Visible Evidence

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Montreal after attending the Visible Evidence conference.  It’s been years since I’ve attended this conference, and I’m glad to be back in the fold.  It’s really a quite sophisticated gathering in many respects.  While the discourse on new media leaves something to be desired, the participants are dealing with many of the issues that confront people working in new media: indexicality, reality, ethics, arhives, etc.  I found the sincerety of the discourse at the conference to be refreshing.  More than many conferences, it seems as though there is a common project between academics, filmmakers and artists.  The role of documentation in a culture obsessed with documentation is a theme that demands many voices, and I commend the openness of the disciplines involved for accepting that multiplicity.

Over the past several days, I discovered new connections in my own work as well.  First, I realized that the paper I gave was too concerned with criticizing art work for not acknowledging connections.  I don’t want to be one of those people who criticize because they have no other way of participating in a discourse.   The work is interesting as experiment.  All I intend to do is place the work in a different context – a larger context of urbanism and spatial consumption.  The idea that artists are beginning from the same assumptions as commercial developers shouldn’t come as a shock: we’re all building on an existing culture.  The goals are certainly different, but that doesn’t detract from the important lines that connect the different aspects of cultural production and consumption. …

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Visible Evidence

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Montreal after attending the Visible Evidence conference.  It’s been years since I’ve attended this conference, and I’m glad to be back in the fold.  It’s really a quite sophisticated gathering in many respects.  While the discourse on new media leaves something to be desired, the participants are dealing with many of the issues that confront people working in new media: indexicality, reality, ethics, archives, etc.  I found the sincerety of the discourse at the conference to be refreshing.  More than many conferences, it seems as though there is a common project between academics, filmmakers and artists.  The role of documentation in a culture obsessed with documentation is a theme that demands many voices, and I commend the openness of the disciplines involved for accepting that multiplicity.

Over the past several days, I discovered new connections in my own work as well.  First, I realized that the paper I gave was too concerned with criticizing art work for not acknowledging connections.  I don’t want to be one of those people who criticize because they have no other way of participating in a discourse.   The work is interesting as experiment.  All I intend to do is place the work in a different context – a larger context of urbanism and spatial consumption.  The idea that artists are beginning from the same assumptions as commercial developers shouldn’t come as a shock: we’re all building on an existing culture.  The goals are certainly different, but that doesn’t detract from the important lines that connect the different aspects of cultural production and consumption. …

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Reality: To Augment or Mix?

One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately is the premise that the addition of the virtual onto individual consciousness somehow alters that consciousness such that it cannot integrate the virtual into its horizon. Let me try putting it another way: when we interact with screens, we are simply experiencing reality within some context of mediation. However, when we add the element of the virtual (read: virtual world), the real, as a state capable of assimilating mediation into its fold, becomes something that collapses to the point of having to ‘augment’ itself into something different, or mix (sit alongside) something discreet. Why isn’t a singular reality capable of dealing with “reality representations” (in the form of virtual worlds) without having to compromise its integrity or ability to deal with mediation? I think it is. This might sound mundane, but perhaps we should shy away from using terms like reality to define information-enhanced spaces and/or virtual environments. Digital media, like all media, comprise the perceptual material through which we assemble our individual understandings of reality. They don’t sit along side it, or augment it, in ways different from “traditional” screen media. So, whether a narrative is displayed in an urban square, or an urban square is recreated in a virtual narrative space, we continue to assimilate these representational modes in a reasonably cohesive environmental knowledge. In other words, I understand my neighborhood and my city in a particular way – whether it is influenced by virtual immersion, cinematic representation or information, or simply conversations with neighbors and strangers, it is manifested, in practical terms, into a single understanding, or lifeworld.…

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User-Illusion

User-illusion, a term dreamt up by the good people at Xerox PARC desribes the manifestation of metaphors in the experience of interface.  For instance, desktop, rooms, shopping cart, etc, are illusory metaphors that make the interface legible.  I wonder if calling the experience of metaphors illusory is accurate.  It would imply that there is a possibility of experiencing interface outside of metaphor, that there is such a thing as “authentic user experience.” 

It has become increasingly clear to me lately that all interaction with space is mediated through interface.  There is a framework (cultural, logical) that everyuser carries into every interaction.  User-illusion suggests that interaction is possible without interface.  It seems high time that we abandon the notion of illusion in describing interface; every interaction is mediated, but not every interaction is illusory.  By altering perception or background or design, I can manipulate a user’s experience. This is true with video games just as its true with the neighborhood park. …

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Culture and Technology

Friedrich Kittler argues that “culture cannot be had without technology, and technology cannot be had without culture” (“The Perspective of Print“).  This seems like a fairly simply idea, but Kittler makes it complex.  What he’s trying to get at here is that they these two discourses (technology and culture) are always already the same thing.  Technology doesn’t emerge from culture (as a response to cultural needs and desires), nor does culture emerge from technology (as Internet culture or gaming culture that corrupts the minds of youth); rather, culture is a kind of technology (or system) and it is simply manifested through machines.

In Geoffrey Winthrop-Young’s article called “Silicon Sociology, or, Two Kings on Hegel’s Throne? Kittler, Luhmann, and the Posthuman Merger of German Media Theory”, he explains Kittler’s position this way:

This does not mean that computers are artificial human brains, or that they digitally ape specifically human ways of thinking.  Rather, they optimize certain patterns of information processing that were also imposed on human beings but subsequently were mistaken to be innately human qualities.  Where subjects were, there programs shall be because programs were there in the first place.

This gets to the crux of the matter: programs were there in the first place.  We mourn the loss of some pre-technical reality, or what Kittler calls the “ecologically sound Stone Age,” but it is just a myth.  Human beings have always been engaged in systems, and with each technological change the preceding system has been seen as natural. …

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