Task 1 – Generative content creation

One of the defining notes brought out by Rockwell and Mactavish was that the academic study of multimedia should be distinguished from the craft of multimedia. In my mind it has the same constraints and flaws of interpretation that defining interactivity has. Though it is only one part of media and especially digital media, I will try to assess the statment and try to bring out its pros and cons.

Manovich says in his book „The Language of New Media“ that photography, which was widely implemented and used in the nineteenth century, had a profound and revolutionary impact on the development of modern society and culture. He also states that we are indeed in the middle of a new media revolution which shifts all of our culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution and communication. As far as interactivity is concerned, it does increase with the usage of multimedia, but to state that interactivity did not exist with previous mediums like books or television is a bit extremist. Although Manovich does not say that interactivity is only present in new media and multimedia, the differences between old and new media, be it defined as “new” and different from existing forms of entertainment and instruction or as to media „new“ to the twentieth or twenty first century, are huge.

One thing is true, all the previous developments in media, like the invention of the printing press or photography, only changed one specific type of cultural communication. One affected the distribution of information and the other one still images. To compare it with the developments in computer sciences is quite hard. As Manovich puts it, computer media revolution affects all stages of communication, including acquisition, manipulating, storage and distribution; it also affects all types of media — text, still images, moving images, sound, and spatial constructions. Still interactivity remains in the olden ways of doing things too. We do look at pictures and thus interact with them by holding them or memorizing different aspects, and we do the same with books or television for that matter. It is indeed a more psychological viewpoint, but there is not a lot different in looking at a photo on a computer screen or within a frame, as far as the interaction part is concerned.

So to come back to the first statement by Rockwell and Mactavish stating that the academic study of multimedia should be distinguished from the craft of multimedia. They state that learning to create multimedia works is important to the study of multimedia in applied programs, but it is possible to study digital media in theory without learning to make it. I do agree with the statement in a number of ways, but I also disagree with it. Firstly it is often said that one can go through many years of college and graduate without actually learning anything. Information can be memorized without understanding the principles or bottomline ideas. I am not saying that it is impossible to study multimedia without being exceptional in producing or making it, but as far as I have seen, it is not easy. By that I mean, if people study digital media without having any knowledge of how to actually produce it, they might not be able to comprehend the building blocks behind it all. It does not require much from a digital native to play through or upload a video to the internet, but to aquire the strengths and information necessary in order to fully explain and understand the makings of digital media takes more than reading a book on it.

To sum up, I believe that it is important to generate a full view of the surroundings and possibilites of any kind of media, be it multimedia, new media or old media. Nowadays  the capabilities of computer systems seem to be limitless and they develop at a frantic pace, so it might seem to people that absolutely everything can be done and by whatever means. This is true to some extent. If a person studies and perhaps is involved or planning to be involved in projects that include desingning, crafting or implementing multimedia/new media, they should be familiar with the processes behind it. Either because they would have an idea on how much and what has to be done to achieve a goal, or what is possible to do with the resources at hand. As far as multimedia and new media go, it is extremely hard to define these as something that would be thoroughly and unmistakably valid in a couple of years time without knowing the trade and keeping up with the developments.


* Rockwell, Geoffrey, and Andrew Mactavish. 2004. Multimedia. In A Companion to Digital Humanities, Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell

* Manovich, Lev. 2001. The Language of New Media. Massassuchets: MIT Press


Task 3 – Example of generative art

The first example that I would like to share is from a blog that can be found at www.veryinteractivepeople.com. The example is a program written by War De Langhe. It is a simple algorithm that controls the actions of the system that follows the spectrum of an audio file to generate an image. By going through the steps one can actually see and manipulate the algorithm in a way that the person wishes to. The program does not require anything from the user while it is running. The colorization is taken from the actual picture selected before and music is used to distribute the colors. The audial spectrum of the audio file adjusts the colorization while the algorithm is carried through over and over again. There is also a noticable change in the algorithm when it is running. That is due to the audio. That is where the disorder comes in. Audio changes the outcome of the visual art.

The program can be seen and used here:


I sincerely believe that it is a simple and easily comprehensible. By going through the steps one gets a good understanding of the actual processes that make up the creation of generative art. By changing the way that the algorithm works, one can create new and unexpected results. Although the algorithm works the same way, the music used and changes made to the line to be followed, creates new visual images every time.

An example created with the same program:

It would be a good idea to try out some changes to the algorithm in the future. At this point it mostly allowes movement in a curved line but it would be something to explore if it used different lines. Also an opportunity to add pictures in order to create different colours and of course the ability to change the soundtrack would create all new imagery and new vision.


  1. Galanter, Philip. 2003. What is generative art? Complexity theory as a context for art theory. In In GA2003–6th Generative Art Conference
  2. www.veryinteractivepeople.com

Task 2 – Generative Art and Literature

First of all we should determine what is generative art, in order to avoid latter questions on the matter. Philip Galanter suggests that generative art can be looked at from two perspectives, from the bottom-up or from the top down. He brings out a list of different activities that are a part of the generative art scene. It includes computer graphics and animation, the demo scene and VJ culture, industrial design and architecture. It must be pointed out that this list is not consecutive in any means and the main part which keeps it generative is the autonomous part of the creation process.

The top down approach is more philosophical and focuses on the pair of words that identify the scene, „generative“ and „art“. The definition, in Galanters mind, must contain two parts. Firstly art, which is in a way a fuzzy set theory, which is often recognized as a social and historical notion that changes over time. As for the generative part, he is more straightforward and identifies it as a subset of art, a subset where potentially multiple results can be produced by using some kind of generating system.

Altogether, Galanter defines generative art as any art practice where the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, which is set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art.

A very important case brought up by Galanter is the fact that we often do not distinguish between random and chaotic behavior of systems. That for it is very important to keep in mind, especially within the context of generative art, that chaotic systems are not the same as random systems. Natural chaotic systems may be difficult to predict but they will still exhibit structure that is different than purely random systems. For example weather is very hard to predict in the long run because it behaves in a chaotic manner. But it can be predicted a shor time ahead. The weather cannot be just random so that if today it is as warm as 30 degrees outside and tomorrow it would be -40 C. It might be raining in a weeks time but that is within certain confines 

An important aspect in creating generative art is the combining of order and disorder. The autonomous system that is used in order to create generative art provides the necessary part in order to balance the order of things. We do now know the different generative art forms that we are surrounded with every day and most of them include computers or computerized devices to create the works of art. But it is also important to mention that generative art existed long before computers. Many different ways of creating generative art have been used in the past. One does not need a computer in order to create generative art. It is important, as said before, to have an autonomous process within the creation of the work. It may well be another person who uses the system created by the artist in a random way as Galanter puts it.

Similar traits to generative art can be found in generative literature also. Jean-Pierre Balpe has defined „generative literature“ a literature where the texts are produced through a computer by means of a set of formal rules, the use of any kind of algorithm, specific dictionaries and eventually knowledge representations. There is also a similar question with the authorship of a creation. Because a computer for example gives out the text with regard to different rules but the final text is not created by the original author. The author has only set the rules and boundaries for creation. But the set of rules is extremely important in this case because a computer does not understand the meaning of the text. A computer only sees the text as a series of numbers and meaning has to be given to the text again by the reader.

To sum up, it would be important to mention that generative art is often considered and approached as a style of art. Actually it is more a referral to a way to create art rather than an art style. And in order to create generative art or generative literature for that matter, one must find a way to import an autonomous component into the creation process to balance order and disorder.


  1. Galanter, Philip. 2003. What is generative art? Complexity theory as a context for art theory. In In GA2003–6th Generative Art Conference
  2. Balpe, Jean-Pierre. 2005. Principles and Processes of Generative Literature. Dichtung-Digital