It has been five years since Avicii has died. It was the first time that I truly felt sad when an artist died. I enjoyed his music, especially since his brave introduction of Wake Me Up at Ultra Music Festival.
This sad moment on April 20, 2018, was also the start to one of the projects I’m most proud of, although I did not know it at the time.
About the project
My Avicii Open Data Art Project blends language models, cloud services and open source visualisation tooling to turn text collections into minimalistic and organic looking art pieces:
I’ve been slowly developing the project for the past five years. In this post I reflect on these interesting years.
If you are new to the project, you can read more about it here.
One thing I learned throughout the years is that I like to share knowledge. I’ve done so in various ways for this project:
- Blogposts for a general audience.
- Git repo for (Python) developers.
- Talks at various events.
- Courses for various audiences.
Even though I call this knowledge sharing, it mostly comes down to me restructuring my knowledge in such a way that people understand what I did. It is very much a learning experience for me.
It especially interesting when you consider the various audiences. I’ve given talks to people familiar with the technology I use, people with an interest in innovation, and what I like to call a general audience (people with no specific project-related background).
Presenting to these audiences is an interesting task: how do I communicate the ideas of my project to them? What terminology can I use? What message should they take home with them?
I remember a talk in 2020, when a computer science student walked up to me afterwards and said:
Thank you for showing me that I don’t have to think of my hobby (making music) and my work (computer science) as two separate things.
It’s feedback like this that makes me smile.
In 2022, I got the opportunity to design a course for Creative Technology Students (Eindhoven, Fontys University of Applied Sciences). It was great fun setting this up.
First of all, it is quite different to run my project code for my own personal use, and running it for a group of 20 students. So I implemented some modifications to make it scale better.
Besides that, it also resulted in beautiful pieces of work. Here are a few examples of what students made using my project code:
That is the nice thing about sharing your project with others.
People can do interesting things with it.
That gets me to the best part of the past five years: the people. Openly sharing my project with others is the best way to get new insights and develop it even further.
Let me show you one of the first plots I made for this project:
Now let me show you the t-shirt I designed about a year later:
If it wasn’t for other people sharing their views and ideas, I doubt I would have ended up designing this t-shirt.
At one small data visualisation event, some people introduced me to this field called data art. I never heard the term before that moment. Now I love it.
There were numerous people along the road that helped me move forward:
- Friends & colleagues: for listening to my story (over and over again) and sharing their views and ideas.
- Event hosts: all the event hosts and organisers of both big and small events that gave me the opportunity to share my story. (And the people in the audience walking up to me to have a chat.)
- Mijke Ellen van der Zee: for the first opportunity to run the workshop.
- Kylie Ying: for reaching out to me, making this YouTube video about the project, and discussing project ideas.
- Mira Rodrigues: for showing me various creative ways to use the project.
- Students/course participants: for showing me even more creative ways to use the project.
There is another person that reached out to me with a very special request. One that I consider the biggest compliment for my work ever. But as of now, I only share that during live presentations 🙂
Besides that, I would never have started this project if it wasn’t for Tim Bergling, Avicii, and his music.
Thank you Avicii.
I’m not sure what the future of the project holds. This is one of the reasons I call it an open data art project: the development is open-ended and it’s open for people to use in their own way.
I have some ideas of what I want to do:
- Run more data art workshops, I have one planned for May 26, 2023 (info).
- Turn the data art workshop in to an (e)book on creative coding and data art.
- Keep using my project to create personal t-shirt prints.
But just as in the last five years, the next five will probably include a few things I never expected.
I’m looking forward to it.