[ISEA2008] Paper: Dorothée King – Decoding Gaze in Science, Technology and Interactive Media Art


The underlying gaze on space and presented interaction possibilities in arts, science, and technologies seem to replicate ideas of exploration and annexation of new territories. The interaction with humanoid machines and other social and electronic devices seem to follow certain strategies. The designs of the apparatuses change with time, but the implied perspective on and interaction with the easy-to-dominate other remains similar.

To analyze the question of repetition of perspectives and interaction patterns in media arts I would like to confront recent media art pieces, with the notion of gaze as used in cultural studies. Gaze, as a term used in cultural and image studies, operates on the distinction between a (supposedly) objective perspective and look, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a culturally informed and selective gaze. I employ the term gaze in the sense in which it is found in Foucault´s Birth of the Clinic (1973), in which the author attempted to identify the reductive perspective of medical doctors on human subjects as mere bodies, and not persons. The term became current
in studies of visual media in the seventies of the last century with Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, in which she used the term gaze for the male perspective on female actors in film. Laura Mulvey described gaze as ‘to–be–looked–at–ness’. She argued that cinema creates sexual difference in the way we look, fostering female passivity and male actors as drivers of the narration. The distinction between look and gaze can be applied to other media. In 2006 Laura Mulvey connects the idea of gaze to technological settings in general: “while technology never simply determines, it cannot but effect the context in which ideas are formed”. I want to apply her idea of a culturally and by medium determined gaze to multi-media experiences. In this short presentation I want to show that certain cultural strategies of exploration or hierarchical structures in social interaction are not only reproduced in images, but are also strengthened in technology-based, interactive environments.

  • Dorothée King, Interface Culture, Institute for Media Studies, University of Art and Industrial Design Linz, Austria

Full text (PDF) p.  268-269