What's that? creative code? and some upcoming things in the US.

During this upcoming week, I am honored to visit universities in the US. First, during Monday to Wednesday, I will be visiting Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The University has a fascinating art education department, and I am grateful to be meeting Dr. Robert Sweeny along many others there. I will also be visiting Digital Humanities department and Dr. Kenneth Sherwood to talk about creative coding. 
On Tuesday I will be giving two public talks  -So if you can’t bare to watch the thriller that is the elections you can come and discuss how code can be used in art education and different ways to perceive code and digitalization. Then on Wednesday morning I will have a short workshop on creative coding. Then on Friday I am at Virginia Commonwealth University and giving a public lecture there. VCU also has a great art education department and Dr. Ryan Patton has written very interesting articles on coding in art education (see for example Patton, R. & Knochel, D.A., 2015. If Art Education Then Critical Digital Making:,)

As I have been preparing for the research journey and presentations I have been thinking about the role of creative code in education. In many cases as I have been presenting my research in conferences etc. I have found out that the concept of the creative code is unfamiliar. That can be easily understood as it includes two rather ambiguous things: Creativity and code. For me, creativity (maybe more art?)  means the possibility to explore a phenomenon as it appears, without preassumptions. Much like in phenomenology art does not inquire if the world around is real, rather the artist creates her world through exploring  (Kojonkoski-Rännäli 2014) The object of this creative exploration, in this case, is digital code. 

The code on the other hand may present another set of difficulties. Most of us know that code is something that computer programs are built with, but the understanding may end there. Coding can be seen as mystical, and the end products sometimes even magical. The myth of computer genius, a super nerd, in many cases lives on and the problem is not helped by the trending digitalization, which is often cited as either our fast lane ticket out of the misery that is our political and economical situation and on the other hand as a train which is going to run over us pretty soon. In a recent article written together with Dr. Mikko Dufva, we presented a few different perspectives on code hoping to open up the concept of code. (You can read it here ) 
As its simplest code can be seen as the interface between us and computers, as the building blocks we use to create our digital surroundings, as a way to architect our digital domain. As digital become ubiquitous in our daily lives, the importance of understanding code increases. As Lessig writes:

“We can build, or architect or code cyberspace to protect values that we believe are fundamental, 
or we can build, or architect or code cyberspace to allow those to disappear... …
There is no choice that does not include some kind of building. Code is never found; it is only ever made, and only ever made by us” - L. Lessig

The meaning of code, in this case, is that we have to see that the code we create architects our digital surroundings and embeds them with the objects we code into them. The aesthetics, ethics, and politics. And that code is not a force of nature, a power that may not be touched or changed, but rather a plastic model sculpted and created by us.

Then to the concept of creative code. As Knochel and Patton write in their paper, creative code can be a bit hard to understand. (Patton & Knochel 2015)


Creative code may sound like an oxymoron, but as in many technical processes in the art studio, creativity may emerge once rules are learned and then broken
- Knochel & Patton

Still, I see the creative code as a concept that makes perfect sense( And often things that make perfect sense are oxymorons. 

 

For me the meaning of creative coding(as I see it now) is twofold:
1. I see creative coding as the artistic exploration of the digital world. This exploration can create critical understanding and embodied knowledge of our digital surroundings in a way other means cannot. We can experience the code and its implications, By way of coding we can start to see how the code affects our life, our surroundings, our society. The act of creative code can create belonging to the otherwise abstract, digital world. (This can be seen in developer communities, in Free software movement, and for example in maker movement.)

2. At the same time, creative coding is an art form. It is using the code as a tool, or even as a material to sculpt, disclose, expose, illustrate something of the world that could not be said, or brought to our conception otherwise. 

Often in creative coding these two things mix. I recently listened to Douglas Rushkoff excellent new podcast Team human and the interview of Mushon Zer-Aviv. He has been creating together with Helen Nissenbaum and Daniel C. Howe an excellent adblocker that blocks all the ads and at the same time clicks all the ads for you. The meaning of this is to create a meaningless data. A way to fight back the surveillance and categorization of our digital live. In much of the same way we can see other projects such as Steve Lamberts Add-art or even the more IRL artwork, ”Capitalism works for me” to be a representation of the creative uses of code. Another delightful and topical work is trumpscript, a scripting language aimed to make America great again. All of these projects use our digital devices be it a billboard or programming language and turn them into something more than just the artifact. As our lives become more digital we need first to become aware of this happening and start thinking how much do I or we want this to be happening and then we start to need to care about the digital world we are setting us in. [utopia_ending] I for one do not want to live in a freemium, add-funded, filter bubbled, manipulated surroundings but rather in a whimsical and fare digital world. [/utopia_ending]

Kojonkoski-Rännäli, S., 2014. Käsin tekemisen filosofiaa, University of Turku.
Patton, R. & Knochel, D.A., 2015. If Art Education Then Critical Digital Making:,

Fractalnoia -11 eleven datasets you don’t believe just happened.

FRACTALNOIA

- 11 datasets you cannot believe just happened. 

 

The collection of data is increasing exponentially and it is more and more available to the general public as private databases are opened up. This Big Data holds promises of new insights, unparalleled innovation, even articifical intelligence. However, the ubiquity and availability of data connected to our human desire to see patterns where none exist means that humans have to deal with increasing amounts of meaningless data analysis, "fact-based" conspiracy theories and click-bait infographics. As the data is all digital, it morphs easily into whatever we want, releases itself from the context and appears on fashionable graphs that may look nice, but carry no meaning.

In our installation, we want to show how arbitrary and easy it is to make "data analysis", deduce causations from correlations and combine different datasets. In addition, we want to give the audience a physical feeling of the datasets, although it is inherently false, to further point out how the context of the dataset can be chosen. The audience gets to manipulate the data by placing everyday physical objects, such as fruit, to a table. The objects present different datasets and graphs are created based these datasets. We thus combine a primitive action of moving common objects to the digital world of information technology and project the resulting graphs for the audience to see. By being able to literally grasp the data and create any type of combination of the datasets, the audience gets to experience both the ease and complexity of drawing meaning from data.