August 30, 2004
Since ISEA has been a theme not only in GTxA but in various lists, blogs, etc, I thought I’d add this. As noted by other drivers @ GTxA, the art and science distinction is still a discussion point even within a field developed from this assumption. I think that has more to do with the institutionalized spaces in which many ISEA participants work, and not an inherent difficulty in the topics or fields. But the important question is, how can this be addressed?
As Errki Huhtamo noted in his ISEA keynote on mobile technologies (with images thanks to Jill Walker), Carolyn Marvin’s words are appropriate when characterizing new media: ‘Media are not fixed objects: they have no natural edges. They are constructed…the history of media is no more or less than the history of its uses…’ Marvyn’s book, When Old Techologies Were New, has always been inspirational to me.
It seems as though looking at alternate histories of how we concoct these technologies in the first place is an important step in making sure we do not “fix” a medium characterized by its fluidity. All of us, especially teachers and lecturers in new media, must consciously avoid reinforcing a particular “accepted” history, but rather offer a multiplicity of histories of new media. These multiplicities could certainly include various art and design movements, in particular, fluxus and performance or everyday practices, or even alternate forms of experimental thinking such as sci fi. In the Rapunsel talk at ISEA on the “Cultural Softwares” panel, I noted that Yoko Ono’s “instruction paintings”, for example, might be a profound way to introduce instruction – based thinking to those not familiar with programming concepts. One could think of crossing disciplinary boundaries and remember the idealistic thinking of the Bauhaus participants rather than rely upon technology narratives alone. What do you think?