[ISEA2011] Paper: Donna Roberta Leishman – Precarious Flux


The Design disciplines have traditionally not been concerned with representing complexity or mirroring the precariousness nature of our existence. Rather, many designers tie themselves to the noble urge to serve society, to assist and simplify rather than to provoke. Within Western cultures, the living conditions of our reality, the ‘practical reality’ (Huizinga 1938), has changed significantly. It may not be a co-incidence that even Design has moved away from an industrial to human (emotive) centred approach.

In 2006 Jenkins observed a move towards a participatory rather than transactory culture in which play was becoming a default method in engagement and knowledge attainment. The assertion of the knowledge economy over the information society gives further weight to the argument that contemporary media literacy requires an increasingly more complex and fluid approach from the participant (Thomas et.?al. 2007).

Supporting this Antonelli (2008) states “… core human experience is rendered more urgent by the speed at which technology is moving” and that we “…routinely live at different scales, in different contexts, and at different settings – Default, Phone-only, Avatar On, Everything Off on a number of screens, each with its own size, interface, and resolution, and across several time zones.” This agility to move between interfaces, resolutions and time zones potentially equates to a new form of expertise, a new commodity.

In my paper I will discuss the changes in our practical reality and how this affects our sense of identity, self and what is authentic. In setting the context the paper will contrast and explore our quotidian living via social network services, email and video chat with emergent forms of escape and release such as Augmented Reality Games (Year Zero 2007, Conspiracy For Good 2010) and provocative Digital Art (Vested 2009). The paper will go on to posit that we exist in an increasingly precarious conceptual space (Foster 2009) and that both applied and artistic practices are striving to express what constitutes a core human experience and developing methods to survive within our fluctuating context of extraordinary change.


  1. ANTONELLI, P., (ed.) 2008, Design and the Elastic Mind. New York: MoMA
  2. FOSTER, H., 2009 , Precarious. Artforum Online.
  3. http://artforum.com/inprint/issue=200910&id=24264 Artforum [Accessed November 2010]
  4. HUIZINGA, J., 1938, Homo ludens. London: Routledge.
  5. JENKINS, H., 2006,  Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press.
  6. KRING, T., 2010. Conspiracy For Good. Online. www.conspiracyforgood.com/ [Accessed November 2010]
  7. REZNOR, T., 2007, Year Zero. Augmented Reality game. Online descriptor. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Zero_(alternate_reality_game) [Accessed November 2010
  8. RITTER, D., 2009, Vested. Interactive installation, 12x19m, Online. aesthetic-machinery.com/vested.html [Accessed November 2010]
  9. THOMAS, S., JOSEPH, C., LACCETTI, J., MASON, B., MILLS, S., PERRIL, S., 2007, Transliteracy: Crossing Divides. First Monday (online journal).
  • Donna Roberta Leishman (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee University, UK) is a media artist, designer, writer and researcher and is based in Scotland. Since 1999 her website 6amhoover.com has been the platform to experience her interactive projects. Her artworks have been presented in museums, galleries, conferences and festivals around the world including:  UkinNY festival (NYC), Resistor Gallery (Toronto), Centre for Contemporary Art (Glasgow), TechnoPoetry Festival (Georgia Tech) DeCordova Museum (Boston) OFFF (Barcelona). Digital Arts & Culture conference (Melbourne), M.I.T (Boston), The Six Cities Festival (Glasgow) Designersblock – The Scottish Show (Milan/London) ELO Visionary Landscapes (Vancouver USA) and the Electronic Literature Collection Volume One. In 2004 after gaining a practice-led Ph.D., from the Glasgow School of Art she joined Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, where she lecturers in Communication Design. Her critical writings and presentations cover the social reception of digital media and the intersection of narrative with interactivity. Themes in the research include developing and exploring the role of the participant, issues around identity and closure and interrogating the aesthetic consequences of difficult interactions and dissonance. Leishman has presented for: Digital Art Weeks Xi’an (China), CRUMB/Culture Lab (Newcastle), CultureNet/Capilanou University (Canada), IOCT De Montfort University (Leicester) FITC (Toronto), ISEA, CHI 2011 (Vancouver). Her works have been featured in The New York Times, The List, The Herald, Create Online, Computer Arts, The Scotsman, The Guardian, Desktop Magazine (AUS), TIRWEB and Design Week. 

Full text (PDF) p. 1502-1507