IM2: Guest Lecture Reflection (Automated Utopia)


The most interesting part of the guest lecture was when he showed us a snippet of the Korean film “Doomsday Book – The Heavenly Creature”. I found the concept of a robot god very interesting. In the film, the robot claims that it is Buddhist and have reached enlightenment, and suspected that it is broken, a robot repairman was dispatched to the monastery to “fix” it, but to no avail. I think this film depicts the relationship between us humans and robots well; it shows how we are reliant on technology, but as we progress, we are actually afraid that the advancements in technology will overwhelm us. Not just regular programmed robots, AI-powered ones are the ones who “pose a threat” to our existence. In “Robots, Rights and Religion”, a scholarly paper written by James F. McGrath, he said that:

“Because if machines could think, if they could be persons, then they would quickly evolve to be so far superior to biological organisms in intelligence and strength that they would take over. It is not surprising that some have breathed a sigh of relief in response to the failure of real artificial intelligence to materialize as predicted in so much science fiction.”

This statement suggests that we can coexist with “thoughtless” machines, but machines added with the “self-thinking feature”, we are scared of allowing it to evolve beyond us. Ironic how we humans are the ones who created them, yet we are afraid of our own creation.

However, some Japanese thought otherwise, and are so accepting of the idea of incorporating AI into religion that they built a robot priest to bless worshippers.

Mindar, the new android priest at Kodaiji temple in  Japan

The robot priest, Mindar, is currently not AI-powered yet, but the creators said that they do intend to give it machine-learning capabilities in the future. The temple’s chief steward, Tensho Goto said, “This robot will never die; it will just keep updating itself and evolving. With AI, we hope it will grow in wisdom to help people overcome even the most difficult troubles. It’s changing Buddhism.” This sparked a thought, if religion is the belief in a superhuman being, does AI have the capacity to become this superhuman being?It is technically immortal compared to us humans, all it needs is maintenance. If AI can even take over the role of a god, then where is our place on Earth when AI becomes the norm? A utopia is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. But with AI threatening our existence, could it really be considered a utopia?



IM2: Reading Assignment


A Companion to Digital Art by Christine Paul – Aesthetics of Digital Art

From this reading, I realised that the aesthetics of digital art is different from just aesthetics itself. Aesthetics, by the definition from the Oxford Dictionary, is the branch of philosophy that studies the principles of beauty, especially in art. However, aesthetics in digital art is way more than just beauty. “Aesthetics” in the context of digital art becomes more of a theory rather than a concept because of the several mathematical approaches that it takes (take for instance, numerical aesthetics, which talks about using several variables to form relationships/formulas that can determine the aesthetics).

One chapter in the book talks about “Computational Aesthetics”. The authors M. Beatrice Fazi and Matthew Fuller stated that:

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.

I agree with their thesis. As technology is being incorporated into art, aesthetics becomes more than just about the visual elements, as compared to fine arts where you can only judge based on the visual elements because that’s the purpose of fine art pieces such as paintings or sculptures. When deciding whether a digital art piece is aesthetic, I think it is  important to look at the process and the method of how the digital artwork is being made to determine its aesthetic value. For digital art, I think it is essential that the role of the computer is recognised as part of the work’s meaning. Paul Crowther more or less agrees with the same view as he mentioned in his paper ‘The Aesthetics of Digital Art’ that, “The aesthetics of electronic or digital artwork hinges, to a large extent, on non-visual aspects such as narrativity, processuality, performativity, generativity, interactivity, or machinic qualities.”

Similar to how Dieter Rams came up with 10 principles to determine a “good design”, Fazi and Fuller proposed 10 aspects of “computation aesthetics”, which can be used as general benchmarks to determine if the computational structure used in a digital artwork is aesthetic. It is stated that “If aesthetics can be understood as a theory of how experience is constructed, then this list attempts to account for some of the modalities of the computational that partake in such constructions.” The 10 aspects are as follow:

  1. Abstraction and concreteness
  2. Universality
  3. Discreteness
  4. Axiomatics
  5. Numbers
  6. Limits
  7. Speeds
  8. Scale
  9. Logical Equilvalence
  10. Memory

I think that by having these criteria is useful in evaluating aesthetic value of digital art. These ensure that there is an objective standard to the way digital artworks are perceived.

I also particularly like this definition of digital art in the book:

Digital art, however, is potentially time‐based, dynamic, and non‐linear: even if a project is not interactive in the sense that it requires direct engagement, the viewer may look at a visualization driven by real‐time data flow from the Internet that will never repeat itself, or a database‐driven project that continuously reconfigures itself over time. A viewer who spends only a minute or two with a digital artwork might see only one configuration of an essentially non‐linear project. The context and logic of a particular sequence may remain unclear.

I think this is an important aspect to digital art, particularly interactive art. The possibility of various outcomes from a single art piece is fascinating, and this makes it “aesthetic”.

Books for reference:


IM2: Inspiring Example of Interactive Art + Reflection



This series of slides is done by Carsten Höller, a scientist turned artist. A lot of his works are inspired by human relationships and the social context.

Carsten Höller - The Slide at ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower, 2016 London

(This slide goes around the structure 12 times, offering panoramic views of London’s cityscape.)

‘A slide is a sculptural work with a pragmatic aspect, a sculpture that you can travel inside. However, it would be a mistake to think that you have to use the slide to make sense of it. looking at the work from the outside is a different but equally valid experience, just as one might contemplate the endless column by Constantin Brancusi from 1938. From an architectural and practical perspective, the slides are one of the building’s means of transporting people, equivalent to the escalators, elevators or stairs. slides deliver people quickly, safely and elegantly to their destinations, they’re inexpensive to construct and energy-efficient. They’re also a device for experiencing an emotional state that is a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness.” – Carsten Höller


Pictures of various other slides at the different locations:

Carsten Höller - Isomeric Slides, 2015, Hayward Gallery, London

(Isomeric Slides, 2015, Hayward Gallery, London)

Carsten Höller – Test Site, 2006, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London

(Test Site, 2006, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London)

Carsten Höller - Vitra Slide Tower, Weil am Rhein, Germany, photo Wladyslaw Sojka

(Vitra Slide Tower, Weil am Rhein, Germany
Photo: Wladyslaw Sojka/


My thoughts:

Fun. The first word that comes to mind when I see his works. However, that’s not what it’s all about. I really like this series because despite it’s simplicity, the artist made various connections to how slides may affect human relationships, emotions and experience as they slide down. The artist’s first thought about how slides could be used as an amazing mode of transportation, but yet it is unusual for it to be used as such, which then inspired him to challenge the use of the slide. He mentioned that his favorite quote for describing a slide is from a French writer by the name of Roger Caillois: He speaks of vertigo as being “a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind.” I agree that this statement really captures the essence of the slide because with a slide, you can see how it curves and goes all around, and though you know exactly how the journey would go, you will still get a sense of excitement as you go down the slide. I also like how the faces of the people can be captured at the end of the ride, and from most of the pictures and videos, you can clearly see genuine smiles on the users’ faces, which is what I found the most valuable about this series; which is that it can trigger the emotion of happiness, as short-lived as it may be. The slide allows users to let go and forget about their troubles, albeit for a brief moment. This work taught me how an artwork doesn’t have to be really fanciful for it to be considered art, and that for interactive art, the main point is for the users to enjoy the experience, more than anything else.