eugenio tisselli

Reading Code – Week 1

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The main prompt asks a bunch of questions that examines the different way we can look at code. We can question the functionality, the aesthetics, the representation, within the context of other work by the artist, relationship with the user, role of the user in generating the art (interactivity), the longevity of the code (preservation and documentation), the content of the piece (deforestation).

These questions vaguely remind me of Aristotle’s four causes. In reality it is no different than looking at a piece of literature or a piece of art. The difference is what are those questions that are particular to software. Looking at a piece of work within the corpus of all works by the artist is something we can do with every artist. Looking functionality is perhaps particular to software studies (or most salient)

I am going to do an ontology now.

*Commentary – this is the same as with other art forms. What does this work say about the subject matter that inspires it.

*Context within artist corpus/historical corpus  – basically the same across all creative works

*Reproduction/Archive/Preservation – pertinent across most creative works, most similar to performance base works like dance and music, but slightly different because a machine is performing the work rather than a perhaps professional musician/dancer/etc.

*Interactivity – Role of the audience – pertinent across most creative works, most similar to performance, again slightly different because the user is sometimes/often running the work as opposed to a (perhaps) professional performing the work.

*Aesthetics – most pertinent across other creative fields. There is not really an aesthetics of code practice, but this could develop.  There is also the aesthetics of the generated work.

*Form of representation – this is only relevant to software and data, since software can be represented in different ways.  It is like the relationship between a genotype and a phenotype. It is relevant to art forms that use signs and symbols.

*Function – this is also perhaps only relevant to software.  We can judge software by how well it accomplishes its task.

 

The most interesting question  to me is about the form of representation or what I call transduction. To quote Mark C. Marino and Jeremy Douglass,  “We could question its form of representation and related idioms (ASCII art, helicopter and satellite photography, et cetera).”  To me this is interesting because it is what makes code different from other forms of expression. By necessity there has to be a layer of mediation or interpretation for code and this layer is a machine not an artist. It is similar to the relationship maybe between a screenplay and a movie, or a score and a musical performance, but the intermediary is a machine itself. And beyond that there is a  multiplicity of options in the form of representation. A score must be a piece of music. But code does not have to be one thing. It is one-to-many mapping.

One of the interesting things that happened in the discussion of this piece of work is that people started to comment on it by remixing it.  Code is one of the few artforms that is so easy to remix, that is probably the mode of work native to code.

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