From the opening party on Thursday, September 7, it was clear that this year’s XOXO was going to be different from previous years. Event creators Andy Baio and Andy McMillan — colloquially known as “The Andys” by attendees — spoke about how XOXO has become more than a festival.
“Really, it’s a community, here to support each other through dark and difficult times — and these are certainly dark and difficult times,” according to the official festival guide from The Andys. “We took a break last year to think about what XOXO should be going forward. In its absence, we realized we needed each other more than ever.”
XOXO has always been referred to by both its creators and the community as an experiment, and this year’s event was no different. A lot of new things happened: attendance numbers were scaled up, hundreds of passes were offered for free, and one of two new events were added to the festival schedule — Art+Code.
Art+Code was hosted by Glitch’s director of community engineering Jenn Schiffer, and she kicked off the event with a rousing presentation that not only had the crowd in stitches, but also prepared them for the other presenters for the night.
Part of Jenn’s talk also included our new Wayback Importer app, a way to help you bring your first website back to life. Several people’s first websites even made their way onto the big screen for everyone to see! As Jenn eloquently put it near the end of her talk, “don’t be surprised if you end up with a feeling of hope listening to our speakers tonight.”
She wasn’t wrong.
From here, the eager crowd was rewarded with the comedic stylings of Baratunde Thurston, Emmy-nominated writer, cultural critic, and New York Times best-selling author.
Baratunde’s talk was a lead-in to the unveiling of Living While Black, a Glitch app that quizzes users on the difference between true and fabricated headlines about white people calling the cops on Black people. His talk pushed the audience to consider the implications of unnecessary over-policing and breaking down the grammar and patterns of how it occurs.
The remaining speakers talked about their projects and the processes behind them, further building upon the premise that the good, fun Internet from decades ago is not only still here, but that it’s a place full of unexpected surprises.
Research scientist Janelle Shane talked about training AI to do everything from generating other-worldly knitting patterns to coming up with unique flavors of ice cream. Nicole He is a programmer and artist, and the creator of Enhance.computer, a voice-enabled game played in your browser that forces you to “zoom in” and “enhance” to find the solution to the puzzle. Web developer Diana Smith is the brilliant mind behind Francine, a breath-taking Rococo-style portrait rendered entirely using CSS.
Becca Ricks, current Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow at Human Rights Watch, extrapolated data from her Facebook account to make 3D maps of her locations, and even create eigenvector values of her face (which she turned into a jacket). Her apps Fuzzify.me and How PayPal Shares Your Data (built on Glitch!) illustrated just how much data web services have on us, and how we can obscure it or see where it goes.
The brilliant interdisciplinary artist Everest Pipkin crafted a haunting tale involving language and code, illustrating the softness in digital spaces such as this tiny star field Twitter bot or generative poetics vis-à-vis spambots. Roberto Baldwin of The Hard G Project, along with the mononymous (and anonymous) entity known on Twitter as @darth, detailed a collective art project showcasing original animated GIFs from a variety of artists all through the streets of San Francisco. And artist and inventor Kate Compton displayed her generative art on stage and in the theater, compelling the audience to consider a more “baroque” future where AI possesses an ornate opulence.
Omayeli Arenyeka and Monica Dinculescu are two creators we’ve featured here on Glitch in the past. Monica displayed her wildly popular Glitch apps emoji-garden and tenori-off, while also showing us her current work with Magenta.js. Omayeli’s talk was about a phenomenon known as the “creative savior complex” which forced the audience to consider if they work they’re creating is making an impact and a difference in the world.
Even better, both Monica and Omayeli’s presentations are online for you to view. Monica’s slides are even hosted on Glitch! Check them out below:
And lastly, the sweet comedic sounds of Botnik Studios got the audience on their feet at the end of the night, singing along to their auto-generated song lyrics, such as this ditty about P90X reviews on Amazon sung in the style of Morrissey.
By the end of the night, attendees were awed and delighted. Just look at this feedback!
Thank you to the XOXO crew and volunteer staff, and for all the presenters and attendees for helping make Art+Code a success!