This may appear trivial at first glance. After all, a great many people use computers on a daily basis to do a lot of different things. What I find interesting about this insight is that it can help me overcome one lingering problem with my refusal to specialized: the impossibility of dedicating enough time to completely master any subject. It's not that I'm lazy, but there's simply not enough time in a day to do it all at once.
However, I've previously learned that working on general skills (reading, writing, mathematics, logic) can yield benefits in all areas of interest. It's becoming clear to me that becoming a better computer user would make me a better composer or writer (or comic book artist or video filmmaker). This is why I've decided to dedicate a large part of this year's free time to learning the fundamentals of computer programming and software engineering.
I know some may be scratching their heads at this point, wondering how computer programming will make me a better musician/composer, comic book artist, writer, or filmmaker. Well, I'll try to explain...
Computers and musicThis should be an obvious one given my current musical obsessions. More and more, I'm thinking about how to use my computer in novel ways to create interesting music both in performance and in the studio. Lately, working with Max/MSP or Bidule, I've often wished I were better at coding to create either plugins or software to help me realize my musical vision. And don't get me started on live coding (man that looks like fun, look at the video below). To help me get there, I've started working through a wonderful book I recently purchased: The Audio Programming Book.
Algorithms are Thoughts, Chainsaws are Tools from Stephen Ramsay on Vimeo.
Computers and visual art
Computers and writing
I would prefer to adopt an approach similar to how we think of musical filters and effects in music production. An input text would be effected by a program following a set of instructions before displaying the result. I've recently become aware of the work of Daniel Howe whose RiTa toolkit for Java (as presented in his doctoral dissertation) aims to give writers the resources to harness the power of computation to produce prose and verse. There's also the folks at the Expressive Intelligence Studio at UCSC and the group running Grand Text Auto that bear watching.