What is Autonomy?

Data-Design Dictionary.
A dictionary to illuminate data-driven generative design and creative coding.


In every data-driven process, an idea is transformed into form with the help of a program. It is the defining characteristic of generative design that the specific forms and symbols are generated by a (semi-)autonomous process. In this way, the form can be created automatically, detached from the original designers of the program. The program acts (semi-)autonomously from the creator, who guides the shaping by the program, but does not completely determine it. Adding the element of autonomy to the shaping by the machine creates new possibilities for how content can be conceived, implemented, and executed.

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By abstracting an original idea, writing it down as a set of rules and implementing those in a program, a developer automates the design process and gives a generative system a certain degree of independence.

Relevant quotes
about Autonomy

Generative art refers to any art practice in which the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, that is set into motion with some degree of autonomy, thereby contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art.”[1]

“Generative art uses a computer as an enabling technology. The work is generated by a computer program, but is not fully autonomous. The computer is guided to create the work using detailed instructions from the artist, who either writes the program or at least creates the method (algorithm) for the creation of the work.”[2]

[1] Philip Galanter: Generative Art Theory, in: Christiane Paul (publisher): A Companion to Digital Art, Oxford 2016, p. 151.
[2] Parker, James R: GENerative ART. Algorithms as a artistic tools, Calgary 2020, p. 19
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