RE: [-empyre-] old discussion, new discussion

Below is an abstract for an essay I wrote in 2K1/2K2 that goes to
aspects of Nick's wonderings about how new media art might be able to
enlighten science - for which two strategic options are proposed: using
the tools and techniques of science or engaging with science as a
world-view. The abstract touches on the HCI level (interfacial is the
term I used here), vs. processing and data access levels (which deserve
more attention, imho). I offer this here because it may imply something
about the tools-of-science vs. ideology-of-science proposal; tilting
toward the tools perhaps, but the consideration of these should not be
limited to tangible tools such as IT but also to the conceptual tools of
science. Recognizing conceptual tools as such of course drifts toward
ideology - thus it is perhaps not easy to tease the tools of science and
world-view of science apart!

It seems to me that working as a new media artist without maintaining
some analysis of the integration of science-tech vs. science ideology
would be ill advised. Any science-tech-art that does not address in some
way the science world-view is probably naive art, and art that addresses
the ideology of science without some practice with the material basis of
the sciences risks missing the op to explore the spaces that the
sciences are opening up - which for the past few hundred years have had
more profound cultural influence than arts have, frankly. (The latter
strategy contains the risk of being critical of an ideology sans playing
with it a little and seeing what it can do... I certainly have less of a
problem with this tact, but I also have questions about its long term
utility. Artists, particularly politically oriented ones, need to create
art that critiques while engaging... or risk becoming a form of mere

In any case, I think that a natural tact for artists at this time is to
work specifically with scientific data, because big data is a new
problem domain in and of itself, and new media (for now) still implies a
relationship to IT - for example, the excellent New Media Reader:-) (PS
- I used it for our introduction to computing in the arts course here at
UCSD last quarter. It is another thread, but I thought it was very
useful... but it would benefit from even more examples of related work
on the CD...)

Finally, new abstract for Database Logic(s) and Landscape Art...

"The aesthetic consequences of database can be viewed at different
layers as implemented in IT systems such as geographic information
systems. The most general of these layers are implementation (data and
processing tiers) and representation (interfacial tier). It is at the
implementation level(s) that GIS data may be allowed to express itself
and operate as a co-participant with artists. Because such data is
typically 'big data', (data sets that test contemporary processing
capabilities), artists need to take an explorative approach to practice
with such data; a practice that may not find its primary nexus of
expression or activity at the user interface. The questions to be
answered regarding landscape and database are provisional; landscape
data is a space ripe for exploration in part because the questions are
not yet well formed. The tact that I take to begin to map the problem
space is an analysis including semiology, precession, and abstract
machines; all as they relate to models that instantiate the actual,
including database modeling techniques such as entity relationship
modeling. Data lies in a conversational relationship between the
political/cultural realm and the actual landscape itself. Data is real
and capable of actualization due to its virtual form, where virtuality
is not considered as an artifact of computational machinery, but rather
in Deleuzian terms as abstract machines, or general processes of
instantiation of the actual. Because data can be considered as an
actualizing agent (through its virtual nature) whose network of
relations is not contained entirely within discrete state systems (IT),
artists working with database might seek to explore/reveal subject-less
and autopoietic relations of data in addition to those constrained by
relational algebra. The methodologies for such explorations are not
entirely clear at this time, but C5 suspects that systems emphasizing
the paradigmatic axis foregrounded by database as cultural form should
become the primary concern for any consideration of expression in art
performance. This is the key for contemporary exploration of the actual
territories that stubbornly remain even after their supposed
disappearance behind their model or their map, and may provide a
platform for developing general insights into emerging datascapes."

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Nick
Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2004 2:37 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] old discussion, new discussion

Hi again -- I just got back from a weekend of writing out on Brigantine
Island in New Jersey. I haven't had time to reply, but have enjoyed
reading people's comments.

First, regarding some of the "new" (or actually, earlier) discussion, it
seems strange that many of the emails have seemed to view new media
exclusively through the arts and solely as an artistic practice. The
of computer scientists such as Ivan Sutherland, Joseph Wiezenbaum,
Engelbart, and Alan Kay seems quite relevant to the creative and
uses of the computer. I'd hate to reduce new media to just being
science, however, just as I think it shouldn't be reduced to only what
artists have done or to the artistic perspective alone.

Regarding Jill Scott's opening statement, I'm very interested in how
exactly science is important today in new media art.

In recently reading Jill Walker's thesis, I learned how Dream Kitchen
a segment that riffs on Stanley Milgram's famous "obedience to
experiment, presenting a "obedience to interface" report card that
describes how cruel the interactor has been with the tools provided
on-screen. This seems to play on HCI methodologies and behavioral
psychology methodologies, but perhaps doesn't critique the principles of
psychology or the results of Milgram's experiment. (Or maybe it does?)

So, I wonder if new media art will be able to enlighten the scientific
mainly by dealing with the tools and techniques of the sciences, or
whether it will tend to focus more on science as a world-view and on the
ideas of natural order that science offers?

-Nick Montfort
 My new book, Twisty Little Passages:

empyre forum

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