Re-rooting Digital Culture - Media Art Ecologies

The ideas for this interdisciplinary panel will explore the relationship between digital culture and climate change, developing themes adopted in grass-roots, emerging and established practices in art, design, activism and science.
Dates: 
Sunday, 18 September, 2011 - 09:00 - 10:30
Chair Person: 
Ruth Catlow
Presenters: 
Tom Corby
Presenters: 
Helen Varley Jamieson
Presenters: 
Michel Bauwens
Presenters: 
Paula Crutchlow

Chair: Ruth Catlow

Over the last decade the awareness of anthropogenic climate change has emerged in parallel with hyper-connective digital networks. In the context of environmental and economic collapse people around the world are seeking alternative visions of prosperity and sustainable ways of living.

While the legacy of the carbon fueled Industrial Revolution plays itself out, we find ourselves grappling with questions about the future implications of fast-evolving global digital infrastructure. By their very nature the new tools, networks and behaviours of productivity, exchange and cooperation between humans and machines grow and develop at an accelerated rate. The rhetoric, aesthetics, technics and associated ethical questions of digital culture are fundamentally changing social relations as well as the nature of our material existence.

The ideas for this interdisciplinary panel have grown out of Furtherfield's Media Art Ecologies programme and will explore the relationship between digital culture and climate change, developing themes adopted in grass-roots, emerging and established practices in art, design, activism and science.

Panelists are artists and activists whose practices address the interrelation of technological and natural processes: beings and things, individuals and multitudes, matter and patterns. They take an ecological approach that challenges growth economics and techno-consumerism and attends to the nature of co-evolving, interdependent entities and conditions; they they activate networks (digital, social, physical) to work with ecological themes and Free and Open processes.

Paper Abstracts

P2P Alternatives for a Sustainable Future

by Michel Bauwens

Bauwens argues for a provocative double (hypo)thesis, namely that for-profit production based on proprietary knowledge is inherently unsustainable, both at a micro, and a macro level, because it is designed to ignore negative environmental externalities, and mobilizes many different strategies, such as planned obsolescence, to achieve this end. By contrast, commons-oriented production that is centered around business ecologies working with open communities, is inherently sustainable. Open communities have no incentive to design unsustainable products, and the business ecologies working with them, have to build their for-profit activities on this foundation. In addition, non-proprietary design has a deep impact not just on the products, but on the very machinery of production (through the development of open and distributed manufacturing) and on consumption (through product-service ecologies that are specifically designed for sustainability and re-use). In this presentation, Bauwens will unpack the characteristics of peer production that are transforming production and consumption processes towards sustainability.

Executing ecologies: systems, code, inscription

by Dr. Tom Corby

Corby explores overlapping themes around environment, ecology and information. In doing so it attempts to sketch a theoretical background for an electronic arts practice concerned with responding to climate change. Such an undertaking is fraught with difficulties. It involves synthesising between cultural, ecological and scientific viewpoints that often appear at odds, and negotiating loaded concepts such as ‘nature’ and ‘environment’. Drawing on his own practice and the writing of Katherine Hayles, Gregory Bateson and Ursula Heise amongst others Corby will explore recursive relationship between material and informational domains and in doing so signpost an expanded ecology of social and technological configurations that can help frame discussion of digital practice in this area.

MAKE-SHIFT

by Helen Varley Jamieson and Paula Crutchlow

MAKE-SHIFT is a house party, a chat room, a slide show and a performance process – a live event for the 21st century that re-imagines the private actions of our domestic lives as multiple, interconnected and with global consequences. make-shift happens simultaneously between two ordinary houses and a bespoke online performance space accessible to anyone, anywhere with a broadband connection. Two performers (one in each house) work with household objects, recycling rubbish and cyberformance tools to broker interaction and discussion between local and remote audiences in a type of performative salon.

This performance presentation of MAKE-SHIFT addresses the responsibilities of nesting and feeding, the relationships between mobility and becoming unstuck. It thinks about how, contrary to our feeling of political disempowerment, our small daily actions accumulate and irrevocably transform the world we live in. It talks about stuff and how it breaks down – and that how ever hard you try to make it go away – nothing is ever really gone – just re-arranged. 

Bios of the Participants

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens is an active writer, researcher and conference speaker on the subject of technology, culture and business innovation. He is the founder of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. He has been an analyst for the United States Information Agency, knowledge manager for British Petroleum, eBusiness Strategy Manager for Belgacom, as well as an internet entrepreneur in his home country of Belgium. He has co-produced the 3-hour TV documentary Technocalyps with Frank Theys, and co-edited the two-volume book on anthropology of digital society with Salvino Salvaggio. Michel is currently Primavera Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam and external expert at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (2008). Michel currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ruth Catlow

Ruth Catlow is an artist and curator working at the intersection of art, technology and social change. As co-founder, with Marc Garrett, of Furtherfield a grass roots media arts organisation, online community and gallery (formerly HTTP Gallery) in North London, she works with international artists, hackers, curators, musicians, programmers, writers, activists and thinkers. Her current focus is on practices that engage an ecological approach with an interest in the interrelation of technological and natural processes. Ruth has been involved with developing networked participatory arts infrastructures such as VisitorsStudio and NODE.London. Ruth has worked in Higher Education for over 15 years and is currently running degrees in Digital Art and Design Practice and developing a new MA in Fine Art and Environment at Writtle School of Design.
http://www.furtherfield.org

Tom Corby

Tom Corby is an artist and writer working at the University of Westminster. His artworks produced with Gavin Baily and Jonathan Mackenzie, explore technological and ecological relations and have been exhibited at numerous venues including the Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; the Intercommunication Centre (ICC), Tokyo and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Awards include at the 10th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2007 and at Prix Ars Electronica 2006 and 2000 amongst many others. Reviewed in Art Review, Art Monthly, The Guardian, La Repubblica and Artist’s Newsletter.

Paula Crutchlow

Paula Crutchlow lives with her family in Exeter, Devon. She graduated in Dance from De Montfort University, and in 2000 completed an MA in Devised Theatre at Dartington College of Arts, UK where she was an Associate Lecturer in Theatre until their relocation to Falmouth in 2010. Paula has worked in Britain and internationally as a performer, director and tutor of movement and devised theatre. As a co-founder and Artistic Director of Blind Ditch she has collaborated on context-specific collaborative art, performance and cultural events which engage audiences and participants in distinct ways through the use of digital media and live performance.

Helen Varley Jamieson

Helen Varley Jamieson is a writer, theatre practitioner and digital artist from New Zealand. In 2008 she completed a Master of Arts (research) at Queensland University of Technology (Australia) investigating her practice of cyberformance – live performance on the internet – which she has been developing for over a decade. She is a founding member of the globally-dispersed cyberformance troupe Avatar Body Collision, and the project manager of UpStage, an open source web-based platform for cyberformance. Using UpStage, she has co-curated online festivals involving artists and audiences around the world. Helen is also the “web queen” of the Magdalena Project, an international network of women in contemporary theatre.