A la mémoire de JM Jacquard + Processing


Most cultural products are mediated through computers; from the beginning of the creative process of conceiving an idea, to production, distribution, and consumption computers play a crucial role in the way we understand media. With computers, media becomes more malleable increasing the possibilities of re-imagining existing content, creating several iterations with the same data, and of visualizing data in new ways. Today cultural products are the outcome of the process of reshaping data and rethinking through it. My final project, for example, by building on Borges’s ideas of language in his short story Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius re-imagines the language of Tlon with the use of data stored in Cloudant, and Merriam Webster’s dictionary.

The most important aspect of computational media is not the possibility of re-imagining content, but the process of that re-imagination itself, which empowers the creator by giving her a an array of possibilities for managing and reshaping the data she has access to. Looking at Jacquard’s loom, one of the first images created through computational processes and that is made of pixels, the question of why computing a portrait instead of painting  or sewing it arises. It seems obvious that it is more efficient to automate the process of textile making than to sew every pattern on a piece of fabric, but the question of why sewing portraits and creating representational images is even more fascinating. For Jacquard, the tools, his punched card computing system, was not the main part of his work, but rather the process of utilizing the tools and pushing the possibilities of creating meaning with them.

In Introduction to Interactive Media, we have had the opportunity of exploring the process of creating computational media projects, moving beyond the use of tools by learning not only about their functionalities but also about the ideas behind them through the creation of simple and sometimes more complex media projects. During class, one of the main tools we used was Processing, a software which methodologies resemble the process  Jacquard’s loom. In processing, the canvas, and the pixel in the same way as in Jacquard’s loom are programmed to create graphic experiences. Throughout the class, in a similar fashion to Jacquard, we moved away from the program itself by focusing on the process of creating and on the constant exploration of ideas through the tools. 

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