The form of the digital datum is discrete, fungible, and familiar, and digital mediation presupposes commensurability between various ontic, epistemic, and aesthetic phenomena. My paper asks whether digital media may nevertheless yield new, unrecognizable or sui generis forms. I take philosopher M. Beatrice Fazi’s reading of Gilles Deleuze’s aesthetics as my primary hermeneutic lens. Deleuze claims that aesthetic novelty, or that which has no formal precedent, issues from numerically continuous fluxes. Thus it cannot originate in digital media, which are discrete. Fazi intervenes by distinguishing the form of the digital datum from the process of computation. She indicates that the latter partakes of infinite and indeterminate sources and is continuous across time. As such, computational processes retain the capacity to yield the Deleuzean new.
Offering Deleuzean novelty as a theorization of “the new,” I argue that the cultural phenomenon of live-coded music exemplifies the computational production of novelty. Live-coding musicians improvise by writing source code which instantaneously plays out loud. I examine live-coding programs and artists’ reflections to propose that the new emerges at the interface of software and musician for the duration of live-coding performances. I also draw from Henri Bergson’s work on creative processes, which emphasizes improvisation and immediacy, to attest to the salience of live-coded music as a study in digital novelty.
The final section of the paper situates my arguments politically. I write that digital capitalism secures its hegemony by means of algorithmic homogenization, statistical prediction, and cybernetic enclosure, and proceeds as an unfolding of similitude. That which is wholly new, I claim, defies and subverts this normative political program.