Changing Perspectives on Digital Media in Global Age

Theorizing New Media in a Global Context by Soraya E A Murray/ Precarious Flux by Donna Roberta Leishman/ The Return of the Digital: Reflections on the Digital-Cultural Feedback Loop by Romy Achituv
Tuesday, 20 September, 2011 - 17:00 - 18:00
Chair Person: 
Yiannis Colakides
Soraya Murray
Donna Leishman
Romy Achituv

Theorizing New Media in a Global Context

by Soraya E A Murray

Theorizations of form and questions of enhanced function loom large in discourses of new media and digital arts. While advanced technologies are broadly considered instrumental in economic and cultural globalization, seminal discussions of the global do not figure prominently into their theorization.  Contemporary arts practices, for example, have been forced to contend with the artist as globally informed, cosmopolitan, and socially engaged. As a result of globalization, new forms of knowledge have entered into the polemics of cultural production. This is engendering an increased demand for more informed, worldly critical theorists and practitioners who are engaged with the global. Yet questions of the context in which new media comes into being are often elided in its scholarship and dominant practices.  This essay argues that divergent critical models, particularly theoretical discourses of globalization find their way into new media, and that both practitioners and scholars dialogue with emergent theoretical frameworks that permeate culture today.  While new media is certainly "global" in the sense that its presence is transnational and contributes to economic and cultural globalization, one sees little critique or consciousness around issues of globalization as the context in which new media discourses take place.  Thus, the question must be asked: can new media be considered global when its discourses contain little engagement with theorization of post-colonialism, hybridity, mobility, migration and diaspora? This paper models one possible method that moves away from the fetishization of form, and grounds new media scholarship in its socio-political context.

Precarious Flux

by Donna Roberta Leishman

The Design disciplines have traditionally not been concerned with representing complexity or mirroring the precariousness nature of our existence. Rather, many designers tie themselves to the noble urge to serve society, to assist and simplify rather than to provoke. Within Western cultures, the living conditions of our reality, the ‘practical reality’ (Huizinga 1938), has changed significantly. It may not be a co-incidence that even Design has moved away from an industrial to human (emotive) centred approach. 

In 2006 Jenkins observed a move towards a participatory rather than transactory culture in which play was becoming a default method in engagement and knowledge attainment. The assertion of the knowledge economy over the information society gives further weight to the argument that contemporary media literacy requires an increasingly more complex and fluid approach from the participant (Thomas 2007).

Supporting this Antonelli (2008) states “… core human experience is rendered more urgent by the speed at which technology is moving” and that we “…routinely live at different scales, in different contexts, and at different settings – Default, Phone-only, Avatar On, Everything Off on a number of screens, each with its own size, interface, and resolution, and across several time zones.” This agility to move between interfaces, resolutions and time zones potentially equates to a new form of expertise, a new commodity.

In my paper I will discuss the changes in our practical reality and how this affects our sense of identity, self and what is authentic. In setting the context the paper will contrast and explore our quotidian living via social network services, email and video chat with emergent forms of escape and release such as Augmented Reality Games (Year Zero 2007, Conspiracy For Good 2010) and provocative Digital Art (Vested 2009). The paper will go on to posit that we exist in an increasingly precarious conceptual space (Foster 2009) and that both applied and artistic practices are striving to express what constitutes a core human experience and developing methods to survive within our fluctuating context of extraordinary change.


ANTONELLI, P., (ed.) 2008, Design and the Elastic Mind. New York: MoMA

FOSTER, H., 2009 , Precarious. Artforum Online. Artforum [Accessed November 2010]

HUIZINGA, J., 1938, Homo ludens. London: Routledge.

JENKINS, H., 2006,  Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press.

KRING, T., 2010. Conspiracy For Good. Online. [Accessed November 2010]

REZNOR, T., 2007, Year Zero. Augmented Reality game. Online descriptor. [Accessed November 2010

RITTER, D., 2009, Vested. Interactive installation, 12x19m, Online. [Accessed November 2010]

THOMAS, S., JOSEPH, C., LACCETTI, J., MASON, B., MILLS, S., PERRIL, S., 2007, Transliteracy: Crossing Divides. First Monday (online journal).

The Return of the Digital: Reflections on the Digital-Cultural Feedback Loop

by Romy Achituv

This article discusses the impact of digital technologies upon cultural percepts, focusing initially on linear perspective and its relation to Realist conventions, and the alternative model digital tools offer for realistic visual representation.

The discussion is further contextualized through an explication of the French Phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s concept of “coherent deformation” – a structured, projected “way of seeing” that imbues phenomena with meaning. Merleau-Ponty’s concept is used to illustrate the dynamic by which digital ways of seeing not only shed critical light on accepted thinking but qualify the concept of  “coherent deformation” itself.

The article ends with a presentation of two public art projects in which digitally inspired thinking has been ported (projected) into the physical realm, and the symbolic meaning of these acts:

1. The Garden Library is an open-air library located in a public park in the center of Tel Aviv, established to serve the area’s refugee and migrant worker community.

The artists’ collective that designed the library sought to break away from traditional classification categories and to realize an indexing system that would playfully manifest the values of an open society. Rather than cataloging the books according to genre or author name, books are sorted according to reader input, i.e. to emotional response the books evoke in their readers.

The library is a small and parallel world: The books wander between the shelves as their readers have wandered/are wandering the world. They carry with them their emotional history.

2. Hall of Memory – Ghetto Fighters’ House, Israel

Unlike traditional historical archives, the Hall of Memory in the Ghetto Fighters’ Museum allows visitors direct access to its artifacts.

The designers aimed to release to the general public the memories contained within the artifacts, enabling visitors access to the material legacy of the country, its people, and its history. These “semantic building blocks” of the historical narrative had theretofore been guarded as national treasures, accessible only to researchers and curators.

The open archive democratizes the historical narrative, transferring responsibility from the institution to the individual, who must determine his/her own paths within the physical “database” of historical memorabilia.