SFPC: Day 12 - Radical Computing with Ramsey Nasser

Ramsey Nasser’s Radical Computing class was today. It was fantastic.

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Brooklyn this morning:

Brooklyn lions in the rain

Maybe the second or third day it’s rained since I’ve been here. A lot of my classmates got a little wet.

Radical Computing with Ramsey

We discussed core concepts of computer science: programming language theory, compiler theory, and the theory of computation.

But actually we had a lot of fun.

Ramsey’s class really complements Taeyoon’s “Politics of Computation” class by putting some of those politics into practice(see “qlb” - the first programming language written in Arabic, written by Ramsey while he was a resident at Eyebeam).

First of all, Ramsey used an “infinite whiteboard” app of his own creation, that the class really kind of oohed and aahed over(github repo here). Basically, all you need is a computer, a digital tablet(like a Wacom or similar), and a screen(works well with a projector), and you can draw across an infinite space of white. Such a great tool!

Here’s the class watching most of John Cage performing his piece, “4’33” “. It’s related because we discussed computation from the perspective of rule-based art. Fluxus, John Cage, On Kawara were all mentioned.

Watching John Cage perform 4'33"

And then we watched the death metal version.

Ramsey’s lecture contained lots so of good conceptual concepts about computers. At about 12:30p, we paired off for an exercise. I’m not sure what Ramsey calls it, so I’ll just call it “Computer/Programmer”.

"Computer/Programmer: An Exercise We Did in Class"

  1. One person is the computer and one person is the programmer.
  2. Both persons sit facing away from each other. It’s best if the computer is at a table because they will be drawing the programmer’s instructions.
  3. The programmer receives a line drawing of some sort. The computer receives a marker and a few sheets of paper.
  4. The computer and programmer and not allowed to converse. The computer must be silent.
  5. For 15 minutes, the programmer will give drawing instructions to the computer. The programmer is allowed to “finish” the drawing to have a look. If so, a new drawing must be started by the computer and programmer.
  6. After 15 minutes, the class shares their drawings.


The first thought I had when hearing the exercise desribed was, “I wonder if computer/programmer role-playing is like a hyper-niche in the fetish community?”.

The answer, of course, is “most likely”. And I think that’s great.

Thanks to Medhir and Ruby, who put on an informal github workshop an hour after Ramsey’s class. And also Robby for helping me get a repo going for a Processing project that I’m working on!

It’s about 5pm as I write this. Some students are going to the free night at MoMa(every Friday from 4p-8p). The sun has come out and it’s turned into a really pretty day. May go for a walk soon.

Golden Hour at Westbeth: Golden Hour at Westbeth

I think I’ll probably just stay here and work - that’s what I’d prefer to do. Maybe get some ramen later.

Also, apparently half the internet was brought down for two hours today. Dyn, “an internet traffic company”, said the attacks were still ongoing at the time of this writing. Really kind of scary if you think about it. Thought: I need to learn opSec and make the big bucks.


Food Report

«««< HEAD For Lunch: The last of the BBQ rotisserie chicken and brown rice. Stubb’s bbq sauce.

For Dinner: idk maybe ramen. Gon’ treat myself.

For Lunch: The last of the BBQ rotisserie chicken and brown rice. Stubb’s bbq sauce. Robby, our TA, made a big veggie stir fry and shared it among the class. Was glad to see that.

The class that cooks together, codes together. I’ve always said that.

For Dinner: idk maybe ramen. Gon’ treat myself.

Link to class notes for Ramsey’s Class.

Ramsey’s “Infinite Whiteboard” for the Class

Audio for Ramsey’s Class:

Written on October 22, 2016