[-empyre-] Sense and sensibility

I have a PowerPoint mentality
Multiple choice is preferable
I read three lines per screen
I move on in 2 seconds
I am always networked
I like bytes
I want more 
I want it now  
The sense and sensibility of the statement ³education seems to offer one
viable alternative to the devil (didacticism, academia) and the deep blue
sea (commodity fetishism)² are both problematic. To attempt to walk a middle
ground between these two supposedly opposing cultural forces seems to be
particularly fraught.
Perhaps I¹m a little rusty (to use an iron age term ­I'm not sure what the
appropriate silicone age equivalent is)  in the online arena as I¹ve been
away from it for a while doing things like developing artist skill
augmentation programs and designing projects that aspire to be
understandable by and appeal to a general public who don¹t have the benefit
of  the sort of ³education² we are talking about here.
I'm afraid that the most probable outcome of alternative educative cultural
design, based on concepts accessible only to an elite, is that it will be
found to be either boring, incomprehensible, unengaging or irrelevant by a
mass audience.
What is to be done?
Who is supposed to do it?
Why should we care?

Butting in b4 I'm introduced

On 8/1/07 8:28 AM, "odyens@alcor.concordia.ca" <odyens@alcor.concordia.ca>

> Thanks to all of you for your answers and comments. As you may have gathered
> by reading my first post, I, like, you do not have definite answers to the
> questions I asked.
> Here¹s a very brief summary of what some of you have written (my apologies in
> advance for what was left out):
> According to Jim, machines have shown us how complex human beings are
> (research in AI have clearly proven that intelligence is a much more complex
> structure than first thought).
> Brian sums up Bernard Stiegler¹s book in which Stiegler makes his case for a
> return to what seems to me a romantic notion of humanity. Brian also asks me
> to suggest some possible answers to the questions I asked.
> Brett makes a crucial distinction between beauty and the sublime and suggests
> that a productive strategy would be to let go of the ?our received assumption
> about the ontology of both art and theory¹.
> Now what is to be done? How should we tackle the profound transformation of
> our world? As you know, the questions about the role of art and its
> relationship to humanity, are just a symptom of a much deeper metamorphosis. I
> do not use this word lightly. To me, we are in the process of a true
> transformation 
> (there are, all around us, many proofs of that. Kurzweil¹s law of accelerating
> return being just one of them.
> http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0134.html?printable=1
> Alexandre Leupin¹s Theory of Epistemological Cuts being another.
> http://www.alexandreleupin.com/lectures/cummings.htm
> According to Leupin, a paradigmatic revolution can be clearly seen when words
> become homonyms. Before and after Galileo, for example, the word cosmos,
> though the same, does not mean the same thing. Before and after Christ, the
> word God means something completely different. Today, words such as life,
> death, consciousness and even art do not mean the same as they did only a few
> years back). 
> As Leupin and Kurzweil clearly show, we are right in the middle of a deep
> transformation of the very fabric of life. Xenotransplantation, genetic
> therapy, genetically modified organisms are not just exotic events: they are
> signs of a great alteration in the foundation of life. Life is becoming one
> great genetic pool out of which forms emerge. Some are ?natural¹ (i.e. age-
> old), others not so (i.e. created in labs), but all are present in today¹
> world.
> Here, then, are my thoughts:
> In my initial post, I mentioned technological reality. Technological reality
> is the human/machine perception of the world. As opposed to biological reality
> (which is the physiological perception of reality, i.e. that which is gathered
> by our senses), technological reality lets us see slivers of reality we are
> not cognitively or psychologically equipped to see and understand (the quantum
> level of reality, for example). In Consilience, E.O. Wilson wrote: The brain
> is a machine assembled not to understand itself but to survive. This, I
> believe, is fundamental. Biological reality is our brain trying to decipher
> the world in order to survive. Technological reality is our brain trying to
> cope with the world as technology sees it. But these new levels of reality are
> so alien to our understanding of the world (to our brain¹s structure of
> survival), that they become true fiction. We might intellectually understand
> their existence but we cannot truly grasp what they mean (what does 9, 10 or
> 11 dimensions, as string theory suggests our world is made of, actually
> mean?). 
> Thus, technological reality offers us a perception of the world which is both
> frightening and beautiful. Frightening because it questions all of our notions
> of what it means to be alive, to be human, to be conscious and intelligent,
> all of our notions of what the fabric of reality is. Beautiful because it
> shows us that ?reality¹ is infinite, that the universe is made of strange and
> exotic structures, that what we thought were the universal (and simple) laws
> of physics are but a tiny fraction of the fabric of the universe. Frightening
> because it suggests that the world is beyond our understanding; beautiful
> because it celebrates the observer (as defined by quantum theory) as an
> essential component of reality. Technological reality does not deconstruct;
> rather, it fragments objects, forms, individuals into an infinite series of
> layers. Technological reality folds and enfolds phenomena until the
> microscopic meshes into the macroscopic. Thus, through technological reality
> the world appears both beautiful and inhuman.
> This is why I call our present situation, The Inhuman Condition. I do not use
> inhuman pejoratively (as in horrible) but rather in the proper sense of the
> word (that which is not human). The inhuman condition tells us that since our
> age-old understanding of life, death, individuals, intelligence and especially
> groups and families, are specific to our biological level of reality, since
> these notions are only constructions of our physiology (itself build from the
> challenges of evolution), we must completely redefine what it means to be
> human, we must completely rethink our notions of the fabric of life. The
> inhuman condition also tells us that beauty and the sublime can co-exist with
> the unnatural, the inhuman. To me, the inhuman condition creates many
> troubling consequences. The most obvious one is a deep malaise. According to
> the inhuman condition, what our senses tell us of the world is nothing but a
> familiar and comfortable fiction. We may feel human, we may feel unique,
> conscious and intelligent but science (and technological reality) tells us
> otherwise (as you know, Richard Dawkins has labeled living beings ?survival
> vehicles¹ for genes. Recent research has shown that the actual genetic content
> of the bacteria living in our stomach is 99 times bigger than our own genetic
> material (Gill, Steven R: The Institute for Genomic Research, in Harper¹s
> Magazine, vol 313, no 1876, septembre 2006, p. 13). Thus, are we survival
> vehicles for our genes or for our bacteria¹s? Who¹s the vehicle here?).
> If humanity becomes inhuman, what, then, are the consequences on the artistic
> process? But first, we must ask ourselves what, exactly, is art? We could, of
> course, spend an entire year discussing it. Let me suggest my own definition
> here (which is as flawed as any other). To me, art is the sensitive
> questioning of metaphysics (science would be the objective questioning of
> metaphysics). But since the fabric of life must be redefine, so must be
> metaphysics: how can we question life, death, suffering if we do not know what
> life is, when death occurs, what or who is suffering? If we don¹t even know
> what reality is, where it originates, where it ends? How can we question
> metaphysics if its basis, humanity, suddenly appears to be just one level of
> reality (what are life and death if one is considered an colony of different
> living beings, beings that can actually keep on living after the colony¹s
> death? There are more than 200 different living species in each human. Death
> does not occur at the same time for each of them. Further, the actual process
> of life and death is quite different for many of them).
> Art, I believe, must address and reflect this deep transformation. How? Well,
> what the inhuman condition tells us is that the world that surrounds us is not
> made of frontiers but of overlapping dynamics and levels (both horizontal,
> between species, and vertical, between levels of reality). Art must then
> search for beauty and the sublime within this new condition, i.e. by letting
> go of the human as its founding and exclusive phenomena. How should it do
> that? I¹m not quite sure but I¹ll suggest the following: By using machines as
> co-creators. Not only do machines makes us see a deeper, stranger, more exotic
> universe than we ever thought possible, they also help us understand the
> world, make sense of it, they help us extract a new beauty, a different
> sublime out of that world (e.g.: fractals). Machines are not only instruments,
> they have become an extension of our senses (as McLuhan mentioned), they have
> become an extension of consciousness. Thus, they play a vital and fundamental
> role in art. Now, is that something completely new? Well, not really,
> especially if we consider language as a machine, one that opened the world for
> us, made it much richer, much more beautiful, language is a machine that
> filled the world with signs, symbols and representation. The original machine
> (language) is what enabled humans to create art. Today¹s machines are doing
> the same, albeit with a different entity, that of the inhuman.
> But for that to be possible, we must abandon our notion of humanity, of what
> it means to be human, we must accept that today¹s humanity is shaped by a new
> reason, by a new rationale, one which might seem irrational to our age-old
> notions of what it means to be human (humanity is now a colony of bacteria,
> genes and memes; it¹s a swarm of many collective intelligences, themselves
> part of larger collective intelligences; it¹s a mass of many different
> survival vehicles, themselves feeding larger collective intelligences such as
> civilization). Once we are able to do so, we will see the rise (I believe) of
> a new form of art, one that seamlessly integrates the inhuman into its forms
> and content. What is the inhuman in art? It¹s the sublime that emerges through
> the combination of both man¹s and machine¹s languages. It¹s the sublime in the
> intertwining of forms and contents (the rational with the irrational). Machine
> and humans will feed off each other and produce art forms that reflects each
> other¹s needs and questioning (can a machine have a will? Well, not in the
> human sense of the word, but a ?will¹ to survive, spread and disseminate? Yes,
> I believe so. Machine are survival vehicles for memes, they belong and are
> intertwined in the planetary fabric; they thus obey the structure of
> evolution). 
> By the way, digital art, and especially database art, are already a sign of
> these new, emerging art forms, one closer to the inhuman condition than to the
> human one. Digital art show us a different side of metaphysics, where to be
> human is not to be enmeshed in story telling, is not to belong to a linear
> evolution, but to be intertwined in an imploded notion of time, space and
> narratives, where to be human is to be a receptacle of data, is to be an
> ephemeral form, produced by the convergence of different languages (machine¹s
> and well as man¹s) and levels of reality, where to be human is also to be
> everything but a unique individual, where to be human is to be both ?read¹
> and ?written¹ by machines, where to be human is to be inhuman.
> Quoting Brian Holmes <brian.holmes@wanadoo.fr>:
>> odyens@alcor.concordia.ca wrote:
>>   What is to be done with a process that helped create our
>>> perception of the metaphysical, but whose operations, whose forms and
>>> sometimes even content are now within the control of machines? When most of
>>> what art produces today ignores humanity¹s need for the transcendent, when
>>> what most of what art produces today responds to machine¹s perceptions of
>> the 
>>> world?
>> This is a great text, with interesting references and a clear relation
>> to present reality. But I think the onus is on you to give some initial
>> ideas of what is to be done. There is, effectively, nothing in the
>> Western philosophical tradition that will help respond.
>> I am currently reading a philosopher from that retrograde country,
>> France, one who writes in the minor imperial language most of them still
>> use over there, his name is Bernard Stiegler. He thinks that the entire
>> European production of technological writing machines in the enlarged
>> sense - the kind of machines with which we cultivate ourselves, along
>> the lines sketched out by Foucault in his text "writing of the self" -
>> should be reoriented so as to basically save the inhabitants of Europe
>> and perhaps elsewhere from a threatening reduction of human singularity,
>> and with it, of any possible ethics. He thinks that capitalism, in the
>> advanced economies, is now primarily cultural, focused around the
>> different devices whereby memory and creativity of all kinds is
>> exteriorized into objects and traces. He thinks such machines are
>> essential, a basic part of the human experience in time, but that care
>> needs to be taken with their production, so that persons can go on
>> becoming individuals ("individuating") in a relation of creative tension
>> with societies which are also constantly individuating. If this care for
>> the social and psychic self cannot be translated into a change in the
>> kinds of machines which are produced, he believes that a generalized
>> disenchantment with democracy will grow more widespread, leading to a
>> collapse of desire into gregarious, instinctual outbursts of destructive
>> violence. His latest book, Reenchanter le monde: La valeur esprit contre
>> le populisme industriel, begins precisely with a chapter entitled "What
>> is to be done?" However, if I have understood the post you sent, this
>> whole approach and anything like it is already obsolete. So I am quite
>> curious what you think is to be done.
>> all the best, Brian Holmes
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre@lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Dr Melinda Rackham
Executive Director

Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT)
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