Feedback in livecoding: cui bono?

Hi, BUILD students. I know y’all are busy, so this won’t take too long and will hopefully be fun. Before my guest lecture, I’d like to introduce you (if you haven’t seen it before) to livecoding. Imagine you arrive at the club1, and as well as the glow sticks and the pingers and the heaving bodies on the dance floor instead of a “traditional” DJ you see this:

What can cybernetics teach us about this?

Obviously there are lots of feedback loops in this CPS; involving audience/room/livecoder/screens/lights/loudspeakers etc. But one of the things that interests me most about livecoding is that it gives the club-goers a chance to see (and hopefully to care) about the source code of a computer program.

There’s lots we could say about this from a cybernetics perspective, but the things I want to focus on in this class is feedback.

Here are a few questions for you to think about ahead of class. In each livecoding video:

  • what has the performer chosen to show?
  • what has the performer chosen to hide?
  • who is the feedback for2?
  • in each case, why do you think those decisions were made?
  • when watching, what did you want more/less/different feedback about?
  • if you were the AV designer for Ushini & my next livecoding set, what changes would you make?
  • how does a taking a cybernetic approach to this question change answer to these questions? (because feedback is something that cybernetics has a fair bit to say about)

If you want to go a bit deeper on the semiotics of all this livecoding stuff, my collaborators and I have written a couple of papers3 on the semantics/semiotics of livecoding:

The Many Meanings of Live Coding (2014)

by Andrew Sorensen, Ben Swift and Alistair Riddell

in Computer Music Journal 38(1) (pdf)

doi: 10.1162/COMJ_a_00230

Visual Code Annotations for Cyberphysical Programming (2013)

by Ben Swift, Andrew Sorensen, Henry Gardner and John Hosking

in LIVE '13: 1st International Workshop on Live Programming at ICSE (pdf)

doi: 10.1109/LIVE.2013.6617345

If there are other thinkers/writers/doers that you can think of who also have something to say about this, then bring those ideas along and we can discuss them as well.

  1. I don’t really have any lived experience with this—I’m approaching 40 and have young kids and I’m normally in bed by 9:30pm. 

  2. Hence the pretentious latin in the title of this blog post. 

  3. I hope it’s not too gauche to provide two self-citations. 

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