From cellular automata to surveillance. Tracing cellular automata logic through image processing functions, to computer vision.
CA algorithms were chosen because they use a grid system to compute on and consequently have an affinity to images and screens through their pixel array data structure.
The work draws a line between simple computational logic and its visualisation, through to advanced technology with significant social and cultural consequences. Cellular automata is a system of simple rule sets operating on grids of cells, and yet it has far reaching effects. In the context of software studies’ drive to analyse the underlying logic and question the assumed neutrality of software, studying cellular automata provides an opportunity for empowerment through awareness of how complexity in both abstract computation and the socio-cultural domain can emerge from basic rule sets.
Computational visualisation provides a contemporary reflexive discourse that does not demand a technical knowledge of code from its audience, and enables an accessibility to the topic by a wider audience.
Software Studies prioritises the analysis of the underlying logic, structure and processes of software, before its interfaces and observable effects. In 2002 in The Language Of New Media , Lev Manovich called for a “turn to computer science” to understand the new cultural composite of human and machine meaning. It engages a type of reflexive thinking around computation and its inbuilt cultural biases, highlighting the problem caused by the division of interface and algorithm, by calling into question the assumed invisibility and neutrality of software. It is especially pertinent today, in the context of a society that has been entirely rescaled due to the affordances that software, as a meta-medium, has enabled.
The work asserts that any subversion and rewriting of complex systems can only happen through first understanding the fundamental computational logic that is at the heart of its ontology.