Michael Century on Mon, 29 May 2000 01:24:32 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> OFSS01..thread on artists' tools

 On 27 May 2000, Benjamin Geer wrote:

>Perhaps someday someone will make the perfect computer system for artists,
>which lets them do everything they want with a minimum of technical
>knowledge.  Until then, artists will have to live with the fact that
>computers are general-purpose tools, like airplanes, and that one must
>learn to use them as such.

I'd like to look inside this claim, which is hard to understand without
some understanding what a "perfect" system could possibly mean. 

Much discussion on this thread has made clear how rewarding the steep
learning curve for so-called general purpose tools can be.  That is,
enabling the development of personal expressive control, generation of new
variations, extending the existing scope of the 'language' or 'grammar'
from which one starts.  Fine. 

The next interesting question, though, is where and how to define the
performance boundaries of a tool set, the particular sub-devices,
strategems, routines, etc., which are 'punctualized' and made reproducible
using a reduced set of instructions (I take the term in quotes from the
way actor-network theoriests (eg. Callon) talk about innovation). 

I think that instrumental virtuosity in music performance can be a helpful
way to think about this.  This is a very old, and perhaps tired analogy,
but nonetheless, consider:  A violinist playing an Amati violin is unaware
of the 'magic' in Amati's craft, or at least, need not have much awareness
of this craft in order to perform on the instrument with skill. 
Application software can in principle (but rarely does) start from this
level of refinement.  Why not? 

Michael Century

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