11 Computational Aesthetics

M. Beatrice Fazi and Matthew Fuller

It is the contention of this chapter that computation has a profound effect on the composition of digital art. We understand computation as a method and a force of organization, quantification, and rationalization of reality by logico-mathematical means. The computational precedes yet grounds the digital in its technical, social, and cultural manifestations: it finds in digital technologies a fast, efficient, and reliable technique of automation and distribution, yet remains a notion wider and more powerful than the digital tools that it subtends. Art, operating with the digital prefix and taking on many of the characteristics of the contemporary world, is inherently interwoven with the specific features of computational structures. At the same time, though, it can be said that aspects of digital art have yet to be sufficiently considered from that perspective. To some extent this is understandable, given the immense flexibility—and, often, resultant opacity—of computational systems. Digital art, however, builds upon and works through the computational, sharing its limits and potentials while also inheriting conceptual histories and contexts of practice. For this reason, we contend that an aesthetics of digital art is, at a fundamental level, a computational aesthetics.

Medium Specificity

The crux of our argument can be summarized in the particular kind of medium specificity of the aesthetics of digital ...

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