Losing control : software poetics in the everyday

  • Geoff Hinchcliffe

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The increasing presence of computer technology in our everyday lives has motivated an “Aesthetic Turn” (Udsen & Jørgensen,2005); a growing field of research dedicated to better understanding computing in the everyday cultural context. The researchers of the Aesthetic Turn claim that computer technologies developed for the office, with their focus on efficiency and utility, are inappropriate in the personal setting of the “everyday”. They argue for an understanding of computing as an aesthetically experiential medium and call for a radical recalibration of the conceptions and production practices which shape our everyday technologies. Central to their approach is a notion of aesthetic experience informed by the Pragmatist philosophy of Dewey and Shusterman. It is a conception of aesthetics that is phenomenological, emergent and situated, and which opens the opportunity for new forms of engagement with everyday technology. Theirs is a vision in which computing need not only be useful but may be surprising, delightful, provocative or even critical. For producers, the Aesthetic Turn offers immense creative opportunity, but also introduces significant conceptual and technical challenges; from fundamental questions regarding the nature of emergent experience, to the impact of aesthetics on production processes. Dunne declares that “The most difficult challenges for designers of electronic objects now lie not in technical and semiotic functionality, where optimal levels of performance are already attainable, but in the realms of metaphysics, poetry, and aesthetics, where little research has been carried out” (Antony Dunne,2005b). Adopting a production-based methodology, this research explores the creative potential of the Aesthetic Turn and addresses some of the significant conceptual and technical questions arising from its experiential framing of computing. Using reflective analysis of creative works and their development processes, the research brings a production perspective to the discourse, providing details on how general notions of aesthetics and poetics may be reconciled within the highly specified and technical context of software production. Through the process of creative and critical enquiry the research advances understanding of computational aesthetics, developing a conception of software as a material medium to be creatively explored through code. It develops the conceptual model of “data as script” to encapsulate the practices of interpretation and adaptation that are central to the poetics of the project’s creative works.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGreg Battye (Supervisor) & Mitchell Whitelaw (Supervisor)

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