ThingThingThing is a computational system in which entities generated during small-group workshops interact in an ever-evolving three-dimensional world. Each entity was initially defined by a user according to a given set of parameters, but once let loose in the system, it can no longer be altered. ThingThingThing evokes longer traditions of artificial life in art and computation, in which relatively simple rules give rise to surprisingly complex emergent behavior. Yet in ThingThingThing, there is an almost exaggerated lack of realism, with abstract geometric creatures inhabiting a glitchy, multicolored landscape. In this way, ThingThingThing foregrounds a system as a rule-based society of interrelated agents, rather than a technological medium or a virtual world. The world of ThingThingThing is a real-time simulation. The participants jointly determine its evolution by setting an initial seed state of their computational object, which later requires no further human control.
ThingThingThing utilizes Unity, a video game engine, as its frontend and Github, an open-source code repository, as its backend on a technical level. There is a web-based code editor that enables users to define rules governing how each creator interacts with others. Every time ThingThingThing is exhibited, we partner with the exhibiting institution to conduct a public collaborative world-building workshop in order to activate the work. Throughout the workshops, we demonstrate the interface and assist participants through the process of creating a rule-based entity. At the conclusion of each workshop, a new simulation with its own narrative is developed and made accessible online.
ThingThingThing is a component of our ongoing research into the cause and effect of Emergence in computational systems. Similar to other monolinguistic languages such as writing and reading, contemporary machine languages are constructed using predefined meaning structures. A machine can only emphasize the quality of an object if that quality can be represented and communicated via the predefined protocol. Systems governed by software have a propensity to maintain their normalized states, but collective actions from within can sometimes generate emergent forces to counteract this tendency and force the system to open up. As software infrastructure becomes increasingly pervasive in effect and absent in presence, what does it mean to rethink systems of multiplicity via collectivism? What is the poetic and procedural language of our time that can reorient algorithms like artificial intelligence as a society of diverse agents rather than a set of fixed principles?
The artists and technologists have been hosting a series of workshops with museums and art institutions around the world. The workshop enables everyone from students, artists, designers, architects and technologists to create their own programmed creatures with intelligence. Past collaborators include:
- http://worldonawire.net/, curated by Rhizome of New Museum
- NEW INC, New Museum, New York, NY
- Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China
- Macy Art Gallery, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY
- City University of New York (CUNY), New York, NY
- Guangzhou Academy of Art (GAFA), Guangzhou, China
- Creative Tech Week (CTW), New York, NY
- Asia Art Archive in America (AAA-A), Brooklyn, NY
- Power Station of Art (PSA), Shanghai, China.