bookooBread – LookingOutwards

This piece is by Helena Sarin @helena.sarin 

It is a part of her Latenttuce series for her book, The Book of veGAN.

While I know these are supposed to be lettuces, I couldn’t help but looking at them like they were raw chunks of meat… The texture is so wonderfully lumpy and bulbous in spots. As many of you already know I am super into these kinds of fleshy/bodily textures, so this one really caught my eye.


  • In this blog post, write about 100-200 words (1-2 paragraphs). You are asked to re-explain Compton’s “10,000 Bowls of Oatmeal Problem” in your own words. Can you think of a scenario in which this might be a problem, and another in which it isn’t? What are some artistic or technical strategies for overcoming this problem?

Kate Compton’s “10,000 Bowls of Oatmeal Problem” explains the issue of perceptual uniqueness when generating at a large scale. Her metaphor with oatmeal easily displays this idea – noting how even though each bowl is technically different, at such a large scale the differences become much harder to read. Soon, it all begins to look somewhat the same. When generating at a large scale, the products may have many differences but that does not necessarily mean they will look unique. This brings up the idea of perceptual differentiation – which is not the same as perceptual uniqueness. Perceptual differentiation does not go further than making each generated product different from one another. This may be as small as changing the color of a person’s eyes, a detail that may be overlooked when put alongside hundreds of other people. If what you are going for is just some large crowd, this is perfectly fine. However, if this crowd needs to have distinctive figures, perceptual uniqueness takes a step further to make each product perceivably unique to the human eye. But, as Compton explains, making these large generative works have perceptual uniqueness is no easy task. I think this could certainly be a problem if the recipients of a generative work expect the product to be unique each time. It may become boring if they feel like it is getting too repetitive. Maybe a more technical way of overcoming this problem could be to increase the randomness.


I developed my project by first trying to make a heart, using the method of ABC DEF points. Once I got a heart I liked, I wanted to do something fun with it and thought of making an arrow through the heart. For the arrow, I used the line() command made certain parts darker to convey depth. I put a greater opacity on the outline of the heart which I like the effect of. Then, I added words. I was interested in making the image move, but I wasn’t able to figure out how after trying things that were done in the demo.

I think it’s interesting to compare my work to the 10,000 bowls of oatmeal problem because I am beginning to understand it better. I feel that my project has the oatmeal problem because all of the names are the same and it is a still image. I think that in the future, I will definitely try to make it interactive or at least moving, because I feel like that helps with the oatmeal problem. I would also like to add more color.


Response to Katie Compton’s 10,000 Bowls of Oatmeal Problem:

Oatmeal can often be regarded as a  plain and uninteresting meal. For certain people, including me, it is one of my favorite breakfast options. The greatest property of oatmeal is its diversity and ability to mimic your favorite desserts. There is always one distinct element that makes or breaks the oatmeal. For me, it is a creamy flavor. Katie Compton uses an analogy to oatmeal to describe the issue with neglecting a key element to hook the viewer. In the visual sense, each oat could be generated differently every time, but without the ability to perceive the uniqueness of each bowl, the issue rises about whether viewers will truly be able to differentiate each generation.  Oatmeal can have many different flavor profiles and combinations, but ultimately, it can become boring if there is no key flavor or element.  Katie Compton pushes the question of how artists can produce work that can be perceptually unique.


gaomeilan – Reading02

The “10,000 Bowls of Oatmeal Problem” describes a problem that some algorithms in certain contexts can run into when generating a large amount of content. Though generative programs are technically capable of producing any amount of content, most are unlikely to generate perceptually  “interesting”, “novel”, or “unique” results when many artifacts have to be made.

Perceptual uniqueness is not necessary in contexts where “perceptual differentiation” is satisfactory enough – for example, if one was generating the appearance of multiple small details such as grains of sand or waves on water, slight variations to their appearance would be 1) less work for the creator of the generator 2) beneficial to creating a pleasing sense of visual uniformity. However, for larger, more noticeable things, such as say, fish in an aquarium, higher levels of differentiation are needed to prevent an “uncanny valley” effect. One could increase the amount of options that can be generated, or make the generative options as different as possible from each other.


Compton’s “10,000 Bowls of Oatmeal Problem” explains the phenomenon that it can be hard to generate a system that has perceptual differentiation. Although each output may be different, when making art, it is up to human aesthetics to determine the uniqueness of each. An example of when this would be a problem would be if you did 10,000 loads of laundry, each time using different types and amounts of soap because the clothes would turn out looking the same each time. However, if you took 10,000 bananas and dipped them into different types of color dye, they would all come out looking different. A strategy to overcome this problem might be to think about the differentiating aesthetics of your possible outputs before beginning the project so that you will know what to aim for.


generated image of red flowers in a vase

I find this particular image from Helena Sarin intriguing in that I don’t want to believe it’s generated–I want to believe this is a painting, with brushes and existence outside a screen and all, like so many other images of flowers in vases I’ve seen; to have to grapple with the fact that it is not that makes me frustrated in an interesting way, so I thought maybe I could share that feeling with another viewer by choosing this as my post.


Kate Compton’s “One Thousand Bowls of Oatmeal” problem refers to the ways in which one must account for human perception when making a generator that might make things that are technically unique, but not so to the human eye. The author raises the concepts of perceptual differentiation and perceptual uniqueness as two ways by which she explains this “problem”–the former being an object’s differentiation from its iterated predecessor, the latter being a sense of “personality” about an object; does it stand on its own against the whole body of objects? Striving for perceptual uniqueness would lead me to try and create different “archetypes” for whatever I would be generating–perhaps making it so that an object is made either of cool or warm colors, has rounded or sharp edges, or is against a light or dark background.

Monday – Valentine

3 images:


The card generation was split up into three parts: the background, text, and little bear. For the background I used two separate functions to create the hearts and stars and randomly selected them and located them to create “sprinkles.” The compliment in the text was randomly chosen from an array. The little bear’s colors change according to it’s background and has varying eye, head, ad ear sizes as well as a changing height.

“10,000 Bowls of Oatmeal”

The project has a lot of variation when it comes to the color changes and decoration of the background. I see the “10,000 bowls of oatmeal” problem, however, emerging through the tiny variations in the bears. Although they technically had several aspects that ideally would create a lot of variation between them , some of the changes in eye size, for example, were not different enough to be noticeable. If I were to continue on this project, I would create more variation with the bears and possibly create more animals.