Interactivity — Who Cares?

This paper places contemporary modalities of digital interaction in an historical context of a quarter century of technological development and artistic experimentation. 2011.

Art After Computing

This paper follows three related strands of techno-cultural development related to the interactions between computing and arts practices over the last quarter century. The first is aesthetico-theoretical in nature, is recognition of the radically new kinds of cultural practices made possible by real time computing (especially interactive practices) and the complementary recognition that new modes of performative and relational aesthetics are called for. The second strand concerns the tacit or covert incursion of ideologies of computing into arts practices and the possibility that such ideologies may have had the pernicious effect of devaluing or disenfranchising, or simply rendering invisible or irrelevant, traditional practices and values which themselves may have been inadequately or poorly explicated. The third strand tracks the collapse of the cognitivist Cartesian worldview around which ʻgood old fashioned artificial intelligenceʼ (GOFAI) and cognitive science were framed, and the emergence of situated, embodied, enactive and distributed paradigms of cognition. 2010.

Techno–utopianism, Embodied Interaction and the Aesthetics of Behavior — an interview with Simon Penny

This text is an edited version of an interview conducted by Jihoon Felix Kim at the International Symposium on Art and Technology, Korea National University of the Arts, Seoul, Korea, November 2008. Transcribed by Kristen Galvin, edited by Kristen Galvin, and Simon Penny. 2008-2010.

Desire for Virtual Space: the Technological Imaginary in 1990s Media Art

This article discusses technological and discursive developments in the interdisciplinary historical trajectory of theory and practice of digital cultures in the 1990s, specifically around the notion of virtuality and the transition to the paradigm of ubiquitous computing. 2010.

Trying to be Calm: Ubiquity, Cognitivism and Embodiment

The paper outlines the role of the cognitivist paradigm in shaping notions of computation and virtuality through the 90s and draws attention to the increasing importance of discourses of embodiment in both HCI and media arts since the early 90s. The key role of media artists in proposing and developing new modalities of embodied interaction is observed. Two quite different classes of technology which are often grouped under the rubric of ʻubiquitous computingʼ are distinguished. It is argued that the ongoing paradigm shift toward embodied and performative cognitive perspectives is critical to resolving theoretical and (interaction) design challenges inherent in the development of ubiquitous technology. 2009-10.

Art and Artificial Life – a Primer

This essay is an attempt to contextualise Artificial Life Art by providing an historical overview, and by providing background in the ideas which helped to form the Artificial Life movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. based life-forms. Unfortunately but inescapably, such debate was often muddied by Extropian rhetoric asserting that in computers and robotics, humans were building the machine successors to biological (human) life. 2009.

Rigorous Interdisciplinary Pedagogy — Five Years at ACE

The emergence of media-arts and digital cultural practices has provided a highly charged context for the development of interdisciplinary pedagogy, combining as it does, practices and traditions from historically, culturally and theoretically wildly divergent disciplines. This paper addresses aspects of effective interdisciplinary educational process, attending to questions of pedagogy, theory and institutional pragmatics. 2008.

Rigorous Interdisciplinary Pedagogy — Appendix

This text is the final section of the paper Rigorous Interdisciplinary Pedagogy five years of ACE in its original version and focuses on the specifics of the implementation of the ACE program at the University of California Irvine. 2008.

Experience and Abstraction: The Arts and the Logic of Machines

This paper is concerned with the nature of traditions of Arts practice with respect to computational practices and related value systems. At root, it concerns the relationship between the specificities of embodied materiality and aspirations to universality inherent in symbolic abstraction. This tension structures the contemporary academy, where embodied arts practices interface with traditions of logical, numerical and textual abstraction in the humanities and the sciences. 2007-08.

Bridging Two Cultures: Towards an Interdisciplinary History of the Artist–Inventor and the Machine–Artwork

The goal of this paper is to assert the historical validity of a consistent tradition of practice which exploits emerging electronic and mechanical technologies for cultural purposes. Due to its inherently interdisciplinary nature, this tradition can be fully understood neither within the terms of conventional art historical discourse nor within the terms of discourses of technological research and development. 2005-08.

Representation, Enaction and the Ethics of Simulation

The goal of this paper is twofold, academic and activist. The academic goal is to attempt to enhance critical discussion of interactive media practice and interactive media cultural practice by introducing a consideration of the implications of embodied involvement in the process. The activist dimension arises from this, and raises a question of ethical responsibility regarding cultural objects which might function as training environments to build behaviors which will ultimately be expressed in the real world. 2004.

Adequate Pedagogy: the Missing Piece of Digital Culture

Human culture, and western culture in particular, is in a process of radical change due to the development of digital technologies. It is characteristic of cultural practices that emerging technologies are rapidly colonised and tested. A diverse range of new digital cultural practices are currently emerging. This cultural change demands new types of educational programs in order to train new types of professionals. Such educational programs will combine existing disciplines in new ways and will also include new emerging contexts, new technique and new practices. 2003.

Traces: Embodied Immersive Interaction with Semi-Autonomous Avatars

Traces (1998-9) is an artwork for the CAVE that uses a novel machine vision system to enable unencumbered full body interaction with a range of semi-autonomous agents without the imposition of any sort of textual, iconic or encoded-gestural interfaces and without physically restrictive wiring, pointing devices, or headgear. Furthermore, Traces does not consist of a world which is navigated; instead, the movement of the user through the space leaves volumetric and spatial-acoustic residues of user movement which slowly decay. This project was motivated by a desire to explore and critique four central issues in contemporary HCI: (a) embodied interaction with computational systems; (b) rapid and transparent learning of interfaces by untrained users (the autopedagogic interface); (c) immersive bodily interaction with software agents, (d) extension and elaboration of the general conception of interactivity itself. 2001.

Systems Aesthetics and Cyborg Art: The Legacy of Jack Burnham

In a flurry of activity in the late sixties, Jack Burnham wrote three substantial art-theoretical works: Beyond Modern Sculpture (subtitled: The effects of Science and Technology on the sculpture of this century), The Structure of Art and Great Western Saltworks (subtitled: essays on the meaning of post formalist art) . “The tools of scholarly criticism- stylistics, iconographical analysis, historical context, and formal analysis in the last fifty years- remain as trusted now as ever. Yet they explain with diminishing clarity what has happened after 1800, and almost nothing of what has happened in sculpture in the last sixty years. I am sure that my lack of success with the tools of art scholarship is in part responsible for the present book. Had the tools served their purpose, I might not have sought others less respected." Jack Burnham, BMS. 1999.

Agents as Artworks: and Agent Design as Artistic Practice

My intention in this essay is to discuss agent building from the perspective of the visual arts. I will argue for the value of artistic methodologies to agent design. I will not advance some futuristic version of the romantic bohemian artist, agonising over an expressionistic agent in his garret. Nor will I propose the harnessing of artistic minds to the industrial machine. I want to advance another argument which is pertinent specifically to the building of Social Agents. I propose that there are aspects of artistic methodology which are highly pertinent to agent design, a which seem to offer a corrective for elision generated by the often hermetic culture of scientific research. 1999.

John Heartfield, where are you when we need you most?

More than one commentator has identified "computer art" as the last bastion of modernism. It has been, by and large, a fairly aesthetised and de-politicised affair. This is all the more strange since the practice arose during a time when activist, socially engaged art practice became a major movement. On the other hand, it is not surprising given that half the impetus for the practice came from the discipline of computer science, which, having made its Faustian bargain with the military-industrial complex, is condemned to permanent erasure of social conscience. 1998.

The Virtualisation of Art Practice: Body Knowledge and the Engineering World View

When artists engage electronic and particularly digital tools, a negotiation occurs between methodologies of traditional art practice and the value system inherent in the tools themselves. This negotiation is implicit and rarely discussed. The nature of artistic practice, the artistic product and the consumption of the work is thereby changed and is at variance with conventional understandings in pre-electronic artwork. The goal of this essay is to make explicit some of the characteristics of the value system which structures these new tools and thus the nature of the negotiation that is taking place, on the level of both individual practice and historical trend. The virtualisation of artistic practice by the use of simulatory tools implies the eradication of kinesthetic or somatosensory awarenesses and skills. I will argue that an holistic relation to the self (mind/body) is central to traditional artistic practice, but that the philosophical tradition around which the computer is built inherently affirms the Cartesian duality. Contrary to the popular rhetorics of ‘convergence’, a dramatic philosophical collision is occurring because the goals and methods of the discipline of engineering are at odds with traditional artistic methodologies. 1997.

Embodied Cultural Agents: at the intersection of Art, Robotics and Cognitive Science

This paper outlines the development over several years of Petit Mal, an autonomous robotic artwork, and discusses a new project arising from it. Central concerns are an holistic approach to the hardware/software duality, the construction of a seemingly sentient and social machine from minimal components, the generation of an agent interface utilising purely kinesthetic or somatosensory modes which `speak the language of the body' and bypasses textual,verbal or iconic signs. General goals are exploration of the `aesthetics of behavior', of the cultural dimensions of autonomous agents and of emergent sociality amongst agents, virtual and embodied. The research emerges from artistic practice and is therefore concerned with subtle and evocative modes of communication rather than pragmatic goal based functions. A notion of an ongoing conversation between system and user is desired over a (pavlovian) stimulus and response model. 1997.

From A to D and back again: The emerging aesthetics of Interactive Art

Interactive art represents a radical phase-shift in western esthetics. Artists are confronting unexplored territory: the esthetics of machine mediated interactivity. Designing the interactive experience adds an entire dimension to the esthetic endevour, one without precedent in the visual and plastic arts. In the west, the visual arts have no tradition of an esthetics of interactivity. Six hundred years of painting has resulted in a rich esthetics of the still image, of color and line, shape and area, of representational geometry and perspective. The effect of six hundred years of enculturation is that we know how to read images (which observe the conventions of renaissance perspective) before we can read text. One hundred years of moving image has given us a culturally established set of cinematic conventions: we can read cinema. But as yet we have no culturally established esthtetic of real time interaction. 1996.

The Darwin Machine: Artificial Life and Interactive Art

This paper is a consideration of the emerging discipline of Artificial Life, viewed from two perspectives. On the one hand, Artificial Life is considered from the perspective of the history and philosophy of science. One the other, ALife is examined from the perspective of cultural practice, particularly from the perspective of an artist concerned with the implications of these ideas in the formation of an esthetic of interactivity. 1995.

Why do we want our machines to seem alive?

The two impulses which I want to focus upon are the twin drives of mimesis and anthropmorphism. Although we consider mimesis and anthropomorphism to be concerns of the visual arts, I contend these drives cut through disciplines and find expression in the most advanced technology available at any particular historical moment. 1995.

Consumer Culture and the Technological Imperative: The Artist in Dataspace

In many discussions of computer arts, the conversation has focused upon a dialectic between the sciences and the arts, a recapitulation of C. P. Snow's somewhat dated dualism.[1] I want to insert a third term, without which such a discussion can have only limited relevance to contemporary culture: consumer commodity economics. 1995

Virtual Reality As The End Of The Enlightenment Project

Virtual Reality, like any other technology, is embedded in a cultural history which lends to the enterprise a worldview. In the first part of this paper I will attempt to unearth aspects of that system by, firstly, constructing a pre-history of VR; and secondly, examining VR's comtemporary cultural context. 1992–94.

Fred Truck's ArtEngine: a case study in the problematics of software art

ArtEngine is menu driven at the front end, but attempts a more complex interactivity. It requires the operator to create original lists of objects in the Scheme programming language. Thus it immediately engages the question of ‘depth’ of interactivity: how much learning should be required of the user before they can usefully interact, and the corollary: how rich can the harvest of this interaction be made to be. 1990