dechoes – visualization/manufactory

Infinite Cities Generator

This project is based on Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities, a novel which counts the tales of the travels of Marco Polo, told to the emperor Kublai Khan. “The majority of the book consists of brief prose poems describing 55 fictitious cities that are narrated by Polo, many of which can be read as parables or meditations on culture, language, time, memory, death, or the general nature of human experience.” (Thanks wikipedia)

What interested me about this novel, was how much it could be assimilated to generative storytelling and big datasets. I noticed as I read on, how closely the author was following specific rule sets, and how those same rules could be used to generate a vast amount of new stories. I was fascinated by the complexity, detail and visual quality of each city that Calvino created and decided to create more of my own.

I started by decomposing the structure of his storytelling and separated his individual texts into multiple categories, such as Title, Introduction, Qualifiers, Actions, Contradictions and Morals. I sampled actual thoughts,  sentences and names from his book but also added my own to the mix. I programmed my Infinite Cities Generator in p5.js using Kate Compton’s Tracery (Thanks Kate!).

Over the course of the next few weeks, I would like to complexify my rule sets as well as create generative maps for each new city, as a way to offer a visual escape into them. In addition to that, I would like to generate pdfs and actually print the book as a way to have a physical and believable artifact by the end of the project.

Below are a couple samples of the kind of stories my Infinite Cities Generator can create:

In addition to this project, I have been working on a 3D map experience, retracing all the places I have walked to in an entire week while dealing with grief. I walk when I have things to deal with or think through, and that week I walked an average of 2h a day. I’m thinking of displaying this instead of/or in addition to the Infinite Cities Generator. It would be displayed on the LookingGlass as a 3D video playing in real time, with the camera traveling on the exact paths I did.



And in addition to THAT, I have been slaving over my thesis project Dedications I-V, a volumetric documentary on storytelling in the context of progressive memory loss. It will be taking the form of five individual chapters on memory, with five different protagonists. Although I can’t really show it just yet, this is where all of my energy has been put into.


(i’m overcompensating because i haven’t produced anything real in this class yet — whoopsie)