Hi, Brian, Sally Jane, Kevin, and Catherine,

What a great week on -empyre-! Thanks so much for your wide-ranging reflections on the kitch, marginality, and subsequent urgency of something called 'criticality'--particularly Catherine's promotion of "Distracted, but profound, gaming (in which real ethical calculability is
probed in a variety of ways)." I believe I am guilty for floating the term earlier in the week, which I understand as the empowered thoughtfulness with which the actor inhabits, interacts with, and transforms architectonic/social space, always in consort with the techno-psycho skin enveloping and constituting us all.

Brian's post concerning the DARPA URBAN CHALLENGE and Kevin's most recent post concerning the rapid slippage from art to commercialism confronting us all in the new media community (not only in this community, moreover) bring home institutional challenges I've faced to maintain and sharpen the critical edge in a DARPA driven environment that's frequently driving the IS agendas in large universities (DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the central research and development organization for the US Department of Defense).

It's no coincidence that our institution, Cornell University, sponsors a racing team now in the semi-finals of the DARPA URBAN CHALLENGE. I've long wondered whether this and similar DARPA research project are at the core of the continual resistance of my colleagues in IS to work together in development of a pedagogical program in Digital Art and Culture. The emphasis on culture and the encourage of 'critical spatial practice' that I believe goes with it seems to have been a sticking point throughout. Visiting the website for the Cornell Darpa Urban Challenge, I just learned that this team was awarded up to $1 million for development of its "autonomous vehicle." So in a university environment increasingly dependent on corporate alignment, and traditionally dependent on DARPA funding, it's not shocking that efforts to enhance "criticality" would be underappreciated, if not considered threatening. While calculability remains at the core of these militarized gaming projects, the ethical profundity of what Catherine appreciates as "distracted gaming" is cast aside.

I remember well visiting Kevin's facilities in Illinois and being excited by the artworks that he was streaming onto the flatscreens hanging on the walls of his new Information Science building. I'm sorry to learn that his project of "distracted gaming" has given way to more identifiable projects of corporate/academic adhesion. If there was ever a moment when both the academic and art worlds could benefit from "pervasive gaming," we seem to be there.

Thanks everyone for contributing to such a provocative week. We're looking forward to continuing the discussion with Maurice Benayoun and Alice Meceli in the next week.


Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video Studies
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
285 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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