In March 2008 I submitted my dissertation Iterative Aesthetics: Computer-Mediated Interactive Artmaking to the College of Fine Arts, at the University of New South Wales, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Media Arts.


This dissertation poses and seeks to answer the following question: what are the research processes used by computer technologists to examine the nature of human computer interaction; which processes are used by artists in the creation and experience of interactive artworks; and above all, how might these two research communities most fruitfully engage in interdisciplinary collaboration in order to learn from each other and to generate better outcomes?

These questions are examined, first, through a review of the literatures relevant to each of these fields. Examining this literature as it has evolved enables us to see the outlines of the history of each field, as they are both very recent phenomena. Second, detailed studies of two large-scale computer-mediated interactive artworks and one small-scale installation are undertaken. The review investigates the “conflicted convergence” (Sengers and Csikszentmihályi, 2003) between the study of Human-Computer Interaction and the practice of creating interactive art. The three case studies — of Conversations 2004, Biloela Girls 2005 and Day of the Figurines 2006 — enable reflection upon the developmental processes more widely used in contemporary computer-driven new media art.

The conclusion drawn is that the most effective developmental methodologies, measured by the degree to which they generate the most interesting HCI experimental outcomes, and by the extent to which they vividly realise the artist’s experiential intent, are those that incorporate feedback — gathered from real-world user testing and evaluation — into an iterative development process.


The full thesis is available as a PDF – Iterative Aesthetics.