Week 2

From Expressive Computing


Reading Discussion

My key points and quotes from Hackers and Painters:

  • Clarify the distinction between hacker and cracker
  • "Nothing yields meaty problems like starting with the wrong assumptions"
  • "The way to create something beautiful is often to make subtle tweaks to something that already exists, or to combine existing ideas in a slightly new way"
  • "There is nothing so tempting as an easy test that kind of works"
  • "The way I worked, it seemed like programming consisted of debugging ... If I had only looked over at the other makers, the painters or the architects, I would have realized that there was a name for what I was doing: sketching. As far as I can tell, the way they taught me to program in college was all wrong. You should figure out programs as you're writing them, just as writers and painters and architects do."
  • "You learn to paint mostly by doing it. Ditto for hacking."
  • "The other way makers learn is from examples ... copying forces you to look closely at the way a painting is made."
  • "In the aggregate, unseen details become visible."
  • "Empathy is probably the single most important difference between a good hacker and a great one."

Questions and issues leading to a synthesis of Authoring Processes and Bias in Computer Systems:

  • Technical bias results from "the attempt to make human constructs amenable to computers, when we quantify the qualitative, discretize the continuous, or formalize the nonformal." Is there an expressive potential in this process?
  • What's the difference between Nissenbaum's "bias" and Wardrip-Fruin's "authorial intent"?
  • Part of both of these processes is to determine or design the underlying assumptions of a system. What are the underlying assumptions of these systems?
  • Nissenbaum discusses a "counterstrategy" for avoiding bias in MLSA (the time-sharing system). Can you think of other examples of "hacking" bias?
  • "Look beyond the features internal to a system and envision it in a context of use."
  • "The problem with artificial intelligence is that, in trying to capture the structure of the world or the way reasoning works, it always captures someone's idea of how things are, rather than any transcendental truth." Is this a fair statement? How does it relate to the appearance of bias in computer systems?
  • "Expressive AI views a system as a performance of the author's ideas." (Just like bias?)
  • Ruminate on the idea of process intensity.

Resources for learning Processing

Processing examples from class

A few ideas for practicing with Processing, using these examples:

  • Take one of these sketches and modify it so another variable (say, color) changes over time.
  • Explore some of the other shape commands in the Processing reference (e.g., line(), arc(), triangle(), beginShape(), vertex()...). Try incorporating a shape of your own design (using one or more of these commands) into the sample sketches.

Discussing Project 1

See Project 1.

Assigned reading

From The New Media Reader:

  • William S. Burroughs, The Cut-up Method of Brion Gysin (NMR pp. 89-91). This reading should be instrumental in your thinking about Project 1.
  • Sutherland, Sketchpad (NMR pp. 109-126) and Engelbart & English, A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect (NMR pp. 231-246). Both of these readings contain a lot of technical details, which you can skim through. The main point I want to get across is that many of our fundamental ideas about computer interfaces go back as far as 1968. Why are some interface ideas successful? What could be changed? Check out Engelbart's 1968 presentation here, possibly the most important "demo" in the history of computing. (See also the Wikipedia entry on The Mother of All Demos.)