From software to art: a personal journey

Abstract for Keynote at O Simpósio Brasileiro de Fatores Humanos em Sistemas Computacionais (Human Factors in Computing Systems) 5-9 November 2012

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Computer based art has existed since the 60’s with artists like Michael Noll and Frieder Nake. The first computer art exhibition was held in 1965 in New York. The CEP, standing for “Pisan Electronic Computer” had been inaugurated in 1961 and was the first computer designed in Italy. I was born in Pisa in 1965 and I started to study computer science in early 80’s when software still was a phenomenon for computer specialists.

During the 90’s, when I was a PhD student at Politecnico di Torino, studying problems of software engineering process support, the world experienced the advent and the evolution of the personal computer, the web, software tools like Adobe Photoshop, and electronics tools such as cameras and mobile telephones. Software governing multimedia, the web, search engines, mobile computing, games, and social media, was penetrating the life of citizens and was changing the way people work, experience culture, communicate with each other, and learn.

At the beginning of the new millennium, the world was assisting to an explosion of both production and sharing of digital content, by engineers, artists and also common people. I became professor in software engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in early 2000 and I established an interdisciplinary project course and a research project about art and software.

As a software engineering scholar, the concrete goal is that of producing new knowledge about software engineering technology that support artistic projects for which software plays an important role. How can we characterize the development process of software dependent artwork and projects in terms of software development, maintenance, upgrade and usability of the artwork? How can we gain an increased understanding about software by borrowing concepts from the arts? These are the main questions that guide our research. These queries are dealt with systematic literature reviews and case studies.

As a teacher and project facilitator, I am motivated by the inner joy of creation with software and I am fascinated by the idea of open source art as the new frontier of artistic creation. In my talk, I will provide examples of participation to art projects with focus on Open Source Software, documented by pictures and videos.

As a disseminator of software issues to the broad audience, my agenda for participating in software intensive art projects, is to increase interest in software by exposing it to a broad audience, to make software visible in the public space and raise public engagement about software and its potential to be used in creative activities.

The main contributions of this piece of work are the conceptualization of themes at the intersection of software and art and identification of the issues that contribute to the success or failure of a software dependent art project. Moreover, we make proposals on how the software discipline can be improved by borrowing concepts from art. Increased knowledge about the intersection of software and art benefits cultural industries, which produce media for publishing enterprises, museums, and entertainment with better technology platforms for cultural and entertainment industries and better conceptual models for decision makers.

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