Narrative Games in Ergodic Media

A paper with Pedro Cardoso at Communication Studies n. 27, vol. 2:

Computational media allow the development of very particular relationships with readers. Their nature allows them to register static information but also complex and contingent behaviours that they are capable to operationalise, thus becoming interactive and immersive. These media exist in a dual state between a surface layer and a subface layer. These two are inextricably connected, with the subface often becoming a black box that can only be peered at through surface effusions that both mediate and isolate it. The procedural layer of the subface can be discovered through a process of virtuosic interpretation that allows readers to form a theory of system, breeding empathy with it, and ultimately, transferring some of its processes to their minds. This paper focuses on how virtuosic interpretation is developed, and how from it stems the development of a unique kind of aesthetic experience. It explores how computational media, through anamorphosis and a dialectics of aporia and epiphany, become narrative games.


A short text on LIA’s new work, “Autumn”.

For a computer artist as LIA, inspiration is not only found within software and computers. The world outside her computer, and nature, have often inspired her, and Autumn, produced at a time when the seasons change and the leaves fall, is a good example of such a case. LIA looks at the world computationally, using drawing as a surveying device to probe for form’s structures, and distil them to their structural essences. These elements are then used as starting points for a process of experimental programming. Experimental not in the sense that new techniques are developed or tested — although they may be, because influences arise from many other fields, and sometimes a mathematical formula or an algorithm can be as poetic as a street paved with fall leaves — but rather experimental as in experimental music, because it is a constructive process that is not planned in advance but that is defined and discovered as it is developed, a process whose goals can only be unearthed through doing. This is how LIA programs morphology, behaviour, and an emergent intricate choreography that spawns the artwork, or better still, that becomes the artwork.

LIA builds systems where everything is in motion, where everything is transient and fleeting, and also illusory. LIA usually works from the simplest, most fundamental, building blocks: points, lines, rotations, translations, etc., with prochronism often building the work’s surface. Forms are not drawn but rather built, from traces of behaviours and from the actions they originated. As such, in Autumn LIA did not actually program autumn leaves, or autumn trees, or what we may also perceive as autumn flowers. She did not draw them or program the piece to draw any such forms. She developed behaviours whose trails may be reminiscent of leaves, trees, or flowers. And what we see are not shapes but chronologies of those movements, vestiges of a dance that once was. We follow behind the action in the work, much as the fallen leaves of autumn follow summer.

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.