Thursday, November 01, 2012

Intersection of Art and Tech

Two of the things that have driven a lot of computing innovation are games and graphics. The two are closely related of course and who university programs have grown up around computer graphics for video games. It seems as though ever since computer output has been around people have been trying to create new sorts of images using the new technology. Its probably a natural thing for people to use their creative urges in tandem with tools and technology that interests them.

A lot of the projects we use with beginners involve graphics of some sort. The “draw a house” project is a reasonable “hello world” program to introduce simple graphics but in general what is created would not be considered “art” by many people. There are also some simple graphics demos that start to be a bit more artsy. Below are a couple of Small Basic programs I have played with for demo purposes.



This is about the level of Art students could create {mumble} years ago when I was a student and all we had were drum plotters and line printers. Back in the day we used to experiment with plotting different formulas to see what they’d look like. We hoped from something that was “pretty” that we could call art. It was fun and I think we learned some interesting math along the way. We also learned that you could do cool things with straight lines as well as curved ones.

The university (Taylor University) encouraged us to experiment by both allowing us access to the computer and plotter as well as adding a “computer art” category to the annual student art competition. A bunch of us would never have tried to enter (or even create art) had it not been for this support for our experiments. They now have a Computer Science / New Media major that is “An interdisciplinary major offered by the Computer Science and Engineering, Communication, and Art departments.”

Of course today the tools, both hardware and software, are a lot more powerful and sophisticated. Georgia Tech has a whole Media Computation program that they use to teach computer science in the context of manipulating media. A lot of people are using this with great success as students really relate to manipulating sounds and images.

External Image

Media Computation (nicknamed "MediaComp") is a contextualized approach to introducing computing using a ubiquitous theme of manipulating media. The critical characteristic of MediaComp is that students create expressive media by manipulating computational materials (like arrays and linked lists) at a lower-level of abstraction. Students manipulate images by changing pixels, create sounds by iterating over samples, render linked lists into music, and create artifacts like collages, music, and digital video special effects. In so doing, the students learn computation. Examples of CS1 activities and CS2 activities are available.

We’ve always know that there is very real connection between math and music and math and art. To the extent that computing is math in action the same connections are there between art and music and computing. From computer generated music (Visual Basic Gangnam Style!), computer generated physical creations or sculptures (The Real Disruption of 3D Printing) or computer graphics let us not forget that Creativity In Computer Science includes art. And most of all, let’s give students the option to be creative!

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