5. Language

(three paragraphs)

CL: The computer artist becomes a master of language?
SLAYTON: If you want to make something happen with the computer you have to express it in formal language. Artists, as it turns out, have really amazing programming abilities. Musicians and artists are really good at it. It's like composition, not really all that different from what we do naturally -- the process is very artistic.

CL: What's unique about an artist who's also a programmer is it the way he or she thinks, or is it the purpose that they choose?
SLAYTON: I think the two go hand in hand. The artist working with a computer first has to think of some reason to work with a computer. You have to have something to do with it and then you have to be able to do it with it. You know, this is kind of where it breaks down. The students who are too job-oriented, this is the part that they don't really want to know about. They're unaware of a kind of conceptual, theoretical understanding of computers and information theory. They don't see that it's part of the picture and that as an artist you have to have that repertoire of knowledge.

CL: You mean they just want to sit down and make pretty pictures?
SLAYTON: They want to do whatever the machine tells them is okay to do. That's why everything looks the way it does. So getting back to this idea of the kind of essence that the computer is. The computer processes symbolic information literally. That's what it does. And it doesn't process math, it's not a big calculator. It processes symbolic information that is expressed to it in language. The wonderful thing about it is that you can express ideas to it and have those ideas actuated, compiled and given form. That's pretty amazing, for any machine to do something that incredible is amazing.