Why Computational Media?

When reflecting on what most endears me to computational media, the four categories Janet Murray used to describe the specificity of the digital medium come to mind: procedural, participatory, spatial, and encyclopedic. All four of these categories describe phenomena that are fundamental to my enthusiasm for computational media. Of these four,  I’d like to single out the spatial for comment.

Navigating space in computational media (or, ahem, video games and suchlike) is an experience unlike any possible in literature, film, or any other existing media. Moving through navigable space in computational media, architecture becomes at once narrative and poetry. Environment becomes storytelling. Environment—and its various events and micro-events, as well as whatever is over yonder, off the beaten path, or hidden away: everything that flies under the banner of what game designers call “world-building”—environment is more than an envelope or container for graphical artifacts and not-so-smart A.I., but the (virtual) reality of a different world.

The experience of space in computational media relies on true interactivity, which this media affords to an extent simply unachievable in the other media. Interactivity has its own virtues. For example, when executed well, interactivity can shake the finiteness of a given work or project, and enlist the user into some capacity of co-author of their experience. Immersive media—moving image art, sound art, written word, etc.—is constitutively altered when the interactive element is introduced into its working. No longer merely stupefied and transported to another place, we can also actively be—act, react, exchange, perambulate, etc, to a greater or lesser extent—in this other place.

There are many kinds of works I would like to create or help create in computational media. Not all of them have to do with the traversal of space and place. But I do believe this is one of the most fruitful areas of computational media, and, moreover, one of the things most rapturously unique to it.

Away from the context of immersive experiences and conventional media (in the tradition of film, literature, theater, etc.), I am also quite excited about how computational media might act (and react) on the periphery, as itself environmental media, ambient media, and how—when sufficiently intelligent, as well as, crucially,  intelligently designed (i.e. reflectively, ethically, and so on)—they might augment both the commons and our lives.

Additionally, I am also very interested in how material and/or physical components (atoms) might be married (or contrasted with) the digital elements (bits) in the domain of computational media. This is aligned with on-going developments in multi-modal design as well as with exploration of the under-appreciated intelligence of the human senses in digital experience and product design.



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