Vital Weekly review of Composing Interactions

Review of Marije Baalman's Composing Interactions by Vital Weekly.


Now, this is a solid book about an intriguing subject. Over 600 pages of information - technological, philosophical, practical and theoretical - subtitled "An artist's guide to building expressive interactive systems". Marije has been active as an artist in this field for over 20 years, so it's safe to state she's an authority in this field. Moreover, these last five years she spent writing this book. So when I was asked if this would be interesting for me to read and review, I dove in head first, knowing I had a holiday coming up where there was hardly any internet to spend my spare time. Win-win.
    If the book were to be contained in one sentence, it would be like "Guidelines on how to handle the field between input and output of a system in the mostly digital domain". Or more readable: The realisation of how gestures or changes can be perceived and the translation and manipulation of information streams into an artistic outing. She goes through the whole process with a little distance, making it interesting for artists in all fields. And with well-thought examples in performance art, modern dance, and music, she connects the theory to praxis, making it tangible and comprehensible.
    The book only gets deeper into theory when needed, and therefore she can let the reader gain consciousness of the 'how' part. And it's precisely what I like about the book: The 'how' is the most important thing because everything else will have changed in a few years. Having received my diploma in Adapted IT in 1990 makes me understand the transition technology made from the early 90s (let's call it the STEIM Era) to everything possible now with Arduino's, Raspberry Pi's and experimental breakout sets for the many available digital platforms. I'll not dive into that any more profound, but as said earlier, Marije's choice to only handle the theory that is really needed is well made. And even if it sometimes leaves you with an unstilled appetite for knowledge, that is where you start Googling. The subtitle, after all, is "An artist's GUIDE ...".
    So, in all honesty, this book is a must-have and a perfect guide if you are planning on making your first steps into creating interactive digital art or adding extra digital-driven layers to your existing art. Or if you are a tech / digital noob and want to know more about the subject before making those first steps. I also might see this subject (perhaps by adding the book to the curriculum) have a future as part of educational directions (art academy/high school free choice). In the future, Marije will organise workshops, and this book will form the basics, so if you've become interested, visit https://justaquestionofmapping.info/ and see what to expect & contact Marije.
    So is there nothing bad to say? Well, I'm Dutch. Dutchies always have something to nag about. A few times, I was unable to read the graphics or diagrams because of the choice of too small fonts, the combination of font size & colour or just colour schemes. But as I've mentioned earlier, I'm old school and have reading glasses. So... If that's all... (BW)

From: http://www.vitalweekly.net/1350.html, August 2022

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