Monday, May 11, 2009

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] One Two Three or More Cultures; 50th anniversary of C.P Snow's The Two Cultures

As I am reading Roger Malina's very friendly and, as always,
extremely well informed lines in this current Two-Cultures Revisited
exchange, I am reminded of a little innocent incidence in my teaching
this morning and a sort of conclusion (prejudice) that I have carried
around with me for a long time.

The teaching.
The class is for students of Digital Media, it is international. It
is "Design.Media.Programming". We were doing basics of programming in
Processing this morning. Analyzing a simple algorithmic drawing for
options of generalization. From there, we went on to randomness,
random numbers, stocastic processes. They all know, of course, that
their systems allow them to call a function "random" that is supposed
to give them a random number.

So far, so well. But they were not sure about the question of
randomness on a digital computer. What does it mean? Does it make
sense? We therefore convinced ourselves that there is no randomness
on the computer whatsoever. However, despite this clear statement, it
makes sense to talk of pseudo-randomness in a very clear sense. You
can describe it precisely.

So we came from some simple aesthetic considerations (Vorkurs am
Bauhaus type) and were lead to probability theory. That's already, I
want to suggest, a little and innocent path between the cultures (if
we still want to call them such). However, we continued a bit.

Isn't it totally boring, the question went on, to use only uniform
probability distributions (and their corresponding pseudo-random
numbers)? Instead of all sorts of distributions (discrete, Poisson,
Normal). Because with them you gain in algorithmic aesthetics. Yes,
that might be interesting. But do you get it? Simple: you only need
uniform distributions, that you then transform into whatever other
distribution function you have.

That's the story. Its point is that students usually have no way to
understand, let alone develop for themselves those transformations.
But they do need them now. C.P. Snow would treat this more or less as
a language problem. The two cultures cannot talk to each other. But I
have come to believe, it is a matter of attitude. What do you expect
and request from yourself!


Prof. Dr. Frieder Nake
Informatik, University of Bremen, PO Box 330440, D-28334 Bremen, Germany
or: University of the Arts, Am Speicher XI 8, D-28217 Bremen
(for parcels use: FB 3, University of Bremen, Bibliothekstrasse,
D-28359 Bremen, Germany)
fon +49-421-218 3525 or +49-421-9595 1267 fax +49-421-218 4322


Yasmin_discussions mailing list

Yasmin URL:

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: click on the link to the list you wish to subscribe to. In the page that will appear ("info page"), enter e-mail address, name, and password in the fields found further down the page.

HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE: on the info page, scroll all the way down and enter your e-mail address in the last field. Enter password if asked. Click on the unsubscribe button on the page that will appear ("options page").

HOW TO ENABLE / DISABLE DIGEST MODE: in the options page, find the "Set Digest Mode" option and set it to either on or off.