The development of digital technologies has made possible the exchange of information worldwide and especially the emergence of distribution platforms and social networks has contributed to the appearance of a new form of culture based on the process of sharing.
These practices of collaboration imply that information is no longer spread in one way but in a multidirectional process allowing the consumer to respond and contribute to this material. This accessibility to digital tools has enhanced the possibilities of the old consumer to become also a producer of digital content, expanding the activity of amateurism.
One of the most extended ways to respond to these digital contents is remixing, understood as the activity consisting in taking pre-existing materials to combine or re-interprete them into new creative art forms. This remix culture is based on the assumption that every emergent culture is built on the past and art is always influenced by previous forms.
The concept of remix has traditionally made reference to a type of music composition that became very popular in the late 1960s. Nowadays the term is still used to describe the activity of taking previous music samples to create a new song under the forms of remix or mash-up but also it has been extended to other fields like visual arts.
We can underline a lot of examples of the use of remixing, mostly based on the copy-paste technique. In this way, they could be found in a lot of areas, from music to literature. In the literature field, William S. Burroughs inspired by the collage technique used by the painters developed the cut-up method to create new texts. This method consisted in cut up passages from own books or other writers works and paste them together in a random way.
Otherwise, one of the most popular uses of remixing at this time are “supercuts” inspired by the fan culture which is organisated around the consume of media products. In that way, remixed videos are created as a way to tribute on or in the opposite to make fun of the original work. These kind of videos started proliferating on the internet and becoming viral with the coming of youtube.
In the link placed below you could find a few examples of “supercuts” that make fun of hollywood movies clichés although I guess most of you have already seen one at least.
Following with the theme of the last post, Martin de Nijs’ creation can be as well related to the aspect of Privacy and Surveillance we dealt with during the last class. But this time instead of using the Warhol’s phrase, I will mention the one by the “street artist” Banksy.
In some way, social media-connected people of 2012 play with the idea of fame through the production of masses of images in the Internet platform each day, in a manner that is reminiscent of Warhol’s own quotation about those “fifteen minutes of fame for everyone”. Likewise, the point that connects two of the most influential contemporary philosophers, Foucault and Deleuze, is this fact of watch without being watched what probably inspired Bansky for his re-appropriation of Warhol’s quote.
As Foucault stated, some institutions, from their architecture and hierarchic structure as a way of control, were disciplining the human being. Prisons, hospitals, factories, schools,… All them buildings built depending on the model of “Panopticon”: Everyone who was there could be controlled from a single location and by very few people. Thus, the discipline is enrolling in the body of the person, so after a short time period spent in these places, the prisoner, the mad, the worker, the student, is watched over by himself, is self-censored.
Following the line of Foucault, Gilles Deleuze proposes the postmodern society as a “society of control”. Is no longer necessary the Panopticon: the technology created the needed elements for this disciplined man and there is not scape possible from the surveillance. Everything is related to that control system in our society, and this way, everything is just about the “looking to” the others, being under surveillance for no reason. That’s why the quotation of Bansky would fits here, and similarly the project of Marnix de Nijs, in the way the camera he places in the exhibition captures images of the visitors with the aim to create a instant stardom of them and at the same time preventing these people from being anonymous.
Ten days after having visited the Dutch Electronic Art Festival (DEAF), I would like to discuss here about one of the projects that I liked most and maybe because of that, today I still remember the name of its author: Marnix de Nijs.
As we have seen in this course, technology extends the perceptual abilities of the body, this is not a comparison to any biological functioning, but a complement that strengthens and participates in a permanent evolution of the human being. The Dutch artist Marnix de Nijs has already made this relationship, he analyses the body as an interface and stops at the interference that the culture has on the senses. The result is a series of works that expose this determinant fusion, and also propose a new role for art in a technological society in full development.
Marnix de Nijs’ creations are interactive experiences that build images and sounds. His latest installation, and the one I could “contemplate” at the DEAF, 15 minutes of biometric fame (2011)*, inspired by the characteristic shot movements used in film and television. There is a camera placed on a crane with independent movement. The viewer stands in front of the lens and a biometric software of video-analysis compares your facial features with a wide range of people pre-loaded in the database, where images of strangers and celebrities are included. The comparison process is displayed on an LCD monitor, the faces of the spectators who participate are added to the database to be used in later comparisons. These images are finally uploaded to the Internet and this way, promoted to an instant stardom.
The artist says that this work deconstructs the process that makes fame and stardom in the industry of modern entertainment. I think that, as the famous phrase of Andy Warhol predicted and which currently holds the grammar of the 2.0 Web especially in video platforms like YouTube, the desire to get those “15 minutes of fame” is hence accomplished with this kind of projects and at the same time, deconstructed.
*To see this project live: Click here
Art is also influenced by artificial life. In bio art, some artists use biological material like bacterias to create bio ink to paint. Other, use intelligent machines to create interactive art. As an example of the last one, we can note Benjamin Grosser’s work.
Head Swap is a collaborative work that mixes music, art and technology. An interactive robotic painting machine that uses artificial intelligence and listens to its environment and decides what it paints according to the music played by the violonist Benjamin Sung.
When talking about artificial life we can’t leave behind the analysis about the medium made by the media theorist Mcluhan. In his study, he tries to go beyond the visual conception of the medium, including the other senses as well. He claims that the medium is an extension of the human body and it allows an enhancement of the sensory perception.
This concept is taken to the extreme in the justification of artificial intelligence development. Cultural movements as transhumanism claim that these advanced technologies enhance our biological bodies in an ethical manner, improving the way that we live. But this way to improve our human condition via technology is creating all sort of ethical conflicts all around the world.
One of the most discussed topics at the moment is the cyborgization and the disappearance of boundaries between the exterior environments like the media and interior ones like cognition and perception. This dissolution implies the creation of a new cyborg identity, or in other words, a new structure to understand the world.
The assumption that the subject controls the object is changing when talking about cyborgs because technology is considered now as an extension of the flesh and it implies a feedback loop between the machine and the human body. This is the reason that cyborgs are contemplated as abjects, in a middle position between the subject and the object. These new technologies suggest a confluence between living and technological material or in other words, an interaction between culture and nature.
Nowadays we can talk already about human beings that are tied to machines to survive but it doesn’t mean that we can give them the name of cyborgs. We can take as an example the pacemakers and the dialysis machines or in a different field, people who depend on the information provided by the digital technology to carry out their jobs.
In my opinion, artificial intelligence can be useful in a lot of different fields like healthcare, art or engineering but I don’ t see the point to loose our natural human identity to become another different thing even if it is an improved version of our human condition.
In the link below you can see the top ten technologies of the future from the point of view of the transhumanist movement.
Media theorist Laura Marks developes a formulation about a new form of seeing: Haptic visuality.
In her analysis of this concept, she starts from making a distinction between two forms of vision: Optical visuality and haptic visuality.
She describes haptic visuality as a kind of seeing that uses the eye like an organ of touch. This type of vision usually comes from a lack of distinction in the image. It could be due to a closer, intimate interaction that enables the viewer to focus on the surface of the thing being contemplated, dissolving the boundaries between the beholder and the thing beheld.
Otherwise, optical visuality depends on separation. We use this kind of vision for distance perception as a way to distinct forms, making solid borders between the subject and the object.
As an example of the use of these different ways of vision, we can talk about the use of optical visuality to survey a landscape whilst we use haptic visuality when we focus on the patterns of some cloth, embracing the dissolution of shapes in a combination of yielding and mutual identification, losing the sense of distance but not losing ourselves in the process.
Both conditions are necessary to conform vision and they offer two separated methods of analysis: Criticisim and haptic criticism.
If criticism is observing something in order to form an opinion of it, in an objective way, haptic criticism implies a more subjective evaluation of the objects by relaying on one’s sensory impressions. In other words, the viewer’s body is more involved in the process of seeing and it allows a transformation in the subject. The use of this kind of criticism can be useful as a way to confront our cultural tendency to take a distance.
Nowadays there is an increasingly tendency towards the haptic image in fields like media art, cinema, video games or advertising.
Some of the most widely used techniques to create haptic images are the speeding up of footage, changes in focal lenght or underexposure among others. These images invite the viewer to immerse in a fully sensorial experience.
As an example of haptic visuality in art installation, we might note the work of Nicolas Clauss “Somnambules” which combines haptic visuality with interactive and responsive media:
With this title, Sherry Turkle made an introduction to her book “Life on screen” (1997).
As we commented in the last class about Identity and embodiment, Turkle bases her observations on on-line communities and the behaviour their users have. The first observation she reports, within the interactive games field, is that the players become authors and creators not only of the text, in the case of games based only on text, but also of complex narrative structures, in the case of simulation games.
This means that in simulation games the player assumes the role of a character to its ultimate consequences; he has the opportunity to express multiple and unexplored aspects of the self, playing with his identity and trying out new identities. In many cases, players assume different personalities simultaneously, in which they are so immersed to the point that their ”real life” starts to become also another game; that is, they live parallel identities, or what is the same, they lead parallel lives.
To Turkle, this is a very positive sub-product of the so-called simulation culture, to the extent that opens a new possibility of interrelation very useful: as computers become the place where we project our own dramas, in a way that could not be possible in real world scenarios.
In general, the article of Sherry Turkle attempts to show how with the new technologies support, it is possible to embody some ideals for a social thinking, nowadays stimulated by the virtual and interactive reality. This statement says a lot about the fact, quoting Turkle, that we have already moved from ”a modernist culture of calculation toward a postmodernist culture of simulation.”
There is some kind of popular assumption which claims that nowadays there are not news without pictures. The audience is used to perceive the information about the world through images, changing history into spectacle, in the same way that social interactions are now mediated and based on representations and not on a genuine experience.
In Guy Debord’s words “When the real world changes into simple images, simple images become real beings and effective motivations of a hypnotic behavior.”
As the sociologist Theodor Adorno claims, the cultural industry headed by the giant corporations and the big media companies carry out their job of producing images, values and ideologies that promote the consumption of pseudo-needs in the audience when in fact they are not actual needs but fake beliefs made by them to distract the individuals from more important social issues.
The most important consequence about this infoxication is the transformation of the individuals into a passive homogeneous mass.
In the society of spectacle, celebrity has become another product to sell by the new first power and one of the most important aspects to be taken into account is the power of the public gaze to create fame. The lives of celebrities are exposed in the media. The more they stay in the spotlight, the longer their fame lasts. Keeping that in mind, the principle “the end justifies the means” can be applicable.
By means, we talk about the methods used to achieve this glorification. We find more and more the rise of celebrity based on infamy or unethical behavior. There is no need anymore to have talent or some kind of virtues to become famous. Nowadays, celebrities become icons of this new form of culture as a result of marketing strategies and entertainment manufacturing.
On the other hand, the network society plays an important role in this cultural industry, helping celebrities to promote their self-image through their social networks, enhancing the interaction with their fans and receiving instant feedback, which proves them to be close and friendly towards the audience.
Augmented Reality Cinema
This application combines films and mobile technology to create entertainment. It shows you movie scenes filmed in the location where you are standing.
It is a fact that technological applications have become an integral part of our lives. As Castells claims, we live in an information age and the use of these new technological devices on a daily basis has changed the way we have been experiencing the world so far.
Technology development has enabled people to communicate at a distance, changing the traditional forms of social interaction. This way, one can be physically present in the real world but in a technologically mediated reality at the same time. This sort of bilocation has been called absent presence.
One of the most popular current technologies that combines these mixed realities and allows an interaction between them are the QR codes which have increasingly been left behind by the so-called augmented reality (considered as an extension of virtual reality).
Augmented reality can be defined as a way to extend the physical world by overlaying computerized information- with displays assistance- with real environments, making those separated times and spaces meet in one and enhancing the world with relevant information.
According to the aforementioned sociologist, one of the most important consequences of the use of this technology is the change of the space-time traditional notion.
In the network society set by Castells, the time is not characterized anymore as a sequential order but a timeless time defined as “the use of new information and communication technologies in a relentless effort to annihilate time.” This can be seen in society’s plight to compress years into seconds and seconds into split seconds.
In virtual or augmented reality the flow of time is different, time can be speeded up and the past can meet the present. In the same way, the space changes and is not anymore a space of places but a space of flows, relating to the notion of absent present, you can claim your private space on a public one just by talking on the mobile phone.
In other hand, the application possibilities of augmented reality are endless. It can be used in almost any domain: industry, everyday life, architecture, navigation, interactive art, entertainment or advertising among others. Some companies will be increasingly more willing to invest money in these applications because of its potential as new advertising forms. As an example of this, we can see the video of the National Geographic channel project developed in a shopping center posted above.