GDV M.1.1 Randomness and starting conditions

I have arrived at the ‘Complex Methods’ part of the Generative Design book. So now it’s getting serious (I think). Let’s see what the first assignment is as it is described in the Generative Design book. ‘In Processing the random generator is the function random (). The term ‘random’ usually signifies an unpredictable event. A random generator created with the help of a computer, however, will never be able to create truly random events or actions because the seemingly random sequence of numbers has always been generated by an algorithm. This is called ‘determinism’ in computer science, meaning that the sequence of values is determined by the initial condition. This initial condition can be set using the randomSeed () function. The command randomSeed (42) therefore generates an identical sequence of values when working with the same random generator, which here are 0.72, 0.05, 0.68 etc. In many programming languages the initial condition is set unnoticed in the background, thereby creating the illusion that real random values are created each time the program is started. The y- coördinate of each point is generated by the random () function and all points are connected to a line.’ And here is the original program.

I also made an album on my flickr page of the images that were generated during this assignment. At you can use the programs and check the code if you like.

Maybe it is interesting to start with a question. Why (while you have a random function) would you like to produce the same random numbers in the same order each time? Well… to be honest I really don’t know. But it seems that the random number we get from the random () function are not really random. They are a result of a mathematical function that simulates randomness. They would yield a pattern over time. So its pseudo-randomness. Using random seed gives you the same random values every time you run the program. Set the seed parameter to a constant to return the same pseudo-random numbers each time the program is run. But again, why would you want that? So I commented out all randomSeed related program lines. Than the program keeps on running. So is randomSeed used to stop and run the program? It is just used to get the same pseudo-random number again and again when the program is run. I just exaggerated the amount of lines by putting a line and a dot at every pixel in the width. Where the begin and endpoint of that line is placed is depending on the random factor. Ah… I see. So you use the randomSeed one time for drawing the lines. And a bit further you use randomSeed again to generate the same random numbers to place the points.

I lowered the amount of DoRandomSeed from 42 to 5. But I could not see any better or worse results. So if we know the location of the random points it might be easy to add an extra line or dot in its neighbourhood and create an extra position.

I have stopped working on this project for a week and I think that what I’ve done until now is not the way to go. I am going to try to make fake graphics with fake graphic representations using the random and randomSeed function. This looks to me a fine moment to start with some very simple data visualisation. It is relatively easy to put some numbers close to the dots. I have roughly ceiling-ed the numbers because otherwise you get a float number and that number is way too large. Now there are a few thing which have to be changed. For instance the graph is now on its side. But maybe that is good. Let’s see if I can control the data from the dots to make lines.

What do we need more to make this graphic seems to be convincing. We need labels. Oh, I forgot something. If you look near the left side of the graphic then the numbers are too high. It‘s because the numbers are calculated from zero (the left side of the display window that is). And I added a margin so that has to be subtracted from the amount. In this case its: xCeiling minus DisplayMargin and that gives the right numbers. What we also need are vertical axis labels. I think of years. And every line should stand for one month. So one year should contain 12 lines. Maybe its good to make a separate function for that. I call it VerticalAxisLabels. I also had a problem with the counting. At that moment it counts from the top (2014) down to a certain number. That should be the opposite. So there are now 27 years displayed. 2014 + 26 = 2041. It should start at the bottom with 2014 and count up to an amount of years. Fixed that by introducing the variable yearCounter. That will count down from 2040 to 2014. I also have to map our horizontal values to a percentage. Because I would like to say in the year so and so there is so much percentage of chance that this and that could happen. Don’t know what could happen at a certain year yet but for now I think this is the way to tell a story. So we have to map the numbers zero to 640 map that to 0 to 100%. At least I thought it would work like that. But I had to adjust it a bit just by fiddling with the numbers. And in the end I left out the years labels because I thought it would not make any sense. And I made a title in Photoshop. Had to do that because the font quality within Processing is not good enough in the smaller point sizes. Beside of that Processing (Java?) does not support the total range of the Univers font.

Based on this graphic I will try to make different variations. So how does this look like when you leave out all the lines? It doesn’t look boring. But you don’t have an idea about the orientation. Would it help if I double the amount of random numbers? It does help… a little bit.I wonder if it is possible to see a pattern in the random numbers that are generated. Hence the title: ‘How random is randomness’.

What if I introduce the dots again? Well they do help but it does not give you more information about what I am trying to communicate. I left out the lines and introduced the vertex from the original program again. Increased the strokeweight from 0.3 to 8 pixels.

Doubled everything except the font size. Centered the percentages in the circles.

I have now circles which are on the locations where the percentage lines end. It would be interesting  that these circles show the percentage. So… zero percentage is no circle. 100% = full circle. Can use the arc function for that.

The same can be done with rectangles? No. Not really. I used rectangles with a size of 5 x 5 pixels. Lines are being drawn from right to left.

The same variation but now lines are running from the top to the bottom.

So I made only ten varieties? That is not much. But I think I now have a better idea what the randomSeed function can do for me. That is the most important thing. Not the amount of variations you can make with it.


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