Nomads and coders

I have managed to find a few closing thoughts about the Resonate Festival, now that I found a moment, and some issues related to digital culture, the culture of technology, the culture of information and knowledge.
I would like to mention a guy who is a teacher that has figured out (or continues to figure [in process]) how to get his students to think and do code for visually artistic results. Well, Casey Raes is an artist. He is a programmer, perhaps a crack programmer, but that doesn’t really matter.
In his presentation at Resonate, he made the distinction between be a painter, whose tools are brushes, paints, and canvas, and the artist whose studio is the fashioning of software, or the software studio (the title of his talk.) It is a subtle distinction, but one that I think is necessary in considering the act of coding for a designer or artist. Coding is the tool, the means with which form and light are shaped. I think this was one of the implied themes of Resonate: you don’t have to be a programmer to code.
Let us take, for instance the great response of people who participated in the festival. At any given time, the Dom Omladine cultural space was buzzing with activity. If any complaint could be logged, it was that the space was not big enough. By my estimate, I would say that about half of the participants would not describe themselves programmers. Yet, you could say many of the presentations were about things that would appeal to the more technically inclined. Not to overly simplify the festival’s intent, but the content, for the most part, embodied a culture that mostly programmers would consider interesting. It is hard to imagine coding could be considered such a spectacle, so then why such spectator interest? Are people programming passionate? syntax savvy? Or, just a little code curious?
Well, there is one thing we can assume, the community of coders continues to grow. And, even though the organizers from Magnetic Field B and the Creative Applications network do a fantastic job of lining up the guests, it still requires an active base of interest for people to attend an event.
The overall size of such a community is perhaps be difficult to accurately gauge, by any account of numbers. In part, as Barry Threw mentioned previously (in a video tag for Latus Creativity), due to the shifting landscape of communities turning to, and cross-over from a large variety of tools. It is like taking the census for nomadic tribes, “Come back tomorrow, someone else will be living here.” So we need to be unassuming about popularity; numeric data can be used in bad ways. (Anyway that is what Moritz Stefaner warned us about in his presentation.)  At any rate, the success of numerous open source initiatives from the past decade, is a testament to the waxing popularity of programming. And, that a culture which can be defined (almost entirely) by its will to self-organize around technological autodidacticism, is becoming something much more significant.
What that significance is, I don’t think anyone is really sure. Though it is not a stretch of the imagination to see that the right of self-determination is implicit, and the necessity for sustainability latent. Or, it may be that the quality of creative output which is produced through programming tends to be new, fresh, and furthermore, effective at leaving a lasting impression.
At any rate, how can young artists and designers not be inspired from so many interesting code-based projects out there? I am sure Resonate corrupted a few graphic designers into becoming self-deprecating hackers. From my perspective, I don’t really understand this reluctance for designers-artists to be programming. Many disciplines require programming skills: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology… They don’t consider themselves programmers, they are just using the tools available. However, I also think there is a notion that this form of media creation is a bit subversive.
David Gauthier of CIID [Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design] made a reference to the established academic institutions not being able to fund CIID because of the obscure nature of a highly interdisciplinary and morphic curriculum. Of course, there some exceptions to this perception, however, few. Mr. Gauthier went on to explain that they are able to sustain operations through consulting and research initiatives. Perhaps this interdisciplinary ambiguity, and perceived incompatibility with the paradigm of academia is a good thing. For all the wonders of an education, remember that schools and related enterprises have gatekeepers, and are, by and large, restrictive with the access of knowledge. This was really the point Aaron Swartz was making by downloading JSTOR papers from MIT servers. This is what open source initiatives would like to avoid.
It goes without saying, that we should remember open-source is not free. There are certainly degrees of sacrifice, and large amounts of dedication behind the convenience of information culture. Many platforms have to allocate resources to plan and perform maintenance and upgrades to insure maximum accessibility  For example, development of the Processing IDE is funded by the sales of the books authored by Mr. Reas.
I don’t mention this to paint any one’s coat the color of valor, but just to point out the fact that I am sure he is well aware you can find a digital copy of it anywhere for free. That is not the point. It is basically the honors system in which knowledge attained is value acquired. It is a gamble, but if you think about it, it is really the only way *all* of this is going to work out.
by Michael Dotolo (De Fenestrated)


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