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.
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.
At the ISEA2017 proceedings, a paper with Pedro Cardoso:
Processor-based artefacts are often created following conventions inherited from analogue media forms, allowing the development of experiences that, in spite of the new platforms, are not fundamentally different from those that were already possible in the previous contexts. But contemporary media and arts often use processor-based artefacts focusing on conceptual and mechanical principles that do not attempt to simulate earlier forms but rather explore their computational nature. These systems bring about new modes of reading and new challenges, to both readers and artists or designers. In order to optimize the usage of processor- based media, creators need to understand how these artefacts are interpreted and how readers develop processes of creation of meaning in procedural contexts. This will allow authors to ground their practices on procedurality rather than only on surface con- tents, and to make a constructive use of contingent behaviour, learning, adaptation, selection, and other traits of these systems, not being limited to the emulation of well-established media forms. This paper outlines some of these challenges and proposes designing for the meaningful interpretation of computational artefacts.
This paper is summary of our Ph.D. thesis, a work that proposes an analysis on the player-game system relationship through the perspective of an action-oriented framework. This framework is centred on the existence of actors, which are the entities through which action is enacted in the game, and in which the player and the game system are a part of. The grounding principles of this framework are seeded on a transition of action into experience, based on communicational systems that structure the dynamic formation of networks of actors from which distinct behaviours emerge, which, in their turn, promote the enactment of diverse sequences of events establishing narrative, which is a source of experience of the player.
Chronology, responsiveness, thinking and actuation, transcoding, focus, depth, and traversal are the 7 dimensions we unveiled by focusing on the relationship of the player-game system pair through the lens of this action-oriented framework, a framework that, despite seeing both as actors, is able to consider their distinct natures and roles.
We do not consider this work to be an ultimate theory of action. Above all, it is a proposal that video games can be regarded as action-based artefacts, a call to awareness for game designers that when designing for action they are working with the fundaments on which video games are built upon.
My paper with Pedro Cardoso, “What Then Happens When Interaction is Not Possible: The Virtuosic Interpretation of Ergodic Artifacts” has been published in the special issue of the Journal of Science and Technology of the Arts dedicated to xCoAx 2015. The issue was edited by Allison Clifford, André Rangel, and Mario Verdicchio, and also includes works by Rodrigo Hernández-Ramírez, Nicole Koltick, Christian Faubel, Katharina Vones, Emilia Sosnowska, and Peter Beyls, Gilberto Bernardes, and Marcelo Caetano. It’s open access at http://artes.ucp.pt/citarj/
Procedural systems allow unique modes of authorship and singular aesthetic experiences. As creators and users of these systems, we need to be aware that their aesthetic potential is not solely defined by interaction but that interpretation, and the capacity to understand and simulate the processes taking place within these artefacts is highly significant. This paper argues that although direct interaction is usually the most discernible component in the relationship between ergodic artefacts and their users, ergodicity does not necessarily imply interaction. Non-interactive procedural artefacts may allow the development of ergodic experiences through interpretation, and the probing of the system by its reader through simulations. We try to set the grounds for designing towards virtuosic interpretation, an activity that we may describe as the ergodic experience developed by means of mental simulation through the development of theories of systems.