Metaphors for Dance and Programming: Rules, Restrictions, and Conditions for Learning and Visual Outcomes

Metaphors for Dance and Programming: Rules, Restrictions, and Conditions for Learning and Visual Outcomes

Anna Ursyn (University of Northern Colorado, USA), Mohammad Majid al-Rifaie (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK) and Md Fahimul Islam (Queens College CUNY, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 51
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0480-1.ch010
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This chapter offers visual explanation on how to code using dance as a metaphor. This approach provides an overview of programming with ready to follow codes. It explores the implementation of restrictions and conditions in programming as compared to those ruling various dances. For those willing to learn or grasp the idea of coding for learning or acquiring better communication with co-workers, several programming languages are used to solve a similar task. Thus, similar codes are written in various languages while being related to the same topic. They delineate various dances and their rules, so the reader can compare and contrast the underlying principles for various environments. Then, exploration of invisible patterns created by movement of feet and aesthetics behind resulting patterns are presented, to highlight the dynamics behind the images generated by music, and subsequently the resulting movements of dancers according to various rules behind choreographies. The idea of randomness in coding, as compared to improvisation in dance is also investigated, when the dancers feel the music to create their own solutions to shape, space, and time, rather then following and obeying already designed rules.
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Many believe that particular skills or abilities are necessary to even begin thinking about coding and appreciating the outcome (Boden, 2016), as one needs a different mindset and training for coding and for creating art. At the same time, programmers and artists often cooperate having visual strategies at hand and developing on the go the new strategies, rules, patterns, and products. For this and many other reasons, there is a constant need for coders. Before software became easily available, artists eager to compute had to learn programming to be able to use dumb terminals. In the days of minicomputers and mainframes a dumb terminal consisted of a keyboard as an input and a display screen as an output, but it lacked the capability to process or format data. It was connected via phone line to the computer services, and was usually used by artists at night, when employees who agreed to share their machines were not using them for their daily tasks. Now, with electronic devices reaching new levels of usefulness and efficiency, new options open up and invite an interdisciplinary work involving collaboration and integration.

It may be not easy for an artist to enroll into a programming class, often without prior knowledge or prerequisites. At the same time, it is hard for a person to match the precision of a machine, and develop projects without expanding the capacities of mighty software packages. Also, many of us are curious and playful. We like to explore and welcome happy accidents, which when noticed in time can become a great source of inspiration. Curiosity and inspiration motivate our efforts; they often lead to collaboration, which in turn generates new ideas and solutions, and thus may advance progress.

Many visual artists need to acquire coding skills, while many coders play with visual outcomes. For example, Mohammad Majid al-Rifaie, one of the co-authors of this chapter investigated drawings created by two nature inspired, swarm intelligence algorithms (al-Rifaie, Bishop & Blackwell, 2011; al-Rifaie, Aber, & Bishop, 2012), and also served as a curator of an exhibition “A-EYE” for code based art, often using artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques. Another co-author, Fahimul Islam develops programs for music, while Anna Ursyn creates her art works based on programming.

The visual aspect behind constantly growing technology stimulates its users to become more knowledgeable, creative, explorative, open to ideas, and adventurous enough to meet the challenge set up by the presence of the computer. We can do it by creating an image in order to transform it into other dimensions: from two dimensional to three-dimensional rotational object, a time based image, or a virtual reality based scenario. The idea of robotics, computer generated poems, music, art, or literary works has been known for a long time. There are many images, games, apps, and other opportunities available on the web, and one might feel compelled to try one’s own hand at them.

A metaphor indicates one thing as a representation of another, difficult one. Thus metaphors enable us to make mental models and comparisons. We usually choose for the metaphors concepts and objects that we hold to be easily understandable and familiar to our audience. Abstract images that resemble something through the metaphors may lower the learning curve. To some programmers or statisticians the coding or a statistical analysis may work like a cookbook: a chef follows some rules and uses ingredients presented in the recipe; if instructions are followed well, food resembles one that was done according to the grandmother’s, grandfather’s, or some other chef’s recipe recorded in books, online, or by words. This may be also true in a case of coping traditional dishes. However, some ambitious restaurants will search for chefs who can do the research followed by their individual interpretations, which would not only be healthful for their audience but would thrill their palates. One can ponder in a similar way about performers of musical composition. Great performers mastered their own instruments so their music can sound according to the original score. However, the awards in competitions go often to those able to apply their own interpretation.

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