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<eyebeam><blast> CLOSING SUMMARY 8

<eyebeam><blast> artistic practice in the network 


Margaret Morse took us through into the forum via symbolic breasts and a
carnival parade. She suggests that when it comes to desire, symbols are
also events. She writes that distinctions between words, images and
symbols and "real life" are often misguided, "especially once machines
can say 'I' and 'you' and we are immersed visually, aurally and
kinetically in symbolic worlds of our own creation." Her notion of
symbolic events attempts to "blur the distinction between cognition and
action, between language (including audiovisuality) and 'just doing
it.'" This distinction becomes more and more muddied anyway, she writes,
once acts in the world are performed at a keyboard or joystick or other
telematic relay by manipulating symbols on a display screen. 

Margaret writes that she is interested in the passage of value through
different ontological stages (concepts, images, commodity displays,
built environment, objects, bodies, etc.) and systems of exchange
(sexual-matrimonial, economic, symbolic), keyed through the television
image (and now information) as the virtual common denominator. She
considers the Internet "a vast externalization of a symbolic system that
is also manifest in other degrees of materialization, including the
infrastructure and the protocyberspace of the built environment." The
network artistic works that she knows best are not only digital or
contained online, but have physical, local components, dealing with the
intersection and interaction of on- and offscreen life.

What new languages can we develop for dealing with these
body-symbol-object-environment flows and formations? I asked this
question to Greg Ulmer, who confronts many of these issues in both in
his ongoing work and in the context of the EmerAgency.  Greg looks at
the site of the emergency or public disaster as an agent that
produces/registers alignments or networks, in which the viewer is
embedded, positing new relationships between the human and the object of
study. He sees the public phenomenon in terms of the different elements
it mobilizes and distributes, the capacities it endows. 

Greg replied that what he is trying to learn from art and artists of the
colonial era (to extrapolate our postcolonial moment) is to sort out the
problematic of "primitivism." While "the literate theorists were
defending against fetishism by means of negative analysis, the artists
were casting off (however fancifully) Western practices and importing,
smuggling, legally and illegally, all manner of states of mind from
non-Western cultures. Primitivism is the wrong category to understand
what was happening." Greg suggests that "syncretism" is more useful,
creolization, Cartesian funk ("no mo mind-body split"). As a trading
language for the Internet (with no native speakers), he suggests
"cyberpidgin." Elvis is an example.  Elvis is cyberpidgin dialect,
intelligible in most parts of the world (side burns, curled lip, pelvic

Katherine Hayles writes that one of the approaches she has found helpful
is that of Bruno Latour.  She explains that Latour defines a concept he
calls the "quasi-object"--quasi because it has objectlike properties but
also cognitive properties that make it very different from our
traditional concept of an object. "What Latour wants to do by defining a
'quasi-object' is to break down traditional boundaries that put animate
objects in one category, inanimate in another.  Rather, he places both
into a single field of actors interacting with one another." In this
scheme, it is more or less incidental that some actors are human, some
are not. 

Another approach Katherine cites is that of Edwin Hutchins.  The
"language" in his work has less to do with specialized vocabulary than
it does with a perspective that does not uniquely privilege human
consciousness as the site of cognition.  Cognition arises as a much more
generalized phenomenon that is embedded in a variety of modalities,
locations, and objects, all working together to create flexible yet
robust performance.  Habitual motions thus become a way of "thinking" or
cognizing that which happens more or less independently of

Mark Tribe wrote about his business called Stockobjects.  He describes
it as the first full-spectrum new media stock library, based on the
traditional photo stock business model. "Stockobjects serves as an
online clearinghouse for digital media assets. We license images,
animations, 3D models and code objects from designers, animators and
programmers, and sell licenses to the objects via the web." When objects
are received, "we screen them for relevance, accepting only those that
we think are likely to sell based on customer feedback and sell-through
data. Accepted objects are then watermarked, indexed, priced and
uploaded into the database."

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