Generativemasks Report #0
0x6A46
October 21st, 2021

The original source(Japanese)

Hi, this is Shunsuke Takawo (@takawo). And this is my first report in a series of activities regarding the NFT art project "Generativemasks(GMs)".

About Generativemasks Report

We've launched the project on August 17th and sold 10,000 pieces for 0.1 ETH as NFTs. Very happily, they have been sold out in just about 2 hours. As for the volume of transactions, I honestly think that it has been a sensational moment that a work of Generative art made by an individual has achieved such a result. On the other hand, I was a bit worried that people would look at the buzz of the project and not see the true meaning of the project and the goal that I have been aiming for. And I decided to start writing this report because I thought that it would be valuable to keep a track of the activities and efforts that I've faced along the way and most importantly sharing them with the community.

Since this is the first report, I would like to introduce a little bit about myself and the activity called "daily coding", which is the basis and huge inspiration for the Generativemasks project. However, perhaps because my personal background and experiences are a bit scattered, I felt that I wasn't sure where to begin, what to say, and how much to say, so it turned to be a bit redundant. In this report, I couldn't get to talk about how I discovered the idea of Generativemasks, but I'll share more details about it and the progress of the activities I'm working on in my next report.

And also about the donation, let me first mention a couple of things what's going on with the donation and the process of it. So, I've been working on the donation process and talking with the parties involved with the donation. I think it will take some time, but I will be paying taxes and making the donation properly according to the Japanese tax system, and I will post the details to the public as soon as I can. I'm also trying to make a way to ensure that the donation will not be a one-time event. I hope to share more details of this with you soon.

#WhoIsTakawo

As of the year 2021, I am a professor at Konan Women's University in Kobe City, Hyogo, Japan, in the Department of Media Expression, Faculty of Letters. One of my specialties is creative coding which is a form of programming for expression. And also, I've been working on teaching and researching a wide range of new media such as computer graphics, electronics, and fabrication. I call myself "a creative coder" because I don't feel like I am a programmer or an artist. So I've been feeling more comfortable with the name "creative coder" lately. Aside from working at the university, I'm also involved in running an organization called Processing Community Japan and also helping organize Processing Community Day Japan and Processing Community Hangout Japan, which is an online event.

PCD JAPAN 2021 hosted February 20th, 21st

My main focus is "daily coding", which is a term that I've made up and the definition of it has changed a bit since I started. My initial goal was simply to "keep writing code every day", but now it's more like "keep working on activities that connect code with your life and culture." The reason why I changed the definition is that I didn't want to split the people who are able to continue daily coding and those who find it difficult to continue or even have fallen behind. Now, I believe that the most important thing about this daily coding is that it's open to all people who have never been exposed to programming or who are just getting started, rather than focusing on continuing to code every day. The idea of writing code and the interaction with people through the code are now much more important to me and that's something I want to encourage people.

My recent daily coding sketches: https://openprocessing.org/user/6533?view=sketches
My recent daily coding sketches: https://openprocessing.org/user/6533?view=sketches

My life before daily coding

It has been almost 20 years since my college days. I did my undergraduate research on the history of photography at the Department of Comparative Culture at Tsukuba University, and my graduate research was on digital photography and film at the Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences (IAMAS). My activities during my undergraduate years have been described by Daisuke Kuramoto from his perspectives including our relationship at the time. I think it's a little too beautifully done which I appreciate, but his explanation of the Generativemasks and NFT art is really good anyway, so if you are interested, please check that out. The link is down below (The article is written in Japanese). He's been involved in Scratch Community for years, and it's kind of amazing that we've come around and now are doing similar activities surprisingly close to each other.

After graduating the university, I feel that I was so lucky to be able to observe some of the cutting edge technologies of the time such as creative coding, physical computing, and digital fabrication, and the expressions using the technologies from a very close distance through the activities of the students and faculties. This experience had a huge impact on my life. It wasn't until some time after graduation that I began to explore these fields on my own, but I really believe that the experiences and insights I learned have helped me become the person I am today.

For about 10 years after finishing my graduate school and before I became a professor in Kobe, I worked at a web production company and I was an assistant at a university and a researcher at a graduate school and I was even at a publishing company. After graduate school, I felt that I would be able to apply my skills in the field of community management and education which support the production of artworks, rather than the production of my own artworks. As a result, my career path was bounding back and forth between the university and the private sector especially in my thirties when I was struggling to figure out what to do with myself in the future.

The first time I really "started" creative coding was actually on the 1st of January 2015. I still have a file that I wrote and I realized that I was 33 years old at the time. That's when I've started writing code in Processing (now p5js, a derivative of Processing). To be completely honest, I don't have the exact reason why I started creative coding, but it seemed more like I did it for some reason. At the time, I was back home at the beginning of the year and there is a famous Japanese phrase where the meaning is basically "You should make a plan for the year on the first day of the year. The first day of the year is the most important, and it should be planned carefully and steadily." After N times of failing, this is my N+1 time to give it a try just to work on Processing and see how it goes. I'd had at least 20 times of experiences of falling at that point, so it was more like "Well, I'll just do it as if nothing had happened until I fail again."

The code I wrote on January 1st, 2015! I'm just changing the canvas size and that's all I did!
The code I wrote on January 1st, 2015! I'm just changing the canvas size and that's all I did!

Initially, my basic approach to creative coding was to use reference materials, books, and videos as a guide, and just experiment with it somewhat. I believed that it's better to continue than not to continue, and you can do or even touch it for 5 or 15 minutes, one or 10 lines of code, early in the morning, at the end of the workday, or in a little time before going to bed. I found myself enjoying these small activities from the very beginning with no one expecting or interfering and just me not even telling anyone about them. In Processing, code is called a sketch, and I felt as if the computer was telling me like "You can write code as you like, just like a sketch!" so that I was able to feel a little bit confident in my daily activities as they were. While continuing my activities for a while without a specific purpose or even a name for what I'm doing, I enjoyed the fact that my own personal garden of code was gradually growing under the name of a file with a date. I loved it so much.

At the time when I started creative coding, I was working as a researcher at IAMAS and thinking about the next career path. I literally felt that I was like the Red Mage in Final Fantasy whose career path was so unpredictable and whose personal interests were really unclear. I've also felt that I had some complexes as I looked at people of my age who had high expertise in their own field using powerful white magic and black magic with the knowledge and the skill that they had gained over the years. (I'm now proud of myself and to be the Red Mage!)

But I can say that I didn't start out with the goal of acquiring some powerful weapons or becoming able to use magics through the activities that I have done for my creative coding. They weren't my motivation at all, to be honest. I was rather amazed and impressed by the amazing visual expressions of the digital art and creative coding scene in Japan, so I honestly thought at the time that I couldn't go in that direction.

Of course, I wanted to improve my coding skills, but at the same time, I felt that no matter how much I tried, I wouldn't be able to make something cool that would make a huge difference in the world. It was a bit sad moment, however, it was a moment where I felt myself that it would be better to go in a slightly different than the current world trends. I wasn't sure of it at all, but I decided to follow my heart for creative coding and decided to go in that direction.

Looking back at the 2010s, we can say that it was a decade of rapid progress in the recognition and acceptance of digital art (The word "digital art" is commonly used now, but wasn't used much at the time) in Japan and other countries. Digital images such as projection mapping that had previously only appeared on displays now are being created in real-time at 30/60 fps(frame per second) and brought to life in real space. It was around this time that a lot of people and even the whole public began to see and be fascinated by these technologies and accept them as new forms of art appreciation. In particular, there has been a lot of commercial development, which has led to larger and more sophisticated systems.

I think that the reason why I was able to continue creative coding is because I lowered the expectation that comes with programming. In addition to that, Processing is very easy to install and OS independent, so you can write your code as soon as you open the application. I really like that kind of compactness and the simplicity. They seemed to fit perfectly into my space, at least that's how I felt at the time. I had some feelings of self-identification with the tool that I used for creative coding. That was really awesome.

Then, I actually left Tokyo in 2014 where I had lived for almost 7 years after finishing my graduate school, and as I mentioned earlier, I also think that it was really important for me to move a bit away from the digital art scene and the vectors that society is vaguely aiming for. In 2013, Tokyo was chosen as the host city for the 2020 Olympics, and the city suddenly became filled with the buzzy atmosphere of development and economic booming, which made me uncomfortable to be honest. It was true that I just couldn't be there.

My daily coding started "somehow", then I "moderately" continued, finally it became my current daily coding style. And I'm pretty sure that there was a lot of luck involved in that. But I didn't have any strong or glaring ambitions like "I'm nobody now...I'm going to be somebody like him!" or "I'm going to take over Tokyo from a local city". I didn't have that kind of thoughts at all. In fact, I feel that my daily coding has been an activity of relief and even a form of escape from reality. Then, I've come to the realization that I'm aiming for "What you're doing can be thin and short in content, but you should live long with it"

*This video was taken in 2015. I looked really fun literally enjoying lol

Actually, since I was little, I've liked to spend time alone and play something alone. So I wrote code somewhere in the morning, sometimes at night, and it finally becomes a "somewhat relaxing" activity for me.

Let's start daily coding together!

Even after I've moved to Kobe, Kyoto prefecture, I kept writing code, and I think it was around that time that Processing changed into p5.js. Oh, by the way, I really think it would be nice I could talk a bit about the beauty of p5.js in another report because I am one of the biggest fans of p5.js!

Me speaking at PCD Tokyo 2019
Me speaking at PCD Tokyo 2019

From 2019, I've decided to share my work on social media along with publishing my code on OpenProcessing because I wanted to make my daily coding activity from a private to a more open one. It all started when I gave a presentation about my programming life including daily coding at Processing Community Day 2019, and I received so many different perspectives and positive feedback from other people, which gave me a lot of courage. It was really inspiring to me and I realized that you can find something that you've never seen before by making your activities more open. That's something I've learned through this time period.

Even if it's just a piece of code, sharing it can be a really good source of discussion. In the past two and a half years, my "daily coding" which I started in 2019 has become a place to interact via code as a hashtag "#dailycoding" on Twitter. This activity can be called social coding where we share our code and receive some feedback and exchange information with others who are making derivative works. (Most of the time, many codes are open to the public under the CC license, this means that you can modify the code unless you give credit by mentioning their name on it). The activity of sharing information with others can be called social coding as well, and I was able to develop not only my technical skills but also deepen my thoughts on the diversity and the possibility of "expressing myself by connecting everyday life with code" through practice. There were times where I rediscovered the meaning of the activity of keeping writing code inspired by someone chatting like "They said takawo is doing daily coding...bruh bruh bruh". I think it was a really amazing experience for me to talk with other talented creative coders from all over the world through the code, which really helped me broaden my knowledge and perspectives.

Writing code with some purpose in my mind and just standing in front of a blank canvas, I was trying to draw out something that has yet to form an idea. And juggling "concrete and abstract", "mathematics and literature", "algorithm and improvisation", "rules and deviations", "execution and editing", I was serious about all of them but at the same time, I was kind of joking around with them while writing code and sketches. This is what my creative coding is for me, and I love it.

I truly feel that I would like to keep doing what I'm doing right now and explore the possibility that is hidden out there, but honestly I don't have much time to do so. These feelings eventually led me to the activity of Generativemasks.

#dailycoding: https://openprocessing.org/sketch/1272534
#dailycoding: https://openprocessing.org/sketch/1272534

Actually, the second semester of my college starts today, and the Generativemaks was kind of my summer project that came about unexpectedly. I tried my best to write this report in one day, but I couldn't get to talk more about Generativemasks itself. It's just because I had so many things I wanted to share with you! I'm sorry if this report is not what you expected after reading it. In the next chapter, I will talk about the code that led me to the Generativemasks project, how I started the NFT art project, and also about the donation.

This time, I am glad that I was able to put into words some of the things that I hadn't talked about openly in the past and the struggles that I was facing at the time. I hope I can write this kind of report and content one time a month. So I would be so glad and happy if you could subscribe to my newsletter!

See you soon! Happy coding!

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