Alex McLean

Making music with text

Category Archives: rant


by Alex on February 15, 2012

Now here’s an hour well spent, Bret Victor giving a talk on “Inventing on Principle”: He demos some really nice experiments in live interfaces, including some javascript live coding with a nice implementation of time scrubbing.  He uses this great work as an illustration for his main point though, which is about why he has done […]

Computational thinking

by Alex on January 11, 2012

Some great news today that the UK school ICT programme is going to be replaced/updated with computer science.  As far as I can tell a lot of schools have actually been doing this stuff already with Scratch, but this means targeting teacher training for broader roll-out. This has immediately triggered bike shedding about the issue […]

There must be no generative, procedural or computational art

by Alex on January 1, 2012

This blog entry feels like a work in progress, so feedback is especially encouraged. Lately I’ve been considering a dichotomy running through the history of computer art.  On one side of the dichotomy, consider this press statement from SAP, the “world’s leading provider of business software”, on sponsoring a major interactive art group show at […]

Best known and wrong: Dreyfus and Dreyfus

by Alex on December 21, 2011

Since dipping my toe into cross-disciplinary research, I’ve noticed that it seems the best known results of a field are often derided or ignored within the field.  For example: Speech perception: Motor theory – based on outmoded idea of there being a special module that evolved for speech perception and action Linguistics: Inuit words for […]

New old laptop

by Alex on November 1, 2011

My old laptop was falling apart, but buying a new one presented all kinds of ethical problems of which I have become increasingly aware.  Also new laptops are badly made and I always much preferred the squarer 4:3 screens that weirdly got phased out in the switch to widescreen five years ago (around the same […]

Sonic boom

by Alex on September 18, 2011

I’ve been peeved by this FT article, and failing to express my annoyance over on twitter, so time for a post. The central question is that “New technology is leading to some innovative instruments – but will musicians embrace them?” To start with this is the wrong way round, musicians have been inventing their own […]

Novels are digital art too

by Alex on April 12, 2011

Digital means discrete, and analog means continuous. Digital and analog support each other, as Deleuze and Guattari put it: … in the case of the striated, the line is between two points, while in the smooth, the point is between two lines. When we speak, we articulate our vocal tracts in analog movements, creating discontinuities […]

Cyclic revision control

by Alex on March 30, 2011

There is something about artist-programmers, the way they’re caught using general purpose languages and tools in specific, unusual circumstances.  Many of the basic assumptions underlying the development of these general purpose systems, such as errors are bad, the passing of time need not be structured only minimised, standards and pre-defined plans are good, etc, often […]

Languages are Languages – follow up

by Alex on February 23, 2011

There are some interesting comments to my “languages are languages” post that I wanted to highlight — a disadvantage of blogs is that comments are often the best bit but are subservient to the posts they are on.  I also brought the subject up on the PPIG (Psychology of Programming Interest Group) mailing list, again […]

Languages are languages

by Alex on February 18, 2011

Ian Bogost has an interesting argument that computer languages are not languages,  but systems. He starts off arguing that learning a programming language shouldn’t meet a curricular requirement for learning a natural language.  That’s a fair argument, except he does so on the basis that computer languages are not languages at all. ”the ability to translate natural languages […]