Thursday, 14 July 2011

Stuart Hall Library Reading Group Discussion Post, 9 June 2011

Thanks to everyone who attended June's reading group, our last before the summer break. A recording of the discussion will soon be available via the library website. You can also listen to recordings of all our previous reading group sessions.

The reading for June was Frances Dyson's 'Atmospheres', in Sounding New Media: Immersion and Embodiment in the Arts and Culture (2009). We chose this text as part of our developing interest and broadening our knowledge of new media. The text's focus is on the work of Catherine Richards. You can find out more about her work here:

These were some of our points for discussion:

- Can human beings meaningfully interact with technology? (ie. with the machines themselves?)

- Is ‘digital space’...equivalent to physical space, and digital presence...equivalent to actual presence’? p.161 [discussion of code]

- Arguably, the work is characterised by representation (theory) and metaphor, rather than (lived) experience. Also, can Richards fully determine how the work is experienced by the viewer or, as with other types of authorship, can there only be intention?

- P.158 ‘In the discussions of posthumanism...two rhetorical threads stand out: the first focuses on the transcendent private space of virtual or immersive environments, the second expands this space of “being-in” to theorize artificial life and “digital being” in general’.

- P. 159 The posthuman makes more sense ‘as a field of relations’ rather than a state of being.

- Dyson discusses the paralells and differences between writing and code: ‘although the computational worldview is similar to grammatology in not presuming the transcendental also does not tolerate the slippage Derrida sees as intrinsic to grammatology. Nor does code allow the infinite iterability and citation that Derrida associates with inscriptions.’.

- P.162 Dyson describes the artist Catherine Richards as channelling ‘ideas about embodiment, the senses, and notions of the self through her own “philosophical”, or rather “aesthetic machines”.

- P.171 ‘Neurotheologians’/spiritual neuroscience: “the study of correlations of neural phenomena with subjective experiences of spirituality... “ [Wikipedia definition] – Could Richards’ work evoke feelings of spirituality in the viewer?

- P.171 in her discussion of Richards’ work I was scared to death/I could have died of joy, Dyson considers the idea of s(t)imulating human emotions: ‘The glowing, pulsing brains seem to be alive [...]they appear to be communicating, bringing to mind countless scenarios of consciousness disembodied, or, more recently, downloaded. – Does ‘responding’ to stimulus, as this artwork promises correspond with (human) feeling?

- P.175 ‘Not only have machines failed to deliver, but the future is always “not-me-now” and “not-me-here”, and this very negative constellation is shadowed by the cumulative history of our experience with machines that aare always in the process of becoming obsolete’. – Arguably, the relationship of humans to machines can only ever be disappointing; the promise of ‘a better future’ is unlikely to be fulfilled.

- P.178 However, the replacement of posthuman ‘immersion’ with ‘resonance’ describes the responsiveness/changes to the human inidvidual in relating to and interacting with technology: p.179 ‘In short, the posthuman subject is not so much disembodied by technology [...] as simultaneously etherealized and “retuned”.’

- P.181 As Richards comments: “If you are immersed in a signal, you start to the system. So for me the question is: ‘Who has the power of the pulse – whose pulse is everybody syncing to?’

This meeting was our last until we come together again after the summer break, in October. Check the reading group web page or email for details.

Have a great summer!