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Digital Art - Paul - Part II Anita Wallace

Observations and Questions
Digital Art, Christiane Paul
Part II
Anita Wallace
The three categories of themes in Digital Art explored by Christiane Paul in Chapter 3 that most interest me are:
1) Body and identity
2) Databases, visualization, and mapping
3) Beyond the book: texts and narratives

To better understand these areas following the initial reading, I have selected some key ideas from the text and outlined the three categories. Afterwards, I have made my observations.

Body and identity:

- Physical individual bodies become transparent through surveillance and identification that threatens the notion of individual autonomy (Paul, pp 165).

- Our virtual existence suggests the opposite of a unified, individual body—multiple selves inhabiting mediated realities. (Paul, pp 165)

- Online identity allows a simultaneous presence in various spaces and contexts, a constant ‘reproduction’ of the self without body. (Paul, pp 165)

- Online chat environments allow people to choose avatars to represent themselves, and they may slip in and out of character.

- De-centering of the subject is brought about by digital technologies (Turkle and Stone, pp 165).

- The relation between virtual and physical existence is a complex interplay that affects our understanding of both the body and (virtual) identity (Paul, pp 166).

- Question: To what extent are we already experiencing a man-machine symbiosis that has turned us into cyborgs—technologically enhanced and extended bodies?

- Question: …the question is not whether we will become posthuman, for posthumanity is already here….the question is what kind of posthumans we will be (Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, Paul, pp 166).

- Exchange is mediated by the ‘gaze’ of the computer (pp.169).
Question: To what extent do we become totally self absorbed in our own world through our intermediate exchange with the computer? Is there any difference between becoming absorbed in a virtual world versus what we call the 'real world'?

Question: What are the differences and similarities between on-line or virtual communities and real communities? How are values and social rules of convention applied or discarded in these contexts both separately and as they overlap and collide?


The possibilities posed by a deeper understanding of virtual worlds and augmented reality provide rich opportunities for artists to explore the past, present, and future through new media in pioneering ways which is truly amazing to me. Avatars and gaming are concepts that I was peripherally aware of but have come to a better understanding of the profound implications and potential applications they provide human global society.

Databases, visualization and mapping: The concept of disembodiment is interesting to me as it relates to both personal and universal experience. The piece on page 174 by Scott Snibbe (Boundary Functions, 1998) seems to have influenced the student that created the piece in the Regis Center this spring using the game 'Twister'. I am interested in the possibilities of documentation and tracking and transposing data and ideas in rapid fashion. It is amazing what memory machines have and the efficiency with which they can assist us as humans to recall and process mounds of material that in more archaic and paper times would take one or several human lifetimes. Machines allow us to process the ideas from the past in a more synthetic fashion.


Beyond the book: texts and narratives

I am really interested in hypertext and hypermedia as it relates to the history of automatic writing and surrealist experimentation. The multiple layers of worlds and potential possible worlds as real life scenarios and stories are mind boggling to me. I am drawn to the poetic works of John Maeda (Tap, Type, Write, 1998) and David Small and Tom White (Stream of Consciousness/Interactive Poetic Garden, 1998). I can easily imagine myself in the context of this work ~ which brings together concepts of nature and post-modern architectural space.


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