Computers were first created as a tool of order. They were designed to streamline complicated processes by putting the the responsibility of keeping track of many things in the computer itself. It was all centered mainly around calculations.
Charles Babbage, a 19th century mathematics professor created the first computer to solve mathematical formulas and print the result. It wasn’t so much capable of solving an equation independently, but offered the used with various functions to facilitate the process. Since solving a math problem required many different steps, this allowed the user to streamline the various sub-calculations.
The hard thing about communication, I think, is the need for instinctive responsiveness and emotional nuance. When you have a conversation with someone there isn’t time to plan every single aspect. You have mere seconds to formulate a verbal response so the whole experience is sort of like a giant improvisation. Beyond that though, a huge part of communication (still in context of a conversation) is inflection, tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and so much more. There is an entire language beyond just words that we are incapable of planning. For the most part we can utilize these other channels of communication by learned instinct but it still provides difficulties.
It can be hard even to just congratulate your friend on an award they just received. It should be just a simple word in theory, but maybe you’re a little jealous of their success, and something in your one doesn’t come across as genuine. Suddenly there’s tension between the two of you. Even if you mean only to communicate your joy for them, it is so hard to control every aspect of how you’re saying things. Uniting your entire being to communicate a message with barely an preparation, though we’ve been practicing all our lives, is hard.
Computers here, are capable of adding a sense of organization to this disorder. They can give us the time to plan, and to control every variable. You can proofread, make corrections, add, delete and tinker with your message until you are satisfied. This process is important beyond its technical function, it’s important as way of thinking. Tackling a problem with the computer angle means you break it down into pieces, see what can be done to address each moving part, and how all the pieces can function together to create a larger solution. Anil Dash addresses this, saying “aside from simply teaching how programming works, we need to ensure that young people can understand the way that human concerns are translated into problems that computers can help solve.” She says that coding should be taught not just so kids can go into the computer field, but so that they will understand the thought process, and be able to apply technological benefits to any field. “Every industry, every creative discipline, every line of work from farming to fashion, engineering to english, management to marketing, can be improved by including insights provided by being deeply technologically literate.” Computers, though they differ greatly from the complexities and disarray of standard communication, add a whole dimension that can be applied most broadly to problem solving, and encourage an analytical mindset.
Computational Media certainly adds many more tools to the resources we have available for artistic expression. The ability to process the environment around us and relay it in a digital fashion is certainly
approaching how people function on an everyday basis. We take in stimuli and then formulate a response which composes our output. In this way, computational media is representative of the human process of reaction. This should make it more adept to express internal life. However, it is still just a tool. The creator and the user have a fundamental role in how the media will function, how it will be presented, and if it will resonate with the audience. I think, regardless of the capabilities the ideas still come from the artist and that will determine how much a piece of work can express your internal life.
Furthermore I don’t think I identity with he sense of order in computational media. When setting up a program everything has to be perfect to function when I view some complex piece of code I know it is going through a very precise series of steps to get an output. I feel like my internal life has more of chaos, and while computational media is adept to harness and organize the chaos, it still can’t capture that wild disarray, the sense that anything can happen, and the ability to function despite the disorder.
Narrative and interactivity do go together. Not exclusively, but there is certainly potential for narrative with interactive qualities to have a niche in the larger world of story. The funny thing about narrative is that it is often used as an outlet for reader interaction in a way, with characters created and played out in an identifiable way that lets the audience “enter” the story. I took a class on story and we learned that the more this gap is created for the readers to come into the world, and feel a part, the more successful the narrative was. So following along that logic, a narrative in which the audience can actually make decisions and influence the outcome should be the ultimate goal.
Yet artists mostly want control over the way their piece will go. It may be engaging for the audience, but if too much is put out of the artists hands how much of it is theirs in the end? I think some interactivity is great, but it can be helpful to control possible outcomes. Like in those choose your won adventure novels we read as kids, and it seemed like anything could happen based on the pages we flipped to, but the author had written the whole thing anyways. This way it’s still his work. If the viewer is given infinite capability it no longer becomes an artwork, or a narrative someone else has created, it instead becomes a tool.
Computational media in itself is a tool. It can be used for many means, and though their are certain limitations in its strict structure, it can be used very creatively. The important thing to remember is how basic the concepts are, and how they go beyond just the computer world. It is a way of thinking, a way of externalizing the most calculative of the mind’s basic operations. Variables, arrays, functions, for loops, can all be ways of thinking.
In this way, computational media can be a unifying force. Though it is used a tool to create, exposing the process could show the thought behind an artwork and help us realize the most fundamental ways the artist put it together. I know it’s not usually considered good form to break things down to their smallest parts and see how things work. You look at the whole painting, not the brushstrokes.But sometimes the world is so complicated, a and the messages we want to convey are even more so. Finding ways to think about these message and convey them in simpler ways could be a streamlined way to effectively communicate, and possibly start to solve the problems being considered, one step at a time.
As Jack Kerouac, a long winded and verbose novelist once said, “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”