Posts tagged ‘Digital Culture’

Technologically mediated perception

Jack Goldstein, UNTITLED (ECLIPSE), c.1980, Google Image

Ted Krueger is the founder and director of the laboratory for Human-Environment Interaction research, working on a project to fabricate synthetic senses for humans at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Krueger describes “Synthetic Senses’” as „a class of devices interfacing manufactured sensor technologies to the body enabling percepts that are not available to biological sensory modes“. His paper “Mediated Perception: Towards an Experience of Extreme Environments“, presented during the 2007 conference “MutaMorphosis: Challenging Arts and Sciences” in Prague, addresses several important ideas on the general topic of technologically mediated perceptions.

According to the author, uncommon images such as a photo of the Earthrise over a moonscape or the fading of the blue planet into a background of stars in the first voyage to Mars, though giving us a sense of profound isolation are extremely valuable for our culture. Krueger underlies how these images have the quality to shape our understanding of ourselves in new ways.
The idea that extreme environments – usually life threatening – require interrogation by robotic and remote sensing techniques rather than by human exploration and habitation is a commonly accepted one. Though much of what can be learned about extreme environments derives indeed from the use of technology, the fact is that technology sort of prevents us from having a direct experience. Even if in the end we can only experience hostile environments through our technological bubble, Kruger argues for “the irreplaceability of human presence in extreme environments on the grounds of human experience“. Assertion which leads Kruger to question: “can technologies be developed to open extreme environments to experience rather than shielding us from such environments?“.
In this paper, Kruger concludes that “Perceptual prostheses (..) will enable the direct perception of hostile conditions from with in the technological womb” and “may become a key enabling technology for the habitation of extreme conditions in addition to providing the principle justification for a human presence in them“.

His own research and activities in creating devices which explore the electrical and magnetic fields, has led him to question to which degree the mediated experience of extreme environments accurately represents the ‘real’ conditions of that environment. Though, we typically assume that our perceptions are of reality, the truth is that our membranes are only sensitive to select portions of the available spectra. According to Krueger, authors such as Varela, Thompson and Rotch (1991) have proven that the sensitivity of different species to light varies considerably. We can only perceive a small spectra of what is available, and even this partial perception is „dependant upon artifacts of our biological constitution“. Kruger writes: „Our perception is already ‘mediated’ by our biological makeup“. On top of this we construct our reality based on our experience (Glanville 1999 quoted by Krueger), which is not only influenced by our sensory flux but is also a product of our socio-cultural activity.

As a conclusion, to the paradox of technology both enabling and preventing our experience of extreme environments, Krueger interestingly says„In the end the verisimilitude we seek is a function of the degree to which coherent patterns can be built. The implication of this may be that we can only perceive and believe those things that cohere for us, that certain kinds of disorder may simply not be available for our apprehension“.

November 22, 2009 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

Key Ideas on New Media and Self-Reflexivity- in short

1. Self-reflexivity is by no means exclusive to the field of the arts but a common preoccupation of different disciplines in the XX century
2. Whenever a new medium appears it must struggle to define its own field of actuation and pertinence against all existing mediums
3. Different mediums borrow from and influence avidly each other
4. New media ontologically favour manipulation and experimentation
5. Media specificity must be found in the medium’s structure and technological premise
6. This strategy and belief is not exactly new but was mimed from painting
7. New media – and not just video – took on a critical position against television and what it represented

October 18, 2008 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

Key Ideas on New Media and Self-Reflexivity

Nam June Paik, Budha TV, 1974

Whenever a new medium appears it must struggle to define its own field of actuation and pertinence against all existing mediums. This contributes to the development of a speech of self-specificity, as the struggle between painting and photography – when photography first appeared – testifies.
„As with the introduction of every new medium, video encompasses a process of development from a technical novelty to the formation of media-specific forms of expression, which reflect the basic technical conditions governing the apparatus aesthetically and, finally, culminate in the cultural connotations of a new medium, which can assert its singularity in setting itself apart from other media”.(Yvonne Spielmann, Video The Reflexive Media, MIT, 2008)

Opposing already existing mediums doesn´t completely describe this process, for each new medium also wants to achieve recognition from the others and even share some of their features. The emergence of the photographic in different media – in the computer for instance – is only but one example of this.
“The desire for immediacy leads digital media to borrow avidly from each other as well as from their analog predecessors such as film, television and photography. No medium today, and certainly no single media event, seems to do its cultural work in isolation from other media, any more than it works in isolation from other social and economic forces. What is new about new media comes from the particular ways in which they refashion older media and the ways in which older media refashion themselves to answer the challenges of new media”. (Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation, Understanding New Media, MIT Press, 2000)

In this sense, it seems that „all a new technology can do is to define itself in relationship to earlier technologies of representation“ (Bolter & Grusin, 2000)

As tools, and artists always seem to be the first ones to experiment with them -, and due to their inherent manipulative character new media possess an ontological feature which favours experimentation. This also leads to the development of a speech of self-specificity.

This self-specificity has erroneously been attributed. Nor the aesthetic dimension, nor the presentation dimension suffice as criteria for defining media specificity. This is easy to understand if we think of video. Ultimately its raw material is noise, which denote electronic signals, but these can be presented also as a sculpture or an installation. In this sense, nor the technical manipulation of the signals processes (its technical self-reflexion – Paik operating with magnets for instance), nor its presentation possibilities (single channel to multi video installations) are specific enough criteria to define the ontology of video.
According to Yvonne Spielmann, this must be found in video’s structure technological premise. She argues that “both Media (video and film) are concerned with visualizing an aesthetic-analytical discourse on picturiality, which brings into view structural phenomena from the medium in question”. (Yvonne Spielmann, 2008)

Morris Lewis, Alpha-phi, 1961
This strategy and belief is not exactly new, in fact it already occurred in painting. Formalism has always belived that everything necessary in a work of art is contained within it.
Clement Greenberg, who ambitioned using the characteristic method of a discipline (painting) to criticize the discipline (painting) itself, „not in order to subvert it but to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence“, thought Maurice Denis’ early statement that a painting was ‘essentially a flat surface covered in colours arranged in a certain order’ through and through.
After his inquiry to painting Greenberg comes to determine that flatness and bi-dimensionality represent painting´s ontological qualities. Greenberg admitted that every medium incorporated conventions which had been borrowed from another art (narrative in history painting for instance), and which had to be necessarily expurgated so painting could be reduced to its absolutely unique characteristic(s). In this realm, „art“ became art’s only acceptable subject – art for art’s sake.
This notion of the arts as self-justifying (purily concerned with itself, striving to find its purity) was understood by Greenberg as a form of materialistic objectivity – in parallel to what contemporary science was doing. To Greenberg’s mind, this was being fulfilled by hard edge and color field painting.

Not only has New Media Art been concerned in exploring the medium’s structural characteristics but also its effects in general. In this way, the reflection about the use and meaning of images becomes very important and should perhaps be included as a part of the chapter on new media and self-reflexivity.
Images were always felt to be dangerous – we must only think of the Iconoclasm polemic – but technological apparatuses producing images do leave us the feeling that “it is out of control”. This fear is perhaps one more reason why new media are interested not only in exploring self-reflexive issues but also its effects, as if a way to get a hold on something which cannot be stopped.

From early on, new media – and not just video – took on a critical position against television and its system. Throughout History this critique was performed in different ways: the critique to Television as an instrument dictated and in service of corporate power; television as a flux of images which assumes the viewer as a passive subject; and whose only choice is the ability to change channel continuously (zapping).
Since there is no privileged image but a multiplicity of images in Television, our attention becomes slightly indifferent to content for it keeps changing very fast and no image is more important than the next. Susan Sontag sees in the type of image Television conveys, one of the reasons why we’ve become indifferent to horror images.

But more than opposing Television from minute one, Video has also adopted some of its features. In both mediums, image arises from its signal transmission technology and they both register rays of light onto a surface (in this miming Film, their historical precedent).

October 18, 2008 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

old versus new – What on earth happened to May 68?

For a long time, the category of the “new” served as a criteria to judge the quality of an artwork. In this order of things, both the “classical” had its untouchable place secured by the patine of time and its recognized significance to a given culture (with aspirations of universality), as the new had its place just before subsuming into classic itself thus finding a label and reassuring our world view. The entire History of Art has understood its own role as the survey of this progressive linear development, in which a style would be followed by a next one, where influences where both picked up and rebelled against in a more or less deterministic way. This comfortable and traditional state of affairs has suffered multiple and decisive attacks throughout the XX century up to a point where criteria have become itself difficult if not impossible to find.

This tendency however, is not exclusive of the artworld but has become a strange feature of the time we live in. This thought has come in to my mind as I read British avant-garde musician, performance artist and blogguer Imomus´ recent post about his latest collaboration with freelance musician Germlin titled “Snoopersnapper, the glomming glam vampire“. In his late forties Imomus reflects on his latest collaboration with someone half his age, mocking on whom is taking advantage of whom and asking if Germlin instead of collaborating shouldn´t be rebelling against him (Imomus).

On the comments section an anonymous wrote something which I found particularly interesting and on the point:

“I don’t meet any angry youth. Although they’d have a point if they did get angry – the UK boomer generation has the property the young will never own, the pensions they will never see. They had the steady careers-for-life, and the free further education. People listened when they protested against wars, and they got to mess up the planet and leave it for everyone else to clean.
Today’s kids have more of a right to be angry than their parents ever did!”

Voilá! What on earth happened to May 68?

Its a pretty goddamn remark! And it happens to be truth (for a specific cultural sphere at least, for there is more than enough anger in this world specially religious and economical motivated and incomprehensible to me).
What happened to generation clash? Why did twenty year olds give up on street protest, political commitment, social engagement and even such basic things as voting? Nothing seems to move them, so focused are they on getting their 15 minutes fame on TV, becoming famous, earning lots of money, and by pulling out this sequence being loved by as many as possible! Why choose having a mind on something when one can take on different characters, assume different profiles on the web, be oneself and others at the same time?

Even pointing out this loss of values, this flatenning of ideals, “feels” old fashioned and that´s how serious the problem is! I am completely torned between how much qualitative change digital has brought us and the negative (inevitable?) associated aspects of the total mediatization of our lives taking place…

August 1, 2008 at 2:34 am Leave a comment

The Age Of Stupidity – Keep It Foolish :-) ON CELLPHONE NOVELS

nathan barley episode 1 part 1of 3

CELLPHONE NOVELS / Last January 20th the New York Times published a very interesting article about Cellphone novels. Its author, Norimitsu Onishi, reports that Cellphone novels (defined by Wikipedia as novels which are meant to be read in 1,000- to 2,000- word (in China) or 70-word ( in Japan) chapters via text message on cell phones, and which are downloaded in short installments and run on handsets as Java-based applications on a mobile phone, often appearing in three different formats: WMLD , JAVA and TXT) have immediately dominated the publishing market as soon as they hit the printed format. In fact, several sources sustain that five out of the ten best selling novels in Japan in 2007 were originally cell phone novels!!

“Deep Love”, the story of a teenage prostitute in Tokyo imagined and written by an online author called Yoshi, opened the precedent. Published as a book in 2003 with sailings hitting the 2,6 million copies it was later turned into a television series, a manga and a film.

Despising this new fiction style as “unworthy subgenre”, critics mostly fear that Cellphone novels might lead to the degradation/ disapearance of all other kinds of literature?!?
Characterized by shorter sentences, contracted words and making plenty of use of symbols and emoticons, Cellphone novels dismiss description and detail – seen as the greater attack to serious literature – in order to emphasize a characteristic which I find brilliant: the reader must read more in between the lines! Calling the viewer into responsibility in making his own interpretation of what is going on, this couldn´t agree more to Umberto Eco´s the “Opera Aperta” (1962).

But how do Cellphone novels actually work?
Written on cellphones as text messages and then sent to a website, subscribers can choose either to follow the new updates or download the entire novel for a fee, to read it on the computer or their cellphone. Given this process, another extremely important – and I would say brilliant – feature occurs. For users can post comments and/ or send reply sms in real time as the author is in the process of writing the novel. He has the unprecedented possibility of reacting by changing the course of events, accepting suggestions, etc. “‘It’s like playing live music at a club. You know right away if the audience isn’t responding, and you can change what you’re doing right then and there'”, says Yoshi quoted by the Institute for the Future of the Book.
Cellphone novels by being interactive and portable at the same time incite to a customization by the masses which isn´t necessarily bad nor a plain synonym for “being blindly corrupted by the market”, against what conservative minds might say. Cellphone novels have the advantage of opening new spaces of creativity and allowing for different democratic participatory ways. Quoted by Wired Magazine, Magic iLand (company running >>Free Novel Library community portal where users can download texts by selected authors and link to their blog) spokesman Toshiaki Itou said: “A mobile phone novel boom is definitely in place. And these are people who hardly ever read novels before, never mind written one”. At this point their devoloping software which will allow mobile phone novelists to integrate sounds and images into their story lines as well.

In parallel to giving the oportunity for a comunity to write a story together, mobile phones are also facilitating the circulation of already published books. In Germany and amond high-school girls, dowloading Charlotte Roche´s polemic book “Feuchgebiete” on their mobile has become a sort of rebellian act, meanwhile the media are too busy discussing how much of a tabu-book it actually is..

July 2, 2008 at 12:18 am Leave a comment

WildTurner on You Tube

Radiohead – All I Need

Since the 25th of October 2007 You Tube´s subscriber WildTurner has uploaded nine videos in which historical film footage, ranging from experimental film to the great Italian director Antonioni, is put together with music varying from Radiohead to Joy Division.

Meanwhile exploring entries on Marcel Duchamp on You Tube I came across one of those videos, in which an excerpt of Hans Richter´s “Dreams that Money Can Buy” featuring Marcel Duchamp´s “Anemic Cinema” is put together with Radiohead´s “You´re All I Need”, which happens to be my favorite song on their last album. Lucky coincidence for this is a great match!
The song is painful, obsessive and yet inspiring with Tom York´s amazing lyrics: “I am all the days you choose to ignore”! Duchamp´s “Anemic Cinema” as an inquiry into human perception and the cinematic gaze gains a new reading here.
The viewer´s gaze under the spell bounding and hypnotic effects of cinema is thus compared to an impotent powerless lover living off an illusion. Until the advent of the internet and interactive cinema, our relation with cinema has been a passive and non-corresponded one indeed, just like the love described in the song.

I wonder what drove Wild Turner to put Duchamp´s “Anemic Cinema” and Radiohead´s song “You´re All I Need” together?
“Jigsaw Falling Into Place” another song by Radiohead together with Antonioni footage also results tremendously brilliant. Here >>

And most amazing is to think that this could only have happened in the internet of course, where the logic of the medium favoring freedom to experiment and assembly – two of Duchamp´s most strongest ideas and legacy for the future – overthrows limiting author rights´ bureaucracy. Indeed a match made in heaven!

On the topics of the change of the artist´s role after Duchamp and quotation/ assembly /sampling issues today, is really worth taking a look into Dj Spooky´s interview on Duchamp at The Dallas Museum of Art.

June 30, 2008 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

Final Fantasy: He Poos Clouds (release version)

June 7, 2008 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment


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