Hansen’s New Philosophy for New Media

Mark B.N. Hansen
New Philosophy for New Media
Area: Digital Media
Notes from presentation

•    Early on in his introduction, Hansen states that one of the aims of his book is to offer an account of “how the body is modified through interactions facilitated by digital technology”
•    Now, I think the idea “facilitated by digital technology” is important because it is suggesting that technology is bringing us into its realm, and not the other way around
•    The following examples of digital technology facilitate interaction.
o    This is what Hansen calls “affectivity”: the capacity of the body to experience itself as ‘more than itself’ and thus to deploy its sensorimotor power to create the unpredictable, the experimental, the new.
o    Hansen’s definition is different from a Deleuzean characterization in that the body has the capacity to experience its own intensity.
•    Chapter one begins by asking, “What makes new media, new?”
o    Hansen argues that there is a flexibility brought by digitization, and there occurs a displacement of the framing function of the medial interfaces back onto the body from which they themselves originally sprang.
o    Hansen also says that new media art concerns the refunctionalization body as the processor of information—it calls on the body to inform the concept of the medium
o    Look at this first slide: The Way messes with our normal perception
•    We would think that the runners would be lower than the tall houses, but in fact the perspective is off
•    There is a displacement—what we take as normal (the runners should be going up the hill in the background) has been rearranged
•    Hansen continues and in chapter two discusses how the body becomes the actual screen for digital art
o    As we can see in Shaw’s MovieMovie, people are actually invited to physically interact with the flowing screen onto which images, movies, lights, and music are being projected
•    Here, the body is almost indistinguishable from the artwork itself, as it becoming enmeshed with it.
•    There is a feeling of continuity that partially obscures the difference between physical and virtual space
•    This is also illustrated in Shaw’s Place: A User’s Manual
•    The viewer steps into this panoramic space and takes control of the video camera
•    The viewer is not limited to the framing of the image, but actually controls the output
o    Also, the viewer is actually shadowed on the one wall, again the body is a part of this construct
•    In this sense, Hansen notes that there is a virtual totality
•    The artist, Jeffrey Shaw, says of this installation that he is “using technology to break out of the frame of the image and thereby empower the body
•    In chapter three, Hansen brings in Deleuze’s argument that “perception can no longer be defined in terms of the relationship between images,” that the brain has become a deterritorialized object
o    Now, to Hansen, this results in a machinic vision, the selection of information is no longer performed exclusively or even primarily by the human component
•    The digital image has an “electronic underside” because it is entirely without correlation to any perceptual recoding that might involve human vision
•    Here, in the Golden Calf, “the virtual object are seemingly and paradoxically located within the actual space
•    You are seeing not the actual image of the calf but the electronic prosthesis (the moveable computer screen) is allowing the brain in supplant this image as though you have control over it
o    We can see how the guy on the right is moving it around as though he has control over it, but the computer is controlling the actual projection
•    This next chapter was my most favorite chapter, because seeing one of these pieces of art ‘in person’ would probably mystify me and scare the crap out of me, too
o    In Chapter 4, Hansen introduces the DFI, the Digital Facial Image
•    These next few slides will illustrate this idea quite clearly, however I recommend that you go an visit these sites to see video and hear clips of these ‘talking heads’
•    DFI is the infelicitous encounter with the digitally generated close-up image of a face—and specifically the affective correlate it generates in you, the viewer-participant—comes to function as the medium for interface between the domain of digital information and the embodied human you are.
•    DFI thus results in a transfer of affective power from the image to the body
•    What is striking about Ken Fiengold’s work is it’s ability to interact with the audience and itself
•    If/Then are these two talking heads, in a continuous conversation with each other
•    The conversation is computer generated conversation that never repeats and is never solved
•    Both this piece and the next one question why they are here, if they are real, and their overall purpose in ‘life’
o    You can see why this would be strange—two heads in an eternal conversation discussing if they are real
o    At that moment, it is as if we, the human, are no longer necessary, as we just watch these two androgynous heads contemplating and convincing each other of their existence
•    In Sinking Feeling, the head actually converses with the audience
•    The microphone in front allows patrons to ask questions and converse with the head
•    Again, the responses are not generic, but generated by a computer algorithm
•    Sinking Feeling appears to be aware of its own existence, but still has a number of existential questions (just like us??)
•    Fiengold’s aesthetic experiments involving human-machine collaboration necessarily foreground the role of human embodiment: he says that “if we want to create performances that are interesting for human audiences, it is essential to use human bodies on stage—because the emotional impact depends largely on resonance between the bodies on stage and the bodies in the audience”
•    Chapter five is entirely about virtual reality, and how to distinguish between affect and perception
o    On the screen you’ll see a map of Smetana’s Room of Desires
•    This installation literally feeds off of the participant: one’s brain waves and heart rate are monitored and cause the changing of the images and sounds one sees and hears
•    It begins with a calming scene and music, but once one’s heart rate raises or becomes stressed out, images reflecting stress and anxiety are flashed on the screen and the music becomes increasingly more intense (knives cutting into things, live births, prisons, explosions, etc).
•    The art work is based entirely upon the participant and is a bodily interaction
o    Perception cannot be differentiated from illusion, as the perception is not an illusion but a genuine reflection of the participant—the output is the viewer, not an illusion of oneself
•    “What happens in VR is that the body disappears because it is turned on itself.  Yet, as it disappears from the domain of the visual image, the body materializes in the domain of form, where it experiences itself as absolute sensation or subjectivity”
•    With Skulls, Lazzarini’s work functions by catalyzing a perspectival crisis, confronting us as it does with ‘the disorienting ambiguities of digital space (explain the skulls project)
o    Hansen says that “Rather than acting as the ‘object’ of digital modulation, the image here functions as a catalyst for the breakdown of the visual register itself: skulls explores the topological freedom of digital modulation and attempts to give the viewer some interface with this visually impenetrable domain”
o    This impenetrable domain is also noticed here in Hall, a continuous loop of one walking through a hallway with no windows or doors.
o    Viewers of this video experience a sense of claustrophobia, thus bringing us back to the original notion of digital art being the facilitator


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