Displaying Display, Envisioning Vision http://ift.tt/1nRI8oa Shannon
National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

It’s been a week of constructed views. I started off last week in Washington D.C., where I gave one of the opening plenary lectures at the Library on Congress’s Digital Preservation conference and spoke quite a bit about the constructed — and de-constructed — aesthetics of preservation. And of course L’Enfant’s plan for D.C. itself, full of monuments and grand buildings, emphasized (or, rather, forced) majestic views. The museums along the mall, too — many of which I hadn’t visited since I was a kid — offered a variety of case studies in the rhetorics of display.

Natural History Museum

A rotund parting shot in the Natural History Museum’s rotunda

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Library of Congress Reading Room Rotunda

Library of Congress Reading Room

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A little Lichtenstein forced perspective in the National Gallery sculpture garden

A little Lichtenstein forced perspective in the National Gallery sculpture garden

A brief aside: shortly before heading south, I enjoyed some lovely sunsets from my roof.

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And when I got back to NY, I checked out “Another Look at Detroit,” a show, conjoining the Marianne Boesky and Marlborough Chelsea galleries, that examines the city’s past and present as a creative center. I love, love, loved how the show was staged – with so many fabulous formal, textual, and temporal juxtapositions. The presentation implied how place-based movements and geographic “scenes” take shape: in many cases, political economic and cultural contexts, climate, topography, even signature urban and architectural forms, etc., all conspire to give rise to geographically-informed aesthetics, across all media.

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Detroit @ Boesky

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I remember Scott Reeder's pasta paintings from Lisa Cooley!

I remember Scott Reeder’s pasta paintings from Lisa Cooley!

Marlborough Entrance: James Lee Byar's The One Page Book

Marlborough Entrance: James Lee Byar’s The One Page Book

Detroit @ Marlborough

Detroit @ Marlborough

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Then, continuing in the “self-conscious display,” or “rhetorics of presentation,” theme, I visited Matthew Higgs’s “Displayed” at Anton Kern. As Ken Johnson wrote in the Times,

When you exhibit a work of art, there are two things going on. There’s the object and there’s the presentational apparatus, which might be a frame, a pedestal, a shelf or a vitrine. Also involved are the gallery architecture, the structure of the exhibiting institution and, in the broadest terms, the art world social system. Usually, viewers are supposed to focus on the object and take for granted the apparatus.

At Kern, Higgs, director of White Columns gallery, has highlighted those apparatae by, well, displaying works that are representative of what he calls “displayism”: they “explore the methodologies — both formal and psychological — of display and presentation. Borrowing from the languages of architecture, the museum, interior design, retail, and advertising among other disciplines, the works in Displayed variously consider our shifting relationships with (but of course!) — and attachments to — objects and the circumstances in which we encounter them: whether it be the gallery, the store, the street, the home, etc.” (These  themes were also palpable in Kristen Morgin’s “The Super Can Man and Other Illustrated Classics” and Dominique Gonzales-Foerster’s “euquinimod & costumes,” which I saw and wrote about a couple months ago.)

Displayed @ Kern

Displayed @ Kern

Even "accidental" architectural features, like fenestration and lighting, shape the rhetorics and affects of display

Even “accidental” architectural features, like fenestration and lighting, shape the rhetorics and affects of display

Displayed @ Kern

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Loved Marina Pinsky's Gaussian Blur I

Loved Marina Pinsky’s Gaussian Blur I

...And Moyra Davey's Newsstand photos

…And Moyra Davey’s Newsstand photos

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Then, uptown to Gallerie Perrotin’s Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler show, which features the pair’s community-based artwork from the 80s and 90s, up through Ericson’s death in 1995. This show totally captivated me — and not only because of the regularly ordered displays: the racks of jars and rows of tools. Seen en masse, the work’s understated politics becomes clear: here’s an attempt to distill and order, through basic elements — color, water, food, language — the identity of a community, of a place.

Below, on the ground: A Long Line: “22 antique toy dump trucks carry a load of fractured marble pieces sandblasted with texts from used history books.”

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Above: The Authentic Colors of Historic Philadelphia: “Displayed on an antique wooden bench, these ten jars contain different paints and are each sandblasted with its corresponding official color name. The colors were chosen from a paint chart that consists of 31 colors, all matched and certified to have been used on the interiors and exteriors of public and private buildings in colonial Philadelphia.” And relatedly…

Below: Dark on That Whiteness, 1998: “These 173 jars are filled with paint, each color matching the exterior walls of a federal building or monument surrounding the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The installation maps out the neighborhood, with each jar installed according to the corresponding building’s location. The jars are sandblasted with the commercial name of each color from the paint manufacturer. The title of the piece is a quotation from the nineteenth-century sculptor Horatio Greenough, which describes the dark red color of the stone used for the Smithsonian Institution building….”

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And more from D.C, below: Where the Water Goes: “The water int these jars was collected from three sites in the Washington, D.C> area. On the left, the water was collected from the Upper Potomac River, north of the aqueduct that supplies the city with water. The nine center jars contain water from each of the nine sinks in the public restrooms of the United States Supreme Court. On the right, the jar is filled with water from the Lower Potomac River, downriver from the city’s primary wastewater treatment facility.”

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Finally, Ericson and Ziegler’s interest in color and identity followed me downtown, to MoMA, where I saw Christopher Williams’s “The Production Line of Happiness” (a line drawn from Godard). Here, color is tied to brand — in this case, the brand-name materials (Kodak, Fuji, Pantone, etc.) integral to manufacturing idealized images. Just as Higgs’s exhibition highlighted the integrated apparatuses(ae) of “displayism,” Williams’s work and the show’s exhibition operate in tandem to make manifest the various apparatae of image-making, image display, of perception — and how those technical systems (all described exhaustively in lengthy captions) work together to produce meticulously “constructed images” that define our (consumer) ideals, that determine for us what constitutes “happiness.” As Villem Flusser states in his “Photo Production” lecture, reproduced in the exhibition catalog:

[I]mages are potent models. If one calls models of experience ‘art,’ models of knowledge ‘science,’ and models of evaluation ‘ethics’ or ‘politics,’ it becomes evident that photographing in the true sense is much more than an artistic endeavor. It is a fully human endeavor, where art, science, and ethics cannot be distinguished from one another.

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The “true photographer,” he continues, aims to “inform” others while acknowledging the “automatic reproducibility” of his tools. He “is committed against automation,” “engaged in a struggle against apparatus function.”

His aim is to force the apparatus to somehow invert its program like a glove, and have it produce that which is unexpected from the point of view of the program. Thus was we have here is the attempt to face the fact that the apparatuses we have produced tend to escape our control, tend to become autonomous of human decision. I believe that this is the context in which we must see the photographer’s commitment: to oppose the stupidity of the automatic disinformation with the human intention to produce, to distribute, and to stock new information, and thus overcome death and become somehow immortal.

Williams makes vision visible. He displays photography’s apparatae of automation, highlights the museum’s discourses of presentation, and denaturalizes the means by which consumer culture and capitalism “produce” spectacles of happiness.

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Smudgy vitrines and humidity monitors: technologies of display

Smudgy vitrines and humidity monitors: technologies of display

Bifurcated walls + bifurcated cameras

Bifurcated walls + bifurcated cameras

http://ift.tt/1nRI6ga
“Get Ready for the Creepy Affective Computing Turn: Affectiva’s Affdex “Facial Coding” System & Neuroscientific Research may “Ensure” Consumer Loyalty…Whether You Like it Or Not”

Screenshots from a video from Affectiva shows how the Affdex software tracks facial cues to infer emotions. At top left, a fixed stare signals concentration; at top right, a furrowed brow signals confusion; at bottom right, a raised brow signals enjoyment; and at bottom left, a wrinkled nose bridge may signal disgust.A market for emotions

With emotion-tracking software, Affectiva attracts big-name clients, aims for “mood-aware” Internet.

Rob Matheson

Emotions can be powerful for individuals. But they’re also powerful tools for content creators, such as advertisers, marketers, and filmmakers. By tracking people’s negative or positive feelings toward ads — via traditional surveys and focus groups — agencies can tweak and tailor their content to better satisfy consumers.

Increasingly, over the past several years, companies developing emotion-recognition technology — which gauges subconscious emotions by analyzing facial cues — have aided agencies on that front.

Prominent among these companies is MIT spinout Affectiva, whose advanced emotion-tracking software, called Affdex, is based on years of MIT Media Lab research. Today, the startup is attracting some big-name clients, including Kellogg and Unilever.

Backed by more than $20 million in funding, the startup — which has amassed a vast facial-expression database — is also setting its sights on a “mood-aware” Internet that reads a user’s emotions to shape content. This could lead, for example, to more relevant online ads, as well as enhanced gaming and online-learning experiences.

“The broad goal is to become the emotion layer of the Internet,” says Affectiva co-founder Rana el Kaliouby, a former MIT postdoc who invented the technology. “We believe there’s an opportunity to sit between any human-to-computer, or human-to-human interaction point, capture data, and use it to enrich the user experience.”

Ads and apps

In using Affdex, Affectiva recruits participants to watch advertisements in front of their computer webcams, tablets, and smartphones. Machine learning algorithms track facial cues, focusing prominently on the eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. A smile, for instance, would mean the corners of the lips curl upward and outward, teeth flash, and the skin around their eyes wrinkles.

Affdex then infers the viewer’s emotions — such as enjoyment, surprise, anger, disgust, or confusion — and pushes the data to a cloud server, where Affdex aggregates the results from all the facial videos (sometimes hundreds), which it publishes on a dashboard.

But determining whether a person “likes” or “dislikes” an advertisement takes advanced analytics. Importantly, the software looks for “hooking” the viewers in the first third of an advertisement, by noting increased attention and focus, signaled in part by less fidgeting and fixated gazes.

Smiles can indicate that a commercial designed to be humorous is, indeed, funny. But if a smirk — subtle, asymmetric lip curls, separate from smiles — comes at a moment when information appears on the screen, it may indicate skepticism or doubt. 

A furrowed brow may signal confusion or cognitive overload. “Sometimes that’s by design: You want people to be confused, before you resolve the problem. But if the furrowed brow persists throughout the ad, and is not resolved by end, that’s a red flag,” el Kaliouby says.

Affectiva has been working with advertisers to optimize their marketing content for a couple of years. In a recent case study with Mars, for example, Affectiva found that the client’s chocolate ads elicited the highest emotional engagement, while its food ads elicited the least, helping predict short-term sales of these products.

In that study, some 1,500 participants from the United States and Europe viewed more than 200 ads to track their emotional responses, which were tied to the sales volume for different product lines. These results were combined with a survey to increase the accuracy of predicting sales volume.

“Clients usually take these responses and edit the ad, maybe make it shorter, maybe change around the brand reveal,” el Kaliouby says. “With Affdex, you see on a moment-by-moment basis, who’s really engaged with ad, and what’s working and what’s not.”

This year, the startup released a developer kit for mobile app designers. Still in their early stages, some of the apps are designed for entertainment, such as people submitting “selfies” to analyze their moods and sharing them across social media.

Still others could help children with autism better interact, el Kaliouby says — such as games that make people match facial cues with emotions. “This would focus on pragmatic training, helping these kids understand the meaning of different facial expressions and how to express their own,” she says.

Entrenched in academia

While several companies are commercializing similar technology, Affectiva is unusual in that it is “entrenched in academia,” el Kaliouby says: Years of data-gathering have “trained” the algorithms to be very discerning.  

As a PhD student at Cambridge University in the early 2000s, el Kaliouby began developing facial-coding software. She was inspired, in part, by her future collaborator and Affectiva co-founder, Rosalind Picard, an MIT professor who pioneered the field of affective computing — where machines can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate human affects.

Back then, the data that el Kaliouby had access to consisted of about 100 facial expressions gathered from photos — and those 100 expressions were fairly prototypical. “To recognize surprise, for example, we had this humongous surprise expression. This meant that if you showed the computer an expression of a person that’s somewhat surprised or subtly shocked, it wouldn’t recognize it,” el Kaliouby says.

In 2006, el Kaliouby came to the Media Lab to work with Picard to expand what the technology can do. Together, they quickly started applying the facial-coding technology to autism research and training the algorithms by collecting vast stores of data.

“Coming from a traditional research background, the Media Lab was completely different,” el Kaliouby says. “You prototype, prototype, prototype, and fail fast. It’s very startup-minded.”

Among their first prototypes was a Google Glass-type invention with a camera that could read facial expressions and provide real-time feedback to the wearer via a Bluetooth headset. For instance, auditory cues would provide feedback, such as, “This person is bored” or, “This person is confused.”

However, inspired by increasing industry attention —- and with a big push by Frank Moss, then the Media Lab’s director — they soon ditched the wearable prototype to build a cloud-based version of the software, founding Affectiva in 2009.

Early support from a group of about eight mentors at MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service helped the Affectiva team connect to industry and shape its pitch — by focusing on the value proposition, not the technology. “We learned to build a product story instead of a technology story — that was key,” el Kaliouby says.

To date, Affectiva has amassed a dataset of about 1.7 million facial expressions, roughly 2 billion data points, ­from people of all races, across 70 different countries — the largest facial-coding dataset in the world, el Kaliouby says — training its software’s algorithms to discern expressions from all different face types and skin colors. It can also track faces that are moving, in all types of lighting, and can avoid tracking any other movement on screen.

A “mood-aware” Internet

One of Affectiva’s long-term goals is to usher in a “mood-aware” Internet to improve users’ experiences. Imagine an Internet that’s like walking into a large outlet store with sales representatives, el Kaliouby says.

“At the store, the salespeople are reading your physical cues in real time, and assessing whether to approach you or not, and how to approach you,” she says. “Websites and connected devices of the future should be like this, very mood-aware.”

Sometime in the future, this could mean computer games that adapt in difficulty and other game variables, based on user reaction. But more immediately, it could work for online learning.

Already, Affectiva has conducted pilot work for online learning, where it captured data on facial engagement to predict learning outcomes. For this, the software indicates, for instance, if a student is bored, frustrated, or focused — which is especially valuable for prerecorded lectures, el Kaliouby says.

“To be able to capture that data, in real time, means educators can adapt that learning experience and change the content to better engage students — making it, say, more or less difficult — and change feedback to maximize learning outcomes,” el Kaliouby says. “That’s one application we’re really excited about.”

“Via Fast.Co Futurist Forum: What The Future Looks Like To N. Koreans Who Have Never Left”

  North Korea is the least visited country in the world, but Koryo Tours, one of the only companies to bring foreign travelers there, is trying to change that.

  One of the company's latest projects: Inviting a North Korean architect to imagine the future of local design for travel.

  The Jetsons-style results include hovercraft hotel rooms and cone-shaped mountain villas connected by ski slopes.

What does a future imagined by someone living in a place that’s been cut off from the rest of the world since 1948 look like? Approximately 1958.

North Korea is the least visited country in the world, but Koryo Tours, one of the only companies to bring foreign travelers there, is trying to change that. One of its latest projects: Inviting a North Korean architect to imagine the future of local design for travel.

The Jetsons-style results include hovercraft hotel rooms and cone-shaped mountain villas connected by ski slopes. Nothing looks like it would be that out of place in a 1950s magazine, down to details like an old-fashioned rotary phone. This is what the future looks like to someone living in a place that’s been cut off from the rest of the world since 1948.

Every architect in North Korea is educated at a state-run school, without access to the Internet or other global media, and has little sense of how the field is changing. Koryo Tours tries to help by occasionally bringing some new design books from the outside world.

"We have developed an architectural tour to North Korea, and take in books on contemporary architecture when we go, which is one way that the architects there get to see new works,” says Nick Bonner, founder of the company. A small number of North Korean architects are also allowed to study abroad, though the anonymous architect who worked on this project has never left the country.

At Bonner’s request, each of the designs aimed for sustainability, though the architect also had limited knowledge of current sustainable design techniques. “They are not aware of the latest technology, which shows in some of the designs,” Bonner says. “However, the designs using wood and traditional construction methods do show great imagination of reusing natural products in a traditional way—like making use of natural cooling.”

One design, for a “silk cooperative,” an artisans’ commune that travelers would visit, uses solar power, wind turbines, and traditional Korean spinning wheels. Another, the Birds’ Nest Villa, focuses on building North Korean-style community. “We all are in the nest together and have to learn to be together harmoniously,” the architect writes.

Though the designs were meant to be speculative, Bonner says he’s interested in the possibility of building a set of the villas. “I would very much like to construct the Birds’ Nest Riverside Guesthouse, with its cantilevered rooms giving three-sided views to the woodland,” he says. “If anyone wants to work on them, and send over models, we would be happy to pass them on.”

This fall, Koryo will give a tour of some of Pyongyang’s existing architecture, including the uber-kitsch Chongnyon Hotel, built for a “world festival of communist youth” in the 1980s, and the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

"It is not just the individual architecture there that is remarkable," Bonner says. "Pyongyang was totally reconstructed following the Korean War. It’s not only individual buildings that are of interest, but the ‘master plan’ for the city’s reconstruction as a modern socialist utopia."

  Nothing looks like it would be that out of place in a 1950s magazine, down to details like an old-fashioned rotary phone.

Every architect in North Korea is educated at a state-run school, without access to the internet or other global media, and has little sense of how the field is changing.

At Bonner's request, each of the designs aimed for sustainability, though the architect also had limited knowledge of current sustainable design techniques.

“For Everyone Who’s Been Judged for their Late-Night Habits: F*** That, You’re All Good!”

Intelligent People All Have One Thing In Common: They Stay Up Later Than You

Intelligent People All Have One Thing In Common: They Stay Up Later Than You

There’s an electricity in the moon. A pulse, a magic, an energy. A bewitching entrancement unlike that of the sun.

The moon is for things unseen, things done in the shadows and beneath the fog. Under bridges and beneath bed sheets — it’s for wild hearts and unconcerned minds. It’s where plans are made in dark alleyways and secrets revealed under the soft haze of light coming through the cracks of closed shutters.

It’s when fugitives escape and kids run away. It’s when girls lose their virginities on torn leather seats and boys get into trouble. It’s when the suffering take their lives and the lonely seek comfort.

It’s when we fall in love — that passionate, all-consuming, purposeful love that always looks a little different in the light of day.

It’s by night that we see our true desires. We reflect on our moments of unhappiness and those yearnings that are momentarily blinded by the sun. It’s when we become poets and philosophers, martyrs and murderers.

It’s when we form regrets of days past and that profound hatred for those who hurt us. It’s when we choke on our tears through deep sobs that can only pour onto dark pillowcases.

The night is for passion. It’s for fanaticism, romance and trouble. It’s when your most tender, authentic and suppressed sides come out to play under the nonjudgmental eyes of the stars.

It’s for all those things you could never dream of doing by day, under the watchful eyes of the sun.

It’s no wonder night owls are more intelligent than those who hit the hay early. It makes sense that those who absorb the energy of the moon are more creative and open-minded than those who like to catch the early worm.

It’s only natural that those who go to bed earlier never experience the psychological and emotional changes that occur under the blanket of darkness.

According to ”Psychology Today,” intelligent people are more likely to be nocturnal than people with lower IQ scores. In a study run on young Americans, results showed that intelligent individuals went to bed later on weeknights and weekends than their less intelligent counterparts.

In ”Study Magazine,” Satoshi Kanazawa, a psychologist at the London School Of Economics And Political Science, reported that IQ average and sleeping patterns are most definitely related, proving that those who play under the moon are, indeed, more intelligent human beings.

His analysis goes back to ancient times, asserting the idea that even in primitive years, people have been known to rise and fall with the sun.

Average brains were conditioned to follow this sleep pattern, while the more inquisitive, intellectual ones want to defy that pattern and create their own.

It’s an unconscious defiance that comes from refusal to acquiesce to the idea of mass appeal.

These findings are reported by “Study Magazine” as such:

Bedtimes and wake-up times for Americans in their 20s by IQ.

Very Dull (IQ < 75)
Weekday: 11:41 pm -7:20 am
Weekend: 12:35 am -10:09 pm

Normal (90 < IQ < 110)
Weekday: 12:10 am -7:32 am
Weekend: 1:13 am -10:14 am

Very Bright (IQ > 125)
Weekday: 12:29 am -7:52 am
Weekend: 1:44 am -11:07 am

Those with IQs less than 75 went to bed by 11:30 pm on weeknights in early adulthood, whereas those with IQs over 125 went to bed around after 12:30 am. This is no coincidence.

The data supports the notion that all night owls feel: the only real time for living is after everyone’s gone to bed.

Only after dark can we learn, absorb and study the effects of the day. It’s a necessary self reflection that few humans take the time to make.

There’s something to be said about those who fight the urge to sleep and explore that block of uncharted time that so many who always have their eyes closed will never see.

They Get Time To Daydream

All those dreams you can’t have during the day, when you’re snapped out of them by friends, family and work, are finally given time to run around.

Free to play in the open spaces of your mind, you can swim in all those thoughts you hid under your desk or behind mounds of paper work. It’s the most creative time of day, along with the most liberating.

It’s by the nightfall that your most uninhibited and passionate sides are explored. It’s the time to unleash your innermost desires and allow yourself the freedom that’s masked behind the taunting exposure of sunlight.

The night is for testing your limits and challenging yourself. It’s for discovering those passions you suppress all day and breaking down all those rules your parents made to protect you.

It’s the time to dig into those hidden corners of your mind and unknown trails of your subconscious. It’s a time of self-expression that can only be unlocked at night and evaluated by day.


They Are Anti-Establishment

Staying up late has been, and always will be, an act of rebellion. A defiance of the nine-to-five, the very habit of staying up late is revolutionary. Since ancient times, there is evidence that society condoned the night owls.

In the academic paper, “Why The Night Owl Is More Intelligent,” published in the journal “Psychology And Individual Differences,” it’s widely assumed that for several millennia, humans were largely conditioned to work during the day and to sleep at night.

While those who defy the trend, are more likely to “acquire and espouse evolutionarily novel values and preferences than less intelligent individuals.”

These “novel values” become the building blocks of leaders. They are the makings of revolutionaries, inventors and explorers. They are the ones who makes sacrifices and defy the societal pressure to follow the masses.

It’s no surprise that those willing to stay up late, to explore the uncharted territory of night, are more inquisitive.

They are more apt to make discoveries and challenge authority. They want to expand their mind, not shut it off just because people tell them it’s time for bed.


They Are More Open-Minded

Things that happen at night are things you can’t get away with during the day. It’s the time of utter licentiousness, of underhanded transactions and unseemly occupations.

It’s when the bars are opened and the poets write. It’s when musicians pore over instruments, geniuses have their breakthroughs and artists come alive. According to “Esquire,” it’s also when you have the most sex.

Healthy sex lives and late curfews are indeed, positively correlated. Those reported to have later bedtimes were buying more sex toys and having more sex than their sleepier counterparts.

One sex shop worker believes that intelligence is correlated with open-mindedness, which in turns correlates with a more open sex life.

Those who are willing to stay awake, who yearn for the mysteries of nightfall, are exposed to an array of discoveries that those who stay asleep will never know. It’s those who are willing to test their limits and explore in the dark who will bring more light to the day.


They Are Proactive

The early bird may get the worm, but the night owl gets the whole jar. While the early risers may get up to see the first worm crawl its way to the wet surface, the night owl gets to them before they burrow under.

Getting up early is most definitely proactive, but staying up late is just as fruitful. Those who stay up get hours ahead, rather than the one or two an early riser gains.

There are things to be explored at night that early risers will never experience. There are ideas formulated and tasks completed that early risers never get to finish.

Because at night, there is dawn and a new day in front of you. But by morning, there’s just the bleakness of night and the daunting end of another day.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It

“The Construction of Identities in Narrative Interviews—A Methodological Suggestion from Relational Network Theory

In this contribution, I propose a methodology for combining studies of situated constructions of identity in everyday conversations (small stories) and in narrative research interviews (big stories) drawing on Harrison C. WHITE’s relational network theory and his concept of identity. Identities are constituted through relational positionings on local, typed, trajectoral or personalized levels. In narrative interviews narrators construct interactive identities in the interview situation (i.e. on a local level) by telling big stories about their life courses. Using a text passage from a narrative interview I demonstrate how autobiographic big stories are composed out of sets of nested small stories that contain identity positionings on different levels. I conclude that both sides—of the debate on small vs. big stories as well as WHITE’s framework can profit from one another. Narrative interviews may provide important information on the dynamic constructions of the identities WHITE investigates. And WHITE’s identity theory may reveal potential avenues of collaboration for big and small story research.

URN: http://ift.tt/Xi9KZx

Stefan Bernhard http://ift.tt/eA8V8J

In this contribution, I propose a methodology for combining studies of situated constructions of identity in everyday conversations (small stories) and in narrative research interviews (big stories) drawing on Harrison C. WHITE’s relational network theory and his concept of identity. Identities are constituted through relational positionings on local, typed, trajectoral or personalized levels. In narrative interviews narrators construct interactive identities in the interview situation (i.e. on a local level) by telling big stories about their life courses. Using a text passage from a narrative interview I demonstrate how autobiographic big stories are composed out of sets of nested small stories that contain identity positionings on different levels. I conclude that both sides—of the debate on small vs. big stories as well as WHITE’s framework can profit from one another. Narrative interviews may provide important information on the dynamic constructions of the identities WHITE investigates. And WHITE’s identity theory may reveal potential avenues of collaboration for big and small story research.

URN: http://ift.tt/Xi9KZx

— The Construction of Identities in Narrative Interviews—A Methodological Suggestion from Relational Network Theory http://ift.tt/UMS0Du Stefan Bernhard Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research
“Between Art and Social Science: Scenic Composition as a Methodological Device

The scenic composition (SC) is a methodological device enabling the synthesis and articulation of researchers’ own complex experiences of events witnessed during data collection. Positioned between art and social science, it makes use of literary conventions to synthesise “experience near” accounts of data for interpretation. This article explains how the SC is composed by drawing on associative thinking and illustrates its use within a specific case study. The conceptual basis of the SC is discussed with reference to the work of LORENZER, WINNICOTT and BION. This is the first study in which four compositions, each by a different researcher, have been used to provide a multi-faceted view of a complex event, a live webcast. The compositions are presented along with researchers’ reflections. Common themes and significant differences relating to life situations, histories and dispositions of the researchers emerge. The differences were expressed through choice of literary genres, which are common cultural resources. We ask what was achieved through the use of SCs compared with a thematic analysis of the webcast, and find that apart from synthesising and presentational functions, they give access to a multi-sensory range of researchers’ experiences, including unconscious elements which were then available for reflexive interpretation by an interpretation panel.

URN: http://ift.tt/UMRYvs

Lynn Froggett, Mervyn Conroy, Julian Yves Manley, Alastair Roy http://ift.tt/eA8V8J

The scenic composition (SC) is a methodological device enabling the synthesis and articulation of researchers’ own complex experiences of events witnessed during data collection. Positioned between art and social science, it makes use of literary conventions to synthesise “experience near” accounts of data for interpretation. This article explains how the SC is composed by drawing on associative thinking and illustrates its use within a specific case study. The conceptual basis of the SC is discussed with reference to the work of LORENZER, WINNICOTT and BION. This is the first study in which four compositions, each by a different researcher, have been used to provide a multi-faceted view of a complex event, a live webcast. The compositions are presented along with researchers’ reflections. Common themes and significant differences relating to life situations, histories and dispositions of the researchers emerge. The differences were expressed through choice of literary genres, which are common cultural resources. We ask what was achieved through the use of SCs compared with a thematic analysis of the webcast, and find that apart from synthesising and presentational functions, they give access to a multi-sensory range of researchers’ experiences, including unconscious elements which were then available for reflexive interpretation by an interpretation panel.

URN: http://ift.tt/UMRYvs

— Between Art and Social Science: Scenic Composition as a Methodological Device http://ift.tt/Xi9Gcb Lynn Froggett, Mervyn Conroy, Julian Yves Manley, Alastair Roy Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research
“Context-Specific Positioning: A Research Method and an Analysis Strategy Based on the Example of a Minority Teacher

Developed in this article is an approach to context-specific positioning as a research method and an analysis strategy for qualitative migration research. Theoretical approaches and research have long stressed that migration-related processes of differentiation and the construction of belonging need to be seen as social phenomena which come about through relational means and differ according to context. This requires fluid social relationships (migration-related or otherwise) to be systematically analysed with regard to the specific everyday contexts in which they form. Until now, however, there has been little such analysis. This work reveals a possible methodology for achieving this by linking the analysis of positioning processes with the analysis of the setting in which positioning occurs in narratives. It thus specifically points out the ways in which positioning analysis can be used more fruitfully than previously by migration researchers.

This procedure is illuminated by an interview with a teacher ascribed to a minority. The analysis reveals from the teacher’s point of view how migration-related (and other) processes of positioning oneself and others vary depending on everyday context, and reveals the significance that positionings take within school dominance systems and hierarchies.

URN: http://ift.tt/UMRWnx

Vesna Varga, Chantal Munsch http://ift.tt/eA8V8J

Developed in this article is an approach to context-specific positioning as a research method and an analysis strategy for qualitative migration research. Theoretical approaches and research have long stressed that migration-related processes of differentiation and the construction of belonging need to be seen as social phenomena which come about through relational means and differ according to context. This requires fluid social relationships (migration-related or otherwise) to be systematically analysed with regard to the specific everyday contexts in which they form. Until now, however, there has been little such analysis. This work reveals a possible methodology for achieving this by linking the analysis of positioning processes with the analysis of the setting in which positioning occurs in narratives. It thus specifically points out the ways in which positioning analysis can be used more fruitfully than previously by migration researchers.

This procedure is illuminated by an interview with a teacher ascribed to a minority. The analysis reveals from the teacher’s point of view how migration-related (and other) processes of positioning oneself and others vary depending on everyday context, and reveals the significance that positionings take within school dominance systems and hierarchies.

URN: http://ift.tt/UMRWnx

— Context-Specific Positioning: A Research Method and an Analysis Strategy Based on the Example of a Minority Teacher http://ift.tt/Xi9Dgx Vesna Varga, Chantal Munsch Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research
“Collective Review: Catalyzing Sustainable Social Change through Public Communication, Radio for Development, and Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation

This article reviews three recent books by four authors (two single, one joint) from Australia and Africa. The three books are related in that they all discuss the need to acknowledge the role of dialogic communication and popular participation as catalysts for sustainable social development in the developing world. Specifically, “Public Relations, Activism and Social Change” proposes that public relations (PR) needs to transform itself into public communication (PC), where people are made to make decisions based on dialogue and the correctness of the information rather than out of manipulative propaganda. “People’s Radio” argues that radio can lead to tangible and long-lasting social change if it engages the primary beneficiaries in the planning, production presentation of the programs and management of (community) radio stations. “Evaluating Communication for Development” argues that through indicators defined by the local people themselves, evaluators can find evidence of social change brought about by communication for development activities. The book suggests that to be effective, monitoring and evaluation of communication for development ought to be participatory and use qualitative data collection tools such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and most significant change (MSC) evaluations.

URN: http://ift.tt/UMRVzW

Levi Zeleza Manda http://ift.tt/eA8V8J

This article reviews three recent books by four authors (two single, one joint) from Australia and Africa. The three books are related in that they all discuss the need to acknowledge the role of dialogic communication and popular participation as catalysts for sustainable social development in the developing world. Specifically, “Public Relations, Activism and Social Change” proposes that public relations (PR) needs to transform itself into public communication (PC), where people are made to make decisions based on dialogue and the correctness of the information rather than out of manipulative propaganda. “People’s Radio” argues that radio can lead to tangible and long-lasting social change if it engages the primary beneficiaries in the planning, production presentation of the programs and management of (community) radio stations. “Evaluating Communication for Development” argues that through indicators defined by the local people themselves, evaluators can find evidence of social change brought about by communication for development activities. The book suggests that to be effective, monitoring and evaluation of communication for development ought to be participatory and use qualitative data collection tools such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and most significant change (MSC) evaluations.

URN: http://ift.tt/UMRVzW

— Collective Review: Catalyzing Sustainable Social Change through Public Communication, Radio for Development, and Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation http://ift.tt/Xi9yJy Levi Zeleza Manda Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research
“Conference Report: Project Journal of Discourse Research and the prospects of disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation

A symposium was held to mark the first anniversary of Journal of Discourse Research (ZfD), at which the status of German discourse research was discussed. Since its inception, German-language discourse research has been characterized by connections, challenges and limitations of interdisciplinarity in terms of both practical research and methodology. In four lectures and two panel discussions, participants explored specific issues of interdisciplinarity. Taking into account the difficult process of institutionalization of discourse research in the 1990s, it can be determined that a diverse and highly productive research environment has been created that marks a specific style of interdisciplinary thinking.

URN: http://ift.tt/UMRTYC

Nils Matzner, Lisa-Marian Schmidt http://ift.tt/eA8V8J

A symposium was held to mark the first anniversary of Journal of Discourse Research (ZfD), at which the status of German discourse research was discussed. Since its inception, German-language discourse research has been characterized by connections, challenges and limitations of interdisciplinarity in terms of both practical research and methodology. In four lectures and two panel discussions, participants explored specific issues of interdisciplinarity. Taking into account the difficult process of institutionalization of discourse research in the 1990s, it can be determined that a diverse and highly productive research environment has been created that marks a specific style of interdisciplinary thinking.

URN: http://ift.tt/UMRTYC

— Conference Report: Project Journal of Discourse Research and the prospects of disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation http://ift.tt/UMRVjd Nils Matzner, Lisa-Marian Schmidt Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research
“In Case You Didn’t Know Already: Ok Cupid Joins Facebook in its Disregard for IRBs and Ethical Research”

We Experiment On Human Beings!

July 28th, 2014 by Christian Rudder

I’m the first to admit it: we might be popular, we might create a lot of great relationships, we might blah blah blah. But OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website. It’s not like people have been building these things for very long, or you can go look up a blueprint or something. Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out. Like this young buck, trying to get a potato to cry.

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We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook “experimented” with their news feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.

Here are a few of the more interesting experiments OkCupid has run.

Experiment 1: LOVE IS BLIND, OR SHOULD BE

OkCupid’s ten-year history has been the epitome of the old saying: two steps forward, one total fiasco. A while ago, we had the genius idea of an app that set up blind dates; we spent a year and a half on it, and it was gone from the app store in six months.

Of course, being geniuses, we chose to celebrate the app’s release by removing all the pictures from OkCupid on launch day. “Love Is Blind Day” on OkCupid—January 15, 2013.

All our site metrics were way down during the “celebration”, for example:

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But by comparing Love Is Blind Day to a normal Tuesday, we learned some very interesting things. In those 7 hours without photos:

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And it wasn’t that “looks weren’t important” to the users who’d chosen to stick around. When the photos were restored at 4PM, 2,200 people were in the middle of conversations that had started “blind”. Those conversations melted away. The goodness was gone, in fact worse than gone. It was like we’d turned on the bright lights at the bar at midnight.

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This whole episode made me curious, so I went and looked up the data for the people who had actually used the blind date app. I found a similar thing: once they got to the date, they had a good time more or less regardless of how good-looking their partner was. Here’s the female side of the experience (the male is very similar).

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Oddly, it appears that having a better-looking blind date made women slightly less happy—my operating theory is that hotter guys were assholes more often. Anyhow, the fascinating thing is the online reaction of those exact same women was just as judgmental as everyone else’s:

image

Basically, people are exactly as shallow as their technology allows them to be.

Experiment 2: SO WHAT’S A PICTURE WORTH?

All dating sites let users rate profiles, and OkCupid’s original system gave people two separate scales for judging each other, “personality” and “looks.”
I found this old screenshot. The “loading” icon over the picture pretty much sums up our first four years. Anyhow, here’s the vote system:

image

Our thinking was that a person might not be classically gorgeous or handsome but could still be cool, and we wanted to recognize that, which just goes to show that when OkCupid started out, the only thing with more bugs than our HTML was our understanding of human nature.

Here’s some data I dug up from the backup tapes. Each dot here is a person. The two scores are within a half point of each other for 92% of the sample after just 25 votes (and that percentage approaches 100% as vote totals get higher).

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In short, according to our users, “looks” and “personality” were the same thing, which of course makes perfect sense because, you know, this young female account holder, with a 99th percentile personality:


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…and whose profile, by the way, contained no text, is just so obviously a really cool person to hang out and talk to and clutch driftwood with.

After we got rid of the two scales, and replaced it with just one, we ran a direct experiment to confirm our hunch—that people just look at the picture. We took a small sample of users and half the time we showed them, we hid their profile text. That generated two independent sets of scores for each profile, one score for “the picture and the text together” and one for “the picture alone.” Here’s how they compare. Again, each dot is a user. Essentially, the text is less than 10% of what people think of you.

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So, your picture is worth that fabled thousand words, but your actual words are worth…almost nothing.

Experiment 3: THE POWER OF SUGGESTION

The ultimate question at OkCupid is, does this thing even work? By all our internal measures, the “match percentage” we calculate for users is very good at predicting relationships. It correlates with message success, conversation length, whether people actually exchange contact information, and so on. But in the back of our minds, there’s always been the possibility: maybe it works just because we tell people it does. Maybe people just like each other because they think they’re supposed to? Like how Jay-Z still sells albums?

† Once the experiment was concluded, the users were notified of the correct match percentage.

To test this, we took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.)† Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible. After all, that’s what the site teaches you to do.

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But we took the analysis one step deeper. We asked: does the displayed match percentage cause more than just that first message—does the mere suggestion cause people to actually like each other? As far as we can measure, yes, it does.

When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.

image

The four-message threshold is our internal measure for a real conversation. And though the data is noisier, this same “higher display means more success” pattern seems to hold when you look at contact information exchanges, too.

This got us worried—maybe our matching algorithm was just garbage and it’s only the power of suggestion that brings people together. So we tested things the other way, too: we told people who were actually good for each other, that they were bad, and watched what happened.

Here’s the whole scope of results (I’m using the odds of exchanging four messages number here):

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As you can see, the ideal situation is the lower right: to both be told you’re a good match, and at the same time actually be one. OkCupid definitely works, but that’s not the whole story. And if you have to choose only one or the other, the mere myth of compatibility works just as well as the truth. Thus the career of someone like Doctor Oz, in a nutshell. And, of course, to some degree, mine.

How to Be a Happier, Stronger, More Excellent Grad Student http://ift.tt/1nGHkm6 Shannon 
Lief Parsons

This fall I’m teaching our introduction to graduate studies lecture course. Again. This time around it’s been reconceived as the School of Media Studies’ featured lecture series. I’ve confirmed several great speakers, and I’ll be posting the lineup soon.
All the invaluable-but-oft-resented “professionalization” material — the how to read/write/develop methodology-like-a-grad-student, all the professionalization tips — has been extracted and transformed into web resources. By me. This is what I’ve been up to for the past several weeks. Well, this and tennis lessons — which I’m totally rocking, by the way.
Some of these resources have been (dramatically) adapted from material I created for previous classes. Other material is brand new. I’m hoping it’s all of potential interest and use to grad students — my own and others’; here, there, and everywhere; past, present, and future (I’ve gone too far…). We’re going to put these on a wiki on our school’s website, and allow others to amend. But what follows are the “ur-texts.” I’ve got guides for:
Identifying Your Interests and Establishing a Research Plan
Finding Sources: Where to Look, and How to Decide What’s Worth Your Time
Reading Effectively
Resource-Management, Note-taking + Abstracting
The Literature Review / Mediagraphy

Forms of Scholarship: Writing (or, “How Not to Write Like a Grad Student!”)
Forms of Scholarship: Multimodal
Engaging with Presentations + Asking Questions
Conference Tips

A Sort-of Manifesto for Graduate Students in a Praxis-Based MA Program Who Have Just Completed Their First Semesters and Are Embarking Into the Great Beyond (or, SMGSPBMAPWHJCTFSAEIGB, for short)

 http://ift.tt/1nGHiKQ
How to Be a Happier, Stronger, More Excellent Grad Student http://ift.tt/1nGHkm6 Shannon
Lief Parson

Lief Parsons

This fall I’m teaching our introduction to graduate studies lecture course. Again. This time around it’s been reconceived as the School of Media Studies’ featured lecture series. I’ve confirmed several great speakers, and I’ll be posting the lineup soon.

All the invaluable-but-oft-resented “professionalization” material — the how to read/write/develop methodology-like-a-grad-student, all the professionalization tips — has been extracted and transformed into web resources. By me. This is what I’ve been up to for the past several weeks. Well, this and tennis lessons — which I’m totally rocking, by the way.

Some of these resources have been (dramatically) adapted from material I created for previous classes. Other material is brand new. I’m hoping it’s all of potential interest and use to grad students — my own and others’; here, there, and everywhere; past, present, and future (I’ve gone too far…). We’re going to put these on a wiki on our school’s website, and allow others to amend. But what follows are the “ur-texts.” I’ve got guides for:

http://ift.tt/1nGHiKQ
“Productivity by the Numbers

As summer reaches to the end of July, thoughts begin to turn toward a new fall semester of classes, activities and students for many of us. Now is a great time to spend a few moments and take a look at some other ideas for productivity.  Let’s consider productivity by the numbers…

220px-Intransitive_dice_2.svg1 MindMap on How to be Productive: http://ift.tt/1lLz3Z8

Only 2 Rules: How to Manage Your Projects with Personal Kaban:   http://ift.tt/1lNMXyc

3 reasons why blogging helps research productivity:  http://ift.tt/1lLz1At

4 Ways You’re Lying to Yourself About Being Productive: http://ift.tt/1cPcCkK

5 Things You can learn about Productivity from Olympic Athletes: http://ift.tt/1eeJsI3

6 Amazing Social Media Productivity Tools:  http://ift.tt/173CRwM

7 things Star Wars Taught Me about Productivity: http://ift.tt/1fbQeAQ

8 Ways the Librarian of the Future will keep Themselves Busy http://ift.tt/13xN5ro

9 Ways to Use Evernote To Increase Productivity: http://ift.tt/1nMDMj9

10 of the most controversial productivity tips that actually work:  http://ift.tt/ZRJsrq

The post Productivity by the Numbers appeared first on Personal Knowledge Management for Academia & Librarians.

http://ift.tt/1nMDKHS
— Productivity by the Numbers http://ift.tt/1oz7jMb Crystal

In terms of living in the “Post-NSA”-world, Post-Snowden Leaks implies also  Pre-Snowden Leaks: investigations into the longer histories and panics about the interception capacities of COMINT-specialists. A sort of a media archaeology of SIGINT: the necessity to see the long term build-up of such organisations, logistics, infrastructures and political conditions where a massive level technological snooping is able to happen (after all, it did not emerge over night but is an aftereffect of World War II in many ways).

Kittler’s No Such Agency-piece is one key writing alongside a lot of texts on signal intelligence. I am currently continuing my own short blog post about Teufelsberg and the ECHELON-network into a longer academic essay, and as part of that, referring to the debate some 15 years ago after some ECHELON-network revelations. Here, a quote, even if only in German but it’s the Pynchonian version of 20th century: the paranoid-technological century (where paranoia becomes more than a state of the psyche; it becomes infrastructurally embedded).

Der Spiegel wrote on 21st of May, 1999 (as a reaction to STOA “Interception Capabilities 2000”-report): “Eine Vorstellung wie aus der Phantasie eines Paranoikers: Ob wir über Handy oder Festnetz telefonieren, E-Mail schreiben, Dateien übers Internet verschicken – kein Wort sei sicher vor dem Zugriff internationaler Geheimdienste, die systematisch und in großem Maßstab nahezu alle Wege, auch den zivilen elektronischen Datenverkehr, belauschen und für ihre Zwecke auswerten.”


http://ift.tt/1pa2Iwp July 23, 2014 at 07:05AM”
— Echelon http://ift.tt/1pa2KUZ jussiparikka
Preservation Aesthetics: My Talk for the LoC’s Digital Preservation Conference http://ift.tt/1zQkOMc Shannon 
I’m honored to be giving one of the opening plenary talks — alongside the fantastic Matt Kirschenbaum — at the Library of Congress/NDIIPP “Digital Preservation 2014″ conference next week. When Trevor Owens invited me, I wasn’t sure what I could contribute — given that most attendees are likely to be technological geniuses, and I’m, well, not. But Trevor assured me that my “schtick” would be — or at least could be — of interest to all the techno-savants in attendance. So I decided to talk about aesthetics and “preservation art.” I’ve been addressing the aesthetics of archives, libraries, databases, etc., in my “Archives + Libraries” class the past several years. And I’ve been drooling over archive art and the aesthetics of organization for my entire adult life.
Trevor and I talked about “teaching with art” on the Library of Congress’s Signal blog last month. Since then, I’ve thought more about what art — both analog and digital — might have to say about preservation, specifically digital preservation. I’ve finished a draft of my talk. It’s a bit too long, so I won’t be able to deliver it in its entirety at the conference, but I figured I’d post the full text, with all the footnotes, here. With the slides, too.
Mattern PreservationAesthetics by shannonmattern

PRESERVATION AESTHETICS
Archives and libraries are intensely aesthetic environments. [S2] Libraries, in particular, have historically been among our grandest buildings. And today, with an increasingly diverse program and patron base, it’s the source of many sounds and textures… and smells. Information reaches us in various forms and materialities. [S3] We store that information on bookshelves and server racks, and we access it on tabletops and laptops and through interfaces. Our engagement with these “furnishings,” both physical and virtual, is a multisensory experience. [S4] Aesthetics are particularly germane to the work of preservation that takes place within these archives and libraries. As you well know, one of preservation’s central concerns is determining whether something has “intrinsic value” based on its “uniqueness…of informational content, age, physical format, artistic or aesthetic qualities, and scarcity” – and if so, then safeguarding the original item.[1]
[S5:Blank] These aesthetic variables have huge epistemological significance. Acknowledging archives and libraries as aesthetic entities not only helps patrons to better understand how they think and learn; but it also, ideally, helps practitioners recognize that the physical and digital environments they create aren’t neutral containers of information: they give shape to data, information, knowledge, and history; condition how patrons access and process it – and thus constitute what those intellectual constructs are.
[S6] At The New School in New York I regularly teach a graduate seminar that explores the history, values, politics, and aesthetics of archives, libraries, and databases. We focus not only on the aesthetics of the institutions themselves – the library’s rows of books, the archive’s “dusty boxes,” the database’s interfaces – [S7] but also on the flood of archive-related and data-driven art that’s been generated in recent years. In this presentation, I’ll examine a group of artists who take up issues pertinent to digital preservation – [S8] file formats, versioning, migration, the lifespan of storage devices, metadata, digital decay, etc., as well as their pre-digital precursors. By pushing certain protocols to their extreme, or highlighting snafus and “limit cases,” these artists’ work often brings into stark relief the conventions of preservation practice, and poses potential creative new directions for that work. As I hope to show, practicing archivists, librarians, and database managers – and the patrons who use those resources – have much to learn about the nature of their enterprise from artists.
PRESERVATION OF DIGITAL ART + DIGITAL “PRESERVATION ART”
[S9] I’d like to distinguish between the “preservation of the aesthetic” and “the aesthetics of preservation.” The former, let’s say, refers to practices of preserving the “intrinsic value” of original objects. One application in which these practices have been given careful consideration, and which is especially pertinent to this group, is the preservation of digital art. We have plenty of folks here today who know a lot more about this than I do, so I won’t say too much about it. Yet I do want to quickly address how the rubrics and “best practices” developed by organizations committed to the preservation of new media art offer frameworks and vocabularies that can help us to better appreciate the aesthetics of preservation, my second category. And by that I mean the sensory contemplation of preservation itself – and particularly, for my purposes here, art that takes as its subject matter the practices, values, poetics, politics, ethics, and especially the limitations of preservation.
But first, returning quickly to the “preservation of the aesthetic”: [S10] Various consortia of scholars, artists, and archivists have been concerned with the preservation of new media art in light of the inevitable obsolescence of digital platforms. One such group, the Variable Media Network (whose purview extends beyond the digital to encompass any work on potentially unstable platforms), is dedicated to understanding a work’s “behavioral characteristics and intrinsic effects” – there’s that word again: intrinsic – independent of the medium in which that work is created and displayed.[2] [S11] Forging the Future’s Variable Media Questionnaire captures information about artworks’ various behaviors and medium-specific aspects, including how the work is contained, installed, performed, how it’s made interactive, how it’s reproduced, encoded, and networked.[3]  [S12] There are then four main strategies – storage, emulation, migration, and reinterpretation – for preserving “variable” media so as to responsibly address these behavioral characteristics.[4] Of course you know this already.
[S13] But what about the aesthetics of these preservation practices themselves? What if we considered not only how the aesthetics qualities of, say, a Nam June Paik installation are “preserved” in a reconstruction of the original work, but also how the practice of reconstruction – or emulation, or migration, or even storage – has its own aesthetics (and attendant politics, poetics, etc.)? [S14:Blank] Upon beginning this project I knew of a few artworks and exhibitions that grappled with these issues, but I asked my New School colleague Christiane Paul for other recommendations. She’s a curator of new media art at the Whitney Museum, and she’s long been a central figure in discussions regarding the preservation of net art. There isn’t much digital art that explores preservation-related issues, she said, because “most artists understandably would consider it too boring.”
Well, okay. Yet I do want to thank Christiane for directing my attention to several illuminating examples, particularly of works that highlight preservation by defying it, or highlighting its limitations. I’ll only briefly explore a few of these examples because, once again, there are folks in the room who know this work much better than I do. Hell, some of this work is yours.
[S15] To start, we have examples of the self-erasing disk, the self-destructing file, the self-deteriorating page – for example, William Gibson and Dennis Ashbaugh’s Agrippa, about which Kirschenbaum has written beautifully). [S16] We also have digital artists who highlight the volatility of data models, net architecture and storage media by building intentionally irreverent, idiosyncratic, unstable archives, or by constructing hypertext narratives meant to disintegrate with advancing link rot (e.g., three.org‘s [Jon Ippolito / Janet Cohen / Keith Frank], “The Unreliable Archivist“; Olia Lialina’s “Anna Kerenin Goes to Paradise”).[5]  [S17] We have artists aestheticizing the hard drive and other storage technology, reminding us of the materiality of the digital object and of memory (e.g., Manuel Palou’s “5 Million Dollars 1 Terabyte” and Jason Loebs’s “Anthropomemoria”). [S18] We have artists highlighting the questionable veracity of emulation, using as their primary source material their own memories of the “spirit” – hardly a reliable “record” – of historical technology (e.g., Olia Lialina &amp; Dragan Espenschied’s “Once Upon”). [S19] We have artists transforming the processes of digital preservation and emulation into performances, and framing the documentation of those processes as aesthetic objects (e.g., JODI’s ”Jet Set Willy Variations”; The New Museum’s XFR STN).[6] And there are artists who take up other issues pertinent to digital preservation – file formats, versioning, migration, metadata, digital decay, etc. In aestheticizing the failures and limitations of digital tools and techniques, they make manifest, perceptible – aesthetically experiential – the underlying values, tacit politics, and invisible “structuring structures” of preservation.

[S20]THE AESTHETICS OF CREATIVE DESTRUCTION

I imagine that the territory I’ve covered thus far is familiar for some, if not most, of you. What I ultimately want to argue – and this next section, “The Aesthetics of Creative Destruction,” is where I think I might finally be able to share with you something you don’t already know! – is that there are plenty of analog precedents and contemporary analog counterparts to these digital works. And there’s much to be learned by historically contextualizing the aesthetic concerns central to digital preservation, and examining how core preservation principles extend across materialities and media. [S21] Agrippa is actually a great example of the latter point: not only did the floppy disk storing Gibson’s electronic poem encrypt itself after a single use; but the pages of Ashbaugh’s artist’s book, in which that disk was embedded, were also treated with photosensitive chemicals and erased themselves over a period of time. We thus see here two different material processes, two different timeframes, two different aesthetic experiences of preservation and decay, of memory and forgetting. In addition, surrounding the work we find different paratexts and “pirate” practices that aim to subvert the logics and aesthetics built into these “original” embedded objects.
There’s been a long history of artwork that “eats itself,” that defies its own preservation. [S22] Gustav Metzger first wrote about “auto-destructive art” in 1959. But well before we had the term to label the practice, we had plenty of self-destructive precedent, much of it rooted in Dada and Futurism and motivated by iconoclastic desire to demolish the hegemonic museum, the aesthetic canon, and “good taste.”[7] [S23:Blank] The 1920s brought Max Ernst’s sculpture with attached ax and Francis Picabia’s erased blackboard drawings – [S24] and 30 years later we had Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing. [S25] Meanwhile in Japan, the Gutai Art Association, whose name translates to “embodiment,” shot at and tore through their artworks, celebrating the creative potential of destruction. [S26] Rauschenberg then collaborated with Jean Tinguely on Homage to New York[8], a kinetic sculpture that worked itself into a fiery fervor in the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden in 1960.[9] [S27] MoMA has preserved a fragment in its collection (which of course raises questions about what, exactly, is being preserved).
[S28] Just a few years after Tinguely’s pyrotechnics, Yoko Ono sat on a stage and invited guests to come up and cut away her clothes. Art history scholar Kristine Stiles suggests that projects like Ono’s “Cut Piece” are like much destruction art in that they “take the body as the principle site of destruction,” but this work also exemplifies women’s specific stake in destruction because it explores the “obliteration of identity,” too. Stiles thus reminds us that much of this work is rooted not only in the rejection of the authoritarian institution, but also in artists’ frustration over their own “otherness” or “statelessness,” and their “profound disgust and rejection of the patriarchal models of discipline, punishment, violence, and authoritarianism.”[10] We should consider how these forces are grappled with in the act of preservation, too – and perhaps where preservation falls short, inciting such drives to destruct and delete.
[S29] Ono’s London performance – which, tellingly, elicited such aggressive responses from visitors that a security force was engaged – was part of Metzger’s 1966 “Destruction in Art Symposium,” where visitors found …
Tony West running classic books through a crank meat grinder, Schreib artfully burning large photos of Willy Brandt… Al Hansen exploded a big motorscooter… Ralph Ortiz demolished a piano with a sledgehammer… Pro-Diaz exploded pyrotechnic powders and fuse cords on three large painted surfaces… John Latham burned several Skoob Towers of Encyclopedia Britannicas… Wolf Vostell of Germany destroyed TV images with paint, food and manual controls.[11]
[S30] Many of these historical examples remind us that some art, much like digital archival material, requires enactment. These works aren’t simply there “to be looked at”; they have to be “turned on,” replayed, refreshed, reenacted, migrated to new platforms. This history also reminds us of the centrality of embodiment, a quality critical to emulation-based preservation, and of the variation inherent in reinterpretation. [S31] Gustav Metzger’s own work – paintings made of acid on nylon screens, metal monuments that corrode in the atmosphere – reminds us further of just how many material means and temporalities there are to deconstruction, analog or digital. “[F]orms implode. Matter is carbonized or pulverized… Most of these transformations are visible,” Metzger wrote; yet in “auto-destructive art a great deal of activity takes place on the microscopic level and is not seen.”[12] Corrosion by acid or atmosphere, burning up from overwork or arson, implosion by explosives or longue duree decay – all things conservators aim to prevent, and all processes that unfold at variable speeds – thus become “intrinsic parts of the artwork.”[13] Metzger’s various pieces could take anywhere from 20 seconds to 20 years to die. We see this variation in material process, scale, and temporality copied in Agrippa, too.
[S32:Blank] And ultimately we are made aware of the many fronts on which the larger preservation battle is so often waged. Destruction art defies preservation, although many cultural institutions devise solutions to transform the ephemeral and processural into something collectible. In his fantastic Masters thesis for the Museum Studies program at the University of Leicester John D. Powell notes that these institutions often take into account the artist’s intention in making decisions regarding preservation. [S33] Some institutions preserve the material residue from ruinous performances, as MoMA has done with some remains of Tinguely’s Homage to New York (notably, much of this preserved detritus is then classified as painting or sculpture); [S34] others consider strategies of documenting the performance of destruction, yet doing so presumes to make reproducible a destructive act that was never meant to be so.
[S35:Blank] While many of the digital art projects I mentioned earlier seem to embody similarly destructive – or, on the lighter end of the spectrum, parodic – values, and to highlight the futility of preservation, it’s important to remember that there’s a creative dimension of destruction, too. Projects like Ono’s “Cut Piece” and JODI’s “Jet Set Willy,” in their “making strange” or “making problematic,” also make us question our choices to destroy or preserve, and the aesthetic and epistemological and political consequences of those choices. They create an awareness of the aesthetics and politics of destruction and preservation – acts that today become so radically casualized with “click to save” and “drag to delete.” What’s more, Stiles argues that destruction art, in its refusal to be collected and circulated, has the potential to “recover the social force of art from instrumental reason and the economies of late capitalism.” It also reinforces “the survivability of the body, the very materiality of existence.”

[S36]VITRINES, VISION MACHINES, AND OTHER AESTHETICIZED TECHNOLOGIES OF PRESERVATION

Now, many of these “destruction” works aren’t explicitly about preservation, in that they’re not making overtly critiquing practice and aesthetics of preservation itself, outside of highlighting their own un-preservability. Yet there are a host of others, inspired by the “archival” and “museological” turns in contemporary art, and by the rise of “institutional critique,” who take the aesthetics and politics of preservation as central (even if implicit) themes in their work. [S37] Take Theaster Gates, whose Dorchester Projects, a group of reclaimed buildings in Chicago that have been refashioned into a local arts-and-culture center that includes a slide lantern library acquired from the University of Chicago; book and LP collections acquired from the now-defunct Prairie Avenue Bookshop and Dr. Wax Records; and the library of John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines. [S38] The assemblage of media and architecture inspires its immediate South Side Chicago community, and the global audience that studies Gates’s work, to consider the significance of preserving others’ cast-off media, and of integrating these collections into a vibrant, multi-purpose community space. It also prompts us to consider the roles those specific materials (architecture books, “ethnic” publications) played in constructing Chicago’s — particularly Black Chicago’s — history, a history that other institutions had to “deaccession” in order for Gates to step in as its conservator.[14]
[S39] Consider also Mark Dion, whose work frequently involves combing and dredging river beds and flea markets and existing museum collections, then staging his finds in displays that detourn traditional museological conventions. He’s asking how preservation and classification and display structure our cultural representations of, and our relationships to, nature. With all its vitrines and labels and dioramas, Dion’s work is ostensibly about preservation – but it, too, has a destructive element. [S40] As critic Martha Schwendener argues, Dion is “dedicated to highlighting and undermining Enlightenment values through the use of his own formal vocabulary. Just the act of looking at Dion’s work – all those books, photos, drawings, specimens, and [found objects] – can be fatiguing.”[15] [S41] And in one of his early works, “Artful History: A Restoration Comedy” (1988), Dion and Jason Simon offer a mock public television documentary on the work of a commercial restoration studio, where they hear tragi-comic tales of aesthetic forgery in preservation: historic paintings cut in two to increase resale value, damaged sculptures with limbs sutured on from other pieces, forgeries passed off as authentic. [S42] In the gallery, Dion accompanies the film with strips of paintings cut from works whose restoration was deemed too expensive or cumbersome. According to the curators of the 1988 Whitney Independent Study show, “The Desire of the Museum,” which included Dion’s film, “Artful History” demonstrates that restoration “respond[s] to the prompts of art dealers and museum curators as they alter paintings to suit format requirements and marketplace pressures.”[16] “Preservation” is thus driven by an aesthetic informed by display and commercial values, not by ensuring “intrinsic value.”[17]
[S43]Yet as with much auto-destructive art, the aesthetic exhaustion of Dion’s installations, and the aesthetic deception in his film, are also epistemologically generative. Schwendener makes the case quite poignantly:
[W]hat he re-creates in his art simulates the fatigue of Western history: the headlong rush to conquer, acquire, accumulate, consume, collect, classify, arrange, display, reconfigure, reconstruct, restore, preserve, and represent. Art for Dion is both academic – evoking a history lesson or a science project – and highly social; working in idiosyncratic ways, he reminds us how effective art can be when it collapses these varieties of experience.
[S44] We see many of the same themes echoed – through a similarly exhausting aesthetic of preservation and classification – in the work of Camille Henrot, particularly in her Grosse Fatigue, a video based on her 2013 artist’s residency at the Smithsonian. [S45] Within the aesthetics of the interface, she contrasts different materialities and aesthetics of preservation: a fish in a preservative bath, tagged bird carcasses in a drawer, proliferating browser windows and books and magazines and hard drives stuffed with gifs – and even technicians working in a natural history museum’s preservation lab. [S46] The “windows within windows within windows” layering of these analog and digital preservation systems, suggests Pamela Lee in Artforum, shows the “digital windows and screens” to be “just as flattened out and drained of life as all those sorry animals carcasses accumulating in cold storage.”[18] (I can’t tell you how much I love this video, and I wish I could say more – but we must move on…)
[S47] For artist Ann Hamilton, however, preservation is fully embodied and vital and social. Much of Hamilton’s work engages with the materiality and sociality of communication and historical artifacts, and how that materiality determines what constitutes a culture’s “archive.” [S48] I think that, through the material abundance of her work, and through its lack of familiarity to typical “archival architectures,” Hamilton’s work allows its inhabitants to create new, unfamiliar, affective connections to history. It calls attention to the limitations of the official historical record and suggests means of refreshing the archive’s architectures and materials with alternative sources that don’t always readily lend themselves to preservation.
Hamilton uses quotidian materials – from bread to blue jeans to pink Pearl erasers – and a variety of media formats, to form inhabitable, multisensory “archival” landscapes. [S49] At her 2012&#160;the event of a threadat the Park Avenue Armory, we find newspaper, 8 x 11″ lined paper covered with handwriting, scrolls covered with typewritten text, pigeons (which once, like the horse, served as a vital means of transmission), vinyl-record-engravers, erasers, bells, bellows, [S50] radios, the voice. In these installations, which commonly engage the histories of their sites, she creates palimpsestic landscapes by layering sight, sound, smell, taste, and texture, then activating the scene with simple, repeated movements, or what Clark Lunberry calls “accretions of gesture.”[19] [S51] Her indigo blue and tropos, for instance, involved someone sitting at a table, [S52] “unmaking” a book through erasure, by burning away the text, line by line. Rather than an act of destruction, however, this unmaking represented a means of “clearing the field,” making room, according to Hamilton, for another “material kind of telling.”[20] She reminds us (as did many of the female destruction artists) of the body itself as the site or means of preservation and/or destruction.[S53] I took my graduate Archives + Libraries class to see the event of a thread, where several students commented on the various kinds of labor, or performance, represented in the installation. We had “official” participants, [S54] including the artist herself, reading and writing and erasing and singing and recording. And we, the visitors, gleefully labored on our swings to move a giant curtain strung across the center of the Armory. Hamilton’s work addresses, in her words, “the way the body through physical labor leaves a transparent presence in material and how labor is a way of knowing.”[21]
[S55] How do we preserve these transparent presences? How do we ensure those quotidian gestures, that invisible labor, those unheard voices are registered in the historical record? What defies recording and preservation? These are among the questions Hamilton’s work raises for me. She proposes that a history rooted not only in extraordinary events, but also in the everyday – its artifacts, sensations, labor, simple gestures – requires an archive that is embodied, material, and living.
[S56:Blank]Then again, what if there are aspects of the everyday that we simply don’t want to be recordable and preservable? [S57] This is where my final (anti-)preservation aesthete, Hito Steyerl, comes in. Her films and writing focus on the ubiquity and global distribution of images – including images that reduce identity to data. “Identity goes far beyond a relationship with images,” she says; [S58] “[I]t entails a set of private keys, passwords, etc., that can be expropriated and detourned. More generally, identity is the name of the battlefield over your code – be it genetic, informational, pictorial.”[22] One of the battles being waged is the right to exempt or extract oneself from “Leviathan’s” database, to regain some control over how one’s identity is constructed. [S59] Her 2013 “How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File” – she specifies the file format! – offers several strategies for “disappearing” oneself from the database, for rendering oneself “un-preservable” (my term). [S60] Possible approaches: camouflage yourself, hide in plain sight, shrink yourself down smaller than a pixel, live in a gated community, wear a full-body cloak, or become a female over 50.
[S61]Steyerl also acknowledges the entwined virtuality of the image and the materiality of the infrastructures that make their capture and circulation possible. In order to thwart the preservation and distribution of our identities as datasets, we sometimes simply have to rage against the machine, kill the drones, pull a 1984 and smash the screen. [S62] In Strike, which is currently on exhibit in Chelsea, she strikes an LCD screen to make visible the structures structuring our viewing, to show that “images also have a physical existence.”[23] The implication is that we need to understand the physical infrastructure of surveillance and data mining in order to undermine it.
And thus we’re back to destruction – but, again, epistemologically generative destruction. These are destructive practices that strive to reassert, as Stiles puts it, the “very materiality of existence,” to recover the archive and the human subjectivities it documents from “instrumental reason and the economies of late capitalism.” [S63] By aestheticizing the intellectual and technical and social infrastructures that undergird choices regarding what gets preserved, and how, and why; by playing out speculative “limit cases” of what our museums and archives and databases can do; by making sense-able the cracks and leaks in the system; by demonstrating what’s lost and gained in storing and migrating and reinterpreting our cultural productions, these artists – working in media of myriad materialities – demonstrate how aesthetics can pose powerful questions about the ethics and politics of what you do. And they can ideally inspire creative ways for thinking about destructive preservation, for approaches to conservation that are anything but conservative. [S64]
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[1] See Kimberly J. Barata, “Questioning Aesthetics: Are Archivists Qualified To Make Appraisal or Reappraisal Decisions Based on Aesthetic Judgments?” Provenance, Journal Of The Society Of Georgia Archivists 12:1/2 (1994)
[2] Alain Depocas, “The Variable Media Network, “ Daniel Langlois Foundation (2003): http://ift.tt/1zQkRYr
[3] “Behaviors” Variable Media Network: http://ift.tt/149qAeZ
[4]Storage, the “most conservative collecting strategy,” is “to store a work physically, whether that means mothballing dedicated equipment or archiving digital files on disk.” The “major disadvantage of storing obsolescent materials is that the work will expire once these ephemeral materials cease to function” (“Strategies” Variable Media Network: http://ift.tt/149qAeZ).
Emulation involves devising “a way of imitating the original look of the piece by completely different means.” Its possible disadvantages include “prohibitive expense sic) and inconsistency with the artist’s intent.” Matthew Kirchenbaum further explains that emulation “entails the literal, formal reproduction of the logic instantiated in the hardware or software of some now-vanished platform…. Importantly, an emulator is actually executing the original machine instructions in the reproduced logical context of the absent program.” The gaming community, he says, is the largest constituency for this approach – and for them, emulation can result in the “experience of the original game or program” being altered “by such environmental variables as screen quality, processor speeds, sound cards, controllers or peripherals, and so forth” (Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Preservation” In Marie-Laure Ryan, Lori Emerson, Benjamin J. Robertson, The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014). The Guggenheim’s 2004&#160;Seeing Double: Emulation in Theory and Practice exhibition examined the aesthetics of emulation, typically a behind-the-scenes practice, by presenting computer-based works – Cory Arcangel’s “I Shot Andy Warhol,” Mary Flanagan’s [phage], JODI’s “JET SET WILLY Variations,” etc. – in various emulated systems and hardware configurations (http://ift.tt/1zQkRYv; see also Lisa Adang, “Untitled Project: A Cross-Disciplinary Investigation of Jodi’s Untitled Game” Ver. 2 (May 2014): 4).
Migration involves “upgrading equipment and source material”, or, as Kirschenbaum explains, moving bits from one physical medium to another, as well as (sometimes) updating their format and logical (symbolic) context… Such migrations of format and logical context always introduce changes to the appearance and behavior of digital objects, necessitating trade-offs in terms of fidelity to its original manifestation as a digital artifact.”
Finally, reinterpretation, or reconstruction of the work each time it’s recreated, is the “most radical” strategy – on that’s labor intensive and may result, as Kirschenbaum says, in, at best, an approximation of the original experience.” It involves asking “what contemporary medium would have the metaphoric value of” the original medium. Answering that question, Kirschenbaum explains, draws on “documentation (usually some combination of source code, screenshots and still images, video, design notes, artist’s statements, fan products, reviews, and published scholarship) to remake the original digital artifact with contemporary tools, techniques, and materials.”
Christiane Paul argues that the work of preserving variable media, and the “living,” archives of “mutable ‘records’” it generates, requires diligent attention to documentation. “This type of archive would need to document the different versions of a work that develops through user contributions—for example, by keeping copies of the project in its different states; and it could potentially document aspects of the ‘environment’ in which the work existed at different points in time, such as discussions of the piece on blogs, mailing lists etc. The contextualization and archiving of net art require new models and criteria for documenting and preserving the process and instability of works that are often created by multiple authors and constantly develop over time” (Christiane Paul, “Context and Archive: Presenting and Preserving Net-based Art” In Dieter Daniels &amp; Gunther Reisinger, Eds., Netpioneers 1.0: Contextualizing Early Net-Based Art (Sternberg Press: Berlin, New York, 2010)).
[5]“The Unreliable Archivist reorganizes the renowned adaweb by means of the categories of “language,” “image,” “style,” and “layout.” In each category the visitor can also choose between four tunings. Texts, videos, and sound from the recorded artistic projects are pieced together in a new combination. This form of systematization raises the question as to the motives and aims of archiving” (http://ift.tt/1wDJbZb); Olia Lialina’s early net art piece Anna Karenina Goes to Paradise, for example, sets up three “Acts” – “Anna Looking for Love,” “Anna Looking for Train,” “Anna Looking for Paradise.” The content for each act is provided by pages that list the results that search engines returned for the words love, train, and paradise at the time of the work’s creation. Lialina’s piece (obviously referencing Tolstoy) was meant to point to constant shifts of context, which ultimately are the focus and content of the artwork. If one visits the work today, most of the links will be “dead” – the piece has been reduced to its concept while the implementation is inaccessible. Even if one would rewrite the piece so that it allows returns “live” search results, the previous versions of the piece will be lost unless their documentation – for example, through screenshots of all the sites that are linked to – is “programmed” into the piece itself (Christiane Paul, “The Myth of Immateriality – Presenting &amp; Preserving New Media” In Oliver Grau, Ed., Media Art Histories (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006)).
[6] The original 1984&#160;Jet Set Willy, programmed in BASIC, was one of the first non-linear narrative games. According to Lisa Adang, Jet Set Willy Variations ca. 1984&#160;[2002] was “developed in an emulator, which JODI used to recreate the ‘proto-computer’ environment of the ZX Spectrum, a very early home computer produced from 1982 to 1987” (“Untitled Project: A Cross-Disciplinary Investigation of Jodi’s Untitled Game” Ver. 2 (May 2014): 4). In a forthcoming chapter in a collection edited by Christiane Paul, Annet Dekker explains that
…over the years Jet Set Willy ©1984has been exhibited in various ways. The first time it was shown on a table, with a 1980s television (CRT) monitor, the audiocassette with the tape, and the ZX Spectrum displayed on it. At other times JODI showed Jet Set Willy Variations (2002), a DVD containing multiple videos of modifications of the game, alongside the game itself. Almost ten years after the launch of the project, Jet Set Willy ©1984transformed into Jet Set Willy FOREVER (2010) when it was presented during the exhibition Funware at MU in Eindhoven. This time the artists decided to add documentation of the work as part of the presentation, thus making documentation part of the “final work.” Jet Set Willy FOREVER included the game on a ZX Spectrum; the DVD; video documentation of the artists demonstrating how the game can be played during a previous presentation of the work; a set of written instructions on how to play the game, and sixty prints showing the interior of the game — a cross-section of the house” (Annet Dekker, “Enabling the Future, or How to Survive FOREVER” (forthcoming)).
Notably, “the website jetsetwilly.jodi.org for Jet Set Willy Variations ©1984&#160;[also a game modification like Untitled Game] contains a direct link to a list of downloads for various emulators needed to create a playable environment for the work: http://ift.tt/1eLaDeX.” As Lisa Adang argues, “The artists are explicitly engaged here in archival strategies and documentation. They also provide a link on this site to images of Jet Set Willy ephemera, a ZX Spectrum keyboard, and a short list of key commands for the original game [http:http://ift.tt/1zQkQni].” (Lisa Adang, “Untitled Project: A Cross-Disciplinary Investigation of Jodi’s Untitled Game” Ver. 2 (May 2014): n. 29, p. 43)
[7]These historical precedents to “auto-destructive” art are smartly chronicled in John D. Powell’s “Preserving the Unpreservable,” his Masters thesis for the Museum Studies program at the University of Leicester.
[8] D.A. Pennebaker, “Breaking It Up at the Museum” [film]
[9] Homage to New York was constructed from materials collected from dumps in New Jersey. Its components included roughly 100 wheels, 15 motors, a piano, and addressograph machine, a baby’s bath tub, klaxons, chemicals, metal drums, bell, child’s cart, piece of the American flag, bottles, fire extinguisher, radio, oil cans, hammers, saws, etc.
[10]Kristine Stiles, “Thresholds of Control: Deconstruction Art and Terminal Culture” Ars Electronic Archive: http://ift.tt/1wDJbZh.
[11] Al Hansen, quoted in Powell: 13. Kristine Stiles’s work focuses on the Destruction in Art Symposium.
[12]Gustav Metzger, Damaged Nature, Auto-Destructive Art (London: Coracle, 1996), p. 43-53; quoted in Powell 53.
[13] Powell 53. Destruction need not be incited or accelerated by the artist; see also ephemeral art like the work of Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Smithson, or Dieter Roth.
[14] See Huey Copeland’s wonderful “Dark Mirrors: Theaster Gates and Ebony” Artforum 52:2 (October 2013): 222-229.
[15]Martha Schwendener, “Mark Dion: American Fine Arts / Aldrich Museum” Artforum 41:10(June 2003).
[16] Whitney Museum of American Art, The Desire of the Museum (New York: Whitney Museum, 1998).
[17]We might also consider how techniques of preservation shape, and are shaped by, the aesthetics of other disciplines, including architectural preservation. In the CFP for a “Photography and Preservation” special issue of Future Anterior, the editors write:
By the 1840s, John Ruskin was urging preservationists to seize ‘every opportunity afforded by scaffolding to approach [art and architecture] closely, and putting the camera in any position that will command’ it…. [The] now standard practice of systematically photographing all phases of a restoration, and archiving the pictures for future reference and to insure the reversibility of treatments…
The institutionalization and professionalization of preservation in the mid-nineteenth century was spurred in part by national and colonial photographic surveys, which not only inventoried heritage efficiently but also helped to shape public perception, concentrating attention on, and therefore changing the cultural value of, a select group of buildings and objects. It is well known that the first photographic surveys mapped only earlier established travel routes such as the European Grand Tour… Photography was arguably the most effective mass media instrument to construct and disseminate visual knowledge and appreciation of buildings and immovable objects that were distant both in time and in place, and as such it also formed the necessary evidentiary basis for the internationalization of preservation movements.”
…[C]ould the obsession of preservationists with building facades be traced to Denis Baldus’s (1813-82) and Gustave Le Gray’s (1820-82) development of the standards for the elevation photograph? What were the aesthetic touch points of preservation photography, and how have they changed as the field has evolved?… How did…the sudden availability of hand-held cameras in the postwar era figure in the expansion of preservation from a restricted focus on canonical monuments to include popular and vernacular buildings? How has the popularity of so-called Ruin Porn photography influenced notions of post-industrial heritage and debates about its authenticity, and conversely, how do preservation aesthetics figure in the subtle framing of patinas, decaying timbers, and flaking paints that Ruin Porn stereotypically catalogues?…
What is the role of photography in the nascent field of architectural forensics?… In extreme cases, photography also sometimes figures as a substitute for preservation, a measure of last resort when the material object is certain to be lost. How did the photographic image come to be conceptualized in discourse as an extension of preservation?…
What role did photography play in shaping the practice of comparing, contrasting and categorizing heritage in typological and stylistic terms? What was the role and influence of architectural photographic archives in the teaching and practice of preservation? Photography figures in preservation both as a lingua franca, and as the undecipherable visual language of specialization, such as in thin section petrography or thermal photography. (CFP: Future Anterior Journal: Photography and Preservation. In: H-ArtHist (March 16, 2013): http://ift.tt/1zQkQno)
[18] Pamela M. Lee, “The Whole Earth is Heavy” Artforum (September 2013). See also Andrea Picard, “Camille Henrot: A Hunter-Gatherer During a Time of Collective ‘Grosse Fatigue’” Cinema Scope 56: http://ift.tt/1wDJbZk
[19] Clark Lunberry, “Theatre as Installation: Ann Hamilton and the Accretions of Gesture” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 37:1 (March 2004).
[20] Amei Wallach, “A Conversation with Ann Hamilton in Ohio” American Art 22:1 (Spring 2008): 55.
[21] Wallach 74.
[22] Hito Steyerl, with Marvin Jordan, “Politics of Post-Representation” dis magazine (n.d.): http://ift.tt/1hsFMej
[23] Andrew Kreps, “How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation, July 2 – August 15, 2014” [press release]: http://ift.tt/1noCaKP

 http://ift.tt/1zQkOMe
Preservation Aesthetics: My Talk for the LoC’s Digital Preservation Conference http://ift.tt/1zQkOMc Shannon

md2

I’m honored to be giving one of the opening plenary talks — alongside the fantastic Matt Kirschenbaum — at the Library of Congress/NDIIPP “Digital Preservation 2014″ conference next week. When Trevor Owens invited me, I wasn’t sure what I could contribute — given that most attendees are likely to be technological geniuses, and I’m, well, not. But Trevor assured me that my “schtick” would be — or at least could be — of interest to all the techno-savants in attendance. So I decided to talk about aesthetics and “preservation art.” I’ve been addressing the aesthetics of archives, libraries, databases, etc., in my “Archives + Libraries” class the past several years. And I’ve been drooling over archive art and the aesthetics of organization for my entire adult life.

Trevor and I talked about “teaching with art” on the Library of Congress’s Signal blog last month. Since then, I’ve thought more about what art — both analog and digital — might have to say about preservation, specifically digital preservation. I’ve finished a draft of my talk. It’s a bit too long, so I won’t be able to deliver it in its entirety at the conference, but I figured I’d post the full text, with all the footnotes, here. With the slides, too.

Mattern PreservationAesthetics by shannonmattern

PRESERVATION AESTHETICS

Archives and libraries are intensely aesthetic environments. [S2] Libraries, in particular, have historically been among our grandest buildings. And today, with an increasingly diverse program and patron base, it’s the source of many sounds and textures… and smells. Information reaches us in various forms and materialities. [S3] We store that information on bookshelves and server racks, and we access it on tabletops and laptops and through interfaces. Our engagement with these “furnishings,” both physical and virtual, is a multisensory experience. [S4] Aesthetics are particularly germane to the work of preservation that takes place within these archives and libraries. As you well know, one of preservation’s central concerns is determining whether something has “intrinsic value” based on its “uniqueness…of informational content, age, physical format, artistic or aesthetic qualities, and scarcity” – and if so, then safeguarding the original item.[1]

[S5:Blank] These aesthetic variables have huge epistemological significance. Acknowledging archives and libraries as aesthetic entities not only helps patrons to better understand how they think and learn; but it also, ideally, helps practitioners recognize that the physical and digital environments they create aren’t neutral containers of information: they give shape to data, information, knowledge, and history; condition how patrons access and process it – and thus constitute what those intellectual constructs are.

[S6] At The New School in New York I regularly teach a graduate seminar that explores the history, values, politics, and aesthetics of archives, libraries, and databases. We focus not only on the aesthetics of the institutions themselves – the library’s rows of books, the archive’s “dusty boxes,” the database’s interfaces – [S7but also on the flood of archive-related and data-driven art that’s been generated in recent years. In this presentation, I’ll examine a group of artists who take up issues pertinent to digital preservation – [S8] file formats, versioning, migration, the lifespan of storage devices, metadata, digital decay, etc., as well as their pre-digital precursors. By pushing certain protocols to their extreme, or highlighting snafus and “limit cases,” these artists’ work often brings into stark relief the conventions of preservation practice, and poses potential creative new directions for that work. As I hope to show, practicing archivists, librarians, and database managers – and the patrons who use those resources – have much to learn about the nature of their enterprise from artists.

PRESERVATION OF DIGITAL ART + DIGITAL “PRESERVATION ART”

[S9] I’d like to distinguish between the “preservation of the aesthetic” and “the aesthetics of preservation.” The former, let’s say, refers to practices of preserving the “intrinsic value” of original objects. One application in which these practices have been given careful consideration, and which is especially pertinent to this group, is the preservation of digital art. We have plenty of folks here today who know a lot more about this than I do, so I won’t say too much about it. Yet I do want to quickly address how the rubrics and “best practices” developed by organizations committed to the preservation of new media art offer frameworks and vocabularies that can help us to better appreciate the aesthetics of preservation, my second category. And by that I mean the sensory contemplation of preservation itself – and particularly, for my purposes here, art that takes as its subject matter the practices, values, poetics, politics, ethics, and especially the limitations of preservation.

But first, returning quickly to the “preservation of the aesthetic”: [S10] Various consortia of scholars, artists, and archivists have been concerned with the preservation of new media art in light of the inevitable obsolescence of digital platforms. One such group, the Variable Media Network (whose purview extends beyond the digital to encompass any work on potentially unstable platforms), is dedicated to understanding a work’s “behavioral characteristics and intrinsic effects” – there’s that word again: intrinsic – independent of the medium in which that work is created and displayed.[2] [S11] Forging the Future’s Variable Media Questionnaire captures information about artworks’ various behaviors and medium-specific aspects, including how the work is contained, installed, performed, how it’s made interactive, how it’s reproduced, encoded, and networked.[3]  [S12] There are then four main strategies storage, emulation, migration, and reinterpretation – for preserving “variable” media so as to responsibly address these behavioral characteristics.[4] Of course you know this already.

[S13] But what about the aesthetics of these preservation practices themselves? What if we considered not only how the aesthetics qualities of, say, a Nam June Paik installation are “preserved” in a reconstruction of the original work, but also how the practice of reconstruction – or emulation, or migration, or even storage – has its own aesthetics (and attendant politics, poetics, etc.)? [S14:Blank] Upon beginning this project I knew of a few artworks and exhibitions that grappled with these issues, but I asked my New School colleague Christiane Paul for other recommendations. She’s a curator of new media art at the Whitney Museum, and she’s long been a central figure in discussions regarding the preservation of net art. There isn’t much digital art that explores preservation-related issues, she said, because “most artists understandably would consider it too boring.”

Well, okay. Yet I do want to thank Christiane for directing my attention to several illuminating examples, particularly of works that highlight preservation by defying it, or highlighting its limitations. I’ll only briefly explore a few of these examples because, once again, there are folks in the room who know this work much better than I do. Hell, some of this work is yours.

[S15] To start, we have examples of the self-erasing disk, the self-destructing file, the self-deteriorating page – for example, William Gibson and Dennis Ashbaugh’s Agrippa, about which Kirschenbaum has written beautifully). [S16] We also have digital artists who highlight the volatility of data models, net architecture and storage media by building intentionally irreverent, idiosyncratic, unstable archives, or by constructing hypertext narratives meant to disintegrate with advancing link rot (e.g., three.org‘s [Jon Ippolito / Janet Cohen / Keith Frank], “The Unreliable Archivist“; Olia Lialina’s “Anna Kerenin Goes to Paradise”).[5]  [S17] We have artists aestheticizing the hard drive and other storage technology, reminding us of the materiality of the digital object and of memory (e.g., Manuel Palou’s “5 Million Dollars 1 Terabyte” and Jason Loebs’s “Anthropomemoria”). [S18] We have artists highlighting the questionable veracity of emulation, using as their primary source material their own memories of the “spirit” – hardly a reliable “record” – of historical technology (e.g., Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied’s “Once Upon”). [S19] We have artists transforming the processes of digital preservation and emulation into performances, and framing the documentation of those processes as aesthetic objects (e.g., JODI’s ”Jet Set Willy Variations”; The New Museum’s XFR STN).[6] And there are artists who take up other issues pertinent to digital preservation – file formats, versioning, migration, metadata, digital decay, etc. In aestheticizing the failures and limitations of digital tools and techniques, they make manifest, perceptible – aesthetically experiential – the underlying values, tacit politics, and invisible “structuring structures” of preservation.

[S20]THE AESTHETICS OF CREATIVE DESTRUCTION

I imagine that the territory I’ve covered thus far is familiar for some, if not most, of you. What I ultimately want to argue – and this next section, “The Aesthetics of Creative Destruction,” is where I think I might finally be able to share with you something you don’t already know! – is that there are plenty of analog precedents and contemporary analog counterparts to these digital works. And there’s much to be learned by historically contextualizing the aesthetic concerns central to digital preservation, and examining how core preservation principles extend across materialities and media. [S21] Agrippa is actually a great example of the latter point: not only did the floppy disk storing Gibson’s electronic poem encrypt itself after a single use; but the pages of Ashbaugh’s artist’s book, in which that disk was embedded, were also treated with photosensitive chemicals and erased themselves over a period of time. We thus see here two different material processes, two different timeframes, two different aesthetic experiences of preservation and decay, of memory and forgetting. In addition, surrounding the work we find different paratexts and “pirate” practices that aim to subvert the logics and aesthetics built into these “original” embedded objects.

There’s been a long history of artwork that “eats itself,” that defies its own preservation. [S22] Gustav Metzger first wrote about “auto-destructive art” in 1959. But well before we had the term to label the practice, we had plenty of self-destructive precedent, much of it rooted in Dada and Futurism and motivated by iconoclastic desire to demolish the hegemonic museum, the aesthetic canon, and “good taste.”[7] [S23:Blank] The 1920s brought Max Ernst’s sculpture with attached ax and Francis Picabia’s erased blackboard drawings – [S24] and 30 years later we had Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing. [S25] Meanwhile in Japan, the Gutai Art Association, whose name translates to “embodiment,” shot at and tore through their artworks, celebrating the creative potential of destruction. [S26] Rauschenberg then collaborated with Jean Tinguely on Homage to New York[8], a kinetic sculpture that worked itself into a fiery fervor in the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden in 1960.[9] [S27] MoMA has preserved a fragment in its collection (which of course raises questions about what, exactly, is being preserved).

[S28] Just a few years after Tinguely’s pyrotechnics, Yoko Ono sat on a stage and invited guests to come up and cut away her clothes. Art history scholar Kristine Stiles suggests that projects like Ono’s “Cut Piece” are like much destruction art in that they “take the body as the principle site of destruction,” but this work also exemplifies women’s specific stake in destruction because it explores the “obliteration of identity,” too. Stiles thus reminds us that much of this work is rooted not only in the rejection of the authoritarian institution, but also in artists’ frustration over their own “otherness” or “statelessness,” and their “profound disgust and rejection of the patriarchal models of discipline, punishment, violence, and authoritarianism.”[10] We should consider how these forces are grappled with in the act of preservation, too – and perhaps where preservation falls short, inciting such drives to destruct and delete.

[S29] Ono’s London performance – which, tellingly, elicited such aggressive responses from visitors that a security force was engaged – was part of Metzger’s 1966 “Destruction in Art Symposium,” where visitors found …

Tony West running classic books through a crank meat grinder, Schreib artfully burning large photos of Willy Brandt… Al Hansen exploded a big motorscooter… Ralph Ortiz demolished a piano with a sledgehammer… Pro-Diaz exploded pyrotechnic powders and fuse cords on three large painted surfaces… John Latham burned several Skoob Towers of Encyclopedia Britannicas… Wolf Vostell of Germany destroyed TV images with paint, food and manual controls.[11]

[S30] Many of these historical examples remind us that some art, much like digital archival material, requires enactment. These works aren’t simply there “to be looked at”; they have to be “turned on,” replayed, refreshed, reenacted, migrated to new platforms. This history also reminds us of the centrality of embodiment, a quality critical to emulation-based preservation, and of the variation inherent in reinterpretation. [S31] Gustav Metzger’s own work – paintings made of acid on nylon screens, metal monuments that corrode in the atmosphere – reminds us further of just how many material means and temporalities there are to deconstruction, analog or digital. “[F]orms implode. Matter is carbonized or pulverized… Most of these transformations are visible,” Metzger wrote; yet in “auto-destructive art a great deal of activity takes place on the microscopic level and is not seen.”[12] Corrosion by acid or atmosphere, burning up from overwork or arson, implosion by explosives or longue duree decay – all things conservators aim to prevent, and all processes that unfold at variable speeds – thus become “intrinsic parts of the artwork.”[13] Metzger’s various pieces could take anywhere from 20 seconds to 20 years to die. We see this variation in material process, scale, and temporality copied in Agrippa, too.

[S32:Blank] And ultimately we are made aware of the many fronts on which the larger preservation battle is so often waged. Destruction art defies preservation, although many cultural institutions devise solutions to transform the ephemeral and processural into something collectible. In his fantastic Masters thesis for the Museum Studies program at the University of Leicester John D. Powell notes that these institutions often take into account the artist’s intention in making decisions regarding preservation. [S33] Some institutions preserve the material residue from ruinous performances, as MoMA has done with some remains of Tinguely’s Homage to New York (notably, much of this preserved detritus is then classified as painting or sculpture); [S34] others consider strategies of documenting the performance of destruction, yet doing so presumes to make reproducible a destructive act that was never meant to be so.

[S35:Blank] While many of the digital art projects I mentioned earlier seem to embody similarly destructive – or, on the lighter end of the spectrum, parodic – values, and to highlight the futility of preservation, it’s important to remember that there’s a creative dimension of destruction, too. Projects like Ono’s “Cut Piece” and JODI’s “Jet Set Willy,” in their “making strange” or “making problematic,” also make us question our choices to destroy or preserve, and the aesthetic and epistemological and political consequences of those choices. They create an awareness of the aesthetics and politics of destruction and preservation – acts that today become so radically casualized with “click to save” and “drag to delete.” What’s more, Stiles argues that destruction art, in its refusal to be collected and circulated, has the potential to “recover the social force of art from instrumental reason and the economies of late capitalism.” It also reinforces “the survivability of the body, the very materiality of existence.”

[S36]VITRINES, VISION MACHINES, AND OTHER AESTHETICIZED TECHNOLOGIES OF PRESERVATION

Now, many of these “destruction” works aren’t explicitly about preservation, in that they’re not making overtly critiquing practice and aesthetics of preservation itself, outside of highlighting their own un-preservability. Yet there are a host of others, inspired by the “archival” and “museological” turns in contemporary art, and by the rise of “institutional critique,” who take the aesthetics and politics of preservation as central (even if implicit) themes in their work. [S37] Take Theaster Gates, whose Dorchester Projects, a group of reclaimed buildings in Chicago that have been refashioned into a local arts-and-culture center that includes a slide lantern library acquired from the University of Chicago; book and LP collections acquired from the now-defunct Prairie Avenue Bookshop and Dr. Wax Records; and the library of John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines. [S38] The assemblage of media and architecture inspires its immediate South Side Chicago community, and the global audience that studies Gates’s work, to consider the significance of preserving others’ cast-off media, and of integrating these collections into a vibrant, multi-purpose community space. It also prompts us to consider the roles those specific materials (architecture books, “ethnic” publications) played in constructing Chicago’s — particularly Black Chicago’s — history, a history that other institutions had to “deaccession” in order for Gates to step in as its conservator.[14]

[S39] Consider also Mark Dion, whose work frequently involves combing and dredging river beds and flea markets and existing museum collections, then staging his finds in displays that detourn traditional museological conventions. He’s asking how preservation and classification and display structure our cultural representations of, and our relationships to, nature. With all its vitrines and labels and dioramas, Dion’s work is ostensibly about preservation – but it, too, has a destructive element. [S40] As critic Martha Schwendener argues, Dion is “dedicated to highlighting and undermining Enlightenment values through the use of his own formal vocabulary. Just the act of looking at Dion’s work – all those books, photos, drawings, specimens, and [found objects] – can be fatiguing.”[15] [S41] And in one of his early works, “Artful History: A Restoration Comedy” (1988), Dion and Jason Simon offer a mock public television documentary on the work of a commercial restoration studio, where they hear tragi-comic tales of aesthetic forgery in preservation: historic paintings cut in two to increase resale value, damaged sculptures with limbs sutured on from other pieces, forgeries passed off as authentic. [S42] In the gallery, Dion accompanies the film with strips of paintings cut from works whose restoration was deemed too expensive or cumbersome. According to the curators of the 1988 Whitney Independent Study show, “The Desire of the Museum,” which included Dion’s film, “Artful History” demonstrates that restoration “respond[s] to the prompts of art dealers and museum curators as they alter paintings to suit format requirements and marketplace pressures.”[16] “Preservation” is thus driven by an aesthetic informed by display and commercial values, not by ensuring “intrinsic value.”[17]

[S43]Yet as with much auto-destructive art, the aesthetic exhaustion of Dion’s installations, and the aesthetic deception in his film, are also epistemologically generative. Schwendener makes the case quite poignantly:

[W]hat he re-creates in his art simulates the fatigue of Western history: the headlong rush to conquer, acquire, accumulate, consume, collect, classify, arrange, display, reconfigure, reconstruct, restore, preserve, and represent. Art for Dion is both academic – evoking a history lesson or a science project – and highly social; working in idiosyncratic ways, he reminds us how effective art can be when it collapses these varieties of experience.

[S44] We see many of the same themes echoed – through a similarly exhausting aesthetic of preservation and classification – in the work of Camille Henrot, particularly in her Grosse Fatigue, a video based on her 2013 artist’s residency at the Smithsonian. [S45] Within the aesthetics of the interface, she contrasts different materialities and aesthetics of preservation: a fish in a preservative bath, tagged bird carcasses in a drawer, proliferating browser windows and books and magazines and hard drives stuffed with gifs – and even technicians working in a natural history museum’s preservation lab. [S46] The “windows within windows within windows” layering of these analog and digital preservation systems, suggests Pamela Lee in Artforum, shows the “digital windows and screens” to be “just as flattened out and drained of life as all those sorry animals carcasses accumulating in cold storage.”[18] (I can’t tell you how much I love this video, and I wish I could say more – but we must move on…)

[S47] For artist Ann Hamilton, however, preservation is fully embodied and vital and social. Much of Hamilton’s work engages with the materiality and sociality of communication and historical artifacts, and how that materiality determines what constitutes a culture’s “archive.” [S48] I think that, through the material abundance of her work, and through its lack of familiarity to typical “archival architectures,” Hamilton’s work allows its inhabitants to create new, unfamiliar, affective connections to history. It calls attention to the limitations of the official historical record and suggests means of refreshing the archive’s architectures and materials with alternative sources that don’t always readily lend themselves to preservation.

Hamilton uses quotidian materials – from bread to blue jeans to pink Pearl erasers – and a variety of media formats, to form inhabitable, multisensory “archival” landscapes. [S49] At her 2012 the event of a threadat the Park Avenue Armory, we find newspaper, 8 x 11″ lined paper covered with handwriting, scrolls covered with typewritten text, pigeons (which once, like the horse, served as a vital means of transmission), vinyl-record-engravers, erasers, bells, bellows, [S50] radios, the voice. In these installations, which commonly engage the histories of their sites, she creates palimpsestic landscapes by layering sight, sound, smell, taste, and texture, then activating the scene with simple, repeated movements, or what Clark Lunberry calls “accretions of gesture.”[19] [S51] Her indigo blue and tropos, for instance, involved someone sitting at a table, [S52] “unmaking” a book through erasure, by burning away the text, line by line. Rather than an act of destruction, however, this unmaking represented a means of “clearing the field,” making room, according to Hamilton, for another “material kind of telling.”[20] She reminds us (as did many of the female destruction artists) of the body itself as the site or means of preservation and/or destruction.[S53] I took my graduate Archives + Libraries class to see the event of a thread, where several students commented on the various kinds of labor, or performance, represented in the installation. We had “official” participants, [S54] including the artist herself, reading and writing and erasing and singing and recording. And we, the visitors, gleefully labored on our swings to move a giant curtain strung across the center of the Armory. Hamilton’s work addresses, in her words, “the way the body through physical labor leaves a transparent presence in material and how labor is a way of knowing.”[21]

[S55] How do we preserve these transparent presences? How do we ensure those quotidian gestures, that invisible labor, those unheard voices are registered in the historical record? What defies recording and preservation? These are among the questions Hamilton’s work raises for me. She proposes that a history rooted not only in extraordinary events, but also in the everyday – its artifacts, sensations, labor, simple gestures – requires an archive that is embodied, material, and living.

[S56:Blank]Then again, what if there are aspects of the everyday that we simply don’t want to be recordable and preservable? [S57] This is where my final (anti-)preservation aesthete, Hito Steyerl, comes in. Her films and writing focus on the ubiquity and global distribution of images – including images that reduce identity to data. “Identity goes far beyond a relationship with images,” she says; [S58] “[I]t entails a set of private keys, passwords, etc., that can be expropriated and detourned. More generally, identity is the name of the battlefield over your code – be it genetic, informational, pictorial.”[22] One of the battles being waged is the right to exempt or extract oneself from “Leviathan’s” database, to regain some control over how one’s identity is constructed. [S59] Her 2013 “How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File” – she specifies the file format! – offers several strategies for “disappearing” oneself from the database, for rendering oneself “un-preservable” (my term). [S60] Possible approaches: camouflage yourself, hide in plain sight, shrink yourself down smaller than a pixel, live in a gated community, wear a full-body cloak, or become a female over 50.

[S61]Steyerl also acknowledges the entwined virtuality of the image and the materiality of the infrastructures that make their capture and circulation possible. In order to thwart the preservation and distribution of our identities as datasets, we sometimes simply have to rage against the machine, kill the drones, pull a 1984 and smash the screen. [S62] In Strike, which is currently on exhibit in Chelsea, she strikes an LCD screen to make visible the structures structuring our viewing, to show that “images also have a physical existence.”[23] The implication is that we need to understand the physical infrastructure of surveillance and data mining in order to undermine it.

And thus we’re back to destruction – but, again, epistemologically generative destruction. These are destructive practices that strive to reassert, as Stiles puts it, the “very materiality of existence,” to recover the archive and the human subjectivities it documents from “instrumental reason and the economies of late capitalism.” [S63] By aestheticizing the intellectual and technical and social infrastructures that undergird choices regarding what gets preserved, and how, and why; by playing out speculative “limit cases” of what our museums and archives and databases can do; by making sense-able the cracks and leaks in the system; by demonstrating what’s lost and gained in storing and migrating and reinterpreting our cultural productions, these artists – working in media of myriad materialities – demonstrate how aesthetics can pose powerful questions about the ethics and politics of what you do. And they can ideally inspire creative ways for thinking about destructive preservation, for approaches to conservation that are anything but conservative. [S64]

.

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[1] See Kimberly J. Barata, “Questioning Aesthetics: Are Archivists Qualified To Make Appraisal or Reappraisal Decisions Based on Aesthetic Judgments?” Provenance, Journal Of The Society Of Georgia Archivists 12:1/2 (1994)

[2] Alain Depocas, “The Variable Media Network, “ Daniel Langlois Foundation (2003): http://ift.tt/1zQkRYr

[3] “Behaviors” Variable Media Network: http://ift.tt/149qAeZ

[4]Storage, the “most conservative collecting strategy,” is “to store a work physically, whether that means mothballing dedicated equipment or archiving digital files on disk.” The “major disadvantage of storing obsolescent materials is that the work will expire once these ephemeral materials cease to function” (“Strategies” Variable Media Network: http://ift.tt/149qAeZ).

Emulation involves devising “a way of imitating the original look of the piece by completely different means.” Its possible disadvantages include “prohibitive expense sic) and inconsistency with the artist’s intent.” Matthew Kirchenbaum further explains that emulation “entails the literal, formal reproduction of the logic instantiated in the hardware or software of some now-vanished platform…. Importantly, an emulator is actually executing the original machine instructions in the reproduced logical context of the absent program.” The gaming community, he says, is the largest constituency for this approach – and for them, emulation can result in the “experience of the original game or program” being altered “by such environmental variables as screen quality, processor speeds, sound cards, controllers or peripherals, and so forth” (Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Preservation” In Marie-Laure Ryan, Lori Emerson, Benjamin J. Robertson, The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014). The Guggenheim’s 2004 Seeing Double: Emulation in Theory and Practice exhibition examined the aesthetics of emulation, typically a behind-the-scenes practice, by presenting computer-based works – Cory Arcangel’s “I Shot Andy Warhol,” Mary Flanagan’s [phage], JODI’s “JET SET WILLY Variations,” etc. – in various emulated systems and hardware configurations (http://ift.tt/1zQkRYv; see also Lisa Adang, “Untitled Project: A Cross-Disciplinary Investigation of Jodi’s Untitled Game” Ver. 2 (May 2014): 4).

Migration involves “upgrading equipment and source material”, or, as Kirschenbaum explains, moving bits from one physical medium to another, as well as (sometimes) updating their format and logical (symbolic) context… Such migrations of format and logical context always introduce changes to the appearance and behavior of digital objects, necessitating trade-offs in terms of fidelity to its original manifestation as a digital artifact.”

Finally, reinterpretation, or reconstruction of the work each time it’s recreated, is the “most radical” strategy – on that’s labor intensive and may result, as Kirschenbaum says, in, at best, an approximation of the original experience.” It involves asking “what contemporary medium would have the metaphoric value of” the original medium. Answering that question, Kirschenbaum explains, draws on “documentation (usually some combination of source code, screenshots and still images, video, design notes, artist’s statements, fan products, reviews, and published scholarship) to remake the original digital artifact with contemporary tools, techniques, and materials.”

Christiane Paul argues that the work of preserving variable media, and the “living,” archives of “mutable ‘records’” it generates, requires diligent attention to documentation. “This type of archive would need to document the different versions of a work that develops through user contributions—for example, by keeping copies of the project in its different states; and it could potentially document aspects of the ‘environment’ in which the work existed at different points in time, such as discussions of the piece on blogs, mailing lists etc. The contextualization and archiving of net art require new models and criteria for documenting and preserving the process and instability of works that are often created by multiple authors and constantly develop over time” (Christiane Paul, “Context and Archive: Presenting and Preserving Net-based Art” In Dieter Daniels & Gunther Reisinger, Eds., Netpioneers 1.0: Contextualizing Early Net-Based Art (Sternberg Press: Berlin, New York, 2010)).

[5]“The Unreliable Archivist reorganizes the renowned adaweb by means of the categories of “language,” “image,” “style,” and “layout.” In each category the visitor can also choose between four tunings. Texts, videos, and sound from the recorded artistic projects are pieced together in a new combination. This form of systematization raises the question as to the motives and aims of archiving” (http://ift.tt/1wDJbZb); Olia Lialina’s early net art piece Anna Karenina Goes to Paradise, for example, sets up three “Acts” – “Anna Looking for Love,” “Anna Looking for Train,” “Anna Looking for Paradise.” The content for each act is provided by pages that list the results that search engines returned for the words love, train, and paradise at the time of the work’s creation. Lialina’s piece (obviously referencing Tolstoy) was meant to point to constant shifts of context, which ultimately are the focus and content of the artwork. If one visits the work today, most of the links will be “dead” – the piece has been reduced to its concept while the implementation is inaccessible. Even if one would rewrite the piece so that it allows returns “live” search results, the previous versions of the piece will be lost unless their documentation – for example, through screenshots of all the sites that are linked to – is “programmed” into the piece itself (Christiane Paul, “The Myth of Immateriality – Presenting & Preserving New Media” In Oliver Grau, Ed., Media Art Histories (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006)).

[6] The original 1984 Jet Set Willy, programmed in BASIC, was one of the first non-linear narrative games. According to Lisa Adang, Jet Set Willy Variations ca. 1984 [2002] was “developed in an emulator, which JODI used to recreate the ‘proto-computer’ environment of the ZX Spectrum, a very early home computer produced from 1982 to 1987” (“Untitled Project: A Cross-Disciplinary Investigation of Jodi’s Untitled Game” Ver. 2 (May 2014): 4). In a forthcoming chapter in a collection edited by Christiane Paul, Annet Dekker explains that

…over the years Jet Set Willy ©1984has been exhibited in various ways. The first time it was shown on a table, with a 1980s television (CRT) monitor, the audiocassette with the tape, and the ZX Spectrum displayed on it. At other times JODI showed Jet Set Willy Variations (2002), a DVD containing multiple videos of modifications of the game, alongside the game itself. Almost ten years after the launch of the project, Jet Set Willy ©1984transformed into Jet Set Willy FOREVER (2010) when it was presented during the exhibition Funware at MU in Eindhoven. This time the artists decided to add documentation of the work as part of the presentation, thus making documentation part of the “final work.” Jet Set Willy FOREVER included the game on a ZX Spectrum; the DVD; video documentation of the artists demonstrating how the game can be played during a previous presentation of the work; a set of written instructions on how to play the game, and sixty prints showing the interior of the game — a cross-section of the house” (Annet Dekker, “Enabling the Future, or How to Survive FOREVER” (forthcoming)).

Notably, “the website jetsetwilly.jodi.org for Jet Set Willy Variations ©1984 [also a game modification like Untitled Game] contains a direct link to a list of downloads for various emulators needed to create a playable environment for the work: http://ift.tt/1eLaDeX.” As Lisa Adang argues, “The artists are explicitly engaged here in archival strategies and documentation. They also provide a link on this site to images of Jet Set Willy ephemera, a ZX Spectrum keyboard, and a short list of key commands for the original game [http:http://ift.tt/1zQkQni].” (Lisa Adang, “Untitled Project: A Cross-Disciplinary Investigation of Jodi’s Untitled Game” Ver. 2 (May 2014): n. 29, p. 43)

[7]These historical precedents to “auto-destructive” art are smartly chronicled in John D. Powell’s “Preserving the Unpreservable,” his Masters thesis for the Museum Studies program at the University of Leicester.

[8] D.A. Pennebaker, “Breaking It Up at the Museum” [film]

[9] Homage to New York was constructed from materials collected from dumps in New Jersey. Its components included roughly 100 wheels, 15 motors, a piano, and addressograph machine, a baby’s bath tub, klaxons, chemicals, metal drums, bell, child’s cart, piece of the American flag, bottles, fire extinguisher, radio, oil cans, hammers, saws, etc.

[10]Kristine Stiles, “Thresholds of Control: Deconstruction Art and Terminal Culture” Ars Electronic Archive: http://ift.tt/1wDJbZh.

[11] Al Hansen, quoted in Powell: 13. Kristine Stiles’s work focuses on the Destruction in Art Symposium.

[12]Gustav Metzger, Damaged Nature, Auto-Destructive Art (London: Coracle, 1996), p. 43-53; quoted in Powell 53.

[13] Powell 53. Destruction need not be incited or accelerated by the artist; see also ephemeral art like the work of Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Smithson, or Dieter Roth.

[14] See Huey Copeland’s wonderful “Dark Mirrors: Theaster Gates and EbonyArtforum 52:2 (October 2013): 222-229.

[15]Martha Schwendener, “Mark Dion: American Fine Arts / Aldrich Museum” Artforum 41:10(June 2003).

[16] Whitney Museum of American Art, The Desire of the Museum (New York: Whitney Museum, 1998).

[17]We might also consider how techniques of preservation shape, and are shaped by, the aesthetics of other disciplines, including architectural preservation. In the CFP for a “Photography and Preservation” special issue of Future Anterior, the editors write:

By the 1840s, John Ruskin was urging preservationists to seize ‘every opportunity afforded by scaffolding to approach [art and architecture] closely, and putting the camera in any position that will command’ it…. [The] now standard practice of systematically photographing all phases of a restoration, and archiving the pictures for future reference and to insure the reversibility of treatments…

The institutionalization and professionalization of preservation in the mid-nineteenth century was spurred in part by national and colonial photographic surveys, which not only inventoried heritage efficiently but also helped to shape public perception, concentrating attention on, and therefore changing the cultural value of, a select group of buildings and objects. It is well known that the first photographic surveys mapped only earlier established travel routes such as the European Grand Tour… Photography was arguably the most effective mass media instrument to construct and disseminate visual knowledge and appreciation of buildings and immovable objects that were distant both in time and in place, and as such it also formed the necessary evidentiary basis for the internationalization of preservation movements.”

…[C]ould the obsession of preservationists with building facades be traced to Denis Baldus’s (1813-82) and Gustave Le Gray’s (1820-82) development of the standards for the elevation photograph? What were the aesthetic touch points of preservation photography, and how have they changed as the field has evolved?… How did…the sudden availability of hand-held cameras in the postwar era figure in the expansion of preservation from a restricted focus on canonical monuments to include popular and vernacular buildings? How has the popularity of so-called Ruin Porn photography influenced notions of post-industrial heritage and debates about its authenticity, and conversely, how do preservation aesthetics figure in the subtle framing of patinas, decaying timbers, and flaking paints that Ruin Porn stereotypically catalogues?…

What is the role of photography in the nascent field of architectural forensics?… In extreme cases, photography also sometimes figures as a substitute for preservation, a measure of last resort when the material object is certain to be lost. How did the photographic image come to be conceptualized in discourse as an extension of preservation?…

What role did photography play in shaping the practice of comparing, contrasting and categorizing heritage in typological and stylistic terms? What was the role and influence of architectural photographic archives in the teaching and practice of preservation? Photography figures in preservation both as a lingua franca, and as the undecipherable visual language of specialization, such as in thin section petrography or thermal photography. (CFP: Future Anterior Journal: Photography and Preservation. In: H-ArtHist (March 16, 2013): http://ift.tt/1zQkQno)

[18] Pamela M. Lee, “The Whole Earth is Heavy” Artforum (September 2013). See also Andrea Picard, “Camille Henrot: A Hunter-Gatherer During a Time of Collective ‘Grosse Fatigue’” Cinema Scope 56: http://ift.tt/1wDJbZk

[19] Clark Lunberry, “Theatre as Installation: Ann Hamilton and the Accretions of Gesture” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 37:1 (March 2004).

[20] Amei Wallach, “A Conversation with Ann Hamilton in Ohio” American Art 22:1 (Spring 2008): 55.

[21] Wallach 74.

[22] Hito Steyerl, with Marvin Jordan, “Politics of Post-Representation” dis magazine (n.d.): http://ift.tt/1hsFMej

[23] Andrew Kreps, “How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation, July 2 – August 15, 2014” [press release]: http://ift.tt/1noCaKP

http://ift.tt/1zQkOMe
“Uh….Finally!: Tech News - Google+ Drops its “Real Name” Rule”

3 Years Later, Google+ Drops Its Dumb Real Name Rule And Apologizes

Since Google+ launched, many have complained about the service’s requirement that users use their real names. Complaints grew ever louder once Google started pushing users to use Google+ for YouTube comments.

Don’t like your legal name? Using another name for safety or personal reasons? Just don’t want the Internet at large knowing your name but still want to amaze the world with your YouTube wit? TOO BAD. If using your real name wasn’t an option, Eric Schmidt reportedly suggested finding another social network.

The idea was that people would be less willing to leave awful comments under their real name. Instead, many legit commenters stopped commenting while many jerks just carried under their real name (or whatever Google thought was their real name.)

Three years later, Google is giving up on this battle. You can now use just about any name you please. They’ll presumably have some issue if you use something like “Assface Mcgee,” but Google’s official word is that “there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.”

Google first started rolling back on the whole real name thing in January of 2012, opening up the rules to include maiden names and select nicknames. But even then, your original real name was displayed alongside your chosen name – and if you tried to pick something Google didn’t like, they’d roll it right back.

Google announced today’s change via (where else?) their Google+ page, and apologized that it took so long for them to make this decision. To quote’m directly:

We know you’ve been calling for this change for a while. We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users. For this we apologize, and we hope that today’s change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be.