THE MACHINES ABOVE US: AN OVERVIEW OF THE ‘CELESTIAL MECHANICS’ NEW MEDIA ARTWORK

2 03 2009

By SCOTT HESSELS

1 Image 1: Low Earth-orbiting Satellites

INTRODUCTION

The mechanical chaos above our heads affects us directly in an astounding array of ways. The technologies we take for granted, as banal as the GPS in our cars and our mobile phones, are nearly all airborne. Our communications, our media, our military, our science, our security, and our safety are all tied to mechanical superstructures drifting silently above us. Although we can’t see them or touch them, they too are part of what N. Katherine Hayles describes as the post-human tendency to physically extend ourselves through technology.

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SOME FRAGMENTARY PROLEGOMENA ON BIOSOCIAL KITSCH

24 02 2009

By MICHAEL ROSSI

Let’s begin with Paul Rabinow’s 1992 essay, “Artificiality and Enlightenment: From Sociobiology to Biosociality.” Written in a climate of unreflective and unselfconscious enthusiasm for the emerging human genome project, Rabinow – writing perhaps with a mild sense of irony – sought, as he put it, to “sketch some of the ways in which […] the two poles of the body and population are being rearticulated into what could be called a post-disciplinary rationality.” By postdisciplinary, he notes, he does not mean “post-modern.” What he does mean is that, to paraphrase, “in the future, the new genetics […] will become […] a circulation network through which a truly new type of autoproduction will emerge, which I call ‘biosociality.’ If sociobiology is culture constructed on the basis of a metaphor of nature, then in biosociality, nature will be modeled on culture understood as practice. Nature will be known and remade through technique and will finally become artificial, just as culture becomes natural” (Rabinow, 1992) – a heady prognostication, even for an era unabashedly full of promise.

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ART, DESIGN AND METAMORPHOSIS IN OUTER SPACE

21 02 2009

By IRENE LIA SCHLACHT

In outer Space habitats the human body undergoes physical adaptations to the microgravitational conditions. As a basis of extreme design human adaptation and stress factors have to be considered from the fist step of the Space habitat project, with a multidisciplinary approach, that included art, design to enhance living conditions. This discipline can be connected with natural design philosophy: “The beauty of life should be guaranteed in particular for inhabitants of extreme environments that dedicate their life for the love of planet and science”.

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CULTURAL EVOLUTION AND THE INTERNET: A CRITICAL INQUIRY RESPECTING THE CONVERGENCE OF ART & SCIENCE

21 02 2009

By HANS H. DIEBNER

VIRAL DYNAMICS

Memetics is a controversially debated evolutionary theory of culture. The basics have been introduced by the notorious popular scientific writer R. Dawkins (1976) in his book "The Selfish Gene" as an analogy to genetics. In his view, a "meme" corresponds to a "cultural gene" that determines "cultural evolution" through its "cultural fitness." The theory affected people in either a fascinated or an averse way. This is partially because of Dawkins’ rather extreme social Darwinistic thinking and anti-religious attitude: "Religion is an evil virus of the mind." (Dawkins 2006).

Although memetics is widely regarded as an immature theory (Blackmore et al. 2000) – I agree –, it has nevertheless migrated as a fundamental paradigm into what is called "sociophysics" and "econophysics" and, more relevant for the general public, into "viral marketing" (Hermann 2004). The propagation and survival of trends, ideas, opinions, and so on – i.e., of memes – is described within the memetic approach on the basis of epidemiological models. The analogy between the propagation of memes and the spread of viruses motivated the notion of "viral marketing", which is often synonymously used for "Guerilla marketing." Innovative measures that are often related to the networked structure of the internet like the famous "Moorhuhn" video game or YouTube’s "lonlygirl" phenomenon try to brake up traditional marketing design. At a first glance, nothing reminds to advertising. Instead, the activities appear like art or other subversive activities. A gradual dissolution of the borders between art, science, and economics can be observed. Analogously, there exists an increasing community within the arts called "Guerilla art" (e.g. Bielicky 2007), which also explicitly refers to viral dynamics of word-of-mouth.

Innovative measures in marketing and design are accompanied by dynamical models and monitoring systems in order to predict trends and to intervene accordingly. IT and the internet are vital for the viral marketing success. There is no doubt that the internet has the potential to support enlightenment. The reverse of the "medal" is the growing risk for the society to be "designed."

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