I am a San Diego based computer scientist, software developer, and artist. I have an M.A. in Computational Linguistics from the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Viterbi School of Engineering also at USC. My research specialty is in Natural Language Processing specifically in regards to narrative understanding and generation. Prior to my graduate work in NLP, I received a B.A. in Philosophy from the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at UCLA and a B.A. in Fine Art from the College of Arts and Architecture also at UCLA.

It has been a long time since I have been consistently making art, but recently I have had a renewed interest in working through a backlog of ideas that I have intermittently mulled over, often for many many years. As a teenager, I initially became interested in art through photography, although the curriculum at art school significantly broadened my interest and perspective of art. At this point it would be counterproductive to try to fit my style or practice into any particular category or genre. However, with that said, I have a particular interest in visual imagery, sculpture, installation, and conceptual art.

At its most fundamental level I believe art is simply a form human expression. It is the manifestation of an idea or feeling that is both explicitly crafted and implicitly colored by the artist’s personality and life experiences. What distinguishes art from other forms of human expression is a difficult question that I do not have the answers to. There are certainly no set of rules (e.g., necessary and sufficient conditions) or universal criteria that can be used to make the distinction. What makes something “good” art is an even thornier proposition.

The cynical postmodernist in me believes that art is whatever you or I can convince (enough) other people it is. In this view, art bears a striking resemblance to a confidence game or less cynically it is simply a language game1. There is undoubtedly a lot of truth to these statements and from a practical/societal stand point it is almost irrefutable. However, this view is deeply unsatisfying and not the framework or viewpoint that most artists operate from (I hope) nor how we typically appreciate and understand art as a whole or as individual pieces.

Instead, I try to view art as a form of human expression that is a vehicle for conveying, generating, and inspiring meaning that reveals something novel or truthful with the recipient. This is primarily accomplished through the structured (and unstructured) relationships embodied by the piece. There are infinite possible relationships, but some of the more salient categories involve historical socio/economic/political context, other artwork and art theory, formal properties, emotional feelings, and conceptual or philosophical ideas.

I am often asked if it was difficult to switch between art and science/engineering. My answer is no, not really. There are certainly aspects of each field that come more or less naturally, at least as defined by generally accepted beliefs of what these fields are or should be. However, from my perspective, the high level procedures and processes underpinning all of these endeavors are quite similar. While the goals of each may be different, to me they are all about exploration, experimentation, and problem solving in search of something meaningful and truthful. What truth means for each may be extremely different. In science, it is primarily some kind of repeatable empirical truth about the way the world actually works. Whereas it is much broader in art. It does not have to be repeatable or empirical and could, for example, hold for a single person at a single moment of time.

For more information about my professional career and research interests please see my other website www.reidswanson.com.

You can contact me at [my first name]@[my first and last name without spaces].com

  1. I actually believe this is true to a degree in most fields, but is just more pronounced in art.