Playing Outside: An Algorithm Recital

Algorithms are everywhere. They hold things together: traffic signals, news feeds, toasters and scissors. Playing Outside is a series of explorations into the performance of algorithms in our daily lives. The work attempts to expose these immaterial structures by putting them on stage and perverting their intended purpose in order to reveal the fragility of ubiquitous systems. We hear about the algorithms that shape our online experiences, but what about the algorithms that shape our physical experiences? What are the potentials, poetics and limitations of the algorithms we encounter daily? What does it mean to understand them, and our interactions with them, as performance?

For the purpose of my thesis, I am using performance as a structure for perceiving an object, interaction, system, tool, idea or moment as active. Through performance, the relationships within a network are realized as the present. Algorithm is commonly defined as a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, while a formula, similarly to code, is a mathematical relationship or rule expressed in symbols. The definition of algorithm emphasizes the process itself, as an action, over the expression of an action. Using these definitions, it could be said that the performative version of a formula or code is an algorithm.

Playing Outside focuses on the performance of algorithms in our daily lives. The work uses code, UIs, objects and sensors to investigate algorithms, as a subject and a material, resulting in an exploration of outcomes. It is research into the space between an input and an output, into process and into causality. The inquiries apply performance to networks, offering new understandings of their relationships, revealing insights about our hybrid physical/digital world.


2013 MFA Thesis, Media Design Practices / Lab, Art Center College of Design, CA
Lead Advisor: Tim Durfee