In a workshop and zine on instable computing we worked with the chemical element H20 through a series of writing exercises to invent poetic operations. The workshop took place on July 15th 2021 in a Big Blue Button room at Humboldt University and was commissioned by the project counter-n.
The resulting PDF-zine consists of texts, experiments and images by Jose Cojal Gonzalez Özgün Eylül Işcen, Shintaro Miyazaki, Pedro Oliveira, Selena Savić, MELT (Loren Britton & Isabel Paehr). Below are some of the instructions we developed for the workshop open for anyone to experiment with.
Ingredients to configure the computer: At least twenty minutes to follow and/or play with the instructions. One to three pieces of paper, a minimum of one ice cube, drawing supplies.
Workings of the computer: The paper is the computer’s mainframe. Put an ice cube onto the middle of the paper, and this ice cube will be the processing = melting unit. You can program by writing circularly and outwards from around the edges of the ice cube. Data traces can be understood as puddles of water or smeared writing.
Instructions: 1) Place one ice cube on one piece of paper. Take some time to read through these instructions so that your ice cube has the chance of melting a bit. The ice cube in the middle of your paper is your processing = melting unit. Instability will melt outwards from this unit. 2) Start drawing letter like shapes in a circular way around your ice cube. It is more important to keep your hand moving than to make sense while writing these shapes. Whenever a word, sentence or question relating to computing and instability comes to your mind, transform your abstract shape into these. As a start, you can describe what happens, e. g. smearing letters, losing clarity, but you are welcome to speculate further on what instability means for computation. 3) Sync with your processing = melting unit: This can mean to wait until the water reaches your pen or to escape from the melting ice with your writing. It could also initiate a third operation you invent. 4) Once you have filled your whole paper with shapes and puddles, the processing is done. 5) Experiment with a second or third mainframe = paper. Play with different papers, or fold your papers, or use multiple processing = melting units by placing multiple ice cubes on your paper.
Ingredients to configure the computer: At least twenty minutes to follow and/or play with the instructions. A small mirror (it should fit into your freezer/fridge). A camera phone or camera.
Workings of the computer: This freezer/fridge mirror computer engages a mirror, your breath, your body and a fridge or freezer. We will temporarily record/store data on this surface through an icy then wet then evaporated play engaging heat from your hands that will draw: working with materials that record and remember only temporarily.
Instructions: 1) Take a small mirror and put it in the fridge or freezer depending on size, the colder the better. 2) Brainstorm of what kind of data would you like to record but not permanently. 3) Think through traces and tracings: what does it mean to leave a trace? Who is it accessible to? Why would you want to? Write down on a sheet of paper the traces you will experiment with. 4) After you have decided on your data, decide also if you would like to record your experiment with video or photo documentations, or otherwise. 5) Take the mirror out of your fridge and with your finger, a squishy pen or dripping water record your data on the mirror. Write quickly, stop and observe. 6) If recording, use your recording device to photograph or video the change over time. How does your data evaporate, and what kinds of traces remain? 7) Use your breath to change the surface of the mirror by breathing onto it. Breathe, record (or not) and observe how air and temperature change your data. 8) After finishing breathing onto this cold surface, change your mode of recording to text. Write down a narrative of this experience on a piece of paper: What does this kind of computer do? What doesn't it do?
Ingredients to configure the computer: At least thirty minutes to follow and/or play with the instructions. Materials and some writing utensils of your choice.
Workings of the computer: This computer engages instable materials around you, for example: boiling water, seeds, food that rots, an interaction that you have little control over like someone ringing your bell or picking up the trash outside, weather conditions, an element such as gallium, sunlight, or any other material/condition that is of quotidian instability.
Instructions: 1) Think about what kind of instable computational apparatus would be of interest to you. What are key questions or motivations? For example, you may want your computational processing to be very slow, irregular or based on events outside of your influence. 2) Choose a material that you feel is suited to process your concepts. For a very slow reimagining of computing, you may want to choose a slowly decaying fruit, or for a very uncontrollable computing you may want to rely on external events. 3) Set up your computing apparatus or arrangement as good as you can. Bring fruit, the weather report or whatever material you choose to your workspace. 4) Observe your computing apparatus or arrangement for some time. 5) Start your writing about how this material transforms computation as is, or what kind of computation it produces and write – depending on feasibility and interests – on, with, next to, or close to this. 6) Write down instructions of how other people can replicate your way of instable computing.