Some biases of contemporary digital media explained

“If you’re an app, how do you keep people hooked? Turn yourself into a slot machine.”

1*BNOfmUQ2nTRVPVe0CHx7ewThis article is well worth a read. It explains, from the view of an insider (a Google design ‘ethicist’), how the digital media we take for granted is heavily loaded with biases. Some of those biases are consciously designed (usually to serve a commercial interest) and some of those biases are accidental.


Week 12: What is Media Arts Good For?

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Etienne Deleflie Extruded Video 2015

Cine-Roman due next week – You’ll submit as in previous assignments – on the blog as a comment linking to a video of vimeo.

I’ve been thrown in here at the last minute so please bear that in mind….I’m going to try and eek out some coherence between Etienne’s lecture notes which I recieved yesterday and my own understanding of the topic at hand – but its very much a lecture on the fly – full of ideas that you are free to take or leave as you please.

Today we look both to the immediate past and to the prospective future of your studies in Media Arts – I’ll try and give a sense of why you might pursue a media arts as a practice and as a particular mode of research and thinking beyond this very basic introductory course to what lies ahead.

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Etienne Deleflie Extruded Video 2015

I’ll try and define Aesthetics and explain why the questions Aesthetics asks are important in terms of art practice general and media art specifically.

The original version of this lecture was called something like Contemporary Media Arts Practice….but actually seems to talk a lot about.. Aesthetics. 

So what is the link between Aesthetics and Practice?

Well lets look for a definition of that first term…

From the Oxford Dictionary I get.


1) A set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty.

2) The branch of philosophy which deals with questions of beauty and artistic taste.

Beauty? Taste? What thats got to do with contemporary art?

This is a definition tied to the classical (platonic) notion of ideal forms….and that the work of art aspired to and pursued this ideal – of course today we’ve largely outgrown that notion that there is an ideal beauty.

Beauty and taste is very subjective isn’t it?… or at the very least cultural. And regardless – theories of beauty are probably not going to help us understand a stuffed tattooed pig named snow white…an artwork emerging for the practice of celebrated contemporary artist Wim Delvoye.

Wim Delvoye, Snow white, 2006 Tattooed and stuffed pig 65 x 137 x 27.5 cm 25 5/8 x 54 x 10 7/8 i

…nonetheless the gist of the question remains:

why do we perceive something as having or expressing a particular aesthetic value.

Lets try a more specific source and context – The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy;


the branch of philosophy that examines the nature of art and the character of our experience of art and of the natural environment…..

this is much better for our purposes but and it goes on for three more columns….so…

I’ll paraphrase;

– Recognition of aesthetics coincided with the development of theories of art in the 18th Century that grouped together painting, poetry, sculpture, music and dance  (and often landscape gardening) as the same kind of things les beaux arts or the fine arts. (read : if it aint craft then what is it? what’s it good for? what the difference between craft and fine art?)

  • Baumgarten coined the term in his 1753 Reflections on Poetry – He derived it from the ancient greek aisthanomai (‘to perceive’)- and (so) ‘the aesthetic’ has always been intimately connected with sensory experience and the kinds of feelings it arouses. (this- I think – is important!)
  • The field of Aesthetics might ask questions like;
    • Should we always assume an aesthetic attitude in relation to art? What is that (attitude)?
    • I there a distinctive type of experience, an aesthetic experience? What is that?
    • Is there a specific object of attention that we can call the aesthetic object?
    • Is there a distinctive value , aesthetic value comparable to say moral values? (think back to the question of beauty?)

(note: we can ask all these questions regarding a specific art -and perhaps more fruitfully than of art and aesthetics -in general)

  • Aesthetics also encompasses the Philosophy of Art the most central issue of which has been how to define art? (and so……)
  • …..Aesthetics is tied up with questions of what is art and what is not? or rather, what makes a particular object art?
  • Many answers and approaches to this question have been proposed over history that attempt to define or identify the distinguishing features of art in terms of form, expressiveness, intentions of the maker, and social roles or uses of the object. 

But art remains a slippery thing to define…typically  as soon as we define art an artist comes along and makes art that defies the definition.

Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ (1917)

But there is something in that.. perhaps Art practice becomes the exploration and material research of aesthetic potential…..  its a loopy idea but lets explore it..

Duchamp’s fountain – its potential to move us – depends completely on its challenge to question of what art is? Its an aesthetic based in the disruption of traditional notion of aesthetics..We might say (and this is often the case) that Duchamp’s Fountain moves us via a play of difference and repetition – its the difference in the repetitive act of placing art objects in galleries – that makes a difference here.

Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus… Ideals of Beauty and the Divine.

So that question of Beauty with which classical aesthetics and theories of art are concerned- that is…..

  1. A set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty.

….Gets filtered through an increased understanding that beauty amongst all the other perceptions is, of course, in the eye of the beholder -it is subjective or at least cultural.

and so…. (buried in this question of Beauty) there is already a more fundamental question of perception and in that a question of what moves us, a question concerning affect.

Do we need another definition here?

Affect: Have an effect on; make a difference to…  (Oxford English Dictionary)

A more detailed definition of affect (one of contemporary philosophies most contested terms) might come via Spinoza (1632-1677) the Philosopher most associated with a philosophical fleshing out of that concep-t who in his wonderful Ethics breaks down affect into those that result from external causes (which he calls the passions) and those which are a function of the adequate ideas that affect our relationship to the world.

Baruch Spinoza

This quickly gets complicated but the key thing here is this dual nature of affect that Spinoza directs us to – it describes at once an object or body’s potential to affect and to be affected.

First and foremost affect is about a relation rather than a quality of any one object alone.

This is the way many contemporary philosophers approach the question of Affect – including Deleuze (1925-1995) and Guattari (1930-1992) – a central pair in the development of 20th Century philosophy and a big influence on contemporary philosophy of art (and media)- who adapt, extend and complicate Spinoza’s work bringing it into the 20th century. Here is Brian Massumi another key thinker on affect and the thought of Deleuze and Guattari making things clear;

affects in Spinoza’s definition are basically ways of connecting, to others and to other situations. (

Delueze and Guattari

Given this definition maybe;

Aesthetics is the study of how the artwork modulates our connections with the world  and how in doing so it makes a difference.

The question of a media art aesthetic is important because it interrogates how and in what ways media forms and technologies more genrally make that difference to our perceptions and interactions with the world, to the objects within it,  to our bodies and those of others.

…for me this definition helps me build bridges between my primary research interest – that is media generally – and the practice of media art. I’ll try and explain how…

From Aesthetics to Practice.

That takes us right back to the top of this lecture and the two terms with which we began….Aesthetics and Practice….

James Turrell. Raemar Pink White, 1967. Shallow space.

Practice is simply the act of making art. More specifically its the ongoing pursuit of a particular question, fascination, curiosity, or quality via the act of making art. It is an active thinking through the materiality of the art object and its materials in the service of thinking and making again (and again). Its an ongoing thinking by doing.

It can refer to the practice of an individual artist- and this case practice refers to the question or questions that motivate their ongoing activity of art making.

It can also refer to the collective practice of art making that comes to define the aesthetics of the medium – not as some given quality – but as something dynamic, living and emerging – once again ongoing.

As we collectively think-feel by doing (by making) through a medium the potentialities of the form or media itself – its potential to affect and be affected – to make and realise new connections between body and world- begin to speak through the collective work of the artists working in the field.

Its here we might look for an answer to that question;

What is Media Art Good For? 

As researcher and academics this collective practice starts to tell us something about the potential of media and technologies generally but as a practitioner it might help us identify what it is that makes a medium of interest to us.

We can think art and media art specifically a kind of material research into its potential to affect new connections between body and world.It is an active material exploration of the aesthetic (connective) possibilities of media forms and technologies.

And in the analysis of a collective Media Art Practice we might find – always emerging and dynamic – the potential that defines a particular medium or discipline.

On top of that – given that our lives are have become so obviously dominated by ubiquitous mediation Media Art might also serve as a vehicle for making the fabric and mechanism of those mediations manifest… make them available to perception and relation in the service of critique of shaking up and unsettling our media ecology and the relations it mediates..

Critically – and perhaps controversially – this delineates Media Art and its practices from media practice more generally (say movie making, or web design). It starts to get back to one of those key questions defined by the Cambridge dictionary of philosophy and its entry on Aesthetics; What makes one media object Art as opposed to another?

To that we might answer given all the above; what makes it art is its relation to a practice that actively explores/d the aesthetic potential of the medium, that interrogates how and in what ways media form and technologies more genrally make that difference to our perceptions and interactions with the world, the objects within it, our bodies and those of others.

So what is media art good for?

Lets look at some explain and try and work out how they have effectively explored and interrogated the potential of media forms and technologies and what is it about these forms that offers us new aesthetic potential for exploration and interrogation? What are they making visible, how are they moving us to think-feel.

Rafael Lazano-Hemmer
Pulse Room:

Daniel Crooks
A Garden of Parallel Paths:

Etienne Deleflie
Extruded Video 2015-

Natalie Jeremijenko
The art of Eco-mindshift (19.47)

Wim Delvoye
Cloaca Professional 2010


Rain Room:

Ryoji Ikeda

Test Pattern

Paulo Cirio
Street Ghosts :

Week 12 Workshop

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.55.39 amThis week will be working on our Cine-Roman projects for the final time in class. We will be sharing techniques and developing ideas with which to improve our audio-visual story-telling.

Looking for Clues and Cautionary Tales.

Here are some (very) varying examples of cine-roman (often called photo-roman) projects for around the world. Some are made with substantial institutional or commercial support – many many others are student projects from around the world and are of varying degrees of quality and professionalism.

We can learn something from almost all of them.

In small groups or in pairs choose at least one from this list. Watch it carefully and pull out any techniques that you found interesting or potentially useful. What worked about their particular approach to the cine-roman form and what didn’t work? Be very specific – look for particularly sequences or effects that you liked (or otherwise). List them and note the time at which they appear so you can present them to the class as a whole.

Find one example from previous MEDA101 courses or from other sources that we can add to this list and provide a similar analysis and comparison. Many of the listed examples are relatively successful examples – where do they differ from other examples of Cine-Roman you find online….


Consulting and Working on Projects

This is you last chance to consult with your tutor in class regarding the development of your Cine-Roman project.

Make sure you understand how to export and upload your video project to Vimeo – set up an account and do a test upload.

We will be handing our projects in via Vimeo before class next week accompanied by a comment on the appropriate blog post as in previous assignments. Make sure you know exactly how to upload and be aware that this process can often take a while before the video is available for viewing – leave plenty of time.




Workshop Week 11

Ongoing Project Work

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HitchCock’s Rule: “The size of an object in the frame should equal its importance in the story at that moment“

For ease of access, here is William Gibson’s Twitter feed:

Writing project statements

  • What was your starting point in William Gibson’s Twitter feed? What caught your attention in that starting point?
  • How many steps did you then take from that starting point? Explain each step.
  • What decisions do you have to make for this project? (e.g. the sound track you have chosen)
  • What processes have you undertaken in developing this project? (e.g. Ideas mapping, listening to the sound track, drawings, sketching, editing etc.)
  • How have your ideas developed through the project?

Activity 1

Download the Week 10 Lecture notes: Meda101_Lecture10_2015

Choose 3 of the techniques discussed in the lecture, and explore how you might integrate them into your ciné-roman.

If you are not sure which techniques to choose, here is a suggestion:

  1. Vary the ‘interpretive’ gaps between the frames
    1. moment to moment
    2. action to action
    3. aspect to aspect
  2. Create a sequence of long shot, mid shot, close-up shot, then back out.
  3. Use Hitchcock’s Rule: “The size of an object in the frame should equal its importance in the story at that moment“.

Activity 2

In groups of 3 − 4:

  • View each other’s works (with tutor if available)
  • Provide feedback for peers
  • Write down and respond to feedback