Rethinking power dynamics in software tools for artists
- Computation has become an essential tool for art and design. Yet many creative software tools limit users to preset options and filters, which may be restrictive for professional artists who have unique goals and workflows. While artists can learn to code to circumvent this preset functionality, the structured and abstract nature of programming is in tension with the exploratory and concrete nature of visual art making. From Photoshop to Processing, tools give artists the power to create, but the designers of such tools also exert power over artists by dictating what is available to them. This dissertation offers three contributions towards understanding, enabling, and questioning power relationships in software tools for visual art. First, through a thematic analysis of interviews with over a dozen professional artists, I show that pre-existing software tools are most powerful when they enable fine grain aesthetic control and adaptable to artists' idiosyncratic workflows, and that artists learn to program their own tools to gain various forms of power. Second, to support visual artists in programming, I present the Demystified Dynamic Brushes (DDB) system. DDB is a creative coding environment that visualizes program information on the ongoing artwork and grounds debugging interactions with stylus inputs, giving artists the power to understand their programs in a way aligned with their existing expertise. Finally, I argue that the traditional way software tools empower their users---through defining abstractions and representations that align with user needs---also disempower them by exerting a ``normative ground'' that structures and limits how users can and should act, think, and express themselves. Backed by interviews with creative practitioners and tool designers, I build a preliminary theory of how power relationships manifest in creativity support tools, and what tool designers can do, both technically and methodologically, to mitigate imbalances in power relationships. Taken together, it is my goal to show that supporting creative practices beyond accomplishing tasks with more efficiency or lower mental load----supporting wonderful creative practices that are unpredictable, emergent, and messy---means taking power relationships---and creative practitioners themselves---more seriously in software design.
|Type of resource
|electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
|1 online resource.
|Degree committee member
|Stanford University, School of Engineering
|Stanford University, Computer Science Department
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Computer Science Department.
|Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2023.
- © 2023 by Jingyi Li
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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