[-empyre-] Glitch / HCI

Daniel Temkin daniel at danieltemkin.com
Mon Jan 27 08:20:45 EST 2014


A few observations in response to your last email...

Your collapsing of systems/medium/tool together makes it much easier to talk
about digital materiality. In the NOOART piece, I discussed the JPEG to
illustrate the way things we might ordinarily think of as a tool or a
"material" can be interchangeable in the digital realm, JPEG being both an
algorithm to (de/en)code visual data and a file format organized by/for that
algorithm. The patterns we expose by "breaking" a JPEG are really the
patterns we create by misusing the algorithm that encodes it. In a sense,
all digital materiality is built on logical systems at its core, since the
flavor of the patterns that underlie it is rule-based. 

The practice described in the (amazing) Wire piece
(http://thewire.co.uk/in-writing/essays/collateral-damage-mark-fell) is
familiar from glitch practice, but it struck me how much it resembles
formalist, modernist practice as well. Is this a problem or is a strain of
modernism in this type of work not necessarily a bad thing (given that it is
not the only thing the piece does)? 

You mentioned LeWitt / Fluxus / Oulipieans interacting with their own
constraint systems, and the agency of these systems. It makes sense that,
since the system/medium/tool is already rule-based, it can be explored just
as its output can, and like in the Wire piece, these meta-experiments look
for the edges of the greater system. For example, Le Lionnais's "going for
the limit" of how restrictive a constraint system can be, including 
poems of a single letter (is the poem "A" different from the poem "B"?). An
esolang (esoteric programming language) that functions similarly is
Unnecessary, a programming language which will compile only program files it
can't find, and produce a working program with a single NOP (no operation)
command (the most minimal instruction that will allow an executable file to
be written). When Unnecessary is run with a valid program file, it produces
an error and quits. It sorts good Unnecessary programs (the ones which don't
exist, but have been named to get the compiler to attempt to find them) vs.
the bad Unnecessary programs (everything that's actually on the drive);
every text file, JPEG, or system file is each an Unnecessary program that
will not run. However, Unnecessary is still producing output files. The
(Discordian) programming language Kallisti does even less; if it can find
the program file, it compiles it, producing nothing, but responding with a
(successful) "compiled" message. This shows it has confirmed the file is a
valid Kallisti program, as is every file -- it fills the syntactic rules of
the language, and for this language, to exist is enough.

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