Computational Media

My impression of computers has always been is the cold and logical digital machine of  1’s and 0’s. It is capable of extreme computation, a brain whose organization can is far superior than the human brain’s. It’s still unbelievable that these machines are the driving force behind latest innovations of today. I’m used to thinking the computer as a GPT (general purpose technology) with the “potential of impacting different sectors of the economy. And as a potential computer science major, I am want delve into the possibilities. And in this class, I was fortunate enough to explore the more physical aspect of it with the Arduino and the 3D printer.  The field of computer science has been reeking with  progress and inventions.

Until this class, I had never really thought  about the actual communication between humans and computers. David Deutsch in The Beginning of Infinity argues that the jump to universality,  or as he says: “the tendency of gradually improving systems to undergo a sudden large increase in functionality, becoming universal in some domain” and that it is solely through digital systems that this jump is reached. And he explores language and its evolution as a kind of digital process because of all the rules of language that “cover not only every word but also every possible word.”  One the one hand, computers with their own language of 1’s and 0’s are able to accomplish many more things than humans. With algorithms and functions, they are able compute more faster and more efficiently than us. But on the other hand, humans with their own language have furthering their ideas much longer than computers have been (since the beginning of  civilization), and are also the ones responsible for the creation of the computer itself.  And it is because of these “digital” rules that humans have been able to achieve so much.

But there is also the “analog” aspect of human language, and it is how humans have tried to translate these aspects into their created digital computer language that is truly interesting. The digital is cold-hearted yes/no, whil the analog is the more emotional and tonal part of language. While we have the digital rules to construct sentences, there are far more nuances to the human language that convey how we are “feeling”. The best way to understand the complication between translating the analog aspect of the human language and the digital understanding of the computer is a conversation by email vs. a conversation on the phone vs. even in person. The digital email message is just the basic message itself but the actual feeling of the writer is often lost or misunderstood. However, in person or on the phone, the listener can understand the communicator more thoroughly because he is aided by gestures, facial expressions, and the tone of  voice. Thus it is putting the analog part of human language back into the digital computer language that I think is one biggest goals of computational media. 

Often times when choosing between analog and digital there are clear sides, but when they try to interact and “work together” it is interesting to see the result. And I think digital art is one of the clearest way people have been successfully expressing themselves and their feelings through computers. I haven’t had much exposure to it.e traditional sense of the fine arts, but I think because of the growing potential computers have, the potential of digital art is also growing too.  

The other interesting field I don’t know much about but I think interesting is AI. I really don’t have much exposure to this field, but  it is interesting to compare a more human-like robot to the more pure analytically-minded IBM’s Watson who participated in Jeopardy. In this field, I think that the analog communication of human language will be successfully interpreted by these digital machines of ours.

Anyways, to finish off this meditation, here is an digital art installation at a gallery in Japan that  I worked at.

It’s simple in design, but I like how it captures the wonder and appreciation of, and curiosity about the world — the more analog feelings of my heartstrings.

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