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Creative->Reactive coding

Notes on freelancing in Art&Tech

From CReative to ReaCtive coding

For the last couple of years I have been working in the intersection of Art and Technology. Engineering interactive installations; participating in festivals; coding AR experiences, virtual exhibitions and websites; live coding visuals; teaching workshops and beyond.

Technically, I learnt a lot, working with a wide range of tools: from TouchDesigner, KodeLife,; using almost every webgl wrapper ( react-fiber, three.js, regl, twgl, glslviewer ) and even pure webgl; some Swift and Metal; I wrote tons of javascript for prototyping; C# for Unity; and even python scripts. I also got to know a bunch of super interesting people to work and collaborate with, to whom I am very grateful.

So..Why? The common denominator was trying to get an excuse to build GPU-simulations.

GPU WHY? Why? What? Well, back in 2020 I decided to implement a Reaction Diffusion simulation after getting excited with Turing’s paper The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis Resources at the Recurse Center. Naturally, my math passion struck back. And after that period, I found myself losing my nights into coding shaders, tons of shaders.

But working as a freelancer made me realize that I am not that of a “creative coder”, term generally used in the context of Arts&Tech. I started looking for new words in case it was a matter of terminology. I came to “VFX Artist”; “computational designer”; “tech weaver”; “code crafter”. But I still struggled with them whenever I shifted to a new project.

Is this the end of my freelance era?

I did identify some recurring negative patterns:

  • Technical debt is much higher than in my days as a software engineer in the “standard” industry.
  • Most of the problems are dealing with ”making things work” rather than thinking exciting algorithms or implementing optimization techniques.
  • Accomplishing a wide range of technologies made me diverge from having an optimal digital working environment.
  • Not being in constant contact with a technical team, models one’s mind around the same thinking patterns for the implementation of software, taking them as dogmas, and it is a double effort to step out of them (maybe this has to do with aging also).

Anyways, as an organic response to this last point, I started having a more active participation in computer-related groups. For example, in the live coding scene; attending hackathons; sending emails and getting together,or virtually together, with people whom I shared interests with.

It is always a good exercise to ask for code reviews, recommendations of books, hear different approaches to problems; trying out new technologies; sharing my processes of tool-making and listening to what others are working on. Many of these values are also shared in the open source software.

Persuit the joy of computing

I recently realized that in this context is where I get most of the excitement. In the social value and culture around coding technologies. In sharing, sketching, being excited by “what ifs..” and having nerdy talks. I also realized I need to write code that reacts within me. It has to trigger an intense feeling, where passion and desire of building, coding, learning and making things compile appears.

Side note

I guess it is pretty forward to mutate from creative coding to reactive coding, as they are anagrams so they can still be allocated in the same heap position if thoughts were coded in Rust😂