[ISEA94] Paper: Roy Ascott – The Planetary Collegium


Remember Vincent Van Gogh’s Painter on His Way to Work, carrying it all on his back? That’s where art education is heading. I don’t mean the canvas and easel. I mean carrying it all on your back, in the clothes that you wear and in the headband in your hair. 50% pure natural wool 50% optical fibre. I am talking about the interface moving onto and, eventually, into the body. That’s your electronic media artist on her way to school. She’s wearing the university on her sleeve.

We’re not talking about a few curriculum changes here. We’re not talking about the gradual replacement of some of the library stacks with a few computers. We are talking about the total dissolution, disintegration, and dispersal of Higher Education. From real estate to cyber estate. The university is becoming the interversity. Ask the students. Hundreds of thousands use the Internet daily. When Larry Smart first issued NCSA Mosaic, the network interface to hypermedia browsing, there were ten thousand users in the first three weeks. Now there are over two million. Students are half in school and half in cyberspace. They live between the virtual and the real. They are in the Net more often than out of it. This is the advent of Inter Reality, the space we are most likely to inhabit for the next many years. The ethics of the net, its integrity and inclusiveness, are creating a social behaviour, a morality, which will bring huge bonuses to the real world. I am with Esther Dyson of the Electronic Frontier Foundation when she says that organised political parties won’t be needed if open networks “enable people to organise ad hoc, rather than get stuck in some rigid group”. The end is to reverse-engineer government, to hack Politics down to its component parts and fix it. She echoes the words of Hazel Henderson writing twenty years before her: “Networks are a combination of invisible college and a modern version of the Committees of Correspondence that our revolutionary forefathers used as vehicles for political change”.
This post-political process also involves the student in learning to browse, to graze, to
hunt for ideas, projects, data, as well as intellectual and artistic collaboration and friendship
in all kinds of electronic places, virtual libraries, telecommon rooms and cybercolleges. The
students’ time in telepresence and virtual learning mode is increasing rapidly. Have you noticed
in the studios, libraries and computer suites how every terminal, every interface is occupied,
all the time.

  • Roy Ascott Pioneer of telematic art, his seminal projects include “La Plissure du Texte” Electra ’83, Paris), “Planetary Network” (Venice Biennale 1986) and “Aspects of Gaia” (Ars Electronica 89, Linz). His work is widely published in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. He is a consultant to many European institutions including the C.E.C., Ars Electronica Center, CETEC, Universite Paris Dauphine, the European League of Institutes of the Arts and editorial advisor to Leonardo (MIT Press), Intermedia (Madrid) and IDEA (Paris). He is Director of CAIIA – the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts at Gwent College of Higher Education in Wales. He was Professor fuer  Kommunikationstheorie, Hochschule fuer angewandte Kunst in Vienna, Austria, 1985-92 and Dean, San Francisco Art Institute, California, USA1975-78.

Full text p.180-184.