5. The Computer as a Platform for Art

The computer, incorporating the platform on which the software runs and the space invoked by the software itself, has certain defining characteristics. The all-encompassing nature of this “medium” is considered to be an environment. J.J. Gibson proposed that human perception took place in an environmental medium – the physical world. Though some theorists do not regard the computer as a “medium” per se, it is evident that computer art functions in a different space to the physical world.

The ephemerality of digital art makes it difficult to realise as a physical object without losing some of its digital attributes, its “computer-ness”. The core of the digital artwork might be regarded as the code, or as the totality of artistic act, code and result. Its physical manifestations help to capture its appearance outside the context of the computer; equally, they are far more limited than the mutable computer graphic. This raises questions about the status of the “original” in Computer Art, and how much it corresponds to a musical work, which offers clues as to how Computer Art might be protected and propagated.

The theories of Nelson Goodman on “autographic art” versus “allographic art” are raised here, along with others that directly criticise him, including Lydia Goehr’s concept of the over-arching musical “work”. Richard Wollheim and R.G. Collingwood also consider the nature of the “original” in such a system. The lack of an identifiable original has long plagued Computer Art; this section hopes to suggest where that “original” might be found and its importance to the acceptance of Computer Art.