Accepting the premise that technology is a “black box,” that any technological tool has no meaning until it is placed within a cultural system, there must exist cultural mechanisms by which new technologies are “naturalized” into culture. The exponentially accelerating speed of technological change leads us to question whether there is a maximum speed of cultural adaptation. Consider the paroxysms of confusion that copyright law is in due to the presence of new technologies. The mechanisms of cultural adaptation are slipping behind.
Despite the apocalyptic overtones, this is a very practical problem for artists in electronic media. Over the last twenty years we have seen short eras of technological art practice become technologically obsolete and slip from historical view. Thus artists, forced to upgrade technology continually, are caught in a cycle of unrequited technological consumption. In addition, the pace of technological change prevents a holistic consideration of the cultural context of the subject matter by the artist. And, the largely unacknowledged burden of artists who choose to explore new media is that they often find themselves in the R+D function of designing the technology, rather than simply aesthetically manipulating a traditonal art technology.
Audiences as well as artists are affected by the rate of technological change. The codes and conventions required to “read the work” have not been culturally established. The unacknowledged burden on viewers of electronic work is that they must take care not to impose critical judgments germane to an older discipline (such as painting) upon a different technology. How do we cope?
- Simon Penny, (chair), Australia, Carnegie Mellon University, Fine Arts Department, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
- Peter Lunenfeld, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- Lev Manovich, Department of Visual Arts, UMBC, Baltimore, MD, USA
- Jeffrey Schultz, Brooklyn, NY, USA