The anthology Digitalne dotknięcie, edited by Piotr Zawojski, is an attempt to create an interdisciplinary platform for intellectual exchange among scientists, practitioners, and humanists. The cult of combining practice with theory or science with art, a characteristic of what John Brockman calls third culture, is treated both as an inspiration and a point of departure. The concept of third culture comes from C.P. Snow’s postulate regarding the cultural opposition between scientists and humanistic intellectuals. It is an attempt to overcome the conflict between the humanist world of art and the world of science and technology, a concept of the communal exchange of ideas, practice, and experiments.
Digitalne dotknięcie was inspired by an exchange of experiences and ideas regarding actions involving the use of binary code at the second edition of the digital_ia.09 Festival. Besides classic essays by eminent theoreticians in the broad field of new media, such as Prof. Kluszczyński, the anthology features articles by the multimedia artist Ksawery Kaliski and the founder of Academia Electronica in Second Life, Sidey Myoo. The underlying theme of all the chapters is their specific take on the topic of tactility, a principle that is breaking new ground in the relationship between art, science, and digital technology. The drive towards art that can be touched and interacted with – physically, as well as over the internet, through virtual reality, or via other media – poses new questions on the scope and limits of scientific and artistic experimentation.
Theory in practice
The book contains three separate thematic sections. The first comprises a collection of essays devoted to theoretical and historical perspectives on the concept of third culture as a symbiosis of theory and practice (Ryszard W. Kluszczyński). The collaboration between sculptor Jean Tinquely and the engineer Billy Klüver on “Homage to New York” is interpreted as a symbolic and real beginning to the collaboration between artists and engineers (discussed by Joanna Walewska), a collaboration that inspired theoreticians to treat artistic activity as research. This section also features pieces devoted to the issue of artificial intelligence (Maciej Ożóg) and individual concepts, including creativity, a phenomenon central to information society (Marcin Składanek).
Practice in theory
The second and equally interesting section discusses the issue of the digital world and the theoretical approach to new forms of creative activity from the perspective of artistic praxis.
Musician and composer Jakub Łuka describes his own activity, particularly in regards to sampling and plunderphonics, or the difference between using digital technology to transform source material, and the musical equivalent of found footage.
Polypoet Roman Bromboszcz writes about the synthesis of poetry in its phonetic, aural, concrete, and cybernetic forms. As he points out, cybernetic poetry by definition eschews inspiration while being “technophilial and critical towards technology”. The espousal of errors, interference, and transcoding is treated as the superior tenet of new poetic art.
The section also includes an article by Tomasz Misiak, who discusses the programming of music with computers (computational music) in the context of the creation of open source online media architectures, and ventures into the subject of glitch sounds, modeled after the activity of viruses in computer systems.
The final section is devoted to the ties between education and the development of new technology, a highly topical issue. How do we teach new media? How do we take advantage of technology’s potential to exercise the imagination and build knowledge when the students are much more at home in the virtual world than their teachers? Katarzyna Janicka and Ksawery Kaliski write about a new, alternative model of teaching, one that modifies the student-teacher relationship, and examine how authorities are no longer being regarded as the fount of knowledge.
The medium is not the message
The changes spurred by digital technology affect more than just the form of our social relationships, they deprecate old beliefs on the very nature of media. Today, computers are our creative tools, and the internet is merely one available distribution medium. In the era of an ever-growing third culture, even adages so deeply ingrained the theoretical reality as McLuhan’s “The medium is the message” are subject to redefinition: “The medium is no longer the message, the tool has become the message,” (Kim Cascone).
translated by Arthur Barys
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