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New Media Arts

Participation and Voice in Citizen Journalism and Transmedia Documentary

We're now in the final session of the first day at the CCi conference, which I'll try to chair and blog at the same time - we'll see how it goes. My colleague Terry Flew is the first presenter, and he begins by outlining the three layers of impact of new media technologies as artefacts or devices (technologies); communication activities and practices using these technologies; and the social arrangements, institutions, and organisational forms which develop around the use and management of such technologies. Journalism has so far responded to the Internet as a new technology mainly in the first sense, no so much in the two latter senses. This also takes place at a time of perceived crisis in journalism, and in the face of the emergence of citizen journalism in responding to that crisis.

Playing on the Edge: Facilitating the Emergence of a Local Digital Grassroots (AoIR 2007)

AoIR 2007

Playing on the Edge:
Facilitating the Emergence of a Local Digital Grassroots

Axel Bruns and Sal Humphreys

  • 20 October 2007 - AoIR 2007 conference, Vancouver, Canada

This paper by Axel Bruns and Sal Humphreys for the Association of Internet Researchers conference in Vancouver, 17-20 Oct. 2007,describes the first phase of the Emergent Digital Grassroots eXpo (edgeX) project - a research and application project centred on mapping grassroots and amateur content creation, community engagement with new media, and strengthening local identity. Developed in conjunction with the City Council of Ipswich, a city of some 150,000 residents in regional Queensland, the edgeX project provides a site for local residents to upload creative content, to participate in competitions, to comment on each other's work, and to develop new skills. Research goals associated with edgeX arise from a broader project of mapping the creative industries and their role in the knowledge economy, and a growing understanding of the significant part user-led content creation plays in these processes, especially including the role of amateur creatives.

Public/Private Literacies, Interactive Granular Art, and Multi-Subject Experiences

The last day of PerthDAC has started now. Jill Walker Rettberg compares the developments around the Web with phenomena around the introduction of the printing press. We're now heading out of the parenthesis of the print age, and this requires the development of new network literacies (enabling users to create, share, and navigate social media) beyond the read and write literacies of the print age. Print and its literacies had introduced a private/public divide where the private self is distinct and separate from what takes place in the mediated public sphere; in the network age, private and public collapse into one another as the self is connected to the network. With the rise of print literacy, reading created a solitary and private relationship between the reader and their book, as Roger Chartier has put it; this is a privatisation of reading, and the library becomes a place from which the world can be seen but where the reader remains invisible. This is a unidirectional relationship, though - as Plato put it, if you ask a written text a question, it will not respond; and similarly, writing is a solipsistic engagement, as Walter Ong has said. But what about blogging, then - is it social or solitary? William Gibson described blogging as boiling water without a lid - a less focussed, dissipating activity -, but is this also true for those who are natives of the blogosphere?

Uncanny Art, Biomedical Art, Data Art

The post-lunch session on this third day of PerthDAC is upon us, and Ragnhild Tronstad is the first presenter. Her interest is in the uncanny in new media art, which builds on Sigmund Freud's idea of the uncanny, and explores intellectual uncertainty (in particular about whether objects are inanimate or alive), the double (or Doppelgänger, which acts as a forecast of our own extinction), and surveillance and control (related to the idea of power and autonomy as embodied in an individual's gaze) in encounters with new media art. These three concepts overlap, of course: intellectual uncertainty can manifest as a lack of control, and in the sense of a controlling gaze directed at the individual which may not even be present. A further concept is Masahiro Mori's concept of the 'uncanny valley' - our affection towards human-like figures grows gradually the more human-like they are, but this growth falls briefly into a deep valley where figures are uncannily like humans (e.g. corpses, zombies) before resuming an upward path beyond that valley. Some individuals will be more sensitive to such factors than others, of course, and whether a figure is moving or still may also amplify the depth of affection or repulsion.

Ambient Video, Locative Audio, and Grounded Media Art

We're on to the second Monday session at PerthDAC. Jim Bizzocchi is the first speaker, and he began by showing us an example of ambient video during the set-up period - here consisting of an assemblage of nature shots of mountains and streams blended into a slow video collage which has landscapes change subtly before our eyes. Ambient video is an emergent form of video expression made possible by current and new video technologies; it should change, but not quickly, and the details of changes should not be critical. Jim focusses here on cinematic versions of such ambient video - made for larger screens (including home theatre); the philosophy behind such video echoes Brian Eno's views of ambient music: 'as ignorable as it is interesting'. Ambient video captures our glance much as a painting might, revealing rich imagery at a time of our choosing.

Interdisciplinary New Media Education, Serious Games, and Locative Gaming

The third day here at PerthDAC has started, and kicks off with a paper by Jean Bridge. She's involved with the interactive arts and science undergraduate programme at Brock University in Canada, and in this programme encourages thinking with and thinking about interactive technologies, which are situated in a wider social and cultural context. It is a humanities-based programme which concerns itself with the content and analysis of the products of human creativity, by following four core principles: capitalising the fact of computing as central to contemporary life, identifying the need for constant evaluation of the role of content and form, accepting the necessity for new and innovative methodologies, and achieving a centrality of interdisciplinarity and praxis. Students in this programme are largely digital natives who are content creators, aggregators, and intertextualisers, who think though codes, strategies, and roles, and who are willing to probe, manipulate, set goals, and construct their own pathways. The programme, then, aims to prepare them as people who can bridge theoretical and practical aspects of working creatively in new media - as creators, writers, directors, designers, managers, scholars, critics, and policy makers.

Materiality, Community Space, and Produsage

I'm the last presenter in this post-lunch session on the second day of PerthDAC - so I'll blog the first two papers and will try to record mine; the full paper is also available here, and the Powerpoint here. We start, though, with a paper by Kenneth Knoespel and Jichen Zhu which Jichen will present. She posits this paper as a critique of the Cartesian dualism; the overly simplified mind/body split really isn't sufficient any more to discuss materiality and the relationship between natural language, computer code, and the material world. Computer codes are often given a role that transcends the material world - cyberspace is placed as an opportunity for escape from the material world, and this conforms with the Cartesian mind/body dualism. This is visible for example in William Gibson's work, or in The Matrix, but is also at the root of the field of artificial intelligence, Saussurean linguistics, informatics, and other areas. The same is true also often for the aesthetics of computer art, which are rooted in a romantic notion of immateriality where the concept is more important than the physical artefact.

Towards Bio-Arts and a Future Digital Media Culture

The second day of PerthDAC is about to start, and the first speaker today is Allison Kudla, who is interested in biological agency in art. This links to a suggested shift from simulation to emulation art, a form of art which uses physics and natural phenomena in artworks and embraces the universe itself as an operating system. Emulation is understood here as a perfect simulation, indistinguishable from what it represents; this is well understood in the realm of software, but what does it mean if the universe itself is posited as an operating system? Such questions also relate to Plato's theory of forms, in which artists represent the explicit material manifestation of forms (rather than the implicit form itself). But where can new or latent forms, or further refinements of forms, be found?

Virtual Environments beyond the Computer Game

The last session on this first day of PerthDAC focusses on virtual worlds in games and beyond, and begins with a paper by Nicola Bidwell, David Browning, and my colleague Jane Turner. Their work is related to the ACID project Digital Songlines, and are interested in developing digital representations in which the landscape itself matters - this is not about games for play, but bout virtual worlds as representations. Most current game worlds represent experience from a designed path, and this carving of paths is enmeshed in a western ideology of human power over landscape; landscape is only a passive framework for narrative. The Digital Songlines environment, by contrast, is an environment in which the landscape matters; it was developed in collaboration with the indigenous design company CyberDreaming and the indigenous people of south-west Queensland. The gameplay tools in this world interfere with the experience of this simulated world as first-hand, though, as does the embedded, usually tacit knowledge of the indigenous custodians of the land.

PerthDAC Is Go

I'm spending the next few days at the PerthDAC conference here in Western Australia; I'll be presenting a paper on Sunday afternoon as well... Right now, though, it's Saturday, and we're just about to get started. Jason Lewis is the first speaker, presenting on the NextText project from Obx Labs at Concordia University in Montréal. He begins by showing a video presenting a number of interactive installations which aim to visualise everyday spoken interactions, lending a visual quality to such ephemeral interactions. Much of this is inspired by the interrelation between the structure and content of poetry (the contribution of rhyme and rhythm to the meaning-making process of poetry), as well as the use of text in comics and urban graffiti, and the experiments with layout and formatting in early-20th century avantgarde art. This produces a tight coupling of text and structure, and highlights questions of how to represent text visually, how to make use of interactive possibilities in new media technologies, and how to blur the literal and aesthetic functions of written language.


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