Live coding, computational culture and microtemporality

Live Coding has emerged over the past decade as a dynamic creative practice that has gained attention across cultural and technical fields – from the performing arts and the visual arts to computer science (Cocker, Blackwell). It is broadly defined as improvised interactive programming, typically but not exclusively to create electronic music or video, and performed live in public. Yet there is little critical attention as to how it extends our understanding of coding practices as “realtime” events, and how temporality in coding is understood more broadly – reminiscent of Adrian Mackenzie’s “computational chronotopes” that describe the ways software is synchronised with lived time, or Wolfgang Ernst’s description of the computer as a “sonic time-machine”.

Drawing on discussions of “liveness” in mediatized culture and performance studies (Auslander), the concept of “microtemporality” (Ernst), and the issue of “contemporaneity” in continental philosophy (Osborne), the subproject speculates on how live coding addresses the condition of contemporaneity, related to the complex manipulation of real-time human and computational machine processes. Working closely with artist-programmers, the analysis of live coding will offer ways to understand broader cultural dynamics with attention to the following: 1) to examine the importance of the temporal dimension of programming itself – its performativity and execution - together taken as the embodiment of computation; 2) to understand representations of time in computation such as data flows, temporal recursion, and so on, and how they take on a special character when operating at different scales simultaneously. Developing a time-critical analysis that extends beyond the human sensory apparatus to the nondiscursive realm of technical infrastructures and computer programs, the larger speculation is that live coding deals with the experience of time in ways that challenge and extend our understanding of change and action in computational culture.

Geoff Cox