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

Christiane_Paul at whitney.org Christiane_Paul at whitney.org
Tue Feb 10 10:14:04 EST 2009

Dear Micha,
thanks a lot for your comments, very important questions 

Micha wrote: 
"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."

I think this is an important observation -- the "loss" of, or at least "disconnect" from, singular experiences and events is what many people struggle with in new media. I don't want to generalize and claim that this is an inherent characteristic of new media art. Sharon Daniel's projects in the exhibition -- despite the fact that they deal with relations between a large body of data -- are highly personal, situated and political. Neither is this loss or disconnect a general perception -- there are also many people for whom large bodies of data have the richness of a singular experience. However, algorithmic processing of large, scalable data bodies -- no matter how aesthetically appealing -- generally tends to be perceived as abstract, and I often sense a longing for embodiment in audiences' reactions to this processing. I would argue that data is always embodied and has a very real effect on our lives (along the lines of Foucault's bio politics). I think new media art has addressed or struggled with this tension between the virtual, connected, collective and the embodied, singular, personal for quite some time. I don't think there is a simple formula for creating art that resolves this tension, I see it more as an important phenomenon that needs to be explored on the level f the artwork and the audience.

On another note, I see large-scale online worlds as a very different form of large-scale data processing since they tend to create their own narrative environments in which people seem to find it easier to have "rich singular experiences."

Micha wrote:
"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?"

I would say both. We gain more understanding about the conflict by following the arguments of particular participants in the conversation.

Micha wrote:
"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?"

Obviously Warren would be the best person to answer these questions and he has written extensively on the subject (see "Discourse Architecture and Very Large-Scale Conversations," http://hybrid.ucsc.edu/SocialComputingLab/publications.htm) There is some relational analysis of the actors in the conversation in that you see who is corresponding with whom and how often, and you also see the conversation threads over time. At the same time there is subjectivity in the choices an artist / designer / analyst makes in presenting and analyzing the architecture of the conversation. In art this subjectivity is a given, but most people wouldn't associate it with data analysis (which they expect to be objective). Ideally projects such as Conservation Map raise questions about the assumptions being made in the 'analysis' -- the question is how self-reflexive an artist needs to be about the process; meaning, do the assumptions or the subjectivity of the point of view need to become a subject of the analysis itself? (I'm not suggesting w should get into a discussion of relativity theory ;)


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