Issue No. 03 - May-June (1997 vol. 12)
<p>Trends & Controversies is a regular feature of <it>IEEE Expert</it> that focuses on current topics related to intelligent systems. This is the first issue in which I am acting as editor. Craig Knoblock, my predecessor, has given me an excellent example to follow. I have also been fortunate to inherit the aesthetically pleasing cartooning skills of Kevin Knight. Suggestions for future topics should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.</p><p>One trend which I will probably visit more than once is the increasingly important <it>human</it> aspect of intelligent systems design and use. In this issue, we examine one aspect this in the form of the relationship between art and technology. I have asked three researcher/artists to discuss the rather open-ended topic of the role of aesthetics in intelligent systems.</p><p>All three authors make a point of contrasting aesthetics with beauty. Rich Gold, head of Xerox PARC's Creative Documents Research Group, notes that while the aesthetic feeling is universal, beauty itself is genre-specific.</p><p>Gold makes a distinction between knowledge and information, and in an echo of Marshall McLuhan, asserts that information is characterized by the medium in which it is expressed. Given this framework, aesthetics can help determine the likelihood of successful transfer of knowledge from one person to another based on the emotional impact of its form of expression. He also posits the dawn of a new profession—the knowledge artist.</p><p>Harold Cohen, an artist and AI researcher, is head of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts at UC San Diego. He is best known for the development of Aaron, a program that creates visual artwork. For Cohen, aesthetics arises from the creative process, and the creative process is determined in large part by the medium or technologies that are used for the creating. Two properties that determine whether or not a medium can sustain the creative challenge are its difficulty of mastery and its malleability for changing purposes. Both oil paint and computer programming possess these properties. Cohen weaves together these ideas, along with a discussion of knowledge engineering, in the tale of how he taught Aaron to paint.</p><p>Stephen Wilson creates computer-mediated artwork and is head of the Conceptual Design and Computer Art program at San Francisco State University. Wilson suggests using ideas from the aesthetics of contemporary art as a way to innovate in the design of intelligent systems. For example, parallels can be drawn between a current art-world trend to make use of outmoded or unpopular topics and adopting nonstandard views of intelligence. Examining the effects of an artwork on an audience can be related to viewing the behavior of an intelligent system as a performance.</p><p>An interesting theme that arises in all three essays is the role of the medium in the expression of aesthetics. This is interesting to note, given the usually media-independent stance of computation.</p><p><b>—<it>Marti Hearst</it></b></p>
M. A. Hearst, "The role of aesthetics in intelligent systems," in IEEE Intelligent Systems, vol. 12, no. , pp. 6-12, 1997.