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New Media Arts

Open Source and Software as Culture

The last keynote here at ISEA2004 has now begun. I'm actually watching this on the big video screen in an adjoining room because otherwise I'd run out of power on the laptop. The positive aspect of this is that I have far more space around me - but in exchange I'm breathing second-hand cigarette smoke. Makes you appreciate Queensland's anti-smoking laws all the more!

Artistic Tools and DIY Networks

Finally met Jill Walker during the break! Now on to the next panel - but it's very dark in here so I'll apologise in advance for any typing errors. Mary Flanagan and Ken Perlin are presenting on their RAPUNSEL project. The motivation is that very few of the programmers and other IT professionals in the US are women (7%), so the project is to develop a game to attract girls to the area. The main drop-off point for interest amongst girls is around middle school, but they are and remain very interested in online gaming (over 60% of the gamers in Sims Online are women). The project builds on this by using 'computer clubhouses' in poor and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in New York (which are sponsored by Intel). The combination of everyday desires and technology enables the expression of a possible world (building on Deleuze). So how can hacker and middle-schooler cultures be connected in this way?

Physical Pong

Vegetable PongHaving some fun with one of the installations during the lunch break. They've set up a 'mixed media pong' - a good old-fashioned pong game projected from above onto a table, and coupled with some optical recognition software - as a result the pong ball bounces off any darkish objects placed on the table (four zucchinis and two capsicums, in this case). Had a game with another conference visitor - using the capsicums at first and then our hands.

Excavating Mobile Media

Erkki Huhtamo is the second speaker in this keynote session. He is a Finn who is now based at UCLA, and will present notes towards an archaeology of mobile media. His full paper is available for download from the ISEA2004 site. He begins by reflecting on the future of mobile media - a nice image of the upcoming Sony Pocket Playstation device (strangely enough with an image of the hand of the alien from Alien reaching for Harry Dean Stanton's head - some ironic self-reflection on Sony's part? Probably not).

On the other and, how do you 'do' the history of the new - is it a kind of 'current history'? Huhtamo is interested in the 'secret' histories of new media (this fits well with the previous keynote). This means digging beyond dominant histories, working against what he calls corporate 'cryptohistories' (idealised versions of history) and looking without a predetermined goal in mind. Additionally, he is interested in uncovering cyclical, recurring ideas or topoi in history. Important to remember in this is that media exist always within the cultural frameworks that envelop them (media specificity may therefore be cultural specificity), and it is therefore also important to pay attention to its discursive dimension.

Partial Histories

We're back for the second day of ISEA2004 at Lume. Unfortunately I got here a little late (some good discussions on the tram and after with people from Sarai), so I think I might have missed a speaker or two of this session called "Uncovering Histories of Electronic Writing".

Exploring Lume

I've used the break to wander around the cavernous interior of the Lume Media Centre - this is an amazing space where you're likely to pass by a forklift as you walk towards the piano bar.

When Smart Mobs Collaborate...

We're on to the next panel. Trebor Scholz from SUNY makes a start, talking about Free Cooperation which was inspired by the book Gleicher als Andere by Christoph Speer - dealing with the question of setting up collaborative projects which involve a more equitable and non-hierarchical structuration of power.

Is There Life on Mars / in Serbia-Montenegro?

This next keynote session by Sarah Kember deals with the question of whether there is life on Mars - in a tongue-in-cheek way, though. In a roundabout way, the failure to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life has driven artificial life research as it is the only currently available avenue for biologists to study biological systems other than those found on earth - a-life as a kind of synthetic DIY biology. Life is essentially viral, and earth has been infected with it - the move to a-life is then a kind of sideways step, a jump of that virus from one host to the next. But much of this operates in highly categories ways, and Kember argues strongly for breaking out of these boxes.

Back to Wearables

We're now back to talking about wearable technologies, with a focus on embedded devices. Kelly Dobson from MIT makes the start. Some interesting work on human/machine feedback - e.g. a blender whose speed responds to the intensity of how a human operator growls at it. Some anthropomorphising of machines, or mechanomorphising of humans? She's also developed body extensions like a wearable bag called ScreamBody which a user can scream into (without being audible to anyone), thus recording their scream, and the later release the scream elsewhere, as well as HugBody (recording and recalling hugs).

Science / Art / Law

The second ISEA day in Tallinn has started. I'm currently in a panel on legal implications of avant-garde science / art projects. Mainly they're talking about the Steve Kurtz case - an artist in the US who was charged with bioterrorism offences when ambulance officers (whom he'd called following the sudden death of his wife) found bio-active substances which he was using in his art. While such charges have now been dropped, he's still being charged with mail fraud - not a minor matter in the US either...


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