Empathy in the Ergodic Experience of Computational Aesthetics

A paper with Pedro Cardoso at ISEA 2018.

Computational artworks develop very particular relationships with their readers. Being able to encode and enact complex and contingent behaviours, a computational artwork exists in a dual state between two layers that are inextricably connected, a computational subface that is often a black box which can only be peeked at through an analogue surface, that mediates but also isolates it. But the procedural layer of the subface can be unearthed through a process of virtuosic interpretation, through which readers are able to develop some empathy with the system and arrive at a theory of the system that ultimately allows the transferring of some of the artwork’s processes to human minds. This paper focuses on how this process is developed and how it is the basis for a unique type of aesthetic experience that leads computational media and art to involve readers in anamorphosis and in a dialectics of aporia and epiphany, that mirrors the superimposition of subface and surface, and from where narrative experiences emerge.

Will Machinic Art Lay Beyond Our Ability to Understand It?

A paper with Rui Penha at ISEA 2018.

In this paper we will argue that artistic creations made by artificial minds will most likely lay beyond our ability to understand them. We will assume that the emergence of consciousness in artificial minds is possible and that the artistic creations we are referring to are made by the artificial minds’ own volition. We will build upon the definition of art as embodied meaning and explore its relationship with embodied cognition to argue that there is a binding of human artistic creation to the subjective experience of existing in a natural and cultural world through a human body that is born with a foretold death. Additionally, we will try to show that the best we can aim at, as human beings standing by an artistic creation by another species, is to an understanding of what could have motivated another human being to create such a work. As such, we shouldn’t be able to understand an artistic creation originating by an artificial mind with a physical experience of the world that differs from our own, even if they have a privileged access to our culture. The boundaries for this incomprehension are those of the human mind.

The Serendipitous Pattern in Interaction Design

A paper with Ricardo Melo at ISEA 2018.

Serendipity is increasingly becoming a concern in the design of interactive systems as an alternative to the echo chamber effects being felt in the medium. However, the concept of serendipity is one shrouded in ambiguity, which limits our abilities to regard it as an The achievable Serendipitous goal in interaction Pattern. Based in literature review, as well as empirical research, we propose a Serendipitous Pattern that identifies the core moments of serendipity, as well as the role of the human agent. Through this pattern, we are able to lay the groundwork for establishing a framework that enables the design of serendipitous systems.

Special Issue of the Journal of Science and Technology of the Arts: xCoAx 2017

The Journal of Science and Technology of the Arts, published by the Portuguese Catholic University in Porto, has just released a special issue with a selected set of extended papers from the xCoAx 2017 conference. The issue includes works by Hanns Holger Rutz, Frieder Nake and Susan Grabowski, Pedro Alves da Veiga, Rodrigo Hernández-Ramírez, Pinelopi Papadimitraki, Luís Eustáquio, and Daniel Temkin, and was guest-edited by Luísa Ribas, André Rangel, Mario Verdicchio, and myself.

It’s open access at artes.ucp.pt/citarj/

Will Machinic Art Lay Beyond Our Ability to Understand It?

I’ll present a paper with Rui Penha at the Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Information.

In this communication, we will argue that artistic creations made by artificial minds will most likely lay beyond our ability to understand them, perhaps even beyond our ability to recognize them at all as artistic creations. We will assume that the emergence of consciousness in artificial minds is possible: the fact that the belief in that hypothesis is not consensual is irrelevant to the argument being proposed. Additionally, we will assume that the artistic creation we are referring to is one made by the artificial mind’s own volition and not the one that—either procedurally, generatively or interactively—is made based on (or directed towards) an anthropocentric view of art.

It is inevitable that we start by facing the problem of the definition of art. A definition that circumvents the ontological question will not be very useful in this context, since a definition such as e.g. the institutional theory of art allows any artefact or proposition to be considered as art solely by being recognised as such by someone acting on behalf of the artworld, not establishing, however, any criteria for such recognition. We will therefore start from the definition of art as embodied meaning, and from its relation with embodied cognition, to show that there is a binding of artistic creation to the subjective experience of existing in a natural and cultural world through a human body that is born with a foretold death.

We will furthermore look at the reasons that justify the difficulty to understand artistic manifestations that are not inscribed in our own cultural matrix or previous experiences. Finally, we will try to demonstrate that the best we can aim at, as human beings standing by an artistic creation by another species, is to an understanding of what could have motivated another human being to create such a work. As such, we shouldn’t be able to understand an artistic creation originating by an artificial mind with a physical experience of the world that differs from our own, even if they have a privileged access to our culture. The boundaries for this incomprehension, that we believe to be inevitable, are therefore those of the human mind.

Proceedings of xCoAx 2017


The proceedings of xCoAx 2017, the fifth conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics, and X, are now available at 2017.xcoax.org. Edited by Luísa Ribas, André Rangel, Mario Verdicchio & Miguel Carvalhais. Designed by Luísa Silva Gomes. ISBN 978-989-746-128-6. 389 pages.

On Procedural Dissemination and Artificial Aesthetics (notes Towards a Philosophy of Computational Media)

At Digicom, I’ll present a paper written with Pedro Cardoso.

Procedural media possess traits that stand them apart from classical media, and lead them to foster a very peculiar set of relationships with their readers. Chief among these is how their procedural layer is discovered through a process of virtuosic interpretation, and how this allows for empathy and for the transference of their core mechanics from the computational system to the reader’s mind. This paper focuses on how this process is developed, and how these media conduce to the dissemination of a type of aesthetic experience that is unique to them, but remarkably similar to cognitive processes that humans develop towards each other.