Dice Man




I think we do control our own destiny, but only because I reject the idea of fate. The concept of everything being predetermined is quite frankly very frightening and slightly horrific. If fate exists then what is the point in anything? Because what is set out to happen will happen regardless or not of what we think we have changed.

People use something called ‘Dice Living’, as a way of leaving their choices up to chance, and abandoning freewill. They will assign a list of options to the faces of the dice, and then must commit to doing this action when that option lands face up. Dice Living is a way of committing yourself to do things that you wouldn’t usually do, and therefore enriching your life. This is the principle set out in the book ‘The Dice Man’ (1971), by George Cockcroft under the pen name Luke Rhinehart. Despite due to its explicit controversial content and being banned in several con tries, the book proved to be massively influential and became a modern cult classic. In the book the protagonist grows bored of his comfortable life, and uses the dice to make decisions in order to break out of routine, and ends up doing several things including murdering and raping. The ideas within the book inspired many, including this brief.

Paul Wilmshurst produced a 50 minute short film called  “Dice World”  based on the philosophy of Luke Rhinehart’s book.

“You must commit yourself to following the die, don’t put something on the list that you know you wouldn’t do even if the die choses it.”

My initial thoughts after doing a bit of research is Dice life seems bizarre, according to person who wrote this page, it strikes me as having religious worshiping aspects to it.

“I felt less guilty if I went out the night before an essay was due in, because the decision was out of my hands. On the other hand, I would happily stay in and write an essay when my favourite DJ was in town because that was told of me.”

The feeling I get from it is that the people who believe in Dice life believe that chance rules their lives. I watched multiple youtube blog posts which are part of ’30 days of Dice living’, by Emily Schooley, hoping to gain a direct insight into dice living. However I felt she did not fully embrace the concept, and I felt that she only used the dice when it suited her, when she was bored, and it was not 30 straight days of dice living, it was 30 days over the course of a year or something. She recorded the dice making decisions for her, but never followed up the results, or how the results effected her, which I believe is the most important part of the process. I felt that because of this, this series was far too flawed to study any longer. There are more notes on this in my sketch book.



  • Dice/Die
  • From the Latin datum, “something which is given or played”.
  • They are used for generating random numbers, by being thrown or rolled.
  • Traditionally have six faces, showing a different number of dots/pips, usually an integer.
  • Sometimes the dice show images or symbols instead of numbers.
  • Sometimes dice are used altered so that when playing, some results are favoured. These are called crooked or loaded.
  • Dice have been used since before recorded history, its origin is unknown. Dice were originally made from the hoofs of animals. “knucklebones”, some people call dice “bones”.
  • Dicing is a very structured way of being random.
  • You can be as adventurous or un-adventurous as you chose.


  • Lack of predictability in events.
  • Having no definite aim or purpose.
  • Not guided in a particular direction.
  • Lack of order/coherence.
  • No intelligible pattern.
  • Hindu and Buddhist philosophies state there are no random events, Hinduism teaches of free will and karma, and nothing happens randomly. Whilst Buddhism says that fate is ‘heaven’s will’, and cannot be escaped from. Christians tend to believe that random is not possible because of purpose, but The Bible does speak of luck.

ways of generating random outcomes

The Infinite Probability Guide



  • Predictive text often leaves people sending texts with words that appear random, but are in fact words that the phone thought that person was going to say.

predictive text

  • Catastrophism is the belief that catastrophes like the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, are not in fact random freak events, but part of a series of events that all happen in order for species to evolve.



“A number is due”

In a random selection of numbers, since all numbers eventually appear, those that have not come up yet are ‘due’, and thus more likely to come up soon. This logic is only correct if the numbers that do come up are removed from the system. This is also known as coupon collector’s problem, meaning that the first few coupons are collected very quickly, but it takes longer and longer to collect the remaining others.

“A number is cursed or blessed”

A number may be said to be cursed because it has come up less often in the past. This logic is only valid if the randomisation is biased.



Random is often good, change is good. If we didn’t have random events in our lives, everything would stay the same. People who suffer from creative block require randomness to break from the uninspiring.

Oblique strategies

Originally created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, Oblique Strategies is a deck of cards, each containing a thought intended to break creative blocks using a less direct or creative approach.

Examples include:

  • Do the washing up
  • You don’t have to be ashamed of using your own ideas
  • Give way to your worst impulse
  • Use something nearby as a model
  • Ask people to work against their better judgement
  • Always give yourself credit for having more than personality
  • Do the last thing first

There are many references to the Oblique strategies in the film Slacker, maybe this is worth watching as research. 

Hungry Birds

Hungry birds is a project in which Voldemars Dudums has replaced the keys of a keyboard with chunks of meat, as a result, this attracts birds who peck and pull at it, triggering the keyboard to type. What the birds ‘type’ is then sent to a twitter account, which creates actual tweets.



Céleste Boursier-Mougenot – Aviary at The Barbican
Neil Cocker – http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/posts/neil_cocker_human_windchime_audio_artwork_cardiff 

It has been said that what the artist produces as art is only ever 50% of the piece, the other 50% is how the receiver reacts with it. Their interpretation will be made up of personal experiences, meaning that it could appear to be random. Random in itself is uncontrollable, meaning the artist produces something that is controllable, then leaves it up to the unpredictable interaction with the viewers to finish the piece.




This idea was based on the concept of using random to select what we should/should not view and how it effects our understanding of an outcome. I started by experimenting with the images inside one folder on my computer. I used www.random.org to generate a random number in-between 1 and 90 (the number of images within the folder), this then picked the image I would be using. I opened the image up in photoshop and added a numbered grid, containing the numbers 1-35. I then used the website to produce 17 numbers in-between 1-35, these numbers would go on to be the visible squares within the grid.

random number 1 outcomeMethod 1

I made 3 more examples using this method, each of which I enjoyed making, despite the outcome not being particularly exciting. I think the unpredictability of it is what made it exciting. However it seemed really quite basic and there were several elements that could be improved.

random number 2 outcome

method 2


random number 3 outcome

Method 3random number 4 outcome method 4


– All the images are from the same folder, meaning that they tended to have a similar content, and as a result didn’t feel very ‘random’.

– It would have been far easier to use the randomly generated numbers as the parts of the image that would be blacked out.

– I originally used 17 numbers because it was about half of 35, however this should become subject to random to create slightly more interesting images.

– Whilst using the website to generate the numbers to be shown I was tending to get duplicate numbers, I couldn’t change this function on the website. Ideally I wouldn’t be seeing duplicates, which meant using another method of generating random numbers.

– The result of doing the process digitally was that the images had no depth to them, and I should physically do the process in the future.

So I took all of these things into consideration and adapted the process. I used the random number generator within Max Cycling to create numbers which lead me to select the images to use. I then used the generator again to pick a number within 1-35, to decide how many squares on the grid to black out. And the generator a final time to select the numbers.

Image 1

image 1Image 1

Desktop/part 1/Research/Bromley reality photo 1.jpg

roll 5/ roll 2/ roll 6

Select 10 numbers

14, 23, 9, 33, 1, 5, 6, 2, 4, 24

These numbers were removed from the image.


Image 2

image 2Image 2

Desktop/Maisie’s things/Fish eye/352CANON/IMG_5296.JPG

roll 3/ roll 10/ roll 1/ roll 7

Select 20 numbers

16, 19, 6, 20, 27, 26, 11, 13, 28, 21, 12, 5, 9, 33, 15, 23, 18, 8, 10, 17

These numbers were removed from the image, then replaced in the order that they were generated. E.g. 16 moved to 5.


Image 3

image 3Image 3

Desktop/part 1/Documentation/google eath image 1.jpg

roll 6/ roll 1/ roll 5

Select 16 numbers

23, 6, 2, 4, 8, 22, 7, 25, 18, 15, 14, 20, 24, 26, 17, 3

These numbers were removed from the image, and then presented in Image 4.


Image 4

image 4Image 4

These are the numbers from Image 3, presented in the order they were generated in.

23, 6, 2, 4, 8, 22, 7, 25, 18, 15, 14, 20, 24, 26, 17, 3


These results were far more interesting than the previous set, however the idea itself I found to be quite dull and this is as far as I took the idea.





Coin flipping/ Coin tossing is the practice of throwing a coin in the air to choose between 2 alternatives. It is a form of sortition which only has 2 possible and equally likely outcomes. Except in the case of fraudulent flipping, which involves controlling the number of flips the coin does in the air, creating the illusion the coin is flipping, peaking at the coin before a side is called, and feeling which side of the coin is facing upwards.

Sigmund Freud claimed that by using coin tossing as a method of determining an outcome, it helps us clarify our feelings towards those outcomes. After the coin is tossed the user can then ask themselves how they really feel about that outcome, whether they are pleased or disappointed.

‘The Farnsworth Parabox’- In this episode of Futurama the professor creates a parallel universe in which the only difference being that coin tosses always land the opposite way. The result being that the worlds become very different. http://www.watchcartoononline.com/futurama-episode-415-the-farnsworth-parabox


My initial idea was to use literal ‘Heads & Tails” on a pair of dice to create an exquisite corpse. So I started brainstorming ideas for heads and tails, and then numbered my ideas, and allowed the random number generator to pick six, one for each side of the dice, shown in bold.

Heads – Mr Potato Head, The Queen’s Head, Nail head, Hammer head, Jar head, bed head, mop head, pin head, logger head, dick head, head of a table, head of state, head teacher, football head, tech head, chicken head, bone head, head lice, bulls head, machine head, the talking heads, be achy head, motor head, petrol head, beheaded.

Tails – Old wives tales, Yellowtail, rats tail, tailwind, fairy tale, Tails (the fox), Peacock tail, Oxtail, fantail, ponytail, pigtail, retail, tailbone, tailor, tailspin, cocktail, ninetails.

ready to print 2

ready to print

Photo 22-10-2013 13 43 13 Photo 22-10-2013 22 34 08

The dice I had produced ended up looking amateurish due to thick paper and scuffed corners. I should have just assigned the images numbers and used normal dice to pick heads & tails.

I needed a way of recording the hybrids/ exquisite corpses that I intended to draw, so I made up a grid system.

grid experiement blank

And then proceeded to fill it in.

grid experiement

It took quite a while to complete the grid, and there were times where I thought that the hybrid of two of the images surely couldn’t exist. This exercise forced my creativity to the limits and for that reason it was a lot of fun and refreshing, whilst at the same time very exhausting. There were obviously outcomes that worked better than others, with some that I am very pleased with, and some that are appalling. I annotated the grid as a way of reflecting on what elements worked/didn’t work and why.

grid analysis 2 grid analysis

At this point I felt that I had come to a dead end with this idea.


YouTube Preview Image

This clip from ‘Friends’ inspired my next experimental concept, based on finding randomness within synonyms. My idea was to take a piece of text, and then find multiple synonyms for as many of the words as possible. The result would be that the text still made sense and conveyed the same message, but through a new combination of words.

I decided to attempt to make this within Max Cycling, which I knew very little about, so spent a few days getting to grips with it.

When I set random up like this:

Untitled-2It gives me the same answer 4 times. Which could have been an option, because if I had set each synonym up with a certain number, e.g randomly generating the number 5, would be the words happy, sad, and hard came up. And then if i generated the number 6, the words, ecstatic, depressed and difficult appeared. It would mean that the combinations would be slightly less random. So you couldn’t get the word depressed, without the word difficult.


The Alternative to this is:

Untitled-1Where having 4 random generators connected to 4 random outputs means I COULD have the words depressed and difficult together, meaning many more combinations.


After spending the day learning about some of the basics of MAX, I spent the next morning attempting to create a basic template of the structure that I would be using later. The main challenge I faced was that I knew MAX could randomly generate numbers, but I wanted it to randomly generate images. After testing out various things I produced this structure, as an example.

Untitled-3I made a quicktime movie of 6 frames, each containing 1 image. I then set the random generator to select a frame between 1 and 6. Each time I hit the bang, it shows 1 random frame from the movie on each window. This could be modified to show as many windows as I required.

Although it is a way off the finished product, I feel this was a good start. I now know how to go about inputting my data, and I just needed to work out how I’m going to display my output data, rather than the windows. I also needed to convert these quicktime movies to gifs, as they are simpler to work with in this case.

I had made quite a bit of progress, however it became tedious quickly! I am started to have doubts now whether my project is interesting enough for the viewer. I personally find it exciting as I feel I had achieved quite a lot in the past 24 hours, I learnt (what feels like a lot) in MAX, and a bit of final cut pro with the aid of my brother, and then about making animations in photoshop.

At this point I decided in order for my experiment to progress any further I would need to choose a text to work with. I decided on a simple 27 word review of ‘The Dice Man’, written by Professor H.J. Eysenck.

‘I find The Dice Man very funny indeed and sometimes almost terrifying in its accurate evocation of the amount of nonsense American psychoanalysts talk and believe in!’

textI then applied this to my patch.

Untitled-4 Which developed into this:

Untitled-5Which with slightly more tweaking, became this:

Untitled-1And then this in presentation mode:

Untitled-2At this point I felt as if this idea had reached a natural finishing point. I am extremely proud of what I had achieved with it, and felt as if this piece was done. However I also felt as if it didn’t tick all the boxes I wanted my final outcome to achieve, the main one being there was very little interaction happening in-between the user and the program, there is just one click involved. I also felt that it was interesting initially for the user, but after 3 or 4 go’s, they weren’t excited by it anymore.



It was at this point that I attended a tutorial where I was advised to attempt to combine my Heads & Tails project with my Synonyms project to produce a final outcome. I decided to take what I had learnt how to do in Max, and apply it to my Heads & Tails project, with the planned outcome being a patch in which when you press a button, 2 boxes containing heads and tails would randomly select a ‘head’ and a ‘tail’, and then the user would have to draw what THEY thought would be the outcome in a box below. The drawings could then be saved, and people could attempt to work out what they thought the hybrid was. The idea being that I really enjoyed creating my own hybrids and having my creative limits pushed, so by inviting others to create hybrids I could have a far wider variety of results.

My first step was to look back at the analysis I had done on the previous images, I generate 2 new sets of images, which would be instantly recognisable. I created 2 new lists of ideas, and selected 12 images from each, shown below.

sketch book scan




I wanted to make sure that people could recognise the ideas, so as a test I sent the images to two people and asked them to say what they thought they were.

convo 1 convo 2

It quickly became apparent that some ideas were more recognisable than others, so I cut the number of images from 12 to 8, and only included the most successful ones.

grid  2

grid 2

I created what I could using Max myself, and went to one of my tutors for help with the parts I was having trouble with. The main problems I had were, How should I present this? Can I display it as a webpage or it is ok to just show it in presentation mode in Max? And How can I save the images that people produce?

My tutors response to my first question was that Max isn’t really built for webpages and it might be making more work for myself than needed. And that it is fine to display it in presentation mode. He also showed me how the images from the drawing box could be saved into a folder on the desktop, which was a huge relief.

With these things in mind I developed my patch.

patch 2 patch

However I didn’t feel completely satisfied with it, and until I had results or people to test it on, I didn’t know how successful it would be. I found it quite hard to draw in the box, the movements were quite jumpy and the outcomes tended to not be great. So I decided to produce a second outcome, and apply what I had made to a poster, where people could more accurately draw their hybrids onto a large grid.

I considered letting people choose which hybrids they wanted to create, but I felt that the outcomes would be more effective if chance determined which combination they had to draw. So I could either make 2 8 sided picture dice, or use regular numerical 8 sided dice and allocate each image a number. I liked both ideas, so I made both.

8 sided dice heads 8 sided dice tails

Photo 05-11-2013 14 14 30 (HDR) Photo 05-11-2013 14 14 35 (HDR)

I feel now that the picture dice worked far better than the previous picture dice I made because the result was far ‘cleaner’ looking, and the images were much larger, meaning the images were far more visible.

To work out which outcome is more successful, I needed to start testing it on people. I started testing the max outcome first, and peoples initial responses were:

– ‘I don’t want to do that one it’s hard!’

– ‘I want an eraser’

-‘This is really difficult’

-‘I wish there were more images’

-‘Is this a website?’

Their attempts are shown below.


The Queen’s Head + Tailor


Hammerhead + Pigtails


Bull’s head + Ponytail

Football head + Tailorexport5Potato head + Ponytail.


Headmaster + Tailor


Hammerhead + cocktail


Bulls head + Pig tails


Football head + Ponytail


Head in the clouds + Peacock Tailexport11

The queen’s head + Tails the fox


My volunteers found the exercise to be really quite challenging, but once they embraced it, to become increasingly fun. Initially I was worried that people wouldn’t enjoy to exercise. Although they felt like there should be an option to erase certain parts of the image, I think that the outcomes are far more truthful and as a result, effective as they are.

I then tested out my physical grid, and like before, initially people were hesitant but once they embraced it, they started having fun and produced some strange outcomes.

testing grid

The responses of the people who tested this outcome were quite different to those of the max patch. There is no technical element to complain about, and people tended to respond with “oh no I’m so bad at drawing!”, Other than that, they seemed to enjoy this outcome more and I think people are more familiar with drawing by hand.


When I presented my project in the critique the feedback I received was:

-They liked that there was a high tech and a low tech outcome.

– The poster needed to look more like a finished product, add a title, make the lines more bold, get it printed on thicker paper.

– Continue to add to the max patch, so that the data base of combinations gets bigger and bigger.

– Link the patch to a graphics tablet.

– Have my paper dice made into real dice.

From these suggestions I decided to do the following improvements before the hand in:

– Add more images to the max patch.

new heads

‘The head’, pin head, mop head, nail head, jar head & head lice.new tails

Fairy tale, typographic tail, tail dress, old wives tail, retail & yellowtail wine.

– Have my poster reprinted.

extended grid 2b

– Try to fill in all 56 squares of my previous poster.

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