Response to Campbell’s Article, Delusions of Dialogue

Jim Campbell’s article, “Delusions of Dialogue: Control and Choice in Interactive Art,” elaborates on some issues that new media artist face when making digital art. He focuses on the limitations of the medium; that life has to be measured in discrete units for the computer to understand.

“an artist is forced to transform a concept, an emotion or an intuition into a logical representation. This is a difficult thing without trivializing the original concept.” (134)

The artist has to think of all the measurements the computer can take and use these variables to provide just enough information for the user to make connections to the real world and create meaning. Basic but effective is Tim Schwartz’s piece, Paris Physical, where a hacked weather gauge compares the popularity of Paris Hilton to Paris, France using news and search results taken from the internet. The piece exploits our understanding of the measuring device but offers a twist to what is being measured. It is a clever way to play with our expectations, to make a point. Tim, point received. In comparison to Schwartz’s piece, less confrontational pieces appear to emphasize aesthetic ends. Jep Thorpe’s piece, Just Landed, is a dynamic 3D map of real-life global flight patterns. The piece provides a new way of looking at the world and human behavior at a global scale. This is the strength of data visualization, the ability to offer a new perspective. However, Thorpe’s piece is not as personal. By simply taking the data, and reducing humans to actions, he dehumanizes. The piece does not translate emotion, one of the pitfalls that Campbell talks about.

As digital artists we need to understand all the functions of working with the computer so that we may work on its strengths for meaning making. I try to personalize all my work, which has some disadvantages. My brain in a box piece triggers video and sound data files, which gives a sense that the brain belongs to someone with a past, with memories. The consequence of this subjective view is alienation from those who can not relate. I think that I take the opposite to Campbell’s words of caution by making the art too much of a perspective on myself by using personal data. When viewed, the result does not stimulate conversation because there can not be anything to disprove of prove, for now they are used for self-discovery. It was interesting to read another artist’s interpretation of artistic ends and further my understanding of this medium. Through conversations with the computer, I hope to find areas where it can offer a foreign and effective way for me to understand my surroundings and myself in a completely new way.