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date: 21 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Subjective computing is an approach to designing and understanding computational systems that serve improvisational, cultural, and critical aims typically exhibited in the arts. The term phantasmal media describes media forms that evoke and reveal phantasms: blends of cultural knowledge and sensory imagination. Phantasmal media include subjective computing systems that deeply engage human culture, imagination, and aesthetics through computer programming (Harrell, 2009). Such subjective computing systems can powerfully use agency play (Harrell and Zhu, 2009), the interplay between user agency (actions that users perform on systems) and system agency (experiences that the system enables for users), as a basis for creative expression. This chapter explores the relationship between user agency and system agency as analogous to the relationship between improvisation and composition. The result is a model articulating how subjective computing systems can embody an aesthetic approach grounded in improvisation.

Keywords: phantasmal media, subjective computing, cultural computing, critical computing, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, agency, games, art, improvisation

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