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<nettime> Not Art&Tech
olia lialina on Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:46:35 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Not Art&Tech

Dear nettimers,

Earlier this month I had a chance to introduce my thoughts on what media theory's role in universities of applied arts could be in times when Media is vanishing and Technology is raising. Let me share it with you. I paste the first part below but suggest to follow the link for the annotated hyper-linked multimedia version


Not Art&Tech

On the role of Media Theory at Universities of Applied Art, Technology and Art and Technology.

/UniversitÃt fÃr angewandte Kunst Wien, November, 201

Thank you for the chance to introduce my ideas. Iâm a net artist,
active in the field since 20 years, 16 of these years I am teaching
new media designers at Merz Akademie. Iâm also a co-author of the
book Digital Folklore. Since the beginning of the century I collect,
preserve and monumentalize the web culture of the 90âs. âWhat Does
It Mean to Make a Web Pageâ is the doctoral thesis I work on right

As an artist, researcher and teacher I value user culture and medium
specificity in both design and research, and as an every day routine.
I see my work contributing to critical digital culture, media literacy
and the development of languages and dialects of New Media.

But there are many obstacles on my way. Three years ago I grasped
and boiled them down to three: technology, experience and people.
Or rather âtechnology,â âexperienceâ and âpeopleââI
have nothing against any of these concepts unless they are used by
hardware and software companies as substitutes for âcomputer,â
âinterfaceâ and âusers.â

The situation is serious and these substitutions are happening on an
epidemic scale.

In my essays Turing Complete User[1] and RUE[2] I trace the
metamorphoses that happened to the terms âusersâ and
âinterfaces.â Today, talking about the role of media theory at
the University of Applied Arts, I would like to start to elaborate on
âtechnologyâ and why to resist âArt and Technology.â

I should note that by defending the words in the left column, I always
find myself in an unfortunate situation. First of all because in our
field you should always go for the new, the next term if you are
unsatisfied with the current one,ânot backwards, at least not to
the nearest past. Nobody wants to be called âuser.â The effort to
deface this word was enormous and successful. Even when you understand
that âpeopleâ coming from the tech industryâs mouth is pure
hypocrisy, you would prefer to fight for your user rights by calling
yourself âdigital citizen,â not a userâ though there is no
digital city, state or constitution.

And I also find myself in awkward situations. Like it is the case now,
because I know that there is Art and Technology department at your
University; and because the next moment I use an institution as an
example that I have very close relations to, and that is probably the
only one in the world that supports my work, because it is devoted to
net art and keeping an archive of it: Rhizome at the New Museum in New

A year ago, during their community campaign, Rhizome, whose priority
is to push critical digital culture released nicely designed bags.
If it would be another organization, or if it would be a bag of a
size that wouldnât suggest that its purpose is to carry around your
personal computer, I would pass by, but it was not the case, so the
bag was vandalized.

âDonât fall for the word âtechnologyââ, Ted Nelsons
concludes in the last paragraph of Geeks bearing Gifts,[3] âIt
sounds determinate. It hides the fights and the alternatives. And
mostly it is intended to make you submissive.â He appeals to not
accept computer technology as WYSIHAMâhis own acronym for What You
See is Wonderfully, Happily, Absolutely Mandatoryâbut to see the
tensions, the history and the alternatives. It is an important call,
but only one third of the argument I have against the term technology.

Submission is one issue, but sedation is even more important.
âTechnologyâ as a replacement for digital technology or computer
technology, who are in turn already substitutes for âprogrammed
system,â is a figure of speech known as synecdoche: in this
particular case when the whole is referring for a part.

It is a rhetorical trope that makes the computer dissolve in all
other technologies, becoming an invisible part, just one of many
technologies. It is in the interest of the industry, because it makes
users unaware of the computer as a system that is programmed, that can
be reprogrammed any moment, that could potentially be programmed or
reprogrammed by their users.

There are (re-)programmable technologies and many that are not
programmable. But constant repetition of the word technology instead
of computers sedates and makes forget that the system you hold in your
hands is a programmable one.

It appears that another good reason to say technology instead of
computer is that anywayâthey sayâcomputers are inside almost every
piece of technology anyway, or as Kevin Kelly writes in his book
What technology Wantsânot recommended reading, but canât avoid
to mention it hereâ: âthese days all technology follows computer

In the end of the day, technology is explicitly used as a new word
for computer, not any other technologies, including digital ones, but
explicitly digital ones. So the purpose is to avoid saying computer.
Indeed technology is not a synecdohe but an euphemism.

âItâs time to give up this talk of technology with big T and
instead figure out how different technologies can boost and compromise
the human condition.â Evgenij Morozov makes a rare constructive
suggestion in his sour To Save Everything Click Here.[6]

It is tempting to agree, but I would argue again that both Technology
with big T as well as technologies with small ts should be replaced
by computer with whatever sizes of the c. I know computer is an
abstraction as well, but it still connotates algorithmic powers,
programmability. It describes what happens with society, with culture,
with arts.

Rhizomeâs most successful event is Seven on Seven. The promotional
text says: â[â] Seven on Seven conference pairs seven leading
artists with seven luminary technologists, and challenges them to make
something new together â be it an application, artwork, provocation,
or whatever they imagine â over the course of a single day.â

Technologist are people of different backgrounds, including art or at
least artistic ambitions, with something in commonâthey can program
orâ which was more of the case latelyâthey represent the software

Art and Technology as of today, or even âArt&Techââa term I
learned about in early 2014 while reading articles reporting about
both Seven on Seven and the monumental exhibition Digital Revolution
at Barbican, Londonâis not a revolutionary art form or an artistic
movement. Art&Tech is, like âtechnology,â a figure of speech.
It swiftly replaces Computer Art, Digital Art, Media Art. Art&Tech
alludes to the almost 50 years old E.A.T program of the Los Angeles
County Museum of ArtâExperiments with Art and Technology.

In 1967 E.A.T was promoted as artists bridging the world of
technophobes and technophiles, art entering the world of engineers,
âworking with materials that only industry can provide.â[7]
Contemporary art institutions love Art and Technology as a brand
because it gives a strong connection to E.A.T., which is both history
and establishment, and a celebrated example of artists collaborating
with West Coast Industries.

The next epochal 70 artist group-exhibition I am in will take
place 2016 at Whitechapel, London. The title is Electronic
Superhighway, a term coined by Nam June Paik in 1974, but the
show is IMHO artificially extended back to 1966, to be less
Media/Computer/Internet, to include artifacts of E.A.T., and be more

âTechnologyâ sedates. âArt&Techâ beams loyalty.

[please continue reading:


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