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HYBRIDITY AND INTERDISCIPLINARITY IN DIGITAL CULTURE AND PRACTICE
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HYBRIDITY AND INTERDISCIPLINARITY IN DIGITAL CULTURE AND PRACTICE

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A talk on issues around hybridity and interdisciplinarity as it applies to digital culture and practice. Something of a meander through various topics...

A talk on issues around hybridity and interdisciplinarity as it applies to digital culture and practice. Something of a meander through various topics...

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  • Cutting down a book chapter… to 25 minutes…There may be leaps in the talk…And it probably lacks a proper conclusion…Different type of presentation… usually more performative lectures…Reading the paper…. With visuals as supplement.Perhaps a theme here is the materiality of a rhetoric of the digital, rather than digital rhetoric itself….***I am going to start by asking a critical question.
  • What is meant by the term interdisciplinarity?
  • Certainly we do not mean anti-specialist; though we could, and would that really be such a bad thing?
  • For the moment we will assume that to some interdisciplinarity, with its possible questioning of the infrangibility of disciplines -- through the introduction of the prefix inter-, which implies something between or beyond, will be taken negatively – at least by those whose practice has found a fixed position, a definite home. Armored by institutions.But, is this the case for digital culture studies?
  • At the same time, surely, we do not mean generalist; though we could of course, and there is evidence within interdisciplinary practice to support this definition. But, if it is so, if we take up the notion of interdisciplinarity, the practice or practices of interdisciplinarians as generalists, we most likely do not mean generalist as it is traditionally applied in any specific, given discipline. Though the generalist has its place within a discipline – understanding the limits; performing a protective function for the discipline even –
  • the anti-specialist, which has its own traditions to be sure – Diogenes, Nietzsche, Bataille, to name a few – is not so much seen as existing within a discipline, but without. Within, without, between...
  • In need of discipline.
  • If we are to think and talk, still, to continue the development of a discipline called interdisciplinarity we should avoid questions such as ‘what is eroded within one field of study when it is put into relationship with, perhaps even conjoined with, or subsumed by another.’
  • Rather; questions should revolve around emergence – what emerges between disciplines. Questions concerned with the erosion of rigor for any singular field of study are better left locked away in the tall tower. They are specious. They look and sound good and serious from within, but from without, between, seem more concerned with the maintenance of historical priority, or even priory – the priory and priorities of academic institutions than they are with the conditions of contemporary cultural practices. The borders have been fortified, territories defined.Interdisciplinary practices perhaps do not emerge – they are expelled; have escaped; perhaps born already in the margins– discursive not incursive, not against or anti-anything. Nomadic, singular phantoms, monstrous others and supposed threats giving rise to both border and between… Following this thread, to be between is to assume that there is some sort of concrete, if not hegemonic assemblage that produces potential lines of flight, territories that necessitate, perhaps for their own well-being, deterritorialization.
  • Like Kashmir, perhaps.The problem with the term interdisciplinary then is not with the term “inter”, but with the priorities and priory of property – intellectual or otherwise. Fields expand, collapse and incursion becomes diplomacy…Expanding under the influence of the exotic. Collapsing under their own weight.The excursion changes every-thing…
  • What is IT that emerges from between disciplines when they are put into relationship with one another?This question is faulty because for interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners it is basic and foundational. That said, what IT is, depends upon the disciplines between which the interdisciplinary is positioned.
  • I would suppose at this point you are wondering if I am going to get around to actually answering the question with which I began this talk. What is meant by the term interdisciplinarity???Probably not. But I will give it a try.So, to continue… A somewhat academic model…
  • Interdisciplinarity is based in a certain notion of expertise, in which two or more experts are brought together to produce, to export through collaboration an other (of sorts) that defines and reifies the expertise of the collective originators, while also allowing for a new field, or fields to emerge. In essence, the export of interdisciplinarity emphasizes the necessity for collaborative process due to growing complexities in proposed emergent fields. …Let’s consider how this model might apply to digital culture and practice.…A couple of the initialquestions we may want to ask are:
  • what fields of study, what areas of expertise are brought together when we consider digital culture?and
  • What sort of complexities emerge from a consideration of culture in the digital age?
  • These two questions produce a sort of tautology, one leading to the other, perhaps in an endless cycle that offers very little in terms of concrete answers. That said, there are some obvious fields and areas of expertise indicated in the name “digital culture” itself, from which the fields and areas begin to expand.
  • Listed here are just a few possible areas for the categories digital and culture, and certainly this is in no way meant to be a exhaustive list… Further, for each of these areas there are more precise specializations that may or may not have more relevance to digital culture research and practice. Though these areas may in fact participate in the consideration of digital culture, what a list like this does not provide is much of an indication as to what digital culture is…
  • So let me ask you, as students and scholars of the field, what is digital culture? What are its objects? What are its conditions?
  • The problem with defining digital culture, as any given thing, as any set of things is that it is conditional. Conditional upon current technologies – on the ever nascent, ever expanding nomadic chimera of technology… As such, the definitions for digital culture are bound to differ based on the particular focus and interests, along with technology use, of a given student, scholar, or practitioner. In relationship to technology – the definitions are temporary… In relationship to student, scholar, practitioner – they are subjective. We can however, perhaps agree upon some components of digital culture.
  • Media scholar Mark Deuze has produced just such a reductive, generalized model of digital culture listing its principal components as participation, remediation, and bricolage. This says nothing of technology, nothing of the digital… But, it does indicate some potentially agreeable terms and conditions… Components around which we can perhaps form consensus.
  • Participation is certainly a characteristic we recognize in web 2.0 applications and social media. Or are we onto Web 3.0, 4.0?Information in general has become participatory, and when asked the question “where do you get your news?” it is not uncommon for the response to be “facebook and blogs” rather than more traditional journalistic sources.
  • Remediation, a term which I am sure most of you are familiar with, seems a default position for new media, along with its siblings immediacy and hypermediacy… As the originators of the term in relationship to new media, Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin see remediation as a simulative act, that both instantiates and distantiates prior media or mediation… offering both familiar paradigms such as film, book, television, while also performing a critical, social act.
  • Finally, Bricolage … which means to make do with what is available. On the Internet bricolage is probably most evident in the callow aesthetics of image macro memes, such as the Condescending Wonka meme shown here… But, of course bricolage can be associated with aggregation, facebook posts, flarf poetry, etc. What is key here is that the network is positioned as source or resource, or re-resource for appropriation and appropriation of appropriation. Sherry Turkle has gone so far as to associate bricolage with the appropriation of code snippets. And much of amateur coding projects uses something of a bricoleur method, borrow or stealing code rather than writing it from scratch…
  • None of these components are exclusive. We don’t have participation without remediation… The bricolage of image macros and memes in general is highly participatory and remediates familiar image paradigms and cultural contexts..So, however helpful Deuze’s reductive model is, it really does not define digital culture as a discipline, or the objects of digital culture … so much as make reference to specific conditions… conditions that can be brought together, taking many different forms. What we have here then is not a discipline… So much as …
  • A hybrid…Hybridity, or the hybrid does not require such a guided or share schema for the predicted output or offspring. Nor does it require the will or acknowledgement of the discernable and discreet actors through which the hybrid is produced. Though something of a digression…
  • Let’s consider the case of the zorse, zonkey, zony paradigm of emergent animals. Breeding zebra with horse, with donkey, with pony invariably leads to an infertile offspring. For this set of aberrant animals maintenance is required. They do not, cannot continue on their own. So, an institution must arise around them. However capricious the advent – the zony came into being by pure accident -- once recognized,
  • whimsy gives way to authority. In this case The International Zebra ZorseZonkey Association.As such, the emergent is eventually reterritorialized. And, one could imagine coming out of these natural though transgenic accidents potentially forced kludges, or what I call plushware…
  • something like what we are seeing with GloFish and Ruppies… Now that the playability and mutability of any-everything is recognized, perhaps even a real, living, made to order…
  • My Little Zony!
  • How these ideas play into digital culture is perhaps through the recognition of ubiquitous mutability… or ubiquitous comp-mutationThat said, I do think that it is critical that we understand, like post modernism, digital culture is not a movement, not a strategy… but, a condition. As such digital culture is not an academic discipline, not a form of interdisciplinarity, but a field of study that at times requires the collaborative expertise of engineers, social scientists, designers, humanists, computer scientists, etc.
  • If we choose to disregard the notion of disciplinarity and take a more macro approach, we can perhaps agree that digital culture exists as a sort of cultural mashup. Or, at the very least that the mashup is a prevalent form within digital culture that not only provides diplomatic artifacts, between genres, between specific niches and cultural foci, but also signals more generally the structure of digital culture itself.Though the term -mashup- originally referred to the musical practice of mixing together two or more songs, it’s definition has been extended to include everything from crowd-sourced programming, to layering between web services, to creative remixes of video, text, graphics… pretty much anything available online. At its core is the appropriation of pre-existing material –remediation and bricolage, and a sort of DIY attitude toward development – participation. In addition, mashups introduce a sort of subjective form of computation, as combinatorial analysis.
  • In effect, mashups erode juxtapositions, not only at the level of content but at the level of culture and politics. Historically, we may want to look back to the Situationists as pre-digital mashup artists. As Guy Debord states in “Methods of Detournement” from 1956:Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new combinations. […] when two objects are brought together, a relationship is always formed. Restricting oneself to a personal arrangement of words is mere convention. The mutual interference of two worlds of feeling, or the bringing together of two independent expressions, supersedes the original elements and produces a synthetic organization of greater efficacy. Anything can be used. Though mashups may be derivative, what I find interesting about the practice is how it represents a cultural shift in attitudes toward intellectual property, piracy, etc. essentially, toward authority… In this regard, the mashup is resistant to reterritorialization. Or is it?
  • In doing research for this paper, I recently discovered this software, which is branded with the name MASHUP. Indeed, the software does facilitate music mashups by adjusting pitch and beats per minute and...
  • The promotional material claimsthat through the software you can make 100% harmonically-compatible mashups in 5 minutes or less.To a certain extent by branding the software with the name Mashup the term is reterritorialized as perfectly packaged software… eliminating at least the DIY aspect of digital production by constructing a specific formula for making mashups. Essentially, defining the term, along with the form by determining what features the software will offer. As such the politics of the software called mashup, are in conflict with mashup itself.
  • I realize that this lecture has been something of a rhetorical roller coaster, so I’d like to begin to bring it to a close by returning to the initial model for interdisciplinarity that I introduced.
  • The initial model looked something like this… with x and y defining specific disciplines, z referring to the collaborative export, and the curved arrows indicating how interdisciplinarity in fact reifies traditional fields.Since in some fields interdisciplinarity is seen as weakening or threatening their institutional position… At time the field of literary studies for example is leery and suspicious of scholars of electronic literature, which as a specific field within digital culture relies on an understanding not only of literary values, but of visual culture, interaction design, and computation..Perhaps this model needs to be hacked…
  • In this adaptation of the model, rather than the reification of specific disciplines, their combination and the interruption that occurs though a holistic interdisciplinary practice, produces a sort of historical rarification, or distantiation rather than instantiation. Though this may not be a problem for the emergent field of digital culture studies; because, as I stated before digital culture is not a movement it is a condition... It does present a problem in terms of cultural relevance for more traditional fields, say literary studies or film studies. By choosing not to admit the practices of digital culture, these fields run the risk of slipping into obscurity, of becoming obsolete or irrelevant. Now finally, in closing…Much of what I have talked about today has less to do with the field of digital culture that with the terms and vocabulary we use to explain it. What follows is a quote from my own essay titled BEYOND TAXONOMY: DIGITAL POETICS AND THE PROBLEM OF READING. Though the essay is concerned with digital poetry specifically, the segment I will read has been parsed to let it apply more generally to digital culture. I will project the original text, and read the parsed version…
  • The variety of approaches in digital culture, the transitive aspects of its elements, and the transactive quality of its applications make the development of a consistent, stabilizing taxonomy difficult if not impossible. To a certain extent, the idea of taxonomy itself is contrary to the realities of digital culture. If we consider the singular qualities of digital poetry application-to-application and the ways in which technologies used in its development emerge and evolve along lines separate from creative and critical digital practice, we begin to understand how the entire field is dynamic. The nomosof taxonomy becomes nomas: the field is open; the practices, forms, and categories—the taxa—are nomadic. So much of contemporary digital practice happens outside of—or out of reach of—the academy’s traditional values, formal genealogies, and histories that digital culture in general could be viewed as a war machine resistant to institutional(izing) processes.  Forms, terms and categories should be allowed to emerge, evolve, and dissolve into obsolescence. Temporary and contextual, they should be granted short yet dynamic lives, generating new terms, categories, and conditions.------In digital culture we can practically measure time by the changing of terminology. At some level it is essential that we recognizes this and not fall into old patterns in which terms at least provide a provisional, yet concrete understanding of a field. Certainly, the terms around digital culture are convenient… But, they are too new to be fossilized, so we have to ask what is communicated through them. What are the cultural conditions in which they operate? What do they provide for the field?
  • I apologize. I don’tthink that is much of a conclusion… I dothink, however, it might be a starting point…
  • Transcript

    • 1. HYBRIDITY ANDINTERDISCIPLINARITYIN DIGITAL CULTUREAND PRACTICETalan Memmott PhDBlekinge Tekniska HögskolaDigital Culture and Communication
    • 2. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM INTER/DISCIPLINARITY ???
    • 3. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM INTER/DISCIPLINARITY ??? ANTI-SPECIALIST?
    • 4. THE ACADEMY
    • 5. THE GENERAL-WICH
    • 6. DIOGENES NIETZSCHE BATAILLE BROTHERS IN ARMS
    • 7. FIELDS OF STUDY
    • 8. LINES OF FLIGHT
    • 9. <DISCIPLINE> <DISCIPLINE>
    • 10. SO THEN,WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM INTER/DISCIPLINARITY ???
    • 11. <expert> <expert> <export>
    • 12. WHAT FIELDS OF STUDY, WHAT AREAS OF EXPERTISE ARE BROUGHT TOGETHER WHEN WE CONSIDER DIGITAL CULTURE? <expert> <expert> <export>
    • 13. WHAT FIELDS OF STUDY, WHAT AREAS OF EXPERTISE ARE BROUGHT TOGETHER WHEN WE CONSIDER DIGITAL CULTURE? <expert> <expert> <export> WHAT SORT OF COMPLEXITIES EMERGE FROM A CONSIDERATION OF CULTURE IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
    • 14. WHAT FIELDS OF STUDY, WHAT AREAS OF EXPERTISE ARE BROUGHT TOGETHER WHEN WE CONSIDER DIGITAL CULTURE? <expert> <expert> <export> WHAT SORT OF COMPLEXITIES EMERGE FROM A CONSIDERATION OF CULTURE IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
    • 15. <DIGITAL> <CULTURE> NEW MEDIA STUDIES CULTURAL STUDIES COMPUTER SCIENCE LITERARY STUDIES GRAPHIC DESIGN FILM STUDIESINFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ART AND ART HISTORY ENGINEERING HUMANITIESAPPLICATION DEVELOPMENT HISTORY MATHEMATICS SOCIOLOGY ETC. ETC. <DIGITAL CULTURE>
    • 16. <DIGITAL> <CULTURE> NEW MEDIA STUDIES CULTURAL STUDIES COMPUTER SCIENCE LITERARY STUDIES GRAPHIC DESIGN FILM STUDIESINFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ART AND ART HISTORY ENGINEERING HUMANITIESAPPLICATION DEVELOPMENT HISTORY MATHEMATICS SOCIOLOGY ETC. ETC. ¿DIGITAL CULTURE?
    • 17. Eboy, Web 2.0 Poster / 2006
    • 18. PARTICIPATIONREMEDIATION BRICOLAGE Mark Deuze / Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture
    • 19. PARTICIPATIONREMEDIATION BRICOLAGE Mark Deuze / Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture
    • 20. PARTICIPATIONhypermediacy Each act of mediation depends on other acts of mediation. Media are continually commenting on, reproducing, and replacing each other, and this REMEDIATION process is integral to media. Media need each other in BRICOLAGE order to function as media at all. immediacy Bolter/Grusin Mark Deuze / Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture
    • 21. Condescending Wonka (advice animal image macro) PARTICIPATIONREMEDIATION BRICOLAGE Mark Deuze / Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture
    • 22. PARTICIPATION ?REMEDIATION BRICOLAGE Mark Deuze / Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture
    • 23. PARTICIPATION HYBRIDREMEDIATION BRICOLAGE Mark Deuze / Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture
    • 24. HYBRIDS: ZORSE, ZONKEY, ZONY
    • 25. THE INTERNATIONAL ZEBRA-ZORSE-ZONKEY ASSOCIATION http://www.izzza.com
    • 26. GLOFISH AND RUPPIES
    • 27. My Little Zony GENERAL ZOI’S PONY CREATORhttp://generalzoi.deviantart.com/art/Pony-Creator-Full-Version-254295904
    • 28. DOLLY DIVINE PONY MAKERhttp://www.dolldivine.com/pony-maker.php
    • 29. MASHUP
    • 30. Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve inmaking new combinations. […] when two objects are broughttogether, a relationship is always formed. Restricting oneself to apersonal arrangement of words is mere convention. The mutualinterference of two worlds of feeling, or the bringing together of twoindependent expressions, supersedes the original elements andproduces a synthetic organization of greater efficacy. Anything can beused. Guy Debord, Methods of Détournement, 1956
    • 31. We wanted to create our mashups in 5 minutes or less,but there was no easy way to do it.Mashup software helps you create 100% harmonically-compatible mashups and will eliminate key clashes.
    • 32. NOTE:THIS IS WHERETALAN CATCHES HISBREATH.
    • 33. <x> <y> <z>
    • 34. <x> <+> <y> <z>
    • 35. TAXONOMY → TAXONOMADISMThe variety of approaches to digital poetry, the transitive aspects of its elements, and the transactivequality of its applications make the development of a consistent, stabilizing taxonomy difficult if notimpossible. To a certain extent, the idea of taxonomy itself is contrary to the realities of digitalpractice. If we consider the singular qualities of digital poetry application-to-application and the waysin which technologies used in its development emerge and evolve along lines separate from creativepractice, we begin to understand how the entire field is dynamic. The nomos of taxonomy becomesnomas: the field is open; the practice, form, and categories—the taxa—are nomadic.So much of literary digital practice happens outside of—or out of reach of—the academy’s traditionalliterary values, formal genealogies, and histories that the practice in general could be viewed as awar machine resistant to institutional(izing) processes.Forms, terms and categories should be allowed to emerge, evolve, and dissolve into obsolescence.Temporary and contextual, they should be granted short yet dynamic lives, generating new terms,categories, and conditions. Talan Memmott, Beyond Taxonomy: Digital Poetics and the Problem of Reading, 2006 (Appears in New Media Poetics: Contexts,Technotexts,and Theories, MIT Press)

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