[ISEA2011] Panel: Janis Jef­feries – Tech­nolo­gies of Me­di­a­tion and Im­me­di­a­tion

Panel Statement

Panel: SENSORIUM: Interdisciplinary Practices of Embodiment and Technology

The word medium and its cog­nates, such as media and me­di­a­tion, have a strangely dou­ble as­pect. On the one hand, a medium acts as an en­abler, as a bridge, con­nect­ing things that might oth­er­wise be com­pletely dis­joint. On the other hand, a medium is some­thing that pal­pa­bly stands be­tween. Me­di­ated ex­pe­ri­ence is al­ways sec­ond-hand; me­di­ated ex­pe­ri­ence is, by de­f­i­n­i­tion, not im­me­di­ate. Even air as a medium through which we ap­pre­hend the World dis­torts. Worry about this led David Hock­ney, for ex­am­ple, in the late-eight­ies, to pre­fer pho­to­copiers to cam­eras as he felt that the im­ages pro­duced by the lat­ter were largely pic­tures of the air be­tween the cam­era and the sub­ject. The tech­nolo­gies of what might be called new or dig­i­tal or in­ter­ac­tive media have been in­tense cases of this dou­ble­ness, but this may change. In 2002, re­searchers at the Touch Lab at MIT shook hands across the At­lantic with re­searchers at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege, Lon­don. They shook hands using a fast com­puter con­nec­tion, pres­sure sen­sors and ac­tu­a­tors. That hand­shake may well her­ald a new era in com­mu­ni­ca­tion across the In­ter­net and could also be the har­bin­ger of new ways in which we ex­pe­ri­ence other peo­ple and ob­jects through tech­no­log­i­cal me­di­a­tion. This change is much more fun­da­men­tal than sim­ply adding one more sense, ar­guably a rel­a­tively minor one at that, to the array of senses with which we in­ter­act with com­put­ers. Touch is very dif­fer­ent from the senses-vi­sion and au­di­tion-that, up to now, have been al­most the sole ways of ac­cess­ing the world through com­put­ing tech­nol­ogy. The dif­fer­ence is bound up with the no­tion of dis­tance and me­di­a­tion. The things we see and the things we hear, even when not ap­pre­hended through ma­chines, are al­most al­ways at some re­move from us, me­di­ated at least by air; the things we feel are things that are in con­tact with us, things that are touch­ing us as we touch them. Once im­me­di­ate senses-like touch and taste-are added to the en­gage­ment with com­put­ers, the ex­pe­ri­ence be­comes man­i­festly more im­me­di­ate, more par­tic­i­pa­tory, more part of a real world. As Steven Con­nor points out, in his ar­ti­cle “The Menagerie of the Senses” (The Senses and So­ci­ety, 2006) spi­ders are the one an­i­mal that rou­tinely feels things at a dis­tance (Con­ners, 2004). Spi­ders do this, fit­tingly, by feel­ing things on the far cor­ners of their webs.  In this paper I dis­cuss pos­si­ble fu­ture tech­nolo­gies and the kinds of en­gage­ments with a range of prac­tices they en­able, re­fer­ring to Lud­wig van Berta­lanffy no­tions in Ro­bots, Men and Minds (1967) with re­spect to ar­gu­ing for a com­plex sys­tem of com­po­nents in in­ter­ac­tion to­wards fluid bod­ies and men­tal en­ergy.

  • Janis Jef­feries is an artist, writer and cu­ra­tor, Pro­fes­sor of Vi­sual Arts at the De­part­ment of Com­put­ing, Gold­smiths, Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don, UK, Di­rec­tor of the Con­stance Howard Re­source and Re­search Cen­tre in Tex­tiles and Artis­tic Di­rec­tor of Gold­smiths Dig­i­tal Stu­dios. In the last five years she has been work­ing on tech­no­log­i­cally based arts, in­clud­ing Woven Sound (with Dr. Tim Black­well) and has been a prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor on pro­jects in­volv­ing new hap­tics tech­nolo­gies (with the goal of bring­ing the sense of touch to the in­ter­face be­tween peo­ple and ma­chines) and gen­er­a­tive soft­ware sys­tems for cre­at­ing and in­ter­pret­ing cul­tural arte­facts, mu­se­ums and the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment. She is an as­so­ci­ate re­searcher with Hexa­gram (In­sti­tute of Media, Arts and Tech­nolo­gies, Mon­treal, Canada) on two pro­jects, elec­tronic tex­tiles and new forms of media com­mu­ni­ca­tion in cloth. She cur­rently holds a Crafts Coun­cil Spark Plug cu­rat­ing award for a pro­ject that seeks to ex­am­ine the cre­ative and dy­namic re­la­tion­ship be­tween math­e­mat­ics, math­e­mat­i­cal forms and craft through an ex­plo­ration of a par­tic­u­lar maths and tex­tile archive, called Com­mon Threads. Key pub­li­ca­tions in­clude, “Laboured Cloth: Trans­la­tions of Hy­brid­ity in Con­tem­po­rary Art”, in The Ob­ject of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cul­tural Pro­duc­tion, edited by Joan Liv­ingston and John Ploof , and pub­lished by The Art School of the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago/MIT Press in 2007, and “Con­tem­po­rary Tex­tiles: the Art Fab­ric” in Con­tem­po­rary Tex­tiles: The Fab­ric of Fine Art, Black Dog pub­lish­ing, 2008. Her essay, “Lov­ing At­ten­tion: An out­burst of Craft in Con­tem­po­rary Art” will be part of the forth­com­ing an­thol­ogy Extra/or­di­nary: Craft Cul­ture and Con­tem­po­rary Art (forth­com­ing, Duke Uni­ver­sity Press and edited by Dr. Maria Elena Buszek). Re­cent pub­li­ca­tions in 2010 in­clude ‘The Artist as Re­searcher in a Com­puter Me­di­ated Cul­ture’, in Art Prac­tices in a Dig­i­tal Cul­ture, eds. Gar­diner and Gere, Ashs­gate Pub­lish­ing. She is co-ed­i­tor of the vol­ume In­ter­faces of Per­for­mance (Ash­gate, 2009).

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