For my Gallatin Colloquium, I’ve been reading a lot of books that warn against the dangers of casually incorporating technology into every aspect of our lives. Two of the books include Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman and Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle. In both texts, the authors argue that we are continuously shirking our social responsibilities by hiding behind technology.
I would argue, however, that from the perspective of someone tinkering with computational media, the opposite may be true. While no one can debate the existence of a strong community of nerds who hide behind their computers online, I’ve found my experience with computational media, especially physical computing, to be much more engaging than the casual online chat. With physical computing, we are taking abstract ideas and bringing them to the material world. The data collected comes from human interaction in the real world and can potentially create some sort of disturbance in the physical world as well.
From my experience, while the end-result of a computational media project may be a simple game or a horrible animation, the behind-the-scenes work is what is truly fascinating. Now computers and arduinos can be ordered online for a small cost instead of found only in the bowels of MIT. People like myself, who have virtually no coding experience, can learn to think in new ways and process information to create art. We can work with people from completely foreign fields and create something harmonious. This accessibility is totally mind blowing to me because it is creating new forms of communication for people who would normally stick with more traditional storytelling media like music, writing, or film.