Art @ Algorithms

     I have been sent some images of the Art & Algorithms festival and am quite impressed with their set up.  Gary Zabel and the other organizers have done a great job introducing the public to the potential of using virtual environments as a medium for art.  As you can see in the girls face above, she is captivated by her interaction with the virtual space, despite being in a public place and being photographed.  The ability to tune out competing distractions is a big challenge in creating immersion within the viewer.
Singularity of Kumiko
Singularity of Kumiko
It is a fragile state yet they have done a wonderful job in creating a space that allows the guests to become immersed in the medium.   In looking at her body language we can see that she leans forward, which is a sign that she is interested or captivated by the experience (as opposed to leaning backwards which suggests rejection).  We live in a world which is becoming further based on mass stimulus.  Advertising is everywhere, and with the advent of "targeted" advertising, which focuses on observing our online behaviour and what not, I for one, am beginning to see an almost disconnect in some of my friends.  Some of them find it near impossible to ignore an incoming text message, thanks to the Pavlovian ding they give out.  Everything is competing to catch our attention.  I have other friends from the "cable cutter" generation, those who have removed their TVs and simply watch the occasional thing on Netflicks, I have noticed in these a clarity in their attention.  When you talk to them they focus on you, whereas, some other friends of mine who are the facebook, tv, phone addict types, they seem to be developing a need for.. god whats the word?  A need for excessive stimulus?  As though they have become accustomed or trained to require a bombardment of stimulus, real time updates, reward systems and so on, to maintain focus.   I have friends who can't read books anymore... not enough stimulus.  Anyway, so having said all this, I am encouraged to see this girl engrossed in the experience, I may be wrong but it seems to me as though the virtual space and narratives such as the Singularity of Kumiko, are experiences closer to a book in regards to using ones imagination and interaction, than to more modern forms which supply stimulus rather than allowing the viewer to create, from their imagination, the environments of the mind.  So for example, a book is not really considered interactive, but isn't it?  In text we are told about characters and places, then under the blankets in bed at night by the lamp, we imagine what the characters look like, their accents or grand vistas.  We imagine all this based on simple text which, to me, seems more interactive than a movie which provides all the imagery, characters and even movement.  Movement in that we follow the camera wherever it decides to take us, as opposed to the freedom of movement in an open ended environment such as the virtual space provides.


Anonymous said…
I do indeed meet your worries there.
Daily, I can myself notice how distant became most of the people I share with.
Sucked in some hyper data world, driven to fulfill immediate needs when one barely arises.
However, I'd like to trust this is just a transition of sort, that might finally lead some people, if not all, to develop a capacity to sort sensory stimulation in a different way.
How ? Well, maybe the brain will eventually manage to "swallow" that data and release attention while we record that data flow.
Or, like society previously evolved, parting intellectuals on one side, and sensitives on the other, we might someday see a new kind of split happening, between the wired people, and the unplugged ones.

Only time will tell.
One thing remaining true is that most of us, that can still compare the "old world" and the one that is ahead, can easily feel uncomfortable: there is so much we felt and learnt idling, and how many minutes in a day are we left with that possibility anymore ?
Bryn Oh said…
Assisted evolution perhaps where it occurs over decades rather than millenia. The other day I watched a youtube video of some members of a reclusive tribe who were filmed interacting with some locals. It is remarkable the gulf in technology between some portions of the human population. I wonder what they would make of the occulus rift for example.
Mireille said…
Hi, Bryn. I don't know how I missed this post until now. Perhaps it is due to some distractibility I've noted in myself of late. I'm not happy about that, and have been trying various means of increasing my capacity to focus including exploring some in-world as well as out-world projects that require both attention and flexibility. "Brain training" at has been helpful, as I am aware of the role brain plasticity plays in how well (or poorly) many individuals cope with the onslaught of information you note in your post.
Thank you for this cogent and revealing look at the impact of the digital age...for enlivening the conversation about where we've been and where we're going (and whether we're going to decide for ourselves as individuals and groups or simply respond by rote in a semi-Pavlovian way to the cacophony of messages vying for our individual and collective attention). The conversation is important.
I agree that we are in a transitional time and that there will likely be an adaptation coming for society. The question in my mind is whether that adaptation will be positive or negative. We must choose and be responsive and responsible for how we manage the transition.
I teach in a small university and I see students and educators dealing with the transition in a range of ways. Some are like sheep answering the clarion (or dogs answering the bell); others are more assiduous in their use of the newer tools rather than being used by them. I believe the latter group will fare better initially, but that the neurolinguistic shift is inevitable, and that - as long as we maintain and further develop our capacity to honour the past while envisioning the future (also known as living vibrantly in the now) - we'll be fine. Art will survive as our touchstone to both reality and imagination - the two places where we must reside simultaneously to flourish physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually.
Thank you again for this fine and important contribution to the discussion - and for your art. Thank you for the many gifts you share in your work. It is truly appreciated as we explore these new vistas that will, I believe, take us deeper.
Bryn Oh said…
Thanks Mireille I agree with you and I also better check out Lumosity as I too often feel that fragmentation of my focus! I was thinking the other day that perhaps part of it is that right now, at this moment in history, educators, leaders and so on are all from a generation that were introduced, as small children, to a certain type of information (doll, xylophone, etch-a-sketch etc) from when our brains were like sponges absorbing all that was given to us. Our lives are perhaps shaped from that very early time, yet had we or even a child from the 1800's, 1600? been introduced to the same high stimulus sensory input then they too would have perhaps absorbed it as easily as kids today, it just wasn't available, yet our brains could have easily adapted to it. So having said that perhaps the problems I wonder about now are simply things that will be resolved once the child of today is in a teaching position where they have the same learned traits as those they teach. Though I guess by that time the new kids will have a new disconnect of some sort haha oh well that was me daydreaming.

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