A Turing test for the meaninglessness of parameter mapping in digital art.

They’re at-it again! Those krazy kids with coding skills attached to their right brains. This time, they’re mapping barcodes to pitches.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/?v=fyLj9xQiG7s]

Nice app. Well designed. Simple. Intuitive. I bought it. Tried it on 6 barcodes. Didn’t work. Dont know why. Doesn’t matter.

All artworks must reveal something. Is this an artwork? So what is revealed here? (please answer in comments section). Here’s my take:

  1. In the digital world, you really can map anything to anything.
  2. technology can make experiencing a supermarket with a 4 year old mildly amusing (that was my principle motivation for buying it)
Actually I like this app (even though it doesn’t work for me). But the revelation is not musical, it is something else. 
Maybe it is a revelation about the ubiquity of disposable digital information. Even supermarkets aisles can become practically-infinite sources of melody. 
Maybe it is a statement of the absurdly flittering superficiality that mobile devices and technology mash ups incite us to consume. This is about the consumption of time-wasting. At best, we might utter a fading “isn’t that a clever idea”. 
I bet I could re-implement this app, but instead of reading the actual bar-codes, I would just generate a random string of notes. Would anyone notice the difference?

AH HA! Brilliant. A turing test for the meaning of parameter mapping.

Yes yes, that’s it. That’s how we can expose the meaninglessness of parameter mapping in digital art. A turing test.

Produce a digital work that maps A to B. Ask users to consume the work.

Then, remove the mapping and use a random algorithm to generate values of B. The algorithm must make a reasonable go at imitating likely values of the A to B mapping. Ask users to consume the work again. Do they perceive any difference?

  • If the work passes the turing test, then the artist has managed to extract some meaning from the source data. Whether there is a revelation in that extraction is an other matter.
  • If the work fails the turing test, then the work is about something else. At worst it is just saying that one can map anything to anything. At best it is drawing some new insight into something totally un-related to what is being mapped. In this case, I think the app reveals something about the mobile medium, consumption, and time-wasting. Its an infatuation with the possibilities of the digital sphere at the expense of purpose.
I dont think my 4 year old son would mind at all if the bar code app completely faked interpreting Kellogs Rice Bubble bar codes into melodies.
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One Response to A Turing test for the meaninglessness of parameter mapping in digital art.

  1. Pingback: All art, in time is robbed of its context. Discuss. | Etienne Deleflie

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