A Philosophy of Computer Art

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  1. Sharing the ability to analyze art
  2. The Software Arts
  3. “A Philosophy of Computer Art” by Dominic Lopes [Books, Review]
  4. The Software Arts - Events - Berkeley Center for New Media
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Philosophy of Computer Art e-bok av Dominic Lopes. Ladda ned. Spara som favorit. Laddas ned direkt. Skickas inom vardagar specialorder.

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Skickas inom vardagar. What is computer art? Do the concepts we usually employ to talk about art, such as 'meaning', 'form' or 'expression' apply to computer art? A Philosophy of Computer Art is the first book to explore these questions. Needless to say, there is not wholesale agreement on the correct definition of art, but the least we can do is look at how video games sit in respect of the current best contenders.

Covering the entire range of current definitions and explaining their philosophical motivations would take this piece far outside of its intended focus, so what I'm going to do here is forward the case for video games as art using a definition of art I think has a lot going for it. Cluster accounts of art claim that art can be defined-or at least characterized-by a disjunctive list of conditions. A "disjunction" is a technical term for an "or" statement, and so a disjunctive analysis of art comes in the basic form of "x is art if and only if x is a, or x is b, or…," and so on.

What the disjunctive aspect of such definitions is meant to solve is the problem that even uncontested artworks are fairly diverse. In fact there may be no one feature shared by all of these things, even though their properties may overlap so some extent. The cluster approach claims that an art work is such if it has a significant proportion of a set of listed criteria, even though it may be missing some of them.

Sharing the ability to analyze art

Some philosophers claim that cluster or disjunctive definitions of art are trying to have a bet both ways. Perhaps this is the point of such definitions: art may not have any one essential property, rather it may be comprised of a collection of properties that overlap in instances. And this is often that way that things exist in the world, even in the natural world where classes such as biological species can be comprised of individuals with sets of characteristics that overlap with related species. In fact, it may be a fault of old fashioned philosophy to think that objects in the world can be unequivocally defined in terms of "essences.

What sorts of characteristics are we talking about?

The Software Arts

In a research paper on the topic, the philosopher Berys Gaut claims that art is comprised of the following properties,. All artworks, the claim is, have some significant collection of these properties, and, if pressed, we could list which of the characteristics various artworks and forms of art typically have though for the sake of brevity I will not do so here. The list presented by Denis Dutton in his recent book The Art Instinct is similar, including direct pleasure, the display of skill or virtuosity, style novelty and creativity, criticism, representation, "special" focus, expressive individuality, emotional saturation, intellectual challenge, traditions and institutions, and imaginative experience.

Faced with an object having a large number of these features, Dutton thinks that we would have to admit that the object was art. Naturalist accounts such as Dutton's go further than basic cluster accounts in that they claim that the properties on the list are psychological, behavioral, and cultural propensities that are human universals, seen in some form in all cultures. All cultures, then, have art, even though local instances of art-whether it is a painting in a gallery in Manhattan, a carving from a pre-European contact Maori tribe, a symphony in concert house in 19th century Vienna, or even an instance of Fallout 3-show considerable variation in their perceptible features.

“A Philosophy of Computer Art” by Dominic Lopes [Books, Review]

Thus there is an obvious way to solve our problem of whether video games are art: we can simply look at how many of these art-typical conditions can be found in video games. It is clear that not all video games have a significant proportion of the conditions, so it will turn out that under this analysis a game like Pong may not be art.

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But this does not seem to be a problem, because to establish that video games are art does not rely on establishing that all video games are art. Furthermore, hardly anyone really thinks that Pong is an art work, or at least if they do, they are employing a very idiosyncratic concept of art.

The Software Arts - Events - Berkeley Center for New Media

When we look at the modern examples of video games that are most frequently put up as serious contenders for being art, how do they match up with the cluster conception of art? Let's take just one example, BioShock, a game which most recent gamers are likely to have heard of, if not played, and let's reflect one by one on Gaut's list of art-typical conditions. BioShock possesses aesthetic properties: its art deco setting has frequently been called out for particular praise, and the game does present a sumptuous world of fallen splendor.

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This possession of aesthetic qualities is one of the most immediate and obvious links between video games and art, and indeed, unlike much recent avant garde art that seems entirely unconcerned with beauty, video games have a strong connection to the art of previous historical periods through their concern with beauty. BioShock is expressive of emotions: in the game, the Little Sisters engage our sympathy, and the Big Daddies induce our fear, and the game as a whole has a rich emotional tenor ranging from crushing peril, to tenderness, to surprise and awe think of the twist sequence; for me this was accompanied by an astounding feeling of revelation, including that spine tingling feeling that accompanies the most emotionally affecting of art.

BioShock is intellectually challenging: the Objectivist component in BioShock is not some mere exercise in name-dropping, and though you can play the game oblivious to this layer of meaning, the parallels with Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged do fill the game with an immense significance. Moreover, the connections prove intellectually provocative, leading the thoughtful player to carefully consider the philosophical principles expressed through the failing world of Rapture, and so challenging the Objectivist philosophy behind it.

But to see this, one must engage with the game intellectually and bring to it a pre-existing understanding of the issues of altruism, moral choice, freedom, and responsibility that the game touches upon. BioShock is formally complex and coherent. Though a lot of the structure of the game is particular to its nature as a game-it has levels and objectives, enemies, and save points encoded in the "vita-chambers"-there is also much that is of artistic interest in its depictive structures.

There are several sections of the game where the careful design of its environment allows it to convey an artistic point: think about the incredible opening sequence of the game, where using an in medias res technique, the player-character is dropped into the middle of the story, and the mystery of Rapture is introduced as he and we become literally and figuratively immersed in the fictional world. There is coherent and complex artifice and design in this sequence, and as a result the artistic impact is undeniable.

The BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects Program at the School of Visual Arts

BioShock has the capacity to convey complex meanings. Spoilers ahead! The twist sequence in the game functions so successfully because of its layering of fictional and formal aspects of the game: as the character discovers that they have been a pawn in a battle for the control of Rapture, the player is led to think about how they too are a pawn in someone else's game. This layering leads to some satisfyingly complex interplay between the themes of action, responsibility, freedom, manipulation, and moral choice.

These complex meanings are an important part of the artistic worth of the game. BioShock expresses an individual point of view. The unity of the art in BioShock is pretty obvious to the observant player; it fits together as an organic whole, and we naturally want to see it as an expression of an artist's viewpoint.

Of course, this is complicated by the fact that it is the work of a studio, much like films are. Ken Levine is a figurehead for this individual studio style, and we can see in BioShock much of the individual style that makes its predecessor System Shock 2 the terrific game that it is. But there really is in operation a sort of proxy artist of the work, and though the game is very much an aggregation of several artistic visions, this individual artistic style shows through in the result and was adopted by 2k Marin when they produced a sequel to the game. BioShock is very clearly the product of a creative imagination: it depicts an imaginary world, that though having obvious precedents, also has a flavor all of its own.

One of the most common compliments given BioShock is of the compelling nature of Rapture as a setting. This surely owes to the imaginativeness with which Rapture was conceived. BioShock gives evidence of a high degree of skill. This is most evident in the artistic design of the game, the writing, the voice acting, and the many aspects of the game that established its artistic credibility. The game simply is a collection of some very good performances by the various artists who were involved in its production.

BioShock does not however belong to an established art form, as the very debate we are engaged in here shows. It's not just critics like Ebert who doubt that video games are art; very many gamers and game designers themselves have such doubts. But given the cluster nature of the account, this is not a decisive point against video games, and indeed it is to be expected given that video games are a relatively new phenomenon. All art forms come into existence at some point of course.

Establishing an artistic form takes time, and what also takes time is the realization that a collection of works is a new art form. This results from the collective intuitions of those involved with the form, but also arises as theorists and critics begin to recognize the status of the form as art and to engage with it in a serious way.

Finally, and this is my judgment, BioShock is the result of the intention to make an artwork. Intentions can be slippery things, but it seems evident enough in the game that it is intended to be something more than just a game: BioShock is intended to have the features listed above they are not accidental and it is intended to have these features as a matter of its being art.

Hence, BioShock seems an entirely natural candidate for art status. It has, in some form, all but one of the criteria. The one it lacks-belonging to an established artistic form-it lacks because of the very newness of video games. BioShock is not necessarily a masterpiece the last act is problematic but this is beside the point; the vast majority of art works are not masterpieces.