'Pataphysical Software: (Ridiculous) Technological Solutions for Imaginary Problems

Miguel Angel Sicart, Irina Shklovski

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


These days, whether the problem is climate change or boredom, there is an app for that. The rhetoric of problem and solution, accelerated by commercial needs and salvific tech gurus, implies that software can save the world. This paper wants to start a movement/rebellion against the ubiquitous equation of P(problem) + S(software) = S(solution) as a rational approach to the ailments of this world. We question the technological effort to "playfully" afford order and control to humans through the provision of computational rules. Instead, we propose an alternative approach: designing 'pataphysical software to address familiar but ultimately imaginary problems. Defined by poet Alfred Jarry, 'pataphysics is the science of imaginary problems. Adopting the methods of 'pataphysics, we have developed mobile applications that explore invented problems and provide no solutions for them. We demonstrate how such an approach allows us to ask design questions through an aesthetic 'pataphysical practice of software development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '20)
Number of pages12
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication date2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • 'Pataphysics
  • art
  • mobile apps
  • design
  • data


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