Does digital technology fracture or facilitate the reintegration of disciplines?

Digital technology creates an intersection between disciplines because digital tools are what Susan Leigh Star calls “boundary objects” – they are “entities straddling the borders between groups,” as Christine L. Borgman explains.

“Digital libraries, Borgman argues, are a canonical form of boundary object because their content can be useful to multiple communities, allowing them to carry meaning across the borders of multiple groups” (153).

Digital tools and services, Borgman contends, ought to be “generalizable, scalable, and interoperable,” in order to generate a flexible e-Research infrastructure for multipurpose, trans-disciplinary and interdisciplinary usage (252).

Digital tools provide a platform for the opening up of scholarly communication between disciplines and William Pannapacker envisions a future of disciplinary integration. Pannapacker claims: “We are reaching a consensus about the future of our profession that will involve not just language and literature, but all of the humanities in partnership with technologists, scientists, and information professionals”. Pannapacker predicts “it will become increasingly difficult to say what the humanities disciplines represent, by themselves—and to target them for elimination—because we are enmeshed increasingly in the transformation of every discipline in higher education”.

Consequently, it is my opinion, as the Three Musketeers’ pledge, digital technology and tools allow knowledge to be “all for one, and one for all” disciplines.

Borgman, Christine. Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure and the Internet. Cambridge: MIT P, 2007. Print.

Pannapacker, William. “An Emerging Consensus.The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Star, Susan, Griesemer, James (1989). “Institutional Ecology, ‘Translations’ and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39“. Social Studies of Science 19.3: 387–420.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

Does Bio-art bridge the gap between art and science?

To answer the aforementioned questions, I must first ask: What is art? It could be argued that all forms of human activity is art. The separation of art and science is a relatively recent, 21st century phenomenon, if we take into account what the ancient Romans and Greeks considered to be art – engineering, geometry, mathematics, etc. Art and science were separated because of the alternative views of the world they created. Art creates a personal view of the world, while science creates an impersonal view. Art was marginalised by the sciences because of its inability to provide a universal view of the world thus hindering the process of coexistence.

If all human activity, however, is a form of art or is artistic to some extent then science could be interpreted as art. What keeps art separate from science is the progressive shift from unification to specialisation of knowledge in society, which commenced in the Middle Ages and snow balled with the Industrial Revolution. Separating art from science creates a fragmentation of knowledge and boundaries between disciplines that become further specialised internally.

The digital age, however, is providing us to an opportunity—through the ability of digital tools to facilitate interaction, exchange, integration and dissemination of knowledge—to return to the ancient paradigm of unified, total knowledge that existed on a continuum and not compartmentalised, discrete spaces. The knowledge paradigms of ancient and modern society, however, differ significantly because we live in a knowledge-intensive rather than the knowledge-deprived society of ancient times.

In response to the question about if Eduardo Kac’s art is necessary to bridge the gap between art and science, my answer is: Yes! This is because, in my opinion, art and science compliment each other and could be classed as similar to each other. If art is ubiquitous in nature then art is effectively life. Science deals with the study and examination of life. Kac’s art creates life that is made possible through the use of science. Therefore, in my opinion, the point Kac is trying to convey is that art is science and science is art.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Bio-Art

I think it is important to note, in case anyone isn’t already aware of it, but the man himself, Eduardo Kac, coined the neologism, Bio-art, in 1997. In terms of what the hyphenated neologism represents, I think its representation is apparent when one defines the punctuational significance of a hyphen – a mark used to signify that the two words it joins have combined meaning and are linked together.

Having said that, however, there is an essential component to Kac’s neologism that he didn’t include. The essential message of Kac’s work, such as the Time Capsule and Genesis, is to convey “the bio-impact of digital technology” [1] in a post-digital world. What is missing from Kac’s neologism is the reference to the technology used to accomplish the creation of bio-art or the digital element responsible for its exhibition and collective, creative-participation from the global online community of viewers.

Perhaps, Kac should have called it “Bio-digi-art” or “Bio-tech-art” because, according to Kac, the biological and the digital are intertwined in Genesis and Time Capsule. According to Kac, materially speaking, there is no fundamental separation between digital and biological because “both processes can occur in a similar manner in both environments, in both media”.

Referring to Genesis, Kac claims the process involved in this artwork was built upon the fundamental, functional model of IT – the Input-Process-Output Model. Genesis involved encoding digital information into a living organism, changing it, and retrieving it.

Similarly, with Time Capsule, Kac deconstructs the biological-digital divide by inserting a biocompatible glass microchip into his body, which allows biological tissue and microchip to unite, to come together. The reason Kac self-inserted a microchip into his body was in order “to confront the changing world of memory as everything becomes digital.”

With this in mind, I think the answer to the question, “Do you think this phenomena of ‘bio-art’ has any relevance to our thinking about ‘digital art’?,” is a resounding ‘Yes’ simply because, in my opinion, the digital component of Bio-art, is a functional aspect responsible for creating, influencing, structuring and exhibiting the artwork. If the message of ‘digital art’ is to demonstrate the impact of the virtual on the real, the digital on the physical and the blurring of the lines between both then Bio-art is relevant to ‘digital art’ discussion. Bio-art echoes the message of digital art by conveying that the biological – what we associate to be natural or real – impacts on the creation of the digital, and vice versa. In the eyes of Kac, both biological and digital are indistinguishable – materially and philosophically. Therefore, in the light of Kac’s view, bio-art is digital art if both are amalgamated like in Time Capsule and Genesis.

With regard the implications of Bio-art, the effects of linking the biological to the aesthetic raise both bioethical and moral issues and concerns because the artist (or, Sci-artist) is not dealing with an object. They are dealing with life itself and “empathy and responsibility are paramount,” as Kac observes.

There are two sides to the debate over the controversial genetic engineering of Alba, the GFP bunny. On one side of the debate, there are those who perceive Kac’s actions to be unethical and immoral because of his tampering with nature or the laws of nature for not scientific – not for the greater good of mankind – but instead mere aesthetic purposes. I think this is one of the reasons why a certain section of society interpreted Kac’s bio-art as unethical. If it was for scientific or medical instead of aesthetic purposes then it would be perceived as more excusable by society because science ‘matters’.

On the other side of the debate, some Animal Rights groups see the message and method in Kac’s madness, which is that the artistic visibility of Alba publicises her plight as a lab animal used for scientific experimentation. As Kac affirms, lab animals have a “cognitive and emotional life that must be acknowledged in a social space”.

Kac justifies his creation of Alba by saying that “no single life force has a decision to come into the world” because “it is a decision of our parents,” which explains why Kac, as a parent of “a life form that didn’t exist before” felt morally obligated to take Alba home. What is morally and ethically wrong about a transgenic creature, like Alba, from Kac’s perspective is not their unnatural or artifical creation, but their treatment after creation up to the point of death.

With Kac’s view in mind, Bio-art now makes perfect sense because it is not some wacky artist with a Dr. Frankenstein complex tampering with nature for the aesthetic fun of it. Instead, as Marshall McLuhan claims, “the medium is the message” [2] and Kac amalgamates biological and digital media to convey his aesthetic message to the world.

[1] Digital Art @Google Eduardo Kac, Andrew Senior, Sandra Cordero, Marina Zurkow. Youtube

[2] McLuhan, Marshall. Understand Media: The Extensions of Man.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Writing things we can no longer read!

There is a very interesting TED talk by Kevin Slavin called “How algorithms shape our world,” which is relevant to our discussion of the New Aesthetic and how the digital-physical divide is becoming indistinguishable.

Slavin highlights a crucial point in saying that “we have lost the sense of what is happening in this world we have made” because “we’ve rendered something illegible” by “writing things [ie. algorithms] we can no longer read”.

Using the example of what is called “Pragmatic Chaos,” the Netflix‘s algorithm, Slavin claims that this algorithm is “trying to get a grasp on you, on the firmware inside the human skull” by trying to recommend the next movie you might want to watch. The absolute power and significance of Pragmatic Chaos is evident from its responsibility for 60% of the movies rented on Netflix.

Slavin argues that “these [algorithms] are the physics of culture” and “we are terraforming the earth with this algorithmic efficiency”.

It is no longer “a weird uneasy collaboration between nature and man,” Slavin says, because there is a “third co-evolutionary force” – algorithms.

“We have to understand them as nature,” Slavin suggest, “and in a way they are.”

The adoption of this machine dialect into societal culture is essentially what constitutes the New Aesthetic.

Slavin, Kevin. “How algorithms shape our world“. TED. July 2011.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Is it time to tell your digital devices what time it is?

Matthew Battles, in “But it Moves: The New Aesthetic and emergent virtual taste,” [1] suggests that the New Aesthetic is “an attempt to frame something akin to Spinoza’s notion of Natura Naturans – nature ‘naturing’ – nature expressing itself in its unfolding, a process whose edges we barely touch.”

Battles also critiques Timo Arnall’s “Robot Readable World”.

“Learning to see through machines, Battles contends, “is not the same thing as learning to see as machines.”

Battles uses Berg’s QR clock [2] as an example to demonstrate his point. Berg’s QR clock is “a clock only readable by a machine,” as Battles states.

I did a search for more information about Berg’s QR clock, in order to full comprehend what they were trying to achieve with having a robot for clocks, and I found a blog post (video included) by Matt Jones of Berg [3] discussing “Clocks for Robots”.

Jones explains that the QR clock is an object that signals both time and place to artificial eyes. In the video provided on the blog, Jones asserts that the QR clock “gives the device a trusted sense that it is really ‘there’ and really ‘then,’ in comparison to using satellites for location purposes.

Jones also states that the QR clock offers the device a “human-legible sense of place and time matched both to my senses and its [digital device] senses, binding time and place together for both of us.”

Having said that, Battles questions:

“What do computers care about clocks or faces? We teach machines to indicate them, to prick up their ears in their presence, because that’s what we need. Our imaginary just manages to graze the edges of what might be called the experience of machines—and it’s on that borderland which the New Aesthetic emerges, traveling a differently-ordered sovereignty, in which we’re feral interlopers.”

Edit:

To rectify the confusion occurring from claims made by critics that the New Aesthetic is about 8bit retro and nostalgia, Dan Catt [4] makes an excellent point in a blog post.

The “New Aesthetic, Catt states, “is about the polygones and edges and pixels of now vision, not the polygones and edges and pixels of back then creation.”

[1] Battles, Matthew. “But it Moves: The New Aesthetic and emergent virtual taste“.

[2] Berg’s QR Clock

[3] Matt Jones. “Clocks for Robots

[4] Catt, Rev Dan. http://revdancatt.com/2012/04/07/why-the-new-aesthetic-isnt-about-8bit-retro-the-robot-readable-world-computer-vision-and-pirates/

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

The Machine Gaze

In “The Machine Gaze,” Will Wiles indirectly addresses Damien Walter’s (and other critics) concerns about the issue of newness or novelty and obsolescence surrounding the New Aesthetic.

“In a sense,” Wiles claims, “what the New Aesthetic truly represents is the eruption of a new kind of banality.”

Wiles argues that the New Aesthetic “was never new – it went from being unknown to being ubiquitous and throughly banal with barely a blink.”

Therefore, for Wiles, the “New Aesthetic is not about seeing something new – it is about the new things we are not seeing. It is an effort to truly observe and note emergent digital visual phenomena before they become invisible.”

Wiles provides a comprehensive discussion of the New Aesthetic for anyone interesting in taking the time to read his somewhat lengthy article.

Wiles, Will. “The Machine Gaze.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Keeping Up Appearance … with the Digital Age!

When researching I have noticed that most of the literature on the New Aesthetic, which discusses the blurring of the reality-virtuality boundary, only focuses on the humanisation of technology – robots designed to be similar to humans by learning to drive cars, to recognise faces, to communicate, etc.

There is a flip-side to this, however, which is the technologization of the human – humanity’s desire to be like technology. One of the best examples I can think of for explaining this point is the use (or, overuse rather) of Auto-tune and digital manipulation in pop music production. In the music industry, pitch correction (heavily used by Cher and popularised in her song, ‘Believe’ (1998)) and speech synthesis (Stephen Hawking uses speech synthesis to communicate) could be viewed as examples of not only how humans attempt to be like technology, but how humans (especially with auto-tune) attempt to keep up with the sonic, crisp perfection of the digital.

Furthermore, it could be argued that the increase in cosmetic surgery, the use of botox and other cosmetic enhancements is concurrent with the availability of High-Definition TVs, Retina Display, etc, which is another example of how humans are attempting to keep up with the digital. Although some celebrities are being digitally enhanced for magazine covers to meet the high-definition standards of the digital aesthetic, they are also transforming their bodies physically to be like their digitally flawless images or alter-selves.

I think the New Aesthetic should not only show a uni-directional flow, but instead how the digital revolution is having a bi-directional impact on humanity and technology. Humanity has raised the bar on technology by attempting to make technology, human. Consequently, technology has raised the bar on us because rapid technological advancements have forced us to keep up with technology.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine