7. Conclusion

Implicit in the design of 3D software are assumptions about knowledge, creativity and what it means to be human. 3D software has been designed to feel natural and to feel empowering. It is promoted as a medium which enables us to transparently achieve our design goals or to render our imaginative ideas visible to others. For proficient 3D users it’s easy to assume that (as human actors) we are the ones in control. With the click of a button, we construct all manner of virtual objects using complex computer algorithms which seem to accurately describe and explain. We work on powerful networked computers; turn away from local physical things and sometimes feel that we float above the material world like a disembodied mind.

For 3D animators it’s tempting to spend long hours building detailed fantasy creatures and virtual worlds. While these creations might seem highly “imaginative”, they are actually just extraordinary things rendered in an ordinary way. Bathed in glow of a computer screen, it’s easy to overlook the extraordinary in the ordinary; it’s easy to overlook the strangeness of the (everyday) human world. Qualities inherent in digital media can trouble entrenched humanist orders but to explore this potential we need to pay careful attention, question our working habits and get past the glossy surface of interface design.

Today computer software (and OOP) structures many aspects of our lives, most obviously our means of production and our modes of communication. As computer algorithms become an increasingly prevalent and powerful force in our lives, it becomes increasingly important (and perhaps increasingly difficult) to notice their effects. We need to continually question the design and implementation of computer software because algorithms are never neutral. Mathematical models are not simply tools for explaining, describing, or understanding things; they are (potentially reductive) ways of revealing the world.

The challenge facing 3D animation practitioners is how to stay in the messy zone where situations and entities are encountered in their complexity. In order to respond to this challenge we need to overcome the narrative of empowerment, question the authority of algorithms and resist the temptation to think of ourselves as a disembodied mind. We need to continually question the design of computer software and we can do this by delving below the interface, creating our own algorithmic models and noticing what falls through the cracks.

This research does not contribute software solutions. Rather, it serves as reminder that in algorithmic models and blanket solutions of any kind there will always be gaps. This research contributes to animation theory and practice by showing how a conversational approach to 3D software can help users avoid the reductive potential inherent in digital tools.

In the age of digital technology many believe that phenomenology is no longer relevant because it is focused on a human-centric approach to the world. A detailed critique of this view is beyond the scope of this research but my short animation experiments show that phenomenological enquiry can help us to see familiar things in a new way. An actively receptive comportment encourages us to see the ordinary as extraordinary and to see the human world as strange. Based on my research outcomes and influenced by phenomenology I promote a careful, caring attention to things which we normally overlook.

By challenging the idea that the aim of a creative practitioner should be to illustrate a preconceived idea, this research questions prevailing notions of software as merely “a means to an end” (Jones, 2014). Ideas, imagination and deliberate intentions are important to creative practice, but we shouldn’t forget that the tools we use and the skills we acquire impact upon what we see and how we think. Like computer algorithms, animation practices are never a (neutral) means to end and are always ways of seeing, ways of knowing and ways of revealing the world. Why be limited by imagination when so much can be revealed in the process of making? Recognising the generative potential of material practices can help us avoid moving in an increasingly choreographed world.