Saturday, November 05, 2011

Frankenstein’s Monster Comes Home: Digital Remix and the Ends of Origin

Opening of a lecture I gave at Amsterdam University:

'Frankenstein’s Monster Comes Home: Digital Remix and the Ends of Origin'

Prezzi and the links to the videos shown during the presentation 

“The labours of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind. ”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus.

“One text that shows the disaster of the divorce between science and poetry would be the one by Mary Shelley whose name is Frankenstein.”
Avital Ronell, Body/No Body (in conversation with Werner Herzog)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (published 1818) represents a historical and literary divergence between the poetic and the technical, and is a significant reaction against this split as part of English Romanticism. It is the contention of my presentation that in contemporary digital works of art and narrative we are witnessing a re-marriage of science and poetry. However, this union should be no automatic cause for romantic joy, as the present situation in the education sector of most Western democracies indicates. Today, the natural sciences are separated from and weighted favorably in relation to the production and analysis of culture.  There is little to indicate that this is an effective strategy in light of present global ‘network culture’ initiatives. Today, the union of science and poetry in digital media is felt most acutely in reading, or the performative interpretation of imaginative works. Computer games, websites, digital works of literature, apps, virtual worlds, interactive art, and spatial media (GIS, Kinnect, GPS, Wii) are interpreted as they are performed and often require some knowledge of the medium by the user in order for the work to function. This situation represents a form of reading that has not been practiced widely in Western academic and literate circles for several centuries. We are not witnessing a return to what Walter J. Ong famously terms a “secondary orality” (10-11), but rather we are seeing a form of inscription rapidly emerge that is spatial, multi-temporal, performed, place-bound, visual, sonic, and navigated. Two central concepts are important for understanding how digital works are generally interpreted, and these are simulation and remix. Representation has become the domain of mediating objects, both virtual and physical, while reading is as much about arranging and appropriating as it is about reference, symbolism, iconography and interpretation. Based on a relatively small selection of digital works this presentation examines reception practices involving digital media, which suggest an expanded concept of reading where the material technology of a work determines meaning as much as its representative elements do. In this examination I demonstrate how performance, participation, co-authoring, and remix make the reading of the digital works.  These works are

Patchwork Girl by Shelley Jackson (1995)
Last Meal Requested by Sachiko Hayashi (2004)
Façade By Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern (2006)
Second Life
CONSTRUCT by salevy_oh (2011)
The Celebration by Iris Piers (2011)

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