Media, Languages, New Vocabularies

Improving the Information Society Through Awareness of Languages by Alan Neil Shapiro/ Word Magic by Nina Wenhart/ Art as Information Tool. User Fictions Towards a Critical Software Vocabulary by Jacob Lillemose/ Glitch Studies Manifesto by Rosa Menkman/ “Recombinant Fiction” theoretical paper and manifesto by Paolo Cirio
Wednesday, 21 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:25
Chair Person: 
Venzha Christ
Alan N. Shapiro
Nina Wenhart
Jacob Lillemose
Rosa Menkman
Paolo Cirio

Improving the Information Society Through Awareness of Languages

by Alan Neil Shapiro

On a planetary scale, the quality of communication, work, cross-cultural empathy, scientific and business development, health care, and leisure-time experience in the information society has been limited by the specific way in which English has been adapted as the global language. It is important to have at least one global language (Spanish and Mandarin Chinese are also candidates for this status), but it is also urgent that other languages be recognized and respected, and that the entire multi-lingual situation of the network society and the era of globalization be pragmatically treated with more awareness. The trend has been towards the unconscious creation of hybrids of English and a national language. We instead need to work towards restoring the separate autonomous integrity of both English and the national language. I will consider three areas, and present two empirical examples in each area. I will make concrete suggestions for improvements to the language situation in the context of case studies. First, in software development in the IT industry, in non-English speaking countries, the quality of communication among programmers and other IT experts has been affected by the reality of hybrid language situations. I will mention the examples of the software industry in Germany and Italy. Second, in museums, the same question of English-and-national-language duality with respect to the presentation of museum objects and artefacts (both to physically present and online-remote-virtual visitors) requires serious attention. I will discuss the examples of some prominent museums in Germany and Italy. Third, I will consider how communication in online social media like Facebook, Twitter, virtual world simulations, and chat rooms is affected by the global use of loosely structured English and netspeak. I will propose measures to upgrade social experience and interaction through the educational amelioration of the English in circulation, an expanded role for national and local languages, and an appreciation of the value of colloquialisms, slang, acronyms, emoticons, and other “digital culture” socio-linguistic practices.

Word Magic

by Nina Wenhart

Aaa, sdafsda, sxjhk hfjk asfjkl. What reminds of onomatopoeia or a poem by Ernst Jandl, are actually tags that can be found as descriptive metadata in archives of Media Art. They describe and depict the contents of these archives. I call these words magical because they conjure up works and knowledge from the depths of the archive. Magical also, because who but a magician would know about the “spell” sxjhk hfjk asfjkl? What and if we actually find something in an archive significantly depends on the quality and accessibility of the descriptive metadata assigned to the artworks.

“Word magic” provides insights into hystorical and current attempts to capture ephemeral Media Art via descriptive metadata and thus create a system of order. Methods and contraptions for the linguistic extraction of essential qualities are discussed; and prospective cures and damages of different terminology models examined (the “majikal rites” of experts culture vs the “digital punk approach” of open public tagging). What is lost and what is gained with different documenting strategies is core to this investigation.

In analyzing existing archives and their strategies, I contrast open and closed approaches to documenting Media Art and the effects on knowledge creation. Throughout my research, I identify the closure of archival database systems as a main problem. The question of opening up these processes to or closing them from the public is at core a political issue. It exceeds the limits of Media Art and sheds a light on the value of openness in society at large and on how accessibility of knowledge shaped and shapes specific societies. In addition to a critique of and an alternative to current approaches, I suggest models of openness, such as Wittgenstein's Sprachspiel (language-game) as more functionally fitting the task of describing evolving knowledge and culture.

Art as Information Tool. User Fictions Towards a Critical Software Vocabulary

by Jacob Lillemose

Taking its point of departure in a series of art works produced from the mid 1990s to today, this paper will argue that tool discourse provides an productive way to talk about contemporary software culture. Compared to the predominant notion of media, the notion of the tool offers a more specific conceptualisation of the use of computer technology. It is concerned with human engagement with an environment. The software tools we use in both everyday situations and for professional purposes constitute interfaces to the environment of software culture. As such they activate certain intelligences and sensibilities that influence how we as users perceive and act towards software cultural matters.

Most mainstream software tools tend to encourage a rational, utilitarian and techno-positivistic forms of interaction with software culture but through the examples of so-called artistic software tools, which includes applications such a web browser and text editors as well as complete operating systems, the paper demonstrates that art represents an apt form to develop otherwise critical intelligences and sensibilities and furthermore a critical software environmental consciousness. Essentially, the paper suggests that the development of conceptual, cultural languages to think and talk about software is as important as the technological development. It emphasises the importance of continually expanding such languages in response to the technological expansions and propose a closer exchange between these two levels of contemporary software culture from the point of view of a critical engagement that is both resistant and inventive in terms of software politics. In the context of artistic software tools, the paper suggests that this exchange can be conceived as a kind of science fiction, a vision of a possible future, about the emergence of a new type of insubordinate, reflective and inventive software tool users.

Glitch Studies Manifesto

by Rosa Menkman

In my opinion Glitchspeak is a vocabulary of new expressions; an always growing language, that can be used as an exoskeleton of progress. These acts teach something about the inherent norms, presumptions and expectations of former utterances. They can make apparent what is not being said or what is intentionally left out. But, I also realize that the gospel of glitch art sings about new norms implemented by corruption and as such, can have sublimely devastating consequences.

The Glitch Studies Manifesto, which I published in January of2010, has gotten a lot of appreciation from many different fields and perspectives; for instance, the manifest found a place in the prestigious File exhibition in Brazil, was presented in Video Vortex in the Atomium in Brussels (and many other conferences) will be published in a book and was even performed as a live television event, together with Goto80.

“Recombinant Fiction” theoretical paper and manifesto

by Paolo Cirio

In previous ages, mediums for narrating fiction such as theatre, literature, cinema and television have defined languages, models and formats; each media development provided an expressive shift in forms of storytelling. Nowadays, media are multiplying, hybridizing, and mutating. The way they are used alters continually, creating potentially new ways of producing fiction and spectacle.

Networked digital media merge as a productive vehicle to create new forms of fiction. In fact, the rise of forms of storytelling such as ‘Transmedia Storytelling’, ‘Alternative Reality Games’, ‘Transfiction’, ‘Dispersed Fiction’ and ‘Viral and Guerrilla Marketing’ is a clear sign of an important revolution in ways to tell stories.

Recombinant Fiction emerges as a political and aesthetic fiction genre of this new immersive and participative form of art. By identifying valuable, distinctive characteristics and objectives, Recombinant Fiction defines a unique genre able to drive tactical activism and dramatic purposes.

Our contemporary media environment era is characterized by the explosion of Personal Media (e.g. devices with platforms for email, instant messenger, blogs, photo and video sharing services, etc.) resulting in new modes of personal expression and interpersonal relations. Nonetheless, Mass Media continues to grow as well. Networked media generates new channels and interconnected devices for consuming entertainment and news (e.g. proprietary web platforms, digital TV, portable video/reader players, screen billboard, etc.). This results in the deregulation of advertising restrictions and privacy policies by the corporate media complex to boost the flux of information. Additionally, networked digital technologies accelerate and facilitate the production of offline and analogue spaces of information (e.g. print-on-demand, production of manufactures, organization of public assembly, mapping public spaces etc.). This results in a new mass of active prosumers, and a general increase of information in interior and urban landscapes.

All of the above listed media are digital in origin, and therefore easily reproducible and transmissible through networks (e.g. Internet, GSM, Wi-Fi, etc.). Networked digital media generate an intensification of flux, interactions and processes of communication. The informative environment created by all those media that broadcast messages, is defined as Infosphere. This conceptual sphere is the space in which modern society is immersed, where people express themselves, build their own realities and manage societal organization.

In this context, a modern form of fiction should be narrated by networked media and staged in the Infosphere, which can be used as the medium to dramatize reality and find a way to change it by a dramatic representation, as humanity has always done.