a series of tubes… or something


I still haven’t been able to read Uncanny Valley because, well, I assume it will feel a little too close to home, but it felt like a funny bit of synchronicity to come across this newsletter about Anna Weiner’s writing on friction (h/t Angela!) shortly after talking about friction in a UI process with a friend. in talking with the friend, it struck me how a lot of my work in “product design” was about reducing friction in processes that no one wanted to do.

no one at my last company wanted to be processing customer payment information at all, but maybe we could reduce some friction so that it would take 5 minutes instead of 6. Anna in Support would still be working the same hours to pay her same bills, but maybe she could process 10 or 20 more payments a day, maybe losing fewer customers to churn. maybe in a year if her numbers were good she’d ask for a promotion, maybe she’d get it and get to spend less time on processing customer payment information. when the quest for less friction and better KPIs is totally endless and uninspiring, you take the small, human wins you can get, especially when the quest is paired with company culture that is competitive, antagonistic, and aggressive.

in the case of this friend who I spoke to this week, who is making an educational game, it felt like such a treat to talk about the problem of reducing the boring friction so that the players could get to the fun part faster. the flip side to that is that there might even be good friction – not just good friction in the sense of experiences that are intentionally difficult or uncomfortable as part of the game’s play and teaching mechanic, but also in the sense of safe, constructive conversations about how to get the game to become something successful. how strange to have the pleasure to choose your moments of friction, both in your process and in your product!

I think I want more good friction, more safe and intentional friction.


omg! Everest Pipkin‘s megaspreadsheet of resources for games and interactive projects is now a fancy directory with stackable filters you can use to find exactly what you need. what a gift! there’s even a randomizer if, say, you just want to get through a creative block by trying something new. love it! it makes use of Leafy, which also looks like a neat way to turn a Google spreadsheet into a sortable table for the web.

u all know I love a bit of color theory. this post by Omar Shehata is a practical deep dive into some methodology for creating black and white images that draws its inspiration from how our eyes actually work and makes use of a lovely little GLSL sandbox. it’s a worth-your-time meditation on the messiness of designing things for humans and our imperfect bodies, rather than looking for “truth.”

"ALWAYS DELIVER QUALITY" displayed with a 3d staircase effect.

why not spice up your text with a little CSS perspective? it might even be a cute way to do some trippy graphic design without messing up your text too much for screen readers or web crawlers. check it out.

superstar Julia Evans has drafted a little choose-your-own-adventure game where you play at debugging a computer networking problem. it’s a narrative game that makes use of Twine, which is to say, you don’t need to feel like an expert programmer to role play the debugging experience. would love to see more people use narrative tools to teach technical processes!

educational opportunities!

Promotional image for SVA's design writing and research summer intensive.

SVA is running a 2-week online intensive on design writing and research this June. writing and storytelling are imo extremely underrated and under-taught skills for designers and artists, and this program looks like a great way to beef up your experience. applications are due today April 15. learn more here.

critical designer and artist Caroline Sinders will be teaching a 6-week course on Ethics in UX starting April 17 at Gray Area! this is some extremely important shit, and worth making space for if you are making things for other people to use. learn more and register here. Gray Area is also hosting a 3 week series on understanding NFT and blockchain. learn more and register here.

School of Machines, Making, and Make-Believe’s spring catalog is LIVE and (shameless self-promotion) features a new course by ~ * yours truly * ~ on Color and Accessibility. want to nerd out with me for 5 weeks about color theory?? we’ll be looking at historical uses of pigment and color to learn how make better palettes for digital experiences! as always, all of the courses look great, and I’d love to have some of you in my course in particular!

I’m also teaching a course on Gender and Interface Design later this spring at Hyperlink Academy. like my color class, the material will be a mix of history, theory and hands on activities. you can learn more and register here. you can also send me an email at info@marthahipley.com if you’d like a 25% discount code!

open calls!

apply by april 20 for NEW INC's open call

NEW INC’s workspace and incubator program has an open call for their Year 8 membership for September 2021 – August 2022. this includes virtual mentorship and professional growth and, hopefully, bookable workspace as well as media production and fabrication resources in January 2022. the focus tracks for this cohort are Future Memory, Collective Abundance, Art & Code, Extended Realities, and Creative Science. learn more and apply here by April 20!

School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe and IMPAKT Center for Media Culture have an open call for participation for a series of events called CODE NL-D. they seek to bring together artists, non-artists, politicians and policy makers living in Germany and the Netherlands to engage in dialogue, critical discussion and artistic intervention:

Are you worried about the power of the big tech companies. Would you like more transparancy in the way your data is used? Do you think our governments should know more about our digital society and protect our rights better? Are you an activist or simply a concerned citizen? Than we hope you will join us in CODE NL-D.

learn more and apply here by April 30.

Science Gallery Dublin has an open call for designers and artists interested in AI, trust, ethics and justice for a new art/science commissions showcase at the BIAS exhibition in Science Gallery Dublin in September 2021. you don’t need to send in a fully-formed proposal, you just need to register your interest by April 21. learn more here.

Babycastles’ WordHack has an open call for the next few months of programming. especially if you’re outside of the NYC area, now is your chance to submit an idea for a 15-20 minute talk to present online this summer. learn more and submit an idea here!

POWRPLNT has an open call for artists with digital or technology-based practices to teach this year on the theme of “abolitionist tools for digital wellness.” you can learn more and apply here!

submissions are open for A MAZE./Berlin 2021 until April 30! they’re looking for games and playful media based on meaning, story, expression, change, interdisciplinarity, social/cultural/political impact, aesthetics and fun. learn more here.

the Queer Games Bundle is an initiative to collaboratively support as many queer indie/micro/art devs and makers as possible! entries are open until May 3, and the bundle will run during the month of June for Pride. learn more about the bundle here.

upcoming events!

today, April 15! 5:30PM UTC-7! are you are burned out on your own personal social media silo as I am? Mechanics’ Institute, Goethe-Institut and Gray Area are hosting the book launch of Breaking the Social Media Prism with author Chris Bail in conversation with Issie Lapowsky, senior reporter at Protocol tonight. this sounds to be a mix of both practical fixes for you, the individual who can’t quite delete Twitter, and big picture thinking about how we might redesign these tools from scratch. learn more and RSVP here.

Sat, April 17! 12PM UTC-4! Powrplnt are hosting an extremely useful workshop on how to use basic HTML and CSS to design and share your own custom link trees. how zeitgeist! get your mutual aid off of corporatized social media and onto something you can have ownership and control over! luv it! learn more and register here.

it's cyberpunky-looking planets in ~cyberspace~!

also Sat, April 17! 3:30PM UTC-4! I know the internet can seem like it’s an inscrutable series of tubes, but it doesn’t have to be! Tech Learning Collective are hosting a beginner-friendly workshop where you’ll use tools like nmap to send probes into cyberspace and tap into the wire with Wireshark to understand how frames, packets, and segments actually function. learn more and get tix here.

Promo image for LudoNarraCon.

April 23-26! LudoNarraCon looks to be an indie-focused event for narrative games this month with a lineup of basically a bunch of stuff that is in my Steam wishlist. if, like me, you are on a quest to make your own unwieldy visual novel, come hang out w/ me at this one and steal some secrets. learn more here.

April 24 – May 2! Rainbows End Sex Tech Hackathon is a series of online events organized by Touchy-Feely Tech in collaboration with Creative Coding Utrecht and Hervisions as part of the Rainbows End online festival. the opening sex tech workshop is already sold out, but tickets are still available for a talk show on “the delicate linking of sex and technology with psychology, philosophy, design, culture, education, spirituality and the supernatural” and a hackathon event where you can collaborate on what the future holds for humans and our relationship with technology and sexuality. very interesting! learn more and get tix here.

April 29-30! the 2021 Computer Mouse Conference will feature lectures, video performances, panel discussions, writing, a live zine, and an actual mouse tear-down workshop. learn more and get tix here.

just for lulz!

idk, it’s been a long week already but Richard has a healing aura:

* ~ housekeeping ~ *

if you have anything in the works that you are excited about (an event, a workshop, a new project), please send me all the details. if I didn’t respond to your email or did and nothing happened, I totally forgot and you can feel free to bug me again. if you wanna share links or chat, there is now a Discord server that you can use here. as always, becoming a member of an Artist’s Guide to Computation helps support me and my work directly, and helps me to roll out new features for the community.

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