Confessions of a Fraudulent Pixel
For those involved in the production of programmed, interactive or computational works, the use of integrated design environments with their heavy use of graphic interface, on the one hand simplifies this process, while at the same time increases the mystification of this type of production.
In this presentation we will:
Folders and windows have a number of properties that determine how they are displayed, (size, location, selected state, opened state). Once set these are remembered. Actions can be performed that change between states of representation for example changing between list view and icon view or opening and closing windows. By combining the ability to perform actions on multiple folders and their ability to store there own properties you effectively have all the ingredients of an object-oriented programming language.
In a series of works we perverted the use of system components to enable their use as a programming tool. We used Windows, files and folders and file formats like the ‘system seven sound’ or picture clippings, which when opened are played and displayed without launching additional software. These were reconfigured into fully functional software, without the use of any third party programming language. Giving an intriguing insight into the shallow deception that we experience in our graphic user interface. These components were assembled into a programmable drum machine. Despite this software having all the functionality of traditional software its un-compiled state rendered it fragile. The accidental movement of icons destroyed the illusion along with the software.
In many cases the interface of a program gives us a graphic abstraction of the actual process being conducted, for this reason we explored the qualitative experiences of programmed work by inviting participants to execute programs without a computer.
In one session we wrote a simple set of rules that when executed would exhibit emergent behavior. In contrast to our normal experience of software the manual execution of these rules concealed the emergent behavior whilst painfully illustrating its rules. The emergence only became apparent when a time lapse of an hour’s recursive execution was later animated. In these works it was not simply a graphic representation of the program that was experienced, but the line by line execution of the program itself.
The Honest Algorithm
The purity of the algorithmic experience is illustrated when all action not necessitating conscious thought are automated. This allows the game to be played in microseconds. When you play the game your experience is algorithmic and the quality of the algorithm is held in the arrangement of the snakes and ladders. By rearranging them you can even make the game crash. The game can be rebuilt as a visual programming language, giving complex programming potential to anyone able to understand the rules of the game.
In this form programs can be written and executed on paper. The software version we built enabled rapid execution of the code output as MIDI sound. This approach is distinct from the false allusions made to tangible elements like files and folders as it roots are in the algorithmic rules of the original board game. This example shows how real world phenomena can offer more than iconographic references to computational processes.
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