Thursday, May 13, 2010

From Algorithm to Process: Striation and Smoothness in Computation

Last night I talked about the main thrust of the essay I'm working on for the end of our class. It will primarily be a starting point in developing two terms: the algorithm-image and the process-image. I opened my talk last night with a quote from Cinema 2 in which Deleuze talks about how the expression of movement-images and time-images will not be developed any further with electronic media than by pre-existing cinematic forms. Instead electronic media will have to forge new affects and concepts in its own right.
"The new automatism is worthless in itself if it is not put to the service of a powerful, obscure, condensed will to art, aspiring to deploy itself through involuntary movements which none the less do not restrict it. An original will to art has already been defined by us in the change affecting the intelligible content of cinema itself: the substitution of the time-image for the movement-image. So that electronic images will have to be based on still another will to art, or on as yet unknown aspects of the time-image."

"What is important is that the cinematographic image was already achieving effects which were not like those of electronics, but which had autonomous anticipatory functions in the time-image as will to art. Thus Bresson's cinema has no need of computing or cybernetic machines; yet the 'model' is a modern psychological automaton, because it is defined in relation to the speech-act, and no longer, as before, by motor action (Bresson was constantly thinking about automatism)."

(Cinema 2, 266)

It is in this spirit that I wish to make an attempt at describing the qualities that are significant to artists and thinkers in their current and future engagement with computation in general and computed media in particular. Instead of focusing on the issues of subjective bodily experience as Hansen has argued, I would like to take the position that Delueze has proven to be most interested in, the artist-artwork relation. The terms algorithm-image and process-image will be developed from the examination of the affective and conceptual relations that artists and thinkers enter into in their engagement with computation. The rough distinctions between these two term are as follows:

Algorithm-Image: finite, closed and striated process.
A prime example which we talked about in class would be most of video game narrative. There are choices to be made yet these choices are limited and the final outcomes are predetermined and of a fairly small set.

Process-Image: open, able to implicate a continuous becoming.
There are not many examples of this. Yet, the fractal video I showed in class and Benjamin's example of data-moshing are images that implicate a specific process at work in computation. With and through these images a certain open-ended implication of a infinitely itterable procedure is affectively grasped. In fractal we are presented with a sequence of a single geometry repeated such that a infinite space can be easily imagined with each part necessarily engaged with and situated in a unique relation with the whole. In data-moshing we are shown a glimpse of the process by which movement images are in process. Striped of their unique frames, movement becomes a series of vectors. Movement as process and in process.

I will also examine what I find to be the true issues embedded in HCI. I believe that Lev Manovich's critique of HCI is merely a limited form of the essential issue. The issue of HCI is not that it is bound to a cinematic mode but that HCI is a layer of mediation that obscures the procedural essence of computation (Hansen, 34). The layer of metaphor that draws on many different forms of media and epistemological organizations work to mask the procedural relation between artists and computation. In order for computed media and concepts to express and implicate truly new affects and concepts it will be necessary for those engaged to have a intimate and honest relation to the processes in which they explore.

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