My journal article ‘What now, what next – kairotic coding and the unfolding future seized’ has been accepted for the forthcoming Digital Creativity Special Issue, on Improvisational Creativity (Volume 29, Number 1. Published February 2018). Guest Editors: Jon McCormack, Toby Gifford, Shelly Knotts.
About Improvisational Creativity: This special issue will examine the challenges and opportunities for creative improvisation between people and computer systems. Improvisation is one of the most demanding yet rewarding creative acts. It has been well studied in situations where individuals interact with tools, or in human groups. Recently however, the idea of computer systems being valuable creative partners has begun to gain acceptance and this is now an active research area in the Artificial Intelligence and Computational Creativity communities. But how do we effectively improvise with “intelligent” or “creative” machines? What are the creative and artistic challenges in building computational improvisational partners? How does the psychology of improvisation change when machines become part of an improvisational group? But how do we effectively improvise with “intelligent” or “creative” machines? What are the creative and artistic challenges in building computational improvisational partners? How can digital technologies and artificial intelligence support and enhance human creativity in an improvisational context?
Abstract: In this article, I propose a conceptual framework through which to consider the challenges and opportunities for kairotic improvisation within the practice of live coding, conceived as an embodied mode of imminent and immanent intervention and invention-in-the-middle, a practice of radical timing and timeliness. Expanding my previous reflections on kairotic coding (Cocker 2013, 2016, 2017), I argue how kairos can be understood as both a temporal ‘opening’ — a cut or ‘nick’ in time — and a ‘will-to-invent’ capable of responding to this opening in the ‘living present’ (Eric Charles White 1987). However, in this article my focus shifts to address the kairotic liveness within live coding’s improvisational performance by identifying two seemingly contradictory tendencies within this burgeoning genre. On the one hand, there is a call for improved media technologies enabling greater immediacy of semantic feedback, a shift towards predictive coding modeled on previous habits supporting a faster, more fluid — perhaps even virtuoso — species of programming ‘improvisation’. Alternatively, there remains interest within the live coding community for a mode of improvisational performativity that harnesses the unpredictable, the unexpected or as-yet-unknown, where performance stays a vital site for experimental exploration rather than for repeating the already tried-and-tested. I further draw attention to the different futurities within these two approaches: the difference within performance between a technologically-predicted ‘future’ based on what has-been, and the ever-emergent, living instant of the future conceived as ‘what now, what next’: the ‘to-come’.