Digital Art and Philosophy #2


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In this original Digital Art and Philosophy class, we will become familiar with different forms of digital art and related philosophical issues. Digital art is anything related to computers and art such as using a computer to create art or an art display that is digitized. Philosophical aspects arise regarding art, identity, performance, interactivity, and the process of creation. Students may respond to the material in essay, performance, or digital art work (optional). Instructor: Melanie Swan. Syllabus:

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Digital Art and Philosophy #2

  1. 1. Image: Emese Szorenyi Digital Art and Philosophy #2The Design Aesthetics of Meaning-Making: Information Visualization Melanie Swan University of the Commons and the Emerald Tablet Gallery Syllabus:
  2. 2. Agenda: Info Viz• Short review of Digital Art and Philosophy• What is Information Visualization?• Tools and Examples• Philosophical issues in information visualization• The Readings• Deleuze and the Diagram• Conclusion 2
  3. 3. Digital Art is anything involving computers and art 3
  4. 4. Sub-categories of Digital ArtInformation Visualization Virtual Reality, Gaming BioArt, Generative Art Identity, the Future 4
  5. 5. Philosophy of Digital Art• Perception – Dominic Lopes: Interactivity is related to deeply evocative viewer responses, complex cognitive behavior, and the process of perception – Mark Hansen: The virtual image lacks any material autonomy of its own and is produced by the viewer. Virtual image production is the process by which information is made perceivable 5
  6. 6. What is Information Visualization? 6
  7. 7. Classic Info Viz Examples 7
  8. 8. What is Information Visualization?• Visual representation of abstract data - Wikipedia – Impossible to comprehend big data directly• Scientific analysis tool that has become artistic practice• “Visualization is a form of ‘computer-aided seeing’ information in data” – The Philosophy of Information (Floridi, 2011)• Full-fledged field; SIGGRAPH conference• Science, art, both, something new?• Philosophical issues? 8
  9. 9. History of Information Visualization Timeline charts (Joseph Priestley, 1765) 9
  10. 10. History of Information Visualization The bar chart (William Playfair, 1786) 10
  11. 11. History of Information VisualizationTrade-balance time-series chart, William Playfair, Commercial and Political Atlas, 1786 11
  12. 12. History of Information Visualization Trade-balance time-series chart (William Playfair, 1786) 12
  13. 13. Classic Info Viz ExamplesEdward Tufte (1970s-1990s) information display, data-rich illustrations,information design, visual literacy, visual communication of information Napoleon’s March (Campaign of 1812) 13
  14. 14. Classic Info Viz Examples200 years that changed the worldGapminder (Hans Rosling, 2009) 14
  15. 15. Classic Info Viz Examples
  16. 16. Info viz is rapidly evolving2009 2012 16
  17. 17. 21c Data Literacy and Info Viz 2.0• Level 1: basic plotting for ordinal (qualitative) and quantitative data – Bar chart: simple quantitative and ordinal values – Scatterplot: multiple quantitative data values – Shape-based plot chart for multiple ordinal values• Level 2: sophisticated visualizations – Small multiples – Bullet charts – Sparklines – Horizon charts – Interactivity 17
  18. 18. The New Info Viz Tools: Small Multiples Plotting several similar charts to highlight differences in one variable 18
  19. 19. The New Info Viz Tools: Bullet Charts 19
  20. 20. The New Info Viz Tools: Sparklines 20
  21. 21. The New Info Viz Tools: Horizon ChartSpace efficient way to analyze and compare multiple time series data sets 21
  22. 22. The New Info Viz Tools: Real-Time 22
  23. 23. The New Info Viz Tools:, Tableau,, D3 processing-org-exhibition-now-curated-by-fv-news/ NodeXLD3.js is a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data 23
  24. 24. The New Info Viz Tools: 24
  25. 25. The New Info Viz Tools: Internet-of-Things Sensors Not just tech gadgets but everyday objects and microsensors Meetups: Sensored (San Francisco 2/25), Internet of Things (Hacker DoJo 2/20)Source: Swan, M. Sensor Mania! The Internet of Things, Wearable Computing, Objective Metrics, and the Quantified Self 2.0.J Sens Actuator Netw 2012, 1(3), 217-253. 25
  26. 26. The New Info Viz Tools:D3.js javascript library 26
  27. 27. The New Info Viz Tools:Gephi social network graphing 27
  28. 28. Contemporary Sleep Tracking Dataviz: Is it Art? FitBit Lark Zeo 28
  29. 29. University Data Viz Departments 29
  30. 30. Philosophical issues arising in information visualization• Philosophy of information – Measurement; entropy, complexity, thermodynamics, malleable spacetimes• Representing the unrepresented (accuracy?)• Form vs. function debate• Aesthetics and authenticity• Retaining humanity, shifting role of humanity• Subject/object debate: room for freedom, imperfection, serendipity• Justice and inequality: data processing inequalities, voice plurality & inclusivity?• Shift in relationship of humans to the world, environment, and resources 30
  31. 31. Reading: Aesthetics of Information Visualization by Warren Sack (2013)• Philosophy branches: metaphysics, epistemology, and aesthetics• Aesthetics is concerned with sensation and perception. Aesthetic qualities: – Beauty: pleasing to the senses – Sublime: loftiness, excellence, inspiration; sublime is the name given to what is absolutely great (Critique of Judgment (Kant, 1790)) – Mimesis: imitation; projecting oneself outside oneself and acting as though one had really entered another character (The Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche, 1872)) – Uncanny: beyond normal/expected; plays on fears (The Uncanny (Sigmund Freud, 1919)) 31
  32. 32. Aesthetic Qualities and Digital Art• Anti-Sublime Ideal (user-friendly); Sublime is for artists; anti-sublime is for non-artists• Uncanny: “Powerful visualization projects are often uncanny in aesthetic “ Not anti-sublime: Every Uncanny: Carnivore (Alex Galloway and the Icon (John Simon, 1998) Radical Software Group, 2002) 32
  33. 33. Lyotard on Kant and the Sublime• Sublime: loftiness, vastness, excellence, inspiration• Two kinds of sublime experience – Mathematically sublime - an object strikes the mind in such a way that we cannot take it in as a whole (ex: Pyramids in Egypt) – Dynamically sublime - the mind recoils at an object whose weight, force, scale could crush us (ex: hurricane)• The sublime is a crisis where we realize the inadequacy of the imagination and reason to each other. This is the differend; the straining of the mind at the edges of itself and at the edges of its conceptuality.Source: Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (Jean-Francois Lyotard, 1991) 33
  34. 34. The Sublime in Digital Art?Listening Post : Real-Time Data Responsive Environment(Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, 2001) The Sublime in Interactive Digital Installation by Tegan Bristow 34
  35. 35. The Sublime in Digital Art?Translator II: Grower (Sabrina Raaf, 2004) The Sublime in Interactive Digital Installation by Tegan Bristow 35
  36. 36. The Sublime in Digital Art?The Cloud Harp (Nicholas Reeves and the NXIO GESTATIO Design Lab, 1997), The Sublime in Interactive Digital Installation by Tegan Bristow 36
  37. 37. Digital Art and the Sublime• Sublime: loftiness, vastness, excellence, 2001 inspiration• Kant’s sublime - object so big cannot take it in as a whole, could crush us• Lyotard’s differend - the 2004 straining of the mind at the edges of itself and conceptuality 1997 37
  38. 38. Digital Art more like Conceptual Art?• Conforms more to concept than aesthetics• Justification: Kant - distinction between aesthetic and cognitive judgments (Critique of Judgment, 1790) and Sol LeWitt - the aim of the artist is to give the viewers information (1966)• Paradox: Information is bureaucratic and radical – Digital art and computing techniques are bureaucratic – Infoviz Art exploring opposition to bureaucracy – themes of governance, self-representation, the body politic Troika (Lisa Jevbratt, 2002) 38
  39. 39. 3D Dataviz: Smiley Radio TelescopeSmiley Telescope, PARI, Balsam Grove, NC USA Smiley Virtual Control Room Real-time radio data received into 3D graph Smiley in Second Life Euclidean Visualization Environment 39
  40. 40. 3D Dataviz: Cheminformatic-Assisted Image Array (CAIA)36 meters 12 images 8 images24 metersGus Rosania, University of Michigan - The Rosania Research Group studies the 40microscopic transport properties of small drug-like molecules inside cells
  41. 41. 3D Dataviz: real-time statistics 41
  42. 42. 3D Dataviz: Second Life exhibits SAP airline booking application Real-time NOAA weather data Real-time LAX airport traffic Svarga Artificial Life Ecosystem 42
  43. 43. Reading: Authenticity and Computer Art (Margaret Boden, 2006)• Examines claim: “computer art is not authentic” – Authentic: genuine, trustworthy, credible• Artworld’s philosophical assumptions of authentic art 1. Art must spring from human agency 2. Art must be grounded in emotion 3. Art must involve the communication of experience 4. Art must be honest 5. Art must be unique 6. Art must be transformational• Argument 1: Aesthetic flaws• Argument 2: Computer art is not possible 43
  44. 44. Reading: Authenticity and Computer Art (Margaret Boden, 2006)Evolutionary Art and Computers (Stephen Todd and William Latham (1992)) 44
  45. 45. Argument 2: Computer Art is not possible Guernica (Picasso, 1937)• Emotion: computers are not emotional agents – Even if programs model human emotion and engage the emotion of viewers/listeners, the artwork is not genuine (Hofstadter)• Experience: art is the communication of human experience – Even if the work evokes emotion, this would evaporate if known that it is a digital art work (O’hear)• Counter: complex self-reflective mental architecture• Conclusion: authenticity of computer art remains contentious but can’t be disproven 45
  46. 46. Reading: Authenticity and Computer Art (Margaret Boden, 2006) David Cope, UCSC, Emmy/EMI (Experiments in Musical Intelligence) and Emily Howell, creative original music; Chopin-like mazurkas cyborg-composer-8507/“I knew all 50-60 of the Chopin mazurkas very well. I listened to the Emmy mazurka.The piece did not seem in any way plagiarized. It was new, it was unmistakablyChopin-like in spirit, and it was not emotionally empty. I was truly shaken.How could emotional music be coming out of a program that had never heard a note,never lived a moment of life, never had any emotions whatsoever?Emmy was threatening my oldest and most deeply cherished beliefs about musicbeing the ultimate inner sanctum of the human spirit, the last thing that wouldtumble in AIs headlong rush toward thought, insight, and creativity” - (Hofstadter2001 in Boden 2006) 46
  47. 47. Does knowing it is Digital Art matter?• Is it important to know that it is digital art? – For experience? For authenticity? How does authenticity relate to experience?• Is a digital artwork inauthentic if it is not known that it is a digital artwork? – Does the experience or the work of art become less authentic? – Does it matter how a work of art was created?• Is there a responsibility to disclose digital art? 47
  48. 48. Digital Art is anything involving computers and art 48
  49. 49. Distinguishability of Computer Art and the Uncanny Valley• Is it “art” or “not art” if we can tell it was computer-made? 49
  50. 50. Deleuze and the DiagramAesthetic Threads in Visual Organization• Magnum opus: Difference and Repetition, 1968, traditional metaphysics topics, difference in itself• A Thousand Plateaus, French Philosopher 1980, (Deleuze and Gilles Deleuze Guattari), innovative new 1925-1995 concepts 50
  51. 51. Deleuzian Model of the World Philosophy Concepts Concerned with: Understanding Abstraction Art, economics, politicsQualitative Concerned with: Experience Figuration Science and technologyQuantitative Concerned with: Characterization Enumeration Concepts: rhizome, body without organs, molar, molecular, smooth, striated, figural, machinic, faciality, deterritorialization, haecceity, nomadology, diagram 51
  52. 52. Deleuze’s Concept of the Diagram• The diagram is a way of thinking that bypasses language. Examples: musical notation, mathematics• A diagram or abstract machine is a map of relations between forces, of intensity. Relations take place within the assemblages they produce. (Deleuze (Foucault, pp 37, 44))• Diagrams have no intrinsic connection with visual representation. The critical part is how the diagrams are used in practice. Matter can generate its own form (morphogenesis) and does not need form to be externally imposed. The nature of reality can only be grasped during the process of morphogenesis. (Difference and Repitition (Deleuze, 1994) in Deleuze, Diagrams, and the Genesis of Form - (De Landa 2000)) 52
  53. 53. Information Visualization• Concluding Frame: not whether info viz is digital art or not but sense of being in a new era that includes big data, computing, design, and aesthetics• Essay question: is big data sublime? 53
  54. 54. Agenda and Upcoming Sessions2/12 - Introduction "What is digital art?" and what philosophers say about it.2/19 - The Design Aesthetics of Meaning-Making: Information Visualization.2/26 - Democratized Creativity: Performance, Music, Virtual Reality,Gaming. “Performance is the Thing” (Dzifa Benson, 2006) “Videogames and Aesthetics” (Grant Tavinor, 2006)3/5 - Natural Aesthetics: Generative Art, SynBio, Biomimicry, CrowdArt.3/12 - Portable ArtTech: Identity, Fashion, Wearable Electronics, the Future. Comments and Feedback: 54
  55. 55. Thank you! Image: Emese Szorenyi Digital Art and Philosophy Melanie Swan University of the Commons and the Emerald Tablet Gallery