Demystification Committee

On decomputation [from an interview with Rizosfera]

The Italian music label Rizosfera interviewed the Network Ensemble for their release of Selected Network Studies. This is an excerpt from the interview published, alongside other material, on Academia.

On decomputation
Is your approach to contemporary technology one of de-computation or, in other words, of de-construction of the obscure side of technological power?

‘Whether enthralled or enslaved by machines and algorithms, we want to understand them, either to bend them back to human will or push back against them!’ announced John Fass introducing his De-computation class.

De-computation is a methodology, perhaps a mindset, we were introduced to as part of the Information Experience Design MA at the Royal College of Art in London. At its simplest, de-computation helps designers study the ways algorithms shape behaviour and mediate our experience of the world. It thus acts as a means to approach technology, and conversely to view design through a computational lens.

A de-computational approach aims to humanise technology, harnessing its speed and capacity for creative benefit, and showing ways of resisting its inexorable logic. As a two-way exchange between design and technology, it combines elements of design making with computational thinking. In other words, we find de-computation applies effectively to studying and making things, or even formulating a tactic.

With the Network Ensemble, we identify at least two approaches falling under the umbrella of de-computation. One is a process of demystification. We consider the network a black box, an impenetrable assemblage. We strive to understand its operations by travelling down the layers, protocols and structures that form it, deconstructing it as we go with both an analytical eye and a dowser’s hope and belief.

The other is an active process of de-construction. We strive to build machinery which expose some of its machinations and construct tools as an open box, so that they be de-constructed — as discussed in ‘On experimental tools‘.

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