Month: December 2009

2000 to 2009

Inspired by Christof, here’s my roundup of 2000 to 2009, seriously inhibited by my terrible memory.  Will add to this as I remember events.

2000Discovered generative music and formed slub with ade, with the aim of making people dance to our code, generating music live according to rigorous conceptual ideals.  Most of what I’ve done since has revolved around and spun out of this collaboration.  Worked as a Perl hacker with the afore-mentioned Christof during the first Internet boom for mediaconsult/guideguide, a fun time hacking code around the clock in a beautiful office with a concrete floor and curvy walls.

2001 – slub succeeded in getting people to dance to our code, at sonic acts at the paradiso in Amsterdam.  It was around this time that I left guideguide for state51 to work on a digital platform for the independent music industry – they were very much ahead of their time then and still are now.  Got a paper accepted for a conference as an independent researcher, and met Nick Collins for the first time there, another fine inspiration.  Co-founded dorkbotlondon, co-organising over 60 events so far…

2002Some really fun slub gigs this year.  Followed in Ade’s footsteps by winning the Transmediale software art award for a slightly odd forkbomb, which later appeared in an exhibition curated by Geoff Cox alongside work by great artists including Ade, Sol Lewitt, Yoko Ono and some monkeys.  Met Jess.

2003 – Programmed the software art repository, together with Alexei Shulgin, Olga Goriunova and Amy Alexander.  Co-organised the first london placard headphone festival; did a few more after, but didn’t yet match the amazing atmosphere of the first.

2004 – Co-founded TOPLAP together with many amazing people, to discuss and promote the idea of writing software live while it makes music or video.  Wrote, my own live coding system in Perl.  Bought a house with Jess.

2005 – Started studying part time, doing a MSc Arts Computing at Goldsmiths, with help and supervision of Geraint WigginsDave Griffiths, another huge inspiration, officially joined slub for a gig at Sonar.

2006 – Fiddled around with visualisations of sound including woven sound and voronoi diagrams.  Learned Haskell.  Co-organised the first dorkcamp, which was featured on french tv.

2007 – Got interested in timbre and the voice, came up with the idea vocable synthesis.  Helped organise LOSS livecode festival with Access Space in Sheffield.  Went on a camping holiday in Wales and got married to a rather pregnant Jess.  Had a baby boy called Harvey a few months after.  Got my MSc and carried on with a full time PhD in Arts and Computational Technology, supervised again by Geraint.

2008 – Got interested in physical modeling synthesis, using it to implement my vocable synthesis idea.  Got interested in rhythm spaces too, through a great collaboration with Jamie Forth and Geraint.  Knitted my mum a pair of socks.

2009 – A bit too close, and in part painful, to summarise.  Also, it’s not over yet.

Metaphors of javadoc

Conceptual metaphor theory holds that our understanding of the world is largely structured by metaphor.   This presumably includes our understanding of computer programs, which is the basis of Metaphors we Program By: Space, Action and Society in Java, a paper by Alan Blackwell. The paper shows analyses of documentation for some standard Java libraries, looking for the metaphors that structure human understanding of the library components and their interactions. I’ve taken the liberty of extracting the metaphors related in the paper but if you’re interested you should go and read the whole thing, it’s a good one. I feel I could meditate on this list for some time, and I’d love to see comparisons with the metaphors used in the documentation of other languages.

  • Components are agents of action in a causal universe.
  • Programs operate in historical time.
  • Program state can be measured in quantitative terms.
  • Components are members of a society.
  • Components own and trade data.
  • Components are subject to legal constraints.
  • Method calls are speech acts.
  • Components have communicative intent.
  • A component has beliefs and intentions.
  • Components observe and seek information in the execution environment.
  • Components are subject to moral and aesthetic judgment.
  • Programs operate in a spatial world with containment and extent.
  • Execution is a journey in some landscape.
  • Program logic is a physical structure, with material properties and subject to decay.
  • Data is a substance that flows and is stored.
  • Technical relationships are violent encounters.
  • Programs can author texts.
  • Programs can construct displays.
  • Data is a genetic, metabolizing lifeform with body parts.
  • Software tasks and behaviour are delegated by automaticity.
  • Software exists in a cultural/historical context.
  • Software components are social proxies for their authors.

I’ve written about Alan Blackwell’s research before.

Then this morning I saw this tweet:

<laputean> “hello world” programm is the ‘perfect’ starting point of fastidious and wrong epistemological assumptions that one carries for all life

A neat reminder that the ways in which we perceive the workings of computer `agents’ and source code is very much within a particular social context.