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   Author  Topic: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?  (Read 7236 times)

the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« on: Jun 29th, 2003, 9:02pm »

i've presented processing to the digital-media section directory panel at Camera Obscura School of Art in tel-aviv...
the reactions were enthusiatic, but now we're in front of a kind of dilemma:
from one side, it's evident that there's a will to start teaching with processing as soon as the next semester, but on the other hand, the school have not enough resources to allow to "interactive programming courses", which in turn would mean to choose between either director (currently, THE teached environment) or processing!
when compared to director or flash, the most obvious advantages of processing are to me:
1- using java as a programming language (i.e. compared to the ill-formedness of lingo.)
2- being liberated from oppressive metaphors (the stage, the movie-clip, etc.)
3- being "closer to the machine" (gaining access to the pixels, the wave generator, etc... the imagination and the processing power of the computer becoming the new limits.)
4- the computer-graphics galaxy is full of state-of-the-art coding example in c, c++ and java (it would be hard to find a respectable piece of code in lingo or actionscript.)
now, let's step back to pragmatism for a second:
1- is it viable to think that beginners, both in multimedia and programming could start with something else than director?
2- in extension: isn't java much harder to learn than lingo?
3- most of the multimedia works done by the students _ at least for the first two years _ are based on the "stage" and the "timeline" (but do they have any alternative?)
4- isn't it risky (or even scandalous) for the school not to teach macromedia environments, as they're so popular amoung students?
i'm ready to bet on processing, but this is my personal bid:
1- macromedia has reached a dead-end, surely with flash, and even with the 3d powered director (doing 3d with director requires from you to be a programming guru anyway).
2- java is back to multimedia, and in big: not only due to processing... see the "openmind project" and my little finger is telling me that sun is investing a lot currently in javagaming, e.g. building operative brigdes between opengl and java (i mean more operative that sun's own java3d).
3- processing is being used as a teaching platform in more and more places these days...
i know that a lot of you guys are already teaching with processing, so i would be glad to hear your feedback on all this!
« Last Edit: Jun 29th, 2003, 9:11pm by arielm »  

Ariel Malka | www.chronotext.org

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Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #1 on: Jun 29th, 2003, 11:59pm »

Granted, I am rather new to this whole thing, but I have an opinion based on my years of using Flash.
For one thing, you might as well leave Flash out of your comparison because it doesn't really seem to be in the same Genus/Species as Director and P5.  Maybe the same Family, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who can/will make an animation-heavy website (for clients, mind you, not art for art's sake) using Java, P5, or Director.  That isn't to say it is not possible, just not preferable.
In addition, coming from a fine arts background devoid of any hardcore programming, I found that I feel a bit lost not having the metaphor of the Library and Stage.  Though I am shying away from relying on it as I learn better coding practices, it really did help me get started.  I think if I had to begin my foray into multimedia armed with only a well organized asset file structure and a text editor, I wouldn't have done nearly as well.
Now, assuming you are referring to those who want more out of interactive programming than the ability to make an animated website for Volkswagen or yet another version of Tetris, you should stick with the Director/P5 debate.  Flash is just not suited for this line of questioning/reflection.
As for your pragmatic #4, yes, it probably is risky.  Flash's popularity seems to be on a steady rise.  Not only are timeline animators using it, but now that it's language is much more robust and Javascript-like, even programmers are taking a stab.
And on an even more pragmatic note, the number of browsers with Flash plugin is quite large (easily over 90% in the US) compared to those with Shockwave.  And even if I have the Shockwave, there are any number of extras that need to be downloaded as well with the end result of alienating those audience members that are either AOLians with no deeper knowledge of how the internet and computers work, or those who are impatient, and even those that are overly sensitive to the thought of ending up with a virus... digital hypochondriasis, if you will.  
So, to sum up, I would say that Flash isn't on a dead end... it is just never going to be what Director and Java can.  So, I think your school should teach Flash to those that want to make simple games and websites for fun and profit, and then the rest is up to the Java nuts And Lingo lunatics on this board.
My 2 cents.

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #2 on: Jun 30th, 2003, 12:37am »

flight404, thanks a lot for your feedback, it's much appreciated!
your point is quite strong, and i agree that i may have exagerated a bit with flash...
flash is still something hyper useful in our internet world, and yes, wonderful storytellers like the guys at secondstory.com are not going to do their next site with p5 or director!
so let's try to avoid binary thinking and restate the question to something else than a dilemma, maybe: how to smartly divide resources between director, flash and p5?

Ariel Malka | www.chronotext.org

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #3 on: Jun 30th, 2003, 1:25am »

oops, arielm the bigmouth is striking again...
okay, flash is great... but why do i think it reached a dead-end anyway?
let's forget for one second: the hype, the market, the productivity, the benefits, the return on investment, etc...
or in other words, the reality...
if, instead of using all the time the same metaphors provided by macromedia flash (we're really, really stuck there for god sake!), every new wonderful storytelling web site would use a totally innovative and perfectly adapted metaphor, which is only limited by imagination and pure processing power?
(and yes, i think that java, c++, opengl, assember and co. are only limited by these two things)...
then, interactive media could reach some new heights, but now, back to reality, it's definitely not going to be profitable (for god sake!)...
so maybe the one big thing that is limiting multimedia projects on the web using java is not imagination and pure processing power but rather profitability (productivity, rentability, whatever...)
btw, the game industry is using these avanced tools, but there, every project is getting injected millions...
it's not exactly the sums that clients are willing to pay for a standard flash site.
another limiting factor for java: talented multimedia designers and programmers are not rotating around the java sphere so much (you find them either doing stuff with flash or for the game industry)...
but for this point, i hope it will change, with the aid of tools like processing, which can definitely help in popularizing and demystifying java.
a final point about dead-ends, from an old multimedia programmer: with flash (the same with director and html by the way), you spend most of your time making "loopings in the air", i.e. trying to find workarounds to override the metaphors you're stuck by... you turn yourself into a professional workarounds hunter... then you're so good at this that you have the illusion that everything is possible with your cool baby multimedia app, but then, you eventually realize that you've spent two months optimizing a piece of actionscript that is able to... wow... rotate 9 3d-like cube in real-time!
yeah, from a po-mo point of view, we are always stuck in some metaphor, at whatever paradigm we are, we just live by them...
but java is definitely on a higher paradigm than flash and director, boo!

Ariel Malka | www.chronotext.org

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Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #4 on: Jun 30th, 2003, 1:39am »

DOH!! you double posted! This is a reply to the Malka post before last, not the last Malka post.
Just so you know, there was no implied anger, disappointment, defensiveness, or malice of any sort. Just stating the flash point of view because that is the one with which I feel the most comfortable. I probably dont use nearly enough emoticons.
I think Flash should occupy a large percentage of the divided resources. It is a more 'useful' application when it comes to things like earning a living. I know from my continued affiliation with RISD (rhode island school of design) that Flash interest has really skyrocketed. There used to be a class for Director, but fewer people are expressing an interest because the assumption is that Director is for CD-Roms and Flash is for everything else. Director is for personal projects, Flash is for paying off school loans.
It is hard to say where P5 should fit in. It isn't even completed yet. But from what I have seen, I think soon, in my newly opened eyes, a knowledge of Processing will be more valuable than a knowledge of Director. And to be more specific, I think a Flash and P5 skill set is much more well rounded than a Director and P5 or Flash and Director skill set.
But I am probably just saying that because I thought Lingo was very counter intuative and even Lingo experts complain about how ill conceived the language is. Doesnt bode well.
Also, there have been unsubstantiated rumors that as Broadband spreads, Flash could inevitably envelope Director's capabilities to make a super App that can handle both with ease. However, even if this is planned for the future (and I doubt it is), I don't see it happening for some time.
I am curious to see what people like Pitaru and Toxi think. They seem to know a great deal about Director. And BTW, wish this shit was being taught while I was in school. All I had was an audited Director class through the RISD photo department. Ah, to be a kid again. Maybe you could convince the school to stop teaching Communications or Sports Medicine and divert the money to the digital-media department.
UPDATE -------------------
This is the response to the last Malka post.
I agree with your friend.  But part of the issue, once again, is that Flash was not meant for making cubes rotate in space.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.    But in the flash industry, it is an ongoing joke that you can make any flash site better by adding a rotating cube.  It is comparable to the lens flare in photoshop, but much harder to do.
Flash is simply not an app that allows for dealing with 3D space in any way other than changing scale and swapping depths to accomodate overlap errors.
So I return to my original point, Flash should not be compared to Director and P5.  It is an apple vs. oranges debate.  If you want to make a cube rotate in 3D (using Quaternions!) or if you want to push towards a job in the gaming industry, then P5, Java, and even Director would be better suited.  If you want to make web experiences that are based on tons of images, buttons, pages, animations, sounds, movies, then Flash is what you should use (for the reasons listed in my original post).
« Last Edit: Jun 30th, 2003, 1:47am by flight404 »  

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #5 on: Jun 30th, 2003, 10:38am »

Without fully reading the above posts, I will make a short reply. I think Flash and Director are fantastic production environments and are tailored for a specific kind of work. They are the appropriate tools for vocational ambitions. I think Processing is a better teaching environment for people interested in developing a deep understanding of interactive media. The skills and concepts learning through Processing are highly transferable to multiple contexts.

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #6 on: Jun 30th, 2003, 1:18pm »

thank you REAS and flight404 for your participation in this thread!
on Jun 30th, 2003, 1:39am, flight404 wrote:
I agree with your friend. But part of the issue, once again, is that Flash was not meant for making cubes rotate in space

well, java was not meant for making cubes rotate in space too... the difference is that it's open enough to decide one morning to start making 3d cubes and the next morning to start writing a custom tcp-ip socket to relate each of these cubes to a network of say, real-time mobile phone users... (btw, who is this friend of mine you agree with)
now back to the common-sense approach _ i'm subscribing to it too afterall _ stating that director and flash are both extremely usefull apps that should have been invented if they weren't there anyway, and in order to recenter the debate around the responsability and vocation of the school:
today, the curriculum is not specifically focusing on interactive programming: director and flash are taught in their globality, director's lingo and flash's actionscript being approached, but in a "by the way" fashion, among other topics...
there is not a proper curse of studies dedicated to programming... more exactly, a three years (instead of the regular four) pilot program based around java was launched 4 years ago, but _ to my limited knowledge of the subject _ the results were mixed:
first, the program was not very popular, in other words, hard to sell, and second, some of the students even ended-up by creating final projects based on... director!
one other important parameter is that the digital-media section of the school is having hard times anyway (without even thinking of programming) to register new students, the majority of them being attracted by the other sections (photo, cinema, etc.)
and for the students that do start the 4 years digital-media program: programming is a real alien, compared to their will to master flash, 3dsmax or after-effects, environments that to their opinion would give them a "concrete bagage" for the real world...
so it raises the question of how to approach programming, if at all, during these 4 years, which are already full of technical, theoretical and conceptual components
i've been able to observe the development of some of the students and notice how a small percentage of them get naturally attracted by programming, and how bad then are the "scaffoldings" (to speak like the constructivists) we are providing them!
in other words: what tools, what structures _ formal or not _ are they getting from us
so i guess we're back again to the apples vs. oranges debate of what platform is best suited for programming beginners!
now let's put all the really great macromedia metaphors aside (the timeline, the stage, the movieclip, the cast...) and concentrate only one the programming language aspects of flash, director and java:
i believe that java has a clear advantage over lingo (actionscript, i.e. javascript is better than lingo but it's still a "dumbed brother" of java) for a lot of reasons, one of them is that java is like the sum of all the wisdom accumulated in computer-science for decades...
another, strong but technical argument, that i guess will only be clear to programmers:
when you're doing serious stuff with director or flash: you generally court-circuit the timeline and you base all your program on a "setup frame" and "loop frame" anyway!
what i mean, is that serious director or flash apps that involve programming are generally hyper complex, cumbersome structures, extremely "overkill" compared to the existing and well-known overkillness of java!
so back to the students interested in programming: some of them are taking the director / flash challenge, and some of them even get job as multimedia programmers, but god, if they would have spend the same energy on java, i'm convinced that they were much much better multimedia programmers today!
okay, we all had an excuse before processing came up: java was simply a nightmare to start with!
so it's maybe the role of the school to envision these new opportunities, and take the risk to shake the de-facto macromedia consensus
to be continued...
thanks for reading, and please send me your feedback, i'm really interested to hear more of you guys!
« Last Edit: Jun 30th, 2003, 1:35pm by arielm »  

Ariel Malka | www.chronotext.org

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #7 on: Jun 30th, 2003, 11:48pm »

I just want to add my small 2cents. Maybe 1cents.
I started in mutimedia/web stuff using director and then flash a few years ago. Director was great to learn in (version 6) and it was my first computer language after BASIC. I think there's something to director's hypercard-like approach, but after using java and then trying to go back, it just seems much too complex and daunting. Especially with 8.5 and MX and the new 3d aspect. It forces you to learn all of it's own very specific conventions.
With director nowdays, i think that a new student would spend all of their time learning how to use the software and not how to create artwork. I mean you don't start doing illustration on the computer in CG, you learn to draw first.
But P5 has problems too. Sometimes it aggrivating how much time i have to spend on structure and back-end stuff in java/P5 to do something that would have been simple in director/flash.
Flash is a nightmare for doing complex works. It's too much of a workaround and not direct enough. (creating objects and deleting them) People shouldn't have to worry about all kinds of nonsense just to draw a line. After doing motiontheory.com a couple of years ago I decided never to use flash again because it was so much of a problem to make and maintain.
I don't know if any of this makes any sense, but basically my position is that in a medium that's still being discovered, it's crazy to teach something as closed and controlled by one company as Director/Flash. Maybe not crazy but not in college. it seems like that kind of software is more of a high school thing.

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #8 on: Jul 1st, 2003, 1:54am »

i can see that we're on the same wavelength concerning macromedia, but beyond that, i would like to try to positively rebounce on what seems to me a crucial point:
on Jun 30th, 2003, 11:48pm, RYAN+SD wrote:
But P5 has problems too. Sometimes it aggrivating how much time i have to spend on structure and back-end stuff in java/P5 to do something that would have been simple in director/flash.

i agree that processing can seem to be too "low-level", i.e. missing a lot of useful features, but i think it's a temporary illusion, and therefore not a real problem:
processing is nothing more than a (wonderful) package of java classes, made by people (almost, emoticon here) like you and me...
at this stage, it is in a very "early incarnation", but as soon as "java mode" is fully enabled and the processing source code is made public, i guess things could be more obvious:
what i mean is that it's problematic to think about processing as a closed application (such as director and flash), where new features are added by the official development team, and published at each new version of the application.
it's a common trap most of us (commercial, main-stream software users) are falling into.
(nothing wrong about it, i'm not making a judgment here...)
but as soon as one gets liberated from this metaphor (maybe the strongest one), stepping into the open-source, hackers, you-name-it... side of the mirror: i believe things are starting to look different, very different.
suddenly, you are in charge... and you're not alone... and you discover that extremely smart, useful and accessible source code about every possible fantasy you have in mind is maybe just there, waiting for you to use it, and eventually extend it, making it even better, valuable for the "next loop"...
so to summarize, it may be a bit complicated to fully extend processing at this stage, but it's totally temporary...
it's already possible actually, for the adventurous: reverse enginering the not-yet-published source code, importing it into ibm eclipse, and starting to hack, or simply to see how the matrix code is built, how to handle lights, how to gain speed here and there...
from time to time, people in the "software suggestions" board are asking for new feature: e.g. support for png images, etc.
it's okay... as soon as processing in not "fully-enabled", but once it is, it won't make sense to ask for such things anymore: i mean png.jar is here already, open source, waiting for us...
one last point (for this evening) about the wonders of java... if you happen to have a j2sdk installed on your machine, you can look for a file named "src.zip": it include nothing less than the source code of the whole java2 thousands of classes!!!
a tiny percentage of these classes are "native", e.g. System.Array copy, but most of them are not so it's just a matter of opening a .java file to see how String, ScrollBar, or whatever class you like is built!
and the whole java philosophy is an invitation to extend these classes if we just want, or know how to make them better...
personally, i spend a lot of time looking at javadocs in addition with the source files, and it's one of the best ways i found to learn about good programming practices...
so to close this humble manifesto for java, i would say that it definitely breaks the artificial gap between "developpers" and "users".
to be continued (i could have a few things to add about teaching processing at "the school"...)

Ariel Malka | www.chronotext.org

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #9 on: Jul 1st, 2003, 9:56am »

I know what you mean Ariel, it's just that from an artist's perspective (maybe just mine?), it becomes easier and easier to loose sight of your original goal when you are worried about how to load X class, and how to get X file format parsed or translated into something that P5 can draw.
It's kind of funny that of the two programs we're talking about, Director suffers from being too high-level and P5 is very low level, and that's what's kind of hard about it.
I totally agree that artists and developers are basically the same thing, just when you have to worry about logistics in either software or language, you kind of get lost in the process. But that's P5's goal right? To give the same flexibility with less complexity.

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #10 on: Jul 1st, 2003, 10:38am »

P5 is "low level" by design. Version 1.0 is intended as a teaching environment and in this context, "low level" allows students to develop a greater understanding of working with image/interaction/computers. People will be free to extend it as they wish and hopefully some "high level" standards for Processing will develop from this effort.
There will be two groups of active Processing users: people who are building/using the libraries and people who are using the libraries.
There is no reason why you can't teach both. I think teaching Processing for a month and then moving into Flash or Java might be a good way to proceed. Some educators are experimenting with this.

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #11 on: Jul 1st, 2003, 2:05pm »

on Jul 1st, 2003, 9:56am, RYAN+SD wrote:
from an artist's perspective (maybe just mine), it becomes easier and easier to loose sight of your original goal when you are worried about how to...

i guess it's more related to whether you are "goal oriented" or "process oriented"...
on Jul 1st, 2003, 10:38am, REAS wrote:
There is no reason why you can't teach both. I think teaching Processing for a month and then moving into Flash or Java might be a good way to proceed. Some educators are experimenting with this.

yeah, it seems an interesting strategy to explore, and i can bet that for total beginners, it will be easier to start with processing and then switch to flash than the contrary.
on Jul 1st, 2003, 10:38am, REAS wrote:
Some educators are experimenting with this.

i'll be glad to hear feedback from such people, and in general from educators that teach interactive programming to beginners.
i never really taught programming, so i still need to figure out how, when and where to invest the energy.
currently, i'm not sure if it worth a try to teach programming when it represents not more than 10% (to be very optimistic) of the students curriculum.
because we talk not only of beginners in term of programming, but also beginners in multimedia in general.
on the other hand, if i stop to think only about goals and consider the process as the relevant part, things sound much better, and yes, all this worth a try...
then, if every digital-media student takes this ideal interactive programming class from the very first year: i can't imagine how it could not affect the whole curse of studies!

Ariel Malka | www.chronotext.org

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #12 on: Jul 1st, 2003, 8:23pm »

You're probably right. For education, the process is more important than the goal. I guess if it's taught well, students will come in with expectations of making something very conventional, and through learning the process, will find out that all kinds of other things are possible, and maybe the conventional route isn't the easiest.
« Last Edit: Jul 1st, 2003, 8:23pm by skloopy »  

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #13 on: Jul 2nd, 2003, 1:18am »

on Jul 1st, 2003, 1:54am, arielm wrote:
processing is nothing more than a (wonderful) package of java classes, made by people (almost, emoticon here) like you and me...

"Habit rules the unreflecting herd", i.e. as always, i exaggerate!
processing is among other things...
- a package of java classes
- a custom, standalone development environment
- a community of users
actually, the concept of bypassing the standard java development tools and offering instead a totally adapted, cleared and focused development environment to a new "profile" of users is fantastic.
i guess sun should say a great thank to the originators of this concept, for the huge interest (renaissance is a too pompous term, no) it may generate around java soon!
ironically, i think java started as a multimedia platform, but it soon became pretty much oriented around the "entreprise" world...
nowadays, multimedia java applets (kitschy lake effects, etc.) are still a joke in the mind of most of the users.  
so let's show them what's in the program now

Ariel Malka | www.chronotext.org

Re: the teacher's dilemma: p5 or director?
« Reply #14 on: Jul 2nd, 2003, 3:50am »

Why not make the first class a demo class -- present each enviornment and show work from various artists. Talk a little bit about the simple differences between flash, director and processing etc...
Then let the students decide if they want to focus on a particular program, or if they would like to divide the class up and do an intro to two or all of the programs.

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