[-empyre-] scalable relations-- how does this matter?(orde-materialize?)

dj lotu5 lotu5 at resist.ca
Mon Feb 9 14:44:25 EST 2009

Christiane_Paul at whitney.org wrote:
> Anna Munster wrote:
> "I am wondering how you see the relation - at a curatorial and 
> conceptual level rather than purely technical - between the idea of 
> 'scalable' and the commonly used notion of 'scale-free' which abounds 
> particularly in contemporary network science?"
> ...
> Upon second thought, these properties are probably conceptually more 
> related than I initially realized. On a curatorial and conceptual 
> level I saw scalability as a characteristic of each of the works in 
> the exhibition (the way each work responds to increasing amounts of 
> data and allow to establish relations between the information) and the 
> way they work together across the venues. You could equally argue that 
> there is a scale-free property to the network of the exhibition: the 
> "very connected nodes" within each exhibition (meaning the concepts 
> and ideas that strongly connect) remain stable throughout the network 
> of the four exhibition venues (meaning these concept and ideas also 
> resonate with each other across the galleries). I don't know how you 
> would scientifically calculate that ;)

Hi all, the topic this month looks very promising! There's so much 
wonderful dialog already! My question is for everyone on the list...

As a UCSD grad student, I've seen the Playing the World(s) portion of 
the exhibition, as well as the pieces by Sheldon Brown and *particle 

This point above interests me a great deal, as an artist who myself 
works with large scale online worlds, but who strives to use them to 
examine very small, personal, micro-events, there seems to be a question 
of method and process here. While some artists in the show use more 
algorithmic approaches, such as Sheldon Brown, others use very specific 
instances of critique and even humor, such as WTF?! When I read 
discussion large scale data analysis as aesthetic practice, I have some 
concern about the loss of the richness of singular experiences and 
events with which I associate most performance art, which often involves 
a situated political and ethical context. Whereas perhaps performative 
objects such as the *particle group* installation enact or perform the 
kind of differential relation that Anna Munster has written about, 
bringing a massive amount of data about nanotech patents, for example, 
down to a singular interaction with a surprised visitor.

> Anna Munster wrote:
> >But perhaps scalability also includes the opposite of this - ie that 
> relations cannot be simply topologically deformed without very real 
> consequences for their relationality. If something can be scaled, then 
> there will be relational aesthetic changes although this may still 
> allow functionality...
> Yes, for me this definitely was one of the interesting questions 
> raised by the works in the exhibition. The scale of the data and the 
> way you build relations between that data has an effect on the 
> aesthetics and meaning of the piece. In the case of Sheldon Brown's 
> "Scalable City" the relationality can be either utopian or dystopian 
> -- depending on both how the data is 'deformed' and the viewer's 
> perceptions. In the case of Warren Sack's Conversation Map 
> (http://hybrid.ucsc.edu/ConversationMap/) scalability has the effect 
> that the 'picture of the conversation becomes ever more complex. And 
> since the project maps a newsgroup conversation about the 
> Israeli-Palestinian conflict, relationality plays out not only on a on 
> a conversational but political, topographical, religious etc. level.

The conversation map is an excellent example here. Looking at this 
piece, do we gain more understanding about the conflict by seeing it 
from a sort of "birds eye view" of the data? Or do we understand more 
about the particular actors in this newsgroup? Our view of this 
conversation is definitely shaped by the artist's assumptions about what 
analysis of the conversation would be useful, namely focusing on the 
number of repetitions of a term and its related terms. But why this 
scale and why this analysis? What about a relational analysis of the 
actors in the conversation and their other online profiles and comments 
over time?

Linked to this question is the question of who these techniques serve 
and what assumptions are leading to them, what are their conditions of 
possibility? The flickr example is illuminative in this regard, in that 
many of these questions and solutions arise out of a web 2.0 corporate 
profit making mindset, or a data mining surveillance approach. How much 
knowledge is gained of these approaches by adopting them as aesthetic 
strategies and what sort of knowledge?

Perhaps the largest question for me here is, do the works in the 
exhibition, by dealing with large amounts of data, provide a kind of 
"god's eye view" which privileges rational thought, analysis, over the 
poetic excess of singular experiences which are situated and implicated? 
What is the position of the viewer in these works? In sheldon's piece, 
the viewer can take the form of a hurricane, yet in the *particle 
group*'s piece, the viewer seems to be a test subject.




micha cárdenas
performance /social media / public culture

C(a)lit2 Researcher, http://bang.calit2.net
CRCA Researcher, http://crca.ucsd.edu
MFA Candidate, UCSD, http://visarts.ucsd.edu
MA, EGS, http://egs.edu

blog: http://bang.calit2.net/tts

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