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Executing Liveness: An examination of the live dimension of code inter-actions in software (art) practice

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With today’s prevalence of technology enormous quantities of data are
generated and disseminated in real-time through a highly networked,
programmable and distributed environment. Networks of machines and the
circulation of data mediate our sense of time. The sensation of ‘liveness’ is
deeply reconfigured by complex technological infrastructures behind
ubiquitous screens and interfaces. This thesis explores how real-time
computation reconfigures this immanent sense of liveness, specifically in
relation to contemporary software art and culture. By focusing on the live
dimension of code inter-actions this thesis examines the complexity of our
current computational environment as evident in the increasing use of data
queries, the instantaneous transmission of data streams and the seamless
running of automated agents.

By drawing together the methods of reflexive practice, close reading,
iterative trials and cold gazing in the fields of artistic research, critical code
studies, software studies and media archaeology respectively, this thesis
presents three artistic and experimental projects together with the written
manuscript. Together they examine barely visible code operations and
consider the cultural implications of the reading, writing, running and
execution of code, which I refer to as ‘reflexive coding practice.’ This
methodology provides an applied approach to computational processes,
invisible architectures and a means to reflect on cultural issues through
experimentation and practice.

A materialist framework for liveness is presented with the use of three main
vectors, namely: unpredictability, micro-temporality and automation. This
facilitates the unfolding of the assemblages of things and relations that have
emerged through the inter-actions of code across various computational
layers at multiple scales. The analysis and discussion contributes to a
widening of critical attention to software (art) studies primarily in terms of
its distinct focus on the live dimension of code. Furthermore, it expands the
debate in media and performance studies, providing technical description
and analysis in relation to the concept of liveness. In overall terms, the
research contributes to our understanding of software by expanding our
understanding of liveness in contemporary culture. This includes a nuanced
examination of liveness beyond immediate human reception.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLeonardo
Volume51
Issue5
Pages (from-to)530
Number of pages1
ISSN0024-094X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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