Computer Systems Laboratory Colloquium

4:15PM, Wednesday, March 6, 2002
NEC Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B03

Syncopation for Programmers

Erik Loyer
About the talk:

An artist told me recently: "For me, learning to program was a lot like learning to paint."

This is not a statement we expect to hear from an artist. Many people still imagine the roles of the artist and the programmer to be diametrically opposed, even as the number of so-called "net artists" grows with each passing year, and as more and more reviewers begin to call video games "works of art." The artist still disdains the programmer's lack of aesthetic sophistication; the programmer still laughs at the artist's bewildering fascination with "style" over structure.

The truth is that programming has more in common with traditional artistic endeavors than many would believe, and much of the culture of the twenty-first century is going to be shaped by individuals who possess talents in both areas--by artists who see programming technique as no different from technique in composition, and by programmers who see artistic disciplines as inspiration for logical structures. In the next 50 years, these artist/programmers are going to bear a staggering amount of cultural responsibility, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.

Using examples from the speaker's own work, as well as a variety of other sources, this talk will explore some interesting and perhaps unexpected meeting points between art and programming--and why today's PlayStation 2 programmer may have something to learn from Duke Ellington.

Why this talk is important

About the speaker:

Erik Loyer is a digital media artist whose works explore the creative potential unleashed by the advent of digital communications. His multiple talents as a writer, designer, animator, composer and programmer result in pieces that exhibit strong tactile qualities and a unique synergy. Using the dynamic interactive vocabulary of computer games as a departure point, Erik applies techniques of real-time animation and interaction to poetic content which users enact and explore.

Erik's professional career began in 1993 as an audio editor for The Voyager Company, the pioneering developer of CD-ROM and laserdisc titles. A year later, he joined several Voyager alumni in founding Inscape, an innovative CD-ROM game developer, where he created interface and game designs for a number of titles. In 1997, following the Los Angeles exhibition of his experimental CD-ROM, "aug 6 1991," Erik turned his talents to the World Wide Web. His multimedia art site "The Lair of the Marrow Monkey" won a 1998 New Media Invision Silver Award and has been added to the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The success of that project led to a 1999 Rockefeller Media Fellowship for Erik to support his latest work, an online episodic interactive narrative entitled "Chroma." "Chroma" has been exhibited at the 2001 Taos Talking Pictures Festival and the Electronic Language International Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Most recently, Erik has done interactive design work for the international advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, and he founded the information architecture division at the Los Angeles office of Razorfish, Inc. His Internet art works can be found at

Contact information:

Erik Loyer


Many thanks to the Computer Forum for providing support for this lecture. The Computer Forum is the industrial affiliate program for CS, EE, and CSL. To learn more about the program, contact Suzanne Bentley,, or visit the Comptuer Forum website linked above.