xCoAx 2013: Proceedings of the first conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics and X.

xCoAx 2013: Proceedings of the first conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics and X.

Bergamo, Italy

Organizing committee: Mario Verdicchio, Jason Reizner, André Rangel, Pedro Tudela & Miguel Carvalhais.


Mario Verdicchio

Welcome to the proceedings of the first edition of “Computation, Communication, Aesthetics, and X”.

Beginnings are always accompanied by excitement and enthusiasm, which in our case were furtherly fed by the overwhelming response that we got from researchers and artists from all over the world shortly after we issued the call for papers and works.

On the other hand, we cannot ignore the little chill that runs down our spines every time it comes back to us that, when all is so fresh and new, much of it is still unknown to us: who knows for sure what is going to happen?

The Unknown is indeed a concept traditionally represented with an X, and that is one of the reasons why our conference features an X in its name.

Still, this is not the only meaning associated with this letter: oftentimes X has been used to represent a prohibition. When we see a big black X over the symbol of a photo- camera in a museum, we know what we are not allowed to do. However, we also know that taking a picture in such circumstances is still a task that we may successfully accomplish, provided that we are stealthy enough.

When it comes to Computation, researchers have historically had to deal with much more than simple prohibition: they were told that some goals were impossible to achieve, and that such impossibility was intrinsically connected with the computational nature of the devices they were envisioning. According to the naysayers, it was not a simple matter of being quick with the shutter of a camera: some things were simply out of reach.

Here is the second meaning of X: Impossibility. Interestingly, many thought and still think that Communication and Aesthetics are among the impossible endeavors.

Obviously, Communication is not to be meant as the transmission of encoded bits from one point to another, a computational task par excellence, but as the generation and conveying of meaning, whether it is with words, images, shapes, or sounds.

The criticisms against computational approaches boil down to two main positions: computational devices are not conscious, and they are strictly governed by rules. Assuming that consciousness is necessary for human beings to acquire the meaning of words through their experiences, any consciousness-less device is then unable to learn

and elaborate meaning, and hence must be considered as a simple symbol-processing mechanism, like in the famous Chinese Room thought experiment.

Moreover, given the determinism of computational rules, any result obtained by one of these devices is apparently devoid of any novelty or originality, since every characteristic of the outcome is already established in the program governing the relevant operations.

If computational devices are precluded from meaningful Communication with words, what about the use of shapes, colors, and sounds? In other words, what about Aesthetics? The response seems to be the same: without the moto-sensory and mental endowments that bless human beings with the possibility to enjoy and manipulate such means of expression, computational devices can do only so much. But how much is exactly that much?

We must not forget that the aforementioned criticism emerged in the wake of the birth of Artificial Intelligence in the 1950s with Alan Turing’s visionary ideas on the theoretical possibility of computers fluently conversing with people or being creative. The X of impossibility seems to rise when an artificial substitute is envisioned for activities that have been traditionally considered as typically human, but if Computation is ad- opted in a different role, not as a substitute, but as an aide, everything seems to proceed much more smoothly.

Computation has indeed played an increasingly important role in both Communication and Aesthetics and nobody, not even the harshest critics, can deny the immense contribution of computers in these fields: other than the already mentioned worldwide telecommunication infrastructure through which these very proceedings are distributed, several products, including the exciting artworks and performances presented in this book, are created also by means of computational devices.

Here we are at the final and maybe most important meaning of X: it is a Crossroads where two different worlds meet and complement each other, where the rules govern- ing the computational dereplicated, altered, and evaluated in unprecedented ways, thanks to the speed and precision of the technology used in these devices.

With computers in the toolbox, next to our pens, paintbrushes, chisels, strings and so on, we are enabled to explore a much, much wider landscape than ever before, but without fear of the Unknown, only excitement.

Let us begin.

Publisher Universitá degli Studi di Bergamo, Citar/UCP, ID+, i2ADS/FBAUP,
Local Bergamo/Porto
Year 2013
ISBN / ISSN 978-989-746-017-3
Language English
Type Other
Where to Buy free download