Is Computational Media important? Why?
The importance of Computational Media is in that it is science, and yet, it is magic. It is science for its mathematics, for its electronics and circuits, for its code, for its constants and variables, yet, it is magic for its visuals, for its sounds, for its personalities, for its surprises, and for its experience. Obviously, it only appears to be magic, but it can become real magic as it leaves you in awe regardless of your knowledge about the science behind it.
The reason why this characteristic makes Computational Media important is not merely that it is magical. This very trait is what allows Computational Media to expand the human experience: it offers us new ways to interact with technology and it lets technology respond to us in new ways. By nature, human beings seek for responses to their actions from their environment: they seek interaction. We learn by asking questions and receiving answers, we bond by talking and touching, we find humor in surprising responses to our actions, we identify other people and things not only with the help of our vision, but with hearing, touching and smelling. We expect others, and by now, other things, to interact with us: we talk to a person and expect that they would answer, we call an unknown cat and expect that she will respond (and if not, we go on for ridiculously long trying to find the sound with which we can get her attention), a child presses a button for the first time, but still expects something to happen, we touch a screen in a mall trying to find a shop and are surprised to find that it is not even a screen but the protective glass of a map. Hence, the ability of Computational Media to increase and improve our “communication” with technology, if used well, can make our interactions with technology more natural, more “human”. Thus, Computational Media can expand the human experience by integrating the world of technology and computation to the human world, without harming either of the two.
The fact that Computational Media is science and magic gives it another important power: it can help us show others that science is magic. Computational Media allows for visualizations and data representation in ways that bring the sciences much closer to the average layperson. These visualizations are intriguing and captivating, and thus do not only help us understand the concepts they demonstrate, but also raise our interest in what goes on behind them. Computational Media inspires us to use science to create magic. Whether we will turn to Computation or Chemistry as a result, and whether we aim create art or “mere” illustrations does not matter. In the end, the process and the product help us understand and experience the world in a much more complex and profound way.
Clearly, there are some dangers of using Computational Media for these purposes: technology, in the eyes of many, is already too interwoven with our everyday lives, and can indeed become disruptive and destructive to our human relationships. Yet, I believe that this is just another challenge that we face when using these technologies: we need to learn to use these technologies, experience these technologies and live with these technologies without forgetting how to live with one another.