D. Fox Harrell: Phantasmal Media: An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression (2013)

13 May 2018, dusan

“An argument that great expressive power of computational media arises from the construction of phantasms—blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination.

In Phantasmal Media, D. Fox Harrell considers the expressive power of computational media. He argues, forcefully and persuasively, that the great expressive potential of computational media comes from the ability to construct and reveal phantasms—blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination. These ubiquitous and often-unseen phantasms—cognitive phenomena that include sense of self, metaphors, social categories, narrative, and poetic thinking—influence almost all our everyday experiences. Harrell offers an approach for understanding and designing computational systems that have the power to evoke these phantasms, paying special attention to the exposure of oppressive phantasms and the creation of empowering ones. He argues for the importance of cultural content, diverse worldviews, and social values in computing. The expressive power of phantasms is not purely aesthetic, he contends; phantasmal media can express and construct the types of meaning central to the human condition.

Harrell discusses, among other topics, the phantasm as an orienting perspective for developers; expressive epistemologies, or data structures based on subjective human worldviews; morphic semiotics (building on the computer scientist Joseph Goguen’s theory of algebraic semiotics); cultural phantasms that influence consensus and reveal other perspectives; computing systems based on cultural models; interaction and expression; and the ways that real-world information is mapped onto, and instantiated by, computational data structures.

The concept of phantasmal media, Harrell argues, offers new possibilities for using the computer to understand and improve the human condition through the human capacity to imagine.”

Publisher MIT Press, 2013
ISBN 9780262019330, 0262019337
xix+420 pages

Reviews: John Harwood (Artforum, 2014), Brian Reffin Smith (Leonardo, 2015).



Ellen Ullman: Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology (2017)

21 March 2018, dusan

“The last twenty years have brought us the rise of the internet, the development of artificial intelligence, the ubiquity of once unimaginably powerful computers, and the thorough transformation of our economy and society. Through it all, Ellen Ullman lived and worked inside that rising culture of technology, and in Life in Code she tells the continuing story of the changes it wrought with a unique, expert perspective.

When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s and went on to become a computer programmer, she was joining a small, idealistic, and almost exclusively male cadre that aspired to genuinely change the world. In 1997 Ullman wrote Close to the Machine, the now classic and still definitive account of life as a coder at the birth of what would be a sweeping technological, cultural, and financial revolution.

Twenty years later, the story Ullman recounts is neither one of unbridled triumph nor a nostalgic denial of progress. It is necessarily the story of digital technology’s loss of innocence as it entered the cultural mainstream, and it is a personal reckoning with all that has changed, and so much that hasn’t.”

Publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017
ISBN 9780374534516, 0374534519
viii+306 pages
via andre

Video talk (54 min, 2017)

Reviews: J.D. Biersdorfer (New York Times, 2017), Jessica Bennett (Elle, 2017).



Computational Culture, 6: Computing the Corporeal / Geographies of Software (2017)

2 February 2018, dusan

This issue of Computational Culture consists of two thematic sections. The section “Computing the Corporeal” is concerned with the critique of “the way in which machine computers affect movement-based creativity, and movement-based thinking.” The section “Geographies of Software” presents “geographical approaches to software studies.”

With thematic texts by John Stell, Stamatia Portanova, Scott delaHunta, Anton Koch (section 1), Will Payne, Warren Sack, and Pip Thornton (section 2), editorial introductions, and review section.

Section “Computing the Corporeal” edited by Nicolas Salazar Sutil and Scott delaHunta
Section “Geographies of Software” edited by Nick Lally and Ryan Burns
Published in November 2017
Open Access
ISSN 2047-2390