[ISEA2011] Panel: Ruth Cat­low – We are the Medium-the-Con­text-the-Source of Net­worked Cre­ativ­ity

Panel Statement

Panel: Creativity as a Social Ontology

We are con­stantly faced in our net­worked cul­ture with cre­ative ten­sion be­tween in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive ac­tiv­i­ties.  The net­work-aware artist nec­es­sar­ily acts as both orig­i­na­tor and par­tic­i­pant in this new con­text. The medium is the peo­ple, the en­vi­ron­ment, the com­plex phys­i­cal and tech­ni­cal net­works that we all en­gage and the in­ter­faces that me­di­ate our in­ter­ac­tions. Imag­i­na­tive and crit­i­cal ap­proaches in­formed by a grass roots per­spec­tive are nei­ther tech­no­log­i­cally de­ter­mined nor do they serve in­sti­tu­tional, the­o­ret­i­cal and art his­tor­i­cal val­ues (al­though these things play an im­por­tant part). In­stead, peo­ple (artists) chal­lenge, hack and reimag­ine or re­shape given in­ter­faces to cre­ate their own imag­i­na­tive con­texts on their own terms. We claim the medium, we are the medium as in­di­vid­u­als, groups, col­lec­tives.  I will pre­sent two im­ages as the basis for my con­tri­bu­tion to the panel dis­cus­sion. The first, the fa­mil­iar image by Paul Baran il­lus­trat­ing three dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work topolo­gies from “On Dis­trib­uted Com­mu­ni­ca­tions: 1. In­tro­duc­tion to Dis­trib­uted Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Net­work”. In­ter­net and world wide web topol­ogy can be un­der­stood as com­bin­ing the de­cen­tralised and dis­trib­uted net­works in which all nodes have the po­ten­tial to both trans­mit and re­ceive. All nodes are ac­ces­si­ble by all nodes and new nodes (peo­ple, ma­chines, pro­grammes, con­tent) can al­ways be added. This is an open, scale-free net­work which main­tains con­nec­tiv­ity re­gard­less of the num­ber of nodes added.  Sec­ondly, the graphic in­vi­ta­tion to join in with the first DIWO (Do It With Oth­ers) E-Mail Art ex­hi­bi­tion. It rep­re­sents a cat­e­gory-jump­ing net­work of ac­tors: groups, a philoso­pher, an emoti­con, a cou­ple, de­vices, con­nect­ing ma­te­ri­als, vi­sual analo­gies (the tuft of grass- for grass­roots) the speak­ing dildo (to ac­knowl­edge the ma­te­r­ial ef­fect of sex­u­al­ity on the life of the In­ter­net) etc.

  • Ruth Cat­low is an artist and cu­ra­tor work­ing at the in­ter­sec­tion of art, tech­nol­ogy and so­cial change. As co-founder, with Marc Gar­rett, of Fur­ther­field a grass roots media arts or­gan­i­sa­tion, on­line com­mu­nity and gallery (for­merly HTTP Gallery) in North Lon­don, she works with in­ter­na­tional DIY artists, hack­ers, cu­ra­tors, mu­si­cians, pro­gram­mers, writ­ers, ac­tivists and thinkers. Her cur­rent focus is on prac­tices that en­gage an eco­log­i­cal ap­proach fea­tur­ing an in­ter­est in the in­ter­re­la­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal and nat­ural processes.  Ruth has been in­volved with de­vel­op­ing net­worked par­tic­i­pa­tory arts in­fra­struc­tures such as Vis­i­torsStu­dio and NODE.?London. Ruth has worked in Higher Ed­u­ca­tion for over 15 years and is cur­rently run­ning de­grees in Dig­i­tal Art and De­sign Prac­tice and de­vel­op­ing a new MA in Fine Art and En­vi­ron­ment at Writ­tle School of De­sign, UK.