Computing As A Rule-Changer in Media

The computer provides the artist with a unique framework that can be either abstract or material. Hardware, software, and wetware create that feedback loop which used to have strict boundaries. Advent in technology and understanding of how computers work for human (HCI practices) as well as how humans work for computers (crowdsourcing) are erasing these boundaries.

It is naive to call the computer a medium. A more precise definition is that it is a continuously evolving platform that can either define novel mediums or derive spin-off mediums by changing existing rules of a particular medium. A prominent example is the glitch aesthetic, which is possible because the representation of the images in a computer is subject to errors. One can exploit this by using a series of readily-available tools such as MOSH, or Image Glitch Tool. Emulation of old graphics modes offered by the computer is also another technique for a retro aesthetic. Speaking of emulation; even though one could still run abandonware from the earlier periods of computing, it is physically not possible to emulate some hardware such as a CRT monitor, or a SID music chip. Even though the representation of images are still the same bit sequences, the hardware significantly impacts the communication between us and the computer.

Living Room. Glitched by MOSH.

Computers had become an extension of our culture by dominating our life: This leads to the false notion of that technology was given for granted. A consequence of this school of thought is that people draw less attention what is going under the hood. For example, sharing “snaps” via the Snapchat app is considered only on the business rules. One assumes that she is just sharing her photo, a so-called “story” for 24 hours. Reflecting upon the discussion on the transparency of algorithms, it is almost impossible to tell where do our snaps end up after this 24-hour period. Even though your photo gets deleted from the server, chances that your content becomes a training data for some classification algorithm. Happy snapping!

The chapter on technology gives a brief introduction and stresses that transistors that constitute the CPU of the modern computer can be derived from many different materials. And, apparently even in Minecraft. Using the principles laid out by the pioneers of computing, this Minecraft player built a CPU that can perform algebra. It is worth noting that, Minecraft is in fact only a piece of software that runs on hardware: Yet, it can have a piece of emulated hardware that is built by some wetware!


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