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Code as Prosthesis

DOI: | Issue 3 | April 2020

Ron Herrema

Bath Spa University

Research Statement

I am a composer, musician, and graphic artist who has been writing computer algorithms as part of his artistic practice for the past twenty years. Code as Prosthesis is a concept that has its genesis in my desire to grapple with a seeming paradox within this practice - namely, that ceding control to the agency of an algorithm (i.e. the code) seemed to result in a greater expression of my ‘self’.

The linking of this query to the notion of Prosthesis came while reading Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head. At one point Crawford describes the motocross driver’s relation to his motorcycle as a kind of prosthetic - an object and process that enables him to both sense and control the physical domain of racing (2015: 55). It suddenly occurred to me that this concept of prosthesis provided an apt metaphor for understanding the dynamics of making music - not only with traditional, physical means, but also with 'virtual' ones (i.e. with writing code).

When the South West Creative Technology Network awarded me an Automation Fellowship, I had the opportunity to explore this new conceptual framework, relating creative coding to ideas of materiality and embodiment. In addition to Crawford, my exploration was influenced by such authors as N. Katherine Hayles, for her thinking on the Posthuman; Marshall McLuhan, for his discourse on ‘the extensions of man’; and Tim Ingold, for his idea of ‘the textility of making’. I also had many fruitful conversations with other Automation Fellows. One of those was artist Natasha Kidd from Bath Spa University, who encouraged me to disseminate the results of my inquiry in something other than a traditional journal article. The website linked below is my response to her challenge and forms an interactive repository for my ongoing exploration of Code as Prosthesis.

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