While this recipe is probably mostly useless, I find the quirkiness of it to be rather endearing. Perhaps this recipe may not be completely ‘useless’ after all though – since it provides a means for me to personally document / organize my blog writings in an easily accessible area. At the same time, I still find it a little unsettling that IFTTT has to parse the content of my emails in order to create a blog post, despite how I have technically granted them access to do so. Regardless, the paranoid tinfoil hat-wearing girl in me cannot help but wonder: if a site like IFTTT has access to all these personal accounts and information, then wouldn’t that mean that its members are leaving themselves vulnerable to the potential compromise of sensitive information?
On APIs and Computer Art: Before reading Jer Thorp’s article I admit that I had very little knowledge on APIs and was hardly able to remember what it stood for. Now I understand that APIs are simply a means to transport data from one location to the next, to ‘bridge one piece of software to another’. The fact that this data can be outputted / conveyed in a number of different, meaningful forms demonstrates how APIs are conducive to many possibilities. Concerning computer art, it could be argued that APIs could be used as tools of art creation; with regard to Jim Campbell’s Formula for Computer Art, APIs similarly take a form of input, runs the input through processes, and produces some form of output that may be meaningful, useless, or something in between. Simply because an API is not conventionally viewed as a means to create artwork, does not mean that it cannot be used to do so at all. For instance, I consider Jer Thorp’s API that returns a list of people in his twitter feed, equivalent to the number of people killed in the most recent drone strike, to be a powerful piece of computer art that blends socio-political commentary with a hint of dark humor.
The recipe is reflective of Paranoid Android by Radiohead: when I tweet something, the system replies to me with “i may be paranoid but not an android.” To correspond to the lyrics, I chose to tweet “what’s that”:
At first I thought this would create an infinite loop of my account tweeting “i may be paranoid but not an android” every five minutes or so but I soon find out that was not the case. Either twitter has a system that blocks tweets that contain the same content as the tweet that came before or IFTTT considers “new tweets” as original tweets and not tweets spawned from IFTTT (highly possible that it’s the latter as they want to avoid a case of the infinite loop). But I still like the recipe, even though its sole function is to amuse myself with the inside joke of “haha, it’s like the machine tweeted back that it’s not an android to me after I asked what’s that.”
I experimented with more recipes, changing my tactics:
This one uses hashtags instead to enable specificity in what gets tweeted after. So for the new tweet, I specified it to have “#whatsthat” so that the action becomes tweeting “#imaybeparanoidbutnotanandroid”. I made another recipe to make use of this hashtag specificity, but this one did not work well. I made the trigger “#imaybeparanoidbutnotanandroid” and the action “#whatsthat” in order for the two recipes to bounce off each other, but the recipes did not react to each other as I had hoped. Meaning, the third recipe did not get triggered at all, probably because of the conjectures I made about “new tweets” in the previous paragraph. Oh well. Technology!
Some thoughts about IFTTT, Art and the API, and Formula for Computer Art: I like how these actions are scripted beforehand. There is a formula for it, which means anyone with the means can do it; they do not have to create the template, as there is already a template. Creativity is left to what they do with the template, which is provided by the API. Interesting thing is, the function of these API is to generate connections, just as art is the bridge between one thing to another, from creator to the viewer, from vision to execution, from idea to consequence.
This morning, I was pleasantly greeted with an optimistic text saying “Mostly Clear today! With a high of 84F and a low of 72F.” I think the best part about this, besides the fact that I did not forget to check the weather for once, is that I got a taste of optimism so early in my day. In this regard, I think IFTTT is a beautiful way of customizing my API use to its fullest.
According to Jer Thorp in his article “Art and the API”, APIs are already architectural feats to get data from one place to another. However, I think IFTTT takes this architecture to another level by breaking down the walls between APIs and allowing a person to reorganize the way they send and receive data. In addition to that, the design of the site is soooooooo user-friendly! I only have to click a few buttons in a few seconds to link my apps, and the text is really big to tell you “THIS STEP IS SUPER EASY”. It’s just one of those “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” ideas.
Then again, when I compare IFTTT to the generic examples in Jim Campbell’s Formula for Computer Art, it’s pretty clear that IFTTT is a straightforward input-output design. However, what makes this so genious is that IFTTT’s output reaches every single person on a personal level through the APIs that basically define our networking world.
I also think IFTTT has a long way to go because many great APIs are still missing from the list (snapchat anyone?), and the action and trigger options are still relatively narrow unless you know how to customize RSS feeds. That said, I just joined and I am already hugely optimistic about what this may become in the future.
My recipe connects the Tumblr I use as an art documentation site and my Facebook. Every time I post on the Tumblr page, a Facebook post with a link to the Tumblr post is generated on my wall. This union is utilitarian; it is an attempt to make uploading work to multiple places easier.
I find The Formula for Computer Art humorous. Acknowledging that the computational/generative process is often overlooked, the formula makes commentary on the importance of the creative process and not simply the trigger and result of an artwork. Attention must be given to the properties of the media when creating the piece, and this applies to computer art just as much as any other genre of work. The formula looks at the process of creation as a high level flow chart, the way a computer itself sees a task. I see this progression in If This Then That. The service is literally trigger, connections hidden to the user/viewer, result. IFTTT is a tendon connecting structure (content) and triggered force. Art and the API illustrates how these tendons connect musculature to skeleton in a big picture. The article illustrates how connections take form and generate content with impact, reaching masses through tributaries of information and purpose.
On Tumblr there are typically three flavors of users: Creators, Consumers and Curators. For most of my time on that platform I’ve been more of the latter two, even though I myself am very heavily involved in creative endeavors. I figured that it would be a good time for me to increase my Tumblr’s quality by putting my own original content on there instead of simply regurgitating and recycling what is already on there. And with my new recipe, I am able to easily and effortlessly share my photography without the hassle of opening up new posts, etc.
While APIs are largely developed for functionality, it’s also interesting how it can be used as a tool for art. As Jer Thorp wrote, APIs are essentially “conduits for the mash-up, long a preferred creative tool for media artists. Instead of producing a single mash-up, though, a functional API makes a permanent link between two applications, one whose pitch and timbre can change as the data themselves are updated.” It points to an interesting wave of art unseen of nor so easily possible before–that is, the remix culture. Even if its very basis can be (cynically?) broken down into input-processing-output as Jim Campbell did, the implications we can draw from the simple arrangements of what those components are can already say a lot. It is simply up to the human modifying the machinery to figure out how best to portray his intentions with it.
I also can’t help but think of a quote from Bruce Sterling’s essay on the rise of the New Aesthetic with digital media and remix culture:
“Our human, aesthetic reaction to the imagery generated by our machines is our own human problem. We are the responsible parties there. We can program robots and digital devices to generate images and spew images at our eyeballs. We can’t legitimately ask them to tell us how to react to that…..You can have all the machinic imagery out of CERN that you want, but the question is: what does it mean, how does it feel, what you do with it, how can you create? Is is beautiful, ugly, worthy, worthless, how is that good or bad, how does it change us?”
Sterling, Bruce. “An Essay on the New Aesthetic.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 02 Apr. 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2013. <http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2012/04/an-essay-on-the-new-aesthetic/>.