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The final reading for Networked Media is Steve Dietz’s Ten Dreams of Technology. Dietz works with museums to architect digitally based cultural programming and is currently the Director of New Media Initiatives at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ten Dreams of Technology is a speculative piece about what the future holds for the intersection of art and technology. Dietz says each of his ‘dreams’ (or themes) has a future ‘even if we do not yet know what it is and despite the certainty with which it is predicted’. This seems to summarise so much of the Networked Media course – less focused on conclusions, finite answers; more about opening doorways and exploring possibilities of what could emerge.

Dietz’s collection of ‘dreams’ are a manifestation of artists’ questions and artworks which he describes as being admirably ‘compelling’. His dreams are as follows:

  • The Dream of Symbiosis
  • The Dream of Emergence
  • The Dream of Immersion
  • The Dream of World Peace
  • The Dream of Transparency
  • The Dream of Flows
  • The Dream of Open Work
  • The Dream of the Other
  • The Dream of New Art
  • Hacking the Dream

The Dream of New Art is possibly the most obvious of these dreams, given the potential of the online world and what it may offer the art world (alongside almost every other field). Dietz writes that ‘as moving images eventually created cinema’, internet-based art encourages exploration and the creation of a whole new art form.

In explaining The Dream of Symbiosis, Dietz refers to Norbert Wiener’s concept of Cybernetics, where the human and the machine learn from their interaction with the other, and could thus evolve to a high level of functioning.

Dietz also quotes J.C.R. Licklider (1960) – a contemporary of Wiener – who said the coupling of human brains and computer machines will form a partnership with the ability to:

‘think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today’.

These schools of thought resonate with the work of Ray Kurzweil on Artificial Intelligence, and Spike Jones’ Her.

The Dream of Immersion is evident in the works of Char Davis, to whom envelopment is at the core of her works. Dietz also suggests virtual reality as a technological manifestation of viewer immersion, a development of Myron Krueger’s ‘responsive environments’ and ‘artificial reality’.

I particularly liked The Dream of World Peace. This ‘dream’ is based on the rhetoric that:

‘the ability to communicate quickly and easily leads to greater understanding, which then leads to greater tolerance and the certainty of harmony’ .

Whether that is idealistic, ignorant or hopeful, I’m not sure. Perhaps all three, yet it is a dream I suspect offers great universal potential for progress and resolve.

On The Dream of Open Work, Dietz cites Umberto Eco (1987):

‘every reception of a work of art is both an interpretation and a performance of it, because in every reception the work takes on a fresh perspective’.

While the ideas are far from the same, this nonetheless reminded me of Elliot’s question whether narratives exist only after we recognise them internally. I suppose it suggests the power of our cultural, personal and varied histories in influencing how we perceive, comprehend and interpret works of art.

I’d suggest the ways in which Dietz acknowledges the innovation of the digital age summarises so much of what we’ve discussed over the past six weeks:

‘One of the strongests shifts of emphasis in the digital age has been on the production side and on the movement from creating finished works of art to creating systems for the production of art.’

His use of the word ‘systems’ and focus on production, creativity and openness accounts for many of the ideas Networked Media has unveiled and propelled me into examining.

Finally, I found great pleasure in Dietz’s use of the term ‘hacking’. I’ve recently written a lot about hacking and hackschooling, and Logan LaPlante‘s TEDx talk. Dietz writes:

‘Artists were among the earliest and most active participants to recognize the potential of the Internet – certainly long before most institutions and corporations.’

Artists use the online world as a networking tool as well as a source and vehicle for creativity, or ‘to hack its capabilities for alternative purposes’. The whole hacking philosophy is so often portrayed in the media in such a negative light, and yet the work of hacking pioneers such as the late Aaron Swartz, and LaPlante himself are motivated through the search for the greater good. Hacking might be devious in some cases, but we must refrain from generalising in this area. The digital age has given us the opportunity to hack networks in the pursuit of maximising their potential.

Richard Stallman said hackers explore the limits of what is possible, thereby doing something exciting and meaningful. And isn’t this what life is ultimately about?

Dietz’s ‘dreams’ expose the potential the digital age offers the evolving art world. But I think we could extrapolate these possibilities into other fields when examining their potential in a constantly evolving world. The future demands we approach with open minds, eyes and ears, and engage with networks, technologies and other human beings to stimulate ourselves into making a positive contribution to the world of future generations. Just how, is up to us.

And here’s an amazing example of the symbiosis of traditional art and technology:

On Thursday evening I attended a discussion hosted by Melbourne Conversations – the City of Melbourne – on what the future holds for Melbourne art, design and architecture and the fields’ practitioners. Talking about Art and Change was compered by writer and broadcaster, Peter Mares and included five panelists:

  • Ian McDougall – Founding Director ARM Architecture
  • Fleur Watson – Curator, Design Hub RMIT Univeristy, Guest curator ‘Sampling the City’, Melbourne Now
  • Rob Adams AM – Architect/Urban Designer, Director City Design (City of Melbourne)
  • Tony Ellwood – Director National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
  • Emily Floyd – Visual artist

In 90 minutes, the panel drew (pardon the pun) many hypothetical plans for the future of the city, and highlighted the importance of recognising the similarities between art, architecture and design, which are perhaps too commonly seen as distinctly separate disciplines.

As well as attending the forum for personal interest, I covered the panel discussion for artsHub. You can see my piece ‘Melbourne’s changing landscape has artists in its sight‘ in the Design section of the artsHub website.

 

Not long ago I posted a response to Christopher Bantick’s opinion piece about the supposed decline of high culture and elite art in Australia.

According to Bantick, ‘Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy’. Without reiterating my entire spiel, as we would say in high school debates ‘I strongly disagree with this statement’.

Let’s continue with this semi-hilarious debate structure, shall we?

I will now present you with evidence in rebuttal to Bantick’s arguments and convince you – without a doubt – that young people have indeed not lost the capacity to “actually know when something is art, and worthy” of our appreciation and attention.

Exhibits A and B: Happy by Pharrell Williams and Happy by Gillian Cosgriff (background vocals/guitar by Sage Douglas, Josie Lane and Robert Tripolino).

William’s Official Music Video is a modern artistic masterpiece in itself. Originally for the soundtrack of Pixar’s Despicable Me 2, Happy is an all-singing-all-dancing four minutes and seven seconds of fun. As an extension of those few minutes, Williams also produced the world’s first 24 hour music video, which you can all watch at 24 Hours of Happy [dot com].

The video consists of the four-minute song repeated with various people dancing and miming along. Williams himself appears 24 times on the hour, and there are a number of celebrity cameos including Odd Future (1:48pm), Steve Carell (5:08pm), Jamie Foxx (5:28pm),Ana Ortiz (5:32pm), Miranda Cosgrove (5:40pm), JoJo (6:16pm), Kelly Osbourne (1:28am), Magic Johnson (5:36am), Sérgio Mendes (10:32am) andJimmy Kimmel (11:48am). The minions from Despicable Me 2 make several appearances throughout the film, including one scene at 3:00am, in which Pharrell and the minions dance in a movie theatre that is playing the scene from Despicable Me 2 in which “Happy” appears. The site allows users to navigate to various points in the 24-hour timeframe, including all 360 four-minute segments and each hourly segment with Pharrell. –  Wikipedia (it’s more reliable than you think)

So, all in all, I think that’s a pretty innovative, multidisciplinary, and inviting work of art, don’t you?

And, you know what? It seems not a whole lot of people agree that such art is ‘crass’, Mr Bantick, because Happy has topped the charts in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands and has come close in Hungary and Denmark, too.

Regardless of what the opposition thinks of Pharrell William’s current worldwide hit, Happy, which Williams no less than wrote, performed and produced, Cosgriff’s interpretation is so much more than just a cover you’d see on the first round auditions of The Voice.

Cosgriff is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), one of the nation’s leading music institutions. Having received some of the best formal training in the industry, Cosgriff is making numerous contributions to the Australian music scene. She won Best Cabaret at Melbourne Fringe 2013 and is currently on a mission to play on pianos all over Melbourne, an artwork in itself called ‘Play Me, I’m Yours‘ by artist Luke Jerram.

Play Me, I’m Yours, in Melbourne until 27 January, is presented by Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the Betty Amsdem Participation Program. They’ve been painted and decorated by local community artists and can be found all across Melbourne’s arts precinct and its surroundings. Anyone can sit down to a piano and play to their heart’s content.

Now, take note, Bantick and fellow high-culture-appreciators. This is an artwork, presented by Victoria’s premiere arts institution. The very same Centre is home to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Opera Australia, amongst other more traditional arts ensembles. Furthermore, Betty Amsden OAM is one of Australia’s most generous philanthropists who is directing her funds specifically towards children and young people and their engagement in the arts.

Anyway, Cosgriff’s taken on her own little arts project, playing and performing on the pianos for anyone who happens to be fortunate enough to be in the vicinity at the time. Her performance of Happy is cheeky, fresh and thoroughly entertaining. She’s also teemed up with other performers, and the locals at Real Good Kid productions to film and upload the performances to share with everyone with internet access.

I’m not negating more traditional forms of art. I’m not saying all popular music is fantastic or that the price of tickets to some international acts’ concerts aren’t ridiculous. But, the cost is across the board. The fantastic Berlin Philharmonic (whom I’ve seen) or Beyonce (who, despite all my best intentions, I have not), they’re both raking in the cash because to put on such a show costs a whole lot of dosh. And, seriously, Beyonce is practically a God who never stops giving, so it’s only fair we give a little back.

So, yes, today’s youth are growing up with a different ‘cultural background’ than you and others who’ve come before us, Bantick. Our thinking is changing but it’s because now the world is growing stronger and becoming more connected by empowering people through the arts. And, elitism has no place in a world like that.

 

As mentioned in a previous post, part of our assessment for Networked Media is to create a speculative piece for our class wiki, ‘niki’.

My group’s first topic, or person of interest, is the artist and computer scientist, Jonathan Harris.

Harris is a young American based in New York who graduated with a degree in computer science from Princeton. He says he came to Princeton more as a formality and without a specific interest in the field, and that he actually kept sketch books and created visual art for years, and thought of pursuing a career in the arts. However, after travelling in Costa Rica and having his sketchbooks stolen from him while being held up at gun point, art fell by the wayside, at least temporarily.

His love for creating and sharing visual experiences never disappeared though, and Harris has emerged as one of the today’s leading internet anthropologists. On his website, Number 27, Harris says his primary interest is in exploring the ‘relationship[s] between humans and technology’.

From our primary research and discussion, my group’s understanding of Harris is that he’s an incredibly passionate, talented and generous kinda guy. He’s a documenter of human interest, thought and states of being, which is evident through his work.

His projects include an exploration of human emotion called We Feel Fine, a public library of human experience, Cowbird, and I Love Your Work, an interactive documentary about the lives of female sex workers.

Interaction and participation seem to be central to most of his endeavours, as does his love for authentic communication as opposed to propagandising his work, or creating purely for profit or business interests.

I’ll be sure to write about Harris more as our thoughts progress but a fellow group member, Mardy, has also written a post about her emerging ‘love affair’ with the guy, so head over there for some light, evening romance.

I’ll leave you with a quote in which Harris voices what he sees as the potential for growth, where technology and creativity collide:

I… see incredible potential in technology to deepen the relationships between people, not just to increase the number of relationships between people. But I don’t think there are really any great examples of things that have done that yet. I’m very interested in trying to show people that technology can be a beautiful thing to make our lives more meaningful, not more superficial. – NYLON Guys

This week I’ve been introduced to the concept and fascinating new worlds offered by the pursuit of design fiction. Science-fiction writer, Bruce Sterling, explains design fiction as:

an approach to design that speculates about new ideas through prototyping and storytelling

He says design fiction involves ‘the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change’, where diegetic is defined as ‘thinking seriously about potential objects and services’. In practice, design fiction sits comfortably in the ‘design’ world, rather than the ‘literary’ sphere, but is infused with key aspects of storytelling and imagination central to the development of a novel or short story. However, Sterling notes that the products of design fiction are worlds, rather than stories.

Fundamentally, design fiction revolves around the creation of prototypes for future worlds. Matthew Ward notes designers are inherently involved in a practice that never exists in the here and now, producing propositions for a world that is yet to exist. All proposals are to some degree, fictional, and many remain so, with tangible or realised results coming to exist along a spectrum of manifestations.

Ward reiterates the future-orientated nature of design stating that ‘by focusing on the speculative and fictional, design is no longer constrained by the practical reality of today’s material and economic restrictions’. Instead, fiction becomes a ‘teasing ground for reality’, allowing for the benefits of foresight to eventuate so that one can pretend ‘before they mess up the world’, so to speak.

Importantly, Sterling says, design fiction does not try to convince of anything. It is not a fraud, nor a lie, but rather a potential reality that could perceivably come into existence. He suggests we think of it as a second wind of the 1960s Futurism, perhaps with ‘a new consciousness’ for the present era.

Design fiction makes space for experimentation, allowing for what Ward calls ‘meandering play and unfettered exploration’ emerging from an ‘iterative experimental process’. Designers ask themselves how they (and others) may want to engage and locate themselves within the world.

However, Ward and researchers Knutz, Markussen, and Christensen recognise that things operating smoothly and ‘seamless[ly]’ produce some fairly bland fiction, and thus, there is a tendency towards worlds set in dystopia.

Yet, Knutz, Markussen, and Christensen also share examples that lie in a utopian reality, albeit one more ‘practical’ than one to emerge from or through, science fiction.

These researchers say design fiction raises the question of how what-if scenarios set up conditions for experimenting with – and the prototyping of – possible futures in design practice and research. They highlight the role of experimentation across creative disciplines, as is evidenced in works and approaches of Newton, Einstein, or Leonardo da Vinci. They say in design, art and architecture, experimentation can:

  • try out ideas about how to shape the future into a preferred state
  • criticise how capitalist interests, technology or design ideology constrain our everyday life
  • act as a central tactic in urban interventions for promotion social change

In their 2013 research paper titled, ‘The Role of Fiction in Experiments Within Design, Art & Architecture’, Knutz, Markussen, and Christensen approach real-life resolutions of projects that emerged from design fiction. They have also developed a typology through which design researchers can explain design fiction according to five criteria:

  1. ‘what-if’ scenarios as the basic construal principle of design fiction
  2. the manifestation of critique
  3. design aims
  4. materialisations and forms
  5. the aesthetic of design fictions

They demonstrate the relevance of this typological framework in regards to the development of Brasilia – The Perfect City.

The Brazilian capital was inaugurated in April 1960. The country’s former president, Juscelino Kubitschek decided the area that – like recent developments in Dubai – had previously been a desert should become an urban centre and invited the best Brazilian architects to present their designs for this new capital.

When seen from above, Brasilia resembles an airplane or a butterfly with a combination of straight and rounded shapes. The city is divided into areas where people live, with sporting and leisure area’s – as well as strokes of commercial areas; a highly organised, functionalist city with no likeness to the surrounding regions, which is characterized by poverty, disorganization and unstructured urban areas. Brasilia manifests the design rationale inherited from Le Corbusier and perhaps stated most explicitly in the Athen Chartre. According to this rational the city should be divided into work-zones, living-zones and leisure-zones, combined with highways, public  buildings and commercial areas. Everything is planned – nothing is left to coincidence. It demonstrates at that time a complete new architectural form, and calls into question the medieval city. (p. 3)

Knutz, Markussen, and Christensen then apply their typology to this case.

In the project Brasilia  (case 1) fiction integrates with reality in a completely different way: Brasilia has as its basic rule: What if we turn a desert into a hypermodern, functionalistic city, divided into work and living zones? It is critical by ignoring the existing local structures (of architecture in Brazil at that time) by molding new modern mega structures into the landscape. It propagates Modernism as the universal answer to urban planning. As a design aim, it wants to demonstrate a rigid totalitarian design program, materialized as an entire city, using an aesthetic that can be referred to as high ‘modernism’. (p. 7)

Before reading the Danish academics’ real-life examples of design fiction, I was still fairly muddled. But, these tangible realities gave me greater understanding of the wonderful opportunities design fiction has to offer both our real world and our imaginations, further our ideas of what is possible, if only we dare to ask, ‘what if?’. I hope I’ve been able to transfer some understanding of this innovative field to you, too, but if not, why not check out my classmate Mardy’s ponderings on the subject?

In the Comment pages of today’s Age under a banner advertising the paper’s ‘Quality commentary’, is a piece by Christopher Bantick, aptly (self-)described as ‘a senior literature teacher at a Melbourne boys’ Anglican grammar school. Unfortunately for Bantick, his opinion (also available at The Age online) only serves to prove aspects of his title, as he sits comfortably purporting the stereotypes of both ‘senior’ and a conservative gentleman teaching at an established, elite ‘grammar school’.

Cleverly, the subeditor – referencing of one Bantick’s remarks – had titled the piece ‘Another brick in the wall of Gen Y cultural decline’. Of course, I was immediately intrigued, but failed to note the commentary’s author before jumping in. What followed was fundamentally an utterly abhorrent dismissal of the entire 20th and 21st centuries, under the principle that Australia’s ‘jingoistic egalitarianism has gone too far’, and we are now all too ‘ignoran[t]’ to appreciate anything the writer deems a worthy contributor to ‘high culture’.

In a few hundred words, Bantick rejects world-renowned screenwriter, director and producer, Ang Lee, Leonard Cohen, the Rolling Stones, Australian writer, Melina Marchetta, and British street artist, Banksy. He claims ‘Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy’ and that the only people attending ‘an opera, a concert of searching classical music or an art show that is not a blockbuster’ are those with ‘Grey hairs’. Bantick professes to fear a future where ‘the elders of keepers of the cultural treasures’ will be extinct, leaving only a generation too hung up on ‘selfies’, ‘fanzines and blogs of banality’.

Apparently, according to Bantick, today’s celebrity culture is all-encompasing and so widely ‘pervasive’ that is it altering the way our brains are processing information. Well! If this ‘moronic introspection’ has such overriding power, would he too, not be under its spell?

Bantick discredits any potential value so-called ‘popular culture’ may offer a young person – or any person’s – life, and outright eliminates any factors of contemporary culture that may enrich us humble beings. Furthermore, he states Generation Y are all too ‘vain’ and thus blind, to the beauty of Mahler, Jane Eyre and John Keats, masters of what Bantick qualifies as ‘High culture: fine art, opera, serious drama and music that requires patience and understanding’.

What a load of absolute horse shit.

First and foremost, I am unsure of what elite qualification Bantick holds that he believes has granted him the right to oversimplify and almost objectify my generation. In fact, he has stirred up some controversy in recent times in similar vein, applying vast generalisations to today’s youth and ascribing us with what he appropriates as ‘amoral’ values and obsessions.

Secondly, he writes it is ‘beyond subjective taste’ that teaching Looking for Alibrandi rather than Jane Eyre is just another example of schools ‘pandering to the lowest common denominator’. Yes, it can be hard to obtain objectivity in today’s complicated world, but surely this man’s opinion is no more objective than yours or mine.

Furthermore, I am personally offended Bantick has so little appreciation of and respect for my peers and our mores, so much so that he has predicted the ‘atrophy’ of art, music, theatre and literature predating the 1900s.

Bantick is also a little off on his knowledge of the state of Australian philanthropy. Only a matter of months ago I researched and published a piece at artsHub specifically on the pertinent topic of Millennial philanthropists with a focus on the arts. Unfortuately, the article is locked to artsHub subscribers but I can assure you Philanthropy Australia’s New Gen project is working to ensure the future of all of our arts ‘treasures’ is preserved and sustained for a long time to come.

I may also suggest Bantick lends an eye to the perspective of British teacher, Andrew Jones, who is in favour of engaging students in their learning of religion, of all subjects, through ‘pop culture’.

Also pertinent are the views of this commenter, ‘drjones’ (amongst others):

Image

I’m left to ponder the following:

  • Do high art and contemporary art have to be mutually exclusive?
  • What is the role of time and reflection in determining high culture?
  • Does generalising the interests of an entire generation actually do them a disservice?
  • And, isn’t beauty in the eye (and ear) of the beholder?

Let me know your thoughts.

Chipotle Scarecrow

Chipotle Scarecrow

I just wanted to do a quick post to share a couple of ads I’ve come across recently that I think are reflective of really well-thoughout communications strategies. These advertising and other comms professionals have really gone beneath surface issues when considering what their customers/patrons/consumers value, and as I’m learning through my degree, that is an integral part of a successful media campaign. Their ads tell a story, offer a narrative for viewers to follow, and appeal to our emotions, rather than our hip pockets.

1. Chipotle

‘In a dystopian fantasy world, all food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food, and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory.’ The ad features a cover of ‘Pure Imagination’ from the film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, by vegan and animal lover, Fiona Apple.

2. True

‘Giving’ tells the story of a man unexpectedly rewarded for a lifetime of good deeds he performed without expecting anything in return. True “believes in the power of giving without expecting a return.”

3. Expedia

Expedia’s ‘Find Your Understanding’ tells the tale of a father coming to terms with his daughter’s marriage to another woman, and his (cliche) journey both physically and mentally, to arriving at their wedding.

4. Pizza Hut Canada

This ad ‘Dip Hop’ might tell less of a ‘story’ but it’s pretty bloody fascinating, at least for a minute or two.

5. Airbnb

Airbnb have combined ‘the history of filmmaking (Hollywood) with the future of filmmaking (Vine)’ to make ‘a true work of art’. According to PSFK, ‘[s]tarting on August 22nd, different sets of instructions were released between the hours of 8am and 5pm until August 27th [via Twitter]. There was a 48 hour window for submissions for each set of instructions, and they were judged based on several weighted criteria: Originality & Creativity (40%), Compliance with Instructions (40%) and Video Quality & Clarity (20%).’ If a video was selected, it appears in the final film, and winners received a $100 Airbnb coupon. Vivek Wagle says, ‘[i]t’s a story about personal transformation and finding one’s place in the world. It’s what happens when you decide to eschew the boring and familiar. In the end, the raw, imperfect nature of the medium is part of the story.’

6. Ikea

And finally, Ikea shows us the importance of adventure, getting out of your comfort zone and not letting your habits and routines rule your life. I wish this ad were a true story.

Enjoy!

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And here’s what I did at artsHub this week:

Record number of finalists for Portia Geach Memorial Award

Young singers battle for Australasia’s top award

New model for artists’ payment