Artivity Project: Visualizing the Creative Process

In cooperation with the University of the Arts London, Semiodesk is working on a project called Artivity. The goal of this project is to create an open platform which allows for capturing detailed data about the creation process of digital artwork and its context. This data can be used to study the techniques, workflow and sources of inspiration in the creation process of digital media. Moreover, the platform allows artists to archive not only the result of their work, but also the whole creation process along with it.

The project started in April 2015 and is approaching the end of its first phase: bootstrapping the fundamental platform and tools. In order to jump-start the development of the software, Ubuntu Linux and the Zeitgeist event logging framework were chosen as operating system platform. Although the software platform is not widespread in digital media creation, it provides most of the features required for the project out of the box. The tools and insights resulting from this project will be of great value when implementing similar systems on other platforms.

Helping to understand the life cycle of artwork

We chose the Inkscape vector illustration program as our first tool to provide detailed data about the creative editing process. A modified version of the program delivers us data about editing sessions and the steps undertaken in the creation process of a file. Along with statistics about the composition of an artwork in layers, groups and single objects we provide an initial statistic basis for more advanced study of technique, editing habits and the life cycle of digital artwork.

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In the above picture we can see the Artivity Explorer. This tool visualizes all the captured data of a specific file. In the prominent bar chart we display the editing sessions (purple areas), editing steps per minute (purple bars), accessed websites per minute (blue bars) and file system events per minute (orange bars). This feature is currently under development and will be improved with a legend, more data, greater accuracy and interactivity in future versions.

Enabling to capture the creative context

Artists take inspiration from their environment. In the digital world, the primary source for inspiration is the World Wide Web. Allowing users to track their online sources of inspiration does not only allow us to understand how an artwork was technically created, but also yields answers about why it was created in a certain style. For this purpose, Semiodesk has implemented browser plugins which enable tracking the websites which were visited during the editing sessions. For privacy reasons, this journaling feature may be disabled by the user at any time.

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Future work

In the short time frame of three months, the project has successfully produced a solid platform which allows scientists and artists all over the world to analyze the creative process in great detail. In the next phase of the project, we aim to improve and extend our existing programs in terms of usability and accuracy. Moreover we plan to add support for pixel-based image manipulation tools such as Krita, Pinta or the GIMP.