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Form/Field : Ambient (Neil Mulholland)
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Form/Field : Ambient (Neil Mulholland)

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Given that ambient culture is concerned with finding new ways of distributing work, can we meaningfully discuss ambient form? In practice, while ambient culture is highly diverse, it might be useful …

Given that ambient culture is concerned with finding new ways of distributing work, can we meaningfully discuss ambient form? In practice, while ambient culture is highly diverse, it might be useful to attempt to sketch out a few broad approaches that often combine in different measures. One might be said to be concerned with the pursuit of what are often considered to be more passive ambient experiences, one with ambient ecologies (the economy of ambience), another with interactive ambient intelligences.

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  • Given that ambient culture is concerned with finding new ways of distributing work, can we meaningfully discuss ambient form? In practice, while ambient culture is highly diverse, it might be useful to attempt to sketch out a few broad approaches that often combine in different measures. One might be said to be concerned with the pursuit of what are often considered to be more passive ambient experiences, one with ambient ecologies (the economy of ambience), another with interactive ambient intelligences (AmI – e.g. smart phones)I will focus on ambient experience then look at ambient ecologies before speculating on what we might call and ‘ambient aesthetics’. An ambient experience is subtle rather than obvious, ‘felt’ rather than ‘thought’. Like perfume it is invisible but nevertheless strongly asserts its presence. Ambient experiences are concerned with how we draw our attention. They are holistic: equally concerned with being inside and outside an experience. On the one hand, ambient experiences form a background to other activities; they sit to the side of what we are preoccupied with. They are easily ignored and don’t seek to be centre of attention. On the other, if we let them, they capture all of our attention. We can become wholly immersed in an ambient experience, it can mesmerise us and bring us into a different states of consciousness.
  • Ambient ecologies have developed in relation to how we understand our senses and in how we develop new technologies to exploit them.
  • Ambient culture has the immense potential to connect people in ways that make full use of the sensorium, of all of our senses are combined.Just as humans and animals form a continuum, the ‘social’ and ‘technological’ spheres cannot be so easily separated since both are symbiotic, complex systems. As AmI grows in speed and power and becomes imbedded in our commodities and our flesh, it duets with the human sensorium to create a sonorama.
  • Perhaps Convergence Culture, as Henry Jenkins terms it, is the most obvious way of describing this phenomenon. The body is the ultimate destination of convergence culture. Networked bodies are, fundamentally, no more or less political animals than humans are now – the social bond is simply enabled in new ways.Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture Where Old and New Media Collide,New York: New York University Press, 2006.
  • In London restaurant Dans le Noir?, for example, the clientele are invited to dine in the dark in order to empathise with their blind waiters. Bompas & Parr’s Alcoholic Architecture gin and tonic bar, also in London, sprays a fine G&T mist onto the punters, delivering enough units to put you over the limit in just over an hour.What such products of the experience economy offer is frequently gimmicky, invisible, ambient and intangible since they are attempts to build on the foundations of a post-industrial entrepreneurialism that has imploded. An increasingly niche, feedback-loop economy that has no raw materials, no manufacturing base, no ethical foresight is doomed to collapse. The current recession is not just a downturn in the fortunes of capitalism; it is the last of the post-industrialism founded during atom age of the Kitchen Debate. Pine, B.J. & Gilmore, J.H. (1999) The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, Boston, Harvard Business School Press.
  • Rather than consumption, why not, then, use these technologies to enhance participation?In order to reproduce and survive, capitalism has to shift from a focus on (profitable) function-oriented interaction to a focus on (sustainable) goal-oriented participation.This kind of ‘soft’ capitalism might help us to understandthe revival of interest in systems based approaches to cultureon educational experience, live-ness and (the illusion of) participation. This is a means of managing culture in an ambient ecology. It co-exists alongside pre-industrial modes of production that are still dominant in the artworld.
  • Two types of Cultural Economy operate as simultaneously.Pre-industrial (dominant in the artworld) – objects are valued like holy relics or amuletsPost-industrial (emerging culture)These fields of cultural production overlap, the mercantile economy finds its stock and skilled labour in the prosumer economy.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Ambient
    • 2. ambient - completely enveloping; "the ambient air"; "ambient sound"; "the ambient temperature“-
    • 3.
    • 4. Ambient is concerned with:
      ‘Public’ space
      Nanospace
      Virtual space
      Viral communications (technological convergence)
      Molar Time
    • 5. Ambient Experiences
    • 6. Beyond Image and Son of Beyond Image 1969 ICA exhibition 'Journey to the Surface of the Earth’ Joan Hills and Sebastian Boyle
    • 7. Work No. 127: The lights going on and off1995Electrical timer switchInstallation at VistamareAssociazioneCulturale, Pescara
    • 8. Teching Hsieh – One Year Performance (Outdoor Piece) 1981-2
    • 9. TatsumiOrimotoBread Man (2001)
      Adrian Piper, Catalysis III, (1970)
    • 10. Wang PengPassing Through New York 1997 (above)
      Passing Through: Beijing 2006 (right)Video
    • 11.
    • 12. Robert Barry: Inert Gas Series, 1969.Krypton, Argon, Xenon, Helium.
      Specified quantitities of each gas released into the atmosphere
      at specific times on specific locations.
    • 13. Francis Alÿs - When Faith Moves Mountains (2002)
      A Project for Geological Displacement. A project by Francis Alÿs, collaborating with Rafael Ortega and Cuauhtémoc Medina.
    • 14. Ambient Ecologies
    • 15.
    • 16.
    • 17.
    • 18. 1999
    • 19.
    • 20.
    • 21.
    • 22. Slides available at www.neilmulholland.co.uk
      Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland License.