Cat++ is a code developed by Nora O’ Murchú, an Irish new media art curator, designer, and academic. Oh, and a cat lover, of course. Created during a residency at Access Space in the UK, Cat++ is thought of as a one-of-a-kind “cat simulator.” The coding alternates cat interactions with random and uncontrollable events that are translated through a series of 8-bit-esque animations. The code is based on real cat characteristics and assigns different dynamic visuals to user input. What’s even more wonderful is that O’ Murchú invites others to expand on the code with more cats and behaviors for new and unexpected interactions.
Cats have had a lengthy and high profile relationship with the internet. Often considered frivolous, our obsession with cats has garnered the attention of scientists, academics, and critics for serious analysis. Now, even Wikipedia highlights its complexities, and different findings in great detail. You can easily find listicles that detail our complex psychological relationship with cats too. It is also seen as having great historical value, as we can see from the Museum of the Moving Image exhibition last year titled: How Cats Took Over The Internet.
Although the conversations about cats and the internet have been numerous, this conversation is now broadening in relation to other digital forms. As we see with the rise of things like Neko Atsume, cat behavior, too, is being taken more seriously by more and more people. This is contrasted with our internet interaction with cats, which tends to be more passive, through the watching of cat videos, or human centric, through the creation of memes. O’ Murchú’s work with Cat++ can be seen as an extension of this newer approach.
However, beyond taking cat behavior more seriously, O’ Murchú is also interested in the importance of diversifying coding languages in ways which speak to our different needs and interests. “Developing new uses for code as a medium for aesthetic or political expression allows for the dissemination and development of new understandings of the use and influence of code beyond technical domains.”, O’ Murchú told The Creators Project.
This is not only an issue of broadening the appeal and accessibility of coding, but also of examining the intersection between creativity, technology, and theory. O’ Murchú points to the School for Poetic Computation as a massive point of inspiration, because of the emphasis they place on both research and practice, allowing people the space to learn and think more critically about the technology they are engaging with.
Cat++ reminds us that fun and seriousness are by no means mutually exclusive traits. It’s a step further in us digitally exploring and expanding our relationship with cats. More than that, though, innovative conversations started by such projects will hopefully allow coding, and the digital, to grow in ways which are both accessible and interesting to those new (and old) to the medium.