The Shape Of Things Philosophy Of Design Cultural Studies Essay

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When studying computer-aided imagery, technically complicated spectators can generally tell whether the artist is employing existing or out of date technology. High-end computer art can attain greater amounts of mimesis to the degree of making the presence of the technology imperceptible. Since the late 1980s, a most important goal of computer graphics has been to attain the reality effect of colour photography and, more in recent times, 35mm film. This very important has parallels in hypothetical writing. In accordance with the late media theorist Vilem Flusser, the artistic value of computer art depends on realism. Because digital imagery can be enumerated, he equated realism with truth: "From now on we will have to embrace beauty as the only acceptable criterion of truth. This is already observable in relation to computer art: the more beautiful the digital apparition the more real and truthful the projected alternative worlds."

If the utilisation of high-tech technology ever more becomes a main aspect in determining the artistic significance of a work of art, it will be impossible to maintain the respect for artistic diversity that postcolonial studies has supported. The new artistics will promote a cultural supremacy that will not be easily challenged as the construction of new canons will be justified by quantifiable and measurable attributes. Manovich has noted that all the dimensions in a digital image, including detail, number of colours, shape, and movement, can be specified in exact numbers. For example, the spatial and colour resolution of a two-dimensional image is expressed by the number of pixels and the colours per pixel. The degree of detail of a three-dimensional model and consequently its reality effect is specified by three-dimensional resolution, the number of points of which the model is composed. "Not surprisingly, the advertisements for graphics software and hardware prominently display these numbers. The bottom line: the reality effect of a digital representation can be measured in dollars. Realism has become a commodity. It can be bought and sold like anything else." [1] 

If artists in developed countries feel pressured to constantly upgrade, fearing that the value of their work will be judged on the currency of the technology, artists in poor countries could be even more severely marginalised, as they have less opportunities for upgrading and may choose not to work with the technology in the first place. Thus, the emerging artistics could be retrogressive in two ways: in re-establishing mimesis as the norm to which art should aspire and in re-establishing the artistic superiority of wealthy nations over poor ones. Here I should add that in contemporary culture mimesis is not limited to the realism of imagery, as Flusser envisioned. Mimesis is a more open realm including the simulation of all levels of organic behaviour, from the reproduction and evolution of viruses to animal and human interaction. Even though not all simulations of behaviour necessitate high technology, they require specialised technical skills from computer programming for artificial life, autonomous agents, and animatronic robots. Because these fields are closely connected with the military industrial complex, they have greater representation in developed countries.

Objections could be made to these suggestions on two grounds: the incidence of low-tech photography and video in contemporary art and the phenomenon of art on the Net. The current enthusiasm for photography and video occurs at a time when these art forms are being absorbed by digital media. This enthusiasm could be interpreted as a nostalgic gesture rather than as proof of the equality of all technologies in the contemporary art world. The race for high technology is evident in the art showcased at institutions that have established themselves as models for art in new media, including the InterCommunication Centre (ICC) in Tokyo, the ZKM/Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, and the Ars Electronica Centre, the Museum of the Future, in Linz.

The phenomenon of Net art presumably neutralises the question of value, since no work has a higher value than the next. [2] In this respect, art on the Net partakes of its utopian rhetoric, in which all creatures are created equal. The Net has been ascribed the potential to liberate humanity; Net art is believed to have the capacity to restructure the art world. Net artists are believed to be more revolutionary than artists working in another media, as they function independent of institutions, commercial and academic. [3] 

No one will dispute the openness of the Net as an exhibition medium. But even though anyone who has access to a server can exhibit work there, this does not mean that anyone will see it. In the early days of Web-based artwork (ca. 1996), the works that gained the most critical notoriety were often by artists who already had established a reputation in other media, such as Antonio Muntadas. More recently, activist interventions such as those organised by the Electronic Disturbance Theatre in solidarity with Zapatistas in Mexico have gained recognition. These are innovative forms of activism, but the effects of these actions on the art world are yet to be determined.

Then there is the question of the transposition of the museum and gallery world to the Web. Commercial galleries are already numerous there. Traditional museums, initially dismissive of art on the Net, are racing to have a presence in this new realm. Major museums like the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art in New York are sponsoring Web site projects, and institutions that previously funded artworks in traditional media are currently favouring Web-based projects.

Because it is possible to receive imagery from anywhere in the world in seconds, the Net has the possibility of obliterating hierarchies and homogenizing difference. Some theorists view it as a medium for individuals from different places to enter the space of modernity. The rapid accessibility of imagery on the Net opens great possibilities for a homogenizing hybridity, even though at present most of Net culture is Western. The hybridity of imagery alone will not necessarily erase differences, nor will it impede the formation of new canons. Hybridity is already ingrained in post-modern artistics and has been aptly co-opted by the world of advertising. Multiculturalism and multinational capitalism are complexly interconnected. What is relevant now is not the sources of an image but its ability to partake in current technological discourses. At present, there is much investment in VRML sites, autonomous agents, and artificial life on the Web, all of which require sophisticated resources. The technological imperative in the arts is creating a new and exclusionary universalism. Lessons from postcolonial studies could provide a frame of reference to question this new order.

While writing in an essay called "Digital Apparitions," Vilem Flusser observes that calibrations form the genetic tissues of the digital: "individuals revealed that even though the world may be unbelievable and beyond description it is assessable." In calibration, analogue imagery materialise computations and algorithms, condensing down the manifold, depositary layers of associations between the digital and the analogue. The analogue alters into a symbol for the digital. Calibration executes translation but disposes of conversation and dialogic rendezvous. Calibrations produce associations based on partings.

As equally an art means and a method to document actions, photography has become omnipresent in our more and more image-driven traditions from the time of its development in the early 1800s. Prague-born theorist Flusser (1920-91) related himself with design, communication, and language. His enlightening essays, initially published in German in 1983, are obtainable in English for the first time. Flusser explains a world primarily altered by the innovation of the "technical image" and the means that support and define industrialised modern culture. He argues that whereas ideas were earlier understood by written account, the innovation of photography allows the conception of imagery (ideas) taken at face value as certainty, not analysis that can be continually simulated and spread global. His essays make out players in this reproduction (his lexicon includes the Apparatus, the Functionary, and the Technical Image) and inform of growing illiteracy because of a gullible faith in photography's "reality." Flusser does not talk about precise photographs or imagery but of the outsized forces at work in the all the time more technical and mechanised world.

Contrasting Flusser, Batchen (art and art history, Univ. of New Mexico) investigates obscurely into individual works to elucidate his thoughts, ploughing into such topics as the improvement of photography, the medium's imminent downfall, photography about photography, and "da(r)ta" digital art that remarks on its own formation. Assigning a profound admiration for the significance of photography, he mourns the way imagery have become products in the digital age. Batchen also discovers the history of photography and looks at outsized cultural forces from inside the structure of the means.

This text presents in English a collection of critiques on design by the influential media opponent and philosopher, Vilem Flusser. It puts forward the outlook that our prospect is dependant on design. In a succession of essays on such usual things as wheels and umbrellas, Flusser highlights the interassociation between art and science, theology and technology, and archaeology and architecture. Just as proper originality has produced both weapons of obliteration and great works of art, Flusser believed the form of things (and designs behind them) represents both a danger and a prospect for the outlook.

Flusser was a Czech-born media opponent and theorist who moved towards the viewpoint of design as a topic for etymological investigation. He is a stranger, not a designer and move towards his views from an observational position. This book consists of a series of short essays that I found quite interesting. A different outlook to say the least. The first essay breaks down the word design into its root form from the Greek. Flusser draws equivalents in context between the word design: associated with cunning and deceit, and other significant words: mechanics and machine. He eventually ends up at the word technology and goes on to discuss the context of art and technology in culture and the discovery of the design behind them. It is an interesting approach to study the break down and meaning of the words and apply context to their use.

Flusser died in 1991, but many of the essays in his book foresees the future of the Internet - one of the reasons I found this book so fascinating. In his essay "The Factory", he talks about the development of the machine through time - from early Stone Age rocks and tools to the industrial revolution. He then goes on to discuss the evolution of mechanised machines and robots and eventually sees a future where, "A new method of manufacturing - i.e. of functioning - is coming into being: The human being is a functionary of robots that function as a function of him. This new human being, the functionary, is linked to robots by thousands of partly invisible threads: Wherever he goes, stands or lies, he carries the robots around with him (or is carried around by them) and whatever he does or suffers can be interpreted as a function of the robot." Sounds a lot like the web and the personal computer. That extension of technology and the machine to human and the human need to create through this technology is a fundamental shift from the industrial nature of conception. We create in the ether with no tangible artefacts of our time and thinking. We design.

Flusser goes on to say, "This provides a hint as to what factories of the future will look like: like schools in fact. They will have to be places where human beings can learn how robots function so that these robots can relieve human beings of the task of turning nature into culture. In fact, the human beings of the future in the factories of the future will learn to do this by, with and from robots. Thus in the case of the factory of the future, we will have to think more in terms of scientific laboratories, art academies and libraries and collections of recordings than in terms of present-day factories. And we shall have to look upon the robot-man of the future more as an academic than an as artisan, worker or engineer." I believe we are already seeing this as the world becomes driven by the knowledge worker, the computer-Internet jockey. We make information, we design information, we design experiences through and within this information.

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