CODE / QUILT
From dawn to dusk, humans are involved in abstraction and expression. As symbolic thinkers, humans are in a constant state of meaning-making. In machinic computation we implement these meaning-making abstractions in algorithmic form in order to automate them. But even if our "hand-wrought" computation trails automated efforts by orders of magnitude, computation -- intrinsic to meaning making -- remains a quintessentially human project. Why, then, do we invariably see "computation" as necessarily dehumanizing? Why has computation become, for many, the exclusive domain of science, technology, mathematics and engineering? If meaning-making through abstraction, abduction, and expression is a common feature of human experience, why do we view computation as alien and extrinsic?It is a socio-historical accident that computing has been narrowed recently to involve only certain disciplines. If we accept that the process of symbolic representation has been intrinsic to human thought since the emergence of Homo sapiens, and that machinic computation is roughly the further abstraction and automation of that process, we see that the common trope of dehumanization deserves to be turned on its head: In other words, it is not that computers threaten to drain us of our humanity, but that computers may be understood as extending and amplifying that most human part of ourselves.In engaging in symbolic representation and abstraction, both with and without computational mediation, I design textiles and make quilts in order to investigate a new theoretical framework for computational thinking. Through displaying coded patterns in quilt form, I highlight the importance of thinking creatively about computing and pushing others in the humanities to think beyond the current conception of computation.
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