Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Computational Creativity

One of the arguments which I found the most compelling in this week's reading was Nigel Thrift's conception of "qualculation" and the re-humanization of our lives through digital technologies. Generally, as Thrift points out, we hear doomsday theories which insist that the ubiquitous nature of computers in our lives are in fact making us more logical, rational, cold. One of the more obvious rebuttals would ask why a shift to a more rational world mean a divorce from our nature and be necessarily a bad development? Thrift finds a more interesting way to phrase this problem, delving deeper into the issue at hand and asking why, to begin with, computers need make our lives less human. For Thrift, the millions upon millions of calculations that are being propagated around us from the most obvious sources, such as our desktop computers, to those hidden from view in everything from our cars to the traffic lights we drive them under allow us new avenues of exploration rather than mass standardization. An inestimable number of minute fine-tuned calculations allow for qualculation - an introduction of qualitative reasoning into a quantitative structure.

So, in what ways does the proliferation of computers into our lives now actually fulfill Thrift's idea? In what ways have we changed the way to interact with interfaces or map our surroundings? I would argue, in support of Thrift's theory of qualculation, that there are infinitely many new forms of intellectual and artistic expression that stem directly from our interaction with computers. We have been introduced to new avenues of access to information and archives through the internet and computer-created databases. We have developed new media in which to create, from electronic music and digital art to 3D modeling and computer programming. We have found new methods of communicating human to human, whether through cellphones or email, connecting people in ways that would never have been possible before. While technologies to require standardization in order to communicate with each other, we have opened up the possibility for ingenious feats of engineering and competitive product markets. While these technologies are all based upon the logical structure of the computer, the binary 1s and 0s of electrical pulses in a microprocessor, they allow for human production and creativity. As we discussed last week in section, and touched upon in our discussion of Snow Crash, in this sense, the language of mathematics is perhaps more primal, indeed natural, as it is the based upon which the whole world can develop.

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