[ISEA97] Panel: Ken Goldberg & Eduardo Kac (chairs) – Telepistemology and The Aesthetics of Telepresence

Panel Statement

“We must rediscover a commerce with the world and a presence to the world that is older than intelligence.”   _Merleau-Ponty (1945)

My work considers the distance between the viewer and what is being viewed. How does technology alter our perceptions of distance, scale, and truth? Technologies for viewing continue to evolve, from the camera obscura to the telescope to the atomic force microscope; each new technology raises questions about what is real versus what is an artifact of the viewing process (Foster 1988). Recent evidence (Manovich 1996, Lunenfeld 1997) suggests that the subject of “telepresence” may be relevant to artists and theorists.
What is telepresence? I agree with Kac’s (1997) distinction between virtual reality (VR) and telepresence:VR presents purely synthetic sense-data lacking physical reality. Telepresence presents sense-data that (1) claims to correspond to a remote physical reality and (2) allows the remote user to perform a physical action and see the . results.The WWW has the potential to bring telepresence out of the laboratory. Some projects I’ve been involved with include:
The Telegarden (1995-97), Legal Tender (1996-97), The Invisible Cantilever (1997). The recurring question: “How do I know this is real?” suggests a Turing Test for epistemology. This may be the last refuge for realism.

“Although the senses occasionally mislead us respecting minute objects, such as are so far removed from us as to be beyond the reach of close observation, there are yet many other of their informations, the truth of which it is manifestly impossible to doubt; as for example, that I am in this place, seated by the fire, clothed in a winter dressing gown, and that I hold in my hands this piece of paper….”  _Descartes (1641)

The visitor acts and perceives this “reality” through an instrument with no objective scale. How does the framed vision of the microscope (Hacking 1983) differ from the framing induced by the World Wide Web? Discontinuities induced by these media can undermine what Husserl calls the “inner” and “outer” horizons of experience.These horizons are vital to what I call “telepistemology”: how distance influences belief, truth, and perception.
R. Descartes, 1641. Meditations.
H. Foster, ed. 1988. Vision and Visuality. Bay Press.
I. Hacking.1983.Representing and Intervening. Cambridge Press.
J. Herbert.1997.The Robotic Billfold: Counterfeits and Telepistemology. Mondo 2000. 16, pp 126-128.
E. Kac. 1997. Aspects of the Aesthetics of Telecommunications. Leonardo.
P. Lunenfeld.1997 (to appear). In Search of the Telephone Opera.. Afterimage.
L. Manovich.1996.The Labor of Perception. In: L. Hershman ed. Clicking In. Bay Press. 183-193.
M. Merleau-Ponty. 1948. Sense and Non-Sense. trans by Dreyfus and Dreyfus. Northwestern University Press.

  • Ken Goldberg (U.S.A.), panel co-chair, is an artist and engineer on the faculty at UC Berkeley. He has exhibited technology based artwork inter­nationally including exhibitions at New Langton Arts (1997), Ars Electronica (1996-7), Dutch Electronic Art Festival ’96, and LAX ’92. His installations have won juried awards at the Interactive Media Festival, the Festival for Interactive Arts, New Voices/New Visions, and the National Information Infrastructure Awards. He was named an NSF Presidential Faculty Fellow in 1995.
  • Eduardo Kac (U.S.A.), panel co-chair, is an artist and writer who works with elec­tronic and photonic media. His work has been exhibited widely in the United States, Europe, and South America. Kac’s works belong to the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Holography in Chicago,and the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, among others. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Leonardo, published by MIT Press. His anthology, New Media Poetry: Poetic Innovation and New Technologies, was published in 1996 as a special issue of the journal Visible Language, of which he was a guest editor. His writings on electronic art have appeared in several books and journals in many countries, including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States. He is an Assistant Professor of Art and Technology at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has received numerous grants and awards for his work.
  • Lev Manovich (RU/USA.)  is an artist and a theorist of new media. He was born in Moscow, where he studied fine arts and com­puter science. He continued his education in the U.S. receiv­ing an M.A. in experimental psychology from NYU and a Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Studies from University of Rochester. He has lectured widely on digital arts, and his writings have been published in many countries. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Diego. In 1995 he was awarded a Mellon Fellowship in Art Criticism by California Institute of the Arts. He is currently working on two books: a collection of essays on digital real­ism, and a history of the social and cultural origins of com­puter graphics technologies entitled The Engineering of Vision from Constructivism to Computer (University of Texas Press, forthcoming).
  • Michael Naimark (U.S.A.) spent twelve years as an independent media artist before joining Interval Research Corporation in 1992. He was instrumental in making the first interactive laserdiscs in the late 1970s at M.I.T., and has worked exten­sively with projection and immersive virtual environments. He has consulted on new media for a variety of institu­tions, and his artwork has been exhibited internationally. Naimark has held faculty appointments at the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco State University, California Institute of the Arts, M.I.T., the University of Michigan, and is one editorial boards of Presence and Leonardo Electronic Almanac. He created a B.S. in Cyberspace Systems as an independent major from the University of Michigan in 1974, and received an M.S. in Visual Studies and Environmental Art from M.I.T. in 1979. His current project can be found at http://www. interval.com/projects/be_now_here/.
  • Peter Lunenfeld (USA) Peter is a member of the graduate faculty at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He is one of the coordinators of the Program in Communication & New Media Design. His research concerns the transformations of critical categories and hierarchies due to the impact of com­puter media. He holds a doctorate in film and television from UCLA and is the founder of mediawork: The Southern California New Media Working Group. Recent essays have appeared in a rtintact 3, Intelligent Environments: Spatial Aspects of the Information Revolution, and Photography After Photography. He publishes regularly in Frame-Work, Afterimag4 Flash Art, Film Quarterly, and Artforum. He guest edited a special issue of Art+Text on “Art+Tech”, and is the editor of The Digital Dialectic New Essays on New Media, forthcoming from the MIT Press.   en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Lunenfeld