Robert Jackson: Computational Aesthetics: Independence and execution #STU02

This presentation was given on wednesday, 16th of November 2011, 6 pm GMT, by Robert Jackson, @parallax00, MPhil/PhD candidate at the University of Plymouth, Faculty of Arts and Media. Kurator / Arts and Social Technologies (K/AST). Artist, academic and software programmer.

Links to further reading below.

Tweeteer

Robert Jackson

Room

#STU02

This is @ozonist, founder of The Swedish Twitter University, tweeting from a pitch black forest, walking the dog. 🙂  
Welcome all to our second ever Twitter “lecture” and discussion!  
In a few minutes I have the pleasure to leave this account to Robert Jackson of The University of Plymouth.  
Robert will be tweeting on Computational Aesthetics – very exiting! And remember:  
Use the #stu02 hashtag for questions and discussions so everyone can follow. Now, it’s all yours, Robert!  
Hi Everyone Sorry I’m late. #stu02  
As usual British traffic is a nightmare #stu02  
So before I start who’s here? #stu02  
  @kuja
#stu02 Am here. We were at Liverpool last September 🙂
ok here we go then. They’ll be ordered #stu02  
1. Given. A 32 x 32 grid. Allowed. Any element of the grid to be colored black or white. Shown. Every Icon. The artwork executes. #STU02  
2. The artwork in question is called “Every Icon”, an algorithmic artwork. Loosely defined, an artwork based on an algorithm. #STU02  
3. We’re looking at an algorithm executing every configuration possible in a grid. But one should ask what we’re really staring at. #STU02  
4.The work executes, yet it executes not for us. The mathematical capabilities of the piece outweigh finite limitations of thought. #STU02  
5. To witness every single configuration possible, it will take approximately 100 trillion years (or 1.8 x 10 to the power 308 years) #STU02  
6. The work is constructed by an artist (namely John F. Simon. Jr’s) concept, without actually pandering to human concepts whatsoever #STU02  
7. But what should we do? Submit defeat to thought? In this brief talk, I shall claim that a shrug of the shoulders is unacceptable. #STU02  
8.The algorithmic execution exists and is necessary. But the work challenges many inherited dominant trends in aesthetic theory today #STU02  
9. It isn’t ‘wholly relational’ it remains indifferent. It isn’t ‘conceptual’ it doesn’t think. It isn’t a ‘process’ its a procedure. #STU02  
10.The piece executes without us whether we like it or not. We know what the outcomes will be without the capacity to experience them #STU02  
10. It is an artwork which reaches the high standard of transcendent deliberation. It enacts the thinking of unthought itself. #STU02  
  @juspar
RT @SvTwuni: 8.The algorithmic execution exists and is necessary. But the work challenges many inherited dominant trends in aesthetic theory today #STU02
12. And yet we must not stop there, for it does much more than this. The piece is even more impressive technically speaking. #STU02  
13. It is a cellular automaton, a simple program, easily understood. However its character does not bestow emergence, only a count. #STU02  
  @kuja
RT @SvTwuni: 9. It isn’t ‘wholly relational’ it remains indifferent. It isn’t ‘conceptual’ it doesn’t think. It isn’t a ‘process’ its a procedure. #STU02
14.Unlike the usually evocation of CA nothing emerges here Nothing is unexpected; there’s no vitalist undertones of AI under the hood #STU02  
  @monki
ian Bogost – Process vs. Procedure http://t.co/bIcew4XQ #STU02
15. There is only computation. It automates a count, equivalent or equal to a human mind who counts without ingenuity or insight. #STU02  
16. What would horrify the humanities is the future of aesthetics. The computation isn’t what it ‘does’, but ‘does’ what it is. #STU02  
17. Every Icon is neither decidable nor undecidable (the famed contingent method of transfinite philosophers), but is, semidecidable #STU02  
18. It automates a count and does so effectively without reducing reality to concepts. It’s the aesthetics of systematic enumeration #STU02  
  @kuja
#STU02 What is the chance that a *single* trivial computation will do the following:
19. It presents the enumerable limits of representation itself. Like all the algorithms we execute we tend to deal with the decidable #STU02  
  @kuja
#STU02 * generate patterns that are evocative of the Hegelian triad?
20. It skims the surface of the ontological capabilities of computation. The universal equivalency as well as the mechanical. #STU02  
  @kuja
#STU02 * generate schemata that are evocative of the musical structure of Bach’s Crab Canons?
  @kuja
#STU02 * generate a diagram of the baryon octet from particle physics?
21. Computation is not just relegated to software, hardware and electricity. But any procedure is encapsulated to warrant complexity #STU02  
  @kuja
#STU02 * generate a good portion of the I Ching trigrams?
22. If Simon Jr’s work bestows semidecidability, Antoine Schmitt’s work bestows undecidability. Determined yet unpredictable. #STU02  
23. But enumeration is an aesthetic and philosophical enterprise. Thought can count, but also automated computation can count #STU02  
24.The configurable artwork is the truer artwork Configuring the means for its construction Unlike contingency (anything is possible) #STU02  
25. Aesthetic enumeration is the procedure which reveals that ‘everything is possible’, but paradoxically, it is never experienced #STU02  
Fin #STU02  
  @EvoMRI
RT @SvTwuni: Fin #STU02
ok so if there are any questions, lets hear em’ Incidentally heres the link to Every Icon, the artwork mentioned http://t.co/7ba8fuEA  
  @kuja
#STU02 Robert, what you think about “recursive distinctioning” (RD)?
  @ozonist
Is this thing on? #STU02
  @kuja
@ozonist I wonder… #STU02
  @ozonist
RT @kuja: #STU02 Robert, what you think about “recursive distinctioning” (RD)? @parallax00 @SvTwuni
  @parallax00
@kuja Hiya. In what capacity, you mean in the capacity of a discernible Turing Machine? #STU02
Sorry – should do it through this – @kuja In what capacity, you mean in the capacity of a discernible Turing Machine? #STU02  
@kuja
@parallax00 I mean, in CA you have a set of rules, which are always the same, and never change. But the operation stays always the same… #stu02
@kuja #STU02 thats certainty true of CA. Depends which – there’s many kinds. For example theres Turing machine CA which repeat one pixel  
@kuja #STU02 it completely depends, but the typical definition of a CA or simple program is one that can be described easily.  
  @kuja
@SvTwuni #STU02 Right, but in general the only thing that changes is the input and the output. The operation is the same.
@kuja #STU02 but essentially yes the operation stays the same, but recursion is defined by who the rule accounts for different inputs  
@kuja #STU02 when you expand the CA horizon, the human mind is incapable of applying formulae to CA  
@kuja #STU02 The elementaryCA Rule 30 is an example http://t.co/HcUav3Tq A recursive CA which the smallest rule that can generate randomness  
  @kuja
@SvTwuni #STU02 This is fascinating stuff! How can an “aesthetical CA” go beyond a simple sequence of pattern transformations?
@kuja #STU02 Good question. My view is that ‘aesthetics’ is a jarring between two computational systems, as long as they are equivalent.  
@kuja #STU02 The rule is the same, but the decidable/undecidable/semidecidable output depends on the system that happens to observe it.  
@mjntendency
#STU02 I like this statement, but how close then does aesthetics come to theoretical CS, where one proves equivalencies?
@mjntendency @kuja Because I don’t think CA is a theory, but a real thing executing. Thats what I like about computing; practicality #STU02  
  @kuja
@SvTwuni #STU02 interesting you put an “observable” atribute to a non-living system… I like this OOO tone.
@mjntendency @kuja #STU02 I think CA science can theorise, but the limit one gets is just undecidability in various chaotic vicissitudes.  
@kuja #STU02 It is an OOO tone, of sorts. I am very sympathetic to the movement for this reason.  
@kuja #STU02 Also, regarding non-living systems. I don’t attribute to computation as living or non-living, but just computation.  
  @kuja
@SvTwini #STU02 The aesthetics you talk about might loop at the “operation”, the process instead of the results… Right?
  @ozonist
RT @SvTwuni: 14.Unlike the usually evocation of CA nothing emerges here Nothing is unexpected; there’s no vitalist undertones of AI under the hood #STU02
  @kuja
#STU02 Stiegler has a fine view of what he calls “organized non-living beings” (Am I the only questioner here or is it impression?)
@kuja #STU02 He does. But it’s too endowed with dismissing the subject, which doesn’t go far enough IMO. He still keeps the technic subject  
  @Ramsay71
I have joined the university of twitter – yes it does exist #STU02
  @kuja
RT @Ramsay71 I have joined the university of twitter – yes it does exist #STU02 (same here; clever idea!) @SvTwuni
@kuja #STU02 Plus also Stiegler kind of looks at the unity of the technical system as a whole, rather than computation per se.  
  @kuja
@SvTwuni #STU02 And what about non-numerical computations? I mean, computations perpetrated out of the digital and computational world?
@kuja #STU02 Well computation was born from undecidable mathematics, but its structure is a procedure that discerns symbols.  
@kuja Its a bigger part of a question that I’m looking at; computing is constructivist, yet what is constructed – maths or language?  
@kuja #STU02 I’m tempted to say that its just contingent input variability. Which in turn isn’t represented as such, but just discernible.  
  @kuja
@SvTwuni #STU02 Stretching a little bit: Don’t you think that any transformation could be considered a kind of computation?
@kuja #STU02 yes! As long as the transformation is finite, discrete, discernible, and has inputs / outputs.  
@kuja #STU02 That is a stretch though I admit. The situation is changes somewhat if the algorithm is universal and equivalent.  
  @ozonist
RT @kuja: @SvTwuni #STU02 Stretching a little bit: Don’t you think that any transformation could be considered a kind of computation?
  @ozonist
RT @svtwuni: @kuja #STU02 yes! As long as the transformation is finite, discrete, discernible, and has inputs / outputs.
  @helen_pritchard
@SvTwuni Thanks 4 talk, question re 4 & 9. does its idea,to execute beyond the human ,make it conceptual even if it is eventually enacted? #stu02
@Helen_Pritchard #STU02 thats the thing – I don’t think its an idea. It might have been born from an idea, but its not reducible to one.  
@Helen_Pritchard #STU02 It’s a difficult question which philosophers have (until now) not really wrestled with since Kant ….  
@Helen_Pritchard #STU02 How does one think something which is unthought, even when thought has made something which surpasses thought itself  
@Helen_Pritchard #STU02 Also, nice to see you on here Helen, hope you’re good Looking forward to Dec 1st! (my talk won’t be like this one).  
  @kuja
@SvTwuni @parallax00 #STU02 have to go. many thanks!
  @helen_pritchard
@SvTwuni yes, am wondering about the relationship between the idea of the algoritihim and its performance … #stu02
  @helen_pritchard
@SvTwuni “I don’t hear the music I write: I write in order to hear the music I have yet heard.” John Cage #STU02
@Helen_Pritchard I’d wager that aesthetic performance is ambiguous. Because when we close the browser down, does the work still perform?  
@Helen_Pritchard #STU02 thats a quote for undecidability if I heard one! I do think that ‘autonomous’ aspect of art is computational.  
  @helen_pritchard
@SvTwuni yes indeed, I very much like the suggestion of the semidecidability, #stu02
@Helen_Pritchard #STU02 yeah its so much more interesting that decidability and undecidability. Its predictable, yet beyond thought.  
#STU02 ok guys I’ll leave it there – if anyone wants to ask me any further questions email me at robert.jackson@plymouth.ac.uk 
The whole is going to be posted somewhere apparently according to @ozonist so anyone who missed it can watch it there. #STU02  
  @ozonist
@SvTwuni Thank you for the talk, Robert! And thank you @kuja @helen_pritchard and @mjntendency for engaging in discussion! #STU02
And I’ll post it on me blog too. #STU02 TTFM and I’ll hand the reigns back to @ozonist  
  @ozonist
@svtwuni Everything will be archived on the http://t.co/nv0Ag3tF blog – where discussion may continue as well. Good night! #stu02

Further reading

Artworks
Every Icon
(needs Java runtime plugin)
http://numeral.com/eicon.html

Texts and Bios
Antoine Schmitt – Avec Determination + Bio
http://www.fundacion.telefonica.com/es/at/vida/vida10/paginas/v5/eavec.html

Antoine Schmitt – list of works
http://gratin.org/as/

A presentation of Frieder Nake’s algorithmic work by artist and programmer Casey Reas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV1iol35fHg

Object Oriented Ontology – Wiki
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object-oriented_ontology

Algorithmic Aesthetics – Computer Models for Criticism and Design in the Arts: (originally published by James Gips and George Stiny in 1978)
Preface to the original
http://www.algorithmicaesthetics.org/AlgorithmicAestheticsPrefaceMay2010.pdf
Website to download the book for free (warning large PDF): http://www.algorithmicaesthetics.org/

The Aesthetics of Generative Code. Paper by artists Geoff Cox, Alex McLean and Adrian Ward
http://www.generative.net/papers/aesthetics/#t8

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