Animation doesn’t make sense as a property which emerges from a computation, it is inferred through an expectation which is aesthetic rather than functional. The information content is the same whether there are rapid updates of static frames or whether there is an animated flow, yet our sense of realism is hinges on the sense of continuous motion.

It makes sense to me that when sense is interrupted by another level of sense, the result is a representation which as an artificially static quality. The conversion from a waving over time to a shape of a wave in space is a destructive compression. The wave shape can be strung together with variations of itself, but that doesn’t automatically imply an narrative experience, only a collection of ordered shapes. If computation is the animation of logic, then logic is at once the dis-animation of sense and the automation of sense.

The genuine dynamism of sense is derived not from position and momentum, but from the transformation of effort into satisfaction. Each micro movement we make subconsciously satisfies countless agendas on every scale – neurological, physiological, psychological, intuitive….thousands of sub-personal negotiations being worked out in real time right under our noses. Scratch an itch, shift position. Paying attention to these things can make us nervous and self-conscious. By bringing our personal awareness into the sub-personal, we slip into recursion and undermine our self-confidence – our power to control our effort and satisfy our personal level agendas.

Curiously, when simple figures are animated into cartoons (the word cartoon comes from the canvas or cards that artists would use to draw them on), the aesthetic of realism is charged with what could be called ‘levity’. Watching a cat chase a mouse in real life might elicit anxiety or agitation, but as a cartoon, the figures of mice and cats are recontextualized as delightful or hilarious. The idea that this is an emergent property of computation alone is technically possible, but only if we have already given computation the benefit of the doubt of producing all of these functionally superfluous aesthetic qualities. It seems to work better the other way. In animation, we see that which is closer to what we are made of – we see imagination ‘brought to life’.


From Scott McCloud’s excellent Understanding Comics, he points out the cartoonists mastery of the palette of subjectivity and objectivity. The more realistic detail is added, the more information there is – the more that has been calculated and measured, and the more that it reflects the power of reality to arrest consciousness. The unrealistic face promotes an informal state of mind, where the vacuum of information does not stand empty as it would in RAM, but is instead filled in with self-identification.

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