction

I wish Mr.Cirkovic all the very best.

April 21, 2012

Understand Comics

by nketas

Scott McCloud is author of Understanding Comics, a comic book about comics. He’s an evangelist for comics as a valid literary form (as more than pulp and kids’ stuff) and his admiring fans include a laundry list of superstar cartoonists.

Chrome Comic page

Chrome Comic page

Scott McCloud has an entire theory of “visual iconography”which, in it’s most basic form, implies that the more visually realistic and concrete something is, the more instantaneously we “receive” the message. Humans receive communication with pictures. According to some cognitive scientist Our minds have some kind of sick parallel processing power to instantly understanding images. As visuals become more abstract (i.e. letters, words) the more time we spend “perceiving” the communication. We have to compose letters into words and transform words into thoughts.Being aware of this continuum, and the inherent trade-offs, allows us to think about communicating ideas more effectively. Take another look at the Chrome Comic and observe where McCloud uses words and where he uses images. Watch one of Steve Job’s keynotes and notice the use of concrete images on his slides.

Toward the end of the book McCloud discusses the progression from a novice comic artist to a master of the art and the stages which lie between. This progression holds true in software engineering and design as well. There was one set of panels, in particular, which hit home a home run: “The MASTERY of one’s medium is the degree to which that percentage [of how much a finished project represents the creator’s original vision] can be INCREASED, the degree to which the artist’s ideas SURVIVE the journey.”Software is the same way! How often have you envisioned a program, algorithm, user interface, arthictecture, web site, etc. and built it only to realize it represents a fraction of what you originally envisioned? This is true of mastering many crafts: writing, designing, public speaking, teaching, … it goes on. Mastery is exhibited by how much of the creator’s vision survives the journey through production.

Now go read :

April 16, 2012

A compilation of thoughts on the trade-off between usability, learning and creatvity

by nketas

usabilty vs learning

I often read comments across various usability and interaction design mail lists discussing the pro’s and con’s of user testing.One argument that seems to come up again and again is the impact of user testing on the creative process. Experienced designers and user experience professionals frequently debate whether user testing actually stifles the design process and hinders true creativity in design.Take navigation for example… Usable site navigation is considered so important that there is an industry of roles dedicated to it throughout the development of a site: Interaction designers, information architects, usability specialists, accessibility experts, or Product manager or Ninjas.. .but wait, back to my point about user testing verses straight up it possible to produce creative, functional and usable designs that haven’t involved some type of ‘user intervention’?
I think so. But I do think it depends on the skill of the designer, the user and the type of site. The only. Creativity as discussed in class based on <insert the name of the paper we read in class that I forgot> involves both innovation and understanding of the process which directly relates to expertise and circumstance.
Mike Eisenberg’s work on SchemePaint. Eisenberg wanted the artist to be able to interleave programming and direct manipulation. In SchemePaint, you could draw something by hand, then store the result in a variable to manipulate in a loop. Or you could write some code to tesselate some graphical object, then add tweaks by hand. It was beautiful. The work that Mike did on SchemePaint led to his wonderful work on HyperGami, a CAD system for origami, which was the start of his Craft Technology group. That’s the group from which Leah who did the LilyPad
Bret’s video which I have have talked about in lengths in class is a a simlar system asking, “Wouldn’t this be great for learners?” I bet it could be, but we’d have to try it out. Thats what we are doing with our class project. We will let you know soon. At one point in his lecture, Bret says, “Why should I have to simulate the computer in my head?” Because that’s the point of understanding computer science. Bret’s system could evolve into a powerful visualization system, and visualization can be used to lead to real understanding, but it isn’t easy to design the visualization and context such that learning occurs.
The problem is that visualization is about making information immediate and accessible, but learning is about changes in the mind — invisible associations and structures. Sometimes good usability makes it easier to make these associations and structures. Tools like Scratch and Alice increase usability in one direction (e.g., syntax) while still asking students to make an effort toward understanding (e.g., variables, loops, and conditionals).
A pilot study where students would lay out a system according to certain characteristics.where they would then manipulate the system to achieve some goal, like a given flow rate at a particular point in the system. When Noel asked the pilot students if they gained any new insights about the equations, one student actually said, “What equations?” They literally didn’t see the equations, just the particular value they were focusing on. The system was highly usable for modeling, but not for learning.A new system, where students could lay out a model, and values from the model were immediately available in an equation space. To get the flow rate, the student would have to lay out the equations for themselves. They would still solve the problem by manipulating the physical representation in order to get the right flow rate, and the system would still do all the calculations — but the students would have to figure out how to compute the flow rate. The system became much harder to use. But now, students actually did learn, and better than students in a comparison group.
Bret’s system is insightful and may have some terrific ideas for helping learning. I’m not convinced that they’re new ideas yet, but an old idea in a new setting (e.g., JavaScript) can be powerful. I worry that we get too entranced by improvements in usability. In the end, learning is in the student, not in the system.

March 7, 2012


by nketas

Computing Machinery and Intelligence, written by Alan Turing more than half a century ago (in 1950), is a seminal paper about the topic of Artificial Intelligence. The paper introduced a concept of what is now known as the Turing Test for determining if a machine is considered intelligent.

Computing Machinery and Intelligence concerned about the question “Can machines think?” Because the meaning of the words “machine” and “think” may be unambiguous, Turing proposed to replace the question with a more specific question: “Can machines win the imitation game?” Definition of the imitation game and supporting reasons is given later in the paper.

The Imitation Game

By playing the imitation game, as the name suggests, a machine has to imitate human’s behavior so that it cannot be distinguished from a human.

There are three participants involved in the game: a man (A), a woman (B) and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. They are in isolated rooms and not allowed to see, touch or talk to one another. Communication is done via a telepath printer (that is by typewritten texts). The interrogator asks questions and the man and woman answer. The interrogator’s object is to determine who the man is and who the woman is. The man’s object is to pretend to be the woman to trick the interrogator. The woman’s object is helping the interrogator by trying to show the truth that she is a woman.

After describing the game, Turing asked, “What will happen if a machine takes part of A in this game?” That is, the machine should try to pretend to be a human so that the interrogator decide wrongly as often as A is played by a human.

Turing argued that if the machine plays so well that the interrogator decides wrongly, it should be considered intelligent.

Critique of the new problem

Turing described a strong objection to the Imitation Game: it is weighted too heavily against the machine (conversely, if the man were to pretend to be the machine he would clearly make a very poor showing). Could machines carry out something, which should be described as thinking, but which is very different from what a man does?

Digital computers

Turing also concerned about which kinds of machines we should consider. He points out that machines should be digital computers instead of things like clones (while still man-made). (Digital computers are machines that manipulate binary digits and write it into the memory using simple rules). Turing supported the use of digital computers because they already existed at the time the paper is written. Another reason is that digital computers are “universal”.That is, if a digital computer can do something, every sufficiently powerful digital machine can.

Contrary views to the main question

After clearly stating the question and its conditions, Turing discussed about its nine common objections. He noted that the original question “Can machines think?” would be too meaningless to deserve a discussion but cannot be neglected.

1. Theological Objection

The objection states “Thinking is a function of man’s immortal soul that God has given. Hence no machine can think”.

“In attempting to construct such machines,” Turing opposed this objection in theological terms, “we should not be irreverently usurping His power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children: rather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing mansions for the souls that he creates.”. At the end, he said, “With our present knowledge, such an argument appears futile”.

2. ‘Heads in the Sand’ Objection

The objection states, “The consequences of machines thinking would be too dreadful. Let us hope and believe that they cannot do so.”

Turing gave his points that this objection was connected to the theological argument and was not substantial enough to require refutation.

3. Mathematical Objections

Based on mathematical results such as Gödel’s incompleteness theorem and results in theory of computation by Turing himself, the objection states that there are limits that computers can never achieve.

Turing argued that although there are limitations to the power of computers, no such limitations apply to the human intellect. Moreover, he believed that those with Mathematical objections would mostly accept the imitation game as a basis for discussion.

4. Argument from Consciousness

This objection is based on the belief that machines can never experience emotions or feelings like a human can.

Turing replies by saying that we have no way to know if any individual other than ourselves experiences emotions. He then provided a convincing example that helps persuade people with this objection.

5. Arguments from Various Disabilities

This objection states there are many things that a machine will never be able to do. For example, be kind, resourceful, beautiful, friendly, have initiative, etc.

Turing noted, “No support is usually offered for these statements” and chose a few things to answer:

Machines cannot make mistakesWe can program a machine to pretend to make mistakes.

Machine cannot be the subject of its own thought: Turing said, “A machine undoubtedly can be its own subject matter. It may be used to help in making up its own programmes, or to predict the effect of alterations in its own structure. By observing the results of its own behaviour it can modify its own programmes so as to achieve some purpose more effectively”.

Machines cannot have much diversity of behavior: Turing notedthat, with enough storage capacity, a computer could behave in avery large number of different ways.

6. Lady Lovelace’s Objection: Machine cannot originate anything. It can only do what we order it to perform.

Turing replied that computers could still surprise humans when the consequences of different facts are hard to recognize.

7. Argument from continuity in the nervous system:

The nervous system is continuous. Therefore, a discrete-state machine like a digital computer can never mimic the behavior of the nervous system.

Turing argued that discrete-state systems could simulate analog systems to a reasonable degree of accuracy if it is given enough computing power.

8. Argument from the informality of behaviour:

We can predict the future behavior of a discrete-state machine because it is governed by laws. Therefore, it is not truly intelligent.

Turing replies to this objection by stating that the machine behavior would become very difficult to predict.

9. Argument from Extra-sensory perception (ESP):

Human have ESP such as telepathy, clairvoyance, etc that are still beyond scientific light. Therefore, machines have difficulty, if not impossible, to mimic ESP behavior of human.

Turing suggests that we can control ESP by something such as the telepathy-proof room.

Learning Machines

Turing proposed to create a learning machine that imitates a child’s mind rather than an adult mind. He believed that there is little mechanism in the child brain so that it could be easily programmed.

The machine consists of two parts, the child program and the education process. The learning process may be regarded as a search for a form of behaviour, which will satisfy the teacher.


“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done”, said Turing. 50 years has passed, Turing’s paper is really an important point in the field of Artificial Intelligence.

February 16, 2012

Search of the Holey Mail

by nketas

Team joust Kidding
Joust Not Any Studio

proudly present

Search of the Holey Mail

SOTHM is a  historic and epic reenactment  of a bike jousting battle from the days of the yore.

Team members:

Ceara Byrne, Eric Esposito, Gregoire Tronel, Hyung-Min Sam Le, Jessica Brazelton, Jennifer Milam , Nachiketas Ramanujam, Yilin Elaine Liu