Working With Useless Machines

A useless machine is a strategy employed to critique the current corporate agenda of productivity, efficiency, and consumption by creating devices that have no utilitarian function. They are purposefully executed to provoke a reflection on the current state of the technical and consumer culture of the time. This project examines the idea of the useless machine through four explorations subverting the function of personal assistants, and through the creation of one personal web server.

The projects are: SAD Blender, Fortune Tasker (with Len Predko), Calendar Creep, Home Hub, and Punchy (with Rob Russell).

SAD Home (Depressed Alexa 1.0)

SAD Home (Depressed Alexa 1.0) is an ongoing project that explores the concepts of system dynamics as it could be applied to depression. A custom system generates spoons (resiliance), moods, and perceptions for an Alexa Echo. As the device is used, its spoons are depleted, and the system dynamically updates itself. Alexa employs an avoidant coping strategy towards tasks by trying to frustrate the user into qutting with a yes / no dialog flow. It was developed at The Banff Centre's Digital Promises residency.

Fortune Tasker

Collaborators: Len Predko

Fortune Tasker is an ongoing attempt to subvert the position of Amazon Alexa from a personal assistant to an absurdist personal mystic. A magical object rather than a spy.

Punk Prism Power

Collaborators: Mahoshowjammers

Punk Prism Power is a cooperative 2-player Magical Girl party game, in which players wield custom built wireless peripherals to defeat bizarre evil monsters in a fantasy world. Each player has 3 different physical motions that can be registered by an accelerometer embedded in each weapon (similar to a Wiimote).

Fixations (Tiny FanFic Generator)

Fixations is a collection of tiny fanfics made using GPT-2 by generating results from short paragraphs of hand picked text, and then running the results back into the model until it breaks down. This work is influenced by the book Knots by R.D. Laing, which uses poetry to explore ideas of recursion and experiments with poetic structure. The goal was to explore "undesirable results" (looping and repetition), and how that can reflect on what a source material feels like rather than fine-tuning something to mimic a style. By using GPT-2 “incorrectly” and pushing it into its margins the result is a collaborative back and forth between person and machine to create some little vignettes. The vignettes were then formatted into zines using python, and printed on receipt paper. These were then packaged in small envelopes designed and produced with a vinyl cutter.


Collaborators: Angus Fletcher, Jon Sharky

txtr is a small web based Python application come engine that allows you to turn interactive fiction into real time texting based text adventure games (say that five times fast!). It uses web based SMS services as its platform, and runs indepndent of whatever OS is on your phone.

The Interesteller Selfie Station Photo Booth

Collaborators: Christine Love

The ISS Love was a travelling photobooth to promote Christine Love's ISS app for iOS. During its tenure it travelled to many an event, including The Indie Mega Booth at PAX East, the Fancy Videogame Party in Toronto, That Party @ GDC and Bit Bazzar at Gamma Space. It included a full controller, and full enclosure, and used a wireless sticker printer to print portraits. Though now long retired, its little sticky portraits still sometimes pop up on computers and mirrors around the world.

Long Time Coming

Collaborators: Sagan Yee

Long Time Coming is an "infidelity sim" in which you've just cheated on your boyfriend, and must lie your way through an evening with him without getting caught. It's also an experimental visual novel that involves literally throwing knives at the screen during tense emotional situations.

Stupid Shit No One Needs and Terrible Ideas Hackathon

Collaborators: Lee Wilkins, Hillary Predko, Tom Hobson, Alex Leitch, Jon Griffen

Role: Organizing Team / Volunteer

The Stupid Shit No One Needs and Terrible Ideas hackthon is an annual tradition to create complete garbage in the world.