What I learned #01

Building a “program” without code

As a first year university student there’s a lot going on in your brain. Strong expectations and mixed feelings arise as you walk into each new class. Foreign faces, and maybe some familiar ones, you’d have to approach, interact with, and make connections.

Last week Creative Coding class was all about making connections. We — as a group — were asked to describe an everyday action or situation as if it was to be executed by a computer program without the use of any code nor technical terminology. Plain, simple steps. Written down and then reenacted in form of performance, which would have given us the opportunity to see the process in action, and perhaps pick up on errors or steps we didn’t think of.

We thought survival was an interesting theme to work on. Intended as victory upon a lifelong fight between individuals.

Presented with an external attack, an individual can — at a very simplistic level — either fight the enemy or fly away. Choosing to fight could result in two different outputs: victory or death. However, the individual also has the option to run away. Despite the hiding skills, no species has ever made it on this planet without fighting for survival at least once. In such case, at some point the individual who has run away will eventually incur in another fight without escape as an option. For both instances, if we assume that winning a fight equals survival, then our sequence would keep running in an endless loop until the energy of the individual is exhausted. When death occurs, the sequence would stop running. A simple, logical process, which in reality is actually affected by an endless number of variables.

After all, it posed challenges to how we think of computer programming. Coding is nothing but directing an orchestra of bits, with data as instruments. The only difference? Machines are the best trained players you can ever find and they are never wrong. They respond to what we tell them in ways we can predict, manipulate and make work for our own purpose.

Francesco Imola is a London-based musician, weekend photographer, and current Sound Design student at the University of Greenwich.

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