Digging through Digital Art and Culture
Summary Ten: Privacy/Surveillance

We talked about a very current issue, which is online privacy. A lot of people complain about the fact that they can be tracked online and the fact that basically anyone can look up their personal information because of their online presence. 

We discussed this issue, using Foucault’s definition of ‘Surveillance’. Within the setting of the panopticon, surveillance creates a clear top-down hierarchy, where the watcher has power over the watched, because of the internalization of the “gaze” through discipline.

However, on the internet there is no such hierarchy, because of it’s rhizome-like structure. Everyone controls everyone on the internet, creating what’s called “coveillance”. There can even be a reversed power relation online between the watcher and the watched, called “sousveillance”. A good example of this are the Wikileaks, where the gathered information from watchers is being exposed to the normal people.

The power relations between people can be traced back and mapped perfectly on the information network of the world wide web. There are several websites designed to do just this.

 Like mentioned before, there is a lot of criticsm about this Surveillance. For instance, Richard Spinello claims that everyone has the right to 3 aspects of privacy: solitude, secrecy and anonimity. He thinks this is increasingly impossible in the information culture that exists online and in society. Another example is Acta, an organization that wants to constrain information on the internet. Famous street artist Banksy quipped about this issue that “in the future, everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes.

- Thomas

Tom Clancy (an american novelist) plays with the idea of what our soldiers may be like in the future in a new video game. I actually played a little of it (only a little because I’m so busy with this course) and they play with the idea of these future soldiers being completely dependend of their technology (without it they would die). An interesting idea and also pretty cool game.

ninth summary: Artificial Intelligence

This class we talked about artificial intelligence, which isn’t actually directly linked to digital art or culture. This class was more about technology as a tool. The first question linked to A.I. is what kind of tool is A.I. and what is it exactly. McLuhan defined ‘media’ as an extension of men. He says that technology is always based on humans, which is very much a humanist point of view. So if we follow this line of thought we can ask ourselves: hoe artificial can a human get, before it isn’t human anymore?

We discussed the cyborg as something human which is extended by media. Does using a camera make you a cyborg? The short answer is it doesn’t, but something like a pacemaker is a piece of technology where humans depend on. They would actually die without it. There are several machines that create a feedback loop between men and machine. This means that the machine adjusts to human/biological signals and vice versa (hearing devices for example). So maybe the cyborg is more real than we think. Also we have to think of the cyborg in a non humanist, but in a post-humanist way. We are extending animals with technology and turning them into post-humanist cyborgs.

 A cyborg may be real, but that doesn’t mean that A.I. is. A.I. is intelligent life created from scratch. The way we (try to) create these A.I.’s, they resemble a lot of humans, but they aren’t human. This way the robots become something between subject and object, what we call an abject. This is why we can get an uncomfortable feeling from certain robots. They resemble us, but in a different way they don’t.

Now to link this to digital art and culture. These tools can be used to create certain art forms. We can use technology as a tool, but our technology nowadays also allows us to manipulate nature to create art. We can make painting with certain bacteria that change their colour in certain lights, or manipulate the colours of apples by putting paper on them. But is this art, science or life? Actually it is all three of them. It’s great power that technology has given to humans and we have to use it wisely.


Haptic Visuality in Music Video

Summary Eight: Embodiment

In last week’s class about ‘Embodiment’, we learned about the materiality of the body in art and in everyday life, plus how this relates to the digital medium.

We discussed the bodily experience of daily life and how we constantly feel the invisible traffic of our interaction and of the data tranfers we are subjected to. There is a constant pull which we can not withstand, because that might lead to suffering and physical pain.


This artistic notion of embodiment was very popular in the 60’s and 70’s, as can bes een in the rise of very physical performance art, or body art (i.e. Chris burden, Marina Abramovich). Artists became the artworks themselves, by performing as living statues or by creating intimacy and physical contact in public spaces, often controversially.

 This heightened physicality also has an effect on how we perceive the digital world. According to McLuhan, the digital medium is the ‘extension of man’, a technological extension of the human mind and of our sensory input. In other words, the way we watch visual input digitally is related to our optical visuality in real life. 

In this light, we differentiated ‘haptic visuality’ and analytical visuality. Haptic visuality is done by watching affectively, by an intimate interaction and by immersion with the visual object. The complete opposite is objectively, scientifically trying to analize and understand the visual object.

Obviously, this ‘haptic visuality’ is very popular in the digital domain, for instance in music videos or in commercials. It appeals to the public’s sense and allows for a transformation to take place. These days, people are trying to create the best possible digital simulation of real sensory input. Other examples of this are visual lasershows at concerts, the artworks of Pipilotti Rist or so-called iDrugs, a digital simulation of taking drugs with soundwaves and visual stimulation. Another interesting example is ‘Scottie’, a digital tool for communicating how you feel, that is used in hospital environments to create technological companionship when no one else is around.

- Thomas

Problems with digital identity

Problems with digital identity

Summary Seven: Identity

We saw that the main difference between your digital identity and your real-life identity, is flexibility. In real life, your identity is always related to space: we are identified by our physical presence and our links with localities. Our social background is created through interaction with and by relating to other people and other communities within this space. We can choose how to present our identity to other people or find new ways of identifying with them, but there are also certain social bounderies, which can stand in the way of acceptance and connectivity.


Meanwhile, in the digital realm, there is a lot more flexibilty concerning your identity. In many cases, you are able to create a virtual persona, which is not necessarily representative of your real identity. For instance, in many games you can create a special avatar, and many websites allow you to create an online alias for yourself. This can reduce social stress and help against identity issues. A good example of this is the “It gets better”-project: a website which aims to aid young people who get bullied for being gay, by letting them tell their stories and by forming an online community that supports them. Another example is the global spreading of online social networking.


However, this flexibility brings along other problems. There is less social control this way and in some cases people abuse this freedom by hijacking online identities or by pretending to be someone else, for bad purposes. Also, the connection with real events is often lost, which can increase Baudrillard’s ‘simulation’-effect and lead people into losing their sense of reality.

- Thomas   

Maybe this is an even better example of people doing something terrible to get famous. Double Take made a terrible song (even they must hear that), but it did work to get famous. So there’s a shift from Fame to infamy.

6th summary: celebrity culture

During this class we talked about celebrity culture. Did celebrities actually change because of digital technology? In some way they did. Lara Croft for example is famous, but she doesn’t exist (in the real world). Cashmore (2006) wrote about celebrity culture and he says that celebrities now are different from celebrities in ‘60/’70. Celebrities were defined by their exceptional talent and now, because of mass media, celebrities became products which can be sold.

We defined three kinds of fame: fame because of skill, pre-scribed fame on ascribed fame. Skill is the way old celebrities became famous (because of exeptional skill). Pre-scribed fame is fame you get for being something (like a king of a country, you are born famous). Ascribed fame is fame you get by the public gaze. It’s hard the describe which kind of fame someone has, and of course you always got to have some ascribed fame: when the public doesn’t want to see you, you’re not famous.  Nevertheless we can establish that celebrities nowadays are more part of a marketing strategy.

The ascribed fame can be created by the media. If we’re bombarded with images of Paris Hilton (even if we don’t want to see her) she gets an ascribed fame, since everyone knows her. Madonna was the first person who presented herself as famous, and lots of people did after her. A skill of lots of celebrities nowadays is getting the attention of the public and showing themselves in the public gaze. You can get famous even without any exceptional talent (or pre-scribed fame).

This also suggests that getting in the public gaze makes you famous. Why you’re in the public gaze doesn’t matter, it could be for the wrong reasons. If you do unethical things for example you can get famous. There’s a shift from fame to infamy and lots of celebrities use this. Someone like Rebecca Black who made a terrible song just to get famous, and it worked!


5th summary: space and time

During this class we talked about time and space in the digital world and the real world.

Cyberspace allows us to not be present in physical space, but still be in contact with everyone from that space. So it’s ‘absent presence’ by which we are absent and present at the same time: we’re not present in physical space, but at the same time we are through all our technology. This also relates to a nomadic principle, which says that we can carry “home” with us with our digital technology.

In cyberspace we reenact time, because strictly speaking cyberspace doesn’t have time. We can speed up or slow down our own time. Cyberspace also allows us to interact with real people who are living in a different time zone. .

Artists have used digital tools to create new ‘digital art’. We looked at the example of a program that tracks where you run on a map. People started drawing all kinds of figures on the map. This is a sort of extra layer on top of reality’s space, since there are no real figures in reality, but the digital medium creates it in cyberspace. This is an example of how digital technology changes the way we look at space.

The way we think about space is also reflected in the way we navigate through cyberspace. Even the word cyber‘space’ show that we thing of our digital data as places we can visit. The windows desktop we all use on a daily basis is one way of navigating through digital data, which is in the end all software based on binary code. The way this software is showed to us, is actually based on conventions and artists are looking for different ways to portray all our digital data. The idea that the way we navigate through digital space is based on conventions shows how we actually have a digital culture, since all cultures are based on conventions.