The good folks at Edge.org organized a symposium, and 164 thinkers contributed suggestions. John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University, wrote that people should be more aware of path dependence. This refers to the notion that often “something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice.”
For instance, typewriters used to jam if people typed too fast, so the manufacturers designed a keyboard that would slow typists. We no longer have typewriters, but we are stuck with the letter arrangements of the qwerty keyboard.
Path dependence explains many linguistic patterns and mental categories, McWhorter continues. Many people worry about the way e-mail seems to degrade writing skills. But there is nothing about e-mail that forbids people from using the literary style of 19th-century letter writers. In the 1960s, language became less formal, and now anybody who uses the old manner is regarded as an eccentric.
Evgeny Morozov, the author of “The Net Delusion,” nominated the Einstellung Effect, the idea that we often try to solve problems by using solutions that worked in the past instead of looking at each situation on its own terms. This effect is especially powerful in foreign affairs, where each new conflict is viewed through the prism of Vietnam or Munich or the cold war or Iraq.
Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University writes about the Focusing Illusion, which holds that “nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.” He continues: “Education is an important determinant of income — one of the most important — but it is less important than most people think. If everyone had the same education, the inequality of income would be reduced by less than 10 percent. When you focus on education you neglect the myriad of other factors that determine income. The differences of income among people who have the same education are huge.”
Joshua Greene, a philosopher and neuroscientist at Harvard University, has a brilliant entry on Supervenience. Imagine a picture on a computer screen of a dog sitting in a rowboat. It can be described as a picture of a dog, but at a different level it can be described as an arrangement of pixels and colors. The relationship between the two levels is asymmetric. The same image can be displayed at different sizes with different pixels. The high-level properties (dogness) supervene the low-level properties (pixels).
Supervenience, Greene continues, helps explain things like the relationship between science and the humanities. Humanists fear that scientists are taking over their territory and trying to explain everything. But new discoveries about the brain don’t explain Macbeth. The products of the mind supervene the mechanisms of the brain. The humanities can be informed by the cognitive sciences even as they supervene them.
If I were presumptuous enough to nominate a few entries, I’d suggest the Fundamental Attribution Error: Don’t try to explain by character traits behavior that is better explained by context.
I’d also nominate the distinction between emotion and arousal. There’s a general assumption that emotional people are always flying off the handle. That’s not true. We would also say that Emily Dickinson was emotionally astute. As far as I know, she did not go around screaming all the time. It would be useful if we could distinguish between the emotionality of Dickinson and the arousal of the talk-show jock.
Public life would be vastly improved if people relied more on the concept of emergence. Many contributors to the Edge symposium hit on this point.
We often try to understand problems by taking apart and studying their constituent parts. But emergent problems can’t be understood this way. Emergent systems are ones in which many different elements interact. The pattern of interaction then produces a new element that is greater than the sum of the parts, which then exercises a top-down influence on the constituent elements.
Culture is an emergent system. A group of people establishes a pattern of interaction. And once that culture exists, it influences how the individuals in it behave. An economy is an emergent system. So is political polarization, rising health care costs and a bad marriage.
Emergent systems are bottom-up and top-down simultaneously. They have to be studied differently, as wholes and as nested networks of relationships. We still try to address problems like poverty and Islamic extremism by trying to tease out individual causes. We might make more headway if we thought emergently.
We’d certainly be better off if everyone sampled the fabulous Edge symposium, which, like the best in science, is modest and daring all at once.
"In my mind, they're one-third photography, but the other two-thirds are just as important," says Sam Falls, looking at the poster-size compositions pinned to the walls of his Bushwick, Brooklyn, studio. From across the room, the works on paper resemble pastel abstractions, with creamy oranges and blues layered in thick bands over pink and navy grounds. But a careful look reveals a more complicated story.
"First I photograph something—for the more abstract ones, I'm photographing construction paper and backdrops," says Falls, 26, who shows at Higher Pictures in New York. "I scan the film and work on it in Photoshop, usually with the paintbrush tool, masking certain areas and sampling colors to apply digitally," he explains. Up close, some washes of color appear too precise, too perfectly transparent, to have been made by hand. Other places show marks of impasto brushwork. "I make the final print, and then I go back and work on it with paint and pastel. It's like this pastiche or collage of mediums."
Falls is part of a growing contingent of studio-based photographers who have little interest in traditional distinctions between mediums and genres. Taking up whatever materials and techniques fit their needs, they work with Photoshop and the chemical darkroom and often shoot with large-format cameras. They also incorporate found imagery culled from books, magazines, and the Internet. They build their pictures with wood and mirrors, fabric and plaster, ignoring differences among mediums. While these artists don't adhere to a particular sensibility or look, they share a set of tools and are reacting to the same forces—including the changing nature of photography itself. "They're asking, What does it mean to see the world through a lens?" says Eva Respini, associate curator in the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. "Anyone looking at photography in the last several years has noticed artists increasingly working in the studio. They're collecting, assembling, manipulating materials," she says. Respini chose six artists working in this way for the museum's exhibition "New Photography 2009."
"I don't think artists today are asking themselves, Am I a photographer? Am I a sculptor?" says Tina Kukielski, a curator for the 2013 Carnegie International and former senior curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum, where she organized contemporary photography shows. "It's more about fluidity and the flexibility it creates."
That fluidity is possible in part because of photography's mainstream status in the arts. "Before the 1970s, photography had a separate market value, separate galleries," says Respini. "For these artists, it's never been a stepchild."
In the '70s and '80s, Pictures Generation artists such as Richard Prince referred to images from magazines and advertising, pointing out their ubiquity and questioning the creative role of the artist. But for this new generation, says Respini, "appropriation is no longer a political act. It's a nonissue." Elad Lassry, who makes slick, magazine page-size C-prints and films of banal still lifes and publicity shots, has described his work as having a "post-Picture Generation approach." Lassry undermines the commercial quality of his shiny, kitschy objects, animals, and food by using frames painted to match each picture and employing subtle double exposures or Photoshop tweaks. Last year his work was included in MoMA's "New Photography 2010" show, as well as in solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum of Saint Louis and Luhring Augustine, his New York gallery.
Although they may not be recognized as a group or a movement, artists working in this way have been gaining recognition. For "New Photography 2009," Respini chose works by artists who work in a studio but have wide-ranging concerns. Her selections included assemblages made from historical and personal photos by Sara VanDerBeek and Leslie Hewitt, Daniel Gordon's pictures of figural sculptures he built with images of body parts taken from the Internet, Carter Mull's metallicized prints of newspapers and magazines, Walead Beshty's cameraless abstractions, and Sterling Ruby's hybrid pictures combining graffiti and Photoshop manipulations. Last year's "Greater New York" at MoMA PS1 included several artists bending the conventions of photography, as did Higher Pictures's survey of young artists, "50 Artists Photograph the Future," which featured Falls. A 2008 show at Gagosian, "Untitled (Vicarious): Photographing the Constructed Object," exhibited young artists alongside some of their predecessors, such as Vik Muniz and Fischli & Weiss. "The Edge of Vision: Abstraction in Contemporary Photography," organized by the Aperture Foundation in 2009 and currently at the Cornell Fine Arts Museums in Winter Park, Florida, showed artists such as Barbara Kasten, who has been building and photographing abstract scenes since the '70s.
Kukielski, who curated VanDerBeek's solo show at the Whitney in 2010, had presented Corin Hewitt's Seed Stage, in which the artist worked in a combination laboratory-kitchen-studio, at the museum in 2008. During prime visiting hours, Hewitt could be seen preserving vegetables, composting leftovers, and composing still lifes of canned carrots arranged with colorfully patterned clothes. He photographed and printed the results and exhibited them on the gallery walls. As the audience watched, Hewitt acted out a form of studio-based photography, emphasizing how the finished images were the result of an elaborate process.
Many of these artists call attention to how their images are made. "Photographs are odd because, unlike a sculpture or a painting, when you do something to a photograph, people are going to retrace your steps," says Lucas Blalock, who was included in the Higher Pictures show. Blalock makes pictures of household objects with a view camera and Photoshop that he hopes "can't resolve easily." In a recent work, the image of a football-shaped sports cup was repeatedly copied and pasted in Photoshop until the object became unreadable. "The viewer is going to have to walk back out to make it a natural picture again."
To retrace the steps that Jessica Eaton takes to make her large C-prints requires patience and an understanding of photographic technique. The Canadian artist explores the fundamentals of optics, color theory, and illusion in photographs that refer to painting and film. Experimenting with custom-built camera equipment and props, she sometimes works for six or seven hours on a single negative from her large-format camera. For her series "108," which can be thought of as an analog-film approximation of digital pixels, Eaton made a set of 108 metal plates to use as dark slides. Whereas a normal dark slide protects film from light, Eaton's slides each contained a small square hole. When the slides were inserted one at a time in the camera's back, adjacent patches of film met the light, creating a negative made from 108 separate exposures. For 108_21 (2010), Eaton aimed her camera at a wall of multicolor blocks. Between each exposure, she knocked the blocks down and restacked them, making a picture that looks like a wild rainbow plaid. It's a record of chance over time and, according to Eaton, enacts Sol LeWitt's remark that the "idea becomes a machine that makes the art."
Before going to work in the studio, Eaton sketches her ideas for prints using a computer program such as Adobe Illustrator, trying out compositions and color combinations before re-creating them on film. But the textures and imperfections inherent to film and wood and paper are essential to the final piece. In her digital models, "everything is so cold," says Eaton. "They lack spirit."
The influence of digital photography, whether photographers like Eaton use it or not, is front and center. "I see it reflected in their retreat to the studio, in this hands-on, tactile approach to photography," says Respini. "They're interested in the materiality of photography, in light, paper, process."
In contrast to Eaton, who sketches with a computer but makes her finished works on film, Falls uses Photoshop in a way that is "very painterly," he says. For Falls, working as a retoucher during graduate school at the International Center of Photography–Bard changed his approach. "When it came time to work on my own photos, I really didn't want to keep doing what I'd been doing. I realized how inane it was to take pimples out of someone's face. I wanted to sort of do the opposite using the same tools." Retouching had meant removing supposed imperfections, so Falls instead began adding elements to his pictures. Aside from the abstractions built from colored paper, his recent series, which will be on view at Higher Pictures through March 19, consists of sunny Southern California landscapes, still lifes, and portraits that are all treated with a mixture of Photoshop brushwork and real-world paint and pastel.
For Falls, the unexplored possibilities of these materials push his work. "If we're dealing with a contemporary medium where there's still room for experimentation and new printing processes, I think that should be leading to different esthetics. I'm interested in archival-pigment printing and painting on the photograph, being loose with Photoshop, and incorporating it all—in using all the tools."
If Falls is looking forward with his materials, Sara VanDerBeek, 34, is more concerned with the past. With scaffolding and armatures built to hold images culled from magazines, books, old newspapers, and her own portfolio, VanDerBeek's elegant works function like diagrams of memories. A Composition for Detroit (2009), which she made for "New Photography 2009," consists of four large prints, each showing a series of tall interlocking frames against a dark blue background. Set within them are sections of glass dripping with white paint and images that refer to sunlight and darkness: a solar eclipse in pink and blue or patterns of light through blinds. The structure of the work was inspired by a bank of broken factory windows, says VanDerBeek, who shows at Metro Pictures in New York and will have an exhibition this fall at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. "A lot of the images were taken from publications that were distributed during the time of the riots. They were quite frail and yellow, and I really wanted to convey that texture, to get a sense of this fading image. The images might be folded up in someone's drawer and kept as a marker of this particular event," says VanDerBeek. For her, the work is about "how one image may loom larger than another, and how things shift in memory."
"To Think of Time," her 2010 exhibition at the Whitney Museum, consisted of 29 cool-toned photographs, arranged in sections named for poems from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Many showed vertical, architectural plaster forms that VanDerBeek cast and then photographed in the warm light of dusk and dawn; these were interspersed among blue and gray photographs of the scraped cement foundations of houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. VanDerBeek cites the structure of Whitman's work as an influence, noting the way it moves "back and forth, with these shifts of scale, from personal, internal perspectives to larger, universal views." She is also interested in American history from the time Whitman was writing. "I went to New Orleans because that was such a formative place for Whitman," says VanDerBeek, "but also because it was rich in the development of the history of this country." For her, the plaster structures refer to classical forms, especially Greek and Roman friezes and sculptures and Greek Revival architecture from Whitman's time.
While she was constructing the casts, VanDerBeek would ask herself why she shouldn't simply put the objects themselves in the gallery. "Why is that act of photographing them so important?" she recalls wondering. But the process of turning her plinths into two-dimensional renderings proved necessary to preserve the light in the studio she set up in her family's 1868 Baltimore home, which she felt was essential to the work. "Something about capturing them at a particular moment—an hour in the afternoon or morning—really changes the situation and changes the object. I think they function better in their photographic form than they do just sitting there."
Like her peers, VanDerBeek stretches the definition of the medium. "What I think is amazing about photography is that it can be so expansive. It can take all of these different forms. I wanted to explore the idea of breaking my practice open."
Rebecca Robertson is photo editor of ARTnews.
An artistic movement, albeit an organic and as-yet-unstated one, is forming. What are its key components? A deliberate unartiness: "raw" material, seemingly unprocessed, unfiltered, uncensored, and unprofessional. (What, in the last half century, has been more influential than Abraham Zapruder's Super-8 film of the Kennedy Assassination?) Randomness, openness to accident and serendipity, spontaneity; artistic risk, emotional urgency and intensity, reader/viewer participation; an overly literal tone, as if a reporter were viewing a strange culture; plasticity of form, pointillism; criticism as autobiography; self-reflexivity, self-ethnography, anthropological autobiography; a blurring (to the point of invisibility) of any distinction between fiction and nonfiction: the lure and blur of the real.
In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking.
It must all be considered as if spoken by a character in a novel (minus the novel).
I need say nothing, only exhibit.
Writing began around 3200 b.c.
The earliest uses of writing were list-making and account-keeping.
In 450 b.c., Bacchylides wrote, "One author pilfers the best of another and calls it tradition."
In the second century b.c., Terence said, "There's nothing to say that hasn't been said before."
The creators of characters, in the traditional sense, no longer manage to offer us anything more than puppets in which they themselves have ceased to believe. The present period is one of administrative numbers.
trials by google
I was on a train of lies and couldn't jump off. You wonder how I could lie so fluently to you. That's because at some level, I believed everything I was telling you. I believed I met him. I believed we met. I believed I knew his life better than any biographer, because I had imagined it.
Art is not truth; art is a lie that enables us to recognize truth.
If my forgeries are hung long enough in the museum, they become real.
Oh how we Americans gnash our tetth in bitter anger when we discover that the riveting truth that also played like a Sunday matinee was actually just a Sunday matinee.
These are the facts, my friend, and I must have faith in them.
What is a fact? What's a lie, for that matter? What, exactly, constitutes an essay or a story or a poem or even an experience? What happens when we can no longer freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience?
During the middle of a gig, Sonny Rollins sometimes used to wander outside and add the sound of his horn to the cacophony of passing cabs.
-praise for matter in its simplest state, as fact.
Reality-based art is a metaphor for the fact that this is all thereis, there ain't no more.
Reality takes shape in memory alone.
Memory: the past rewritten in the direction of feeling.
Human memory, driven by emotional self-interest, goes to extraordinary lengths to provide evidence to back up whatever understanding of the world we have our hearts set on - however removed that may be from reality.
Anything processed by memory is fiction.
The genius of memory is that it is choosy, chancy, and tempermental.
The first decade of the 21st century, the so-called ‘naughties’, has brought profound changes to the technological foundations of the media landscape. The key buzzwords are networks, the Internet and social media. In the second decade, people will not search for new technologies allowing for even easier, faster and low-priced content production. Rather, appropriate reactions to this media revolution are to be developed and integrated politically, culturally and socially. The concept “Slow”, as in “Slow Food” and not as in “Slow Down”, is a key for this. Like “Slow Food”, Slow Media are not about fast consumption but about choosing the ingredients mindfully and preparing them in a concentrated manner. Slow Media are welcoming and hospitable. They like to share.
1. Slow Media are a contribution to sustainability. Sustainability relates to the raw materials, processes and working conditions, which are the basis for media production. Exploitation and low-wage sectors as well as the unconditional commercialization of user data will not result in sustainable media. At the same time, the term refers to the sustainable consumption of Slow Media.
2. Slow media promote Monotasking. Slow Media cannot be consumed casually, but provoke the full concentration of their users. As with the production of a good meal, which demands the full attention of all senses by the cook and his guests, Slow Media can only be consumed with pleasure in focused alertness.
3. Slow Media aim at perfection. Slow Media do not necessarily represent new developments on the market. More important is the continuous improvement of reliable user interfaces that are robust, accessible and perfectly tailored to the media usage habits of the people.
4. Slow Media make quality palpable. Slow Media measure themselves in production, appearance and content against high standards of quality and stand out from their fast-paced and short-lived counterparts – by some premium interface or by an aesthetically inspiring design.
5. Slow Media advance Prosumers, i.e. people who actively define what and how they want to consume and produce. In Slow Media, the active Prosumer, inspired by his media usage to develop new ideas and take action, replaces the passive consumer. This may be shown by marginals in a book or animated discussion about a record with friends. Slow Media inspire, continuously affect the users’ thoughts and actions and are still perceptible years later.
6. Slow Media are discursive and dialogic. They long for a counterpart with whom they may come in contact. The choice of the target media is secondary. In Slow Media, listening is as important as speaking. Hence ‘Slow’ means to be mindful and approachable and to be able to regard and to question one’s own position from a different angle.
7. Slow Media are Social Media. Vibrant communities or tribes constitute around Slow Media. This, for instance, may be a living author exchanging thoughts with his readers or a community interpreting a late musician’s work. Thus Slow Media propagate diversity and respect cultural and distinctive local features.
8. Slow Media respect their users. Slow Media approach their users in a self-conscious and amicable way and have a good idea about the complexity or irony their users can handle. Slow Media neither look down on their users nor approach them in a submissive way.
9. Slow Media are distributed via recommendations not advertising: the success of Slow Media is not based on an overwhelming advertising pressure on all channels but on recommendation from friends, colleagues or family. A book given as a present five times to best friends is a good example.
10. Slow Media are timeless: Slow Media are long-lived and appear fresh even after years or decades. They do not lose their quality over time but at best get some patina that can even enhance their value.
11. Slow Media are auratic: Slow Media emanate a special aura. They generate a feeling that the particular medium belongs to just that moment of the user’s life. Despite the fact that they are produced industrially or are partially based on industrial means of production, they are suggestive of being unique and point beyond themselves.
12. Slow Media are progressive not reactionary: Slow Media rely on their technological achievements and the network society’s way of life. It is because of the acceleration of multiple areas of life, that islands of deliberate slowness are made possible and essential for survival. Slow Media are not a contradiction to the speed and simultaneousness of Twitter, Blogs or Social Networks but are an attitude and a way of making use of them.
13. Slow Media focus on quality both in production and in reception of media content: Craftsmanship in cultural studies such as source criticism, classification and evaluation of sources of information are gaining importance with the increasing availability of information.
Stockdorf and Bonn, Jan 2, 2010
By Tim Carmody
The first thing to understand about bookfuturism is that "book" modifies "futurism" as much as the other way around. So bookfuturists aren't just people promoting the future of the book; they're also a different kind of futurist, the way a cubo-futurist painting like Duchamp's "Nude Descending A Staircase" is different, or Afro-futurism was/is different from typically white science-fiction culture.
A futurist (in Marinetti's original sense) wants to burn down libraries. A bookfuturist wants to put video games in them. A bookfuturist, in other words, isn't someone who purely embraces the new and consigns the old to the rubbish heap. She's always looking for things that blend her appreciation of the two.
I started using the words "bookfuturist" and "bookfuturism" because of Joanne McNeil's name for her Twitter list of wordly nerds who like to think about books and new media: "bookfuturism." I was one of the people she put on the list, and as soon as I saw the name, I wrote, "I want to write a bookfuturist manifesto!"
Before that, there was Bob Stein's Institute for the Future of the Book, and Chris Meade, the co-director of the institute, had a blog called "Bookfutures." In other words, there have been people both inside and outside of universities and publishing houses and tech companies who really cared about books and technology, knew a lot about the history of media, and were interested in serious thinking about the future of reading.
A bookfuturist manifesto could never really be like an avant-garde or political manifesto, partly because the whole idea of bookfuturism is to critically unravel these contradictions, rather than stake out definite positions that we'd cling to no matter what. For instance, when Amazon's Kindle first came out, I was completely of the mind that these text-only files cheaply mocked the experience of reading a book without actually including all its rich physicality, or trying to create a new, specifically digital experience. Now, as the whole industry's moved towards multimedia tablets and touch interfaces, I find myself thinking, "you know, maybe just focusing on text, and making that experience as useful and enjoyable as possible, is a really good idea. Text and textual interfaces are incredibly resilient and powerful. Bring back the command line!"
Bookfuturism turns out to be not just about books as such, but a kind of aesthetic and culture of reading, literacy, history, in connection with (only rarely in opposition to) other kinds of media culture. And reading here would also obviously include newspapers and magazines, and even things like maps and advertisements and data visualizations, plus whatever's displayed on the different screens most of us look at all day at home or work. What does it mean to live in this hyperliterate world? How do we make sense of it? There I think we need to actually articulate something like Jason Kottke's motto: "Liberal Arts 2.0."
The other way you can describe bookfuturism is by distinguishing it from what it's not. The bookfuturist is profoundly different from the two people he might otherwise easily be mistaken for at first glance - the technofuturist and the bookservative. These positions are easier to recognize, because most of our public discussions of new technology takes place as an argument between these two camps. And it's heating up now, because for a long time, even though people like CP Snow talked about "two cultures," these people were really on separate tracks - the engineers were doing their thing, the traditional culture people another. They didn't really understand each other, but mostly respected each other's credentials and institutional authority. Those disciplinary and technological walls started to fall apart at the same time as the elevated platforms separating enshrined experts from engaged citizens vanished. Authority is no longer a given, or given at all.
Now, even bookservatives acknowledge that things are changing. But they fear that these changes will result in catastrophe, for some part or whole of the culture they love. Because of that, they would prefer that book tech and book culture stop, slow down, or go back.
Alan Kaufman wrote an essay on e-books in the Evergreen Review that included the line: "The book is fast becoming the despised Jew of our culture. Der Jude is now Der Book." And: "The advent of electronic media to first position in the modern chain of Being--a place once occupied by God--and later, after the Enlightenment, by humans--is no mere 9/11 upon our cultural assumptions. It is a catastrophe of holocaustal proportions. And its endgame is the disappearance of not just books but of all things human." It's hard to see how this clarifies anything.
On the other side of the aisle are technofuturists. They're winning most of the arguments these days when it comes to e-books, so their rhetoric isn't as wild. Technofuturists are technological triumphalists, or at least quasi-utopian optimists. These are the folks who believe that technology can solve our political, educational, and cultural problems. At an extreme, they don't care about books at all: they're just relics of a happily closing age of paper, and we should embrace the future in the form of multimedia and the networked web. They advocate a scorched earth policy when it comes to publishers, newspapers, bookstores, or libraries. Anyone could see the future coming, and those who refused to adapt, who created and perpetuated a broken, exploitative system, should die, and soon. The best example I can give of technofuturism, as it's applied to books, is Basheera Khan's essay "No more bookshops? Good riddance," which laments the toll of owning physical books, from the paper and ink that make them to the bookshelves that hold them, always needing dusting, and imagines moving house with a library of e-books, "light as a feather." The digital library perfects the badly realized idea of the physical library, sort of like how a soul would be perfect if it didn't have a body. These debates can get very theological.
Bookservatives see the diminishing of the established material and social networks of reading as an unmitigated catastrophe that threatens to destroy humanist and democratic culture. Technofuturists see the same transformation as an unmitigated triumph that realizes humanist and democratic ideals better than the existing order ever could. Now, in point of fact, almost nobody is a pure bookservative or technofuturist. Rather, these are rhetorical positions that anyone can take up, from moment to moment and case to case. Moreover, each is dependent on the other, because each imagines the other as their opponent. They are easy caricatures. But sometimes we ARE caricatures.
Take Nicholas Carr and Clay Shirky, for example - these are both smart guys, deeply knowledgable about media history, with sophisticated takes on technology. I'd consider them both, by temperament, bookfuturists, which is part of what makes their contrasts so exciting. But they each fall into bookservativism and technofuturism pretty easily, and then newspaper or magazine stories about their arguments flatten them out even further. There are clear outlets -- clear markets -- for both of these sentiments and styles. They both LIKE arguing against the other.
Bookfuturists refuse to endorse either fantasy of "the end of the book" -- "the end as destruction" or "the end as telos or achievement" as Jacques Derrida would have it. We are trying to map an alternative position that is both more self-critical and more engaged with how technological change is actively affecting our culture.
We're usually more interested in figuring out a piece of technology than either denouncing or promoting it. And we want to make every piece of tech work better. We're tinkerers. We look to history for analogies and counter-analogies, but we know that analogies aren't destiny. We try to look for the technological sophistication of traditional humanism and the humanist possibilities of new tech.
At least, that's what I try to do.
Realtime art manifesto
Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn
Gaming realities: the challenge of digital culture
Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn are new media artists who have embraced realtime 3D game technology as their artistic medium of choice. Realtime 3D is the most remarkable new creative technology since oil on canvas. It is much too important to be wasted on computer games alone. This manifesto is a call-to-arms for creative people (including, but not limited to, video game designers and fine artists) to embrace this new medium and start realizing its enormous potential. As well as a set of guidelines that express our own ideas and ideals about using the technology.
1. Realtime 3D is a medium for artistic expression.
2. Be an author.
3. Create a total experience.
4. Embed the user in the environment.
5. Reject dehumanisation: tell stories.
6. Interactivity wants to be free.
7. Don’t make modern art.
8. Reject conceptualism.
9. Embrace technology.
10. Develop a punk economy.
Realtime art manifesto
1. Realtime 3D is a medium for artistic expression.
Games are not the only things you can make with realtime 3D technology.
And modification of commercial games is not the only option accessible to artists.
Realtime 3D is the most remarkable new creative technology since oil on canvas.
It is much too important to remain in the hands of toy makers and propaganda machines.
We need to rip the technology out of their greedy claws and put them to shame by producing
the most stunning art to grace this planet so far.
(And claim the name “game” for what we do even if it is inappropriate.)
Real-time 3d interactives can be an art form unto themselves.
2. Be an author.
Do not hide behind the freedom of the user in an interactive environment to ignore your responsibility as a creator.
This only ends in confirming cliches.
Do not design in board room meetings or give marketeers creative power.
Your work needs to come from a singular vision and be driven by a personal passion.
Do not delegate direction jobs.
Be a dictator.
But collaborate with artisans more skilled than you.
Ignore the critics and the fanboys.
Make work for your audience instead.
Embrace the ambiguity that the realtime medium excells in.
Leave interpretation open where appropriate
but keep the user focused and immersed the worlds that you create.
Commercial games are conservative, both in design as in mentality.
They eschew authorship, pretending to offer the player a neutral vessel to take him or her through the virtual world.
But the refusal to author results in a mimicing of generally accepted notions, of television and other mass media.
Reject pure commercialism.
Individual elements of many commercial games made with craft and care produce artistic effects
but the overall product is not art.
Some commercial games have artistic moments,
but we need to go further.
Step one: drop the requirement of making a game.
The game structure of rules and competition stands in the way of expressiveness.
Interactivity wants to be free.
Gaming stands in the way of playing.
There are so many other ways of interacting in virtual environments.
We have only just begun to discover the possibilities.
Games are games.
They are ancient forms of play that have their place in our societies.
But they are by far not the only things one can do with realtime technologies.
Stop making games.
Be an author.
3. Create a total experience.
Do not render!
All elements serve the realisation of the piece as a whole.
Models, textures, sound, interaction, environment, atmosphere,
drama, story, programming
are all equally important.
Do not rely on static renderings.
Everything happens in real time.
The visuals as well as the logic.
Create multi-sensorial experiences.
Simulate sensorial sensations for which output hardware does not exist (yet).
Make the experience feel real
(it does not need to look real).
Do not imitate other media but develop an aesthetic style that is unique.
Make the activity that the user spends most time doing the most interesting one in the game.
It’s not about the individual elements but about the total effect of the environment.
The sum of its parts.
In the end the work is judged by the quality of authorship
and not by its individual elements.
Models, textures, sound, interaction design, environment design, atmosphere, drama, story, programming.
Together without hierarchy.
No element can be singled out. All are equally important.
Create a simulated multi-sensorial experience. Not only a picture.
Or only a game.
Or only a soundtrack.
4. Embed the user in the environment.
The user is not disembodied in virtual space
but takes the body into the experience.
The avatar is not a neutral vessel but allows the user to navigate
not only through the virtual space
but also through the narrative content.
Interaction is the link between the user and the piece.
Provide for references
(both conceptual and sensorial)
to connect the user to the environment.
Make the user feel at home.
(and then play with his
-just don’t start with alienation,
the real world is alienationg enough as it is)
Reject the body-mind duality.
The user is the center of the experience.
Think “architecture”, not “film”.
Interaction is pivotal
to “put the user in the environment”.
The user is not disembodied but is provided with a device
(similar to a diving suit or astronout’s outfit)
which allows him
to visit a place that would otherwise not be accessible.
You bring your body with you to this place,
or at least your memories of it.
Strictly speaking, our output media only allow for the reproduction of visuals and sound .
But real-time interaction and processing can help us to achieve simulation of touch, smell and taste as well, through visuals and sound.
In fact, force feedback already provides for a way to communicate with touch.
And the activity of fingers on the mouse or hands holding a joystick allows for physical communication.
Don’t underestimate this connection.
From the USB port to the joystick. Through the hand to the nerous system.
Soon as smell and taste can be reproduced, those media can quickly be incorporated into our technology.
The virtual place is not necessarily alien.
On the contrary:
It can deal with any subject.
References to the real world
(of nature as well as culture)
(both conceptual and sensorial)
create links between the environment and the user.
Since interaction is pivotal, these links are crucial.
Make it feel real, not necessarily look real.
Develop a unique language for the realtime 3D medium and do not fall in MacLuhan’s trap
(don’t allow any old medium to become the content of the new)
Imitate life and not photography, or drawings, or comic strips or even old-school games.
Realism does not equal photo -realism!
In a multisensory medium, realism is a multisensory experience:
It has to feel real.
5. Reject dehumanisation: tell stories.
Stories ground people in culture,
(and remove the alienation that causes aggression)
stimulate their imagination,
(and therefore improve the capability to change)
teach them about themselves
and connect them with each other.
Stories are a vital element of society.
Let go of the idea of plot.
Realtime is non-linear.
Tell the story through interaction.
Do not use in-game movies or other non-realtime devices to tell the story.
Do not create a “drama manager”: let go of plot!
Plot is not compatible with realtime.
Think “poetry”, not “prose”.
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle recognized six elements in Drama.
what happens in a play, the order of events,
is only one of them.
Next to plot we have
or the main idea in the work
or the personality or role played by an actor
the choice and delivery of words
the sound, rhythm and melody of what is being said
the visual elements of the work.
All of these can be useful in non-linear realtime experiences. Except plot.
But the realtime medium offers additional elements that easily augment or replace plot.
the direct influence of the viewer on the work
the presence of the viewer in the work
AN AUDIENCE OF ONE
every staging of the work is done for an audience of a single person in the privacy of his
These new elements add the viewer as an active participant to the experience.
This is not a reduction of the idea of story but an enrichment.
Realtime media allow us to tell stories that could not be told before.
Many of the mythical fantasies about art can now be made real.
Now we can step into paintings and become part of them.
Now sculptures can come alive and talk to us.
Now we walk onto the stage and take part in the action.
We can live the lives of romance characters.
Be the poet
or the muse.
Do not reject stortelling in realtime because it is not straightforward.
Realtime media allow us to make ambiguity and imagination active parts of the experience.
Embrace the ambiguity:
it is enriching.
The realtime medium allows for telling stories that cannot be told in any other language.
But realtime is not suitable for linear stories:
Realtime is a poetic technology.
Populate the virtual world with narrative elements that allow the player to make up his or her own story.
Imagination moves the story into the user’s mind.
It allows the story to penetrate the surface and take its place amongst the user’s thoughts & memories.
The bulk of your story should be told in realtime, through interaction.
Do not use in-game movies or other devices.
Do not fall back on a machine to create plot on the fly:
let go of plot,
plot is not compatible with realtime.
Do not squeeze the realtime medium into a linear frame.
Stories in games are not impossible or irrelevant, even if “all that matters is gameplay”.
Humans need stories and will find stories in everything.
Use this to your advantage.
Yes, “all that matters is gameplay”,
if you extend gameplay to mean all interaction in the game.
Because it is through this interaction that the realtime medium will tell its stories.
The situation is the story.
Choose your characters and environment carefully
so that the situation immediately triggers narrative associations in the mind of the user.
6. Interactivity wants to be free.
Don’t make games.
The rule-based structure and competitive elements in traditional game design stand in the way of expressiveness.
And often, ironically, rules get in the way of playfulness
(playfulness is required for an artistic experience!).
Express yourself through interactivity.
Interactivity is the one unique element of the realtime medium.
The one thing that no other medium can do better.
It should be at the center of your creation.
Interactivity design rule number one:
the thing you do most in the game, should be the thing that is most interesting to do.
i.e., If it takes a long time to walk between puzzles, the walk should be more interesting than the puzzles.
7. Don’t make modern art.
Modern art tends to be ironical, cynical, self referential, afraid of beauty, afraid of meaning
-other than the trendy discourse of the day-,
afraid of technology, anti-artistry.
Furthermore contemporary art is a marginal niche.
The audience is elsewhere.
Go to them rather then expecting them to come to the museum.
Contemporary art is a style, a genre, a format.
Do not fear beauty.
Do not fear pleasure.
Make art-games, not game-art.
Game art is just modern art
-ironical, cynical, afraid of beauty, afraid of meaning.
It abuses a technology that has already spawned an art form capable of communicating far beyond the reach of modern art.
Made by artists far superior in artistry and skills.
Game art is slave art.
Realtime media are craving your input, your visions.
Real people are starving for meaningful experiences.
And what’s more:
society needs you.
Contemporary civilisations are declining at an unsurpassed rate.
The world is collapsing while the Artists twiddle their thumbs in the museums.
Step into the world.
Into the private worlds of individuals.
Share your vision.
8. Reject conceptualism.
Make art for people,
not for documentation.
Make art to experience
and not to read about.
Use the language of your medium to communicate all there is to know.
The user should never be required to read a description or a manual.
Don’t parody things that are better than you.
Parodies of commercial games are ridiculous if their technology, craft and artistry do not match up with the original.
Don’t settle yourself in the position of the underdog: surpass them!
Go over their heads!
Show them how it’s done!
Put the artistry back in Art.
Make art for people, not for documentation.
Make art to experience and not art to read about.
Use the language of your work to communicate its content.
The audience should never be required to read the description.
The work should communicate all that is required to understand it.
9. Embrace technology.
Don’t be afraid of technology,
and least of all, don’t make art about this fear.
Technology is not nature. Technology is not god.
It’s a thing.
Made for people by people.
Grab it. Use it.
Software is infinitely reproducable and easy to distribute.
Reject the notion of scarcity.
Embrace the abundance that the digital allows for.
The uniqueness of realtime is in the experience.
Cut out the middle man: deliver your productions directly to the users.
Do not depend on galleries, museums, festivals or publishers.
Technology-based art should not be about technology:
it should be about life, death and the human condition.
Embrace technology, make it yours!
Use machines to make art for humans, not vice versa.
Software is infinitely reproducable
(there is no original; uniqueness is not required
-the uniqueness is in the experience)
Distribution of software is easy through the internet or portable data containers
(no elitism; no museums, galleries, or festivals; from creator to audience without mediation -and from the audience back to the creator, through the same distribution media)
10. Develop a punk economy.
Don’t shy away from competition with commercial developers.
Your work offers something that theirs does not:
originality of design,
depth of content,
Don’t worry about the polish too much.
Get the big picture right.
“Reduce the volume, Increase the quality and density”
Make short and intense games:
think haiku, not epic.
Think poetry, not prose.
Embrace punk aesthetics.
But don’t become too dependant on government or industry funding:
it is unreliable.
Sell your work directly to your audience.
And use alternative distribution methods that do not require enormous sales figures to break even.
Consider self-publishing and digital distribution.
Avoid retail and traditional games publishers.
Together they take so great a cut
that it requires you to sell hundreds of thousands of copies to make your production investment back.
Do not allow institutional or economic control of your intellectual property, ideas, technology and inventions .
Don’t depend on government support or the arts world exclusively.
Sell your games!
Communicate with your audience directly:
cut out the middle man.
Let the audience support your work.
Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama
Fumito Ueda & Kenji Kaido: Game Design Methods of ICO
Realtime Art Manifesto presentation slides.