Michael Gubbels edited this page Oct 30, 2017 · 23 revisions

What is Gesso?

Gesso is a set of tools for interactively creating interactive systems that can sense and act in the world. Gesso creates tools that automate technical work of constructing systems by embedding the creator into the automation process by making it interactive and malleable. This places creators at a vantage point where they can reason about the system they'd like to create, and curate the work ‒ decision making ‒ required to produce the system to mechanical processes that can be guided. This allows creators to make complex interactive system structures, define the behavior of the various components of the system, and the way those component interact with each other and the world.

Gesso tools are designed with the aim to make creating such systems engaging and immersive by making the tools to be highly interactive. That is, our aim with Gesso is to make creating interactive systems' form factor and behavior adjustable in an intuitive manner that can be guided by the observations of changes made in that intuitive manner. One might wonder why this matters. After all, computers are dumb machines.

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." ‒ Picasso

To the contrary, we think that the rate at which computers can make certain types of decisions can become an amplifier of a designer's ability to refine many small details involved in making decision that guide the creative process. There simply must be enough computation applied, like a coat of paint, to complement intuition, and possibly replace the need for intuitive leaps with experienced insight and much smaller intuitive steps in decision making. By becoming immersed in a more conversational style of interaction with computational abilities, the creative process can itself become a useful tool for creators to see possibilities previously reserved for intuition, and to incrementally curate an outcome that satisfies their intuition. In a manner of speaking, embedding computation into the creative process increases one's ability to create and harness surprise elements by exposing many more potential variations to the creator.

"Machines take me by surprise with great frequency." ‒ Alan Turing

In more operational terms, our aim with Gesso is to achieve and provide visible, real-time feedback. We're doing this by putting changes to system into effect immediately, and representing those changes, often abstract, in ways that creators find useful to inform further actions and navigate through their creative process. This is one way we're showing how to eliminate practical constraints that tend to be imposed by other tools for creating such systems.

In short, Gesso aims to provide tools that allow creators to focus more on the aesthetic qualities of systems as they're creating them. This thought is reflected in this quote:

"A work of art is a machine with an aesthetic purpose."James Boyk, Pianist in Residence at Caltech, in an email to Gerry Sussman

In more technical terms, Gesso is a modular, flexible, and re-configurable computing platform for interactively designing functional embedded and distributed systems by adapting live-programmable modules with a visual programming interface on smartphone or tablet. It blurs the boundary between creative intent and outcome.

"The reason I'm painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do." ‒ 'What is Pop Art? Answers from 8 Painters', Part 1, G. R. Swenson, in Art News 62, November 1963

There's a complete breakdown of each of these components on the Platform page.

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