FROM THE 'SKETCHPAD' TO 'SKETCHING' - CONTEXTUALISING 'PROCESSING' : THE PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE FOR ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS

  • View
    458

  • Download
    3

Embed Size (px)

DESCRIPTION

This thesis examines 'Processing' – the programming language for artists and designers created byCasey Reas and Ben Fry as a cultural artefact. The title makes a reference firstly to the 'Sketchpad'(the man-machine interaction paradigm conceived by Ivan Sutherland in 1963) and to 'sketching'(which denotes the act of using the Processing IDE ). Tracing the act of using the Processing IDE -'sketching' – a verb, to an important interface of digital media history 'Sketchpad' – a noun, covers thelast four decades of the history of the digital computer. More importantly this history conveys thesocietal and technological causes for the development of a 'programming language' specially cateringto the needs of the contemporary creative labour class.Using this word 'contextualising' before the name of a software product (as has been done in the titleof this thesis) also makes it convenient to locate key historical reference points from the context ofdigital media that bridge the two culture divide between science + technology (esp. computerprogramming) and the arts + humanities. To achieve such a 'contextualising' the main research aspectsare - evaluating the pedagogical significance of this development (a software) and defining the deepercultural history of this technical product.

Text of FROM THE 'SKETCHPAD' TO 'SKETCHING' - CONTEXTUALISING 'PROCESSING' : THE PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE FOR...

1

FROM THE 'SKETCHPAD' TO 'SKETCHING' CONTEXTUALISING 'PROCESSING' :THE PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE FOR ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS .

SUBMITTED BY HEMANT SREEKUMAR, TO THE INTER-UNIVERSITY MASTERS PROGRAMME OF DIGITAL MEDIA, HOCHSCHULE FR KNSTE, BREMEN IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE - MASTER OF ARTS (MA) IN DIGITAL MEDIA 15 MAY 2011 .

SUPERVISORS :

PROF. DR. FRIEDER NAKE, UNVERSITT BREMEN PROF. PETER VON MAYDELL, HOCHSCHULE FR KNSTE BREMEN

2

DECLARATION OF AUTHORSHIP I, Hemant Sreekumar, author of this MA thesis - titled FROM THE 'SKETCHPAD' TO 'SKETCHING' - CONTEXTUALISING 'PROCESSING' : THE PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE FOR ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS declare that all literary sources that have been used have been correctly referenced.

: ............................... : BREMEN, 15 MAY 2011

3

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I owe my deepest gratitude to Prof. Dr. Frieder Nake for the intense motivation and courage that he has provided me. I am extremely thankful to Prof. Peter Von Maydell for helping me focus and showing confidence in this project. I am much obliged to Compart Bremen for being my nest for nearly a year and providing me the apt context & exposure without which this thesis would have been impossible. I would like to thank Jukka Boehm and Stefan Kreitmayer for helping me gain confidence with computer programming. I am heavily indebted to my wife for the divine patience she has shown since I filed for this thesis.

4

ABSTRACT

This thesis examines 'Processing' the programming language for artists and designers created by Casey Reas and Ben Fry as a cultural artefact. The title makes a reference firstly to the 'Sketchpad' (the man-machine interaction paradigm conceived by Ivan Sutherland in 1963) and to 'sketching' (which denotes the act of using the Processing IDE ). Tracing the act of using the Processing IDE 'sketching' a verb, to an important interface of digital media history 'Sketchpad' a noun, covers the last four decades of the history of the digital computer. More importantly this history conveys the societal and technological causes for the development of a 'programming language' specially catering to the needs of the contemporary creative labour class. Using this word 'contextualising' before the name of a software product (as has been done in the title of this thesis) also makes it convenient to locate key historical reference points from the context of digital media that bridge the two culture divide between science + technology (esp. computer programming) and the arts + humanities. To achieve such a 'contextualising' the main research aspects are - evaluating the pedagogical significance of this development (a software) and defining the deeper cultural history of this technical product.

5

00.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5

INDEX GROUNDINTRODUCTION....................................................................... 7 METHODOLOGY...................................................................... 8 ON SKETCHING....................................................................... 10 ON PROGRAMMING................................................................ 13 ON DESIGN.............................................................................. 15

11.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.5.1 1.5.2 1.5.3 1.6 1.6.1 1.6.2

ARTEFACTMETA-MEDIUM........................................................................ 19 THE 'SYSTEMATIC DOMAIN' OF MEDIA DESIGN................ 20 SYNTAX.................................................................................... 22 ABSTRACTION .................................................................... 28 ECO-SYSTEM ...................................................................... 33 INTERFACES COMMONS OPEN ARTEFACT CONCLUSION.................................................. 44 SELECTION ESSENCE

22.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.5.1

TECHNOLOGYCONTINGENCIES ................................................................ 48 ART AND TECHNOLOGY........................................................ 49 THE ARTIST PROGRAMMER ............................................. 51 ARTEFACTS ........................................................................ 54 CLOSE CONTEXT 1 ............................................................ 55 SKETCHPAD

6

2.6 2.6.1 2.6.2 2.6.3 2.7 2.7.1 2.7.2 2.7.3 2.7.4 2.8 CLOSE CONTEXT 2 ................................................................ 65 ALAN KAY SMALLTALK FROM THE OPERATOR TO THE USER A DEEP HISTORY OF DIGITAL MEDIA ............................. 75 ROOTS OF THE 'VIRTUAL' MACHINE LABOUR MACHINE MILITARY MACHINE COMMUNICATIONS MACHINE TECHNOLOGY CONCLUSION................................................ 85

33.1 3.2 3.3 3.4

LANGUAGE

88

CONTAINER............................................................................. 90 ESSENCE OF COMPUTATIONAL MEDIA.............................. 91 PEDAGOGY.............................................................................. 95 CONCLUSION ...................................................................... 98

4 5

FINAL THOUGHTS BIBLIOGRAPHY

99 103

-

7

0 GROUND0.1 INTRODUCTION This thesis has been entitled From the 'Sketchpad' to 'sketching' - Contextualising Processing the programming language for artists and designers . The first section of the title From the 'Sketchpad' to 'sketching' makes a reference to the Sketchpad - the man-machine interaction paradigm conceived by Ivan Sutherland in 1963 at the Lincoln Labs1, MIT. The first section also makes a reference to 'sketching' - a word denoting a quickly summarised figure generally drawn on paper. In the context of this title the word sketching is used to denote the act of using the Processing IDE 2 . Also known as the Processing Development Environment (PDE) , 'sketching' in this context consists of writing code in the text editor to create programs.[ReF 2007, 9] The second part of the title directly refers to 'Processing'. In its main wiki page FAQ section 3 it's described as an open-source programming language which has been developed by Casey Reas and Ben Fry at the MIT Media Lab under the tutorship of John Maeda. The designers of the language claim it to be a programming language primarily intended for artists and designers. So, the title charts out a time-line from the creation of the Sketchpad in 1963 till recent times when a software product like Processing calls the user coded document - 'a sketch' and by default saves it as 'sketch_$$$$$' in a default folder called 'Sketchbook'.

Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, and interactions. Initially developed to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing also has evolved into a tool for generating finished professional work. Today, there are tens of thousands of students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists who use Processing for learning, prototyping, and production. 4

This wiki page FAQ also states that it is an 'introductory language' enabling newer audiences from the arts and media field to learn fundamentals of digital computer programming using a simplified JAVA syntax and visual output. Initially hosted at http://proce55ing, it is now available at http://processing.org/. The current stable version of processing at the time of writing this document is the version number 1.5 released on 17th April 2011. For the first time, this release features the convenience to run programs on the open source mobile platform - Android 5.1 | Sutherland, Ivan E. "Sketchpad, A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System." Ph.D Thesis . MIT . (1963) 2 | IDE (integrated development environment) - a software application to assist computer programmers in software development. Ideally it consists of : a source code editor : a compiler/ interpreter : a debugger. 3 | http://wiki.processing.org/w/FAQ | 27FEB2011 4 | Quoted from the processing.org/ homepage | 27FEB011 5 | Operating System and other key libraries for Mobile devices supported by Google Inc. http://www.android.com/ | 08MAY2011

8

Tracing the act of using the Processing IDE - 'sketching' a verb, to an important interface of digital media history 'Sketchpad' a noun, covers the last four decades of the history of the digital computer. More importantly this history conveys the societal and technological causes for the development of a 'programming language' specially catering to the needs of designers and artists . The aim here is to examine ' Processing the software ' as a cultural artefact and not just as a piece of technology. The second part of the title also has the word 'Contextualising'. The word context comes early 15 th century Latin word contextus - "a joining together" . It is also semantically related to the word textura, which meant a web, texture, structure. 6 Using this word 'Contextualising' before the given title of a software allows us to locate a specific survey into various social and technological conditions out of which such an entity (this software Processing) has emerged . At the same time the larger focus will on the cultural history of the personal computer and software applications catering to artists and designers. To achieve such a 'contextualising' the three research aspects are: ARTEFACT - Evaluating the significance of this development (a software). TECHNOLOGY - Defining the deeper cultural history of this technical product. LANGUAGE - Enumerating the facts that would corroborate the pedagogical claims of this product. The sections 1, 2 and 3 of this thesis deal with these respective research aspects. The third research aspect would be interspersed within the first tw