Calculation in Motion

March 2000
Keio University
Faculty of Environmental Information

Masahiko Sato

Suddenly, 16 ideas began flipping into motion

The present "Calculation in Motion Project" began in the early spring of 1999 as an exercise for one of my laboratory courses at the Keio University Shonan Fujisawa campus called "The next expression for computers." Sixteen students who passed an initial examination joined me for this project.
In the laboratory, we considered the "computer" not only as a tool, but also as a unique way of thinking, based on methods such as algorithm, sort, protocol, etc. From this perspective, we began searching for possible new ways of expression. We hoped that this groping for new ways of expression developed upon many different media should not limit our output to the so-called "computer display."
For our first exercise, I picked up a flipbook, which you might think of as a rather "primitive" paper media. I never expected to show this exercise to the outside world until I saw the 16 flipbooks that lay in front of you here. You see, I wasn't expecting great results; I only thought that through this exercise maybe I could figure out what my students were capable of. When I announced the flipbook exercise, I gave them only one condition, which I wrote on the chalkboard:

compute = ("to calculate" in English)

I then instructed them, "Try to create an animation by using calculations and numerical formulas, by dividing lines and angles, etc. Don't just draw using your free imagination, but try creating an animation by 'computing'."
That was all I told them.

A week later, what I saw in the laboratory was not much different from what you are seeing now. The students went up to the over head projector one by one and flipped their flipbooks, producing an animation appeared on the screen above.

Suddenly, 16 ideas began flipping into motion.

On their fingertips, was a world so different and so unique from the one we live in, that it felt as if it was running on its own time.
The flipbook is the most primitive method of animation. The origin of the word "animation" is pouring "anima"(soul) into the motionless and giving it life. However, from the flipbooks we made it was difficult to feel anything "hot" or animated on the surface. The motions they made seemed rather to follow a plan laid out by calculations, giving a much "cooler" feeling than soul.
This is, what I think, gives them the distinct look of beauty and order.

The moment I saw them, I felt a need to show this beautiful world to more people. The cynics I showed them to said that flipbooks are trivial; others said this type of experiment had already been done; but that didn't matter.
I had already been deeply moved by these well-regulated flipbooks; and I wanted to see them keep on flipping.

I would like to thank all the people who helped us materialize such a difficult project. Jun Sawami for editing, Tsuyoshi Bushimata for printing, and postgraduate students Yuki Maetani, Izumi Murakami, and Noriyuki Fujimura for guiding the students. And thank you all very much.

----- I am going to shut down this small project for now, but I hope that the 16 spirits who gathered here will keep on stimulating each other and that someday they will create new values for this world.

Masahiko Sato
copyright (c) 2000 Masahiko Sato Laboratory (Pico Lab.)
All rights reserved.