Pataphysics and computing

Hugill, A (2014) Pataphysics and computing. In: Philadelphia à la Pataphysique, March 21st - 23rd 2014, University of Pennsylvania.

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Given the transcendent subjectivity of pataphysics and the low-level exactitude of computing, it might seem at first glance that the two can have little in common. Yet computing has repeatedly used pataphysical approaches. In software abstractions, imaginary solutions are often encountered and the notion of equivalence is not so startling. Pataphysical ideas most frequently appear in the troubled regions between ambiguity and disambiguation that characterise the digital arts and humanities. This paper begins by exploring Jarry's mathematics, in particular the binary functions that are embedded in his ideas of opposition: plus/minus, zero/infinity, 1/0, etc. It draws a parallel between Jarry's trajectory from the physical to the metaphysical to the pataphysical, and the crossings of abstraction levels that are required in software engineering. It examines how meta-irony may operate within such an abstract domain and so how Jarry was able to subvert the emerging scientific models of his time. The paper goes on to observe how Raymond Queneau and other bourbakistes sought to reconcile a Surrealist understanding of pataphysics with a newly found desire for rational organisation and constraint. It argues that the Oulipians saw the elaboration of systems for potential literature as a way to reconcile the objectivity of the emerging computer technologies with their own sense of authorial demise. This resulted in some triumphant examples of literary works which display the same rigour as their computational models while encoding the subjectivism of their pataphysically minded authors. Moving forward to the present day, the paper critically examines some recent examples of the explicit use of pataphysics in computing: speculative computing; patadata; and syzygy surfing. It explores the influence of such ideas on the emerging field of Creative Computing, and their potential applications to big data, the semantic web, and software engineering. Finally, it makes a brief survey of the impact of social media on the spread of pataphysics and makes an argument for Jarry's energetic science of the particular as a living entity that will continue to provoke and stimulate creativity and imagination.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Keywords: computing, pataphysics, creativity, semantic web
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 27 May 2014 16:15
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2016 13:27
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