Art After Computing

Simon Penny
University of California, Irvine
Draft 8 – do not quote without permission


The computing revolution has had multiple impacts on the arts. This paper follows three related strands of techno-cultural development relate to the interactions between computing and arts practices over the last quarter century. The first strand, aesthetico-theoretical in nature, is recognition of the radically new kinds of cultural practices made possible by real time computing (especially interactive practices) and the complementary recognition that new modes of performative and relational aesthetics are called for. The second strand concerns the tacit or covert incursion of ideologies of computing into arts practices and the possibility that such ideologies may have had the pernicious effect of devaluing or disenfranchising, or simply rendering invisible or irrelevant, traditional practices and values which themselves may have been inadequately or poorly explicated. The third strand tracks the collapse of the cognitivist and simplistically Cartesian worldview around which ʻgood old fashioned artificial intelligenceʼ (GOFAI) and cognitive science were framed, and the emergence of situated, embodied, enactive and distributed paradigms of cognition.1

The argument of this paper is that these strands can now be woven together in the contemporary possibility that ʻpost-cognitivist cognitive scienceʼ (PCCS) might offer a new way of speaking about, and validating, the embodied and situated intelligences of the arts, which might both correct the relegation of the (plastic and performing) arts to second-rank intellectual status, and provide ways of considering the performative/embodied nature of the arts of real-time, leading to more a satisfactory theoretico-aesthetic corpus.2

1 ‘GOFAI’ was coined by John Haugeland in his Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea, (1985), MIT Press.
2 A previous draft of this paper was presented at the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern University, 20 October 2010.

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