Little Green Folks (beta)

According to INTERPOL intelligence, an alien invasion of planet Earth is imminent. We don’t know exactly when they will come or where they will come from, but there is one thing sources are certain of: the aliens will be small and green.

In an effort to prepare for this day of reckoning, we were commissioned by a consortium of national security agencies to come up with an accurate profile of our new enemies. Since noone has ever seen or had direct contact with them, we used cutting edge ‘collective imagining’ techniques to develop a database of possible likenesses and traits.

A very smart, serpent-like algorithm is currently working its way through the data set, cross-referencing each feature with Ming Dynasty literature, theories on the wave-particle duality of light and matter, and other knowledge stores.

When it has finished processing, the algorithm will render a comprehensive portrait of who is coming for us, and will be able to mount defenses for planet Earth accordingly.

For real, though, we paid people to draw us aliens. Little Green Folks is more so about the system we created to gather and organize an offbeat dataset than it is about visualizing data in a novel way.

Our system for commissioning, gathering, and displaying the aliens consists of:

1- The drawing tool: developed with Processing, and placed on the web. The tool is simple, consisting of a brush, eraser, slider to set the stroke width, and a timer to time out after 90 seconds. The stroke color is set to green.  After your drawing is done, a simple form appears asking for the alien name, planet of origin, remarks, and the nationality of the artist. Drawn images are saved on the same domain where the tool is located.

2- Amazon Mechanical Turk task: we asked 200 turkers from around the world to draw us aliens for 15 cents each.

3- Download manager: scheduled download of the images from the server to Dropbox folder.

4- Flickr uploader: processing sketch that parses the title (which has all the details of the alien) and uploads the most recent image downloads to the Little Green Folks flickr account with the title and description.

5- The website: photos are pulled from flickr and placed in the gallery, categorized by tags like ‘polypedal’, ‘friendly’, and ‘hostile’. There is also a [fake] shop section, showcasing products that feature the crowd-sourced alien drawings.

In the future, we plan to open up the drawing tool to the public and collaborate with professionals in various fields to do serious and not-so-serious research on our ever-growing alien data set.